Demon Gates (Helena Hawthorn Series #2)

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Not So Happy Birthday pt. 2

The painkillers managed to dull the pain and take her nausea away, but not enough to give her courage to pretend she was fine for the entire evening. Her fingers tensed around her upper arms. It was already past eight. The air was getting chilly as they stood in front of her parent’s home.

Lucious watched her with a mixture of amusement and concern. She couldn’t tell which was more prominent. His eyes followed her every movement and his lips upturned.

“Do you want me to ring the bell?” he asked.

“No! No. I will do it. I will. When I have enough courage…”

“Will your courage come tonight or must we wait until the end of the year?”

She punched him in the arm, and he chuckled.

“I am glad to see your spirits have returned.” Lucious pressed the small brass buzzer.

The loud tweeting of the bird on the other side of the door made Helena want to disperse with the evening breeze. Her mother was going to misread their relationship. She mentally shook her head. They had no relationship.

Helena heard her mother on the other side telling Richard she would answer the door as it opened. Sasha wore a pink knee-length dress that wrapped around her pale skin. She smiled at Helena, but like a hawk, she immediately locked on Lucious who bowed his head in greeting.

“Mrs Hawthorn, it is a pleasure to meet you. Your daughter has spoken very fondly of you,” Lucious said.

Helena held in the urge to kick him. He was acting like Alexander would with one of his whores. She forced a smile, hoping some of it looked authentic.

He took her mother’s hand and raised it to his lips, brushing them against her skin. Helena had never seen Sasha Hawthorn blushing through her make-up till now.

“Oh my, aren’t you a gentleman? My daughter forgot to mention she was bringing her...”

Friend,” Helena finished for her.

“I’m Lucious, pleased to make your acquaintance.”

“Well then,” Sasha beamed at him, “don’t stand there in the cold. Come in.”

Her mother’s stare was on Helena as they entered the house.

Richard peered around the corner and came over, only pausing to study the man next to her before he wrapped Helena in a warm bear hug.

The pain in her abdomen resurfaced like a sudden jab in the gut, and she bit her lip hard enough to taste blood. She drew away from her step-father, keeping her face low.

Lucious tugged her to one side and helped her out of her coat.

Clearing her throat, Sasha got everyone’s attention. “We’ll wait in the living room. Helena can show you the way.” She pulled her husband after her.

“Are you alright? I can smell blood…” Lucious whispered into Helena’s ear.

“Fine. I’m fine.”

He took off his jacket and hung their outdoor attire on the coat hanger.

“Your lip is bleeding.” He reached out, but she brushed his hand aside.

“You are my friend, remember? Don’t let them question your presence.”

“Would it be so bad for them to believe we are romantically involved? It would allow me to take care of you when you are suffering.”

“I don’t want to lie to my parents more than I have to.” She slipped out of her shoes and turned on her heel. “Let’s go.”

Helena marched down the hallway with Lucious trailing close behind. She peeked around the corner of the living room to find her mother and Richard setting another set of cutlery and a plate for Lucious.

“Come in and take your seats,” Richard called.

Lucious and Helena complied. Her nerves seemed to be piling up like rocks at the bottom of her stomach with every assessing look her mother stole when she thought Lucious wasn’t paying attention.

Richard sat in a chair, and Sasha waved for Helena to follow.

Reluctantly, she left her seat and trailed after her mother into the kitchen.

Sasha grasped her by the shoulders and turned her daughter to face her. Big brown eyes searched her face for something. Sasha frowned and spoke in hushed tones, but Helena knew Lucious would hear them, anyway.

“Why didn’t you tell me you had a boyfriend?” her mother asked. “All this time, I believed you were going to get together with Andrew, and you come home with a male model.”

A pang of guilt shot through Helena’s chest at the mention of Andrew’s name. He hadn’t once sent her a letter or an e-mail since he was turned. And, five months ago, Lucious told Helena that Andrew blamed her for becoming a vampire.

“Lucious is not my boyfriend. He’s only a friend, Mum.”

Her mother raised a brow. “Uhuh, and I’m Mary Poppins. Still, isn’t he a bit old for you? I mean, I liked older men when I was your age, but he’s got, at least, seven years on you.”

Helena snorted inwardly. More like one-hundred and twenty. She glanced at the side dishes on the counter. “I’ll bring in the food.”

Not waiting for her mother’s reply, she brushed past her to grab the plates and hurried out of the kitchen.

In the dining room, Lucious and Richard sat at the table, laughing about something. Helena almost sighed with relief at the relaxed atmosphere Lucious managed to create with her step-father. She set the dishes on the table and concentrated on their connection. “You didn’t brainwash Richard, did you?”

Lucious smiled pleasantly at her as she finished placing the last plate on the table. His voice sent shivers through her as it echoed in her mind. “No, I did not. We have simply found a few common interests.”

Helena sat next to him, uncertain if she should believe him or not. She studied her step-father. He seemed to be his usual self.

Richard placed his elbows on the table and leant in. “Lucious told me you two met at college. I am glad you finally made new friends in your course.”

“Yes, he practically knows everything about the myths.” She refrained from adding, “because he is one.

“I have made many lifelong friends when I was in college,” Richard said, smiling. “You should try to be more open-minded about people.”

Helena raised a brow. How much more of an open mind could she have when she was surrounded by the undead, the living, angels, and demonic beings that didn’t belong in their realm?

Lucious interjected, “You may not know this, but she made a number of friends over the past year. Our classmates are usually fighting for her attention.”

Sasha gravitated to her seat next to Richard. “She never told me any of this.”

“I guess she is shy about the topic,” Lucious explained.

Helena kicked him under the table. “Stop it.”

Lucious grinned. “Your cheeks have regained their colour. Are you embarrassed, my dear?”

Sasha cleared her throat, and Helena realised she was staring at Lucious and ignoring everyone else in the room. “Sorry. What were you saying?”

“We should eat,” Sasha said.

Helena picked up her knife and fork then looked at her plate. It was empty. She lowered her cutlery and hung her head as heat climbed up her neck.

Lucious selected some boiled baby potatoes and piled them on his plate.

Helena’s mother eagerly nudged some homemade salad and her roasted duck that perfumed the air with an apple scent towards him.

“I must apologise, I am not much of an eater,” Lucious said and pushed away the offered food.

“You should eat some meat if you want to have any strength,” Sasha scolded.

Helena shook her head and grabbed the salad bowl. There has to be something to explain his lack of appetite. “He’s a vegetarian, Mum.”

“Am I?” Lucious sent back to her.

Richard’s head bobbed in acknowledgement of new information. When Sasha was about to speak, he patted her on the shoulder, and she settled back in her seat with displeasure written on her face.

They spent the next hour merrily talking about travelling around the world. Lucious had more than enough tales to keep her parents occupied, and Helena finally found the position in which her body wasn’t in too much pain. As the dinner was drawing close to an end, her parents smiled at each other.

“There’s something we would like to tell you,” her mother began.

Helena pushed her half-empty plate away and listened. Her appetite was dulled by the constant ache in her stomach.

Sasha played with her serviette nervously. She took in a deep breath that seemed to take away the air in the room. “We’re going to have a baby!”

Helena stared at her in disbelief. “You’re what?”

“You’re going to have a brother or a sister in seven months,” her mother said with renewed enthusiasm.

Helena wished the ground beneath her would open up, and she would end up in a different dimension where her life wasn’t threatened by a demon. Who knows what Lazarus would do if he found out about this. Would he use my family against me? Her blood drained from her face and her fingers grew cold.

“Aren’t you happy?” Sasha asked, her excitement gone.

Lucious took Helena’s hand under the table. The simple action helped her contain her panic.

“Congrats!” She managed a controlled smile and made her way to the other side of the table. Bending, she hugged her mother as she held back a cry of pain and the stinging waterworks.

Richard stood and hugged the two of them.

Helena struggled to keep being upright. Her legs trembled under their combined weight. She glanced at Lucious, and he graciously began to clap as he rose to his feet.

“That is wonderful news.” Lucious extended his hand out to Sasha and Richard for a handshake. “You are simply bringing more beauty into this world, madam.”

Sasha blushed, and Richard broke the family embrace.

Whatever is wrong, my dear, you should hide your disappointment before they notice it,” Lucious spoke in her mind.

Helena didn’t realise it was showing through. She forced another smile.

Lucious shook hands with her parents and retook his seat as she stumbled back to hers.

“Helena, are you alright?” Sasha asked.

She sat down, taking the weight off her legs. “I am just overwhelmed.”

“I was the same,” Richard said. “I’ll make you some coffee to raise your blood pressure since you look pale.”

“And I will start clearing up some space for dessert,” her mother added.

Lucious patted her thigh under the table, passing calmness through the link. He glanced at his wristwatch and stood with the loud screech of the chair being dragged along the wooden flooring.

Both of her parents glanced over their shoulders.

“I must apologise for interrupting such a joyous occasion, but I believe I have to leave,” Lucious announced with genuine sadness in his voice.

Helena rose from her seat, too. “I should head back. Laura wanted to give me her present tonight as well.”

“What? What about the cake?” Sasha protested.

Richard added, “We are sorry this wasn’t the best birthday ever, Helena. I know you would be happier to spend this day with your friends instead of us.”

Helena raised her hands. “No, I had fun. I swear.”

“That’s fine. Now, before you leave, we have a present for you.” Richard disappeared into the kitchen and came back with a small red velvet box.

Helena took it from him and slowly opened the lid. Inside was a large silver ring with a flower-shaped topaz in the centre.

“It was your grandmother’s,” Sasha explained. “It’s the last memento I have of hers. She loved you very much, and I think she would like for you to have it.”

Helena slid the ring on her middle finger. It was heavier than she expected. On a verge of more tears, her heart constricted. “Thank you.”

“Glad you like it,” her mother chimed. “Be safe on your way home.”

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