Reyna knew intuitively that it was stupid at this point to still be afraid of needles. Two IVs twice a week for eight weeks equaled thirty-two needles. She shuddered as she sank into the plush chair that had replaced the hospital-style bed she’d woken up in. Thirty-two needles in fifty-six days and she still felt like crawling under the table at the thought. She’d pleaded with Beckham to bite her, but needles made her want to vomit.

The nurse gestured to the chair. But Reyna first walked to the chessboard against the wall. William Harrington liked chess and their board was still up from Monday when she had last given blood. She’d resented the fact that he wanted her to play chess with him but it was better than hearing him talk. So she played. And lost…regularly.

Knight to C6. She captured another pawn. How ironic.

“Are you ready?” the nurse asked.

Reyna sighed and went to sit down in the chair. “As I’ll ever be.”

“You know I’m quite skilled at this. There’s no reason to be afraid.”

Reyna nearly laughed, but the nurse was holding the IV needle in her hand and if Reyna opened her mouth, she might actually throw up. She turned her face away. A tourniquet, a swab of alcohol, and a prick. She squeezed her eyes shut and waited for the sensation to be over.

Bam! Needle number one accomplished.

The second was always worse though.

Harrington didn’t drink directly from her. Reyna had never asked why, because she didn’t want him to change his mind. Donating blood was preferable to him sinking his fangs into her. A hundred and fifty percent better. Even with the needles.

But since he wasn’t biting her, she had to be hooked up to a second IV that passed some form of vamp saliva into her system. She’d dubbed it vamp venom. Though there was some fancy technical term that she didn’t remember.

She hadn’t had to ask why she needed the venom though. Harrington loved the sound of his own voice and on the occasions where he graced her with his presence, he told her all about how the venom activated red blood cell regeneration and blah blah blah. Normal humans regenerate a pint of blood every fifty-six days. So, today would have been the first day that she could give blood again after Beckham had drank from her eight weeks ago. With the vampire venom, usually from a bite, she regenerated a pint of blood every three to four days.

She truly hated science right about now.

The second IV went in without a hitch. Reyna braced herself. She had about ten minutes before the diluted venom would activate in her blood, making her as high as a kite. Nothing as strong as the bite from Beckham, but it still hit her like a freight train before ebbing off.

“Measure your breathing. This should be over soon,” the nurse said.

Then the door clicked and Reyna’s eyes shot to the sliding door as it whizzed open. In walked her nightmare—Harrington.

“Ah, my little queen,” Harrington said in a chipper voice.

Reyna remained blank-faced at the stupid nickname. Reyna. Reign. Queen. Get it? So fucking original.

The days that Harrington showed up were the worst. The absolute worst.

“I heard that we had another nightmare,” he said, settling into the seat next to the chessboard. His eyes were on the game but he spoke to her. “Want to talk about it?”

Ah, therapy. Just what the doctor ordered. Of course all she wanted to do was spill her deep dark secrets to a murdering psychopathic dictator.

“I forgot where I was,” she lied. It was her default answer.

He laughed and moved a piece into position. “It’s about time you remember where you are. So forgetful.”

His voice was light, but when she glanced up into his dark eyes, she saw the wicked evil underneath. The reason Harrington was on top was because he was both ruthless and a genius businessman. It was hard to forget it when he looked at her like that.

It didn’t help anything that her blood had changed him. Gone was the frail, sickly man she had first met. Harrington had had to walk with a cane he was so thin, pasty, and weak. Now he stood tall, back straight, eyes taking in the room. He still carried the cane, but she knew he didn’t need it.

“Now, on to why I’m here,” Harrington said. “I wanted to check in on my favorite resident.” Read: prisoner. “See how you’re doing and that you’re adjusting well to the new diet. Latest dietary factors are key.”

“It’s fine,” she answered as blandly as possible.

Harrington started rambling on about the dietary articles he was reading coming out of the scientific community and how diet affected blood supply. Reyna only had a few more minutes before the venom kicked in and she wouldn’t have to hear him anymore. It was in those moments that she wished suicide were an option.