“If you need me, I’ll be at the Pavilion seeing to the investigations. We’ll find out who did this, Derek.”
I crossed my arms over my chest. I felt the guilt and shame come over me as Vivienne left me there to brood alone. I couldn’t think of anyone who could be capable of doing this to Sofia other than Lucas. But I had no proof and even if I did, I wasn’t sure that I could do anything about it. Lucas was my brother and no matter how important Sofia had become to me, blood runs thicker than water.
CHAPTER 19: SOFIA
Corrine took her time with me. She tried to make me comfortable, giving me a drink of water, which I truly appreciated, considering how the taste of Derek’s blood was still fresh on my mouth. She took great care in making sure that I wanted to do what she was asking me to do – never pushing or ordering or commanding, which I was certain was exactly what Derek would’ve done had I been left under his care.
She gave me a fresh set of clothes to wear. I was so relieved to see that she handed me skinny jeans and an adorable-looking white baby doll blouse. It was nice to see something I would wear in normal life, instead of the dresses and skirts afforded to me at the Pavilion. Oh, they were pretty and feminine, but it felt like the sole reason I had to wear them was so that the vampires could have easy access to my body – that’s certainly what Lucas got. I put on the jeans knowing how irrational my line of thinking was. It’s not like I would’ve worn jeans to sleep in the first place. Still, the snug fit of the denim on my legs provided me a thread of comfort. At least I won’t have to feel Lucas’ hand over my legs. I shuddered, recalling the way he touched me. I knew that it wasn’t going to be the last time he would do it. What terrified me most was how helpless I felt at that time. I never wanted to feel that way again.
“Would you like to talk about what happened?” Corrine asked.
I sat over the edge of her bed as she pulled an ottoman in front of me so she could sit right across me. From her bedside table, she pointed to a bowl of fruits.
“If you’re hungry…” she offered.
I shook my head. “No, thank you.” I truly appreciated the way she was treating me. It was like she was the caring older sister I never had.
“What happened, Sofia? I promise that whatever you say, it won’t go out of this room unless you want it to.”
“I don’t remember,” I lied. I remembered every last bit of it. “I woke up and I had the cuts on my back and the lock of Gwen’s hair on my hands. I walked to the bathroom and…” I choked, recalling Gwen’s fate. “She didn’t deserve to die.”
I knew I had to protect the other remaining girls from what happened to Gwen. Lucas’ threat was still ringing in my ear. I had no doubt in my mind that he wouldn’t hesitate to destroy me and the girls the first chance he got.
“You’re right. She didn’t.” Corrine nodded. Her brown eyes then bore into mine. “Sofia, I can’t help you unless you’re honest with me. Was it Derek who did this to you?”
“He already told you earlier that he didn’t.”
“Yes, but I want to hear it from you.”
I was surprised by the protectiveness I felt toward Derek. I almost felt insulted that anyone would imply that he could do something like this.
“If Derek did this, then there wouldn’t be any fuss, would there? We’re his slaves after all. Is he not allowed to do as he pleases with us? The only reason that this is such a big deal is because someone else most likely did it and it’s a huge insult to Derek.”
Corrine smiled a self-satisfied smile, almost as if she were proud that I came up with that answer myself. It felt as if she were playing mind games with me.
“The prince seems to care a lot about you. He seemed pretty distraught to see you at the state you’re in.”
I remained silent. I felt so hurt and abused. I was scared of what was to come. I wanted to believe so badly that Derek cared enough about me to choose me over his brother, but if he had endured being a creature that he hated for hundreds of years just to save his family, what would make me think that he would choose me over Lucas?
Corrine most likely saw that she wasn’t going to get anywhere with her line of questioning, so she tried a different approach. “Is it alright if you tell me what your time at the Blood Shade has been like for you? I’m rather curious to know.”
That I saw no harm in doing and I found myself opening up to her in a way I never did to another. I spilled out every sensation still fresh in my memory, every fear, every apprehension, and even stolen moments of delight and wonder. I told her how much I missed my best friend and how worried I was about him. I didn’t know why I did it. Perhaps it was just the need for a friend, an ally, so even if I wasn’t sure I could trust Corrine, I just gave in to the need to talk to someone who could possibly understand. The only thing I kept from her about everything that happened at the Blood Shade was what Lucas did to me and the threat he gave me should I tell a soul about it.
I did make myself a promise as I was having that conversation with Corrine. I promised myself that Lucas wasn’t going to get away with what he did. He will pay for what he did to Gwen and me.
CHAPTER 20: DEREK
I rose to my feet the moment the door swung open. I breathed out a sigh of relief when Sofia’s lovely form stepped out of the room, a tentative smile forming on her face at the sight of me. If only out of sheer relief, I wanted to pull her into my arms and kiss her right then and there, but I fought the urge to do it in fear of scaring her. So I held back and allowed her to set the pace. I doubt she was aware of the effect she had on me when she walked toward me, grabbed my hand, her thin, dainty fingers intertwining with mine before she lifted my hand and placed a soft kiss over the back of it.
I didn’t fully understand why she did it, but I took it as assurance that she still felt safe around me, that she was choosing to trust me. I was both humbled and pressured by the gesture. I stared at her for a moment, taking in the sight of the splash of freckles on her cheeks and the natural red blush on her cheekbones. I let my eyes feast on the delicateness of her facial features, adoring every bit of her as I squeezed her hands, treasuring the warmth she exuded.
My perusal of my beautiful captive was interrupted when Corrine cleared her throat. “May I speak with you in private… Prince?” She tacked on the title as if it were a taunt.
I grimaced, hating that I had to let go of Sofia’s hand, but was overcome by curiosity over what the witch would have to say.
I motioned to a guard to come stand near Sofia and then turned toward her. “You’re going to be alright?” I asked in a choked whisper.
She nodded. “Go.”
I entered Corrine’s chambers and she closed the door behind us.
Corrine began to busy herself in one area of the room, which based on the bottles and spices and little what-nots located there, seemed to be where she created her potions, or whatever it was that she did with her time. She gave me a quick glance and smiled, most likely sensing my impatience. “I must admit I didn’t see what you saw in her at first. I couldn’t understand what was so special about Sofia Claremont to make you so taken by her, but I get it now.”
I leaned forward, interested in what she had to say.
“I’m not certain, but I believe she has a condition that I would like to look into further. I’d like to have her come to me daily… It won’t take long. All I require is an hour or two a day.”
I didn’t fully trust the witch, but was intrigued by her sudden interest toward Sofia. “What condition?”
“It’s nothing to be concerned about. It’s nothing deadly or anything to worry over. If I’m right about her, however, then you’ve found yourself quite a catch in the young girl. There aren’t many like her.”
She was telling me what I already knew. I doubted that there was anyone at all like Sofia. Much as I wanted to hear more about this “condition” Sofia supposedly had, I was more concerned by the immediate matter at hand.
“Did she tell you who did it?”
“She claims not to remember.”
“Do you believe her?”
Corrine shook her head. “No. She’s too smart, too aware, not to remember. She’s protecting something… someone.”
“Why would she protect whoever did this?”
“Maybe it’s not her assailant that she’s protecting.” Corrine shrugged and stood to her full height, giving me an expression that meant business. “I suggest that you make sure she’s protected at all times. I also suggest that you not bombard her with questions about what happened. If she’s ready to tell you, I’m pretty sure she will. Stop forcing her to do things just because you’re the ruler of this bloody Kingdom and your word is law. Respect her by making her feel like she has a choice!”
I wanted to defend myself, tell Corrine that I never forced Sofia to do anything against her will, but I knew what Corrine was trying to say. I wasn’t exactly doling out pleases and thank yous Sofia’s way either. I spoke to her in orders and commands, taking advantage of her obvious fear of me to make her cooperate. I kept convincing myself that I saw humans as equal if not superior to vampires, yet I didn’t exactly treat Sofia as an equal. I treated her just as everyone else in the Blood Shade did – a captive, a slave.