Demon Gates (Helena Hawthorn Series #2)

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Date Prerequisite pt. 2

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

In the bathroom, Lucious locked the door behind him and turned on the water. He glanced at the mirror. It was as he had feared. The whites of his eyes were consumed by the alien redness. He willed the thirst to retreat, but it did not. The brand of his descent remained strong.

Lucious stripped out of his clothes and carelessly tossed them on the ground. Somehow, the cluster of material on the hard, marble floor seemed to match the chaotic, spiralling mess his life had become. He stepped into the bathtub and let the icy spray of water collide with his aching chest, numbing his senses into blissful silence. His prayers were, indeed, answered when the scratching sensation in his throat receded.

Is she mad at me for keeping Andrew away?

He did not regret his decision. There were no normal or average creatures gathered around Helena. Each seemed to stand out from the crowd as if the whole situation was scripted, and perhaps it was. There were too many unknowns in the world they lived in. Who was he to attempt to fathom its workings when he could not maintain a normal existence?

He finished his shower and stepped out onto the soft blue rug, securing the towel around his hips. For whatever reason they were gathered around her, it had to be something beyond the two of them.

Am I reading too much into the situation?

Lucious wrapped a towel around his hips and gathered his clothes. In Anna’s room, he found her sitting in an overstuffed chair by the window. There was no natural view to look at. The halogen light from the bulbs outside the glass reflected against her dark hair as she sipped her tea from the tiny cup.

She placed it on an equally small saucer and set the drink on the armrest. “You have finished? Good. One of the ghouls brought in some clothes. I hope you will like them.”

He sauntered to the bed where he rummaged through the pockets of his clothes until he found some money and his phone. He donned the grey slacks and a white T-shirt, which seemed too small for him, and frowned.

“Did they not have something darker?” he inquired.

Anna visibly struggled to keep a straight face. “Oh, Lucious, perhaps if you wore lighter clothes, they would have less blood on them.”

“Sire, I love you dearly, but I fear turning me into Pierre is not something I would enjoy,” he muttered as the soft material of the slacks brushed his skin. He was too used to the roughness of jeans against his thighs.

“Pity, he was an amusing dresser, always wearing those flamboyant ruffled sleeves and vests. I like recalling the time he and my daughters chose to purchase a dress for me. Oh, the frills and lace were everywhere,” Anna gushed. The life in her eyes vanished as quickly as it came. “I should have stayed...”

Lucious’ face contorted with pain at the sound of her agonised voice, but he did not go to her side. Anna was always the sire who gave comfort yet never accepted it from others. Her inner strength was enough to make him want to strive to be stronger for those he cared about.

“Do not blame yourself for what happened. Since I have forgiven you, I am certain the others would have done the same.”

Before Anna could respond, there was a barrage of knocks on the door, and he moved to open it. On the other side stood Zafira with eyes the size of walnuts. She grasped Lucious by the T-shirt and dragged him outside before he had the chance to protest. Swiftly, she took his hand and led him away from Anna’s quarters.

“Zafira, what is the meaning of this?” he demanded, and she shushed him.

Taking the hint, he remained silent until they got to the emergency staircase. Once she shut the door, she slammed his back against the wall.

Dull pain shot up his spine and his skull, but Lucious was more concerned with the evident fear in Zafira’s eyes that took the words of protest out of him.

“Promise me! Promise me you will not come to England two months from now!”

Lucious winced at the uncharacteristic, harpy-like sound she produced. “What is the matter? What did you see?”

“I can’t tell you. I am forbidden to speak.” She looked at him with watering eyes. “Heed my warning, Lucious. Stay away from the Council. Do not come near and do not bring your human here.”

“What about Anna? I should warn her if something is amiss.”

Zafira stopped him from moving away by grabbing his forearm. Her nails dug into his skin. “You cannot intervene in this.”

Lucious’ anger sparked, and he pushed her hand away. “Then explain the situation to me.”

Her eyes flashed with an orange glow, and she peered at him with a pleading expression. “Promise me to stay away, Lucious. That’s all I ask.”

“What about Anna?”

“She’ll be fine!” Zafira snapped. “Do you promise?”

Lucious examined the determination in her chocolate-brown eyes. Nothing scared Zafira, not even the Council’s elders. But, seeing her in such a fright brought out a strange sense of dread. “I promise.”

“Good, I have to leave. Edwin has called me back and, since my flight to the US is in three hours, I cannot stay around to converse any longer.”

“Is the American Council forcing you to do anything?”

She flashed him a cheeky smile and raised a brow. “Nothing as bad as what you’re wearing, lover.”

His amusement melted at the mention of his new attire. He still regarded the material as foreign matter on his body. At the same time, although he wished to pin her to the wall behind him and question her further about her vision, he couldn’t do it.

Zafira rose onto her tiptoes and kissed his cheek. “Take care of yourself, big guy. Dark times are coming and if you are smart enough, you shouldn’t stick around.”

“I will try.” He gave her a parting hug.

She fleeted up the stairwell instead of taking the lift nearby, and Lucious returned to his room. The more time passed since he had last seen Helena, the more worried he became about her well-being. He settled into his usual spot between the boxes and closed his eyes, concentrating on the connection with her. In his mental shields, he clamped his hand over the string protruding from his gut.

“Helena, we need to talk.” He willed the message into his blood-red string, and it vibrated in the prison of his fingers.

It did not take long for her energy to shake the link and make him smile.

“I have nothing to say to you.”

“Tell me what the saint wanted to speak to you about,” he added.

Her presence drew closer and, past his mental shields, an outline of the steel bubble in which she hid her mind from the world became visible. The metal parted, inviting him in. There were multiple times when he came into her mind’s space, yet he remained fascinated by the size of it. Most beings barely managed to wrap the shields around themselves. She, on the other hand, had them the size of a small room which could easily conceal a group of people. Nonetheless, her barriers remained weak like that of a newborn.

“Are you not pleased to see me?” he inquired, zeroing in on her sour expression.

Anxiety and annoyance shook the link, and he furrowed his brow. The deal with Andrew made quite an impact on their relationship.

He closed the distance between them and lifted her protesting chin. “Are you mad at me?”

She tore away and glared at him with the fire he loved to see in her hazel eyes. It brought out an urge to embrace her, which he struggled to keep from ruling him.

“Of course, I’m mad at you! You kept me and Andrew apart for six months, you…”

“Monster?”

Her face softened and her stiff shoulders relaxed. “You’re no more a monster than me.”

He tested the waters by touching her upper arms. When she did not protest, he drew her into his chest and kissed the top of her head, taking in her flowery scent. His chest ached with the pain she kept in her heart. The doubts, although he could not hear them, he swore they were almost like physical objects, swirling around her drained body.

“Can you find it in you to forgive such a fool?” he whispered in her ear, and a shiver passed through her. It pleased him, knowing he had such an effect on her while they were miles apart.

When she lifted her head, those kissable lips were pursed together in defiance. After seeing them, he could no longer reject his urges and lowered his mouth to hers, claiming her lips.

At first, she swatted at his chest with her small fists. But, as seconds ticked by, her resolve wavered and her fingers climbed his neck and buried themselves in his hair.

Whatever this bond was, it permitted him to hold her close, to feel her, and crave her. Desire stirred within him, and he regretted the fact his physical body was in London and not with her in Dublin. My childe and the demon be damned. If need be, he would scale a mountain to hold her for another night.

She broke the kiss, panting and unsteady on her feet, giving him the opportunity to bring her closer.

“Are you still distraught?” he mused.

Helena rolled her eyes and pushed at his chest. “One kiss will not make me forgive you, Lucious.”

“Would ten suffice?”

That earned him a smile—something so rare, he felt proud during the few seconds that it lasted.

When her eyes locked with his, her expression grew grim. “Nadine can open a Demon Gate if we can find witches to help us.”

His unease returned at the mention of the word ‘demon’. He would not let her go anywhere near that creature. He would rather take the weapon and seek the monster out by himself.

“You are not going anywhere near such a gate,” Lucious said.

She broke out of his hold. “You won’t be the one to decide what I do!”

The sudden separation caused him to ball his hands at his sides to stop him from grabbing her. A part of him wanted to control her movements to keep her from danger, but the other part wanted to tie her to a bed and not see the world for a month or two. He groaned in frustration. Alexander’s influence was too great, especially since he realised how much he wanted her.

“What can you do against a demon?” he asked, forcing bitterness into his voice. “You are a mere mortal, unable to protect yourself without the help of others.”

Helena’s her lips parted. She visibly struggled to let her voice out, and Lucious mentally kicked himself for bringing such a pained expression to her face.

“I’m sor—”

“I know I can’t fight him alone. I know that!” she yelled and covered her face with both hands. “The fact that I can’t do anything by myself, I know that really well!”

Lucious bit back a curse and grasped her wrists. He lowered her hands and found tears there. Torn between continuing the argument and wiping away the crystal-like drops, he chose to do the latter as her sorrow was strong enough to make his eyes sting.

“I swear you make me feel emasculated every time you cry,” he said.

“Then stop…making me…cry,” she said between silent sobs.

Lucious raked his fingers through his hair and sighed, surrendering the fight. “I will try.”

She bobbed her head and wiped at the tears with her palms. “When this is over, you owe Andrew a gigantic apology.”

“I would not go to such extremes…”

Helena’s eyes narrowed and the urge to kiss away her protest grew unbearable. This young woman was driving him insane, and he had no idea how to stop it.

“You said the saint needed witches,” he added, proud the change in the topic had gotten her attention. “Why?”

Crossing her arms, she began to pace. “She needs more power to open the gate.”

“Did she tell you anything else? Like what we can expect on the other side?”

She shook her head. “She’s going to stay nearby. I could ask her tomorrow. Why? Do you think Nadine has other plans than to help us?”

“I simply find her sudden urge to help suspicious, especially when she did not come forward when you were taken by Reaver.”

“She was probably too busy trying to get away from Alexander’s and Reaver’s men.”

It was his turn to cross his arms. Was she simply too foolish to not see the possible schemes the saint and the others could be plotting? But, who was he to judge? He spent his whole life doubting others and their intentions only to be faced with the person who was the exact opposite of him. Since meeting Helena, his logic went out the window. Not once had he seen her lie to benefit herself.

“…we could finally get rid of him.” She paused and shot him a piercing glare. “You weren’t listening, were you?”

He smirked. “I was too mesmerised by your incessant pacing, my dear.”

“Stop it!” She stomped her foot like a petulant child. “I am not going to forgive you until you apologise to Andrew for being an ass.”

Worth a try. He wiped the smirk off his face. Even when she looked tired, her fire burned brighter than ever, and it pleased him to see her that way. Whatever was going to come out of this Demon Gate business, he was prepared to finish it, so he could court her without that creature’s energy looming over them.

“Helena.” He caught her hand. The apprehension on her face made him falter. “Once the demon matter is resolved, would you like to have dinner with me?”

She blinked superfluously like a broken doll as she struggled to form a response.

He let out a low chuckle. “Of course, it is after I apologise to my childe.”

She slapped him on the shoulder. A deep blush coloured her face red. “Well, that was unexpected.”

“I’m sure it was. Your answer?” he asked, trying not to sound too eager.

“Only if you can promise me one thing.”

“And that is?”

Helena pointed at his fashion faux pas. “You get to wear your normal clothes.”

Lucious let out a loud groan, and Helena burst into laughter which shook the string between them. The melodic sound warmed his heart, and he had no choice but to accept her request.

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