Demon Gates (Helena Hawthorn Series #2)

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Donors Not Hookers pt. 2

Nadine’s home was in the North part of the city. Black metal gates loomed over them with speared tips.

Helena pressed the buzzer, and Nadine’s voice mixed with the static of the intercom. “Who is it?”

She drew in a deep breath which did nothing to soothe her nerves. This was the right thing to do, wasn’t it? She was going to return home after she got some answers out of this girl. “It’s me, Helena. You told me to come see you.”

The gates clicked and sluggishly opened.

Perri’s quivering hand took hold of hers, and Helena squeezed it gently before shooting her a reassuring smile.

They made their way up the driveway to a two-storey house where Nadine waited for them at the entrance. She wore a sleeveless pale blue dress that brushed her knees in the gentle breeze. Her brown eyes watched their advance. At times, Helena felt as if Nadine was looking for something or someone else. She couldn’t be certain.

“Is it just the two of you?” Nadine asked.

Helena hesitated. “Were you expecting someone else to come along with us?”

“No. It is better that your beast does not show himself in my home. Come in. I will have tea prepared for you.” Nadine turned on her heel and marched back into the house.

Perri tugged on Helena’s arm. “She was shy and awkward yesterday. Now, she is like a different girl.”

“I don’t think she is a bad person. But, if you like, you can wait here.”

“And let you go in alone? Not happening.”

They took turns to enter. Inside, they stood in a spacious hallway that seemed to span to the other end of the house. Faint classical music came from one of the rooms up ahead.

A woman in her forties ambled over and, without a word, ushered them into the drawing room.

Helena took in the pink-and-white wallpaper and the cotton candy curtains. Tall arched windows let the sun in through the glass, brightening up the space around them. Nadine reclined in an overstuffed armchair next to the window. She was almost dwarfed by the height of its frame.

“Please, sit,” she said and motioned at the chairs across from her.

Helena took a seat while Perri observed the new environment and tucked her blonde locks behind her ears. Her nerves showed in the uncertain way she examined the paintings on the walls before joining the others.

The housekeeper brought cups of tea and arranged them on a teak coffee table between them.

“Green tea for you, Miss, and rose tea for your guests,” the woman said. She bowed her head and exited the room.

“My parents send me these teas from their travels,” Nadine explained. “As you can see, I live alone with Matilda.”

“Don’t you miss them?” Perri asked.

“It’s not about whether I miss them or not. It is safer for them to be away from me.”

Unable to suppress her curiosity, Helena asked, “What do you mean by that?”

Nadine picked up her cup and raised it to her pink lips. She took in an appreciative whiff of her tea. “I, being what I am, bring death and trouble to those I hold dear. It’s easier to keep such people at arm’s length.”

Her words struck a chord in Helena’s heart. She observed Nadine once more. Her exterior showed confidence and disinterest. But, if she looked past that, there was a subtle vulnerability and shyness there. Helena tried imagining the world of isolation from her family and friends. Somehow, she could relate to her troubles because she was also the reason why those closest to her were in constant danger.

“If what you said last night was true, that makes you a saint,” Helena said.

Perri raised a brow. “What’s that?”

“I don’t know myself,” Helena replied. “Until now, Lucious and Alexander believed that I was one.”

Nadine chuckled. “What I am is a pawn in a grand game that many in this world know nothing about. I can’t make friends. I can’t fall in love. Otherwise, those close to me will end up eaten by the darkness.”

“The darkness?” Perri asked.

“The same darkness that’s after Helena,” Nadine said. “I can sense a demon’s presence on you.”

Helena shifted closer in her seat. “Why would the demons be after you?”

Nadine sipped her tea. “For a very different reason.”

“And that reason being?” Helena pressed.

A tall man materialised next to Nadine. His chestnut hair grazed his shoulders and a pair of green eyes, which resembled the evergreen trees, assessed them. He reminded Helena of Michael. The way he stood—his shoulders were broad and exuded protectiveness—and the clothes he wore were too much like her guardian’s.

Perri nearly fell out of her seat from surprise. She clutched the sides of it for support.

“You really have a guardian angel…” Helena whispered.

“Meet Horus, my protector.”

Horus bowed his head, yet his eyes never left Helena. “Pleasure to meet you both.”

Helena jumped out of her seat, almost hitting her knees against the table. “Do you know what happened to Michael? What did he mean when he said he can’t guard me anymore? Where is he?”

Horus’ expression darkened at the mention of her angel’s name. “Don’t speak of him again. He betrayed the order and you—his punishment—have no need for explanations from me.”

Helena stared at him in disbelief. His words hit her like a million blades that lodged in her heart. Michael had mentioned her being his punishment before. But, what was he punished for, and why her?

Her voice came out barely above a whisper. “What do you mean?”

“We can sense her awakening. It would be best if you give your soul to the demon, so her filthy presence can be erased from this realm,” Horus spat out each word crammed with hatred.

The back of Helena’s legs hit the seat. She tried to grab something, anything to keep her from falling. Bending to one side, she clutched the armrest. This angel was very different from Michael.

Nadine lifted her hand. “Enough, Horus. Can’t you see she doesn’t know about her fate?”

“Stop with these ridiculous riddles and tell me the truth!” Helena shouted.

“I’m sorry, Helena,” Nadine added. “The Angel Realm has their secrets, and I can’t reveal this one to you.”

Helena slumped into her seat. She took hold of her cup of tea with a trembling hand. The cup touched her pale lips, and she swallowed the hot liquid. It burned her tongue, but she ignored the unpleasant sensation and forced the drink down her dry throat. Feeling better, she set it aside. “Why did you want to see me?”

“A saint is a human like you, except the three realms fight for her soul in every cycle. When a saint is born into the Human Realm, a worthy angel is sent to guard her—or as I would like to say ‘convert her’. ‘One angel in the Human Realm per cycle’ that was the deal the elders had with the gods here. That is the deal they strained when they sent Michael to watch you…”

Helena opened her mouth to speak, but Nadine shook her head, adding, “At the same time, the demons either bargain for the saint’s soul or try to gain her trust. Demons are greedy beings and none can walk in this realm without acquiring a willing host with a grey soul. If a demon is able to steal the saint’s soul, they can become more powerful and enter the Human Realm in their form, but at a great cost. If they convert the saint into one of their own, they gain a higher rank in the Demon Court.”

Helena assimilated the new information. “The angels and demons want to convert you?”

“Yes.”

Perri scratched her head. “I’m going to get some air. You two aren’t making any sense.” She left the room, shutting the door behind her.

“But why do they want you?” Helena asked.

“I see it as a game gods played ever since the first saint appeared in this realm. Whoever converts more of us, gains the upper hand.”

“That’s awful…”

Nadine looked out the window. Her doll-like face was bathed in the spring sunlight, defining every contour. “Don’t pity me, Helena. I have accepted my fate long ago. If I don’t come to a conclusion by the end of my cycle, I retain a neutral choice of being reborn as a human.”

“You make the angels sound as bad as demons.”

“It’s because they are.”

“Nadine, please…” Horus interjected.

She shot him the same pleasant smile Helena was used to seeing at college. It put distance between her and the person she was addressing. “You know it’s the truth. Everyone wants more power. If I choose your realm, you gain a higher status for converting me, if I don’t, you could be erased.”

Horus lowered his gaze to the ground. His lips were pressed into a grim line, and he said nothing.

Nadine looked back at her. “Your guardian, you know him as Michael, came to see me before he was called back into confinement. He asked me to help you, and I will try to do so.”

“Confinement? Is he being treated as a prisoner?”

“You don’t have time to worry about him. He will live until he is erased or his punishment is deemed to be served by the gods. What you must concentrate on now is the demon. I have dealt with many of them over the years. Yet, none were as powerful as this. You must seek out a weapon to destroy him.”

Nadine sipped more of her tea as Horus grumbled something and disappeared from the room. She leant forwards in her seat. “There exist twin Arcanae Mortum blades. They were created by the three gods of this realm to fight against invaders from other realms. If you want to live, you must find one.”

“Where do I start looking? I doubt eBay will have a listing.”

Nadine sighed. “Use the beasts you keep at your side. I’m sure they can find one if they look hard enough.”

Helena stood. “Thank you for the information, Nadine.” She paused. The words she wanted to say were on the tip of her tongue. The loneliness this girl had to put up with was too much to bear. “I wish we could become friends.”

A faint smile played at Nadine’s lips. “Perhaps, one day, we will be. It’s nice to have someone to talk to who knows of the beings beyond this realm.”

“I agree.”

Helena retraced her steps to the outside where Perri was studying the flowers. “Let’s go home.”

“Master Vincent said that a person’s flowerbed can tell a lot about its owner.”

“Yeah? And what does it say about Nadine?”

She glanced at the colourful carnations and begonias, and some purple flowers Helena didn’t recognise. “It’s hard to tell. It’s as if her life is so mixed up in the pretence that she doesn’t remember who she is.”

Helena started for the gate. “Living a life where you are a chess piece in a game between realms… I can’t imagine a more isolated existence.”

They walked in silence along the path to the bus stop. Nadine had pointed her in the right direction. Now, it was time to make a decision. Was she willing to follow this twisted and dark path?

A sudden chill crept along her spine, and she halted. The hair on the back of her neck stood to attention and her marked shoulder ached. Lazarus’ energy surrounded her shields and, soon, seeped through them as if they were made of paper.

“Helena, what’s wrong?”

The pain in her shoulder grew more intense, and she fell hard on her knees. Her heart picked up the pace, and her chest rose and fell in need of more air. “He’s…here.”

“Who?” Perri asked, already rummaging through her bag for her phone.

Helena’s mind grew blank and she fell as the demon’s energy twisted around her.

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