Troian looked at the doors before her and the ominous feeling that had started in the car began to gather around her again. Something wasn’t right about the place they were going but they had to be there. Her future depended on it.
“It’ll be alright,” Sean said, coming up beside her.
“So you’ve said,” she said, shivering. “I hate that we have to do this.”
“He’s on our side.”
“No, he’s not.”
“He’s not against us, at least, and that’s a good place to start. He also has more informants than anybody else who would be willing to help us, in the places we need information from.”
“Not overtly so.”
Troian shook her head. They had to go in and deal with the monster. She knew that but she didn’t have to like it.
Sean knocked at the door and stood back slightly. A young man with a badly scarred face and hunched back opened the door. “Can I help you?”
“We have an appointment with Jeremiah,” Sean told him.
“You’re early,” the young man said. “Only by a few minutes.”
“Doesn’t matter,” the young man said. “He’s ready for you now. Follow me.” While the home was a classic cookie-cutter suburban home on the outside, the opulence the young man led them through was breathtaking.
They were led to an office in the back of the house with glass doors and a view of the garden in the back yard. They could see a series of couches and the man they were presumably there to see sitting on one of them. The young man opened the doors and bowed them into the room. The man on the couch rose to greet them. There was a girl sitting beside the couch on the floor who did not move.
“Sean, welcome to my home. It’s so good of you to finally visit me.”
“Thank you, Jeremiah. I appreciate you taking the time to see us on such short notice in your beautiful home.”
“For you, my boy, anything. Will you introduce me to your lovely companion?”
Sean put his arm around Troian’s back and propelled her forward slightly. “Jeremiah, may I introduce you to Troian? Troian, this is Jeremiah, the most powerful man amongst the dead in town.”
“You flatter me, dear boy, though everything you say is true. And your companion truly is lovely. It’s a pleasure to meet you, my dear.” Jeremiah took her limply offered hand, turned it over and raised his wrist to his nose. He made a show of inhaling and laid a gentle kiss on her pulse.
Dread roared through her and the desire to flee as fast as she could. Sean kept hold of her and pulled her close when he felt her tense. Controlling herself, Troian pulled her hand back gently and felt the strength in his hand when he almost didn’t let her.
“Have a seat, please,” he gestured to the sofas. “And tell me how I may help you, in my own humble way.”
Sean kept Troian hard against his side as they sat and he could feel her discomfort radiating from her. “We need information,” he started. “As you probably know, there has been a bounty put on Troian. Normally, I would be the first person called about capturing an extraordinary human but, as I understand it, my handlers believe I have been compromised in this instance.”
“An assumption that would seem to be true,” Jeremiah smiled at them, exposing his teeth. “Not that I blame you. She smells delicious.”
“Well, being declared compromised, my sources have dried up. I can’t even find out how much the bounty is for and whether or not they’re sending somebody specific to collect her or if it’s a free for all.”
“And so you come to me. You are absolutely right to do so, by the way. I am one of the few people who would not be tempted by the bounty they’ve placed. Right now, it’s a free for all, but you’re not safer for that. There will be very powerful people coming for her, all hoping to get the bounty that has been promised.”
“What is it?” Sean leaned forward.
“If she’s brought to the elders unharmed, with no open wounds that the hunter could have drunk from, they will receive the right to be the first to hunt the fae.”
“That would be war!” Troian said. “It would destroy the earth.”
“Maybe,” Jeremiah said. “Or maybe not. With you as not only lunch but also a bargaining chip, your grandfather may agree to a sort of hunting season with the vampires. I agree it may be unlikely but your grandfather does have a sentimental attachment to the humans. He may be willing to give up a few fae to save them, provided the fae had a chance to defend themselves.”
Troian sat contemplating the implications of what he’d said. It was chilling.
“Do either of you mind if I indulge a bit?” Jeremiah said, indicating the girl sitting next to him. “You were a bit early.”
“Fine,” Troian said, distracted by her thoughts, and a wave of horror swept over her. The girl had stood up, presented their host with a small whip and removed her robe. She was a mass of scars and recently healed cuts.
“We should leave,” Sean said, picking Troian up as she began to collapse into a vision.
“If you’re sure,” Jeremiah said. “The pain adds an exquisite flavor that you just don’t get from a regular feeding.
“I’m sure,” Sean said. “Thank you for the information.”
He moved as quickly as he could through the house to find the boy waiting for them at the front door. Sean thanked him as he opened the door but the boy called after them.
“He’ll turn her,” the boy said. “If she lives through the beatings, he’ll make her beautiful like him.”
When Troian came back to her surroundings, she looked at Sean with tears in her eyes. “She’s mad,” she said. “And he likes it. He knows what he’s doing but he can’t control her. She’ll live and she’s coming for something precious.”
“What is she coming for?” Sean asked her, worry creasing his brow.
“I don’t know, but it hurts me here to think about it.” Troian placed a trembling hand over her womb.