Demon Gates (Helena Hawthorn Series #2)

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A Theory To Test

It hadn’t been more than two weeks since Lucious last set foot in London, and he had not missed it one bit. Using long strides, he made his way to the Council’s main entrance and waited until someone on the inside permitted him entry by opening the heavy oak door.

A ghoul named Tony rose from his seat behind the reception and stashed his gun behind his back. His expression was as stone-cold as the weapon he toyed with when he thought no one was looking. The man amused Lucious. What kind of person was he before becoming a servant of the Ghoul Master?

“Any weapons?” Tony asked, sizing Lucious up.

Lucious lifted his gun out and placed it on the counter. “That’s everything I have.”

Tony took the weapon. “Are you here to see Mistress Anna?”

Lucious wasn’t surprised by the comment. Every vampire here knew who he was from his comings and goings to see Anna. His sire wasn’t permitted to leave the premises, courtesy of Eliza and her benevolent rule. And, as much as it annoyed him, he remained silent on the matter. Anna’s request was all he cared about when crossing the Council’s threshold, and, at this moment in time, her safety came first.

He ignored the ghoul and strode past him, heading towards the main lift. Once inside, he selected ‘B1’ floor for the Council’s quarters and offices. The lift descended as he contemplated the threat by the demon. Helena was stronger than he anticipated. After his first meeting with Lazarus, he never wished to meet that creature again. The thought of the demon’s dark energy from that night in Vienna made him shudder.

As he marched through the winding corridors, a pair of crocodile boots greeted him around the corner.

“Back so soon, mate?” Karl asked.

He tried disregarding the hound, but, when Lucious passed him, the vampire caught his arm. “Don’t be so cold, Ellwood. We’ve gotten kind of close these past six months.”

Lucious yanked his arm out of Karl’s grasp. The man’s accents changed as if on demand, rendering Lucious unable to pinpoint his origins or true age.

“I do not know what you’re playing at here, hound, and I do not have the time for it.”

“Pity,” Karl said and lit a cigarette. He puffed out the smoke in small loops. “I was looking forward to making a friend or two. I did miss the girl you came here to rescue. The way she struggled in her cell with the nightmare gives me a hard-on to this day.”

Lucious growled a curse and grabbed Karl by the collar of his shirt, slamming him into the wall. “Do not speak of her in such a filthy manner!”

Karl burst into a fit of laughter.

“What is so amusing?”

The hound coughed and puffed on his cigarette. He expelled a foul cloud of smoke into Lucious’ face. “You’ve reached your limit, Ellwood. Your eyes are the proof.”

Lucious dropped the hound and stormed past him. How could he be so foolish as to let this crazed man see his descent? He ground his teeth and made his way towards the Council quarters.

When he stopped in front of Anna’s door, he knocked and awaited a response.

The heavy door opened. His sire stood there with her black hair tied into a high ponytail that brushed her waistline. She crossed her arms over her small chest, covering some of the paint stains on her shirt, and raised a dark brow as the smell of white spirits and oil paint wafted past her into the hallway.

Anna returned to her easel. “Didn’t you leave to protect your human? Is she well?” She selected a small paintbrush and waved for him to take a seat.

Without question, he complied and sat on the edge of her bed. On the outside, Anna looked no older than fourteen—an age many modern children wished to rebel and seek justification for their existence in the world. The fact she never mentioned her age interested him. Even when he tried to catch her off guard, she would not let it slip. She was a woman of many secrets, one of which prevented her from displaying any emotions on her face.

Anna placed the brush into a jar of murky water. “Are you going to stare at me till dawn with your blood-shot eyes, son?”

Lucious looked at the mahogany parquet in shame. “I cannot control the thirst as well as I used to.”

“I can see that.” She approached him. “Do you know the cause?”

“Yes. Helena’s blood. The more I take, the more I crave. No matter how much I drink from others, it is not the same.”

Anna lifted his face. Her dark eyes seemed to penetrate through his blank face.

He sighed. “What is it?”

“Every time I saw you in the past, you have never spoken her name. She was either a ‘human’ or ‘someone you had to protect’ in your eyes. Has something changed?”

“No,” he lied and stood, breaking contact. “Nothing happened.”

“I see. So, you two have spent the night together.”

Lucious was about to protest when Anna lifted her hand, silencing him. “There is no need to look so frightened, son. I can see right through you. Your face may show disinterest, but your eyes are the mirror to your soul. And right now, your soul is suffering. Why is that so?”

“I do not know, sire.” He knelt on the ground before her. Closing his eyes, he fought the burning thirst in his throat. The aroma of Anna’s blood coursing beneath her pearlescent flesh in the small paths paved by nature was like a mermaid’s call to the sailors. Her wrist was so close. Close enough for him to grab and take another drink of the rich liquid to soothe the crippling ache in him that he had grown to despise.

Anna placed her hand on his head, and he looked up. Gently, she stroked his hair. “Do not accept the darkness that resides within you, my childe. Learn from my mistakes and look after those you love.”

Anna retraced her steps to her painting. “I left civilisation to tame the creature living inside of me and the payment for my sin was the lives of my dearest children. Pierre, Karin, Moira, and you were my pride and joy. I fought the demon with the sole purpose of seeing my kin, but I was too late.” She turned around and tears graced her emotionless face. “Look after your childe and the woman you love.”

“Anna, I don’t know how I feel about her…”

She wiped the glistening wetness with her sleeve, marring her cheek with a smear of white paint. With a steady hand, she picked up her paintbrush and dried it on a dirty rag which she hung over the back of a chair nearby.

As she dipped the brush into black paint, she hummed a tune he used to listen to when they were together. The slow melody brought forth unwanted memories of his blood-brother and sisters and the time they tried to get along to keep Anna happy. She was the one to give them their second lives and taught them to survive in this world. Without her guidance, Lucious had no idea what he would become, and that knowledge gnawed at him. He had been dismissing his childe because of the incessant need to get Helena’s trust. All this time, he pretended not to know whether it was to protect her or for his selfish needs. But now, the answer stood before him like a beacon in the night.

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