A Gate of Night / Page 4

Page 4


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I swallowed hard and looked around the room.


“Derek? What’s wrong?” Sofia asked from beneath me.


“We have to get out of here.”


“What? Why?”


A shadow moved from the terrace. Vampires. I motioned for Sofia to look towards the veranda. “That’s why,” I whispered.


Her eyes widened. “Who could possibly…”


“I don’t know, but we don’t want to stay to find out.” I got off her and quickly replaced my clothes, my eyes set on the terrace. Now there were two figures. “Sofia, hurry.”


She was already moving as quickly as she could, but the glass doors that led to the terrace slid open. My heart dropped when I saw who our intruders were. Kiev and Clara. The Elder’s children.


My stomach turned. Never before had I ever felt as incapable of defending Sofia as I did at that moment. When Kiev’s red eyes settled on Sofia—her hair a mess and her clothes still disheveled—I wanted to rip his throat out. I pulled her closer to me, stepping forward to block her from his view.


Kiev only scoffed as he eyed me from head to foot. We both knew how powerless I was against him.


I was so focused on Kiev I barely noticed Clara until she was standing right beside me, tracing a claw over my arm.


“I love the tan, Novak,” she drawled before pushing the point of her claw into my skin. I winced when blood trickled down my arm. She smirked when the wound didn’t heal. “I wonder what Emilia would think if you hadn’t killed her. She became a vampire because you were a vampire. Now, you’re nothing but an ordinary man.”


“Yes, which is why I’m wondering what you could possibly want from me.”


“Who says anything about wanting you?”


Kiev’s stare fixed on Sofia. “We’re here for her. We’re here for the immune herself.”


Sofia shivered and her grip tightened over my biceps.


“You’re not touching her.” I shook my head. “You’d have to kill me first.”


Kiev and Clara exchanged glances before chuckling.


This time, Kiev pried his eyes away from Sofia and stared straight at me. “Oh, trust us, Novak,” he said in a slurred accent, amusement glimmering in his red eyes, “after what you did to our sister”—his claws came out with a glimmer against the moonlight from outside our hotel room—“killing you would be both our honor and our pleasure.”


Chapter 7: Aiden


A full orchestra played a Bach classic through my earphones as I hit the punching bag in front of me over and over and over again. I wanted to see it in pieces. I wanted to tear that bag apart.


I want it ruined… just like my marriage.


I’d loved Camilla with all my heart and I couldn’t understand why she would choose to be a creature of the dark—how she could choose it over our daughter, over me.


I refused to break down. From the moment I’d found out what she’d really done to me and our daughter, I’d determined that this wasn’t going to destroy me.


Camilla was just another thing that the vampires had taken away from me and they were going to pay. The vampires were going to pay dearly for ruining my life… mine and my daughter’s.


Burning midnight oil at hunter headquarters, I spent all my energy and anger at the atrium, where the hunters held combat training. Every ounce of my strength was being expended to muscle out the rage I felt inside. I had an endless supply of it and all I had to do was think of my little Sofia. Every time, the rage would shoot up to an all-new high and I would begin hitting that bag with all the might I could muster as I contemplated questions I had no idea how to answer.


How am I going to tell Sofia about this? How am I going to tell her that her mother left us in order to become a vampire? How am I even going to raise her? How on earth could I ever be the father that she deserves? How could Camilla do this to us? Does she not realize how much we need her? How could Camilla stand losing her own daughter?


Memories of how sick Sofia had been came back to haunt me. I’d thought I was going to lose her. Ever since Camilla had left, Sofia’s life had been placed on the edge by some sort of disease that doctors could not even diagnose. She’d been in and out of a high fever for days. I’d been in way over my head, going crazy over how to take care of her. I was supposed to protect her and keep her safe and in the span of those days, I realized that I had absolutely no control of her fate. If anything ever happened to Sofia, I wouldn’t be able to forgive myself, but there would be times when all I could do was stand and watch and hope that she would make it.


I hated that. I wanted to always be in control and yet it was so clear to me that my life—much more the lives of those I loved—was never meant to be manageable.


I jabbed at the punching bag before letting out a frustrated scream. Tears and sweat made a mess out of my face, but I held the sobs in. Camilla never could’ve known how much she’d hurt me by leaving. I doubted she even cared.


What am I going to do with Sofia now? How on earth am I going to be a father to her when all I know in life is to play the part of Aiden Claremont, the millionaire, and Reuben the Head Hunter?


“Reuben,” a deep familiar voice called me by my hunter name. “What are you still doing here?”


I spun around and found Arron studying me. Arron was a senior of the Order of the Hawk, which controlled all hunter activities. He was one of the most influential figures among the hunters and one to avoid crossing.


I nodded toward him. “Arron. I had no idea you were here. I was just…”


“Blowing off some steam?”


I nodded, trying to maintain composure. Of all the seniors I’d met, Arron intimidated me the most, and I couldn’t even figure out why. There wasn’t anything striking about him. He was known for being ruthless against vampires, but among the hunters, who wasn’t? I raised my eyes to his, wanting to place what it was about him that silenced even the most fearless of hunters.


“I heard what happened to your wife and your daughter.”


My fists clenched, the leather of the boxing gloves squeaking. I swallowed hard, refusing to break down in front of one of our strongest leaders.


Arron began circling me, his hands tucked behind his back. “Tell me, Reuben, how do you plan to raise a nine-year-old child? You kept your family life so well hidden all these years. How you sheltered your wife and your daughter amazes me, but now that the vampire world is aware of Sofia, do you really believe you can keep this up?”


I was in no mood to discuss Camilla or Sofia. “What are you saying? Kindly get to the point.”


“Just like your father. No time for nonsense, ruthless in battle, loyal to the cause of the hawk. You impress me time and time again, Reuben, but I digress. What I’m saying is that you have a decision to make. This is the forked road. You are either going to introduce little Sofia to our world or you are going to push her away from your life in order to spare her all this.”


“Push her away?”


“Do you honestly believe that she could live a normal life? If so, then you are a fool.”


“It can happen. She will only know Aiden Claremont. She will never have to know Reuben.”


“She is a walking target as long as she’s connected to you.”


“She just lost her mother. I can’t cut her out of my life. I just…”


“Then make a hunter out of her. I’ve known you since you were a child. Your father was a good friend of mine. You were meant to be a hunter, Reuben, but you know what the life of a hunter is like. Look ahead of you and you will find nothing but bloodshed and violence. Thus was the life of your father and thus will your life be also. Should you decide to keep Sofia close to you, then you had better prepare her for this life.”


“And if I don’t want her to be a hunter?”


“Then stay as far away from her as possible.”


“Just like that? How can a father do that to his own child? How can I live with myself knowing that I abandoned my own daughter?”


“How can you live with yourself knowing that you put her life in danger?”


With that, Arron left me to muse over his words. No words of comfort, no hint of empathy—just an expressionless face the entire time.


Right then, I understood what was so chilling about Arron’s presence. He was a man without a family who saw nothing but the bottom line. He looked at people and saw them for what use they could be to our cause. If one was no longer of use, then he was no longer of worth. That was what made him so terrifying. Unlike the rest of us, Arron acted like a man with nothing to lose and everything to gain.


The hunters’ occupation of The Shade was a dream come true for anyone with a deep-seated hatred for vampires and I was keenly aware of it. I could practically feel the hatred oozing out past their veneer of calm confidence. It was a matter of time before things turned out for the worst. I would be a fool to think that they wouldn’t capitalize on the power they had over the vampires of The Shade.


Soon after our first council meeting at Vivienne’s penthouse, the hunters had taken over the Residences. They wanted the vampires to retaliate. They wanted a valid reason to harm the vampires of The Shade. They were just waiting, prodding, allowing the tension to increase.


I walked past a group of hunters as I made my way along the cobblestone pathways of what was left of the Vale.


“So this is The Shade.” Zinnia, a young hunter whom I’d mentored, began walking in stride with me. “This is what you left our cause for.”


“You know why I left our cause, Zinnia. I did it for Sofia and Sofia alone.”


“So you admit it.” She tucked a loose strand of her blue-streaked, shoulder-length hair behind her ear. “You have left our cause.”


I chuckled as I waved at one of the humans from the Catacombs manning one of the stalls at the Vale’s main market, or at least what was left of it. They were making a valiant, but rather shoddy, attempt to rebuild what we’d lost at The Shade after the Elder’s devastating attack. “A cure has been found, Zinnia. You and I know that changes everything. Perhaps you should be asking yourself what exactly your cause is.”


“Revenge. Hasn’t that always been a hunter’s cause? We can talk about the big picture all we want, but the only reason any of us ever became hunters was because vampires took something—someone—from us. And we want them to pay.”


“So what are you proposing now? What do you intend to do? Spend your whole life chasing after vampires—none of whom are personally responsible for your loss? And what happens when these vampires turn back to humans? What then?”


Zinnia shifted her weight. I was getting to her and I knew it. I couldn’t blame her. After years of devoting oneself to a cause, it was difficult to have what you were fighting for seem meaningless.


“What happened to you? You were the infamous Reuben. Ruthless… merciless… devoted to our cause.”


“Again with this cause. Revenge is not a cause, Zinnia. It’s a controlling obsession. It accomplishes nothing.”


“That’s not what you taught me.”


“It’s the truth nonetheless. Most of what I taught you was born out of hatred. I found a better way, a higher cause.”


“Go ahead. Preach it.” Teeth gritted, Zinnia glared at one of the vampires nearby. “How can you stand them?”


“Sometimes I can’t, but I remember that my daughter risked her life too many times to make a home out of this island, so I convince myself not to compromise everything she worked for.”


Zinnia was about to say something, but was silenced by the sight of Vivienne and Xavier making their way to us. Worry was traced in the countenance of the beautiful vampire.


I took a step forward, ignoring the way Zinnia was seething over the idea that they’d found the largest, most influential vampire coven in history, and there was nothing she could do to ruin it.


“Vivienne?”


“Natalie just arrived at the Port. She’s badly wounded.” Vivienne’s gaze lingered on me before she shuffled her feet nervously, glancing at Zinnia.


“I thought the hunters shut down the Port.”


“For a catch like Natalie Borgia, do you really think they wouldn’t re-open it?” Vivienne narrowed her eyes at Zinnia.


“They’ve taken her to Corrine’s,” Xavier added. He paid little heed to the spunky hunter beside me.


Zinnia raised a brow, never one to enjoy being ignored. “Take us to the witch’s temple then. Hurry, vampire. We wouldn’t want to miss what your messenger has to say, would we?”


Xavier’s steely eyes shifted from Vivienne to Zinnia. His fists clenched tightly.


Though Vivienne didn’t quite have Derek’s authoritative temperament, she still had fire in her. She was still princess of The Shade and in her eyes, Zinnia was a brat threatening her home and everyone she loved. Her face hardened.


I could tell that Xavier was just waiting for one word from the princess. Should it come to that, I had no idea whose side I was going to take. Despite our current differences, Zinnia and I had history. She was like a daughter to me.


Xavier took a step toward Zinnia.


I wasn’t a huge fan of the teenager at that moment, but I didn’t want to see her mangled either. She was one of our most well-trained but she stood no chance against vampires as powerful as Xavier or Vivienne. The hunters’ strength was always in the element of surprise, strategy and cunning. She had none of those at the moment. I gave her a quick glance and saw nothing but defiance. Did I train you to be this way? A complete fool?


To my relief, however, Vivienne’s shoulders sagged and she heaved out a long sigh—probably to reel her temper in. “Take her to the Sanctuary, Xavier. Aiden and I will soon follow.”


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