She’d accepted that she was about to die. She shut her eyes to the world and waited for Lady Harmony’s new set of pointy teeth to sink into her neck and for her sharp fingernails to gut her senseless. She waited.
But it didn’t come.
Kristen chanced a peek. Lady Harmony’s breath was ragged and hoarse, like she was about to heave up everything she just ate (oh God, no, I don’t want to see half-digested Lady Méline bits, Kristen thought). But she tilted her head, as if examining Kristen, and without turning, gestured for her to come closer.
“I have a task for you.”
Her voice was the same. Somehow, Kristen found a small sense of relief in that. Some part of her was still human. If she could appeal to that, then maybe…maybe she wouldn’t eat her. She refused to look at Lady Méline’s corpse on the other side of the room.
When Kristen didn’t reply, Harmony stepped closer. Kristen leaned back further on the door and wished she could melt into the steel that kept her locked in. Blood stained Lady Harmony’s many teeth as she smiled.
“You’d do anything for us, wouldn’t you, Kristen.” Harmony said. It wasn’t really a question.
Kristen bit her lip.
“Maybe you’d like to hear what it is, first,” Harmony continued. “And then you can decide. But it will be worth your while. You do want to be a First Lady someday, don’t you?”
Her heart lurched. “A First Lady?”
“Yes, Kristen. Think about it. You could be in charge of all the Ladies on the Dome. You could decide their fate. Who succeeds, who fails. You could even take on Ladies that wouldn’t otherwise have had a chance at court. Giving back for everything that your Lady mentors have done for you.” Her steps were soundless on the cold tile as she inched closer to Kristen. “And all you have to do is carry out our simple instructions.”
“Or else I’ll be eaten.”
The words flew out of her mouth before she could stop them. So stupid! There was a flicker of anger in Harmony’s eyes and once again Kristen said goodbye to life.
“There is something you must understand,” Harmony said. She gestured to Lady Dominique, and the Second Lady joined the First before Kristen. Dominique’s hand slipped into Harmony’s like they were old lovers. “We must eat, just as you. We simply require a different…form…of sustenance to maintain our bodies.”
“But if it’s meat you want…I could get you anima–”
“Enough,” Harmony’s voice cut through Kristen like a knife through a ripe avocado. “Your task is to gather the Ladies and prepare them for an address in the Lady’s Quarters.”
“Wha…what are you going to–”
“That is none of your concern.”
Kristen’s heart was pounding in her ears. “And I wouldn’t have to hurt anyone, right? All I have to do is tell them you’re going to talk to them. Today. Right?”
Dominique’s black eyes slid to Harmony’s, as if asking permission to speak. After a slight nod, Dominique revealed her pointy pearly-whites in a sickly-sweet smile. “Right.”
The faster she got out of here, the better. The door behind her was locked, but the Ladies had punched a hole through the walls–perhaps they would do it again. Kristen averted her eyes from Lady Méline’s remains as she walked around the Ladies, giving them a wide berth.
“And Lady Kristen?”
Kristen swallowed and glanced over her shoulder. “Yes…my lady?”
Her voice was sickly sweet. “If somehow Captain Darian or Queen Skyla got word of our plan, we will not hesitate to devour your essence. Don’t think for a moment that we won’t.”
It was all too much. The world was becoming dizzy but she fought it. She just had to get out somehow. Get. Out.
And with more courage than she felt, she said, “I don’t doubt it.”