So very cold.
Elyse exhaled, her chattering teeth echoing in the curiously empty dormitory. What seemed like a wet cloth stuck to her forehead, dripping with frosty water through her hair. Who had put it there? She longed to take it off, but even the slightest attempt was met with resistance by her exhausted body.
The cold permeated her skin, slipping through her veins like poisonous mercury and chilling her blood. Her very soul was paralysed with fear, an absurd fear that she would never feel warmth ever again. Under her eyelids, she could feel the sunshine bathing her face, yet it brought no comfort. The unforgiving cold remained. Why was no one starting the fire in the hearth?
Elyse bunched up her fuzzy blanket tighter around her shivering form, curling her legs closer. It was so cold. Through a clouded mind, she realised drops of sweat were paradoxically running down her body, her night dress sticking to her skin uncomfortably. There she was freezing from inside out and yet perspiration dotted her flesh. How very ironic. She surely must be sick. But, no common flu ever reduced her to such a miserable state. What had happened to her?
Her memory was cloudy. Something that had occurred last night must have provoked her odd symptoms. Elyse struggled to retrace the steps of the day before.
The blood curling scream in the middle of the night.
Marcella’s chopped hair.
The summoning in the attic.
The demon’s unusual request.
And something else her mind refused to remember.
Suddenly, a welcoming heat enveloped her, stopping her inquisitive thoughts. A trail of fire was caressing her cheek delicately while soft murmurings soothed her. Elyse leaned into the touch, seeking the blessed warmth.
“It will soon pass,” a gruff voice whispered.
Her blanket was lifted off her body. She groaned in protest, goosebumps erupting over her flesh. Moments later, the mattress dipped under the weight of the mysterious guest and something settled around her quivering shoulders. The nape of her neck tingled when a hot breath tickled her skin, perfuming the air with burnt cinnamon.
Finally, it was not so cold anymore. Elyse opened her eyes slowly. She blinked in confusion when she saw a thick mass of fiery red hair resting on her chest. The mysterious stranger lifted his head and the sight of those familiar luminous green eyes made her gasp.
Azrael was here. And he seemed quite at home settled snugly in her one person bed, nuzzling her neck like a spoiled tomcat. She narrowed her eyes at the audacious demon and tried to get up. A gentle push from his clawed hand had her falling back on her pillow. Why was she so weak and tired? At least with him here, the horrible cold was momentarily at bay.
The infuriating demon kept his hand on her and shook his head. “Be still. It is not over yet, little bird.”
What was not over yet? She forced the words out, her throat aching with each syllable: “What d-do you m-mean?”
He did not answer, instead letting his gaze drop to her collarbone, making Elyse very aware of the gaping neckline of her night slip. Growing up in an orphanage full of girls, she had never felt self-conscious because of her choice in clothing, but now faced with this lust-driven creature, she felt the need the cover herself from his prying eyes. Did demons even feel carnal desire? Remembering his last night’s passionate kiss, she berated herself for her idiotic thought.
Suddenly, his dangerously sharp claws inched towards the naked column of her neck. She closed her eyes, nervous. However, Azrael only gripped it in a soft grasp, mesmerised by whatever was there.
“My mark is not complete yet,” the demon said reverently.
That was the elusive thing she had forgotten about. She also remembered the excruciating pain. She definitely did not want to feel it again. With the little strength she had left, Elyse trashed in the demon’s hold.
Any traces of the cold vanished when a intoxicating heat started burning from his hand, transferring into her skin-a sweet lethargy embraced her, making her lose any fight against him.
She was slowly slipping into the darkness again, when a strong all too familiar voice rang out.
“Step away from her, demon!”
Sister Ann. She came back. Elyse had never heard the orphanage’s Headmistress sound so imposing. She wanted to warn the Sister about how powerful Azrael was, but her lips were numb and she was feeling more sluggish by the second.
“She is mine,” Azrael’s voice was bone-chilling. Through heavy lids, she felt his arms snake more possessively around her. His skin was hotter as well, probably a demonic defence mechanism when feeling threatened. Strangely, his high temperature did nothing to hurt her.
“Ex his quaedam in malo custodiat cor tuum,”Sister Ann repeated continuously.
Heavy footsteps approached her bed side and through heavy lidded eyes, she saw Sister’s Ann concerned face hovering above her.
Though she desperately longed to remain awake and explain herself, Elyse could not fight it anymore. Everything in her was shutting down as if in hibernation. Just before darkness came, she heard the Headmistress whispering.
“My poor child, what has he done to you?”
Someone was combing her hair.
Elyse jerked wide awake. Immediately, her eyes connected to Sister Ann who laid patiently on a stool near her bed with a brush in her hands. She was relieved to see her, instead of the green-eyed demon.
“Easy there, my child, you are still recovering,” the older woman admonished gently.
The girl nervously ran her hand through her carefully brushed blonde locks, earning a sigh from the Sister, and looked around the dormitory, searching for any glimpse of Azrael. “Is he truly gone, Sister Ann?”
The caramel skinned woman’s gaze filled with sympathy. “Not for long. The banishment I performed is only temporary, unfortunately. I arrived too late to stop it.”
“Stop what exactly?”
The Headmistress opened a drawer and took out a rusty hand held mirror that had seen better days. She offered it to the girl. “See for yourself.” Elyse cautiously raised the mirror. Her reflection was almost the same. Her flaxen hair was the same length she remembered, her eyes now had a haunted look in their blue depths but nothing changed to their appearance. Her cheeks were the same. Her lips were more rosy than she liked, recalling with embarrassment the gentle bites received from Azrael, but again nothing too noticeable. She almost gave the mirror back when her eyes dropped lower. With morbid curiosity, Elyse inspected the strange mark now gracing her neck. It was a curious shape, reminding her of old runes found in the ancient manuscripts.
She inched her hands towards the mark and gasped at the hot heat emanating from it. She turned to the only who could shed some light, her horrified eyes holding dozens of questions for the Headmistress.
Sister Ann grasped her hand tightly in her age beaten one.
“It is a demon’s mark of possession. It is sign warning other supernaturals away from you. This demon marked you as his own.”
Elyse gulped. I am in a world of trouble now.