A Gate of Night / Page 16

Page 16


“That sounds patriotic and inspiring and all,” Aiden said, “but the dilemma still remains. How are we going to rebuild?”

“I wish Eli were here.” Never more had any of us felt the absence of Eli than we did at that moment. “If there’s anyone who could think of a way, it’s him.”

Yuri winced at the mention of his brother. Kiev had come without explanation and just demanded Eli go with him. There hadn’t been much we could do to stop him. Yuri had tried to fight back, but nothing came of it.

I blew out a sigh. Rebuilding The Shade without either Derek or Eli seemed impossible.

“Can we really do this?” Claudia voiced what we were all thinking. “Without Eli’s brain and Derek’s brawn?”

“Yes. We can. They would want us to.” Yuri pushed. “The way I see it, this is a way for us to start anew. If we’re going to rebuild, we might as well forget what it once was and dream of what we want it to be. That’s where we are going to start. What do we want to see in the island?”

His suggestion awakened something in me—something inside that was already on the brink of death. Hope.

“That’s a step toward the right direction,” Aiden approved. “But if you’re going to create a vision of what the island ought to be, I think it’s time we hear what the humans have to say, because for all we know, when Derek arrives, the question of who will take the cure will be back in play. You might as well start thinking of living on the island as humans, and not as vampires.”

A tense silence filled the room. In the chaos of everything happening, the cure had completely left my mind. I had been so preoccupied by running the island that my own dreams of living a normal life—maybe with Xavier, should he choose to take the cure—had taken a backseat to everything that was happening around us.

“Aiden is right. If we’re going to do this, we have to do it with our human allies.”

Claudia rolled her eyes. She opened her mouth and I was expecting to hear an objection, but was pleasantly surprised to hear her say, “I’ll go find Gavin. Expect the annoying blue-haired hunter to be with them. She’s like their pet or something.”

The way Aiden grinned at the mention of Zinnia didn’t escape my notice. I hated the little minx. She was like a pest I couldn’t get rid of, but for some reason, Gavin seemed to be able to tolerate her.

While Claudia and Yuri left to get The Shade’s human leaders, we went about discussing plans for The Shade. When they returned, Gavin and Zinnia weren’t with them. Instead, Clara stepped into the quarters, followed by a posse of the Elder’s vampires.

I tensed. This can’t be good.

Clara looked around. “I’m thinking these are the best quarters you have available since we destroyed everything else?”

No one responded. Instead, she was met with hateful, questioning glares.

She seemed unfazed. “I want this place cleared out. In fact, I want this whole level cleared out. Whoever is staying here”—she gave me a quick look over from head to foot then back—“I’m assuming it’s you… you’ll have to move to another level. Make sure this is done by the end of the day, princess.”

“May I ask why?” The words came out low and clipped, escaping through gritted teeth.

“Just do it. All you need to know is that this time tomorrow, the real vampires take over.” Fear flashed in her expression. “They will want food and drinks. Or their version of it. And, of course, plenty of entertainment.”

My heart fell. All hope I had of creating a new vision for our home melted away. Her words were clear enough.

The Elders were coming to take over The Shade and the horrifying reality sank into me, as well as my companions.

We were their food.

We were their drinks.

We were their entertainment.

Chapter 23: Sofia

I lay flat on my back on the queen-sized bed. It was late into the night, as evidenced by the chimes of the antique clock on one wall of my room. I fluffed up the pillows in order to prop myself up on the bed. I stared at the pendulum swinging from left to right. Almost hypnotic.

Twins. I smiled. A bittersweet one. A son and a daughter. I couldn’t wait to hold them in my arms and be to them the mother I’d never had. I stroked my tummy gently, trying to hold back my own tears.

An image of my children crossed my mind. Wishful and almost nostalgic. I could almost hear their laughter. For some reason, I saw them building sandcastles on a beach, the sunlight kissing their skins, their bright eyes hopeful and trusting. I imagined Derek’s hand on mine, squeezing so tightly, I could practically feel it.

Dreams of the future, of what could be, were the only hope I could cling to.

“We’re going to be all right. We’re going to be with your father someday. A family.” I said the words hoping that I would believe them.

I longed so much for the images to be true. I thought back to the house Derek had wanted to purchase in California and suddenly, the thought of being a family with him and our children—away from The Shade, away from The Blood Keep, away from this—became the most enticing thing my mind had ever dared entertain.

They had come unexpectedly, but I wanted my children and I knew Derek did too. We’d dreamed of this. Yet, despite my anticipation, their arrival was also met with dread.

I have to figure out a way to get out of here before I give birth. My children cannot be born at The Blood Keep. Thoughts whirled over what the Elder could have planned for my children. Kiev’s words still echoed in my mind.

“Your children… they’re important to us.”

I dared not imagine why, but I knew that whatever they had in store for the twins was something neither Derek nor I could ever wish for our children. I wondered what made them so important. The answer came from the part of me that had a firm grip on uncomfortable truths.

They’re the children of an immune and an ex-vampire. That makes them special enough to poke and prod and test. I didn’t want to think about what they could be capable of. I didn’t even know if I wanted to find out.

Eli’s plan of escape was pure insanity, but we’d been working on it for the past few months. We both knew that we only had one shot at an escape so we couldn’t risk being haphazard about our strategy.

According to Eli, the beasts were a product of the vampire coven in The Underground—the same one Natalie had reported that the Elder had annihilated because of their loyalty to Derek.

“We had close ties with The Underground,” Eli explained. “Vivienne once sent me there in order to help them stabilize their community. One of the projects I helped them with was the creation of the beasts. Stray dogs that they took from the streets. We turned them into vampires. We didn’t think it would work at first, but… here we go. Fierce creatures they are, and only trainable by a vampire.”

Eli knew how to train them, and so he began to secretly train Shadow during the few times that Kiev allowed Eli and I to enjoy each other’s company. Kiev reasoned that the only reason he’d allowed Eli to join me was because of the babies. I didn’t care why he allowed it as long as he did, because apart from our need to discuss our plans for escape, I found Eli quite an engaging conversationalist.

Still, our conversations were few and short, since he had to put his focus on gaining Shadow’s loyalty. “They’re wildly unpredictable creatures when they’re not loyal to you, but once you gain their loyalty…”

After two months, Eli was able to control Shadow.

And thus, our crazy idea was for both of us to go into The Blood Keep’s boundaries at a time when it was day on the other side and ride Shadow out of The Blood Keep.

“Do you think it will work?” I asked Eli.

He nodded. “I’m hoping it will. It’s all we can really do.” He must’ve noticed the expression on my face, because he asked, “What’s the matter? You’re scared?”

“I’m afraid of what Kiev might do to Olga. He warned me that should I try to escape, he will kill her.”

“Do you think he’d do it?”

Yes, my mind said, but I responded with what I wanted to believe in. “No, she seems precious to him.” I justified my willingness to put her neck on the line with my desperation to escape. I was doing it for my children. For Eli. For Derek. For The Shade.

Maybe Olga is the necessary sacrifice, I told myself, hating that I would even consider sacrificing another person in order to save myself or even the ones I loved.

I lay there, mulling over the decision I’d made, telling myself that I had no other choice. Eli and I were going to escape in a week. I was already in my third trimester. We both knew that I could give birth any time, but I’d insisted that we go through with it. As far as I was concerned, the fact that I was going to give birth soon was the primary reason we had to get out of there.

I had no idea that coupled with my growing hatred toward everything going on around me, everything beyond my control, my willingness to put Olga’s life on the line to save my children was enough of an opening to allow the darkness a foothold in my life.

Olga’s face was still etched in my mind when a cold wind began to sweep through the bedroom. The dim lighting allowed me to see everything in the room. Shadow began to cower and back away into a corner, fright traced in his bright yellow eyes. I scanned my surroundings. I couldn’t see anyone there, but I wasn’t alone. A thick, dark presence was with me, drawing near me.

Touching me.

I screamed when pain unlike anything I’d ever known coursed from the tips of my fingers to the nape of my neck. It only lasted a couple of seconds, but the torment felt like it lasted an eternity. Tears were rushing down my cheeks as I tried to catch my breath. My first instinct was to clutch my belly, fearing that whatever just happened could have somehow hurt my children.

“I love hearing you scream.”

It was the strangest thing. I didn’t actually hear the words, or at least I didn’t think so. They were almost like thoughts being inserted into my head from an outside entity. One that I could not see. I couldn’t control my trembling.

“You fear me,” the presence stated. “Good.”

“Who are you? What are you?”

“I’ve been waiting to meet you. Queen of The Shade, the woman who stole Derek Novak and my daughter, Emilia, away from me. You’ve ruined so many of my plans, Sofia Novak. Now, I can pay you back all the trouble you’ve caused me.”

“You’re the Elder.”

My body was yanked forward in an upright sitting position in the middle of the bed before my head was violently jerked backwards, my scalp burning with pain, as if someone were pulling at my hair. I couldn’t feel his touch. I didn’t even know if he had fingers, hands or arms, but I could feel the pain coursing through me.

My hands were still gripping my tummy as I screamed when blood began to ooze from a shallow cut that formed on my jaw line.

“Don’t worry. Nothing I do to you will harm your children. I won’t cause them any pain. At least not yet. But you, however…”

Something struck me, as if I’d been whipped, and I arched my back in agony, blood seeping through my clothes.

“I’ve been waiting for this. I never could come to you before. You were so protected by your own light, but now… now that The Blood Keep’s darkness has managed to get to you, I have a foothold on you. I love how your slender form trembles. That’s right, Sofia. Be afraid. You’ve got everything to fear now that you’re in my presence.”

Another lash formed on my back, drenching my clothes with blood.

“Please…” I sobbed. I was about to beg, but I held my tongue. I refused to give him the satisfaction.

“Your husband was supposed to be mine. I created him, after all. He is my descendant, as is every other vampire you hold dear. They’re all mine, but people like you… you ruin everything. Your beauty sickens me. But worry not, child, when I’m done with you, you’ll be ugly beyond imagination. Derek won’t even be able to stand looking at you. Mark my words, young one. I’m going to make you pay ten times the trouble you’ve caused me.”

His threats were cutting me to the core. I wanted to believe they were empty threats, but something told me that the Elder had the power to do whatever he wanted with me. I wanted to fight back, to defend myself, to somehow get back the light I once held within me, but I couldn’t.

How do you fight a presence you can’t see? How do you once again spark a light that everything around you is determined to extinguish?

“I can sense your surrender. I’m disappointed. Well, almost. You’ve no idea the pleasure it brings me to see you in this state. My prisoner. Helpless. Away from everyone and everything that you love.”

I clung to the fabric of my night shift over my stomach. He laughed. “Do you really think you’ll be able to hold those children in your arms? Be a mother to them? How would you even know the first thing about being a mother when you’ve never even had one? Camilla Claremont was mine. I enjoyed seeing her transform into the wickedness that was Ingrid Maslen. Now, before I leave you, let me give you a picture to dwell on until we meet again.”

Something I couldn’t see coiled around my head and suddenly, I was at the beach, watching my twins build sandcastles, my husband holding my hand. I was living the image of laughter and mirth that had been playing in my head before the Elder arrived. Dread swept over me, because even my imagined refuge was about to be ruined.

A wave washed over the sandcastle the twins were building. Tears were streaming down their faces as their eyes searched for me. I was standing from a distance, desperate to come to their aid, but while Derek ran to them to save them from another wave that would crash against the shore and sweep our children into the ocean, I couldn’t move. I couldn’t help them. Derek tried to get them, but the waves sucked them into the sea. Derek screamed in horror, echoing my own cries as he plunged into the ocean to try and save the twins.

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