Unraveled, p.50

Unraveled, page 50

 part  #2 of  Intertwined Series

 

Unraveled
 



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Page 50

 

  “I’m only surprised they didn’t cut the boy’s throat while he slept. ”

  “They feel there’s no need for subterfuge, that he’s too weak to handle them. They’ll learn otherwise, of course. ”

  “Anyone strong enough to kill the man who killed Vlad deserves our respect. But I think their refusal to launch a sneak attack is based more on their desire to have the entire congregation witness the new king’s defeat. Such confidence is foolish, I think, and they deserve what they get. ”

  “And don’t forget the wolves. The elite wanted to act honorably so they wouldn’t anger the wolves. ”

  Nice, but Aden couldn’t worry about any of that now. “Hello, everyone. Have you noticed my presence? I’m here, and I’d appreciate it if you spoke to me rather than about me. ” When they nodded, shamed, he added, “Thank you. Now, I’m happy to address your concerns. ”

  “We are on your side, Majesty. ”

  “And I’m grateful. Please tell my detractors that I accept their challenge. Later. We’ll set dates for…two weeks from now?” Hopefully by then, the witches would be taken care of and he’d have already picked out his replacement, so the challengers could fight themselves.

  The thought brought a tide of anger. A replacement? Hell, no.

  He shoved the silly emotion—and the thought—aside.

  What are you doing? Elijah demanded.

  Caleb gasped. You’re actually going to fight them?

  “Excellent. We did not doubt, not for a single moment, that you would take your duties seriously. ” All of the councilmen nodded, and one of them banged a gavel—a black gavel, of course—over the tabletop. “Next order. ”

  “The use of colors,” someone said with obvious displeasure. “There have been complaints. ”

  “Why did you authorize the incorporation of such…human colors? Not that I wish to question your judgment, but we have traditions, you see. ”

  The councilmen’s eyes flew to him. They looked so serious, so grave. “I’m human,” he reminded them.

  A murmur of “as if we could forget” arose.

  “Perhaps, if we limited the use of color to personal bedchambers…”

  “And clothing,” Aden said, a picture of Victoria in her pink tank top rising in his mind.

  There was a sigh, a few nods.

  “Agreed,” the one with the gavel said, and then added, “done,” and then he tapped that gavel over the tabletop. “Next order. The dating. ”

  Another murmur arose, only this time, Aden couldn’t make out the words. Victoria hadn’t exaggerated. As quickly as this meeting was moving, it wouldn’t last more than an hour.

  Then he heard the words “Your chosen,” and stiffened.

  “You haven’t given the girls a sufficient chance, Majesty, yet you shared a bedroom with Princess Victoria last night. ”

  “I don’t need to give the others a chance. ” Aden gripped the edge of the table. “I know what I want. Know who I want. I’ve made that clear from the beginning. ”

  “Why can’t you simply wed them all?” someone suggested. “Vlad had many wives. ”

  The man makes a good point, Ad, Caleb said. You should consider—

  I want to slap you, Julian muttered.

  Boys, Elijah interjected. Let Aden answer the guy.

  The answer was simple. Because one, Aden didn’t want the other girls and two, Victoria would go crazy. While some Neanderthal part of him still liked the thought of her jealousy, he wouldn’t put her through that. “I’m not Vlad,” he ended up saying. “I desire only one. ”

  You’re ruining everything! Caleb sulked.

  “Besides, Victoria and I aren’t getting married. ” Yet. “We’re too young. ”

  Another murmur. This time, he had no trouble discerning what was being said.

  Difficult. Stubborn. And yet, even while calling him names, they somehow remained respectful.

  He could do no less in return. “Besides, I can’t have vampires coming to the ranch where I live. My friends will discover the truth, and I don’t think you want that. You’ve gone to great lengths to keep what you are hidden. ”

  “We can kill your friends, then. ” Simple. Easy.

  “No!” he shouted, forgetting all about respect. “There will be no killing, and that isn’t negotiable. ”

  More sighs. “Why don’t we propose a bargain, yes? You will see the females we have chosen for you, at least once, but you will do so only while here at the mansion?”

  “This may not be an issue, anyway, with the upcoming challenges,” he pointed out, trying to buy some time. “True. ”

  “Still, Majesty. We need to offer the people hope for a future alliance. ”

  He scrubbed a hand down his face. God, he wanted to fight them on this, but the sooner he got out of this meeting, the sooner he could scour the witch’s brain. “Deal,” he said. “I’ll date the girls here. Once each. ”

  “Done. ” The gavel descended. Boom. “Next order. ”

  They spoke of a feud over a blood-slave, and Aden had to decide who won the rights to said blood-slave. They spoke of some vampires wishing to travel back to Romania, and Aden had to decide if that was acceptable. They spoke of an upcoming peace talk with another faction of vampires. Vampires led by someone they called Bloody Mary. Aden recognized the name from his history books, but wasn’t sure that was who they meant. Could be her, but he didn’t want to ask and reveal his ignorance.

  He was supposed to travel to England for this meeting. Apparently, Bloody Mary and her crew could feel the pull of him, too, though they hadn’t traveled to Oklahoma to find the source, for whatever reason. They were curious about him, however, enough to reach out to Vlad’s council for information.

  “Could be an ambush,” one of the councilmen said.

  “Or another attempt to control our people. ”

  So. On top of being enemies with nearly every other race, the vampires were also at war with each other. Sweet.

  “We’ll protect him. Or rather, the wolves will. They are behind him one hundred percent. ” There was a bit of displeasure in this councilman’s tone. “We’re having trouble keeping our teeth off him. There’s no way Bloody Mary will be able to do so. She’s a savage!”

  “Guys,” he said, interrupting their debate. “I have school. I can’t leave until summer, anyway, so we’ll discuss a trip to England then. ”

  “You could drop out of school. We have tutors, after all,” one said.

  “Nope. Sorry. ” Not even they could talk him into abandoning Crossroads High. And how was he supposed to pack up and go to another country when even sneaking here was a problem? And really, he’d had several recent encounters with so-called tutors. Look how well those had turned out. “Summer or never. ” And if he decided to go, he was taking Victoria and Riley with him.

  Or maybe not Riley. Many Ann would be upset about losing her boyfriend, even for a short period of time, and Aden hated the thought of upsetting her.

  More murmurs resounded, but one by one, the councilmen nodded.

  Next order. Many of their blood-slaves were missing. No one knew where they were. Vamps were angry and hungry and demanding new slaves. To obtain them, they needed Aden’s permission.

  “For right now, they can feed, but they cannot kill. They can feed, but they cannot enslave. ” Because of Victoria, he knew that if they drank from a human only once—or twice—that human could walk away without becoming addicted to the vampire bite, as he had. More than that was iffy.

  Though the councilmen were disappointed, they called the next order of business. Aden’s supernatural pull, or “hum. ” As they spoke about how strongly they were drawn to him, more and more of their gazes swung to Aden’s neck and stayed. He had to stop the humming nonsense, they said, over and over again, as if they were locked on the words and couldn’t move past them. Maybe they were entranced. <
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  “I can’t stop,” he replied, shifting nervously.

  The souls grew restless in his mind, as nervous as he was. Especially Elijah. The psychic began muttering about “blood” and “death,” and those mutterings were somehow familiar. As if Aden had heard them before. Where? When?

  “The pull is stronger the longer we’re with him, isn’t it?” someone asked.

  “Yes. Or maybe it’s because we’re so hungry. ”

  “What do you think he’ll taste like?”

  “Nirvana. ”

  Finally, there was silence. Absolute, utter silence. Was the meeting over? Aden looked around. All eyes were on him again, piercing, narrowed. Then the silence was broken as lips were licked and breath emerged from flaring nostrils. A few of the councilmen had their nails embedded in the tabletop, as if trying to hold themselves back.

  They wanted to devour him, but they were fighting the urge.

  What should he do? Stand and run? Or just stay here, like this, until they got themselves under control. If they could. Should he shout for Victoria? No, he didn’t want her in the line of fire, just in case. Besides, he had to learn how to deal with these people if he was going to lead them.

  Not that thought again. He wasn’t going to lead them.

  Slowly, Aden pushed to his feet. The councilmen rose with him, their gazes never leaving him. Do not show fear. “I have a lot to do,” he said. “I’ll leave you now. ”

  No reply.

  He stepped around his chair, never turning his back to the vampires. One step, two, he moved away from them. Slow, easy, as if he hadn’t a care. But they were predators, and he was their prey, and with his retreat, they lost control.

  With a cry, the closest man launched himself at Aden—and that was all the permission the others needed to follow suit. They flew at him, teeth bared.

  TWENTY-THREE

  OUT OF HABIT, Aden had his daggers drawn before the first vampire reached him. Of course, bringing a dagger to a vampire fight was like taking a feather to a boxing match. Useless. He slashed, made contact with his opponent’s chest, but the metal bent. Yep, useless.
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