8. Torment

I opened my eyes. Moving my body was painful, so I stayed in the position I found myself in- curled up like an infant, in the corner of… whatever this thing is.

I surmised I was in some sort of cage. There were no openings, as far as I could tell- it was pitch black, no light managed to get in. It was also very small; I could not stand up fully.

I strained for any sensory input- something to hear, to smell- but I did not detect anything. I tried shifting to a sitting position, leaning my back against a wall; my head touched the ceiling. I pulled my knees up to my chest and wrapped my arms around my legs. Waiting.

I don't know how long I waited- I had nothing to keep track of time with- when a bright flash of light blinded me momentarily. My only thought escape, I tensed and sprang towards the light…

…only to be brought down by that same excruciating pain. I was barely aware of being picked up, something wrapping around my wrists...

When the pain finally subsided, I kept still, concentrating. I felt something tight around my head- I must have been blindfolded.

I felt my weight being suspended by my arms. I tried to touch my supports with my fingers- it felt like cold metal. Chains?

"Ah, he's aware."

Even blindfolded, I knew that voice. It tormented me just a little less than Margherita's death.

"What do you want, Marco?" I growled.

"Such venom," he laughed. "Is it so bad for old friends to drop in?"

"You are no friends of mine," I hissed. "Let me go!"

I tried to yank the chains from their supports, but the moment my body tensed I heard that whispering in my ear. My body slumped, unresponsive, the pain flaring in my head again.

"Tsk, tsk," Marco said. "You should know better than that, Giovanni." The pain subsided, and I tried to concentrate on what I was hearing. Over my labored gasps, I heard faint breathing behind me, and Marco was moving around- pacing?- before me.

"Too bad we had to blindfold you," Marco continued, no trace of regret in his voice. "She's really lovely- and such a handy ability!" His breath touched my ear, and I realized he was whispering. "She sings, you see. That's why you can't hope to escape, Giovanni. All you need to do is hear her voice, and down you go!" He punctuated his words with a snap of his fingers.

I heard him move away again. It was clear I wasn't getting anywhere- not with the female around to incapacitate me. Female? I remembered that way back then, he had a male with him- a swordsman. I wondered where he was for a brief moment. I settled for learning why they were here. "What do you want?"

"Oh, we happened to be in the neighborhood," he replied easily- like it was the most ordinary thing in the world. "You probably hadn't noticed, but we've been keeping tabs on you, Giovanni." This sent a ripple of anger through me, but I tried to contain it. "I was- fascinated, you see. Fascinated about this life you live. If it could be called that." He laughed at some imagined joke.

I struggled to keep my voice even. "And you were watching me, why?"

"As I said, I was curious," he answered, like I was missing the point. "Here you were, the love of your life dead, but you still insist on going about like a human."

There was no mistaking the derogatory tone he used when he said the word.

"I was actually working up to talk to you," he continued, "until we walked in your front door and smelled it."

What is he talking about? "Smelled what?" I prompted.

"That scent!" Again, he sounded like I was missing something so obvious. "So floral, so… delicious. Almost like your dead woman, in fact."

I groaned mentally- I was missing the obvious.

Bella.

They smelled Bella.

They wanted Bella.

"No!" I thrashed against my chains, but the female brought me low again.

"Giovanni," Marco said, his tone teasing. "Why are you so stubborn? You didn't fall in love with this human, did you?"

"That has nothing to do with it!" I snarled. "You can't have her!"

"Is that so?" There was a touch of menace in his voice now. "Allow me to explain this, Giovanni. It would be no problem for any of us to track the scent. But it would be so much more fun for me to take the information from you." I felt a tug- he was ripping my shirt off. "We all know you won't tell us willingly," he said softly.

I felt something strike my side, causing a sharp grating noise. I yelled in pain, felt blood pooling at the site. I felt five very hard points tracing lines down my chest. I cringed at the sound- like knives trying to slice through metal sheets.

"I trust you remember these?" he said, his voice still soft.

How could I? Those claws of his sped up Margherita's demise.

He must have felt me cringe, for he chuckled darkly. "Good. We have all the time in the world, Giovanni- and I never did forgive you for taking that delicious girl away…"

He stabbed my chest with his claws, and I howled in pain.

"Tell me where she is," he breathed, twisting his fingers in me.

"Never," I gasped.

"As I said, we have all the time in the world." I could almost see the smile on his face as he said that.

He stabbed me again, and again…

I was dimly aware of being thrown into my cage. I couldn't recall what happened exactly after Marco stopped talking, but my body burned with wounds. With the female around it was impossible to resist, and I doubted that I could take both on at once, even with my ability.

I struggled to get into a seated position. I clawed a wall in frustration; the resulting sound was high-pitched and made me wince. When I put my hand back on the wall, I felt the grooves my nails had made.

I can make marks. I made a thick line with my fingernail, denoting the first time they… tortured… me.

Trying to keep my mind occupied, I contemplated where the third member of this coven could be. I hadn't puzzled it out before I was mercilessly yanked from my prison, blindfolded and chained again. I didn't bother resisting this time, but Marco had at me with reckless abandon.

When I finally felt myself hit the wall of my cell, I was glad for the dark. My new wounds burned, but they were fairly dry. I forced myself to shy away from wondering why- my thoughts were scattered enough already.

I heard a scraping noise, heard something being placed in my cell. Another scrape. I had turned to the sound, curious, when I smelled it.

Blood. No, worse.

Human blood.

I recoiled, pushing myself against the corner nearest me, trying to ignore the flames burning my throat and lungs.

So this is why the third vampire was not present during my… sessions. He was out hunting. And they were trying to break my will.

Surely a little taste wouldn't be so bad.

I winced at the voice in my head. No- I can't. I won't!

For what? A girl? She's not Margherita, it chided.

Doesn't matter. She's human. She doesn't deserve to die- not by these monsters.

You are a monster.

How kind of you to remind me. I made a face.

Just a little! Enough to get your strength back, make a run for it…

I shook my head. It would never work- the female would see to that.

You know you want it. It was teasing me now.

I don't need it.

Somewhere during my internal debate, I heard the scraping noise again- twice. The smell of the blood faded, and I could only surmise that they took it away.

My body started convulsing, my breathing became ragged. I tried to rationalize what was happening, and I realized that I was sobbing. No tears wet my eyes, but the emotion was familiar.

I felt this way the day I crawled onto my bed, thinking I was dying of the plague. I felt this way the day Margherita was killed, and I was helpless to save her.

I ran my fingers along the wall, searching for where I had made that first mark, and made another one next to it. I curled into a ball, rocking myself, trying not to imagine what waited for me outside my cage…