A Gate of Night / Page 17

Page 17


Everything came to a standstill as my husband disappeared under the water. Just when I thought that I’d lost him, I gasped with relief when he emerged from the ocean. I searched his arms for our children, but found them empty. He swam to the shore and rose to his feet, shoulders sagged in defeat. Tears were streaming down his face, a picture of abject dejection as he trudged his way through the white sands. He knelt on the ground, distraught—a father who’d failed to rescue his own children.

“Derek…” I gasped, barely able to breathe. As if hearing my uttering, his eyes met mine, hatred oozing from his countenance.

In an instant, he was standing right before me, fire dancing in the back of his eyes.

I swallowed hard. Never before had he given me such a look. I repeated his name, trying to touch him, but he pushed my hand away.

“I blame you,” he said through gritted teeth. “You’re the reason they’re gone. You ruined everything.”

I gasped. He might as well have ripped my heart out of my body. It would’ve been less painful. I was too shocked to formulate words, so I just stared into those bright blue eyes that once looked upon me with such love. Not anymore. In its place, there was nothing but resentment and spite.

I was relieved when the love of my life disappeared into thin air. I couldn’t bear him looking at me that way.

I was at a loss for words, panting as the image faded away and I was back at The Blood Keep, fully aware of my surroundings, in the presence of the invisible one, the Elder, who held my very life in his hands. He chuckled—an expression without the slightest bit of pleasure. Just pure sadistic hatred.

“That, dear Sofia,” he said with words that could be felt more than heard, “is the future you can hope for. If you ever think you can live a normal life with your children and the love of your life—a normal family—think again. You’re mine now and there’s nothing you or Derek Novak can do about it.”

I wasn’t able to breathe out the tension building up inside of me until the Elder’s presence left my bedroom, leaving behind him the outward chaos left by a cold sweeping wind and the inward turmoil of a nightmare. Once I was alone in that bedroom, still feeling the pain of the torment he’d put me through, I knew for a fact that I would do anything to get away from the Elder and the fate that he displayed before me.

Anything, I determined. I stared at the giant beast that was to be my only means of escape and winced. Eli’s escape plan was insanity, all hinging on whether he had been successful in gaining Shadow’s loyalty or not, but I knew I had to take the risk.

Something in the expression on Derek’s face, now etched in the back of my mind—the hatred in his eyes—rattled me. You need to take a risk, Sofia. You have no other choice.

I began to sob, because in spite of the revelation that the Elder had a hold on me the moment I gave in to my hatred, I still didn’t change my mind.

“I’m so sorry, Olga,” I said between sobs.

I felt like whatever light, whatever good, I had in me was slowly slipping away, replaced by hatred, bitterness, fear and exhaustion, and there was nothing I could do about it.

Chapter 24: Derek

I thought that I was going to speak with The Shade’s witch through some sort of communication device between the realm of the humans and the witches. I was wrong. The sultry, olive-skinned brunette was brought right to me at the Ageless’ gazebo.

I was so relieved to see someone from home, I reached for her and drew her into a tight embrace. “You have no idea how happy I am to see you.”

She tensed against me. She sounded breathless when she said, “Hello, Derek.”

Her voice was devoid of its sharpness. The witch, who had never once flinched even at my biggest fits of rage, was trembling as I stepped away from her. She couldn’t even look me in the eye. She was standing before me, fists clenched, tears threatening to fall from her eyes.

“Corrine? What’s wrong?” A million questions were running through my mind, but for some reason, the only question I was able to blurt out was, “Did you just arrive?”

She opened her mouth, but save for a restrained squeak, no sound came out.

She was putting me on edge, causing a build-up of heat on my body. I breathed a couple of sighs, thinking of a way to somehow calm down. “For your sake, Corrine, you better say something before I do something I regret. Are you going back to The Shade? When? How?”

Her gaze was listless. Even my threat didn’t seem to affect her. Instead, she just bit her lip and shook her head. “I’m not returning.”

“What do you mean you’re not returning? Who’s keeping the spell over The Shade? What has happened to the island?”

“The Elder has taken over The Shade. His witches are keeping the spell going.”


“I’m so sorry. They think I’m dead. Kiev burned the Sanctuary down. I barely escaped to this realm before… everything was lost.”

I was trying to make sense of the words, but it all came as a confusing of pile of questions. “What? No… How? When? Sofia… how is Sofia? And Vivienne…” My breath hitched. A thousand horrifying implications ran through my mind.

“The Elder still has Sofia. I haven’t seen her since you two left for your honeymoon. I think she’s…” Corrine stopped, casting a glance at the Ageless who gave her a stern glare.

“You think she’s what? What has happened to my wife?”

“I don’t know.”

“You’re lying. Why are you lying?” I grabbed her by the shoulders at the same time as a wave of heat went from my shoulder blades to my palms. My touch burned her skin and she screamed in pain.

The Ageless intervened by casting a spell on me, effectively throwing me to the ground. Only her spells had any effect on me when the power took over and I lost control. This time, however, as I crouched on the ground and tried to get up, even her cooling spell did little to quench the heat emanating from my body.

Tears would have fallen from my eyes, but they quickly evaporated due to the heat that I was exuding.

“What’s happening to him?” Corrine gasped as the Ageless healed her shoulders of the burns I’d inflicted on her.

“He’s losing control. Without the vampire curse, the powers your ancestor bequeathed to him have been unleashed. Even we don’t know the full extent of his capabilities and now it’s all coming out.”

She had basically just admitted that even they had no clue how to harness my power. So all this time, they’ve been playing trial and error with me, experimenting with different methods to try and bring my powers under control. They have no idea what they’re doing. The thought drove me to the brink of insanity. I screamed my agitation out and with the piercing shout came torrents of fire shooting out of my palms.

“Mistress,” Ibrahim gasped. “He’s beyond control.” He was trying to cast a cooling spell on me, but his attempts failed. No wind or ice or water cooled me down.

I saw stark terror in the eyes of my mentor as the wizened warlock realized that nothing he did could restrain the power that was escaping from my exhausted body. I was about to implode and nothing seemed to be able to stop it. Giving up on trying to stop me, he formed a force field around himself, the Ageless and Corrine in order to stay safe from the red-hot flames darting out of my palms.

The Ageless glared at Ibrahim first and then looked at me like I was a child who had just disappointed my parents severely. Her calm was unnerving. She didn’t seem to be fazed by anything at all. I could swear she muttered a few curses before shutting her eyes and mumbling incoherently. She began to float from the ground and within minutes, a whirlwind appeared, quenching the flames I’d just created, saving her palace from sure destruction.

She might have quenched the fire I’d created, but she hadn’t stopped the source. No matter how I tried to control it, the fire was building up inside me, threatening to escape.

“Take control!” she screamed at me. The pressure only increased the build-up of fire within me. To my shock, she lunged forward.

“No! Don’t come near me!”

The warning went unheeded. She was coming at me at full speed, her widened eyes letting me know that she knew that what she was asking of me was impossible.

“You can claim control.” This time, her tone was calculated and controlled. Desperate.

“I can’t!” I managed to scream out as charring red fire began to flow through my veins, forming outside my fingertips.

She gulped just before reaching me. She pressed her palms against mine and stared right into my eyes. I wondered if she knew whether what she was about to do would work. I couldn’t help but admire that she did it anyway. An ice-cold sensation seeped from her skin to mine. She was neutralizing my fire with her ice, creating a warm energy between us.

“I can’t…” I seethed. “I can’t…”

For a moment, I thought she was going to give me another pep talk. They kept telling me that I could take control, that I could get myself together and harness the power. Instead, to my surprise, the Ageless nodded, her eyes glazed over.

“I believe you.”

“Sofia. I need my wife. If you don’t bring me to her or bring her to me… if you keep at this, I swear… I don’t know if I’ll be able to keep myself from burning your realm down.”

Her eyes flickered and she slowly nodded. “I think what’s best for you is to stay here, Derek, but we have interfered with your life long enough. Remember, however, that should you choose to leave, the consequences are on you. If your lack of control destroys Earth, then there’s no one to blame but you.”

I clenched my fists, wondering to myself—like many times before—if I was indeed doing the right thing. Convinced that I was, I nodded. “I need to get home.”

“The Shade—or what’s left of it—is waiting for you. Corrine will take you there.”

Corrine’s eyes widened. “I can’t go back. I don’t want to. Please.”

“You will take Derek through the portal and you will not return until his mission is complete. He will need your powers to neutralize his.”

“Please,” Corrine begged, making me wonder what on earth could’ve possibly broken the woman’s spirit. The witch cowered in front of no one. To see her so shattered made for a fearsome omen of what I was about to see.

The Ageless, however, was unmoved. The silver-haired vixen’s shoulders sagged. “There is no other way, Corrine. He will ruin The Sanctuary if he stays here. We can’t help him anymore. You can. Take him back home.”

I was relieved, but I was also confused. The witches were supposed to be the agents of good—maintaining balance, or so they said—but if there was one thing my stay at their realm had taught me, it was that I couldn’t trust them.

Just like all the other realms, they were looking out for themselves and no one else.

I had no idea what had happened to The Shade, how ruined it probably already was, but one thing I knew for sure was that no matter how magnificent the witches’ realm was, it could never be the kind of paradise my true home was to me.

Chapter 25: Aiden

Clara left after promising that she would return “to see us entertain the Elders”. I had no idea what she was talking about, but I didn’t need Eli’s genius to know that we were being set up for trouble.

I slammed my fists against the dining table we now circled. “What do we know about these creatures?” I asked, terrified by the thought that it was one of these “original vampires,” these “Elders”, who was holding my pregnant daughter captive.

Vivienne shook her head. “None of us have ever been in the presence of the Elder. We were never sure if the Elder was even real, but in hindsight, maybe the Elder had something to do with Derek turning over to the dark side.” I could tell by the expression in her eyes that whatever version of Derek had existed at that time, she hadn’t liked it.

“That was Derek at his worst, his darkest,” Xavier explained. “We were loyal to him. We loved him. He was our leader. But we all feared him.”

I didn’t need to know exactly what he’d done to get a picture of just what sacrifices were made to secure The Shade. I knew my history as a hunter and I knew the thousands of lives that were claimed before The Shade disappeared from the maps. Many companies of hunters—brave warriors—had been lost at the island.

The man my daughter had married was notorious for a reason. That was never a secret to me.

“He never said anything about the Elder? Ever? There must be something—anything—that we know about this creature. Even just tall tales and rumors.”

Vivienne shrugged. “As I said, none of us were even sure that the Elder existed until recently, when he started manifesting himself.”

“I’ve encountered him,” Claudia spoke up. “Once. A long time ago.”

All eyes turned toward the blonde vampire.

Claudia shifted uncomfortably on her feet, almost as if she were afraid we would hurt her.

“You’ve seen the Elder?” Yuri asked. Clearly, even he had never heard of this before.

Claudia shook her head. “No. I don’t think anyone ever has. Not even his children. He is a presence sensed. He is absolute coldness seeping into your bones, freezing you. He is pain. He is fear. I…”

Her eyes were wide with horror. I could only imagine what was going through her mind.

Vivienne was getting impatient. “How did you come to have an encounter with him? Why would you even want to go to him?”

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