Back in his cabin, Gabriel’s mind was spinning. He had so many questions and that Lucius creature had not provided any answers. Vampires were killers, that much he knew, and yet back in the field he had not been in any danger. And Lucius was definitely a vampire. But all he seemed to care about was Aurora and some stupid quest. Well what about his quest to find out what the hell was going on? Didn’t that matter too?
Gabriel stomped over to the kitchen and poured himself a glass of water. There had to be a way to find out what was going on. There had to be a way to get answers.
The sudden crash of splintering wood caught him off guard and he spun around in surprise. When he saw her standing there, the glass slipped from his hand and smashed across the floor.
“You…” Aurora shouted. “Prepare to die!”
“Aurora…” To his surprise, she was standing there like a huntress in his doorway, beautiful and angry.
“How dare you look at me that way,” she hissed. “I am of royal blood. Drop your eyes!”
Gabriel quickly weighed his options. There was no way he was taking his eyes off her until she calmed down, but if he kept staring… “Aurora, I don’t want to fight you.”
It was the truth. All he cared about was finding out what the hell was going on and where he fit into all of this.
“I don’t care what you want,” she spat. “All that matters is you’re going to pay for what you’ve done to us.”
On any other night the idea of being released from this existence might have suited him just fine, but suddenly the thought terrified him. There was so much he wanted, no needed, to know and if she killed him, he would never find the answers. He couldn’t let that happen, not yet.
“I can’t let you do that,” he told her. “There’s too much we need to talk about.”
His response surprised her and she stepped back and stared at him. “Talk about? We have nothing to talk about, unless you want to discuss how I’m going to kill you.”
She pulled out a long blade and flipped it over in her hand. “So how would you prefer to die? I can bury this blade into your heart or your throat, it’s your choice. Is that enough conversation for you?”
There was something about her anger that both amused and scared him. He had no doubt that if she really set her mind to it, fighting her off would be a battle and yet something told him it wouldn’t come to that. Not tonight at least.
“Who’s Lucius?” He asked, ignoring her threats.
“Lucius? Where did you hear that name? Who told you about him?”
“I met him outside your home tonight.” Even as the words left his lips, Gabriel knew he had made a huge mistake.
“You were outside my home? Again?” She stepped forward, her eyes burning into his. “How dare you!”
He wanted to think his response through, to say something that wouldn’t escalate the situation, but the way she was staring at him. His mind was melting in on itself.
“I just… Needed to see you.” The response surprised even him.
Within seconds she was up in his face, the cold blade pressed hard against his throat. He should have been afraid but all he could do was wonder if kissing someone as wild as Aurora would be like trying to touch his lips to the wind.
“Why did you come back to my home?” She hissed. “What do you want with us?”
“I just wanted to ask you some questions, but when I got there I noticed that you were…”
“That I was what?”
She was so close that he could feel her breath on his face. If he tilted his head just a little his lips would brush hers. “That you were crying.”
He already had her figured enough to know she was not the type of woman who would take kindly to someone knowing she cried. Her tough persona would not allow for weakness like that.
“I was not crying,” she spat, proving him right. “How dare you say such a thing!”
Part of Gabriel’s Army training was to be well-studied in the subtle, and sometimes not so subtle, clues of body language. The very idea he might be getting too close or had witnessed her in a moment of vulnerability would force her to put space between them.
He was right. As she moved away, he knew without a doubt that she was not ready to let anyone in, and from the way her arms were folded across her chest, she had no intention of ever letting him in.
“I wanted to ask you about vampires and descendants and what makes them different,” he tried. “Can you explain it to me?”
“Do you think I came here for a conversation?” she snapped. “I came here to destroy you.”
He dared to take a few steps toward her, his hands stretched out in mock surrender. “At least tell me who Lucius is. Please Aurora, I need to know.”
“You killed my brother and ruined my life,” she shouted. “I came here to destroy you, not answer questions!”
Without warning she leapt at him. Her legs wrapped tightly around his waist and she pushed the blade hard against his throat. “You will die for what you’ve taken from me.”
“Aurora stop it!” He managed. “I don’t want to hurt you.”
“Hurt me?” She hissed as the blade began to draw blood. “You’re about to die.”
She was stronger than he expected and prying her fingers away from the blade was almost impossible. He quickly decided to change tact and before she knew what was happening, Gabriel fell backward pulling her down with him. They crashed onto a coffee table, the impact causing it to topple over onto its side. The sudden fall shook her loose and gave him a chance to flip up onto his feet.
“You’re good,” she grinned. “Better than I thought, but I can still kill you.”
“My name is Gabriel,” he told her. “At least say my name before you kill me.”
“Ok then, I’m going to kill you Gabriel. Is that better?”
“A little,” he smiled. “Can’t we just get along?”
She rushed at him, her hair flying out behind her like wildfire. The second attack was even more ferocious than the first and Gabriel wondered if it was really him she was fighting or something else entirely. As she punched and kicked at him, he did his best to dodge the impact, but when her fists connected they hurt like hell. She threw another punch and Gabriel ducked. Her hand went straight through the cabin wall, fracturing the wood to splinters. Falling snow drifted in through the hole and began puddling on the floor.
“Just tell me this, are you a vampire?” He shouted as they fought their way across the room.
“No, you fool! I am a first-generation descendant. I am of royal blood, the first daughter of strigoi-Scythian parents. My mother was a Scythian warrior, an Amazon queen. My father was a strigoi elder.”
Gabriel nodded, taking in everything she said. That was one question answered and if he understood correctly, a strigoi was something like a vampire. That meant she was half vampire, half Amazon warrior. At least that explained why her punches hurt so damn much.
“Would you just stop?” He pleaded. “Just stop and talk to me.”
But she continued lashing out, her nails leaving long bloody trails across his face. Not satisfied, she came at him again and again, clawing at his chest and tearing his shirt. When his chest was raw, Gabriel decided enough was enough. His wall was ruined, he was scratched all over and his favourite hunting shirt had been reduced to rags. He shielded his face, dodged her punches and moved in close.
“You can’t defeat me,” she warned. “You will not win this.”
He quickly realised that holding onto her was like trying to hold a wildcat. She scratched and bit him. She swung her fists and kicked at his groin, but it was no use. As a human Gabriel had been fit, but as a strigoi his body was strong and hard. He moved toward the front door, determined to toss her out of his cabin. He was almost there when his foot slipped on the wet floor and they both went crashing to the ground.
“God damn it!” He winced and tried to straighten his back. “God damn you Aurora.”
He expected her to launch another attack, but when she didn’t he pulled himself up onto one elbow and looked down at her. Beneath his weight her body had softened and for a moment he thought she was dead. But then she turned to him.
“Why did you have to do it,” she sobbed. “Everything is ruined.”
The fire was gone from her eyes and they had instead melted to a soft cornflower blue. He didn’t want to care. He couldn’t care. Getting emotionally involved in whatever the hell was going on would make things far too complicated. He quickly reminded himself that he had to stay on course, but as he stared down at her the pain in her eyes was unmistakable. He knew he was responsible for at least some of that sadness. How could he just turn away?
“I dreamt of you,” she whispered, catching him off guard. “Before you came to the house, I dreamt of you Gabriel.”
He was speechless. Of all the words he had expected her to say, they were the last.
“I have visions. They are my gift, if you could call it that.”
“What do you mean, visions?”
“I’ve had them since I was a child. They told me that you would come. I have been waiting a long time for you. I thought maybe just this once I could change things, but…”
Gabriel’s torn shirt hung open and her arm was resting across his chest. With every word she spoke he became more and more aware of her skin brushing against his.
“Then why didn’t you stop it from happening?” He asked. “I don’t understand?”
“I did try, don’t you see?” She squeezed her eyes closed in frustration. “No matter what I tried it would have ended the same way. Once something is destined there is no way to intervene. I just thought that if you were sent to help me, then maybe I could save Stefan.”
“I don’t understand any of this,” he sighed. “Lucius said that…”
“Lucius said what?”
He hesitated. How could he tell her that on top of everything, he was all that stood between her and certain death? It sounded like a sick joke.
“Gabriel, tell me what he said.”
“He said that if I didn’t help you, you would die. I know it makes no sense Aurora, but - ”
“No, it makes perfect sense. I don’t understand why Stefan had to die, but Gabriel, you’re the one.”
For 10 years he had been lost, wandering the mountains alone and suddenly the most beautiful woman he had ever seen was telling him he was the one. It was more than overwhelming.
“What did you just say?”
“It’s you. I was right, you are the one destined to help me. I just don’t understand why I had to lose my brother.” She got to her feet and walked toward the door.
“Where are you going?” He pulled himself up and followed her. “What is it I’m supposed to help you do? What is this all about Aurora? Please, I need answers.”
To his surprise, she turned and took his hand. “We have much to do Gabriel.”
But before she could say more, a woman’s scream cut through the night and together they spun around. Jasmyne was standing inside the doorway, her hand over her mouth and Aurel at her side.
“Aurora! How could you?”
Aurora immediately dropped Gabriel’s hand and turned to her sister. “Jasmyne this is not what you think.”
“What I think, is that you are letting that murderer hold your hand and there is nothing you can say that will convince me otherwise. I saw it with my own eyes.”
Aurora stepped forward, but Jasmyne quickly moved out onto the fresh snow. “Don’t you dare come near me. How could you do this? He killed Stefan.”
“You don’t understand sister,” Aurora tried. “I came here to destroy him.”
“Well it doesn’t look like you succeeded.”
Aurora flung her arms up into the air. “This fool means nothing to me! I’d rather die a thousand deaths than let him near me like that.”
Gabriel felt as though someone had punched the air right out of him. Had he really been foolish enough to think she was opening up to him? It was clearly just another trick to make him spare her life. Humiliated, he lost his temper.
“The two of you have exactly until the count of three to get out of my damn house,” he swore. “After that it won’t be pretty.”
Aurora fixed him with a look and reached for her sister’s arm. “Come on Jasmyne, we’re getting out of here.”
But her sister stood tall. “No, he killed Stefan. It’s time to make a choice Aurora. Either we destroy him now and make things right, or you will be banished from our family. Now which is it going to be?”