Demon Gates (Helena Hawthorn Series #2)

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Ruined Afterglow

A heavy object was draped across Helena’s stomach. She shifted in her half-asleep state and pushed it off only for it to return to its original place a second later. Her brows scrunched together, and she peeled open her eyelids, seeking the cause of her discomfort.

When her vision focused on a pale arm resting on her stomach, she blushed at the memory of spending the night with Lucious. He hadn’t bitten her. There were a few times when he paused while kissing her neck, but she pretended not to notice the struggle he was visibly going through.

She turned her head and gazed at his sleeping face. He looked so peaceful, and she wanted to keep it that way. She wanted everything to return to normal, or as normal as it could be with a vampire as her boyfriend.

Her lips pressed together. Did spending the night with him mean they were dating? He hadn’t once mentioned anything regarding what their relationship would be like.

“If you keep staring at me like that, my face may melt, my dear,” he grumbled and opened his eyes, capturing her with their blue glow.

Helena tried scooting away when he caught her and pulled her in, her bare back pressing to his chest.

“I never imagined you to be the type to run away.” His breath tickled her neck.

She shivered and tugged on his unyielding steel grip around her. “I need to use the bathroom.”

“Is that the only reason you are fighting to get away from me?”

Helena stopped her struggle and intertwined her fingers with his. The fact he felt warm to the touch baffled her. “What does this make us, Lucious? I don’t know what to think after last night.”

He withdrew his arm, breaking their contact, and sat up. His broad back created a barrier as he said, “Nothing has changed. I will remain by your side and keep you safe.”

“I don’t want to hear that.” She used the sheets to cover herself up to her chin. “What did last night mean to you?”

“Helena, please.”

“Tell me!”

He sighed and faced her. His expression was another puzzling poker face she had come to hate. “What is it you wish to hear from me? Is it a declaration of my undying love or a ring to put on your finger? We live in a time where our fate is uncertain. If the deal with Reaver goes south, we may be dead by sunrise.”

She could no longer keep eye contact with him, so she looked at her trembling hands. “Then, you are what? My protector? My bodyguard?”

Tears stung her eyes, yet she wouldn’t let them escape. Naked, she climbed out of bed, ignoring the redness staining her cheeks after she had done so. She focused on her duffel bag and picked it up, exploring its contents for her underwear that she quickly slipped into. With her back to him, she searched for suitable clothes for the morning jog.

“Helena,” he said behind her, and she ignored him. “Will you please look at me?”

She straightened and glared at him. “What?”

Not realising he was stark naked, she covered her eyes with her hands, dropping the bag with a soft plop.

Lucious chuckled. He grasped her wrists and pulled her into a hug.

“Let go!” she protested as she hit his chest with her palms.

“If I do, I fear you may never speak to me again. Let me rephrase what I said.”

Helena wanted to stomp on his foot and do one of the moves Maya taught her. The only thing stopping her was his amusement which travelled through the link, even though his face reflected no emotion.

“Go on,” she said, defeated.

Lucious kissed her forehead and pulled back enough for them to see each other better. “I am not a man suited for romance or dating. I was driven by vengeance for over a century and would have done anything to achieve my goals. Since I have met you, I have changed. Although this link may be a burden at times, without it I would remain in a dark place—a place I do not wish to return to.” His expression softened, and he tucked a lock of her hair behind her ear. “Please, I beg you to permit me to be there to protect you. That is the only thing securing my stay by your side.”

Helena grabbed his retreating hand and pressed his palm to her cheek. There was nothing left to give him. He held her heart and her soul. Beyond the hunter warnings and her imminent troubles, he was there for her when she needed him most. She even cried her heart out in front of him on more than one occasion, which was something she hadn’t done in front of anyone else.

A loud knock on the door made her drop his hand.

“Lucious, open up! There are matters we have to discuss,” Alexander shouted from the other side.

“Two minutes,” Lucious replied.

Helena glanced over her shoulder to find Lucious already tugging on a pair of black jeans. He buttoned them up and picked up his shirt off the floor. As he strode towards the door, he draped it over her shoulders and guided her hands into the sleeves before buttoning the shirt up.

She watched his fingers as they moved from one button to the next. Such a simple motion made her heart flutter and her toes curl.

“It is a little too big for you, but it will do for the time being,” he said and unlocked the door, permitting his friend entry.

Alexander immediately assessed the situation and scowled.

She turned red under his scrutinising stare. Although she was certain to keep her voice contained at night, vampires had good hearing as did the hunters.

“I know I told you to fuck her into submission, but I did not expect you would actually do it,” Alexander said, his eyes never leaving her face.

“Alexander, don’t—”

His friend cut him off. “Don’t state the truth? Did she agree to do it? Is she going to give up the info?”

Lucious’ back tensed, and he grasped Alexander by the collar of his shirt. “We will discuss this elsewhere.”

“What did he mean by that?” she asked.

Lucious stopped in the doorway. “Don’t worry about it.”

“She should worry about it. If she doesn’t give up the saint’s location, there is no deal,” Alexander added.

Her mouth fell open as her warmth seemed to evacuate her body at once. She hugged her sides, realising that his scent had surrounded her. She wanted to shed the material, but with Alexander and Lucious in the doorway, she couldn’t.

“Is that why you got close to me?” she whispered. “Were those kind gestures and words lies?” Her hurt fuelled her outrage, and her voice rose. “Did you sleep with me to convince me to give up Nadine’s location?”

Lucious let go of Alexander and strode over to her. “I wasn’t going to ask you for the information, Helena.”

“And I am supposed to believe that?”

He tried to touch her shoulder, and she slapped his hand away. “Don’t. Touch. Me.”

“If you don’t give up the information, I will personally make certain you do not see Andrew when he returns from America,” Alexander threatened and folded his arms over his chest.

Helena shot him a glare. “You’re going to blackmail me?”

Her blood boiled beneath her skin as a strange breeze brushed past her legs. Helena ignored it. There was nothing more important than being away from these two. She balled her hands and felt powerful energy stirring within her. When her mouth opened, words she had never heard before spilt out.

The vampires fell to their knees, one by one, clutching their ears. Agonised groans came from them—she didn’t care. The energy assured her that this was the right choice. Helena had to take control of the undead. She had to make them suffer.

“Helena, what are you doing?” Lucious asked, in a strained voice.

Upon hearing his plea and pain, pride and joy filled her to the brim, and she continued her chant. She was not their slave, not anymore.

“Helena?” Lucious’ voice echoed in her mind, and her treacherous heart squeezed.

His words faded, and she fell to her knees with tears streaming down the length of her face. “I don’t know what happened…”

Lucious shook his head and picked himself up. “Helena, are you alright?”

“Where did she learn such a spell?” Alexander asked, running his hand over his face. “Not many witches can make a vampire kneel. This could be useful.”

“Leave us, Alexander,” Lucious snapped.

Alexander sighed. “Alright. I won’t say anything more. You have a couple of hours before we must get ready to head over to Staatsoper. The hunters left last night, so I don’t know what they’re planning.”

Lucious ignored him and squatted in front of Helena who was shivering. He gathered her in his arms and laid her on the bed, covering her with the quilt.

“Is this better?” he asked, his eyes reflecting his concern.

She nodded.

“Zafira’s prediction may have been right,” Alexander said and closed the door behind him, leaving Helena with the sole man she didn’t want to speak with.

Lucious sat on the edge of the bed. “What Alexander said was the truth. When we first met, he said the fastest way to control you would be to make you fall in love with me.”

Her shivering subsided, and she rolled away from him. She couldn’t look at his face, not when she had no control over her emotions. And that spell, she never learnt it. It came out of her mouth as if someone else was speaking it in her stead. The thought of Lazarus controlling her remotely terrified her. She wanted to huddle close to Lucious and let him shield her, but, at the same time, she couldn’t burden him with any more of her problems.

“You must believe me, my dear, I did not spend the night with you to manipulate you into giving us the information about your friend.”

“I’m not human anymore, Lucious,” she whispered. “Lazarus made me into something else, something I can’t control. I am a monster.”

He bent over her and wiped the wetness from her cheeks. “You’re more human than most of us. Whatever you have just done was warranted. It was my fault.”

She sat up and studied his pained expression. How could she let him take the blame for everything? Taking his hand, she said, “I am willing to let it go as long as you promise not to keep anything from me.”

His face hardened, and he lowered his eyes. “There is—”

“Helena, are you alright? Did they do anything to you while we were gone?” Maya shouted as she burst into the room with her gun drawn. She pointed it at Lucious’ head.

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