If she didn’t value her own survival, then she would have found a way to end her life long ago. It would have made sense. Ending Harrington’s blood supply meant endangering him. It meant hurting Visage. But when it had come down to it, she hadn’t been able to do it. Though if he said one more thing about fucking acai berries, she might reconsider smashing her brain in with a free weight.
“Reyna, you seem absent today,” Harrington said. It was a warning.
“Drugs are kicking in,” she said instead of the truth.
“You still have another minute by my count.” His eyes jumped up to the nurse.
“Seventy-four seconds,” the nurse confirmed.
Reyna shot her a look that said Whose side are you on? But it was a stupid question. The nurse worked for Visage. That’s whose side she was on.
“We have just over a minute for you to explain to me where your head is.”
“Not caring about my diet,” she got out. So close to forgetting everything. So close.
“And why not? I think it’s very important that you—”
“Stop,” Reyna told him. “Just stop it.”
He arched an eyebrow. She should have seen the warning in it. But she was beyond that. Between the dream and her isolation and the needles, she was losing it. She couldn’t hold it together today. She couldn’t sit here and have this murdering jackass lecture her on proper nutrition. He probably hadn’t eaten real food in a couple hundred years!
“What is this?” he asked, gesturing to her as if she were a strange specimen he couldn’t figure out.
“This is a human being. An actual human being. I’m not your science project. I’m not even your blood bag. I am a human. I live and breathe and feel and right now I’m feeling pretty pissed. I have a full minute before I get high and I’d like to get high in peace without you fucking ruining everything with your stupid fucking speeches.”
“Reyna,” he growled low.
But she wasn’t finished. Once she was unleashed, she couldn’t seem to rein it back in. “And you know what, I can’t seem to care about anything. Definitely not about you and your goddamn diet! Or this fucking place or this fucking prison cell. I’m concentrating on surviving. On dealing with these fucking needles and not wanting to smash your fucking face in.”
“Turn it off,” Harrington snapped at the nurse.
The edge to his voice and the lethal cut of his eyes said that she’d gone too far.
The whirr of the machines died all around her. The venom that had been only seconds from flooding her system and letting her forget for even just a minute was gone. She both hated and loved those minutes of reprieve.
Harrington stood, towering over her, and she shrank back into her seat. She didn’t want to be frightened, but she knew a predator when she saw one. His physical presence was demanding enough but it was the sadistic brain behind that mask that terrified her. That made her literally quake in her seat.
He reached forward and without preamble ripped out both of her IVs.
From the pain and the shock and the needles that had been in her arms…and the blood. She gagged at the sight of it.
Harrington’s hand closed over her throat as he pushed her roughly back against the chair. Her eyes locked onto his and she remembered exactly who was standing over her. Exactly how much she had fucked up.
“You are not invincible here, Reyna. You are not actually a queen of this domain. You are here at my whim and you will find that if you do not cooperate, your life could become much more unpleasant. Do you understand?”
She choked out a garbled, “Yes.”
He removed the pressure from her throat and she coughed and sputtered as air filled her lungs again. That was going to leave a bruise.
Harrington swiped a finger over one of her open wounds then brought it to his lips, tasting her openly. For a clinical man who saw a scientific process in all their interactions and treated her more like a treasured pet than anything, she had never seen him so…feral. It was the only way to put it. Even when she had been furious and screamed and cried in the beginning, he had sat calmly by and watched it all as if it were a television show. Some melodrama he could dissect later.
But this was the monster behind the façade. His true nature. The vampire.
“You may be a very rare match, Reyna, but that does not mean you are irreplaceable. Right this moment, the Blood Census is registering people all over this nation. The city is already complete and soon it will cover the world,” he said menacingly. “I will find more of you yet.”
Harrington sneered down at the wounds he’d created. “Clean her up.”