Demon Gates (Helena Hawthorn Series #2)

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Lucious held the blood bag in his hand and watched the liquid scaling the clear tube which protruded from the top. He took an appreciative whiff. So far, his desire to drink did not dissipate. Anna’s worry had to be for nought.

“Do not dawdle, Lucious. Drink,” Anna ordered.

He swallowed with reservation and sucked the blood up the tube. His eyes closed as the liquid spread over his tongue and mouth. A rush of acid climbed his throat, and he threw up the contents of his stomach onto the floor.

“Not good.” Anna knelt at his side. She rubbed circles on his back till he stopped heaving and collapsed backwards into his seat.

He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand and cursed. “This is not right, sire. I cannot possibly be unable to drink human blood. I was perfectly fine drinking from Helena and the thirst urges me to do so.”

“But she is not human. We have come to conclude that. The fact she has an angel guarding her is a piece of the puzzle I cannot solve.”

“He is no longer with her. She said he left her after the demon’s attempt to take her soul by force,” Lucious replied, willing the sick feeling in his stomach to subside.

Anna brushed the damp strands away from his forehead. “A human with an angel or a witch without one. The world has become a foreign place since I walked the streets freely.”

She withdrew her hand and went over to the windowsill where she grabbed a rag covered in paint and tossed it into the puddle of blood on the floor. The wrinkled material soaked up the liquid beneath, and Lucious fought to keep his attention on anything but the item at his feet.

“It is you I am most concerned about, my son. The vampire community is not forgiving of those who drink from our own. Those who attempted such dark deeds were executed before they gained enough power to overthrow the Council.” She relaxed her back against the wall, crossing her arms. “While I am bound to Eliza’s will, I cannot guarantee your safety. I suggest you take your human and flee to where the Council’s grasp won’t reach you.”

“And do what? Hunt my kind?” he demanded, rising. He was finally strong enough to remain vertical. His shoulders trembled with the sizzling rage coursing within. Not only did he have to sacrifice his freedom to the chains of this obscure situation, he had to drag Helena into it as well. But, without her there, he would be unable to maintain his control for long.

Anna softly said, “Son, take some time off to cool your head. Consider the troubles at hand. Vampire blood may sate you for longer, and I have no qualms about being your donor while we seek out a cure, but I want you to think about your future.”

Lucious’ gaze lowered to the dirty rag on the ground. He knew his eyes shone as red as the blood soaking into the material, and he could do nothing about it. No amount of self-control seemed to be enough to take away the nagging urge to see Helena.

He fleeted to the storage room and slammed the door shut. It would appear Helena is not the only one trapped in a nightmare. He punched the nearest wall.

How long he sat there immobile, between the boxes, he didn’t know. The rage dispersed once he managed to make a hole in Eliza’s wall. What remained was a sense of hopelessness he was not used to. He prided himself on being strong, wilful, and methodical—all that flew out the window the instant human blood in his mouth tasted like the filthy linoleum beneath his boots.

And Helena, by God did he wish to see her enthralling hazel eyes once more. The depths of his soul cried out at the separation between them. Without her nearby, fear of something happening to her fragmented his resolve.

He sighed and took out his phone. Once he found Alexander’s number in his short contacts list, he pressed the ‘call’ button.

The call connected, and Alexander asked, “Is everything alright? How is Anna?”

“She is well for the time being. Eliza has her on a tight leash, and Vincent appears to be curious about Eliza’s reasons for drawing my sire out into the open.”

“Eliza always has a plan in motion. Whatever it is, I simply hope not to be around when the fireworks go off.”

“Alexander”—Lucious pressed the phone closer to his ear—“is she doing well? What happened yesterday?”

Alexander snorted, and Lucious could almost imagine his friend rolling his eyes. “She’s fine, talking to the saint right now. I can barely make out their voices, but it seems to be going better than I anticipated. As for what happened…” He blew out a breath. “We had a disagreement. It is not something you need to worry about.”

“Are you still testing her?”

“I don’t see a single charming thing about her. You have a strange taste in women.”

Lucious chuckled. “That I do.”

“When is it you are returning to us? I’m sure your childe will want to see you.”

Lucious’ smile fell, and he gripped the device until the plastic and the glass voiced their complaint with an uncomfortable crack. “My childe is with her?”

“One way or another, it was bound to happen. You cannot keep those two apart anymore.”

I could bloody well try, a pesky voice at the back of his mind grated. Lucious ground his teeth together and loosened the grip on his phone. He would speak to her about his childe soon enough. After all, she belonged to him.

“When are you coming back?” Alexander asked.

“I don’t know. There are some complications. I will discuss them with you later.” He ended the call and slid the device with the cracked screen into his pocket. With everything that was going on, he just wanted a shower. It had been days since he stood under the hot spray of water. And, hopefully, it would give him some time to clear his head of the fears and doubts that were eating away at his sanity.

He climbed to his feet and opened the door to find Zafira standing there with a grin stretching her cherry-red lips.

“Have you finished reporting to Alexander?” she asked in a sultry voice and drew close enough for him to pick up the refreshing scent of her fruity shampoo.

His desire for a hot shower was replaced with the need to take a cold one where he could get a grasp on his senses. No shampoo could stop his heightened sense of smell. The blood beneath her golden skin was drawing the monster in him out to play.

“What are you doing here?” he demanded, none too pleased by the interruption.

Zafira’s smile faded and her dark eyes scanned his face. Her eyes narrowed. “I am here on Eliza’s request. She wants me to read her fortune. On the other hand, I did not expect such a cold welcome from you.”

“What did you expect?”

Although she remained to be the physical representation of the woman’s perfection, the pull towards her was gone. It was as if the fire within him had been extinguished such a long time ago that the embers, too, had lost their radiance.

“You’ve changed,” she said. “You are not the same Lucious who took on half of London’s hunters to get what he wanted.”

His eye twitched at the memories of torture and slaughter he had committed in the past. His hands were drenched in blood for decades and the agonised screams for mercy of his victims never truly washed away from his conscience. Those dark days he wished to erase from his mind ever since he met Helena. The innocence and purity she possessed urged him to do better, to be better.

“No, I guess I am no longer the same man.”

“Is it because of her?”

“Does it matter?”

Her expression hardened, and she pressed her lips together as if struggling to keep the words inside. It did not last long, her pained voice broke through. “She will be the one to take your life, Lucious.”

There was no mistaking it. Zafira’s barriers were lowered, and she spoke the truth. He sensed it with every fibre of his being. If Helena was fated to kill him in the future, he had no choice but to accept it. There was no worry or fear surfacing within him that he expected. His mind was a complete blank.

“So it shall be.” He pushed past her.

Zafira’s hand caught his bicep, and she jerked him to look at her. Her dark eyes shimmered with tears. “Do you not care about how Alexander and I will feel when you are gone?”

His face softened, and he drew her into a loose embrace, allowing her to cling to his shirt.

“You are a fool for falling in love.” She hit his chest.

Lucious chuckled. “I am, but I do not regret it.”

She pushed away from him. “I could try to find a way to break the bond and kill her before she gets a chance to touch you.”

Lucious raised a brow, knowing she was bluffing by the open surrender in her dark eyes.

“Oh, do not give me that demeaning look!”

“What look would stop you from throwing around pointless threats?” he inquired with a tilt of his head.

Zafira groaned. “You are a difficult man. Do you know that?”

“At least, you do not need to worry about me anymore.”

“Oh, don’t flatter yourself. I have many others waiting for me in Seattle.”

“Duly noted.”

She gave him a strained smile and stroked his cheek with a feather-light touch. “Try not to get yourself killed. You are my good friend, albeit we lose the benefit of a great romp in bed.”

His stomach clenched when he realised how close her wrist was to his lips, and he brushed it away, desperate to shake off the hunger. To get away from the temptation, he took a step back.

“I have to meet with Anna,” he lied.

With disappointment reflected in her dark eyes, she pretended to regain her spirits and smirked. “Good luck, Lucious. You’ll need it.”

She glided past him with an obvious sway of hips which would usually draw his attention if his thirst did not squeeze his throat. When she was out of sight, he gasped for air. Each greedy lungful gave him more mental stability and pushed the treacherous idea away. He could not expose to anyone what he was. Even his good friends would have no choice but to report his dark secret to the Council.

Lucious made his way towards his original destination. A cold shower could do wonders for the suffering mind, and he needed one more than ever.

As he turned the corner, ahead of him stood Anna with the one vampire in this building Lucious could barely tolerate. He was glad he and Karl did not meet often. If they did, Lucious’ control would not be enough to prevent him from tearing the hound’s throat out. Concentrating on their voices, he tried to listen in to their conversation.

Their words ceased abruptly. Anna turned around and tilted her head with interest. She made her way towards him while Karl waltzed away as he rummaged in his pockets for something.

When Anna was close enough, she scanned his face. “Are you unwell, my son?”

“Why were you with him?” Lucious asked, avoiding her question.

“I asked him to order some supplies for me,” she replied and ushered him into her quarters.

Although Lucious wasn’t certain if his sire spoke the truth, he chose to dismiss the matter until he was able to think clearly. “May I use your shower?”

Anna pointed to the door on her left, past the bed, and made her way to her easel. “Feel free to use anything you’d like. Shall I ask someone to bring some clothes for you, yours are… Well, they certainly need to be freshened up.”

“Do as you like,” he mumbled and hurried for the shower as if it was salvation itself.

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