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The Vampire Gift 2: Kingdom of

By:E.M. Knight

Chapter One

PHILLIP



I do a slow circle of the room at the top of the tower, trying to keep my breathing calm and steady.

It’s hard. The only reason I’m managing is because of all the meditation I’ve done over the last century. Otherwise, I’d be going crazy.

I’ve never been to this part of Mother’s castle before. I’ve seen the tower’s angled spire, but it has always been off-limits.

For the first time, I understand why.

Silver. Hoards and hoards of silver, lining all the walls, piled as jewelry and cutlery on the ground, spilling out as coins and necklaces and rings from intricately-carved chests. Ancient suits of armor stand erect around me, made entirely of the accursed-metal.

The mere sight of the room would fill any vampire with dread. Being locked inside…?

It’s unimaginable.

I lose track of the safe path along the room and misplace a step. As soon as I do, enormous pain crashes into me, coming from all sides, coming almost as radioactive waves from the silver.

I cry out and, with extreme effort, pull myself back. The pain subsides. I’m okay—for now.

When Mother first imprisoned me by latching that silver collar around my neck, I thought she’d put me in a cell underground. I thought she’d keep me where we keep the prisoners awaiting trial—though with her at the helm, the trials had never been more than theatrical shams. If a vampire of The Haven did something to warrant being held prisoner, his fate was all but decided: he would become one of The Convicted. No matter what.

So in a way I was relieved when we emerged above ground. I wish I could say it was a surprise that she would hold me hostage… but Mother never hid her disdain for my choice to stop feeding on human blood. There was a time she was afraid the other vampires would see it as weakness pervading through the Soren family. She believed my decision could start a revolt.

That didn’t happen. I can thank James and Raul for that. My two older brothers were her bastions of strength, and with Mother leading, none would dare rise against her.

Except, of course, her cousin Rebecca. Yet Mother put a very effective stop to that by… by…

I can’t even think it.

I look around the room, at the gleaming metal reflecting the candlelight… and continue my careful path in that slow, precise circle.

Silver usually does not have this sort of radiating effect. In most cases, it’s simple: either the metal touches our skin, and it burns—or it does not.

But I’m sure Mother cast one of her spells on the items surrounding me so that just being in the room is near agony.

If I stood still it would drive me crazy. The reverberations through the air feel as jarring as jackhammers pounding at my temples. But by moving in the path I found, I manage to ease the worst of the silver’s effects on me.

Movement. Movement is essential to everything, movement is essential to life. As a vampire, I’ve watched as our coven has stagnated, because it’s been stuck within the protective wards surrounding The Haven.

It all stems from Mother. The other vampires of our royalty look to her for guidance and leadership. It’s part of the natural hierarchy. They see her growing restless, and they grow restless, too.

Abruptly the doors slam open. A gust of wind blows inside.

I jerk that way.

Mother stands on the threshold, the wind emanating from her and somehow taking the worst of the silver’s effects away.

I try to summon up hatred for her… but I cannot. That she would turn against me and Raul doesn’t strike me as a great surprise. She was desperate after having lost Eleira. Desperate people do desperate things.

Besides, it’s not so much hatred that swells through me, but… pity. Pity that she would be so power-hungry as to go to these extremes.

“Enjoying yourself, are you?” she asks, her voice a sing-song mockery of its usual self. The wind dies down, but the effects of the silver remain lessened. “I never understood you, Phillip. How you could be so calm, so complacent, so…”

“Peaceful?” I suggest.

She narrows her eyes. Both her hands go out to grip the sides of the doorway.

“Yes,” she admits grudgingly. “Peaceful.” She steps into the room, her elegant blue gown flowing around her legs as she walks. “It’s not in our nature to be peaceful, my sweet.”

The hairs on the back of my neck go up. She’s never addressed me using that term of endearment before. Raul, yes. James, sometimes. But never me.

“Come.” She holds out her hand. “I think you’ve spent enough time here. Don’t you?”

“You’re letting me go?”

She laughs. “You’re jumping the gun. Raul and Eleira have not returned yet.”

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