Demon Gates (Helena Hawthorn Series #2)

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Peace Never Lasts pt. 3

There weren’t enough painkillers in the world to keep the aches from reminding her that they were there every time Helena moved. Ben was a monster. Her legs were wobbling, barely holding her up, and he wouldn’t end the exercise. Not once did she manage to hit Andrew. He was too fast. By the time she grasped enough concentration, she was back on her ass with her limbs pointed in different directions like a crossroad.

On the smooth leather of the sofa, she massaged some cold cream Maya gave her into her calf. Even Lazarus is nothing compared to Ben’s tenacity when it comes to training.

Andrew handed her a large mug of steaming coffee, taking a seat next to her. “Alexander called. He and the saint will be arriving shortly.”

“Her name’s Nadine.” She stuck out her chin. “You don’t like it when hunters call you a vampire. Have you stopped to ask yourself if she likes being labelled?”

“I’m sorry. I haven’t had the chance to meet her. I didn’t know her name, and Alexander—”

“I swear every second word out of your mouth is ‘Alexander’. Are you turning gay on me?” She smacked herself on the forehead. Maybe being knocked down a thousand times by him had caused permanent damage and her wires got crossed. “Sorry about that.”

“Are you jealous?”

Helena scowled at him. “I don’t get along with Mr Popular.”

“At first, we didn’t either. His lifestyle was the opposite of mine. But, he does care about his staff and those close to him. Once it dawned on me, I chose to stop fighting his suggestions and listened.”

“So you invite a few women to your place for some midnight billiards as well?” she asked with a raised brow.

Andrew’s hands shot up in defence. “I said I listened to his suggestions. That doesn’t mean I followed his example!”

A smile broke through, and she burst out laughing at the way he assessed her as if making sure she was on the same page. It was fun peeking out of her shell and being the one to crack jokes.

Their attention was drawn to the two people stepping out of the lift. Alexander’s annoyed expression and rigid movements told Helena that he did not enjoy being close to Nadine.

When Nadine’s eyes found Helena, her brown eyes twinkled with emotion Helena could only assume to be happiness. She, too, thought Nadine was in need of a friend. The isolation she had undergone made Helena want to get to know her and tell her that not everyone had to be an enemy.

“Where are the hunters?” Alexander inquired in a clipped tone.

“I’ll tell them she’s here.” Andrew fleeted out of the room.

Nadine slipped out of her summer jacket and neatly folded it over the back of the sofa. She took a seat. Her hands ran over her thighs, straightening out the long cream-coloured skirt she wore to match her flowery blouse.

“I’m pleased to see you again,” she said with a genuine smile.

“Same.” Helena gave her a quick hug which seemed to confuse Nadine because she remained stationary for a long time with a frown thereafter.

“Nadine?” Helena asked, worried she had done something wrong.

Different emotions ran across the saint’s face. She turned her head to one side, most likely listening to her guardian angel. Her body tensed. “Horus says it’s not a good idea for me to help you. He remains adamant on the fact that it is your problem.”

Alexander undid the buttons of his charcoal suit jacket and collapsed into an armchair across from them. “And your guardian doesn’t like to appear because?”

“It requires a lot of energy for an angel to show themselves to anyone but their charge. With initial permission, they are able to enter through the saint’s mental barriers and maintain a mind-to-mind contact, much like demons and their marked victims.”

“I can’t talk to the demon with my mind.” Helena shuddered at the idea of Lazarus invading her thoughts. But, there was truth in the saint’s words. Eva’s memories had Lazarus speaking to the witch directly. So, why had he not done the same with her?

“It means he hasn’t attempted to converse with you in that way,” Nadine said.

Alexander rubbed his eyes before resting his elbows on both armrests. His large form was enough to occupy the whole seat and, although he had a relaxed demeanour, Helena noted the tension around his eyes. “The pressing issue is finding a Circle to help us. The local witches are ready to curse me if I ask them for another favour.”

“And they would be right to do so. The silver souls are most susceptible to possession. No witch would want that,” Nadine said.

Maya, Ben, and Andrew rounded the corner, and the large room suddenly became small with the crowd gathered in it. Ben propped his back up against the far wall with his hands folded and his expression unreadable. Meanwhile, Maya settled into the last free seat on the sofa Helena was sitting on. Andrew remained standing behind Alexander’s seat.

Doing her best to ignore the intense stare Ben was studying Nadine with, Helena prompted the saint. “You mean people with a silver string?”

“I cannot see people’s links, but I can see their auras. The hunters in this room are the only ones who possess white souls. Everyone else is not human.”

Maya sighed loudly enough to draw everyone’s gaze to her. “I don’t care about the magic gibberish. Can we get on with it? The Demon Gate, how do we find one and kill the demon, so we can move on with our lives?”

Helena stretched to the end table and placed her cooling cup of untouched coffee on it. Her interest in the subject was enough to make her forget the aches and the bruises forming on her body.

“It may take a few days for me to detect the gate. To do so, I must meditate in a secure environment. It is why I will stay here for the duration,” Nadine explained.

Alexander leant forwards, his movements bordered on robotic. “And why was I not informed of your plan to remain in my home?”

“I believe it was because the first words out of your mouth were, ‘Shut up and follow me’,” Nadine said in a perfect imitation of Alexander’s voice, summoning a laugh from Helena and Andrew.

“Sounds about right,” Andrew added.

Alexander drew in a steadying breath and waved for Nadine to continue.

Being a vampire has to be great. Even if he was embarrassed by his behaviour, there was no change to Alexander’s facial colouring.

“When I am doing so, Horus will place a barrier around me. But, the others may be endangered as nearby demons could flock to my energy—”

“Wait!” Alexander stopped her, and his eyes narrowed. “Demons will come to my home if I let you stay here? Why would I want that? I could send you to an isolated warehouse on the outskirts of the city.”

It seemed that everyone was intent on hearing Nadine’s answer as they all shifted forwards. Ben—who was like a statue at the back of the room—moved closer, too.

Nadine intertwined her fingers in her lap and stared at her hands. “This building is full of humans and vampires. They have nothing to fear from the demons that may not come. But, in the event that they do, I need Helena and the marked hunter female to remain nearby. Another demon’s pray is a deterrent to most soul collectors.”

“How do you know I’ve been marked?” Maya interjected.

“Because his energy is like a stain on your white aura. It clings to your right shoulder like a disease,” Nadine replied.

“Thanks for the visual,” Maya mumbled.

Helena stood, regretting her decision once every muscle in her body screamed at once. Her jaw locked, and she held in an agonised moan that wanted to escape. Standing firm and willing the pain away, she finally managed to speak. “Let’s stop fighting. Nadine is trying to help us. Isn’t that enough?”

“I am uncertain as to what she is getting out of this,” Alexander said matter-of-factly.

Nadine took Helena’s hand and tugged on it, urging her to resume her seat. “It is fine. I am used to such treatment.”

Helena’s heart tore at the saint’s downturned facing features. Just because she wasn’t like everybody else, she was suspected of scheming to betray them. The world they had created was too hard to fathom. Everyone had an agenda as they lived out their lives. Isn’t being like that tiring?

Helena broke the suffocating silence. “What do you need for your meditation?”

Alexander shot her a glare. “I have not agreed to keep her here.”

“For once, could you look past hidden meanings and do something because it needs to be done?” Helena demanded.

Before Alexander could speak, Andrew added, “I have to agree with her. We can’t spend each second of our time bickering and doubting one another. Let’s take things as they come.”

Alexander locked gazes with Andrew and, after a long moment, he ran a hand through his dishevelled hair. “I swear you two are too young to grasp such matters, but, fine, I will agree for her to remain here for the time being.”

Helena mouthed a ‘thank you’ to Andrew and faced Nadine. “So, what do you need?”

As it turned out, Nadine only needed a room to stay in, a map of the world, and a lot of Ceylon tea which Alexander begrudgingly provided.

For the past five days, no demons invaded Alexander’s home and things returned to what they were like before—on edge. Since it was Maya’s turn to keep an eye on Nadine, Helena returned to her room after a long sparring session with Ben. Of all days, Lucious chose today to summon Andrew to London to negotiate a deal with Madeline.

Even though she hadn’t talked to Lucious since their last connection, she was at peace. With a little quality time together, he and Andrew might become friends. She snorted at her idealistic view of that possibility.

She stripped out of her sweat-tinged clothes. After the miniature hell Ben called training, nothing was more important than a shower. At first, she had underestimated his ability. He always seemed like the calm and quiet type, but when he fought, he was almost as fast as Andrew. As with her best friend, she spent most of the time on the floor instead of upright.

Helena entered the bathroom and turned on the shower, letting the warm steam mix with the air and settle on the smooth surfaces. She cleared the fogged-up mirror and turned to study the demon’s mark. It seemed like a delicate tattoo of a nasturtium flower. Her fingers brushed the smooth skin, and the mark started pulsating.

Her reflection in the mirror darkened until her face was replaced by a sharp-toothed grin that made the fine hairs on the back of her neck rise.

Lazarus’ voice slithered in her mind, and she jumped away from the mirror. “Hello there, my flower. I know what you’re trying to accomplish with the blade. It won’t work. You cannot stop me from achieving my goal. To make sure of this, I have taken someone important to you. So, won’t you come out to play?”

As his energy receded, her panicked mind had one thought rattling in it. Mum…

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