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Desired by the Dark Prince: Chapter One

Matilde

Wherever this was, Matilde didn’t plan on staying long.

She moved slowly, sliding one leg out of the bed, then another, biting back a wince at the shooting twinge of pain.

The arrogant asshole had left almost an hour ago.

Maybe.

Without windows she wasn’t sure, but she’d counted until she lost count and started over twice more.

Her bare foot touched the floor, and with a muffled shout she pulled it back quickly.

Lady, it was freezing!

But she didn’t exactly have the option to ask someone for a pair of thick socks, and even if she did, she wasn’t asking Mister stand-in-the-shadows-and-give-orders for anything.

Honestly she was glad that she was at least covered in the long white gown she’d woken up in.

It was silky, gathered at the neck and wrists with delicate lace.

But it wasn’t hers.

She was pretty angry about that, but anger would have to wait.

First, she had to get out of here.

Second foot down, easier this time now that she was prepared for the iciness. Shifting her weight, she straightened up.

Oh hell.

At her first step she stumbled, catching herself on the carved footboard before she tumbled to the floor.

She really had been hurt.

But when?

Looking around again to make sure she was alone, she pulled up the hem of the gown to examine her left thigh.

A thin red line marred her skin, yellow bruising marking all around it.

She didn’t remember anything that could have caused this.

She’d gone to bed, thinking about her class. Most of them were well behaved enough, but there were one or two she was tempted to ask Nic to visit.

In his other form.

She wouldn’t really, but it was fun to imagine.

Drifting off, she had snuggled down beneath the quilts, the heavy weight of her cat pressed behind her knees.

Then all of a sudden she’d woken up to a loud noise and crash…and nothing more.

So what had happened?

Whatever it was, she’d figure it out, save the wondering with the anger.

Teeth clenched against a grunt of pain she limped towards the door, eyes fixed on the section the silent servant had entered and departed from.

If it was anything like the doors at Adena’s…

Yes!

As she approached it slid open.

But instead of bolting for freedom, she paused.

What was out there? More strangers like that man?

And where was she?

It was unlikely she was going to find yourself within walking distance of Grasmere.

Stop being ridiculous, she scolded herself. The only way to find out what’s on the other side of the door was to go out there.

One more step. And then another.

Despite the cold, Matilde wiped sweat from her face.

Maybe she really should have stayed in bed, rested.

Except just the thought of doing what her captor had asked was enough to spur her on.

The room opened on to a hallway.

An eerie, completely deserted hallway.

She glanced quickly at either side, but heard no one, saw no one.

The hallway was broad, but facing her wasn’t another door, but rather a waist-high wall.

She limped over to it, clutched the top railing and gasped again.

A series of walkways wrapped around a vast open square.

Peering down she couldn’t guess how far the bottom was from her.

Craning her neck to look up, the emptiness stretched off far above her.

At each end of the hall she stood in, there was a set of stairs.

Up or down?

For all she knew, this place was somehow buried deep below the earth, and she should head up.

She looked at the stairs, considered it, and tested her weight on her leg again.

There was no way she’d be able to climb out of here.

She turned to the right, clutching the railing as she took the first step.

The exit had better be down.

But where was everyone?

This place was massive. It could probably hold the entire population of Grasmere. Maybe even Kinallen, the way it stretched on and on.

She reached the first landing, caught her breath and rubbed at her aching thigh.

Down another short corridor, then another flight of stairs.

She could do this. Of course she could.

The silence became uncanny, almost oppressive, and she caught herself glancing over her shoulder.

They were really just going to let her walk out of here?

Halfway down the third flight of stairs she heard a noise.

Was it above or below her?

Had they realized she’d left her room?

She hurried, focusing on the steps, trying to ignore her leg, now burning in pain.

There it was again.

What was that noise?

Another landing, another short corridor.

And as she began the next flight of stairs down, the sound came again.

Quickly she whipped behind her, and her foot missed the next step and she hurled forward with nothing to catch her.

There was no muffling the scream that came from her throat now as she tumbled down the sharp edged stairs to lay in a pile at the bottom.

“Is anyone there?” she called out, too afraid, in too much pain to worry about who she was asking for help.

The soft sound came again.

And out of the walls the hooded figure who had knelt by the side of the bed to offer her tea emerged.

“Please, help me,” she whispered.

But he did nothing, simply stood by her as another gray hooded figure, as exactly alike as if brought from a mirror, emerged from the wall.

Three more came, but none of them did anything but stand by her as she struggled to pull herself upright.

And then the floor began to shake.

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