By: Marian Tee

But it had, several times in fact.

Curiosity had kept her sane in the past few days even though the things she had learned were beyond frightening. When she had woken up alone in the dark, her fingers encountering the steel around her wrist that kept her chained to the wall, curiosity had kept her from losing her mind. Curiosity had given her the courage not to cry and focus on one word.


Why was she here? Why was she chained? And most importantly, why were her parents not here with her?

The last thing she remembered was being on the rubber boat with her parents, the three of them trying furiously to paddle their way back to safety and away from the roaring falls.

And then nothing. No matter what she did, she just couldn’t remember.

Another thing Zari learned by listening to the creatures talking outside the door was that captives like her were called “candidates”, and that they were being auctioned off, one by one, to become pets.

While most candidates were sold in a day or two, Zari was being held in isolation because she was special. Even now, she couldn’t quite decide whether being special was a good thing or not. She was afraid that it would mean her future Master would be just as special, but in a terribly bad way.

Every night, she was unable to sleep, fearing that the moment she closed her eyes, her faceless Master would come and do his worst. Sometimes, she found herself hoping that he would finally come. She wanted it over with—

Zari stiffened on the bed when she realized that someone was opening the door.

Would it be Troll A and B? Or maybe it would be one of the “organizers” of the auction? Those were even more terrifying than the trolls, with their eyes like toxic pools and their overpowering stench.

A shadow fell over her, and a jolt shot through Zari’s body when she realized that she was no longer alone.

Don’t show your fear, she told herself as she kept her body immobile, hoping it was enough to make it seem like she was sleeping. No matter what, don’t ever show you’re afraid. If she had to die right now, she would not die groveling in fear.

The silence lengthened, tension thickening in the air. Frustration and fear butted heads inside her, making Zari’s body twitch involuntarily.

Shit! Any moment now, she would be flipped on her back, devoured, and—


She swallowed, inhaled, and exhaled, repeatedly, and as silently as she could. Deep in her heart, she knew that this was the end. Everything would change right this moment, and her only choice was whether to face it quivering in fear or head on with courage.

Never. Show. Fear.

She repeated the words to herself like a mantra, counted one to three, and flipped to her back, her heart and mind prepared for—

Her jaw dropped.

What the heck was a GQ model doing in her prison?

Despite his horrendous-looking cloak and mud-caked clothes, none of it was successful in making him less than perfectly gorgeous. His hair was the shade of ebony, his eyes brilliantly green, his skin a smooth, dark bronze, and his body sculpted and toned like a statue.

He was possibly the most handsome man she had ever seen, and that was saying something since she had once met the actor playing Captain America in real life.

When she started to speak, he placed one finger on his lips, indicating that she had to be quiet.

Against her better judgment, she did.

A moment later, she came to regret her decision because apparently, keeping quiet meant permission for him to maul her. He was on top of her in an instant, her body trapped under his muscular form. Something sharp pierced her flesh, and when she looked down, she saw the man’s mouth sucking on the skin right above her heart.

Oh my God, he was a vampire and he was going to suck her dry!

She screamed, and a moment later, the trolls burst through the door.


But her screams died when all they did was laugh at her. The way they were gazing at her made Zari’s skin crawl, and she realized she had foolishly forgotten something just as important.

She. Was. Naked.

“Got thirsty right away, did ya?” Troll A cackled. She recognized him by the gash on his forehead.

“Just don’t ya kill her,” Troll B reminded.

The man on top of her shifted, his body shielding hers from the trolls. She was almost grateful for it, but then he lifted his head. That was when she saw the faint traces of blood lining his lower lip, just before he licked it dry. The way he did it so calmly left her dazed, enough for Zari to start doubting herself. Was she really going to survive this without succumbing to fear and madness?

“Come on, give us some privacy.”

Zari jerked in shock under the vampire, his strange tone leaving her even more bewildered. Her attacker had been the picture of formidable strength a moment ago, but now his mewling voice made him seem pathetic. Maybe she really was going crazy.

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