A Gate of Night / Page 25

Page 25


“I had to help. They’re family.”

“I’m sorry this has to happen, Corrine. I should’ve done this to Cora when I had the chance.” The woman breathed in some air and began to mutter inaudibly.

I saw horror in Corrine’s eyes. “No. Please. Please…”

I was expecting something to happen. Wind. Fire. Anything to match or even exceed the display of power shown by my brother only moments ago. Nothing.

“I’ll send Ibrahim to watch over you. When he deems that you can be trusted, then you’ll have what I say you have the right to have. If you want to be a witch again, you have to earn it, Corrine.”

Corrine swallowed hard, tears running down her face as she steeled herself against what the strange woman was saying. Just like that, the woman disappeared, replaced by a handsome-looking man with a black goatee.

“I’m sorry it had to be this way, Corrine,” he said.

“What is going on?” I spat out. “Who was that, Corrine? What did she do to you? And who is this?”

“That was the Ageless, leader of the witches. This is Ibrahim.” Corrine trembled as she revealed to me the price she’d had to pay in order to help us. “The Ageless just took away my powers.”

“And she’s going to have to spend her whole life atoning for her choice. I hope it was worth it, Corrine.”

Corrine stared at Derek’s unconscious form. She grinned. My heart leapt when she said with conviction, “Trust me, Ibrahim, if this helps save Sofia, if it helps save the Novaks, then yes… it was worth it.”

Chapter 36: Aiden

When I woke up to find Derek Novak lying on the cot across from mine, barely breathing, I almost lost it. I wasn’t a stranger to loss and grief, having been surrounded by violence and warfare all my life, but something about seeing my son-in-law, proud and powerful, looking as weak as he did just rubbed me the wrong way.

I sat up over the edge of my bed and scoped the room. No one was there aside from us. What happened?

We were no longer at The Shade. That was for certain. We were in a closed, windowless room. I had a feeling we were on some sort of vehicle. The submarines. We’re moving.

The door swung open and Vivienne appeared. She seemed surprised to see me awake.

“What happened?” I asked. “Are we in one of the subs?”

She nodded slowly, eyeing her brother with concern. She motioned for me to follow her. I obliged, overcome by curiosity, not only at what had occurred during my sleep but also at what their submarines looked like. The last time I’d been in one, I was unconscious.

Vivienne led me to a small living area where Claudia sat on one of the lounge chairs, her eyes fixed on vacant space. Zinnia and Craig were also there, along with Gavin. All had loss written all over their faces.

Vivienne sat on a wooden chair and motioned for me to take the seat across from hers. She began to recount what had just happened, from the Elders’ attack at The Shade up to Derek’s arrival and eventually what had happened to Corrine, and how we now had another witch amongst us—one we weren’t certain we could trust.

I found it difficult to swallow everything that she was telling me. “So where is this Ibrahim person now?”

“He’s with Corrine.” Vivienne’s eyes were unfocussed, her brain likely recalling the eventful afternoon. “You should’ve been there. Derek… these powers he has… I think he’s even more powerful now than he ever was as a vampire.”

“That’s good, is it not? That means we have a better chance of rescuing my daughter.”

“I’m not sure, Aiden. All of these… I don’t understand. I just have a bad feeling about all this. Especially Sofia. We’ve just discovered that Derek can kill Elders. That makes him the largest threat to their kind. Do you really think they’re not going to use Sofia against him?”

A sick feeling settled at the pit of my stomach. Derek Novak had just became the hunters’ most valuable weapon. I wondered whether Arron even knew about this. Where is he anyway? I was sickened to think that I had given so much of my life serving the cause of this coward, someone I used to fear and respect. All the years I lost running after the hunters’ cause… years I could’ve spent with my daughter.

“We need to save my daughter and her child, Vivienne. We just have to.”

Vivienne’s face twitched. I could tell there was something she wasn’t telling me.

“What is it?”

“That’s the thing. Right now, we’re headed toward hunters’ headquarters. Derek doesn’t know. Soon after what he did at the Catacombs, he lost consciousness. With him out, we thought of bringing him to Sofia’s quarters at the caves, but the Elders returned. We were barely able to escape. They have The Shade now and everyone we left behind.”

“Who’s with us now?”

“We have Cameron, Claudia, Gavin, Zinnia, Craig and Landis.”

“That’s it?”

“The humans who were left behind were either bled dry or turned into vampires. The vampires, on the other hand, I think they’re all vessels now. Xavier, Ashley, Yuri and Liana… they’re all vessels now.” Her voice broke, pain etched in her eyes.

I recoiled at the recollection of what the Elders had made Ashley do to the man she loved. “We’re dealing with monsters, Vivienne, but if we’re headed for hunters’ headquarters, I’m not sure we’re going to deal with creatures who are any better.”

I was expecting a question from the princess, but all she did was nod. “I know, but do we really have any other choice? Derek is set on attacking The Blood Keep to find Sofia. We can’t do that without the help of the hunters.”

“They won’t help us without anything in exchange. You realize that they may demand Derek’s loyalty.”

“You know my brother, Aiden. He’s never bowed to anyone before—not even the Elder. He’s ruler of The Shade for a reason. He won’t just pledge loyalty to the hunters.”

“Even for Sofia?”

Vivienne hesitated. “What else are we going to do?”

She was clearly fighting back the tears. I saw the exhaustion behind her distant blue-violet gaze. Vivienne Novak was one of the most resilient women I’d ever met, but it was clear that she was nearing her breaking point.

“Have a rest, Vivienne. It looks like you need it.”

“I’m going to check on my brother.” She gave me a curt nod and made her way out of the living area.

Zinnia and Craig were quick to approach me the moment she left. My eyes zoned in on the blue star on Craig’s temple. Something about it seemed innocent and playful—attributes that had become increasingly lost in our world.

“I never thought I would see the day when vampires would run to our headquarters for help,” Craig said quietly.

“Do you think Arron would even allow them to set foot in headquarters?” Zinnia mused.

“The only vampires here are Vivienne, Claudia, and Cameron—all three desperate to fight against the Elders in order to have their loved ones restored to their arms. They’re hardly our enemies. Arron would be a fool not to work with them.”

“Especially Derek Novak.”

I didn’t miss the hint of admiration in how Craig said the king of The Shade’s name. “Are you actually beginning to side with the Novaks, Craig?”

His eyes widened. “Of course not.” His denial came too quick. “Never. Still, being at The Shade, seeing how crazy things are for the vampires…”

“You’re not flaking on us, are you?” That was typical Zinnia, defensive of the hunters and whatever cause they were still fighting for, but even when she said it, there was a loss of edge to her loyalty and determination.

I could see it in the once ruthless hunters’ eyes. They were realizing that in the world we were moving in, nothing was black or white. The lines were getting blurry and it was difficult to tell which side we ought to stand on.

I, however, didn’t share their uncertainty. I had one goal in mind, and that was to get my daughter back.

Saving her was not going to be easy. I didn’t care. I would willingly give my life to secure my daughter’s future. If I had to sell my soul to the hunters to make that happen, I would do it.

When we arrived at hunters’ headquarters, I watched without saying a word as they cuffed the vampires with more force than was necessary, considering how none of the three were putting up a fight. I remained calm as one of my most trusted hunters, Julian, who was now apparently leading the hawks since my absence, faced me.

“I never thought I’d see you back here again, Reuben.”

“The name is Aiden. Aiden Claremont.”

“So I heard. I see you’ve brought us vampires. Influential ones at that.” His eyes focused on Vivienne and Claudia, his gaze lingering on the blonde more than the brunette. “Two of whom were once guests here already. What are they exactly, Aiden? Peace offerings?”

“No. They’re my friends and they will be treated as such, so I would appreciate it if you would unhand them at once.”

“And why on earth would we do that, Aiden? You’re no longer one of us. As far as we’re all concerned, you should be in cuffs too.” He eyed Zinnia and Craig who were both standing behind me. “Have you two betrayed the hunters too?”

I was expecting both hunters to adamantly deny the accusation. Instead, they just stood by me.

“None of us mean any harm toward the hunters—especially these two. They are hunters by heart and will always be hunters.”

“And you, Aiden? Are you no longer a hunter?”

“I’m a father whose daughter is about to give birth inside a sadistic evil creature’s castle. I want her out of there and you’re going to help us do it.”

“Help you? For what reason?”

“For one, how about the fact that apart from me, Zinnia and Craig, every hunter you sent to The Shade was either killed or turned into vampires by these Elders? Isn’t the lifeblood of this organization the desire for revenge? Why not redirect that revenge toward the original vampires—these Elders—and not just their mutations, the vampires we’ve always known and hunted?”

From the way Julian tensed, I could tell that we were getting to him.

“The Elders have taken over The Shade and that is something that none of us want. So, we’re here to offer up an agreement with Arron.”

“Arron? There’s no way we can get in touch with Arron.”

“Don’t play me for a fool, Julian.” I chuckled. “I know this organization far better than you ever will. I know how important the Novaks are to him. I know that he would want to be a part of this. Release Vivienne, Cameron and Claudia. Give us accommodations as guests of the hunters. Two witches—Corrine and Ibrahim—are also present, along with Derek Novak. I’m sure if you tell Arron all these things, he would be more than willing to discuss terms with us. Consider this a diplomatic visit.”

“A diplomatic visit from whom, Aiden? The vampires? There is no diplomacy between hunters and vampires.”

“No. This is a diplomatic visit from The Shade, from people who are loyal to loved ones, and no one else. We are rogues and if you play your cards well, you just might get us on your side. Don’t tell me that Arron or the seniors of this organization don’t want that.”

Much to the chagrin and audible objections of the hunters present there, Julian snapped his fingers and motioned for the release of the captured vampires.

By the end of the day, Vivienne, Derek and I had a meeting with Arron, set the next day.

Before the meeting, I geared myself up for what would be asked of me. I was willing to pay any price to get my daughter back. I just had to trust that Derek and Vivienne—our family—were willing to do the same.

Chapter 37: Derek

When Vivienne stepped into the bedroom provided for me at hunters headquarters, I was in the middle of a workout, having already done more push-ups than I cared to count. Sweaty and not having yet taken a shower, I was the farthest thing from presentable, but as I stood to face my sister, she stared at me like I was the most magnificent thing she’d ever laid eyes on.

“What?” I asked when her stares were beginning to make me uncomfortable.

Her mouth opened but all she did was inhale. Tears began to brim her eyes.

“Vivienne, what is it?” Despite the fact that I was sweaty, I approached her and pulled her into my arms. “What’s going on?”

“You’re human,” came her hoarse whisper. “Derek, you’re human.”

“Um, yes. We found a cure, remember? I was already human when I left The Shade with Sofia.” Even as I said my wife’s name, pain gripped my heart. I couldn’t bear the idea that she wasn’t with me. It had been months since I was taken from The Shade. Does she think that I abandoned her? She wouldn’t think that, would she? She knows me better than that.

Vivienne had a knack of reading my mind, so I wasn’t too surprised when she said, “I’m sure she understands, Derek. Sofia knows you more than any of us do. She saw goodness in you when the rest of us saw only darkness.”

I remembered Sofia’s kisses while we were in the darkness of that dungeon. “Vivienne, she’s pregnant. Sofia’s pregnant.”

“I know.” Vivienne nodded as she pulled away from me. She squeezed my arm. “We’re going to get her back, Derek. Her and your child. Everything’s going to be all right.”

From the moment I’d woken up, I’d been consumed by the desperation to have my wife back in my arms. I was married to the love of my life. I was supposed to wake up in the morning and find her in my arms, beautiful and radiant like she always was, but lately the only memory I had of her was the dream I always had—blood dripping from her mouth, poised to kill. The image haunted me. I found myself spilling out the words to my sister, grateful for a confidante.

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