My heavy-lidded eyes fought to drift open.I didnt know how much time had passed.Was it one night? Two? A week? It was dark, wherever I was.
I was vaguely conscious, hearing footfalls and yelling, and once a voice that sounded like Callies, calling out my name. But one day I woke up without suddenly falling back into unconsciousness. I lifted my arms, realizing I was shackled to the wall. I had vervain burns on my arms and legs. Dried blood crusted my entire body, making it impossible for me to tell where I was wounded. Next to me, Damon was sitting with his knees to his chest. Blood covered his body, and his cheeks were gaunt. Dark shadows rimmed his sunken eyes, but a slow smile was spreading across his face.
“Not so powerful now, are you, brother?”
I struggled to sit up. My bones ached. The attic was soaked in a dim gray light that came from a filthy window. The padding and sniffing of a mouse sounded somewhere far across the room. It stirred a hunger inside me, and I realized that I hadnt fed since being here. In the corner, two unfamiliar guards were sitting, oblivious to our near-silent conversation.
I shook my head in disgust. How could I have been so stupid? Lexi had been right. Of course she had. Callie had betrayed me. It must have been her plan all along, from the second shed noticed the ring on my finger that matched Damons. I should have realized it the moment Id seen her father in the room. How had I stepped into such a stupid, obvious trap? I deserved to be chained up like an animal.
“Did you love her?” Damon asked, as if he could read my thoughts.
I stared straight ahead.
“She hasnt come to visit, in case you were curious,” Damon continued conversationally. “She is pretty, though in my humble opinion, you could do better.”
Anger pushed my fangs into place. “Where are you going with this?” I growled.
Damon gestured to the bars. “Nowhere, apparently. Excellent job on the rescue attempt.”
“At least I tried,” I said, my fury ebbing and resignation flowing in its place.
“Why even bother?” Damons eyes flashed. “Have I not made my feelings about you perfectly clear?”
“I ” I began, before I realized I had no idea where to even start. How could I tell him that rescuing him wasnt a choice? That our blood ran in each others veins, that we were bound to each other. “It doesnt matter,” I said.
“No, it doesnt,” Damon said, adopting a philosophical tone. “After all, well both be dead soon enough. The question is, will you be killed by a crocodile or by a tiger? I heard Gallagher saying crocodiles are the best fight opponents, because they dont go for the kill. They drag it out.”
Just then the attic door opened with a flourish, and Gallagher strode into the room, his boots echoing on the floor.
“The vampires are awake!” he bellowed.
The two guards hastily jumped to attention, pretending theyd been watching us the whole time. Gallagher strode toward the cage, kneeling at our eye level. His three-piece suit was impeccable, as if hed made his fortune as a financier rather than by torturing vampires.
“Well, well, well the family resemblance is obvious. Im embarrassed to not have noticed it sooner.” He reached through the bars and grabbed the front of my shirt, pulling me against the side of the cage. My face clanged against the bars, and I winced as something wooden jutted into my chest.
“And you almost got away with acting like a human!” Gallagher threw his head back and laughed, as if it were the most amusing thing in the world.
“You wont get away withthis,” I hissed, pain ripping through my body as he dug the stake farther into my skin.
“Pay attention, vampire!” Gallagher said, his lips curled back in a snarl. “You know, I think Im going to bet youre the one wholl get killed. Yes, I think that will do very nicely.” He turned toward the two guards. “Hear that? A tip from the boss. Bet on the dark-haired one,” Gallagher said, twisting the stake against my body. “I think his brother has more hatred in his belly.”
I couldnt see Damons face, but I could picture the smirk that no doubt played on his lips.
Gallagher snorted in laughter and threw the vervain-soaked stake to the floor. “Oh, and I dont want you using the stakes on the vampires for sport anymore,” he said in the direction of the guards. The heavyset one glanced guiltily down at the floor.
“Why not?” the other asked indignantly. “Its good for em. Shows em their place.”
“Because we want them in tip-top shape for their fight,” Gallagher said, his voice an exaggerated parody of patience. Then Gallagher smiled at us. “Thats right, boys. You two are going to be fighting, to the death. Its the perfect solution. Ill have one dead vampire to sell for parts, a live one for performances, and profit beyond my wildest imagination. You know, it might be sacrilege, but I say, thank God for vampires!”
With that, Gallagher turned to leave the attic, slamming the door behind him. I sank back against the bars. Damon did the same, shutting his eyes. The two guards gaped at us through the bars.
“I know the boss said the dark-haired one, there, but aint he lookin a little weak? My pennies are goin for that boy,” one commented.
“Eh, I always go with what the boss says. Besides, aint all about size, right?” the scrawny one said, sounding affronted by the first guards implication. I slumped against the wall, closing my eyes. The hatred that my brother had for me was surely enough to want me dead. But would Damon really kill me?
“Im more vicious than a crocodile, brother,” Damon said with a smile, his eyes still closed. “And this is the best piece of news Ive heard since we turned into vampires!” He laughed, long and loud, until one of the guards clambered over and, despite Gallaghers decree, jabbed him with a vervain-laced stake.
But even then, he continued to laugh.