Anchor of Secrets by Tessa Hale
The sound pounded against my skull. Some part of me recognized that it wasn’t actually that loud, but it felt like a marching band practicing on my head.
A soft groan escaped my lips, and I rolled to my back. A hard stone floor met my movement, and my eyelids fluttered at the assault.
The room appeared in flashes of vision. Snapshots. Each one more terrifying than the last.
Low light. Rock walls. Stone floor. No windows.
I forced my eyes completely open, fully taking in my surroundings. I was in some sort of basement with a crumbling staircase that led to a thick wooden door. I didn’t want to think about what might be on the other side.
I struggled to push myself to sitting, my head swimming with the action. And that was when I saw it. Dread pooled in my belly as I took in the rusted chain from the wall to a shackle around my ankle.
It was almost as if my brain didn’t want to fully compute the sight in front of me. As if there was some self-protection mechanism in place that didn’t want me to come to terms with the truth. But it didn’t change my reality.
My fingers trembled as I reached down to examine the cuff. It was held in place by a small padlock. I tugged on the metal, my mouth going dry. Though the chain and shackle were rusted, they held strong.
I was a prisoner.
Panic surged, but I shoved it down. I focused on my breathing, trying to keep it even as I searched my memory for the last thing I could remember.
Discovering the awful truth that the guys had known where I was my whole life. Confronting them. The fight. Running. Someone hitting me. That voice…
I tried to pinpoint the owner of the deep tone, but my mind wouldn’t cooperate. The truth was, it didn’t matter. The only thing that mattered was getting the hell out of here.
I pressed my hand against the wall for balance as I prepared to stand. The stone was damp, and the air smelled like mildew. I ignored it and shoved to my feet. My vision blurred, and a wave of nausea washed over me. The faint memory of someone striking me on the head and the raging pain there told me I likely had a concussion. I’d have to deal with that later.
The moment my vision righted itself, I followed the chain to the wall. If I couldn’t get the cuff off my ankle, maybe I could remove the chain from the wall.
It took me far too long to cross the ten feet to where the metal was bolted into the rock. I studied it carefully. It looked like it had been there for decades, maybe longer. The chain was hooked into a metal plate that was fastened to the wall with thick bolts. Those, too, were rusted.
My fingers traced each one, testing its strength. Two of them were the slightest bit loose.
I quickly scanned the space again. In the far corner, in the shadows of the basement, I thought I could make out another door. It was likely some sort of closet or cellar, but a small part of me hoped it might be an escape.
Turning back to the bolts, my fingers worked the metal until they bled, but I didn’t stop. I had to get out of here. To get free.
Images of the guys filled my mind. I knew those images were a lie, but my heart still longed for them. A time that didn’t even truly exist.
A whirring sound had my head snapping up. That was when I saw it. The red blinking light.
My hand instantly dropped from the metal plate. I strained to identify the object in the low light of the basement. A camera. My stomach twisted.
Someone was watching.
I curled my arms around my middle, suddenly feeling as if I weren’t wearing any clothes. Then I began searching the room again. This time not for an escape but for anything to use for protection. There wasn’t a single item in the room other than cobwebs.
Footsteps sounded above, and my stomach cramped again. A key slid into the lock. Hinges creaked as the door to the basement opened. More footsteps on the stairs.
I made out boots first. Ones made of gleaming leather. Nice jeans over the tops of them.
Then a face appeared. One that had a chill skating over my skin. Damien stepped into the light. I couldn’t help but take him in, as if somehow, I’d be able to spot a weakness that would save me. Dark hair, expertly cut. Pale but beautiful skin. And a deadness in his eyes that made me shiver.
He grinned at me. “Finally awake, Little Lamb?”
I swallowed, trying to clear the dryness in my mouth and throat.
His grin widened. “Nothing to say?”
My heart hammered in my chest. Could he hear that? The blood roaring in my ears? Suddenly, I wished I’d asked the guys a million more questions about the supernatural world. In movies, vampires always had a superior sense of hearing and smell.
Fear spiked somewhere deep. The memory of Damien’s teeth plunging into my neck. The horrible pain. As if I were being burned from the inside out. Only now, I was totally and completely alone. No one to protect me.
My fingernails dug into my palms to keep me from screaming. “W-what do you want from me?”
I couldn’t do a damn thing about the tremor in my voice, but it wasn’t as if I could’ve hidden my fear from Damien anyway. Everything in his expression told me he’d already sensed it. And that he loved it.
Damien’s eyes flashed, a quick burst of red in the deep brown. “What do I want?”
He prowled toward me. “I want what I’ve always wanted. I want my goddamned birthright. To be at the head of the Crescent bond and everything that comes with it…”
“W-what?” My mind whirled as an image of the guys’ marks flashed in my mind. The crescent moon.
He bared his teeth. “They think they can steal everything from me, but now I’ve got what I need to get it back. I’ve got you.”