Demon Gates (Helena Hawthorn Series #2)

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A Theory To Test pt. 2

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.

“I cannot be in love,” he vocalised his thoughts. “I’m not deserving of it.”

Anna stopped humming. “It manifests itself in different forms and is shrouded by greed, possessiveness, hatred, jealousy—emotions that can destroy us. The journey before you is not an easy one, of that I am certain. But, your primary task remains to defeat the demon or it will take you both.”

“He spoke to me. He wanted to make a deal.”

“I am certain he did, and, whatever he says, you must ignore its words. They never lead to the correct path.”

Lucious stood. His hands balled into fists. “The demon said he will make you lose control if I don’t listen.”

Anna stopped painting and shifted the easel to the left, enough for him to see the canvas she was painting. It was a portrait of her children. In it, she was sitting on a plush purple-and-gold armchair in the middle, dwarfed by their tall frames. She had the largest smile gracing her lips that Lucious had never witnessed, and it made his chest feel restricted. His sire was too kind. She was willing to sacrifice herself for his happiness, and it hurt to know that when protecting her had become his goal.

“I see you understand now, my childe. Be brave and be willing to sacrifice. In the end, advice is the only thing I can give you since Eliza decided to keep me trapped in here.”

“Did she tell you why she wanted you in the first place?”

Anna shifted the easel to its original position and returned to her unfinished masterpiece. “My lips are bound by her command. I cannot speak of the things we discuss with anyone but her.”

“She cannot do such things to you!” he shouted.

She waved for him to lower his voice. “This is not the place or time to announce your displeasure about her rule. Eliza has not touched you yet, but that option cannot be ruled out if you anger her.”

“Then, tell me whether she is forcing you to do anything?”

Anna tilted her head to one side. “Nothing for now. I do not know what she is planning, but I do know it cannot lead to anything good.”

A strong wave of sadness overwhelmed him, and he massaged his chest. Something is wrong with Helena. He collapsed to his knees when his energy seeped away from him like quicksand.

His sire clasped his shoulders. “What is the matter?”

“She’s…draining me.”

Kneeling in front of him, she gathered his hands. “Look at me, my son. Concentrate on me and not the pain.”

He gave a faint grunt as the unpleasant sensation in his chest subsided. “I must contact her or Alexander. What if—”

Anna shook her head. “Let her be. If you are better, she is fine as well. Disregard this incident and concentrate on getting better.” She rose and straightened her shirt. “Get some rest, Lucious. For the next week, you are forbidden from drinking blood. And, never drink from Helena. Is that understood?”

“Yes, sire.” He bowed his head low.

The only person who could help him control his descent was Anna, and he would obey her will without question since he knew she would never do anything to hurt her children.

Lucious left in search of a room he stayed in the last time he came to visit. Eliza found enough kindness in her dead heart to spare a storage room he could stay at, instead of having him go back and forth between locations. He knew better than to trust the head Councilwoman. Her main goal was evident right from the start—to keep him where she could see and control his movements. Once he learned to push out his shields enough to protect another, he returned to Helena, although not in time to keep her from the demon.

Could Anna be right, and I am, indeed, in love with her? Lucious stopped in front of the storage room’s door. With conflicting thoughts fighting in him, it was impossible to see the clear picture. He did wish to hold her close, to chase away anyone who wished her harm or wanted to touch her. If Andreaz had not died by Helena’s hand, Lucious was certain he would be the one to find the elder and repay his atrocious treatment of his woman.

Lucious hit the door with his forehead and grunted. He wished to see her and to sink his teeth into her inviting, slender neck. His fangs extended, and he bit his lip. Blood oozed out of the cut which he proceeded to lick.

“Lucious Ellwood?” someone called from the side.

“Yes, what is it?” Lucious willed his eyes to return to normal before looking at the man. The stranger with silver hair that was similar to Vincent’s smiled at him, although this vampire was much younger in appearance than the elder.

“I am here on Master Vincent’s behalf. He wishes to speak with you.”

Lucious scanned the man’s business attire—a pressed black suit in pristine condition. “And you are?”

The man extended his hand in a form of a handshake. “I am Levile Duval, Master Vincent’s second childe.”

“So, you are Hans’ blood-brother?”

Levile nodded. “Indeed. My brother is much like my sire.”

Lucious understood the adoration this man showed for his sire well. Vincent was one of the few sires who cared for their children, which surprised Lucious since Eliza used hers to ensure her reign of the European Council.

“Lead the way.”

Levile turned on his heel and sauntered on ahead.

“Can you tell me what it is he wants?” Lucious asked.

Saying nothing, the vampire kept going.

Lucious frowned. What did the all-powerful elder wish to speak to him about with such urgency? Certainly, the Council had more than enough secrets hidden within these moss-coloured walls.

Levile opened a door for him to a large sitting room with ample lighting and an electric fireplace.

Vincent welcomed Lucious with a smile—an action that caused him to doubt the elder’s motivations. After all, this was too out of the ordinary. Master Vincent did not smile even when he wished for Lucious to pass on the necklace to Helena. Why do so now?

“Please, sit.” Vincent indicated to an armchair opposite him.

Lucious took the seat and the ache in his back built from the stiff posture he maintained.

“Don’t look so worried,” Vincent said with a laugh. He inclined his head to Levile who left them alone. “Drinks should arrive in a minute or two. I hope you don’t mind that I chose the wine for this meeting.”

Leaning forwards in his seat, Lucious was eager to hear what the elder was after.

Vincent let out a low chuckle. “I can see you do not care for wine, and that is fine. I also prefer it when people lay out important matters instead of dancing around the subject. And so, I shall do that.” He crossed his legs and entwined his fingers in his lap. “I had a worrying conversation with my maid yesterday. Although, I assure you, she tried to avoid the subject, Perri told me Helena was captured by someone. Since you are here, the matter must have been resolved. Yes?”

Lucious’ eyes narrowed. “Why are you so concerned with her?”

For a while, Vincent held Lucious’ steady gaze then he glanced at the fireplace. “I believe it was Eliza’s decision to keep an eye on you both. Or am I mistaken?”

Lucious mimicked Vincent’s body language by crossing his legs. “Master Vincent, you must already know she has returned to Ireland. Let us stop with this charade. Ask what it is you want to know.”

“And what about the demon seeking to claim her soul?”

Lucious’ shock broke through his schooled expression. Helena had failed to mention Vincent knew about the demon they were trying to dispose of prior to the Council taking notice. Their interest in her and Lucious’ affairs would have died over time, but with Vincent being informed of this, it was a matter of time before it reached Eliza’s ears. He swore under his breath. “Master Vincent, I—”

“Call me ‘Vincent’. The honorifics make me sound old.”

He fought a nervous chuckle. Is Vincent after Helena? Did something happen between them while she stayed at his home? His fingers dug into the armrest, and he forced his attention back to their conversation. “We have found a weapon to kill the creature, but we remain in the dark as to how to finish the deed.”

The elder studied him while playing with the corners of his moustache. “I would help if I knew more about demons, but I do not. The person who comes to mind is Madeline. She is a witch who helped return Helena to normal during her possession.”

“She never told me about that.”

“Perhaps is it not something young Helena wished to discuss. She had suffered enough to spend days and nights holed up in my library in search of answers.”

Lucious stared at his hands. Helena kept a lot of things from him, and not for the lack of him trying to prove to her that he was worthy of her trust. Perhaps the five months apart created a greater gap between them than he wanted to admit.

“Madeline will be here next week. If you want me to arrange for you to meet her, be sure to tell me beforehand,” Vincent said, breaking Lucious out of his reverie.

There was a knock on the door, and a redhead in a snug white shirt and a plaid skirt walked in with a tray. She handed a glass of red wine to Vincent and offered the second one to Lucious who shook his head.

“Thank you, Katya. You may take my guest’s drink away. It appears he is not in the mood for one,” Vincent said.

The redhead gave them a beatific smile and spoke with an underlying Russian accent, “Will do. Also, the Ghoul Master wishes to meet with you. Should I schedule an appointment for tomorrow?”

“Please do,” Vincent replied, and the woman left with the soft sound of clicking heels.

Lucious straightened in his seat. “I didn’t know you had created a ghoul.”

Vincent took a sip of his wine and balanced the glass on the armrest. “I did not create her. Katya had been with us for over two hundred years since her creator abandoned her in Russia. Her tale is sadder than one might judge from the way she smiles. All I can say is, she was lucky to have come across Ghoul Master when she did.”

“Someone had abandoned their ghoul after turning her?” Lucious asked, incredulous.

“It is not uncommon. Sometimes, before we get a chance to exchange energies with a dying mortal, they die. Vampires, who do not know how the process works, either burn the body or leave them elsewhere to become mindless ghouls.”

Lucious shuddered at the idea of creating such a monster. They were meat-eaters and preferred to consume the flesh of the dead—a diet that made him want to vomit the remaining blood in his stomach.

Vincent rose to his full height and finished his glass of red wine which he nestled on top of the mantelpiece. He traced his fingers around the rim of the glass and stared at it with determination.

“I wish to know what your sire is doing for Eliza,” Vincent said, breaking the awkward silence.

A chuckle escaped Lucious. Vincent’s false interest in his affairs seemed off. Now that he revealed his real objective, Lucious stood and bowed his head. “I should be going, Master Vincent.”

“Do not blame me for my curiosity, young man. Eliza may be my sire, and she does care for the well-being of her people, but her methods tend to be unorthodox.”

“I have nothing to say.”

“I could force you to speak,” Vincent said, and Lucious stiffened.

He knew that asking was Vincent’s way of showing courtesy. The elder seemingly did wish to get the information without using force. On that unfortunate night in the Russian Roulette, Lucious had the displeasure of feeling the elder’s energy invading his shields. He hoped such an occurrence would not come around a second time.

“Anna was forbidden by Eliza to share such information, so I truly do not know anything,” Lucious explained.

“My sire never leaves an opening, it seems. I understand. You may leave, but do consider meeting with the witch. She may know something that could help you.”

Lucious bowed his head in respect and left the room. He returned to his temporary abode and settled in between a couple of boxes, his mind working on the possibilities of what Eliza could be plotting. All along, Eliza wanted his sire. She killed Anna’s children to draw her out of hiding. There had to be a reason—one he was certain would not bring him any joy.

He stared at the ceiling as Anna’s words replayed in his head. If he had fallen in love with Helena, could he make her happy? She constantly suffered on his behalf. He lied to her, coerced her into forming a link between their souls, and the irony of the fact that his goal used to be making her fall in love with him stood out like a sore thumb.

Leaving his problems to be solved another day, he closed his eyes and welcomed sleep.

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