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I wasn't unconscious so much as in intense pain. Whatever was digging into the back of my neck was either messing up my veins or disrupting the blood supply. Maybe both. My head throbbed and my stomach was quickly beginning to twist and turn.

Outside of the throbbing pain, I wasn't aware of much. Occasionally, my brain would clear enough to catch a glimpse of the woods, but then whatever was digging into my neck dug harder and everything went black again. My feet dragged through dead things. Leaves, dry bushes, the frozen dew. It was all I could do to keep breathing and stay awake even if it meant I had to go through every second of pain.

When I was finally thrown to the ground, the throbbing continued but in a more swirling motion. My stomach gave in, and I dry heaved a small mouthful of stomach bile onto a cemented ground.

The world stilled as I raced to calm my heart. Once I was fully aware of the concrete beneath me, I could focus.

I'd been dragged all the way to the asylum again. I concentrated on my breath for another several seconds, slowly taking in my surroundings. The floor was cold concrete, but it was fairly clean compared to the other areas of the asylum I'd seen. There were no windows, but some dim light came in from the doorway 

I got my feet beneath me and got up. Only a couple steps toward the door, though, something took my feet out from under me and I fell down. My arm was forced underneath me and I felt a jolt through it before a painful numbness spread from the source.

I managed the panic, and picked my head up again.

The thing that had tripped me was lurking in the corner. He was man-shaped, and he slowly pulled the hooded jacket off of himself to reveal strong forearms and a muscular chest that made me painfully aware I was just a small, unathletic teenage girl. 

He folded his jacket and set it on a table that I realized with a horrible jolt was an embalming table, designed to gather bodily fluids to a drain in the floor.

It was clear I was probably about to die.

I moved slowly, avoiding anything that might trigger another strike as I took in my situation. Even if I ran I knew this man would catch me. He was eyeing me and I could see the undertone of the vampire color in his eyes, making what would normally be an ordinary pair of brown eyes red.

I knew  I would not be able to outrun him, even fueled by an absurd amount of adrenaline.

Had I offended Blacke somehow? But this wasn't Scarlet's brother and Blacke seemed capable of murdering his own enemies.

So who?

The man pushed away from his table, where I saw at least one knife and a nest of other objects I didn't want to think about. I scrambled away from him as he approached me slowly, avoiding the sunlight coming in through the door.

He gave me a toothy grin, showing off some chipped vampire fangs. 

“I-I don't know what I did to-to–” I stuttered. My brain and emotions weren't quite on the same page as he stopped a few paces from the wall I was now cowering against.

“You, my dear, are just being you.” He paced in a shallow arc between me and the door to the outside.

“Who are you?” I managed more confidently.

“Demetrius,” he said with a strange wave of his hand. “Of the Bludge Clan.”

I swallowed. This was the man that Scarlet had spent years with, and he oozed “abuser” from every pore of his being. But maybe that was just how he treated humans.

I cradled my half-numb arm against my torso, but every small movement sent butterflies of pain racing up my nerves.

“What do you want?” I asked. There were pricks of tears in my eyes, but I wasn’t really crying. Just in emotional distress.

“Well, unfortunately,” he said, stroking the short fine hairs of his beard, “that bitch won't leave this place while there's someone here poisoning her mind.”

“Bitch? You mean Scarlet?” There was more horrified shock in my voice than fear. I didn't understand how any reasonable human being could call Scarlet a bitch. Evil? Maybe. But not by choice and she was too quiet to cause a fuss with others.

“Scarlet,” he tsked in agreement. “I wouldn't be stuck here if it wasn't for her.”

I was starting to be more aware of how bad my situation was. The only grace I had was to keep him talking while I figured out a plan to get away. It was obvious to me, if he wasn’t aiming to kill me, he was going to do horrible things that might make me wish I was dead.

He stared down at me and a cold wave washed over my skin, standing my hair up on end.

Oh no, now’s not a good time. I started to stand, my legs shaking violently beneath me, but he threw a fist and it collided solidly with the side of my head.

I crashed down again, back onto my already-injured arm and my head got a second smack against the concrete, leaving me barely conscious. The black spots circled my field of view, trying to close in, but I managed a deep breath as Demetrius grabbed my legs and started to drag me back to the table.

“It’s unfortunate really,” he grumbled. To me, his voice sounded like he was speaking through water, half garbled and muffled. “I have to make this quick. I don’t know what that other one is up to. Probably running about, playing daddy for his dear little sister.”

A flare of annoyance cut through my panic and fear. I put a hand down on the floor, feeling the rough texture sliding away underneath my finger tips.

“This is… your doing,” I managed. Words weren’t coming easy. The blackness was receding now as the concussion eased back.

He picked me up, jostling my head and making me aware of how tender my skull was after that blow.

“It is,” he agreed. “I was blessed with this body, so I set out to use it to the best of my ability.”

The metal was cold under my skin. My hand landed on his jacket, feeling something like warmth from the material, but I knew better.

My other hand, I noted through a swaying, foggy view, was covered in blood.

Thick fingers came around it and pulled my wrist up to examine the red fluid, and then he licked it.

I felt another roll of nausea but there wasn’t anything left in my stomach anyway.

His figure moved away. I clenched my fingers around the material of his jacket as he went about his business. Warm, protective cloth. His skin, what I’d seen of it at least, it was hard to make much out with how dark this room was, was a ghastly greyish color. A lack of sunlight had turned him into a ghoulish creature, further accentuated by dark eyes glittering from sallowed sockets.

I need to get out of here. Now.

He turned back to me, a knife in hand.

His intention was to butcher me. Just like he did all his victims.

My fingers clenched harder. I wouldn’t be able to outrun him, so surprise was my best bet. I’d have to strike him somewhere it hurt, even if it hurt me back. One of my hands was half-useless, the other clenched tightly on fabric.

There was one chance. I didn’t have many options.

I closed my eyes for a moment, seeing the glint of metal as he approached me again. And then, instinctively, I swung my broken, blood soaked arm into his face.

My nails caught his skin and I did my best to hook them in. I felt something wet come underneath them and then he slammed his own arm down on top of mine and with a final, pathetic crunch what remained of my forearm’s integrity gave way.

I swung my legs off the table, and sprinted, not looking back, knowing I wouldn’t have time to do anything if he was right behind me.

I got into the sunlight, and flung myself out the broken window, immediately regretting the decision as the ground rushed at me.

I hit hard, the air left my body in an unhealthy rush.

I rolled onto my back, reinflating my lungs. His ugly face poked out of the hole I’d just passed through, twisted into rage. His face was red and covered in blood in just those couple of seconds and then he retreated back, covering his skin with his hands.

His jacket was next to me, glittering with shards of glass. Surely, he would find something to cover himself with soon. I had to keep moving, and got to my feet.

My body wasn’t moving like it normally did, I noticed. But so far I hadn’t been injured too badly. I didn’t think, at least. I became distantly aware of pain threatening to build up and flood my senses, but I pushed it out of the way for now. A broken arm could be fixed.

The trees stood tall. The asylum loomed like their master and I stumbled down the hill.