Chapter One - The Tunnel
EACH step Raden took echoed in the tunnel. Water stood ankle deep on the stone floor, and his shoes slapped noisily in the puddles. Water dripped steadily from the walls and created an eerie melody when combined with the sound of his footsteps.
His wrists were tied behind his back. The silver ropes that bound him cut into his skin. The ropes burrowed deep into his arms. The searing burn caused by the silver weakened him.
Raden’s head bobbed downward toward his chest in rhythm with the melody of drips and steps. He had no idea how long he’d been walking, but he knew it had been a while. Maybe two days—or more.
He knew the tunnels that ran under the city were vast and intricate, but he’d never been this deep before. He’d only used the pathways to get from his home to other locations above ground. He could tell he was far from any of his familiar haunts. Given that he heard no sounds from above, he assumed he was far from civilization. He could be anywhere by now.
A thin smirk curled across his lips, and he chuckled despite himself. Nothing about his situation was funny, but it was ironic. Nowhere would be better. This forced march was taking him somewhere very specific. To a place that he’d never imagined he’d be going.
A thick arm, as hard as a steel post, shoved him from behind. The push made him trip, and he almost fell down face-first on the cold, wet ground. In his weakened state, it took him several strides before he was able to recover his footing.
“Move! Faster,” the voice commanded.
Raden grunted in response. It was the only refusal he could muster. The last thing he wanted to do was to get to the destination quicker. He tried to slow his pace, exhaustion and dread vying for dominance over his body. A sense of foreboding chilled him to his core.
But the beefy arms didn’t care about Raden’s reluctance. One arm, then two pushed him again.
“I said move!” Raden heard a laugh in the other man’s voice.
“He’s waiting for you.” The other man did laugh. It was a menacing sound that sent a shiver of dread down Raden’s spine and penetrated him to his very core.
The Regent’s guards were some of the biggest vampires this side of the Delta. They were all tall, inhumanly muscular, and overpoweringly strong. Their barrel torsos were rivaled only by the size of their limbs—arms and legs as thick as tree trunks.
Rumor had it the Regent turned professional wrestlers and former Olympians from a wide variety of countries for the specific purpose of recruiting them into his elite protective unit. It didn’t matter if specialized vampirism was forbidden by an ancient truce between his kind and humans. The Regent didn’t care about Vampire Law—he made his own law. No one dared to defy him.
The Regent always got his way. He did what he wanted, when he wanted. What he wanted now was Raden.