Ruined Afterglow pt. 2
“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.
Before Helena knew what she was doing, she jumped out of the bed and stood in front of him with her body creating a shield. “Maya, don’t.”
Maya’s expression turned sour when she took in Helena’s state of undress. “You slept with the enemy.”
Lucious rose to his full height and pushed Helena aside. “I would appreciate it if you did not put yourself in danger for me.”
“You’ve been hurt enough.”
“And each one of those times meant you remained unharmed. So, stop with the selfless act. You should not worry about me.” He strode out of the room.
Maya lowered her gun and ran to Helena. “You’re pale. Did he bite you?”
Helena shook her head. She couldn’t disclose the fact that she was able to chant spells without learning them. The words as well as the energy inside of her, although reassuring and powerful, felt foreign. It didn’t belong to her. Is Lazarus controlling me through the mark?
She grasped Maya’s arm. “Has anything strange happened to you since you were marked?”
“Not really. Other than the nightmares, nothing else happened. Why?”
“It’s nothing.” Helena rummaged through her bag. She put on a pair of jeans and faced Maya who eyed her with suspicion.
“What aren’t you telling me?” Maya’s voice lacked emotion and displayed the real hunter beneath the smiles and friendly pretences.
She couldn’t tell Maya the truth about being controlled by the strange power. Not yet. “Alexander wants me to trade the saint’s location for the blade.”
“I knew those vamps were planning something behind our backs!”
“It’s not like you don’t want to know where she is.”
“Yeah, for the sake of humanity. They want to give her to Reaver! Who knows what the warlock will do to her.”
Helena pointed at the door. “Please, leave. I need some time to put things in perspective.”
“Are you going to give up her location?” Maya asked, her voice betraying her eagerness.
“Leave,” Helena spoke through gritted teeth and waited until the hunter left the room.
Once she was alone, Helena locked the door behind her and slid down. She buried her face in her hands. They needed the Arcanae Mortum. There was no disputing that fact. Without it, they were as good as dead and, with it, they stood a fighting chance against Lazarus. Everything had become so tangled up: Laura going missing, Nadine being a saint, Perri’s and Hans’ return to Scotland, the demon taunting her, and the relationship with Lucious. Her head hurt having to think about those things.
Helena sucked in a steadying breath, pushing her worries to the back of her mind. Alexander and Lucious had a point. This meeting could go either way, and it was up to her which way it went. Yet, they knew nothing about Reaver and his true intentions. What stopped him from killing them when she disclosed Nadine’s location?
No. She wouldn’t let it happen. Helena considered Nadine to be a friend. After all, she did tell Helena about the weapon.
She got up and changed out of Lucious’ shirt into a green sweater. She went into the living room where the hunters stood by the window, their hands hovering close to their holsters while the vampires were seated on a sofa, assessing Maya and Ben.
When she stepped into the room, Helena felt the pressure piling on top of her shoulders. “I assume you are waiting for me to make my decision?” She took another step. “And I’m sure most of you will not be happy with it.”
Alexander groaned. “You don’t get it. It’s your life at stake here, human.”
Lucious shook his head. “Ignore him. What is it you wish to do?”
“I can’t give up the saint’s address. I don’t like dragging innocent people into the mix.”
Maya opened her mouth to speak, but Helena raised her hand. “I won’t be giving the details about the saint to anyone. We don’t know enough about Reaver.”
Alexander stood, his broad shoulders squared. “He is a businessman like me. The deal will only go through if you keep your end of the bargain.”
“I have heard the same from my contacts,” Ben added.
“Stop playing your righteous tune,” Alexander snapped at her. “We don’t have time for it. You don’t have time for it. The meeting with Reaver is mere hours away. What I am trying to say is that if you want something, you must learn to make sacrifices.”
Lucious nudged her shields with his energy, and his desperate words resonated in her head. “You may not like it, but we cannot get out of this without a sacrifice.”
With an aching heart, she looked from one stern face to another, each one expecting her to abandon her friend so she could live longer. Yet, at the same time, it wasn’t just her life on the line. Maya and Lucious were involved, too.
“Alright,” Helena said.
“Do you mean it?” Maya asked, her eyes shining.
“I don’t have much of a choice, do I?” She stalked back into the bedroom where she climbed under the covers and pretended the world didn’t exist for the rest of the day.
Helena looked back at her reflection in the wardrobe’s full-length mirror—another dress and another event where their lives were at stake. She stole a glance at Maya who struggled with her zipper.
“Do you want help?”
Maya turned, and Helena pulled the zip on her sleeveless, black dress to the top.
“Thanks.” Maya adjusted the silky material around her chest. “Why doesn’t this thing have straps? My boobs are about to fall out.”
“Because Alexander was the one who ordered them.”
Maya stopped fixing her clothes and sighed. “There’s a lesson to be learned here. Never let a man-whore dress you.”
“I can do one better. Never let Alexander dress you.”
They both laughed as Ben entered the room in a tuxedo. He seemed as uncomfortable in formal attire as Maya, yet he hid that discomfort behind a half-smile upon seeing them.
“Are you ladies finished?”
“Pretty much.” Maya wobbled to him on her high heels. “Can I wear sneakers? These shoes are going to break my ankles.”
“Consider this to be a substitute for your rope-walking training,” Ben replied, offering his arm.
Maya grinned. “Yes, boss.”
When the two of them left the room, Helena was left to stare at her beaded, cream gown that brushed the hardwood flooring.
“Guess it’s not that bad,” she said aloud.
“Of course not. I have great taste in clothes,” Alexander said from the doorway.
When she glanced at him, he was already in the room.
“What are you doing here? Where’s Lucious?”
“He and the hunters are waiting in the car.” He relaxed against the wall. “You and I, on the other hand, need to have a chat.”
“I want you to stay away from Lucious. Tell him you don’t need his protection. Keep him away.”
Helena took an uncertain step back. Her heart quickened in her chest. “Why?”
His lip curled. “Because you are a disease. You are going to be the death of him one day soon, and I do not want to lose another friend—not because of your careless attitude and lack of willingness to do what should be done.”
“I don’t want to hurt him. I won’t hurt him!”
“Heed my words, human. Zafira’s visions are never wrong. She has seen you killing Lucious. So, spare me your useless explanations and do what I ask.” With that, Alexander sauntered out of the bedroom.
Her shoulders slumped as she followed him out into the humid evening air. She blankly stopped in front of the black limousine, letting the wind whip past her.
“Helena, are you unwell?” Lucious asked, eyeing her and Alexander.
Alexander didn’t respond and climbed into the limo.
She looked into the depths of Lucious’ eyes, and couldn’t stop Alexander’s words from coming back to her. She didn’t want to hurt this man, not by choice. But, when she lost control today, the joy of making them suffer frightened her. If she had to create a distance between them to keep him safe, she could do something she would regret later. Her feelings for him were irrelevant in this matter.
She forced a smile. “It’s kind of nippy, but I’m fine. Let’s get going.”