Demon Gates (Helena Hawthorn Series #2)

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Too Much Loss pt. 2

Her grandmother stood next to the gas stove with her back turned and her bright yellow apron on. She glanced over her shoulder at Helena and beckoned for the child to join her in the kitchen.

Giggling, Helena ran to her and wrapped her small arms around her grandmother’s generous middle. She buried her face in her soft belly. The smell of baking filled her nostrils. Sighing happily, she let go and sat at the small table in the corner.

“Wait here, my sunshine,” her grandmother said in Russian and headed for the door when Helena’s father appeared with a bright smile on his face.

His hazel eyes framed by shaggy, dark brown hair found Helena and a smile stretched his lips.

“Who is the best girl in the world?” he asked with a tilt of his head.

Helena raised her hands high into the air and squealed, “Me!”

The vision reshaped, and Helena was now standing in her dimly lit bedroom in the old house.

She yawned. Covering her mouth with her small hand, she cradled a plush white rabbit to her chest.

“You cannot see them!” her grandmother’s stern words crept through the gap in the door to the entrance hall.

Helena tried to see what was happening on the other side, but her grandmother was strict when it came to bedtime. If she noticed her, Helena would get in trouble.

“I need to, for the final time. I know he is after them, I know, but I wish to see my daughter one last time…” her father responded.

“You are a danger to them. Go. Find the Blood Gate and kill the demon. I gave you what you need. You must do this, Iven, to protect Sasha and her child.”

Helena’s lower lip quivered. The conversation they were having sounded perturbing. Why couldn’t she see Papa? She opened the door and ran outside only to find her grandmother wiping away her tears.

“Why are you not sleeping, Helena?” her grandmother chided.

The vision faded once more…

She observed her grandmother from the living room. The old woman chanted a rhyme, facing a small round mirror on the kitchen table. Grandmother no longer played with her or talked to her. She could not be trusted. Her friend told her she was dangerous. She needed to be erased.

Helena struck a match on the rough side of the matchbox and a tiny flame sparked to life on the end of the short stick. Mesmerised by the dancing light, she watched it scorch the match before it reached her fingers and singed her skin. She winced and dropped it, letting the match fall onto the fluffy carpet in the living room that her mother loved so much.

The flames spread over the rug faster than flowing water. She scrambled backwards and climbed on top of the sofa. The orange blaze engulfed the living room. Soon, the smoke rose. She sucked in a breath and coughed. Tears weren’t far behind when the air grew heavy and hot.

“Oh God, what is going on?” Sasha screamed and found Helena on the sofa with a box of matches in her hand.

She rushed towards her daughter, avoiding the strong flames that spread to the kitchen entrance, and lifted Helena into her arms.

“Mama? Mama where are you?” Sasha called out.

The grandmother’s face, distorted by the flames, appeared from the kitchen, and she called out, “Save the child, Sasha. Run and do not look back!”

The dream-like sequence ended, and Helena stared blankly at the top of the dark bubble. She could no longer feel her tears on her skin. Her whole life was a lie. She was the one who killed her grandmother, and her mother lied to cover it up. And Michael, he knew what had happened from the start. After all, he was the one to push Richard and her mother together. How much of what he told me was the truth?

She watched Lazarus appearing with mock concern etched on his face. “Do you understand now? Your life is a game. You are nothing more than a pawn on a board, waiting to be taken.”

The string connecting her to Lucious stirred as the demon drew close. She blinked, pushing the horrors away. Lucious and Maya, they were always there for her. They weren’t part of this nightmare…

When Lazarus was close enough, she moved fast. Helena grasped the dagger next to her leg and lodged it in his chest.

Lazarus grunted and burst out laughing. “And here I thought you’ve become docile. I guess there is some fire left in you.”

She gaped at his chest. The blade didn’t kill him and the fear everyone had in the back of their minds came true. There was no escape.

The demon’s smile faded. He extracted the blade from his chest and black blood oozed out of the healing wound. “I am saddened you’ve ruined a peaceful death I was about to give you.”

He tossed the Arcanae Mortum to one side and closed in on her. His hand secured her throat, and he lifted her off the ground with ease.

Helena gasped when her throat was closing. His sharp claws pierced her skin, and she cried out in pain. She had to accept it. They were going to die here. There was no way out. The blade was a dud. Maybe Reaver knew it all along, which was why he had sent them here. It became hard to swallow, and she choked on her spit. Her airways burned and her lungs ached.

“Helena? Are you alive?” Maya’s shouted nearby. The demon’s hold on the trap was slipping as the bubble dissipated around them and the shadows were reabsorbed back into him.

His grip did not relent, and he squeezed harder until dark spots ate away at her vision. Partial words from Father J. R’s journal jumped to the forefront of Helena’s mind. ‘Upon birth, they are branded with a new heart…flowers being the source of their power.’

Maya dove for the blade and was about to repeat the same mistake when Helena forced out, “Stab…flower.”

Her friend frowned a second before her eyes widened. Quick like a fox, Maya lodged the dagger into Lazarus’ right shoulder.

His agonised cry reduced his smirk to dust. His hand came away from her throat, and he collapsed to his knees, clutching his chest. “You!”

Helena gasped for air and scrambled away from him on all fours. “Maya, get away from him!” she screamed when she noticed her friend hadn’t moved an inch.

“I can’t! The blade…it’s wrapped around my wrist. I can’t yank it out!”

Swaying, Helena managed to stand. She made her way over and struggled to make sense of what she was witnessing. The tree roots of the blade’s handle had entwined themselves around Maya’s wrist, expanding and twisting further up her arm.

Lazarus let out another moan when his form melted and the dark shadow slithered along the blade.

“Help me!” Maya yelled, yanking at the blade.

Helena ran around her and grasped Maya around her midriff. She tugged and pulled until Maya whimpered in pain.

“Stop. Unless I hack my arm off, it’s not going to work,” Maya said.

“Helena, get away from her!” Lucious shouted. He laid Andrew’ unconscious body on the dirt and strode to them. Not bothering to ask for her permission, he jerked her away from Maya.

“What are you doing? Help her!” Helena snapped.

“It’s too late…” he replied and imprisoned her in his arms.

Struggling to break free, Helena stomped on his foot with the heel of her boot. He didn’t react. When his shields wrapped around her, her words abandoned her.

“She cannot be helped, my dear,” Lucious said softly.

Maya’s whole face and exposed skin on her arms were covered with black veins. Her irises were changing colour to red as more darkness seeped through the blade and into her body.

Maya collapsed to the ground, and Helena fought her way out of Lucious’ arms.

“Maya, I didn’t know! I’m so sorry…” Helena said, reaching out with a trembling hand.

Maya shook her head and glanced at Lucious. “How bad is it, vampire?”

“You’re dying. I can barely hear your heartbeat.”

Maya rubbed Helena’s wet cheek with her thumb and patted her on the shoulder. “Tell Ben I love him, will you?”

Helena let out a sob. She couldn’t hold back as more tears fell onto Maya’s hand. “I’m sorry, I’m—”

“Take her. Whatever it is, it’s taking over…” Maya instructed, massaging her chest.

A strong arm snaked around Helena’s chest, and she screamed, “Let me go, Lucious! Please, let me go,” as the distance between her and Maya grew.

“I’m so sorry, my dear,” Lucious said. He hit the back of Helena’s neck and her world went dark.

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