Demon Gates (Helena Hawthorn Series #2)

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Family Matters pt. 2

Lucious spat human blood into the sink. The crimson liquid he once found to be tantalising and enriched with subtle underlying sweetness tasted no better than yak piss. He dropped the blood bag into the sink and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. How many times had he tried to consume human blood over the past week? He could not remember. Each time the result remained the same—he rejected the substance as if it was unearthly poison.

“How is it?” Anna asked from the doorway.

He studied her concerned expression in the mirror and faced her. “How do you think? I cannot ingest a single drop.”

“There is nothing we can do. As I have said, I will become your donor if I must.”

“I do not wish for that either,” he pushed the words out, struggling to contain his desire to smash something. Lucious left the room where the stench of blood had become so prominent, he could swear he was in a butcher’s shop and not a bathroom. Pacing the length of Anna’s room, his mind was in unrest.

“What about your human, is she doing well? Has your circumstance affected her?”

“I have not spoken to her in days…” he said, irate, and sat on the edge of the bed. He rubbed his face as the possibilities of the future kept creeping in. If Eliza found out what he was, he would be executed, which would kill Helena. He needed to find a way to break the bond before any of this information surfaced and both of them had to suffer the consequences.

“Whatever you are thinking, you should stop,” Anna said as she made her way to him. “This situation is overwhelming, I know, but don’t do anything rash.”

“I cannot let her suffer because of me. She had been through enough.”

Anna clicked her tongue and smacked the back of his head. “Younglings should listen to their sires. Since you are unable to see things clearly, rely on my judgement.”

A soft smile broke through, curving his lips. “I did not consider the possibility you thought of me as a youngling.”

“All of my children remained the same in my mind. Even if I have spent centuries with some, they were still my tots.”

Lucious relaxed and took his sire’s hand. He pressed it to his forehead, enjoying the coolness of her skin. Since he became connected to Helena, his body began to change. His heart would sometimes voice a beat and his body temperature rose a few degrees. He was certain the opposite had happened to her. Her skin seemed closer to his in temperature than to that of a normal human.

Every improbability he could imagine since meeting Helena had been coming true and, for better or for worse, he wished to be at her side. For the time being, he couldn’t proceed with his plans until he talked to the witch Vincent had suggested. If she helps them with their arduous quest to kill the demon, the time they spent apart would not be wasted.

Anna stroked his hair, tangling her fingers in his messy dark locks. “You used to prefer having it short. Are you growing it out?”

Lucious pulled away from her comforting touch and shook his head. “I simply did not have the time to cut it.”

“Well, when the troubles are over, come to me, and I’ll sort it out as I have in the past.”

A knock on the door alarmed him, and he rushed to open it to find Vincent’s childe standing on the other side.

Levile inclined his head in greeting. “Master Vincent’s guest is ready to see you.”

Lucious glanced over his shoulder at Anna. She had returned to her almost finished painting by the wall.

“Lead the way,” Lucious said, closing the door behind him.

Vincent’s second childe seemed like an easy-to-get-along-with man. Too easy to get along with. Lucious did not trust men who could weasel their way under his skin without notice. On the way to Vincent’s chambers, he remained silent and avoided any form of conversation which the vampire tried to initiate.

Levile led him to the same sitting room Lucious had visited before, and the same ghoul brought him a cup of coffee he did not request. He stared at the pink and gold porcelain cup in confusion as he pondered if it was a certain form of revenge for dismissing her without accepting her beverage the last time.

Vincent emerged with a tall, slender woman at his side. Her fiery, unruly hair was tied into a bun as she glided into the room with her head held high. On the inside of her left wrist, Lucious noted a tattoo of a growing tree—a mark of her Circle, no doubt.

As they sat on the sofa opposite Lucious, Vincent cleared his throat. “This is Madeline. She is a good friend of mine and is a high priestess of her Circle in Scotland.”

Lucious extended his hand in a form of a handshake. Before accepting it, she studied him with caution and placed her soft hand in his. A faint smell of rotten flesh reached his nostrils, and Lucious recoiled. “She’s a blood witch.”

Vincent adjusted his suit jacket and sighed. “No white witch would come to help with demon trouble. This was to be expected.”

“I do not want this woman near Helena,” Lucious said with distaste as annoyance surged through him. He crossed his legs and took a sip of the coffee to keep from adding more jarring insults.

The witch traced the outline of the tree on her wrist and looked at him with her perceptive chestnut eyes. “An aura of death surrounds you, vampire. Why do you see the necessity to judge me and my Circle based on our practices?”

“It is because you associate with the demonic spawn that they enter into this world,” Lucious retorted.

Vincent was ready to speak when Madeline let out a mirthful laugh. “Oh, vampires never cease to amaze me. Such great misconceptions of our practices must be talked about when you have nothing to do at your gatherings.”

“Forgive his rudeness, Madeline. He is obviously ignorant of your craft,” Vincent said, shooting Lucious a look of disapproval.

Lucious finished the scolding hot coffee that burned his throat and mouth. He left the cup on the end table. Vincent was correct. He had not spent his years seeking witches and asking for their help. And, because of that, most of his knowledge regarding them was second-hand. As he rubbed his tired eyes, he berated himself for his rash behaviour. He, of all people, should not be the one to admonish the practices of others. Lowering his head in apology, he said, “I’m sorry if I have offended you, madam. It is not every day I request help from a witch.”

“Vincent told me you and Helena share a special bond—a connection that had not been seen since the ancient times.”

Lucious’ eyes widened. He raised his head, anticipating a more in-depth explanation.

Madeline’s lips quirked upwards. “I see you’re eager to know more, as I would be. My Circle is one of the oldest bloodlines in the Wiccan history. Once we have dealt with your problem, I could offer you more information as I haven’t yet managed to uncover a great deal about such a connection.”

“Anything about it would be informative at this point,” Lucious said.

She looked at her mark again. “The bond you share is that of life and death. What I understood from my ancestor’s grimoire is that two souls, who wished for their love to be eternal, requested a gift from a being that’s referred to as a ‘god’ in some passages and an ‘angel’ in others. I don’t think either applies to Helena.”

“She’s no angel. I have managed to see one twice in my lifetime, and the two cannot be compared.”

Vincent nodded. “In the brief time I’ve spent with her, she was unquestionably human.”

“And you both would be right. There must be more pieces to the puzzle that we cannot see,” Madeline said.

Lucious chuckled. “These matters are never easy when Helena is involved.”

“That child has a sinister path paved out for her,” Vincent said. “I am glad she will not walk it alone.”

Lucious raised a brow at the Councilman. Vincent seemed to care about Helena as if she was his child, and it made him see how easily she had managed to convert one of the strongest vampires in Europe to her cause. Although Master Vincent held a reputation for helping humans upon occasion, no matter how Lucious looked at it, there had to be some other attachment to the girl that he did not see.

“Has the demon done anything as of recent?” Madeline asked, drawing him out of his reverie.

Lucious leant forwards in his seat and knotted his hands together. “It seems he is playing mind games with us. He broke through my defences, too, and urged me to betray her—” He stopped abruptly. Adding information regarding his sire being in danger would urge Vincent to keep watch on Anna, and he did not wish to hinder his sire’s already restricted movements further.

“Anything else?” Madeline asked.

“Other than the nightmares, nothing comes to mind.”

“He is scheming something. Time in the Demon Realm is said to pass at a different pace to ours. He has more time to accumulate his strength and work out a better plan. I would suggest drawing him out, but…”

“But what?” Lucious asked.

“I don’t know how to kill that creature. I have only practised magic to extract a demon from a possessed body. Although, that may be a stretch of the definition.”

Lucious sat back in his seat. “We have found a blade called Arcanae Mortum. We were told that it would kill the demon.”

Vincent and Madeline eyed one another, and she returned her attention to Lucious. “I have never heard of such a weapon. May I ask what your source is?”

Lucious hesitated. There was no indication of how Vincent may react to having a saint nearby, and Helena would kill him if something were to happen to that vexatious girl.

“Is it such a secretive source?” Madeline asked.

Lucious snorted inwardly. If only she knew. “I would prefer to keep the source out of this conversation.”

Vincent traced the outline of his trimmed moustache. “Now I am curious.”

Madeline swatted Vincent’s shoulder. “You never stop, always seeking answers to everything. I swear if you weren’t a two-millennia-old man, I would see you as nothing more than a curious child.”

“In our world, knowledge is power. There is much I have yet to discover and, as you have said, I am old and always learning something new,” Vincent replied with lightness in his tone.

Lucious observed the interaction between the two of them. If he did not know any better, he would think the Councilman held great affection for the witch. The world was coming to an end if everyone dropped the important matters and rushed to seek out love and companionship. He shook his head as his logic backfired. He yearned to see his feisty human.

The link vibrated and a wave of fear crashed into him. He clutched at his chest. Whatever was happening on the other end of the link could not be good.

“Are you unwell?” Vincent asked, concerned.

Lucious forced a smile and rubbed his gut better while, with the other hand, he clung to the armrest of his armchair. “I will be fine.”

He closed his eyes and concentrated on the soul-bond. The fear did not wane. Instead, the agitated string jumped like an untamed horse. Willing more of his energy into his shields, he pushed her panic out and let out a sigh of relief once it diminished.

“I must go. There are matters I have to look into,” Lucious said, standing.

“I will be in London for some time as I have dealings with the local Circle. If you need my help, contact me by this number.” Madeline took out a business card from her pocket.

Lucious’ brow arched. “A wedding photographer?”

The witch’s cheeks reddened. “One has to make a living. You would be surprised to find out that conducting ceremonies in caves and dancing around a campfire doesn’t pay much.”

“Witches still do that?” Lucious joked.

Vincent let out a loud guffaw and covered his mouth with his hand while Madeline simply shook her head.

Lucious left the room. Once he put a large enough distance between him and Vincent’s quarters, he called Alexander.

“What happened?” Lucious demanded.

Alexander produced exasperated sigh. “It looks like someone has been taken by the demon, but we don’t know who. Helena and her hunter friends left to check on her mother, and I sent Tanya to check on the rest.”

Lucious stopped in his tracks. “Is she alright? Did the demon do anything to her?”

“And here I thought you may be concerned about me for once,” Alexander said, each word dripping with sarcasm. “No. Your woman remains unharmed. On a side note, how’s it going with your childe? I just can’t comprehend why you have called him over for the negotiations with the witch. Are you finally taking my advice to bond with the boy?”

Lucious’ brows formed a deep frown. “What are you talking about? I did not summon him.”

Alexander let out a loud curse. “Looks like we got our answer as to who is most important to our young lady.”

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