Demon Gates (Helena Hawthorn Series #2)

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Staatsoper

In the limousine, while the men discussed their plan, Maya scooted closer to her. Helena still couldn’t come to terms with the need to surrender Nadine for their sake. The saint had nothing to do with their mess. Being a chess piece of the gods kept the saint from forming friendships and sacrificing her for their goal caused Helena’s stomach to clench.

“You forgot this at the apartment.” Maya handed her the dagger in a brown leather sheath.

“I didn’t think we needed weapons with us.”

“You are correct. Reaver said not to bring any,” Alexander injected himself into their conversation.

“We do not want to repeat what happened with the Council, Alexander,” Lucious said. “It is best to come prepared.”

“You monsters already have the speed, strength, and a healing ability. There is no need to give you more weapons.” Maya tugged Helena’s dress over her knee and exposed her upper leg. She pressed the sheath against the inside of Helena’s thigh and secured it with two leather straps, looping them through metal buckles.

“You’re all set. No one will know it’s there,” Maya announced.

Helena studied the round handle as it peeked out. She had killed a vampire last night, and his blood was fresh on her mind. How many lives did she have to take for her life to return to normal? The hunters, or rather Maya, urged her to pursue this path of slaughter, yet her heart hurt with every death she had witnessed.

“It is decided,” Lucious said. “Helena comes with us, and you two can scout the area before entering the building. You have Alexander’s number. Contact him when you are ready to meet us and share information. We will meet with Reaver thereafter.”

Helena lowered her dress and observed everyone in the limousine. None of them said it, but they seemed nervous. Maya’s hand kept rubbing her thigh. Helena guessed there was a concealed weapon under her dress as well.

Ben cracked his fingers. The occasional, unpleasant pop of his bones disrupted the otherwise silent limo. Lucious shifted in his seat to stare out the window, and Alexander glanced at his phone for the umpteenth time.

Since there was nothing encouraging or reassuring she could say, Helena kept quiet and looked out the window on her right. The streets of Vienna blurred by. The city was beautiful, but she couldn’t seem to find any comfort in it.

They pulled up in front of a large building with five arches on the first and second floors. The outside of the Vienna State Opera House was bathed in yellow lights, giving it a liquid-gold look as it touched the tall white walls. People, dressed in formal attire, made their way to the revolving doors at each of the entrances.

Helena climbed out of the car with Maya and others in tow.

Maya and Ben split off from the group and merged with the crowd as if it was natural.

“Will they be alright?” Helena asked.

Lucious’ features hardened. “Do not worry about the hunters and worry about yourself first. We are not here to play, and Reaver remains an unknown. Be on your guard, my dear. Do not leave my sight, understood?”

“I got it.” She looped her arm through his offered one as Alexander led the way through the gathered crowd. Their excitement was palpable, and she suppressed the urge to beg them to leave this place. She couldn’t shake the bad feeling blossoming in her chest.

Lucious lowered his head and spoke next to her ear, “The link is trembling with your agitation. Try to control your emotions here. We do not know what to expect or how powerful a warlock Reaver is.”

Closing her eyes briefly, she mumbled a prayer, and they entered the Staatsoper. The large lobby was lit with more bright golden lights, revealing tireless arches, marble steps, and renaissance ceilings carved to perfection.

Alexander produced their tickets to a member of staff who greeted them with a practised smile. He returned the ticket stubs to Alexander and moved on to the couple behind them.

Before they could go any further, two stone-faced men stopped Alexander, causing him to pause, and Helena and Lucious halted behind him.

“Welcome to Vienna, Mr Grekov. Reaver wishes to see you prior to the performance in the Gustav Mahler Hall,” a man with a large mole on his nose said in a hoarse voice.

Lucious stiffened, and a single word ghosted along the soul-bond. “Vampires.”

She studied the men closely. They both had their hands hovering next to their hips—the same way Maya behaved when she was ready to draw her weapon. This could only mean they didn’t have much choice in the matter. But, would these vampires shoot them in a public place?

Alexander spared Lucious a glance which earned him a nod in return.

“I see. Is Reaver present in person for our deal?” Alexander asked, striding behind the hoarse vampire while his partner brought up the rear.

“You will know soon enough.”

They scaled the main staircase where the smiling female marble statues watched them pass by in their eternal silence. Once the stairs split into two directions, the vampire led them right, into a corridor, and through a set of double doors.

Helena’s eyes darted around the vast chamber they entered. A dark-haired and dark-skinned man sat in a plush velvet-and-gold chair in the centre of it. Above him, long glistening chains hung from the ceiling, holding up circular chandeliers that illuminated two grand murals.

Tearing her eyes away from the artwork, Helena’s attention was drawn to the smiling man who she guessed was Reaver. Behind him, at the far end of the room, stood a young girl with waist-long raven hair and porcelain skin. The girl blankly stared at the floor and, beyond her chest rising and falling, there didn’t seem to be any other signs of life from her.

Reaver waved a hand, and the vampires pulled out their guns, pointing them at Lucious and Alexander.

“Your weapons and phones, please hand them over to my friends,” Reaver ordered with a thick German accent clinging to each word.

Lucious’ teeth ground together, and Helena noticed he was suppressing an urge to say something as he pulled out a handgun from behind him. He handed it to one of the vampires.

Alexander, too, cooperated by giving up his two phones and looked on ahead at Reaver.

The hoarse vampire inspected Helena from head to toe with a scrutinising gaze. He smirked and stepped back without further question.

Annoyed, she scissored her arms. Do I look harmless to them?

Reaver whistled, acquiring everyone’s attention. “I am displeased you’ve brought weapons to our meeting. Didn’t I mention it’s against my policy to deal with those who break the rules?”

“How do we know we are meeting the real Reaver? You have no heartbeat which makes you a vampire or a ghoul,” Lucious said in a measured tone.

The man in the chair grinned. “How, indeed. But, I don’t care what you believe, Mr Ellwood. I also don’t care for the hunters you’ve brought with you. It’s why I have sent them a present.”

Helena’s nails bit into the exposed flesh on her arms, and she glared at Reaver. “What did you do to them?”

“I’m returning the favour for killing one of mine last night,” he replied.

“How do you know it was them who killed him? It could have been anyone,” Helena retorted.

Reaver crossed his legs and smirked. “I never said it was a him, young lady. Hum, you must be the one with the knowledge of the saint. I see no other reason for these two gents to bring a useless human with them.”

“That’s a good assumption,” Alexander said, and Helena rolled her eyes.

“Let us get on with the deal. Allow my siren access your mind to check if the information you have is useful to me, and we may speak about the Arcanae Mortum,” Reaver said.

Access my mind? They would find out about the link, the hunters, the demon—everything.

Lucious grasped her upper arm and tugged her closer to him. Through the link, he said, “It is too dangerous to let her read you and, for some reason, I keep seeing something strange.”

“What do you mean?”

He snaked his arms around her back. She stopped her protest when she felt his shields wrapping around hers, and she saw some kind of ghost-like cord going from the young girl to Reaver.

“What is that?”

“I cannot be certain,” he replied. “Usually, warlocks do not keep their powers after turning. If this is an exception or Reaver’s ability, he could be syphoning her health or it could be some kind of binding spell similar to the link that keeps us together. It may also be something else entirely.”

“Does that mean she could be trapped here, like us?”

“I cannot be certain, my dear.”

“Well? How long do I have to wait for you to make a decision?” Reaver demanded, his expression turning sour.

Alexander glanced at them. “It would be best for us to let the siren read her.”

Lucious’ grip on Helena changed to almost painful. “You know exactly why that’s not a good idea, Alexander.”

“I do not care what you think. I went out of my way to meet you. Complete your part of the deal or you will perish here,” Reaver’s voice boomed over them, sending an unpleasant tremor through Helena.

A phone rang in one of the guarding vampire’s pockets, and Alexander sighed. “May I take the call?”

Reaver shook his head. “Whoever it is will have to wait. As you can see, I am not a patient man. Send the girl over.”

The phone rang again, and Reaver growled at the vampire holding the device to turn it off. The warlock rose from his seat, pointedly looking from Alexander to Lucious. “Send over the girl.”

Helena swallowed as the boulder in her stomach grew heavier. She tugged Lucious’ unrelenting arms apart. “I will stop her before she can read me. Don’t worry.”

“It is too dangerous.”

“It’s alright. Let me go.”

He released her, and Helena made her way across to the girl. She passed by Reaver. He seemed indifferent to her approach as his undivided attention remained focused on the vampires.

Helena glanced over her shoulder, one last time, and closed the remaining distance between her and the girl.

Lifeless grey eyes looked at Helena, and her heart squeezed. This girl had to be suffering being under Reaver’s control.

She placed her hands on Helena’s head and, for a second, Helena thought the girl smirked. Then, pain shot through her system.

Helena cried out her agony as she heard Reaver chuckling in the distance.

“I forgot to say that it is a painful process,” Reaver added.

Images of the past few days flashed in front of her eyes. She fought against the strangling control and slowly lifted the side of her gown as an argument broke out between the vampires.

Lucious’ muffled words reached her, but she couldn’t make out what he was trying to say. Helena decided to concentrate on the task at hand. Her fingers curled around the dagger’s hilt. She yanked it out of the sheath, knocking the girl’s hands away, and placed the blade against her neck.

“Don’t move!” she ordered.

The girl did as she was told, and Reaver clapped intermittently. “I see you’re not without a gift of deception, but you can do whatever you like with her. I can always find another siren.”

Helena pressed the blade closer to the girl’s neck, slicing the skin enough for blood to trickle from the tiny wound.

Reaver clutched his head as if he was in pain and life seemed to return to the girl’s eyes.

The main doors burst open, and Maya and Ben shouted something she didn’t catch before the siren knocked her back.

Helena fell hard on her ass. A fight broke out and shots were fired as she scrambled to her feet. Ignoring the commotion, she ran after the girl.

The siren sped down the emergency stairs, and Helena followed closely behind. Soon after, they burst into a room.

Helena mentally thanked Maya for all the jogging they did in the past five days. Without the training, she would have been out of breath long ago.

The witch struggled to open the window.

“Stop!” Helena shouted and pointed the dagger at her.

The girl smirked and chanted something in German.

Helena’s body loosened, and she felt something invisible wrapping around her limbs.

“Do you know why I dislike people like you?” the siren asked. “Because you have never lost anyone you care about. I guess I must teach you a lesson.”

Helena’s trembling hand gripped the dagger and her knuckles to changed colour. Her hand, moving of its own accord, pointed the sharp end of the blade at her heart.

“Maybe in the next life I can keep you as a trophy.”

“Where are you, Helena?” Maya shouted in the hallway.

The witch sneered and when Maya entered the room, Helena involuntarily turned, and her hand lodged in the hunter’s gut.

Maya groaned. Her gun fell from her hand onto the carpet. She felt for the dagger.

Tears escaped Helena. It was like the nightmares Lazarus showed her with her ancestor. She had witnessed Eva’s life through her eyes, yet there was nothing she could do to help.

A dark stain formed on Maya’s dress, and she collapsed to her knees. “Sis…you…alright?”

This is too much. Helena turned on her heel and staggered towards the siren like a robot.

“It’s your lucky night. Looks like I’ll be taking you with me,” the siren said, climbing out the window.

Helena followed her. Mentally fighting the control the siren had on her, she remained incapable of breaking it.

When they rounded the building, the patrons rushed outside through multiple entrances, screaming and stampeding over one another. Helena looked away from the horrid sight. These people didn’t deserve to get hurt because of her, and Maya shouldn’t have been stabbed.

A black sedan pulled up, and the siren clambered inside. As Helena stood in place, a prick of an injection on her arm made her wince. She was shoved into the car, and, as minutes ticked by, her vision turned fuzzy and the hold on her consciousness slipped.

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