She raised her head. In a deadened tone, she said, "Yes, Malkom, I want you to love me."
"You know nothing about me! But you will." He would reveal his sordid past, sparing no detail, so she could understand the male she'd wed. "After tonight, you will know everything."
You will know everything. ... His expression was cruel, as if he planned to hurt her with whatever he was about to reveal.
But he was already hurting her. He believed their relationship hinged on his past and how it affected him. Instead, it should be about their pasts, shaping their future together. And just as he had difficulty trusting her, she had difficulty being driven away, ignored, rejected....
"Then tell me, Malkom. I want to know."
Though his demeanor was aloof, his irises flickered black, belying his calm. She knew in an instant that he'd never told another what he was about to confide in her.
"My mother was a whore," he began. "I have no idea who my father was."
Carrow had already known that. She debated telling him, but decided to hear it from him. "Go on, please."
"When I was a boy, she sold me to a vampire master who used me for blood." He looked to the right of her as he added, "And for ... sex."
Ah, Hekate, was that why he'd killed his mother?
"She knew what that vampire would do to me. And still she made me his slave." Lips drawing back from his fangs, Malkom said, "And the master raped his slaves repeatedly."
"Malkom, I - "
"Let me finish," he snapped.
"I'm sorry, go on."
"But that was not enough for the vampire. He shared me with his sick friends. He liked to shame me, to make me shame myself in front of them. In time, I hated myself even more than I hated him."
Carrow's heart was breaking for this demon. She'd suspected he'd been abused like that, but hadn't imagined to what degree.
"I did whatever that vampire wanted of me," he told her. "I was his whore, and in time, he believed I was an eager one. If I felt pain, I ignored it. If I knew disgust, I learned to hide it."
His expression grew even more haunted, his eyes now fully black, as if he were reliving that misery. Carrow wanted to hold him, but she knew he wouldn't accept comfort from her now.
"Never did the master see how much I despised him. And still he eventually kicked me out to starve in the streets. I was stunned, could not comprehend what I had done wrong. 'Twas years before I realized I'd grown too tall and big to please him."
"Wh-what happened then?"
"I healed, I survived. Somehow my body even thrived. But my mind was never right. I knew I had to kill him." He'd begun speaking in a monotone voice, as if reciting a logbook of events. But she could feel the pain he'd buried so deeply. "The last thing the master saw in his life was my face. After that, I killed a lot of vampires. I loved to do nothing more. Soon Prince Kallen heard of me. We became friends." Malkom added in a mutter, "I could not believe he wanted to be my friend. I'd never had one before. Or since."
Don't cry for him - he'll hate you for it.
Wait, they'd been friends? Carrow dreaded hearing more, knew the ending to this story from the dossier: Malkom had assassinated Kallen the Just.
"Kallen was aware of my lowly birth and that I'd been a slave. But it mattered naught to him. He was the first person who ever gave a damn whether I lived or died. For years, we fought the vampires, side by side as brothers, until we were captured because of a traitor - Ronath the Armorer."
Ronath? Then he'd died too "uickly.
"The vampires' leader, the Viceroy, made Kallen and me into abominations. Scarba. Then he imprisoned us together with no food - or blood. He told us that only one of us would ever leave that cell. The one who drank, or the one who killed."
Hatred for those long-dead vampires seethed inside Carrow. How much Malkom had suffered at their hands.
"Kallen was not as strong as I was, not as used to hunger. He needed blood more than I did. I should have realized that then, should have given him what he needed. I have never regretted anything more than what I did in the cell that night."
"He tried to drink from you?" So the prince had succumbed to bloodlust and turned on the man who'd looked up to him, who'd loved him. And Malkom thought he was in the wrong.
"Of course he tried to drink from me! We were maddened with thirst. Kallen was my best friend, and I destroyed him - "
"Malkom, he didn't leave you a choice."
"There is always a choice!"
"You just said you were maddened by thirst."
"I did not drink him, witch - I killed him, because I thought he had betrayed our friendship. I've never drunk anyone before you."
Never before me? He'd resisted that long? "How did you escape the Viceroy?"
"He wanted me to become loyal to the Horde, to become more vampire than demon. He tried to force me to drink from demons. I resisted for years, withstood his torments. But one night, he presented me with the neck of a demon boy, one who was my age when I'd first ceded blood. I could sense the child's fear, could scent it, and it felt so familiar. A rage such as I've never known rose up in me, and I gave myself over to it. I broke free, slaughtering that vampire."
Torments? For years? And then she'd turned Malkom over to Chase for more....
"Last came Carrow Graie," he said softly, his voice full of menace, "a witch as beautiful as she was deceitful. She made me care for her, then tricked me, luring me into a trap to be enslaved yet again."
Ah, gods, he considered her no better than the others.
"Anyone who has ever betrayed me has paid with his life. With my bare hands, I killed the master, the Viceroy, Kallen, and Ronath."
"And your mother?"
"When I was grown, I visited her hovel to show her what I'd made of myself, to make her regret. When she served me poisoned drink, I forced her to finish the cup."
Carrow's heart fell when she recognized why Malkom had returned to see that demoness. He'd still been seeking a mother's love, even if he hadn't realized it then - or now. And his mother had answered his longing with a deadly poison.
Malkom mistook her silence. " 'Twas no less than she deserved! Now all of them are dead but you."
"D-did you want to kill me?"
His gaze held hers. "I thought about it. Had you not been my fated one, I would have."
She understood so much more about him now. His reaction during their bath in Oblivion. Why he didn't want to impregnate her.