A Vial of Life(A Shade of Vampire,Book 21)(17) by Bella Forrest
Cyrus laid Nuriya down on the ground in front of the rest of the Nasiri jinn, and, to my surprise, removed her gag. Perhaps he enjoyed the sound of her sobbing.
I tried to avoid looking at the queen, seeing as there was nothing I could think of to alleviate her suffering or prevent the Drizans’ path of vengeance. To my dismay, she addressed me directly, forcing me to look up.
“Benjamin’s birth mother,” she gasped, as though she didn’t know my name. “You don’t understand. My darling Ben is in grave danger. He needs us. If you let the Drizans have their way with us, your son will be lost to you forever. Bahir is with him now protecting him, but he will sense my pain and leave Ben. If that happens, oh! I can’t bear to think of it! He’ll be left stranded and—”
“Enough!” Cyrus snapped. He stuffed the gag back in her mouth.
The blood drained from my face. “What?” I choked, staring down at Nuriya. “What do you mean, Ben’s in danger? Where is he? What happened to him?”
I stumbled forward, ignoring the angered expression on Cyrus’s face as I reached down to pull the gag from Nuriya’s mouth. But, bizarrely, as much as I tugged, it was stuck fast. I turned to Cyrus with pleading eyes.
“I need to hear what this jinni has to say about my son,” I breathed. “Please, remove the gag.”
Cyrus’ eyes smoldered as he looked from me to Nuriya. Then he turned on Jeriad, whose face remained stoic as he witnessed the scene. Cyrus’ jaw twitched as he stooped down and pulled out the gag.
Nuriya coughed and spluttered, tears streaming down her cheeks.
I bent down to her level and touched her shoulder. It felt surprisingly solid for such an ethereal creature, and I gripped it hard.
“Where is Benjamin? He’ll be left stranded where? Are you saying that he’s not here in The Oasis?”
Nuriya bit down on her trembling lip and nodded. “He’s not here. After you left, an oracle informed us of something terrible about Benjamin.” She swallowed hard. “The Elders intend to make him their slave for eternity. They want him for themselves—they have since he was a newborn. An Elder imprinted on him when he was an infant and formed a bond that would connect the two of them for as long as Benjamin’s heart remained beating. Ben is currently in the supernatural dimension with Aisha, my niece, and Bahir, my partner, trying to find a way to get rid of the bond that the Elder formed with him. The Elder is calling Benjamin back to Cruor, and since he drank so much human blood recently, the spirit has become strong enough to take control of Ben’s body like never before. I don’t know exactly where they are now in the supernatural world, but Bahir is inside Ben, battling the Elder to keep his mind from being taken over. If I continue to be harassed, Bahir will sense my disturbance and come for me. He might be on his way already! Benjamin needs two jinn with him!”
Her words left me speechless. I froze, kneeling on the floor and gaping at the jinni.
My son, bonded to an Elder?
“What does the Elder want with him?” Derek asked, shock shaking his voice.
“He wants to use Ben to nurse himself back to health and help all the Elders rise up. Other vessels are of no use to them, for they are too weak to inhabit regular vessels. But Ben’s Elder, Basilius, managed to form a special bond which allowed him to gain nourishment from the blood Ben consumed. If he manages to lure Ben back to Cruor, he will certainly be strong enough to inhabit Benjamin and take him over fully.”
“When did he leave?” I asked, shaking her shoulders. “How long has he been gone?”
“Days now,” she replied.
Oh, no. No. Not my son.
I’d often feared that something bad had happened to Ben while he’d been in Aviary, but nothing could have prepared me for this.
Nuriya had every reason to lie to us regarding Ben in order to save her and her family’s skin from the Drizan jinn. But something in her eyes made me believe that she was telling the truth. As hard as it was to swallow, Ben having been bonded to an Elder would explain a lot of things, like why he was the only vampire we’d ever come across who couldn’t physically stomach animal blood.
And if there was even the smallest chance that Nuriya was speaking the truth, breaking Benjamin’s bond with the jinn would actually do more harm than good. Possibly irreparable harm. I clenched my jaw at the irony. This bond created by jinn that had caused me so much pain before now appeared to be his saving grace. And by trying to cut it off, we were cutting off my son.
The Drizans had to stop with their raid.
I faced the agitated Cyrus. Even though I knew this monster would never agree to it, I couldn’t help but try. “Your lordship, we must call this off. Your actions could be greatly injuring my son, for if Nuriya speaks the truth, he is bonded to a much worse force than the jinn.”
The tension that had been building between Cyrus and me since I’d entered Nuriya’s bedroom while he tortured her reached breaking point. He whirled around to glare at Jeriad.
“What is this, dragon?” he seethed, fire in his eyes. “I cannot tolerate this vampire any longer. None of this was part of our deal. We agreed to extricate the young man from the Nasiris’ clutches, and that was all. What we choose to do with these traitors is none of your business.”
I looked pleadingly at Jeriad, but what could the dragon shifter do? We had already entered into an agreement with the Drizans on the strength of the goodwill the dragons had built with the jinn over the years. Their willingness to bend to the dragons’ requests only stretched so far.