A Gate of Night / Page 21

Page 21


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Still, I feared for her. The dreams hadn’t stopped, the dark premonitions of our possible future—a future I was determined not to allow to happen.


Lost in my own turmoil, I barely paid attention to the young man staring at me, awaiting my orders.


“Derek.” Corrine spoke up. “What do you want us to do?”


I rose to my feet and began pacing, thinking everything through. My primary goal was to find a way to attack The Blood Keep and save Sofia. I had to believe that she was alive, that she was waiting for me. To do that, I needed my people—a people the Elders were destroying.


“We’ll have to go back to the Catacombs. We have to save as many of them as we can.”


“That’s suicide.” Gavin said.


I could sense his hesitation. I couldn’t blame him. They knew that without Sofia, I was a volatile force that no one could control. We’d gone a long way in terms of building a trust and a friendship, but I was still Derek Novak, the ruthless leader who’d built The Shade, and considering how I was oozing tension at that moment, he was probably expecting my temper to erupt any time. I had to maintain control, or I would lose whatever trust these men still had in me.


The two hunters stepped out of the room. I eyed both of them—Zinnia and Craig. I recognized them from the time I had to spend at the hunters’ headquarters. I was fond of neither of them.


“He’s awake,” Zinnia announced, not bothering to hide her disdain for me. “He asked to see you.”


I made my way to the cell. The last time I saw Aiden, he’d been walking Sofia down the aisle. Guilt came over me. He trusted me with his daughter, and now she’s…


“How are you doing?” I asked half-heartedly.


“You need to get my daughter out of The Blood Keep.” Aiden’s voice was low, cold, almost accusing.


“My thoughts exactly.”


“No, you don’t understand. You don’t have much time. You need to get her out of there. Now.”


“Not much time? What are you talking about?”


“She’s going to give birth soon, and the Elder… he’s after the child. You can’t just…” He paused when he saw the shock in my eyes. “You didn’t know?”


Suddenly, all of it made sense. The witches had kept on saying that I had time, that there was no rush. They figured that the Elder wouldn’t kill Sofia—not until she gave birth. The news began to sink in and the fire began to build up. If I didn’t get out of there, I would burst into flames and end up murdering Aiden and the rest of the men.


Not sure if I still had my speed, I leapt up and started running. Within a few seconds, I was in the wide open field that separated the Port from the thick dark forest of The Shade.


I didn’t have the time to process how I got there so quickly, because within a few breaths, flames shot out of my palms as I screamed in agony over all the worry, all the pain that I felt over my Sofia’s predicament. That she was carrying my child, that I could even have a child, was supposed to bring me the greatest joy. Instead, at that moment, all I felt was guilt that I wasn’t there for her, that Sofia was going through her first pregnancy without me. Tears spilled from my eyes.


A forest fire was now well on its way. I had no idea how to quench it, so I was relieved when Corrine appeared, whispering words to conjure a mighty wind to battle the flames.


When the fire was gone, she approached me.


“Did you know about her pregnancy?”


“I…”


“Corrine, did you know?”


Corrine nodded.


“And you allowed her to go through it on her own? I thought you were her friend!”


“There was nothing I could do about it, Derek. The Ageless wouldn’t allow me to intervene. Not in this case.”


“The Ageless can appear at The Blood Keep and whisk my wife to safety anytime she pleases and yet she chooses to remain perched in your Sanctuary, looking down as the rest of us in the other realms suffer. She sits there high and lofty as Sofia suffers! How can that not matter to you, Corrine? What’s the point of all that power if she doesn’t use it?”


“We’re only allowed to intervene to maintain the balance. The Ageless saw fit to keep you alive in order to do that. You would’ve been killed if she hadn’t taken you to The Sanctuary. She has done her part.”


“I can’t believe you’re defending her.”


“We have our parts to play in the grand scheme of things, Derek. The Ageless cannot, under any circumstance, abuse the power she has been given to…”


“Stop. Just stop, Corrine. My wife is held captive by a sadistic monster who won’t hesitate to bend and break her any way he can. She is more fragile than she ever was before, now that she’s with child, and I come home to this! How am I going to help her, Corrine? I can’t even get a grip on these powers that your ancestor bestowed upon me!”


That was it. I’d reached my breaking point. I was at the end of my rope. I had no idea what to do and I couldn’t help but blame the witches for not helping.


“The way I see it, Derek, the battle has always been between the vampires and the Guardians. We exist to maintain the balance between the two. You humans… you’re simply caught in the middle. Here at The Shade, the vampires are starting to get the upper hand. If you want an ally, you have to go to the Guardians.”


“How on earth do I do that?”


“You go to the hunters.”


What she was implying sank in slowly—a revelation. The war between our realm’s vampires and the hunters was only a miniscule version of the greater war that was going on in realms that weren’t our own.


I knew then what I had to do. I was about to return to the Port to let them know that we were headed for hunters’ headquarters when Cameron staggered into the field, bleeding, barely able to breathe.


“Cameron,” I gasped.


“You need to stop it, Derek. I was barely able to escape. They’re turning all the humans into vampires. They’re going to kill everyone who was loyal to you. I…” He broke into a sob. “Liana…”


Cameron, one of the strongest and toughest men I’d ever had the pleasure of meeting, crumbled right before me.


I looked back through all the years that I’d fought and bled with Cameron. I couldn’t remember a time when the Scottish warrior had been as distraught. I wasn’t even certain if I’d ever seen him cry before.


A million thoughts whirled through my mind—questions, fears, apprehensions, doubts. All I could do was stand there and clench my fists, desperately trying to rein in the heat building up inside of me. I had half a mind to just run into the forest and burn everything down. I fought to maintain control, focusing all my concentration on keeping all those emotions and questions locked in.


It’s not like Cameron can answer them anyway. Before Sofia came into my life, I couldn’t have cared less that my friend was in pain. I would’ve pried all the information I could get from him—with force if necessary. This time, I couldn’t dishonor the legacy Sofia had left in my life, because if I did, I wouldn’t be able to face her again.


Corrine wasn’t as sympathetic. “What happened? What’s going on at the Catacombs? How were you able to get away? What did they do to you?”


Cameron’s already pale complexion grew several shades lighter. He was white as a sheet, and his eyes grew distant as tears continued to stream down his face. “We’re nothing to them. Just toys they can play with. Creatures they can embody. Vessels.”


Vessels. I had no idea what Cameron was implying, but the moment it came out of his lips, fear carved itself into my bones.


Corrine didn’t seem as moved. She was more focused on Cameron’s wounds, her brows furrowed as she examined him. “What do you mean by vessels? How were you able to escape?”


“I didn’t escape. Liana did this to me.”


My breath hitched. How is that possible?


“One of the Elders used her as a vessel. Then they forced me to fight her. I couldn’t do it. No matter how Liana hit me, fought me, I didn’t have the heart to strike her. I knew that it was the Elder, but…” Cameron broke down.


I understood. There was no way he was ever going to hurt the love of his life. Centuries of marriage had made Cameron and Liana one of the most loyal and loving couples I’d ever met. I’d stood witness to many of their fights and fallouts, but there was never a question that they were going to stick together.


“How then were you able to escape?”


“One more blow, and she would’ve ended me. She would’ve killed me. She raised her hands and when she did, I saw a tear run down her cheek. My Liana was still there, conscious even as that monster took over her body. She was about to deal the final blow, but they stopped her.”


Corrine pushed at his rib and he groaned in pain. “They used some sort of spell on you to suppress your healing abilities.”


I stared at Corrine, wondering if she was even the same person who’d once convinced me to treat Sofia as an equal and not as a slave. Would she act this way if Sofia were here?


“Why? Why wouldn’t they just let her kill you?” The words had already slipped out of my mouth before I realized how insensitive they were.


Cameron seemed unfazed by it. His eyes were still distant—somewhere far, somewhere painful. “They let me go to find you. They know you’re here, Derek.”


“Then why aren’t they coming for me?”


“They want you to surrender. They sent me as a messenger. They want you to willingly give yourself up to become one of their vessels.”


“Why on earth would I ever agree to…” Blue-violet eyes flashed into my consciousness. My heart stopped. “Vivienne,” I muttered. “They’re going to use her against me, aren’t they?”


“One of the Elders has made a vessel out of Xavier. If you don’t surrender yourself, they’re going to make Vivienne fight him to the death. Tonight.”


The heat shot out of my palms before I could control it. To my relief, the flames didn’t go toward Cameron, or it would’ve been the end of him. It felt like an eternity before I could reel the fire back in and gain back my self-control. By the time I was able to stop the fire, I had collapsed on the ground, while Corrine conjured a couple of spells in order to keep the fire from burning down The Shade.


I stared up at the witch who had kept The Shade protected with her spells and found myself both angered and curious at what exactly she was capable of. Whose side is this woman on? I’d once thought that she was on our side, especially seeing her fondness for Sofia and the way she’d gained the respect and loyalty of the Naturals, earning herself a prestigious position of honor at the Catacombs. This time, however, after having met her superiors, I wondered what game she was playing.


Before I could keep myself from doing it, I stood to my feet and grabbed her by the wrists. My palms still sweltering with heat, she screamed in pain as my touch seared her skin.


Defiant brown eyes looked at me and I could’ve sworn then that she was going to come up with a spell to destroy me. Instead, Corrine tried to tolerate the pain as she stared directly into my eyes. Through gritted teeth, she muttered, “What do you want?”


“How powerful are you, witch?”


Her lips were sealed tight, but a thought came to me—as if she had communicated with me telepathically. More than you can ever imagine.


“You’re going to help us,” I demanded.


“Why would I do that?”


“Because you are Cora’s descendant, and no matter what the Ageless or the witches of The Sanctuary stand for, you are loyal to your ancestor. You can’t deny that.”


“An ancestor you killed.”


“You know why it had to happen. Don’t tell me you wouldn’t have killed her yourself had you been given the chance. Emilia was just a shell. Cora would’ve wanted her dead. For all we know, Emilia might have also been just a vessel.”


Moistened eyes stared back at me. Corrine tightened her jaw, as if she were trying to fight me.


“Don’t pretend that you don’t care about us or The Shade. You might have been brought here under circumstances you aren’t entirely pleased with, but you can’t look me in the eye and tell me that you hold no affection for this island. Don’t tell me that Sofia—or the fact that she’s bearing my child while in the grasp of a sadistic monster—doesn’t mean anything to you.”


“I care about Sofia and you know it.” Even as the witch said those words, affection flashed in the otherwise stoic expression at the mention of my wife’s name.


My heart warmed at that gesture. Sofia had a way of doing that to people, getting them to care. “Then why aren’t you doing something to help us? Do you really think Sofia would still see you the way she did if you don’t help us? Is she not this place’s queen? You know she loves the people being tormented by these Elders.”


Corrine’s shoulders sagged in resignation. “What do you want me to do?”


“First, answer my question.” I shrugged a shoulder. “Exactly how powerful are you?”


Chapter 31: Sofia


Walking was getting harder as my belly grew. I was beginning to have my doubts about our escape plan. As we walked along the gardens so I could get a breath of fresh air, I hooked my arm over Eli’s and expressed my apprehensions.


“Is this going to work, Eli? Can Shadow even carry us?”


“He won’t have to carry me. I’ll still have my speed. Granted, it won’t last long, but I think I can make it. The Elder’s people won’t be able to come after us, not in sunlight.”


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