Dead Tempted

By RMRayne All Rights Reserved ©

Fantasy / Horror

Blurb

In England 1869, Lady Bronwen is murdered in a satanic ritual by twelve demon worshipers. She is sent to the Under-realm where she meets Thanatos, its handsome and charmingly demonic ruler who wants Bronwen as his eternal companion. When Bronwen refuses him, Thanatos makes the Lady a deal of her own. If she can track down all of her killers, he will release her from his possession. However, if she cannot resist his seduction, she will remain his forever. Bronwen accepts the deal, trusting herself and her moral upbringing to endure Thanatos. But, as the identity of the twelve are revealed, it becomes clear to Bronwen that she alone values her life. She desperately tries to find something to stay alive for and is forced to question her conscience, religion, social standing and above all, her womanly desires for a man she believes is the devil.

Prologue

He stumbled on the cobbled path of his manor house garden, desperately looking around, but there was no one to help.

No one who could help.

He slipped on the ice and his knee hit the floor, the impact jarred his joint and shuddered up his leg, making it slightly numb, but it didn’t stop him from protecting the little bundle in his arms.

He had a brief flicker of concern that the child might catch a chill in the mid-winter air, then blood dripped crimson roses onto the white frost and he remembered.

The man yelled at the night sky and the moon with its following of stars, cursing God and his cruelty.

‘He is not here to listen to you, Donovan.’ A voice hissed behind him. ‘Nor does he care.’

Donovan started and turned around, still on his knees and gripping his precious bundle too tightly.

Firelight leaked from the open doors of his large home, casting shadows on the stones and creating stars in the snowflakes that had begun to fall. The light did not reach the cloak of the midnight figure and it cast no shadow but itself. The thing was tall and wide with strength and somehow also gaunt and deathly, as if a breeze might knock him down but the weight of the world was no burden.

Donovan tried to focus his eyes on the creature. His vision was blurring through the water of his tears and it was easier to stare at the ground then upon the black hollow of the cloak where its face should have been.

“You are him. The one they call master. Dominus.” Donovan accused.

‘And you are he who denied me and refused my invitation to join my followers, Donovan Wintre.’

“You offered me money and power I already have. I will not serve you.”

‘Is that so? And what if I offered you something you no longer have. A life perhaps?’

Donovan looked down at the baby in his arms. Lifeless and cold.

“What do you want?” He asked the creature.

’No, what is it you want?’ The demon’s voice held a thousand souls in one. He stepped closer to Donovan and his bundle, bringing with him the darkness of shadow and a cold to rival the surrounding ice.

Donovan reluctantly loosened his grip on the package so the creature could see it. He held out a long, black clawed nail and used it to pull out a silver crucifix from within the cloth. The cross skittered down the chain away from the hand that had revealed it.

“Please, help us.” Donovan pleaded as the faceless creature looked down at him. “I will serve you, if you bring back my daughter.”

‘Tell me, is the soul of one worth that of many others?’

Donovan’s mind hesitated where his heart hadn’t. He looked down at the white and red cloth in his arms and his heart won his mind over.

“I will find a way to make it so.”

The creature laughed, making Donovan cringe. ‘We shall see.’

Flurries of snow followed the demon’s path into the Under-realm. White flakes hovered in the air around him as he strolled through the emptiness of the void towards a wriggling bundle on the floor.

The creature had returned to his natural human form; finding fingers and thumbs easier to pick up babies than talons and claws. He carefully gathered the bundle from the misty floor, perturbed to find it was not in the ordinary confinements of the Halfpoint.

The baby gurgled and sighed and kicked its legs and arms out, as babies do. The creature grimaced at the display but still found himself staring down at the tiny face of the child. It was a pretty little thing. Most newborns were discoloured and oddly shaped, but this one had eyes that captured him.

He wondered if those eyes would change as time went on. Evil did not discriminate when spreading its corruption; turning optimists to pessimist.

“What are you?” He asked the baby and poked a finger at it. The little thing grabbed the accusing finger and he could feel it do so. Not as he usually felt souls - as a human would another’s touch - he felt this child like a breeze on rosy cheeks. Real, but impossible to capture.

“Unusual.” The creature said and suddenly found it difficult to part with the child. What would this tiny thing be if left to grow to adulthood? He had no use for babies but the possessive sensation that was rising within him made him struggle to part with this soul. It was not an unpleasant feeling, only unfamiliar.

The demon decided then that he would uphold his bargain to Donovan and return his daughter’s soul, but only so that she might develop into something more. Something like him. And something he would later come to desire.

He returned them both to the living world.

Donovan was sobbing quietly when the creature blocked his light again.

The man looked from the black mass to the bundle hopefully. The little girl opened her blue eyes and stared up at the stars, then scrunched up her face and opened her mouth in a silent cry, her pink lips wrinkling.

“What’s wrong?” Donovan asked, suddenly panicked. “She can’t breathe!”

‘Give her a moment.’ The creature said, his voice distant.

Finally, the small thing took a ragged breath and the tears broke over the rim of her pretty, optimistic eyes as she wailed loudly. It was the most precious thing Donovan had ever heard. He pulled his coat around her and his own tears joined hers.

“Thank you.” Donovan sobbed.

‘Do not thank me yet.’ The creature said. ‘This can only be temporary. I need her back, Donovan.’

“What?”

‘I will gift her to you for twenty-five years, then, I want her returned to me.’

Donovan felt his hopes falling away as he had just received them back. He himself was still several years shy of twenty-five.

‘Do not look so concerned, Donovan. There are worse things. Like what will happen to your wife after this.’

Donovan shook his head. “No, not that.”

‘Return your daughter’s soul to me when I requested and I will keep your wife’s soul safe.’

Donovan looked down at the still wailing child. He had not grown to know her yet. Could he really repeat the events of the night, when the child was old enough to understand she was being murdered by her own father?

“Is there nothing else to be done?” Donovan asked quietly.

‘No.’ The creature replied. ‘Your wife cannot return from this sin. Taking life from the innocent cannot be undone. This is the choice.’

Donovan knew what he wanted. He wanted his wife to be safe and his daughter to be alive. Wasn’t all life only temporary anyway? Was twenty-five years enough? It was more than most people had, and less than others. In exchange for an eternity of safety for his wife, it was more than enough.

“I accept.” Donovan said quietly, hanging his head in sorrow.

‘I thought you might.’ The creature replied, the hint of a smile in his voice.

“And the mark?” Donovan asked. He thought he heard a slight growl before a reply came.

‘We all have our scars.’

“Not like this one.” Donovan argued carefully, sensing the wraths displeasure, but he had pulled back the blanket wrappings of the hiccupping babe and seen the slices in her stomach remained, healed but still there.

‘There are worse things.’ The creature repeated with finality.

Light from the still open doorway reached Donovan’s face again and he knew the creature had gone. Donovan pulled his weary and stiff body off the cold floor, his pale brown hair damp from the falling snow and his hazel eyes ringed with fatigue and sorrow.

{For the salvation of the wife, the husband’s servitude and leadership}

“She has been blessed, we are grateful, Dominus.”

Donovan turned to see his wife stood behind him. She was wearing a white night gown, so covered in blood it stuck to her form tightly. Her nipples puckered from the cold and she still had a small stomach left from her pregnancy.

Donovan strode up to her, the crying baby still in his arms, then he struck his wife hard across the face with a closed fist. Her head whipped back and her lip split. Blood from the wound joined the blood from their daughter.

The baby stopped wailing at the sound the strike had made and the world was still for a sweet moment. Then Donovan pulled his wife to him and hugged her desperately. The bundle crushed between their bodies and the blood that covered the three of them.

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