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By the time Orlando and Almonzo slipped into The Dark Castle of the Desert, they were exhausted. They stumbled through the long hallways of the magnificent castle while Almonzo commented on the structure. "Makes you feel like we missed out, and we were anything but short-changed." His hand stroked the velvet walls.
The floor gave way to a slant leading them underground. Orlando smelled blood. He savored it like fine wine. It quickly filled his nostrils and became part of him. He instantly knew others had met similar fates.
Letting his mind race, he grew uneasy, feeling the presence of another being in the darkness. "Wait. Stop. Listen." He held up his hand to break off his brother's stride.
Almonzo had always trusted his brother's instincts and halted without question.
"Someone is here. I smell his blood." Orlando turned his face to the ceiling and inhaled deeply, allowing his nose to lead the way.
"You're sure?" Almonzo tried to do the same, tilting his head upward.
"Positive. It's familiar."
Tate appeared without need for an introduction. "Come, boys, I'll show you to your quarters." He walked quickly ahead of them. Bewildered looks were fired back and forth between the three once Tate stopped at the end of the corridor.
"What the hell are you doing here?" they asked in unison.
"I came ahead to prepare for our long stay." Tate sneered when he placed emphasis on just the right word.
"Don't count on it. I intend to find her, bed her, and get the hell back to Scotland, so I can leave her ass there," Orlando fired back with venom.
Defiantly, they pushed by the caretaker and Orlando followed the smells that aroused him. Hefound it in a master suite within the four walls confining furniture for the most discriminating tastes. The smell of blood drove him to the brink of madness. "Here? It's here where I will bring her, isn't it?"
Tate commented to Almonzo, "I'm not surprised he found it with ease among all the rooms. The scent would have led him to the one room where many have fought the urge to join with their partner for eternity." He turned then to Orlando. "These quarters are suitable then?"
Orlando's lips formed a perverse smile. "Perfect. The smell of virgin blood in this room is a scent I'm sure I won't soon forget. I'll sleep like a baby until I meet the woman I will marry. This is just indescribable." His nostrils flared with the excitement.
Almonzo wasn't nearly as intoxicated by the smell as his brother, who was more than a little obvious with the sniffing gestures he made. "Look." He pointed to the nightstand where a journal was open. "It looks like some of our own have left you details of their experiences." He started to chuckle soon after he picked it up, skimming over the first page.
"Who cares what happened here before? I'm only interested in the future."
"I thought you weren't too antsy to find her? Now, all of a sudden, you are eager?" Always the observant one, Almonzo shot his brother an inquisitive glance.
Tate showed reluctance when he volunteered what he knew. "When the panel decided it was time for Orlando to choose his life partner, there was no turning back. He'll be driven to find her."
The caretaker continued, "The mix of blood, sweat, and even the salt from tears will be maddening to you as you dream about her. You'll want to find her, but by the time you do, it will not be a moment too soon. One night in here with such a mixture of pain and pleasure, sorrow and joy; will fill you with need more powerful than even you know."
Orlando felt the words heat his skin as much as the truth that was evident to his instincts. He could feel the animosity that had been there as well as so many other emotions. There had been passion certainly, but it had been preceded by hate, remorse, deception, lust, and a concoction of so many feelings characterized by fear.