Demon Gates (Helena Hawthorn Series #2)

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A Bird In A Cage pt. 4

Helena must have fallen asleep reading because she woke up the next day and rubbed her eyes. Was Ben right? The moment she was lying in a horizontal position, she only managed to get through the first few paragraphs before sleep claimed her.

She sat up. Her body didn’t ache as much as it had the previous day. Once more, she thought back to Ben. He was harsh and did not sugar-coat things. Did he tell her to rest because he was hiding something or was it because he knew how exhausted she was?

With a few quick stretches done, she ran into the bathroom and mentally prepared for another day of Maya’s training regime. There were a few aches in different places, but she was nimbler on her feet and her mind seemed clearer. Strange, she was beginning to enjoy the training a little.

When she was ready, she unlocked her door and found Maya sleeping on the floor, her back resting against the wall.

Helena clasped her hand over her mouth to contain her gasp. She nudged Maya’s shoulder. “Are you alright?”

The hunter stirred in her sleep and mumbled something Helena didn’t catch. She sat up and scanned the hallway. “I wanted to see if you were okay, but your door was locked.”

“I’m doing much better.” Helena offered Maya a hand and, when she took it, helped the hunter to her feet.

Maya squared her shoulders. “Ben is not a bad guy. He cares a lot for those he teaches, and he knows everyone’s limits. He wouldn’t send you away if he didn’t think it was the best choice for you.”

“I—” Helena paused, her mind attempted to formulate a proper response. Her gut told her Maya spoke the truth. She cast her eyes downwards. She wanted to trust her instincts, yet their actions were too suspicious.

“Ben doesn’t trust vampires. He didn’t want us to worry about the details until he had the chance to double check everything,” Maya added.

Helena nibbled on her lower lip. “Is that all there is to it? Can I trust you?”

“Unlike the undead, we don’t go around giving out empty promises. It is in our code. So, if you get a hunter to promise you something, we’re bound by honour to do it unless it’s something against our clan.”

“You sound like some kind of samurai.”

Maya grinned. “Yeah, the kind that’s dying out.” Her smile faded. “Today, I’ll teach you some self-defence. It might not be vampire proof, but if any human tries anything, you’ll be able to take care of yourself.”

Helena bobbed her head, and they headed downstairs. Maya handed her another suspicious green drink, and she ingested it without further complaint. It tasted awful. Yet, whatever it was, it took away the burden on her muscles. She may as well trust these people. They hadn’t harmed her, and Maya didn’t seem like the kind of person who would lie.

Having finished a brief warm-up, Maya led her to the centre of the living area. The weights and workout equipment was pushed against the wall, and Ben was nowhere to be found, as per usual.

Maya faced Helena, her feet apart. “Let’s kick off with something simple. When someone is in your personal space, you slam your palm into their face like this.” She used her palm to bump Helena’s nose but not hard enough to deal any damage. “And, when they lift their head to gather their bearings, you raise your elbow above their face and hit them straight down. Let’s try that, okay?”

Helena nodded. She never understood why people liked martial arts or violent sports. The concept of hurting others gave her indigestion. With everything that was going on, she had no choice but to become stronger. If she didn’t want Lucious to suffer anymore because of her, she had to be able to defend herself against humans and other supernatural beings.

She followed Maya’s tutoring, earning a multitude of bruises throughout her body. The hunter relentlessly repeated moves like a machine until Helena responded to the attacks on automation.

Lying on the floor four hours later, Helena gasped for more oxygen.

“You are doing better than I expected,” Maya complimented her with a soft smile.

Helena swallowed with her dry mouth and smiled back. “Thanks.”

“Are you sure you don’t want to become a hunter when this is over?”

“Pretty sure,” she replied with a laugh. “I don’t like getting beaten up by people on a daily basis.”

Maya sat next to her. “It’s not so bad. I find the job kind of thrilling.”

“You mean the time you chased a class-whatever vampire through the Rain Forest?”

Maya snorted. “Point taken. I still get the heebie-jeebies every time I see snakes.”

“Who doesn’t?”

“Ben. He is a stone-cold wall at times. Nothing bothers him.”

Helena eyed her. “You make it sound like you have a crush on him.”

Pink stained Maya’s cheeks, and she lifted her hands in the air, moving them around frantically. “No. No. I simply admire him. He’s like eight years older, and he’s my mentor.”

Helena shot her a knowing look. “Right. A mentor you admire.”

Maya tucked her knees closer to her chest and hugged them. She picked at the tiny gap between the floorboards with her nail as she said, “He is the man who saved me when I tried to take on a Class 1 vampire by myself. Once my family died, I was sent to an orphanage. Even though the people seemed alright, I couldn’t stay there. I ran away until my feet hurt and my lungs were ready to burst. Then, I spotted it—a monster sucking the life out of his prey in an alley. To this day, I remember the way his eyes glowed when I ran towards him with the jagged edge of a broken bottle I found nearby.”

Helena’s hand rested on Maya’s shoulder. “Is that when Ben saved you?”

“He saved me after the vampire broke my arm in three places and was in the midst of feeding on me.”

Her hand fell away. Maya didn’t have any good experiences with vampires. No wonder she wanted to rid the world of them. At the same time, such a way of thinking wasn’t right. Not all vampires were bad. Lucious did his best to protect her. Alexander, too, tried to keep her in the apartment and helped her with her college issues. Although they didn’t get along half the time, they were good people at heart.

“What’s going on in that head of yours?” Maya asked.

“Not every undead person is bad. The same can be said about any one species.”

“There you go again, defending the beasts. I get that your circumstances are strange, and you don’t know what’s right and wrong, but you shouldn’t trust them so blindly. Vampires are scheming creatures. They have centuries of knowledge and the only way to survive in this world is if you have outwitted many others. Think about that.” Maya stood and went to the fridge.

Helena hated the idea of being unable to put her faith in someone. If she couldn’t trust the vampires or the hunters, who was left? Her friends vanished one by one. Perri hadn’t contacted her since the hunters showed up, so Helena assumed she and Hans had returned to Scotland. Helena couldn’t risk contacting Nadine, not when there were hunters and vampires eager to find her. And Laura was gone. She hadn’t called or sent a message. Every time Helena tried to contact her, it went straight to voicemail. Did she not want to be found or did something happen to her?

What she needed now was a shower and some distance from everyone. She went upstairs and entered the bathroom where she climbed under the hot spray of water and let her doubts fight for her attention.

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