Anne had been forced to do some humiliating things in her career with the police. Being stripped naked and then tied to a chair was definitely a new low. She wasn’t sure the casual manner the vampires had torn her clothes off made it better or worse. Thankfully, they’d left her alone as soon as they were done. That bitch, Nao, had said something about collecting the others before leaving. Anne was really hoping Erik would cut that bitch’s heart out.

Anne shivered. The basement was dark except for the single lit bulb hanging a few feet above her head. It was also cold. If she got out of this, she wasn’t going to tease Erik anymore about his hatred of any temperatures below seventy. Anne closed her eyes and took several deep breaths. Yes, she was in a bad spot, but she had friends coming for her. Plus, it wasn’t like she was completely helpless. After all, if Erik could fight his way out buck naked, surely Anne could do the same thing. She just hoped she could find some clothes before Kurt saw her.

Anne concentrated until she could see the faint lines of wild magic flowing through the basement. Earth, water, cold, and dark, Anne thought, feeling the strongest lines, What can I do with these? Almost everything Veronica had taught her involved binding of heat, light, and air. Maybe, if she bound cold and water she could freeze the ropes. Anne tugged on the strands and began a binding. She could easily see how cold and water could be tied. Then she hit the block in her head. Pain flashed through her mind. The light bulb above her exploded, showering Anne with glass and droplets of ice-cold water and plunging her into darkness.

Damn it, Anne thought, I wish Samantha’d been able to figure that out before we left. Erik had asked Samantha and Veronica to accelerate Anne’s magic training before they’d done the trade for Mia Gold. Accelerated training involved Samantha linking Anne’s mind with Veronica as they went through some lessons. That was painful and exhausting enough, but they’d barely managed some small spells before the block in Anne’s mind threw them all out of the link. Something about that block was tied up with Anne’s ability to interact with wild magic and sling spells.

“Not what you were trying to do?” asked a male voice from the darkness. “I think you used too much water in that binding.” The voice was deep and rich with an English accent. “Actually, that was kind of impressive considering how little wild magic is down here.”

“Who are you?” Anne demanded, glaring at where she thought the voice was coming from.

“A simple occultist,” the voice said, “Or at least, I was before meeting Gazda Miklos. It’s a shame, really. I do miss the feel of wild magic bending to my will.”

“What’s a shame? Who’s Gazda Miklos?” Anne asked.

“Patience, Ms. Hearst,” the voice said, “You’ll meet the gazda when the ritual begins.” Anne was momentarily blinded by a flashlight turning on. As she blinked to clear her vision, the beam was pointed upward, filling the basement with a dim light.

“I do apologize, Ms. Hearst,” said a man some fifteen feet from her. “Your torch was a bit more intense than I expected.” He was probably a tad under six feet, with a lean face that was more pretty than handsome. White blond hair was cut short and styled exquisitely. He was wearing khaki slacks and a black turtleneck sweater, but he looked slightly uncomfortable in the clothes. Anne was suddenly very aware of her nakedness.

“My, I don’t think I’ve known anyone who blushes over their entire body,” the man said, as if examining a specimen. Then he shook himself. “I apologize, Ms. Hearst. That was rude. Please, relax. I’m afraid none of your, um, attributes, have the least effect on me.” Anne’s skin heated even further. They both were quiet for long minutes.

“Why are you doing all of this? Why me?” Anne asked.

“The Prophecy of Blood,” the man answered, “More to the point, the Revelation of the Two-Blooded Woman.”

“You realize that means nothing to me,” Anne replied.

“Of course,” the man said, then he seemed to ponder something for a long moment. “I guess there’s no reason you shouldn’t know. The Prophecy of Blood is the sacred text among the vampire clans. Like any good sacred text, it lays out the vampires’ morality and rules for society. Much like the Talmut, Bible, and Quran, it is more a collection of parables. Except for the revelations. Those are a series of steps that need to be accomplished before a vampire can secure the Mandate of Heaven and bend all others to his or her will.”

“Mandate of Heaven? I thought vampires were cursed. Why would God give them a mandate?” Anne asked.

“What you call a curse, the vampire call a blessing,” the man said with the quiet reverence of a true believer. “At any rate, I think the term was passed down when the Tartars ravaged across Asia and Eastern Europe. ‘Mandate of Heaven’ is a Chinese term for divine rule. It the vampire’s case, who has the Mandate of Heaven can control the blessing. Including giving it and removing it.”

“Really? So, this Miklos thinks I’m part of one of these revelations he needs to get the mandate?”

“Just so,” the man answered, “The Revelation of the Two-Blooded Woman says a woman will be born whose blood is poisonous to the vampire, but if it is purified, the blood will allow the aspirant to fully control his own blessing.”

“And you think this ‘Two-Blooded Woman’ is me?” Anne asked.

“Don’t you?” the man asked. Anne was about to disagree, but she stopped herself. When that vampire had bitten her back at the hotel, he’d burst into flames. Maybe there was something to this revelation of theirs. Before Anne could ask anything else, the basement was suddenly bathed in harsh, white light. Anne heard a door open behind her and several people trodding down a wooden staircase.

“David, please wake the gazda,” Nao said from behind Anne. The man bowed before spinning around and opening a trap door. As David descended, Nao walked around so that Anne could face her. The vampire stared hard at Anne, and she could feel Nao’s presence push into her mind.

“So, David explained part of it,” Nao said in a barely audible whisper, “Let me enlighten you some more, Dva Krvnih Zena. If you do what I tell you, when I tell you, then you and your friends might survive this night. If you don’t, then I can assure you that no one that you love on this earth will be safe.”