Sinister Games, Volume 2: Chapter One
It's almost halloween! As a treat, I wanted to share the first chapter of Sinister Games. I hope you enjoy it! Please do not read this unless you've finished the first volume, Sinister Hunger. :) Oh, and Sinister Hunger is now only 99c on Amazon!
Vincent’s reaction was a matter of instinct. His uncle would never butcher an innocent child like this, especially not one of their own kind.
“And what reason have I to lie?” Maddox didn't even glance up from the severed head. “Hmm?”
Oh, Vincent had a whole fucking list to go through. “Shit like this is just a game to you.”
Maddox gave a swift, abortive laugh. “A game to me? How interesting you would say that.” His gloved fingers crept into the gift box and trailed toward Yuri’s discolored face. The thick, cloying stench of the kid’s rotted flesh, black, purple, and oozing, twisted Vincent’s stomach. “How interesting, indeed,” he drawled, and then he did something Vincent did not expect: he closed Yuri’s gaping eyes.
Vincent crossed his arms as a means to conceal his heaving chest. Whoever killed Yuri had clearly wanted to humiliate Maddox. It was like taking a piss on the vampire’s pride. Slicing off a vampire’s head? Sure, that was necessary among Vincent’s kind. But slicing off a human’s? It was a slap to the face for both species.
Why Yuri, though? He wasn’t part of the vampire’s cult. He held no rank or significance. Except for delivering a message that clearly said: Fuck you, vampire.
Vincent shook his head in disbelief. It just didn’t make sense to him. Back in the Wastelands, he would have gutted a vampire and sent its fangs back to Maddox. Not someone’s head. Surely defanging a bloodsucker was the most effective way to provoke a vampire?
Glancing around the trashed room, Vincent now begged to differ. He cleared his throat. “Then what does this”—he nodded at Yuri’s head—“mean?”
“Need I remind you of your place?” Maddox snapped and pushed away from the box. He removed his leather gloves and slapped them onto his desk. Various objects, and loose sheets of parchment, had been scattered over the glass surface and were dotted in rose petals. A wasted bowl of ink rained down the far edge of the desk and onto the marble floor. Vincent ground his own teeth. “What does this mean, Sir?”
For the first time since his arrival, Maddox met his gaze. His now sapphire-black eyes, which were blatantly transmitting his rage, sliced into Vincent.
“War,” Maddox announced flatly, as he dropped into his high-backed leather chair.
Fang sprawled out beside Vincent’s shoes, and the whites of his eyes flashed over to Maddox. Vincent stayed opposite his desk, digesting the clipped syllable, and forced himself not to glance at Yuri. Who would initiate war by beheading an innocent kid? It certainly wasn’t his uncle. The Chief Dusk Hunter of North America had fought every damn day to save the likes of Yuri. Maddox had to be up to another of his games—a cruel tactic intended to separate Vincent from his people. That was the only explanation for such an unbelievable claim.
“What evidence have you got against my uncle? Sir?”
Of course, Maddox probably had a heap of evidence stacked against Cadmus. But none of which pertained he’d betrayed his own people. The prospect was inconceivable.
Maddox’s eyes, rooted on Vincent, narrowed into cutting shards. He appeared to be debating with himself, questioning whether or not if Vincent would believe him. Running a pale hand through his disheveled, blond hair, he breathed an irritated sigh. “Olivia. Show the events captured on October twelfth at eighteen hundred hours.”
The Artificial Intelligence, hidden somewhere in the room, replied swiftly. “Yes, Governor Caine. Compiling data of two thousand ninety-five.”
One year ago, to the exact date and time?
Intrigued, Vincent loosened his arms and took a step. After a fleeting pause, a thin hologram appeared into sight. It hovered above Maddox’s desk and cast a light glow over his features. His fingers had managed to comb his hair mostly to the side, excluding a wavy strand that dipped into his now silver eyes. His sharp cheekbones were hollowed, and his lips pressed into a grim line.
Vincent gazed at the screen and prepared for whatever lies Maddox planned on feeding him. At first, the footage displayed the American flag, frozen and held captive in the perilous wind. Then the camera zoomed out, and a military base appeared with razor-topped entrances. It was not yet dusk, and guards patrolled the motorized barrier; their fur cloaks and hats billowed around them like a murder of crows. Beyond the compound, the mountainous landscape displayed nothing but escarpments and snowy terrain. Vincent’s breath hitched in his throat. He recognized the land immediately.
Montana, for the most part, was hugely inaccessible. It was the first state to fall just weeks before the Collapse, and large portions of the cities were annihilated by the snowstorms that marched in from the east. The vast majority of Montana was wiped off the grid in little under two weeks. The president had died not soon after.
This particular compound belonged to Cadmus Hudson. He’d taken his strongest Dusk Hunters to Montana to salvage what little of the state they could. He’d holed up in the mountains, in the military-run quarantine zone, and Vincent hadn’t seen nor heard from him since. He could only hope his uncle and brothers had survived the ferocious, snow-infested lands and managed to stay alive. He could also only hope the following footage would prove absolutely nothing.
The camera fixed on the steel entrance. An unfamiliar guard signaled his hand, and the gates slid open. A young girl, dressed in a tattered rag and ankle-length boots, stumbled out and into snow. Not three seconds later, a shadow darted after her.
Vincent held his breath and focused on the fleeting images. It was like watching a predator tracking down its prey. The girl stumbled, picked herself up again, and then darted right, left, right, left. But the creature ripped through the snow after her in perfectly concise movements.
The girl would never outrun the creature. She was a mouse trapped in a maze, and the beast was closing in on her far too quickly. He wanted to close his eyes, to demand that Maddox cease the footage, but he was too transfixed on the creature. It moved on all fours, almost like a hunched, overgrown man. However, its arms and legs were twice the length of its body, and it had claws—long, razor-sharp talons. Vincent had never faced a monster like that before. What the hell was it?
When the creature lunged onto the girl and shredded her limbs to pieces, Vincent looked away. Whatever the fuck that creature was, he would destroy it. He’d make damn sure of it. Maddox paused the footage and trained his eyes on Vincent. His expression said it all: checkmate. But the video wasn’t enough for Vincent to believe that Cadmus had stabbed him in the back. He’d need to see that with his own eyes… and then he would raise hell.
“That don’t prove nothing,” Vincent argued, glancing at the girl’s corpse. The beast shredded and devoured her as though it hadn’t eaten in months. Vincent’s stomach twisted again. He looked over the images and stared firmly at Maddox. “For all I know, a pack of your bloodsuckers defeated Cadmus, and now they use his base to breed those nasty motherfuckers.”
He hated how defensive he sounded—how he clenched his hands into fists at his side. Butchering children like slabs of fucking meat. Was that what their world had really come to?
“At any rate, it’s been years since I’ve heard from our units up there,” Vincent added. He grimaced at his response. Another slip of the tongue like that, he might as well give Maddox the compound’s security numbers. He had to play it safe—keep his guards close to his chest. “Those guards were unrecognizable, and Cadmus wasn’t there. Your footage just proves that some sick bastard is trying to beat you at your own game.”
Vincent unfolded his arms and winced at the distant pain. His legs still ached from the attack a few weeks ago. He slumped into one of the armchairs and waited for Maddox’s list of condescending remarks.
Maddox drummed his fingers on the edge of his desk. His thumb splashed into the puddle of dark ink, staining his pale flesh. “And should I ask you to assist me in winning this game, Vincent, what would you say?”
“Well, it fucking depends on what you’re asking me to do. Sir.”
“It’s quite simple, really. I want you to help me to defeat a common foe,” Maddox stated pointedly, jutting his chin toward the footage. “Regardless of who and what lurks within those walls, their existence must be eradicated. The safety of my city, and your people, will otherwise be under threat. Your expertise may be of use in saving them.”
Vincent stewed on the vampire’s words. Maddox trailed a finger lazily over the seam of his lips, his gaze pressed on him.
Help an enemy defeat a common foe? Was the vampire deluded? Vincent was his slave—not his warrior.
Why didn’t he just order Vincent to do his dirty work for him?
“I can see questions burning on that face, Vincent. I do not punish for one’s honesty. Say whatever it is you must.”
“You have an army at your disposal,” Vincent countered, rubbing at his bandaged neck. “What do you need me for?”
Maddox stopped touching his lip and raised his eyebrows. “Let’s just say they all lack something which you possess.”
Hell, if Vincent knew what that was; all he understood in life was how to fuck and kill. But wasn’t this what he wanted—to be used in a way that put his skills to use and not just his
body? To be seen as something other than a slave? Crossing his arms again, Vincent gave a stiff nod. It wasn’t like he could refuse the request anyway: it was an order.
Vincent Hudson, fighting alongside a vampire? He’d seen everything now.
A smile crept onto Maddox’s face. “Good. You will begin training next week. Ezra will show you to The Arena.”
With a flick of Maddox’s wrist, the footage disappeared into thin air, and Ezra announced himself at the door.
“You called for me, sir?”
“The Arena?” Vincent grumbled, paying the secretary no attention. “I train just fine at the gym.”
Maddox slowly shook his head. “The difference between vampires and hybrids are too extreme. Vampires, for the most part, are still human. The latter is not. You’ll need to train with my kin in order to fight them successfully. Otherwise, what good are you to me dead? Ezra. Show the volunteer to his new accommodation.”
Vincent’s pulse accelerated at the word accommodation. The vampires could probably hear it—see it fluttering under his flesh. He couldn’t wait to see the back of that cell. The memories of Titus were still there, still fresh, and each night there was no escaping from them. Titus’ hot breath on his face, the belt around his neck, and the cock impaling him. But he’d rather have flashbacks to the rape than of his dead wife and children. Maybe, in some twisted way, the fucker had done him a favor.
He forced himself to stand and looked Maddox dead in the eye. No words came to him. He could only follow Ezra from the room and hope he hadn’t failed one of Maddox’s tests.
“Oh, and Vincent,” Maddox said, wiping his ink-covered hand on a white handkerchief. “You will want to feed that mutt of yours some fresh meat. It is… healthier for him.”
Vincent rolled his eyes and followed Ezra up the stairs to the first floor. What the hell happened to plain old kibble?
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