Demon Gates (Helena Hawthorn Series #2)

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After finding a 24-hour Tesco at 2 a.m., they returned home better friends. Helena didn’t want to admit it, but Maya was fun to spend time with when she wasn’t talking about murdering the undead. And, knowing there were other relations in the world she could rely on made her feel stronger. As if, in the end, she was not alone—even with her guardian angel no longer by her side.

She ate the egg-fried rice with some mixed leaves salad Maya had prepared.

Maya’s eyes almost glowed with happiness as she rushed about the kitchen while complaining about the dirty pots and pans Ben forced her to use in the Amazon Rainforest when they were tracking a Class 3 vampire. Apparently, the hunters had a system for classifying vampires. The more power or energy the vampire had, the higher the number of its class became.

“Sis, do you want seconds?” Maya asked with a mouth full of food.

Helena stretched on her bar stool and massaged her full stomach. “I’m good.”

“I fear I may have indigestion after seeing such a sight,” Lucious said from the other end of the kitchen island.

He chose not to try any of Maya’s food, although he ate at her birthday party. Did vampires prefer the liquid diet or did they no longer enjoy the taste of human food? She couldn’t find the answer and was too embarrassed to ask the question. So, she let it be.

Maya sneered at him with a grain of white rice stuck to her cheek. “A few less dead folks. I don’t see a downside.”

Lucious rolled his eyes and seemed to focus his attention elsewhere.

Helena knew he was studying Ben. The hunter had been sitting on the sofa, doing something on Helena’s laptop ever since they returned. Resting her elbows on the counter, she lowered her voice as she shifted closer to Maya. “What’s Ben doing?”

“He can still hear you if you whisper. But, to answer your question, he’s probably searching for the weapon.” Her eyes twinkled with inquisitiveness. “I would like to meet this saint of yours. If we could turn her to our side—”

“To do what? Kill more of my kind?” Lucious growled.

“There’s only one good vampire, and that’s a dead one. So get over it, pal. The main reason you’re alive is because I don’t want Helena to get hurt,” Maya replied, her bubbliness evaporated as she glowered at him.

Lucious stood and pointed at Helena. “Let us speak in private, my dear.”

Maya shot her a quizzical look, and Helena returned a weak smile as she slid off her stool and followed him to her room.

He closed the door behind them and pressed his back to it. “How can you cheerfully converse with them as if they have not tried to kill you or your friends less than a day ago?”

She cast her attention to her colourful mismatched socks. Was it wrong of her to try and be friendly with the people who were willing to help her fight the demon? They hadn’t hurt anyone but Lucious and Hans. Because they were both vampires, they were already mostly healed.

“Lucious, I am not like you. I don’t hold the same prejudices against the hunters as you do.”

He crossed his arms. “They’ve killed many of my kind.”

She took a step towards him. The link quivered with his fear that leaked into her system. Goosebumps populated the surface of her skin, and she shuddered. “What are you afraid of?”

His irises lit with a familiar blue glow, and he studied her face. “Do not ask me foolish questions. You know what I fear.”

“I don’t. You never tell me anything about yourself. How am I supposed to trust you more than I do those hunters if you won’t tell me these things?”

The glow bled out of his eyes, and he touched her shoulders. “Must I give reasons behind my every action? You are my priority, I have said this countless amount of times.” His hold on her turned almost painful as his fingers dug into her skin. “Can you not see that?”

“I don’t know what to believe,” she whispered.

He let go and turned his back to her.

His behaviour reminded Helena of the time he left her for five months, and she unconsciously captured the material of his T-shirt. “Don’t leave me.”

He said something that sounded like “As if I could,” and hugged her to his chest.

Comforting warmth welcomed her, and she returned his embrace. She wanted to remain in his arms forever, never having to fight against the darkness that eagerly awaited a chance to swallow her whole. She didn’t want to suffer through any more pain. Wouldn’t it be easier to let him decide things for her from now on? He would make the right decisions, and she would never have to abandon her safety net.

And what of her family and the people she cared about? Would she end up in a cell somewhere where she had no choice but to obey his every order and whim? Was Lucious, the man who held her like a fragile crystal, trustworthy?

Endless doubts made her draw her arms back. “Let’s stop this.”

He didn’t let go. “You do this every time. I am not fond of this push-and-pull game you have devised.”

“I’m not playing a game, Lucious.” She leant back as far as he would let her to see him better.

“Helena, not everything I say has a dual meaning. I am the one who has to share a soul with you. There is no reason for me to keep you at a distance,” he said with honesty shining in the depths of his eyes.

She planted her palm on his cheek. He relaxed into her touch, and her heart contracted painfully. He’d been back for a few days, and he was already breaking the barriers and apprehensions she had erected during his absence.

“Tell me about yourself, who you are, who you were. I need to know—no. I want to know,” she whispered the last words.

He kissed her palm and walked her over to the window where he pulled aside the heavy curtain, allowing sunlight to bathe the room.

Helena gasped, and grasped it, trying to close it before he collapsed, but he shook his head. “Because of our bond, the sun no longer affects me, my dear. So, come here and look out beyond the windowpane.” He moved her to stand in front him and hugged her from behind. “What do you see?”

At first, Helena was confused. She stared out the window at the buildings, streets, and people going about their daily business or conversing on their phones. She relaxed into him. “I see people.”

“Indeed, and I used to be a lot like them. Perhaps not in this century or the last, but in the 1800s, I was a son of a watchmaker. My father’s business thrived, and he had high hopes I would become his successor and take over the store when I became of age.

“Yet, I did not enjoy being told what to do. I felt suffocated by my family’s expectations and demands. To escape, I enlisted in Queen Victoria’s Army as a member of the cavalry as I was taught to ride a horse since I was a child. I thought, if I left for seven years, my parents would forget their plot, and I would be free. I did not expect to survive the hell I witnessed abroad.

“Because of my injuries, I was granted leave. When I set foot off the boat, I was informed of my father’s passing, and not once had I articulated my apologies to him for my selfishness…”

Their link shook, and she was filled with the sorrow he was reliving. She wished to turn around and embrace him, but his hands tightened around her, locking her in place.

“Please, let me finish,” he said.

She stilled, waiting for more of the tale to come.

Lucious seemed to reign in his emotions, rendering the string between their souls lifeless.

Does he not want me to feel his pain?

“My mother grieved and blamed the failing business on me. I did not try to revive it as I was too far gone into the drink. I spent my days and nights in taverns, wasting my life and my coin away until a woman took me home with her. The next morning, her husband found us, and she vowed I had raped her.”

Helena’s face turned as white as a sheet. “Did you?”

“I can assure you, my dear, I had not touched her. The instant my head touched the pillow, I slept like the dead. Though, that is not the worst of it. The man, as it turned out to be, was a judge. He sentenced me to death and not once did my mother come to visit me as I awaited my execution in the Newgate prison.

“One day, the guards brought in a corpse of a woman and tossed it in the cell with me, declaring that it should not matter whether I rape a noblewoman or a dead whore. Too bad they did not know that ‘dead’ woman later regained consciousness. She offered me a chance to get out of my predicament, and I took it.”

“Is that how you met Anna?”

“It was, indeed. She saved my life and gave me a new one. I did not get along with her other children, and she never once showed emotion to anyone, claiming it would release the demon contained in her. But, I did not wish to leave. I was at peace by her side as I am at peace now.”

Helena stroked his arm, eager to know more. “What happened next?”

“When I mastered my thirst, I was two years a vampire. Anna, although much older than me, was like my little sister. I could not deny her any wish, so when she said I should see the world, I agreed. A few months into my journey, I received a letter of her passing. At first, I did not believe it and returned to London with haste. My blood-sisters wept over her urn while my blood-brother, Pierre, stood next to them with a hateful expression on his face. Many blamed me for her death, and I did, too. I should have been there to protect her. I should have stayed—”

His body tensed, and Helena entwined her fingers with his, rubbing her thumbs in a rhythmical manner over his hands. “It’s alright. She is alive. She is okay.”

Lucious buried his face in her neck and let out a heavy sigh. “I killed hunters indiscriminately after that. I have lost count of how many lives I’ve taken for an event that did not take place while I was consumed by rage.” He hugged her closer to him. “I cannot lose you as well. You are mine.”

“I’m yours,” she echoed.

“And you smell so good,” he mumbled against her neck. “ Just one taste…” his thought escaped through the link.

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