It shouldn’t amaze me that Barbara wants me. Ambrose smiled. She’s made that more than sufficiently clear by now. He kissed her forehead. But it is amazing all the same…in so many ways.
He led her into the next cell, which reeked of boiled cabbage and burnt garbanzo beans. He stopped short.
Barbara looked questioningly at him. “What’s wrong?”
“I know that stench. But…” His gaze traveled to the back of the cell. He blanched.
“Ambrose? What is it?”
A man sat in a slump before the brick wall. Stained metal chains connected his manacles and metal collar to the wall. The collar hung loose around his thinned neck. His hands were mutilated and mangled.
Barbara held his hand. “Ambrose?”
“I know this man.”
The prisoner raised his head, revealing thick claw-like scars on his face and a vampire mark on his neck. His right eye was missing.
Ambrose made sure the manacles were tight. After all, he didn’t want the man to shield his face.
Ambrose’s throat tightened.
Blood splattered. The man screamed.
Barbara looked up at him. “Ambrose, please talk to me.”
His blood tasted awful, but that didn’t stop Ambrose from drinking it.
“I…” His stomach twisted. “I did this to him.”
Barbara went silent. She walked over to the prisoner.
Ambrose followed her in silence.
She knelt before the ruined man, who regarded her with a dull, lifeless gaze. “I don’t know what to say to you.”
He smiled as the man’s screams devolved into moans. “Mission complete.”
“I just…” She exhaled softly. “I don’t know.”
The man haltingly turned his head like a faulty animatronic. A strange combination of fear and relief came over his face when he saw Ambrose standing there. He opened his mouth. “You….” His voice had a harsh, dry quality to it. “You’re back.”
He closed his eyes and leaned his head back. “Finish.”
Ambrose unsheathed his claws.
Barbara stumbled up to her feet and left the cell.
Ambrose’s pupils widened as she walked away from the cell and kept walking. He stood. “Barbara?”
She didn’t stop or turn around.
He swore in unmistakably plain English and ran to the door.
“My lord…please. Finish.”
He stood at the door and thought about it.
“Please. End. Kill me.”
He looked back at the shattered ruin of a man. What is right? What is wrong? If I were him, I’d be begging for the same thing. But is it right?
Ambrose walked back to him.
The man’s voice cracked as he said, “Please.”
It would be easy enough to do. All I need is a stake. I’d hate the feel of the wood in my hands, but I’d be done soon enough. One quick stab to the heart and he’d be dead.
I am not that man. Not anymore. I don’t want to be. I can’t.
He grabbed the chain connecting the man’s neck to the wall.
I will never be that man again.
He snapped the chain.
The man opened his eye. “What—?”
“Shut up. I’m doing you a favor.” He snapped the manacles’ chains as well. “This will invariably cause a small revolt and get me in trouble with Mark Caten.” He carefully picked the man up into a bride carry. “Just stay quiet. That’s all I ask. Keep your mouth shut and we’ll get out of here without any problems.”
The prisoner closed his mouth and he kept it closed as Ambrose carried him away.