Part One: Feast

“You don’t mind, do you?” he purred. “It’s just an ounce or two… Just one…measly…ounce.”

Biting back the shivers from the warmth of his breath on her ear, she glared at him.

“Or fifty. How can I possibly trust you to stop? You told me yourself how your kind can lose control at the mere sight of blood. How can I trust you to restrain yourself when the taste is on your tongue?”

“You’ll just have to. You’ll just have to trust. I’ve never told a lie in my entire life.”

She cocked an eyebrow as his lips curled up into a sneer, all the while nuzzling her neck. The hairs on her nape rose – she could feel his warm breath tickling her ear.

“Only half-truths,” he whispered. “Never the entire truth. What fun would that be? Wouldn’t you agree?”

“Hmmm.”

“Oh, just give up your fancy airs, love.” His arm slowly snaked around her waist before quickly pulling her in. “I know how much you want to. Isn’t that why you came here after all? Because of your curiosity? Why else would a beautiful and mortal young woman like you come to a Banquet? Surely it wasn’t just to watch. Why stand on the sidelines when you could participate?”

Picking up the sleeve of his tailored suit with thinly veiled disgust, she unwound the arm around her waist. Looking him dead in those striking violet eyes, she coolly said, “It seems to me that you’ve no idea who I am and what I’m capable of.”

“Oh?” Though his posture was relaxed and his expression easy-going, his eyes turned a shade darker. They coldly glimmered at her, the malice in them accentuated when a thick cloud passed over the moon and threw them into near darkness.

“And who might you be?” He tilted his head to the side as if he were a little boy instead of the monster that he truly was. “And what might you be capable of?”

“Far more than you give me credit for.”

“Won’t you at least tell me your name, child? I’d so love to know the name of the witch who dared defy the Dark Prince.”

“Unfortunately, you won’t have that privilege.”

Nothing moved. Even the clouds above seemed to freeze as he stared unblinkingly at her. C.C. didn’t balk. She had no reason to. So what if he were the Dark Prince? He was just another one of them, only with a title that allowed him to puff out his chest as much as possible, and God knew how many of his kind she had killed. Hundreds all slain by her hand. He was nothing. He was a nobody. He wasn’t, in any circumstances, special.

It didn’t matter that he was the Dark Prince, their lord and leader, the one they all paid allegiance to.

Nor did it matter that his piercing gaze would haunt her in her dreams.

All that mattered was her mission, and he was not her mission. She had to put an end to this tomfoolery – she had wasted more time than she could spare with him.

But then everything happened all at once.

He pressed her against the stone railing of the balcony, moving at an inhuman speed. Biting back a groan from the painful impact, the last thing she caught were a pair of razor-sharp incisors before her reflexes kicked in. Swiftly pulling out a silver blade from the strap around her thigh, she aimed for his shoulder. It’d be enough pain to distract him but not enough to kill him. She didn’t want to kill him – it was against the Code she had sworn her life to. No unnecessary kills. No unnecessary harm.

He managed to block her but at a price. Scarlet blood dripped onto the polished ground as the knife greedily bit into his palm. Wrenching the blade out from his grip, she gave a sweeping kick to his legs before leaping over the ornately carved railing. As the darkness of the forest swallowed her, the double French doors behind him burst open as the Royal Guard rushed to their king’s side.

“Majesty!” they cried indignantly. At the sight of imperial blood splattered all over the balcony, Jeremiah Gottwald, the ever-loyal Captain of the Guard, immediately ordered for his men to give chase. The Prince raised his hand in protest.

“No. Giving chase would only excite the imperial court, and I won’t steep myself in any more political turmoil than I am in now. Leave her.”

“But sire, she dared to attack—”

“You question my reasoning?”

“With all due respect, I—”

“Return to your posts at once. None of you are to speak a word about this. Do you understand?”

They all snapped to attention. “Yes, your Majesty!”

The Prince swept away but not before glancing over his shoulder at the spot where the young woman had stood. Who was she? What mortal would dare lay a finger on him? Did she not know? Or was she just stupid?

Well, whether she was foolhardy or dense, it no longer mattered to him. He had other, more important, business to take care of. Like the commencement of the Banquet.

But as he returned to the depths of the ballroom, he couldn’t help but let his mind wander back to her. Her silky emerald hair… Her sharp golden eyes… A true beauty. Such a waste to have let her slip between his fingers.

But who knew? Maybe by some twist of fate, their paths would cross again. If it did… If it did, oh, if they were to meet again… He knew better now than to let such a rare delicacy escape from him again.

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