Demon Gates (Helena Hawthorn Series #2)

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Too Much Loss

Helena’s hands formed fists at her sides as she looked on at her best friend’s suffering. No matter how much she wanted to cry, she wouldn’t allow it. The demon wanted to see her break. He wanted her to show her pain. To keep from giving in to his wishes, she did her best to maintain her emotions in check. Her eyes narrowed when Lazarus emerged from the shadows with a pleased grin on his face.

He remained the same with long hair as dark as night, brushing his broad shoulders. His graceful steps were concealed with the black shadow that worked its way around his body, covering most of his marble-white skin. Two curved horns parted the lines of his glossy hair, and Helena truly could see that certain perfection was evil.

His red eyes settled on her, and the mark on her shoulder burned. She ignored the pain and glared at him until the strange shadow holding Andrew above the pit dropped him by a foot.

Another involuntary gasp escaped her.

The demons’ claws from the pit were mere inches away from Andrew, and Helena’s feet moved by themselves.

Lazarus chuckled and paused at the pit.

Helena was about to run out towards Andrew, but Lucious grabbed her by the arm with a steel grip and held her protesting body in place.

“Do not go to him. That is what he wants,” Lucious said.

She glared at him, full of defiance. “We have to save Andrew!”

Maya tapped her on the shoulder. “One weapon, a pit full of demons next to an asshole demon, and there’s three of us. The odds aren’t exactly in our favour here.”

Helena shot Lucious a pleading look. “Save him.”

His fingers buried in her skin, and she winced. “You are not leaving my side.”

“Ah, such sweet bickering over whom to save and what to do,” Lazarus mused. He had moved a few metres away from the pit. “Let me make it easier for you, Helena. I don’t care for your hunter friend. Her soul was marked before I found you. I guess it was a tiny mistake on my part.”

Maya flipped him the bird. “I’m still going to be the one to shoot you full of bullet holes!”

With a smile never leaving his face, Lazarus spread out his arms in an open offering.

Maya did not hesitate. She pointed her gun and fired off a round. The bullet pierced his skull, and his head whipped back, knocking him a step backwards. Deep laughter erupted from the demon as he lifted his head and the bullet hole closed.

“Son of a—” Maya began, but Helena shook her head and waited for the demon to continue.

“Good choice, my flower. Patience is a virtue…or that’s what humans like to say. Allow me to eliminate things related to trade. There is no need to form a contract with me here. Once I kill you and your friends, I will have more than enough time to extract your souls. But, if you want to save your hunter friend, she may leave at any time…”

“I’d rather throw you into the pit with your pet demons!” Maya yelled.

Lucious stiffened, and Helena felt his apprehension seeping into the link. She jerked her arm out of his hold and shot him a piercing glare.

“Leave the demon to me and Maya. Save Andrew,” Helena ordered, full of confidence she didn’t possess.

With round eyes, Lucious studied her. “Helena, you’ve heard him. You will die fighting a demon by yourself.”

“And you can’t take on two tasks at once.”

“Give us the demon blade,” Maya interjected, “and go save your vampire friend.”

A flurry of emotions fleeted across his face. He let out a grunt of disapproval. Bending down, he unsheathed the Arcanae Mortum, handing it to her. “If anything goes wrong—”

Helena grabbed the hilt that tingled with subtle energy and gave Lucious a peck on the cheek. She and Maya split away from him.

The loud hammering of her heart pulsated in her ears. The only thing that gave her hope was the warm blade she held in her hand. Perhaps, by some miracle, they could finally end this curse once and for all.

As they closed in on the demon, Maya unsheathed her dagger and holstered her gun. “Remember, Helena. Go for the heart.”

Lazarus watched them with eerie patience. Although she held in her hand the blade that could kill him, the demon seemed unfazed—relaxed even—as if she was no more a threat to him than a fly. Her anger sparked at his indifference and warmed her from within. Her grip on the weapon hurt, making her knuckles pale. She ignored the ache in her joints and signalled to Maya.

They separated and surrounded the demon.

Out of the corner of her eye, Helena saw Lucious trying to get closer to Andrew. His body was too far out over the pit. A large claw crept out from below and grasped his ankle. Lucious let out a loud curse as he stumbled and fell into the sea of lesser demons.

“Lucious!” Helena screamed.

“Now where do you think you’re looking, my flower?” Lazarus’ voice surfaced from behind her and darkness engulfed everything around her.

No voices or sounds came from beyond the black sphere she was in. Desperate to find out if Lucious was okay, she punched the walls of the magical trap. Her knuckles met with cold, sticky residue. Moving backwards, her breath fogged, and she shivered.

“Lucious is fine…” she whispered through chattering teeth. “I would die if he did…”

The rationalisation did not stop her from wanting to cry out his name again or hear his voice in her mind. She tried concentrating on the link when the demon materialised in front of her with an unsettling grin.

“I hold the lives of your friends and yours captive, my flower…”

When she launched for him with the blade, his body turned into a shadow and melted away.

“I gave you many chances, and you turned them down—always thinking you could escape me because your guardian was by your side. But, where is he now?” Lazarus mused and his laughter reverberated throughout the bubble.

“Show yourself!” Helena snapped. The hairs on her arms rose with the chill in the bubble. She turned on the spot, searching for him.

“Don’t you want to hear about Daddy dearest?”

Her heart jolted at the mention of her father. So, he did come into the Demon Realm. Why? “Where is he?”

Lazarus’ shadow emerged in front of her, yet she couldn’t stab the see-through vapour he had become.

“Dead,” he whispered.

“It can’t be! Michael wanted to help.”

The demon’s hand brushed her shoulder, making her whip around. “An archangel who lost his wings was never going to help you…”

She shook her head to remedy the trembling of her body. “You’re lying!”

“He knew what your father was, so he helped guide him into my arms. He’s a killer like you. A match made in heaven?” Lazarus hissed into her ear.

“Stop it! I’m not a monster like you.”

More laughter came from the demon, and she clutched her head, praying for this madness to end.

“Who do you think killed your precious grandmother?” Lazarus asked, materialising a few feet away from her. He eyed her with pity. “Your parents didn’t tell you?”

Helena stammered, “No…lie…it’s a lie!”

“A single match, a child’s hand, a burning house…” Lazarus ignored her pleas for him to stop. “You killed her, Helena, and your precious guardian sealed away your memories. But, I will fix that before I take your life.”

Her knees gave way and her head hurt. The blade fell out of her hand. Blurry visions of the past flooded her mind like a tidal wave. She screamed out her agony as her headache gained momentum.

Helena’s nails dug into the skin of her scalp. “Stop this!”

It didn’t, and the visions became clearer.

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