Peace Never Lasts
With her mood high up in the clouds, Helena opened her eyes to the sound of rain droplets battering at the windowpanes. Sitting up, she took pleasure in the sensation of her heart fluttering in her chest and the warmth of the room she slept in. Lucious asked her out to dinner and that thought stretched her lips into a smile until her face hurt. She rubbed her flushed cheeks with her palms, giggling to herself.
The door burst open, and Maya stuck her head in. “Helena, get… Oh, you’re already up.” She slid into the room and closed the door behind her. “Did something good happen to you?”
Helena shook her head as couldn’t share the news with Maya. She would be against it. It was a miracle in itself that the hunters and vampires around her hadn’t killed one another.
Maya raised a brow and rubbed her wound. “Right, okay. Well, get dressed. You and Ben are going for a run.”
Helena spared the window one more glance. Grey clouds hung thick over the city as they bathed its infrastructure in a steady rainfall. “You’re not serious, are you?”
“I’m always serious, except for the times when I’m not. And right now, I am. So, get ready.” Maya made her way to Helena’s duffel bag on the floor.
Since storing her clothes in Alexander’s apartment didn’t sit well with Helena, she hadn’t planned on unpacking any of her belongings. It didn’t seem like the right thing to do. “I’m pretty sure you’re trying to get rid of Ben for a short while.”
Grimacing, Maya dropped the bag on the bed. “Great perception coming from someone who’s grinning like a Cheshire cat. If I didn’t know any better, I’d think you were excited about something, and I swear it’s not the business with the demon.”
Helena climbed out from under the sheets. “It’s nothing.”
“Alright, don’t tell me. I’ll be here, by myself, waiting for your stinking happiness to spill through the cracks.” Maya plopped on the bed.
Laughing, Helena searched the contents of her bag. She fished out a pair of black tracksuit bottoms and a clean T-shirt. “I’ll be back in a minute.”
Maya gave her a long, measuring stare. “I’m still waiting for the happiness to drip all over this carpet.”
Helena ran into the bathroom where she sped through changing into her clothes. She ran a hairbrush through the tangled mess on her head. Her frizzy, shoulder-length hair stuck out in every direction when the rain fell—which, in Ireland, happened more often than not.
When she was ready, she returned to the room to find Maya splayed out on her bed with her limbs spread out in every direction. She stared at the ceiling with a blank look on her face.
What’s so interesting that she didn’t check on her surroundings?
Helena cleared her throat, and Maya jerked into a sitting position, immediately regretting her reaction with a loud hiss. She fell backwards and shot Helena a pleading look. Without a doubt, she could beat Perri in the puppy-dog eyes contest, and that had to be a feat.
“Whatever it is,” Helena said with raised hands, “I’m not doing it.” Maya’s face contorted with pain, and Helena sighed, dropping her hands to her sides. “Alright, what is it?”
Maya grinned. “Could you grab some Chinese food on the way back?”
“It’s raining, last time I checked.” She felt the need to climb back in bed and pretend the world didn’t exist. Not only was she supposed to go for a jog, she had to be a personal assistant to her friend who was staring at her with a quivering lip. Helena pinched the bridge of her nose. “Fine. Chinese. Anything else, your highness?”
“That’ll do, my good sister.”
Helena couldn’t stay annoyed at her. Maya was simply one of those people who could get away with murder. As she contemplated this, her brows drew together. Maya did get away with the murder of vampires. She even lived to tell the tale.
Ben marched into the room with two glasses of a purple mixture balanced on a tray. He handed one to each of the girls. “Once you drink it, Maya, you get back to bed, and you”—he pointed at Helena—“can come with me for a run.”
Maya gulped down the drink while Helena took a whiff of the overwhelming berry scent.
“Can I skip breakfast?” Helena asked.
He stared at her with a no-nonsense look. She retracted her words in silence and consumed the concoction. Um…it tastes nice… she willed herself to think because, in reality, she was fighting the need to cringe from the sour aftertaste it left behind.
When the last drop of the drink was gone, tears pooled in her eyes, and she blinked them away.
Somehow, Maya was unaffected by what they had ingested. She fell back on her pillows. “Thanks for the berry-bomb, partner.”
Ben took the glass from Maya’s waiting hand and placed it back on the tray. “Helena, let’s go.”
She shot Maya a pleading look. If exercising with Maya was painful, she couldn’t imagine what it would be like with Ben.
To her dismay, Maya grinned and whispered, “Chinese.”
With a roll of her eyes, Helena put on her sneakers and left the room. While Alexander was looking into local Wiccan Circles, and Nadine said she won’t be available until evening, Helena was stuck with the hunters who seemed intent on turning her into one of them.
She waited for Ben by the lift.
He turned the corner, carrying two black raincoats, one of which he handed to her. “Put this on.”
She shrugged on the noisy plastic material and zipped the front of it. The silence between them grew into a separate, palpable entity, as the lift descended. Every possible question that popped into her head seemed irrelevant. The situation reminded her of the first time she met Nadine. She hugged her sides, recalling the dark creatures from her dreams. The way their hands extended towards her in an attempt to consume her, sent ants marching down her spine.
Is that what the Demon Realm will be like?
They left the building, and Ben started off with a slow jog, keeping pace with her. It had only been about a week, and her body was already struggling to move one leg in front of the other.
“How long are we going to do this for?” she asked between mouthfuls of humid air. Raindrops assaulted her face, and she grumbled low that washing her face that morning was a waste of time.
“It won’t be long. It’s only a two-mile run.”
She groaned, and Ben let out a laugh.
“What’s so funny?”
“You and Maya are similar in character. When she launched her training, she complained about as many times as there are minutes in the day—maybe more. She did it till she decided to train you.”
“Ah, so she’s been putting on a show all this time?”
Helena pursed her lips at Maya’s need to sadistically torture her through exercise. Maybe not having any siblings was a blessing she took for granted?
They turned the corner, and Ben picked up the pace. Her muscles cried out in protest, but she tried to match his speed.
“So…” She gasped for air and added, “What are your plans for the future?”
Stopping at the traffic lights, he eyed her. “Why is it young women gossip too much?”
She picked apart his question in her mind. Was she gossiping? Not like she had anything better to do. Her T-shirt clung to her back like a second skin and her feet were overheating, even though her sneakers were drenched.
“No plans then?”
Ben chuckled. This was the first time she had seen this side of him and was slowly figuring out what Maya liked about him. His demeanour changed when he laughed. His sharp features seemed softer and his dark eyes reflected some life in them. With his perfect teeth, Helena guessed he would make a great model for toothpaste advertisements. She cringed at the idea.
“I have contacted my parents. They’re willing to forgive this indiscretion if I marry the woman they’ve picked out for me. This way, Maya can be assured that everything will remain the same.” The light changed to green, and he crossed the road.
Helena trailed behind him. “Have you told her any of this?”
“Not until we have dealt with the demon. The vampire we’re staying with said something about a Demon Gate.”
“You mean Alexander,” Helena corrected him.
“No. He is what he is. Calling a vampire by his name is not in our policy. It makes us more susceptible to their mental attacks.”
Thinking like that gave her a headache. Hunters had weird logic when it came to the supernatural world. If she and others like her didn’t fight alongside them, they weren’t considered human? When she thought she was closing in on figuring out their norm, Ben managed to complicate things further.