Kat bit her lip.
She wanted to know more about what in the hell was going on, but every answer seemed to bring her more questions, much more dangerous questions.
However, she was already in too deep to stop. Even if Uriel wanted to kill her as much as protect her, she needed to get some answers out of him if nothing else.
“I want to stay. If Michael is coming, then it’ll be worth it to wait out any more attacks.”
Uriel scoffed and rubbed at the back of his head. “Yeah, sure. We can hold out until a councilman from the Order arrives because that is going to do us a lot of good.”
“A councilman?” Kat turned to Walter.
Walter sighed seeming to grasp how little she knew of the situation.
Uriel growled out in frustration. “And the whole constant repeat with her not knowing a damn thing is getting very old. Fill her in on the highlights. I don’t have time. I told you from the beginning that keeping her in the dark would have its repercussions.”
“From the beginning? How long has this been going on?”
Uriel gave the butler a pointed look and walked off.
“Miss Katharine, I fear there has been much going on…for a very long time, since you first came to us, I’m afraid.”
Kat glanced back at Uriel.
He had paused near one of the entrances and glanced back and forth down the hall. She guessed he was making sure no more knights burst through the doors after them; though to be honest, if that’s really what they were, then was she even on the right side of what was going on?
Weren’t knights usually good guys?
She hesitated, not sure if she really wanted to know the answer. However, she also knew that it was pointless to break down that question with so few answers.
Yet, there was one thing that surfaced to her mind above all else.
“What is he?”
Walter coughed and straightened as though preparing himself for a difficult discussion. She remembered him using the same face when she had been much younger and had asked him about Santa Claus or the Easter bunny.
“He…is what’s commonly known as a vampire. One with incredible power and has protected this family for generations, though not of his own free will.”
“So, wait…It’s not some insane scheme that we are all pretending is real?”
“I’m afraid not.”
Kat shivered and rubbed her arms with her hands. He had to be tricking them or something. A monster like that didn’t exist. Yet, she had seen some other things that were supposed to be of myth or magic that night. She swallowed down a lump, forcing out words again. “Does that mean he’s been here since,” she paused to try and settle her stomach, “since Michael and I first came here?”
Walter moved to sit in a nearby chair. “Yes. I am so sorry that we didn’t tell you. We kept Uriel hidden away. He is just one of the assets of the family.”
Kat crossed her arms and stumbled over to another chair. All of those secrets, all at once. It threatened to remove the contents of her stomach to the floor. She remembered her breathing techniques and calmed her nerves to the best of her ability. She needed to change the subject.
“You said that the triquetra was a key and that it went to a box. What’s the box?”
Uriel appeared next to her and grinned. “Want me to tell her?”
“Instead, why don’t you show her? This mess isn’t going to clean itself.” Walter said with a sigh. He called over the other two maids, and they started to gather brooms and sponges from a nearby closet. “We can discuss further questions in the morning if that’s alright?” He gave a soft smile and patted Kat on the shoulder.
She let out a heavy sigh and relaxed her arms to her sides. “This is so frustrating.”
“Not as frustrating as dealing with the girl with a million questions,” Uriel chided.
Kat shot him a glare, but the vampire rolled his eyes and waved for her to follow him. His coat billowed out behind him as he strolled out of the ballroom.
She bit her lip but followed him. Kat rubbed at her temples as a headache blossomed in her head. There were too many questions, too much she didn’t know. She needed answers, but some of the questions seemed too personal to just strike up in casual conversation. She didn’t know Uriel or even like him for that matter.
He glanced at her. His brilliant blue eyes seemed more like an arrow that could pierce the deepest part of a soul. No lie or deception could allude that gaze. She shivered despite herself and spied Uriel smirking at her.
“You aren’t used to all this, are you?”
She eyed him, then sighed and ran her hand through her hair. “I guess you could say that. It’s not like they train you for encountering mythological creatures at the academy. Though, if they had a class on Bigfoot, I probably would’ve taken it.” She chuckled, then sighed sensing the weight of reality resting on her shoulders. “All I’ve ever known is pain and loss in this world. Even my own brother, who is still alive, left me here as soon as he could. This isn’t much different. But I guess you meant the whole vampires and knights thing. Honestly, I’m more upset about being lied to my whole life, not that you actually care?”
The edges of his face hardened, and he shook his head.
They continued in silence and headed back to the west wing. Uriel started up the older wooden stairs.
And Kat paused.
She remembered those stairs.
A shiver ran down her spine, and she grimaced. It was probably him that had startled her that night. She should have kicked him a bit harder then.
Uriel stopped and turned to her. “What?”
“Why do we have to go up there?”
“You know I was the one who scared you, right? And I’m right here, so⎼”
“Shut up. I know it was you. I just mean what is up there that is so important. I don’t like walking into unknown situations that send my instincts on edge.” Kat crossed her arms.
“So, you aren’t scared of me now?” Uriel stepped back down the last couple of steps.
Kat yawned and turned away from him. “Nope, you’re more like a yapping chihuahua.”
“Look. You don’t seem to get the picture. Why do you think those knights were here? Why do you think Walter wanted you to go and hide in your room?” His teeth bared and he paced away, rubbing at his temples with his fingertips. “All of this is to protect you. They were here because of you.”
Kat stiffened and raised her chin. “I don’t care if they were here for me or not. I’m not some timid girl who runs and hides at the slightest hint of danger. I played that game…for most of my life and you know what, I’m done with it. To hell with running and hiding, so if they want me dead, then they’d better be prepared for me to fight back with everything I’ve got. And I mean everything, dammit! I am sick of the lies and the unnecessary protection. I can’t believe you all think so little of me…that Walter thinks so little of me…even Michael.”
Uriel paused, then eyed her. He sighed and glided over to her.
Kat glared at him and was about to tell him off again. But Uriel scooped her up and continued up the stairs.
Her body tensed, rigid and confused by his action. She could feel the leather from his coat against her skin. The soft texture seemed to cool her flushed features. She expected him to smell like death, but instead, reminded her of the garden outside, like that of the rich-earthy scent of the snapdragons. They didn’t speak as they ascended the stairs. At the top, he set her down.
Kat turned and slugged him in the jaw.
Uriel touched his cheek and licked at the blood. He turned back to her with narrowed eyes.
She met his stare and didn’t waver. “If you ever touch me again without my say so, that’ll be the last thing you’ll ever do. Think of this as your warning.”
Uriel wiped at his lip and nodded once. “Fair enough.”
He motioned at the dust-covered hall from the other night. And at the door on the other side of the room.
Kat faced him and set her jaw. “Why did they want me? Those knights? I thought they were after an Ashley Valette, I think.”
“I’m sure they want both of you. The Knights Templar have been stealing the Order’s initiates for years now. The Order keeps the peace for the most part, but the Templars pride themselves on cleansing the world.”
Kat sighed and covered her face with a hand. “Okay, so what’s behind the door? Hopefully not Ashley.”
“No, no one is in there. It’s just where I sleep.”
She stopped walking.
Uriel turned with a smirk. “Does that make you uncomfortable?”
Kat crossed her arms and huffed out a breath, then strode forward, stepping into the room.
Dust caked the floor along with large piles of soft-packed dirt. On top of the soil rested a large wooden crate, or was it a box?
She tilted her head and blinked.
Her stomach clenched as she realized it was a large coffin that rested on top of the dirt.
It seemed to be made of polished antique wood. A silver lining encircled the lid and was carved with many tiny symbols. Kat stepped over and examined the engravings. Celtic runes had been inscribed all along the metal. At the center of the lid sat a large silver plate with an indentation that matched the key around her neck.
She pulled out the necklace from underneath her shirt. The Celtic triangle chilled her hand as she held it over the indentation. Uriel jumped forward and slapped his hand over the plate.
“If you don’t mind,” he said attempting to calm the growl in his words. “I’d rather you not do that.”
“Oh? And why is that?” She didn’t move the key.
He set his jaw. “It is the lock. That is the key to controlling me. If you set that key there, it will lock the coffin shut and come sunrise,” he hesitated. “I will become incapacitated in a way. But if a vampire is locked inside their own coffin, they are trapped there until they are released.” Uriel slid his hand back and stalked around the coffin.
“So,” Kat paused thinking over his words. “You protect me because I can trap you for what? Forever?”
Uriel paced around the coffin and rolled his eyes.
“I’ll take that as a yes. So, I have a question: If I take off this key could we just go our separate ways?”
Uriel froze. His eyes fixed on Kat.
“What?” she asked. “Do you have to have a master?”
“No…simply dropping the key would allow me to pick it up and continue with my life.”
Kat glanced at the triquetra, then at Uriel. His eyes lingered on the key. She could see his fangs protruding at the edges of his lips.
“Never mind.” Kat shivered and spun, then hurried from the room. It was dumb to think for even a moment he wouldn’t kill her. No matter how human he acted or how much he helped to protect her family, he was doing it out of obligation, not care.
Uriel called out after her, but all she wanted was to go to her room. She had known all he wanted was to be free and…seek revenge. No matter what truce they made, or deal bargained, he would take her life the first chance he got.
If she ever thought otherwise, it would be the end of her.