Michael moves too quickly for anyone else in the room to see, but I do. My senses have only grown more acute over the past few days. In the blink of an eye, he’s behind me, pushing me aside, and I’m unable to resist his strength. As I spin, I see him slip behind Maxim and wrap a hand around his throat.
“No!” I shout. “Don’t hurt him!”
“Well, it seems we now have something to grab your attention. Shame for your parents that you didn’t care this much about them, but I really don’t care about your priorities. Your family made assurances, and we have lived up to our end of the bargain, Seleme. Now it is time for you to live up to yours. I don’t care if you like each other.” He looks to his son then back to me. “It is your unique birth that gives you value, not your heart. It’s a value never seen before, and honestly, I’m interested to find out exactly what that means. But whatever happens, you will add power to our family by breeding with my son, and your offspring will make us nearly invincible. If you choose not to live up to what has been promised, I will kill the human first. Feed…Easy. Quick — as a token of how much I respect his courage coming here tonight. Then, you will watch as we remove your parents’ heads. That I will do slowly because I’m quickly losing respect for your entire family. It will be…” He shakes his head in mock distaste. “…messy.”
“Fucker.” Maxim struggles, his hands tearing at Michael’s arms, but it has no effect. His human strength is like the buzzing of a fly.
Anna takes a step forward, but Michael responds by squeezing tighter, and I see Maxim’s eyes roll back.
“Stop!” I beg, holding my hands out toward them both. “Don’t, please, let’s figure this out some other way.”
“There is no other way.” Alberto steps toward me. “We are wasting time. We gave you nearly twenty-one years. That was the contract.” He looks at the clock. “Now we have only minutes. You will mate with me. Before your twenty-first birthday. We will be bonded together for eternity. You will eventually marry me. But I don’t give a flying fuck if you love me. This doesn’t have to be a big issue. If you want to play with your mortal toys after tonight, it really doesn’t concern me, but you will fulfill your obligation right now. You will lie with me, you will belong to me, or…”
He looks at my mother, then my father, then at Maxim, as his father’s hand tightens and I see the life draining from Maxim’s eyes.
“Show her.” He nods at his father, who brings his other hand to Maxim’s forehead, and I know with one jerk he could tear the head from his body.
“Okay!” My gut turns. “I’ll do it.” Tears sting my eyes as Maxim loses consciousness and Michael lets his limp body fall to the floor.
“Of course, you will.” Michael swipes his hands together as though they are soiled from touching Maxim, and my heart wrenches. “Go. Take her before midnight. That is our contract. You will mate, and the bond will be formed. Her power will increase our own in ways we haven’t even started to imagine. We will be gods.” He turns to me with a grin. “And your family gets to live. Such as they are. Win-win.”
I swallow hard. Maxim’s chest rises and falls, and his life is in my hands as I look at my father.
“Seleme, do whatever you feel is right. I’m sorry I caused all–”
The vampire behind him squeezes, cutting off his words, and as my mother opens her mouth to say something, the guard holding her does the same, covering her mouth as her eyes go wide.
Anna looks at me, and I’m sure if I asked her she would try something, but there’s nothing she can do. Her powers protect her from harm, but they don’t make her strong. She can’t protect anyone else.
“I’m sorry,” I whisper, to whom I’m not sure, as Alberto extends his arm toward the bedroom off the main hallway.
The thought of what we will do is horrifying, and I’ll lie with him, on bare floorboards, not a bed, appropriate for loveless, duty-bound mating.
“Shall we?” He grins, and I hear his father’s chuckle from my left. “Time isn’t on our side.”
I move toward the stairs as Alberto places his hand on the small of my back, pushing me forward.
“Don’t touch me,” I snap, knocking his hand away.
“Oh, I’m going to touch you. In ways you can’t imagine.”
“I’ll go with you, Alberto. Just don’t hurt them. I’ll do it, but you must promise me they will live. All three of them.” I turn to Michael. “Do you promise?”