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A Vial of Life(A Shade of Vampire,Book 21)(13) by Bella Forrest

Although it shared its luxury with the Nasiris’ abode, the Drizans’ was not an atrium. It was more like a palace, built underground.

Finally, the jinn stopped outside a tall, open doorway. We entered to find ourselves in some kind of old-fashioned courtroom, lit by beacons of fire. Opposite us was a raised platform upon which sat a silver throne embroidered with crimson silk. Above this throne, hanging from the wall, was another large golden medallion with the symbol of a scorpion—like the one that served as the entrance to the Drizans’ lair. Its shiny surface glimmered in the firelight. Cyrus glided up to the throne and planted himself down on it, eyeing us all from his vantage point.

“Take seats if you like,” he said, his deep voice booming around the chamber. As soon as he uttered the words, dozens of chairs manifested and lined up on the floor beneath his platform. The dragons—having already shifted back into their humanoid forms in order to fit through the entrance—remained standing, as did the rest of us. It appeared that our nerves didn’t permit any of us to sit.

“We will stand, but thank you for the offer,” Jeriad replied.

“As you wish,” Cyrus said. “So, what exactly have you come to tell me?” Cyrus folded his fingers around the arms of his chair. “Our fellow jinn, the Nasiris. You say that they have settled in the human realm?”

“Indeed,” Jeriad replied coolly. “The Nasiri jinn have formed a bond with a friend of mine. He is a vampire, and they have managed to bond him to them permanently. We seek your help in freeing him and in return, I will inform you of their location and anything else we know about them that could be of use to you.”

The jinni’s eyes glinted with interest as he raised a hand to his chin and stroked it. “I guessed that Nuriya had fled to the human realm… In fact, some years ago I even sent out a search party looking for her. But they returned unsuccessful. I always wondered where she’d managed to hide out so successfully all this time…” He stood up, his hand still against his chin, and began pacing thoughtfully along his platform.

“You see, Nuriya and I… we have something of a history together,” Cyrus continued. “Once upon a time, she was my betrothed. Her father, the noble Harith Nasiri, had gifted her to me as a gesture of goodwill between our two dynasties. However, Nuriya was a treacherous woman. She slighted not only her father’s will but also mine, and fell into the arms of another man. A lowly slave, at that. The disgrace she brought upon her father caused him to disown her, and of course the offense caused to myself and my own lineage meant that I was bound to mete out my own punishment on her… For you see, these are the ways of the jinn.”

He paused, biting his lower lip, his eyes coming alive at the memory. “After her father expelled her, she fled with the slave—Freiyus was his name—and a small entourage whose loyalty lay with the young whore, rather than with her esteemed family. They formed a home together, still within the country of the jinn yet some distance away, thinking that they could hide from us. Of course, we hunted them down and found them in the end… We did what we had to do with those who resided with the women, but Nuriya herself, being the slithering snake that she is, slid out of my grasp once again. She escaped the raid and left The Dunes entirely. I suspected she might have fled to the human realm, though we never did know for sure.”

He looked back toward Jeriad, another smile curving his full lips. “So you see, dragon, your visit is quite welcome. And once you disclose the Nasiris’ location, I will be quite happy to assist you in freeing this friend of yours from the jinn’s bond. In fact, after I am finished with Nuriya and whoever else she’s holed up with, I doubt any of them will have the strength to bond again…”

“I’m glad to hear it,” Jeriad replied, clearing his throat. He turned to glance at Derek and me briefly before his focus resumed on the jinni. “When would we be able to leave? I am anxious to reclaim this friend of mine.”

“I, too, am anxious to leave—that much I assure you,” Cyrus replied. “I suggest that we leave within an hour. It won’t take long to gather up my army. In the meantime, please wait here and make yourselves comfortable.” A table appeared in front of us, lined with dozens of crystal glasses and silver jugs. “Help yourselves to refreshments, and I will return to inform you when we are ready to leave.”

With that, he vanished.

I released a breath I hadn’t realized I’d been holding. I turned to my husband and slowly raised a brow. “What do you think?”

Derek’s forehead was furrowed. “I don’t know what to make of this jinni. I don’t trust him in the slightest—just as I don’t trust any of his kind. But Jeriad seems to trust him. Only time will tell whether Cyrus can help us free Benjamin from the Nasiris’ bond.”

I nodded, gulping. “I guess I’m just trying to think of what could go wrong… I suppose not much, right? I mean, I can’t see how the situation could get any worse than Ben being bound eternally to those jinn. I can only imagine that good can come of this…” Even as I said the words, doubt gripped me.

“I can only assume so,” Derek replied, a similar unsettled expression on his face.

After that, all of us passed the next hour waiting in mostly silence for Cyrus to return. Some of the vampires—Rose and Ashley at the lead—considered the jinni’s offer of refreshments. But the jugs were filled with human blood. I could hardly remember the last time I’d relished the sweet delicacy, but as much as the blood called to me, there was no way I could give into the urge. I simply couldn’t. I was pleased to see that my daughter, Ashley and everyone else also refrained once they realized that it was human blood. Just two decades ago, the older vampires in this room wouldn’t have thought twice about chugging down the human blood. Now, after practicing abstinence from it for so long and training their murderous nature, they were averse to it even when it was presented to them—quite literally—on a silver platter.