Maelin ran up the dungeon stairs and, after minimal internal debate, headed straight to Preyuna’s room.
She stopped and knocked on the door.
There was no response.
Maybe I guessed wrong. Maybe she is in Mark Caten’s room after all.
She knocked again.
Still no response.
Maelin put her hand on the doorknob. “This is probably a bad idea.” She turned the doorknob.
It was unlocked.
She opened the door.
It opened easily.
She entered the room and stopped short.
Preyuna was sitting at her vanity table. Her wings were pinned between her back and the chair’s back rest.
Mark Caten stood before the fey queen. He kissed her over and over and it did not look like a pleasant experience. It looked like a punishment.
Neither party noticed Maelin standing there.
I shouldn’t intrude.
I should leave.
But Isellta is so convinced that Robin is here. I need to know the truth.
I know Preyuna holds that truth.
She strode over to them.
Preyuna grabbed the front of his shirt, but she didn’t pull him closer or push him away.
He must have taken it as an invitation.
He wedged his knee between her legs.
Mark Caten kissed her one more time before giving Maelin a “Go somewhere and die” look. “Yes, you are excused. Now, go away and leave us alone.”
“I need to talk to Preyuna.”
He smirked. “Well, you’ll just have to wait your turn, little rice cracker. Preyuna is in the middle of a very important meeting, but I’m sure you can see that. Bye now.”
“This is important.”
“Oh, isn’t that what they all say? ‘This is important.’ ‘This simply can’t wait.’ ‘The world will crumble to an end if I don’t—”
Preyuna shoved him off her lap.
She stood. Her wings hung straight down with an unnatural limpness. “What do you want from me, peace dragon?”
“I want to know where Robin is.”
Mark Caten watched Preyuna as if he were waiting for her response.
“Do you really think I know or care where that malformed vampire is?”
“Yes. I do.”
“Well, you would be very wrong.”
“He is here.”
Preyuna’s expression didn’t betray any of her thoughts. “Is he?”
“Yes. Isellta knows that he’s here. He can sense his presence. And I can detect his scent in the dungeon, in one particular prison cell.”
“But you haven’t seen him.”
Mark Caten picked a nail file off of her vanity table. “This is a fascinating conversation.” He filed his fingernails. “Do go on.”
“Is there a reason why you think I know anything about this?”
“Not really. Nothing more than pure instinct.”
“Are your instincts that infallible, peace dragon? Maybe you’re wrong. Maybe I have nothing to do with this. Maybe you should be asking Mark about Robin’s location.”
Mark Caten blew on his nails. “Don’t bother me. I’m busy over here.” He gave Maelin a disparaging glance. “Too busy to be bothered by a small-breasted, narrow-hipped, guard’s whore.” He smiled at his nails and kept filing them.
Maelin carefully regarded the two of them.
Neither one wants to help me. Which means there’s a good chance that they are in it together.
“At least tell me this much. Is Robin here?”
“Do you know where he is?”
“Has Robin been staked?”
Mark Caten raised his gaze. “Now, that! That is an interesting question.”
“And the answer is?”
He smirked. “Not a clue. Too bad.”
“What do you want him for?”
“Hahahahahahahaha! Why would I want a vampire? I have plenty of my own.”
That is actually a good question. Why would Mark Caten want a vampire? Why would he want that particular vampire? What could Robin do for him that no other vampire could do?
“Aww, what’s the matter? Did you finally run out of questions? What a pity. And we were having so much fun. At least, I know I was having fun and that’s all that really counts. But I suppose all fun must eventually end.”
He waved at Maelin in a dismissive gesture. “You know where the door is, little gluten-free rice cake, and you know how to use it.” He resumed his nail filing. “Go have at it.”
“Preyuna. If you care about Isellta’s mental and physical well-being, let him see Robin. Tell me where he is. Tell me what Caten’s done with him.”
Preyuna glared at her. “Mark is right. It’s time for you to leave.” Her eyes turned white. “And you’d better leave now before I get violent.”
“Just tell me the truth.”
“If you don’t leave, I will. I will go to your dirty human lover and I will hurt him. I will turn myself into you and I will make you say the most hurtful things. It will break his heart.”
And she would do that too.
“Fine. You win.” Maelin returned to the open door. “But when you are ready to tell me all, you know where to find me.” She left the room.
Mark Caten blew on his nails on more time and admired them. “Ahh, perfection.” He set the nail file on the table. “By the way, my dear cupcake, thank you for standing by me.” He curled his hands around her neck. “You could have told her everything, but you didn’t. I appreciate that loyalty.” He kissed her forehead. ” Go ahead. Heal your wings.”
“Thank you, oh Most Gracious One.”
“Hahahahaha! Yes, I am tremendously gracious.”