A shock. An absolute surprise. I guess even a dismay.
That’s exactly what should have run through me.
It should have, it definitely should have after what he´d told me.
Yet, I felt none of those things.
Maybe I was already trained, maybe I was already immune to his demonic world, I don’t know. But hearing his softly spoken words, I just got stuck.
Because the picture in front of me… Hell! His mom was on the picture painted in year 1723! Exactly the picture that was hanging on the wall in front of us. The picture which I just took my eyes off to look back at my demon.
There was still tenderness in his eyes, yet I also saw tension, maybe fear as he was looking at me too, as he was meeting my gaze. I understood that it was my reaction he was afraid of. But strangely, I didn’t even have to try, I didn’t have to pretend it hadn’t scared me.
Because it hadn’t. This was my demon, and I remained calm.
“I’ve hated myself for a long time, Princess,” he exhaled, breaking my heart into thousands of pieces in just one sentence. “And that’s why I believed there was no chance you might feel differently.”
I wanted to interrupt him. I was itching to speak, I felt unbearable urge to get that nonsense out of his head. To tell him how I felt about him. Yet something in his gaze, something in his voice stopped me. My demon now needed time and space to be able to tell me everything he wanted to.
“But then you told me you could really love me,” he closed his mesmerizing eyes for a moment. For a brief moment before he fixed them on me again. “And I would sacrifice my whole heart just to deserve it. To deserve you.”
I winked, dammit, I had to wink to suppress the rush of tears that were building in my eyes. And the boy who held the key to my heart just smiled beautifully as he passed the tenderness in his eyes onto his words.
“If you meant it, Dove, if you’re still serious, then I want you to know me. Only then it will be for real if you know everything about me.”
Oh, yes, I liked his decision. I liked the way he was thinking. That he was finally willing to let me in and reveal his protected secrets. But I wasn’t so thrilled about the hints of despair that overshadowed his expression after that.
“I’ll answer your every question,” he nodded as he threw himself heavily on the sofa behind him. “I just want you to know that you can leave any time.”
And I couldn’t take it any longer.
I stepped forward, I approached him to sit down next to him. Without any hesitation, without asking, he wrapped his arms around me pulling me closer. Only then was he satisfied when I was sitting on him, hidden in his embrace.
And what a divine feeling it was indeed.
I let my face rest on his shoulder, I pressed my lips to his neck. I took him by his hand to intertwine our fingers. I searched for his eyes once more and then smiled when I found him already staring at me. And then I thanked all my lucky stars when he returned my smile in a much more magical form.
The sun was relentlessly trying to shine through the window, fighting with the heavy curtains. But they didn’t allow its rays to slip in much, creating such a strange melancholic atmosphere along. There was endless peace surrounding us, I could feel it radiating from my demon as well. Even though it was a huge room where we were cuddling, I felt like it was just our little world anyway.
And my demon didn’t stop studying me.
He was looking at me, watching me quietly with his damn bewitching narrowed gaze. As if waiting. And yes, he was waiting rightfully.
I was curious.
“The picture was painted in 1723,” I said, making the corner of his lips raise into a crooked smile. “Yet your mom is …”
I got stuck again. For an instant, I had no idea how to say it, how to ask about it. Because it sounded absolutely weird to me and it sounded weird even when I asked out loud: “Damn, how old are you?”
However, as my demon’s smile spread, it didn’t seem so strange to me anymore.
“Eighteen,” he replied. Oh, there they were, the playful sparks literally overwhelmed his eyes, making them glow. He laughed, he burst out laughing, and I only assumed that my confused expression was responsible for his suddenly so good mood.
Yet he kissed me. He kissed me once more and then he sighed heavily as he rested his forehead on mine.
“I was born two years after the picture was painted. To be honest, I don’t know when exactly. No birth certificate was preserved, and I also lost my mother, who would remind me of it every year. I just remember we celebrated my birthday together a few days before Christmas. I remember getting presents twice.”
My heart skipped a beat when I heard something like that. Just like the first time he told me about his mom. The sadness in his voice didn’t change a bit.
But then there was the other thing.
“That’s almost three hundred years, Eric.” Somehow, I couldn’t believe my own words. “How come you’re still eighteen?”
His eyes dropped to our joined hands, he became serious, letting me realize that this was already a sensitive topic for him. I was determined to give him time, to wait until he was ready to talk about it. Yet, my demon exhaled softly: “I lost my human nature when I was eighteen, Princess. Since then, I haven’t aged a day.”
Silence had fallen between us as I wasn’t sure whether I could ask further. His confession resonated in me, and yes, I had like million questions. But although he´d promised to answer them all, I was scared that it would be too much for him. That he would cut me off again.
I needed him to trust me.
He stroked my hair as he most probably felt my gaze and then he looked up at his mom.
“Her name was Eléonore Devereux,” he told me. “But everyone called her Lenore.”
I failed to suppress the smile spreading on my lips as I immediately recalled my favorite poem by Edgar Allan Poe.
“Sounds like you’re of French descent,” I began carefully.
“She was born in France,” he nodded, making me rejoice inwardly. “She lived there until she met my father. Until she fell in love with him and left Paris to live with him here.”
Bitterness crept into the tone of his voice. I couldn’t have missed it. Not when he furrowed his eyebrows along.
“How was she like?” I asked. I wanted him to recall only his good memories. I wanted the sadness gone. I didn’t need to hear about his father, not when he obviously hadn’t changed his opinion since the night, he´d told me about him for the first time.
“She was beautiful,” he exhaled again with even more beautiful smile that overpowered his lips. “She was caring and loving. No one ever loved me as much as she did, and with her loss I completely forgot what it feels like to be loved.”
It was breaking my heart to hear him say such things, and I immediately took a breath to refute his beliefs. But my demon didn’t let me speak.
“She loved me so much that she died for me,” his breath caught, but so did mine. I probably stopped breathing at all when I realized the meaning of what he´d just confessed to me. When I recognized the pain, he was talking with. “She died to save me, and that day I lost the peace I felt with her. Suddenly it was gone.”
I wrapped my arms around his shoulders as the urge to comfort him overwhelmed me. I didn’t stop him when he almost suffocated me in his embrace. I had the feeling, hell, I simply knew that my demon needed to get all the terrible things out of him. And whether he needed to scream, cry, or just talk, I wanted to be there for him.
“All the time, I wasn’t able to find it inside me anymore. I wasn’t able to feel calm,” he whispered into my lips as he leaned his forehead against mine. “Until I met you.”
He surprised me with that statement. And although I didn’t want to, I still pulled away from him just to look him in the eye. Just to see the smile that returned to his mouth.
“That´s why I did it. That´s why I replaced the fifth angel for you,” he answered my previous question. “Because with you, I feel the peace I lost with my mom. The angel reminded me of my loss all the time.”
Oh, I couldn’t resist, I cupped his face with my hand, I kissed him softly as his words touched me. And they did, they touched me deeply. Even though I didn’t quite understand it. I didn’t really get how it all was related.
He returned my kiss, his lips touched mine again, and I completely forgot. For that little moment, I completely forgot about the world around us.
“It’s like I´ve been sleeping for three-hundred years and suddenly, I am awake.”
A memory flashed through my mind. I remembered the evening we’d spent cuddling in my blanket fort. Damn! I would have never expected that he was telling the truth back then.
And I felt the same way, I´d never felt so alive before. I might have had my family and my piglets, I might have had my life back at home, the only real truth was that every beat of my heart belonged exclusively to him.
His lips whispered to me what my soul had already known. As if they refused to tear themselves away from me, as if he himself didn’t have the free will to do so. But I didn’t find the will either. If he really left me, I would go crazy with sadness.
“The legend goes that he went mad with grief, set his mansion on fire, where he’d been waiting for her for five years, and built this monument to her.”
Another memory flew through my mind, so vague, indistinct, yet unbearably intense. I froze, and he had to feel it as he broke our kiss and looked at me.
“Dove?” He asked quietly. Maybe it was a worry that grew in his voice, but I…
I was only able to look at the painting of his mom again.
“Five angels for the five years when he could’ve helped her, saved her, but didn’t.”
My heart started to pound pretty wildly in my chest. As much as I tried to think rationally, it wasn’t possible. But with my demon in my everyday life, the logic receded into the background anyway.
That autumn evening.
The Gothic garden.
The unfortunate end of one love.
Five statues of angels. One of them decorated Eric’s room for a long time, reminding him of the loss of his mother.
That only name written in the lower left corner of painting of his mom.
“Hard to say, Lara. It’s true that this land used to be owned by a nobleman called Norrington. He had his mansion here and it really burned down. But there are no official records.”
“William Norrington,” I whispered, only wishing to find my voice somewhere. “Holy crap! The story you told me at the monument in Gothic Garden back in October …”
He looked down, he just sighed heavily, but he didn’t have to answer either. Staring at the expression of his face, it was clear to me. Suddenly, it was all perfectly clear to me.
“It really happened! You told me about your parents!”
He nodded, he confirmed my theory with that one gesture, and I… For heaven´s sake! I couldn’t believe that I´d known the truth all this time!
“She loved him,” he said, forcing me to stiffen even more. Because now, it was real genuine pain, which I sensed from the whole posture of his body. Because this time, I already knew how the story had ended. “She loved my father, even though he abused her. It was Will who saved her from him, who offered her his love, but she never stopped loving that son of a bitch.”
Will… Like Will?
William Norrington is actually Will, his adoptive father?
“The picture was painted here when she lived with Will in his mansion. Before she ran away from him to return to my father. And he just used her to conceive a son and then beat her to death as she defended me from him.”
I still couldn’t speak.
I remembered, I remembered very well how I found the story depressing back in October. But now, now that I knew it was his story, that he´d witnessed his own mother’s death, I failed to stop those damn tears that automatically fell down my face.
“Shortly afterwards, Will set his mansion on fire, that’s true,” he smiled sadly at me, and I suddenly couldn’t decide whether I still wanted to hear it all. The whole truth about how he must have suffered. “It completely burned down, then fell into disrepair over the years before he bought it again about ten years ago and rebuilt it. He also built the monument in Gothic Garden where she´s buried to honor her memory. I think my mom was the only woman he ever loved.”
And just like that, I understood their relationship from a completely different point of view.
“He took you in,” I said, thinking aloud. All those memories, everything he´d ever told me, suddenly began to fit together and make sense.
“And he raised me,” he confirmed my assumption. “Even though I´m the son of the man who killed the greatest love of his life, he has always treated me as his own.”
I closed my eyes, I just enjoyed the touch, the connection of his fingers with my skin as he washed away the wet from my face with his thumbs. Suddenly he wasn’t close enough to me, I simply had to snuggle up in his arms again.
I started to draw circles on his bare chest with my fingers and then maybe lines and asymmetrical shapes. I trailed the lines of his muscles and tattoos the whole time we both remained silent. I wanted to be there for him. More than anytime before, I wanted him to know that I was there for him. And he was breathing calmly into my hair, and I knew he was ready to talk again when he started stroking me.
“What happened then?” I asked quietly. “You said you lost your human nature …,”
I got stuck as soon as I felt his divine body stiffened. I understood that I was wrong, that he probably wasn’t ready at all. That the time for this question didn’t come yet.
“It’s okay,” I apologized quickly, and I meant it. “You don’t have to tell me if you don’t feel like …”
His fingers interrupted me, silenced me as he ran them gently through my cheek.
“I don’t understand, Princess,” he muttered, forcing me to raise my eyebrows. “How can you be so understanding and so incredibly patient after everything?”
I smiled at him as I immediately knew the answer to his question. It was because I loved him. And he still hadn’t the slightest clue.
“It’s not that I don’t want to tell you,” he shook his head slowly and his beautiful eyes darkened. “I’m just scared of your reaction as I´m not proud of many things I did. I´m scared you´re really gonna run away from me.”
He was telling the truth, I saw it, I could see the fear in his expression. Exactly the one that made me open my mouth and challenge him. “Try me,” I whispered. “Eric, light is easy to love. I want you to show me your darkness.”
I tried to put all the love I felt into my gaze, I kept looking at him to show him my support. I tried to promise him with my eyes that I wouldn’t run away from him. Never again. And it was huge relief that overwhelmed my body when he finally smiled at me.
“My father happened,” he pressed his lips together right after that, answering my question. “He found me again when I was eighteen.”
It made my heartbeat speed up; my whole chest was pounding along with it as I didn’t expect to hear about him anymore.
“Wait,” I stopped him. “Didn’t you happen to say that Will killed him?”
“He did,” my demon nodded, his voice became bitter, “for a while.”
Well…, no. It wasn’t any clearer to me, it still didn’t make any sense. But thank heavens, the hellish envoy didn’t make me wait for his explanation.
“You can’t kill someone from my world so easily, Dove,” he reminded me his own invulnerability. “Someone with supernatural powers. And my father had those.”
He surprised me a lot, but yes, whom I should lie to. I didn’t expect anything else, than my breath to be taken away a few more times today. I said nothing so I wouldn’t discourage him from revealing his past to me. I just obediently waited for him to tell me.
“Like Mia, you know?” he said, making me realize what kind of powers he was talking about. “With the difference that Mia serves the Nature, she uses her powers to keep its balance. While my father did the exact opposite.”
The insatiable need to intertwine my fingers with his was there again and I didn’t hesitate to obey it.
“I´m talking about black magic, Princess, my father used it a lot. He had a rotten heart; he was always interested only in his benefit and power. He was so obsessed with having power that he didn’t stop at anything. And in the end, he found a way to gain it. He found a way to create someone capable of controlling people and things that he wanted to command.”
I froze, I completely petrified when he looked down. When he wasn’t able to keep looking at me. When he said, whispering: “He created his own demon.”
I didn’t dare to say anything, I felt like Eric wasn’t returning my gaze on purpose. As if he didn’t want to face me, as if he didn’t want to see my expression as he kept talking.
“He used my mom; he used her love for him to give him a son who could give him his soul. Even before I was born, my destiny was doomed.”
It came again. The tears started to fill my eyes as it all dawned on me. As I realized what he´d had to go through. That the pain I felt right now must have been nothing compared to the pain the boy I loved felt.
“When my mother found out, she wanted to run away from him. She wanted to hide me from him. But he figured it out, and then she died, defending me against him.”
I couldn’t stand it anymore, I simply couldn’t. Maybe only automatically, I wrapped my arms around him, pulling him closer. I held him tightly and I immediately knew that he needed it. My demon truly needed to be hold.
“He found me again when I was eighteen,” he mumbled into my shoulder. “He got in touch with me to tell me that he had changed. That he wanted his son back. He told me he had some belongings from my mom and that he wanted to give them to me.”
He exhaled heavily, my demon closed his beautiful yet sad eyes, and then he broke my heart, saying: “And I believed him.”
If I had doubts couple of moments ago, now I was sure I didn’t want him to torture himself by reminiscing his father. I didn’t want him to keep sprinkling the salt into his old wounds. Not because of me.
“I mean, I didn’t know much about him back then,” but my demon continued. “I only remembered a few ugly moments from my childhood. I didn’t even notice his death, I don’t know, I didn’t care what happened to him. I only perceived the loss of my mom. I´ve never talked to Will about him and I myself have never been interested in asking as well.”
A strange melancholic atmosphere was still floating around us, and I suddenly felt like the time stood still. And the boy, I loved so much was lost.
Yes, a part of me really wanted him to stop talking so he wouldn’t think about it anymore. But then there was something inside me that kept whispering that he needed to get it out. That it was suffocating him for too long.
“I was studying when he showed up. I lived far away from Will so he couldn’t really warn me. I had no idea that my father supposed to be dead. That there was something wrong about him. And I guess, I didn’t care either. I mean, I didn’t want to have anything to do with him. I knew he was responsible for my mom´s death. I just wanted to spit him in his face and take my mom´s belongings.”
The silence that spread between us gave me the opportunity to hold back all my feelings, and let my thoughts become clearer in my head. However, I still had the impression that my demon got stuck, that he didn’t know how to proceed.
“Did he take your soul?” I asked carefully, trying to help him, to encourage him.
“No, Dove,” he shook his head. He pressed a gentle kiss to my forehead before explaining it to me. “Only a demon has the power to take someone’s soul, to steal it. My father only knew the spells. He knew how to make a demon out of a soulless body. You can´t become a demon if you still have a soul.”
I thought about it, or at least I wanted to think about it. But no, it didn’t make sense to me.
“I don’t understand,” I admitted. “You said he wanted your soul. If he couldn’t have taken it from you, then how …?”
I opened my mouth, I almost choked, I couldn’t believe his words when he interrupted me right away: “I gave it to him voluntarily.”
No, dammit, no!
“Why?” I whispered, wishing so badly that I only misheard him. But his shoulders dropped as if carrying the weight of his remorse.
“I didn’t have Will with me to warn me of him,” the heartbreaking tone of his voice truly kept breaking my heart. “But I had someone else watching over me. Someone who told me it was a bad idea. Who I disobeyed and who then followed me to make sure I was safe. And he paid for it himself.”
“I went to a place where I didn’t suppose to go, and I knew it very well. Little did I know that Jamie was watching over me. I begged him not to follow me. But he disobeyed me, he did it anyway. I guess he wanted to protect me. I was the one who made a very stupid mistake. He was the one who paid for it in the end.”
Seagulls, a lighthouse, and the huge waves. I remembered almost immediately. I recalled the day we wandered around the market together, and the afternoon on the cliff, when he first told me about it.
“Jamie,” I said his name instead of my demon, and he just nodded.
“We met shortly after Will and I moved out of this town. He became my best friend; I grew up with him. All my childhood and my adolescence, he was there for me.”
I ran my fingers through his hair, I just perceive his chest rising and falling against mine. I just longed the sadness to disappear from his captivating eyes.
“I took care of him at first,” he said, repeating what he´d already told me once. “But when we grew up, he was the more responsible one. We decided to study together, and he was there to warn me of my father. He didn’t want me to go meet him, but I didn’t listen to him. And although I begged him not to do so, he still secretly followed me in case I needed help.”
My demon’s whole divine body tensed, my gentle touches didn’t help anymore, and I understood right away why.
“And my father killed him.”
He clenched my hand, he clenched it so hard letting me realize that he still hadn’t come to terms with it. That it still bothered him even after three hundred years.
“He killed him, he killed him right in front of my eyes. Just like he did to my mom. He took them away from me.”
It tore me to pieces, suddenly, I couldn’t catch my breath. How could the boy think that ï could run away from him? For heaven´s sake! I loved him even more!
“With the help of his spells and incantations, he cursed his soul and then gave me a choice. Either I could have saved him by sacrificing my own soul, or he would have stayed damned forever.”
It was no longer only my hand; I felt his arms tighten around my body. I wanted so badly to make it easier for him. To simply erase all of his bad memories somehow.
“And I made my decision, Dove,” he whispered. “I traded my soul for Jamie’s peace. I gave my father what he always wanted. I became his demon, and I will be his demon forever.”
I hated it.
I hated the despair in his voice, I hated how helpless he suddenly looked like. Because of his father and because of me, because of my curiosity. Because I urged him to let me into his world.
“No, Eric, no!” I shook my head sharply. I kissed his forehead, I kissed his nose, I hugged his face with my hands to make him face me. “You’re not his, not anymore. You´re mine, only mine and I do not share. Not when it comes to you. Not at all. With nobody.”
The corners of his lips twitched, but he didn’t have time to spread them into a smile. Cause´ they were they also mine and I claimed them straightaway. I pressed my mouth to his mouth and that one touch, that kiss said it all for me. I belonged to him. Just as he belonged to me. And the way his tongue savored mine testified to it even without speaking.
“What happened then?” I asked, I had to. Now, I had to know how it ended. I had to hear that the son of a bitch had paid for it.
“I stayed with my father and learned to control my abilities,” he replied softly, he said perhaps the only thing, I didn’t expect him to tell me.
I got stuck as I couldn’t understand it in the first place. Because that man, or whoever he was, was responsible for so much of the pain my demon had to go through. And Eric just smiled at me, he raised a corner of his lips into that damn beautiful crooked smile when he saw the confused look on my face.
“Keep your friends close, Princess, and your enemies even closer.”
“He created me, he got what he wanted from me, but he forgot about one important, perhaps the most important thing. Loyalty cannot be enforced by spells. I stayed with him, yes, but only to know him, to know every single weakness of his. I made him trust me, I made him believe that I was listening to him, that I was learning from him the way he always wanted it. And slowly, I managed to make him tell me about all the atrocities he had ever done. All of his secrets. Also, the one that helped me plan my revenge.”
I was curious, oh, I was very curious, but the intense look of my demon made me a little uneasy. I mean, something inside me told me that I should feel uneasy.
“What was that?” I couldn’t stand the silence anymore.
“He cheated on my mom,” he finally revealed. “He had a son with another woman.”
“Shit,” I exhaled in astonishment, as this really surprised me. Six months, for fuck´s sake, I knew the boy for six months, he filled every second of my day, and yet I still didn’t know much about him. Still, I didn’t know such a crucial thing. “You had a brother?”
Oh, his gaze was intense indeed. He looked at me strangely, I don’t know, too hypnotizing. As if he didn’t want to talk further, as if he was considering changing the topic. As if he didn’t want me to know more. But then he just nodded resignedly.
“Yes, Dove. I have a brother.” He kept his promise, he really answered even this question. He told me everything about himself. “His name is François Leroy.”