A Gate of Night / Page 9

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Vivienne grimaced. “Silence this little fool before I rip her throat out and bleed her dry.”


“Let’s not get feisty,” Arron drawled. “Zinnia is not privy to a lot of our organization’s inner workings. The reasons are way above your pay grade, Zinnia, but right now, it is the hawks’ priority to get Derek and Sofia as far away from the Elder as possible.”


“How do you propose to do that, hunter?” Vivienne tilted her head to the side. “Do you know where The Blood Keep is?”


Corrine, who’d been silent the whole time, placed her cup on a wooden table. The thud diverted our attention to her.


“What’s on your mind, Corrine? What do you think of all this?”


“Well, princess, I do have a way of finding out where The Blood Keep is.” She eyed Arron from head to foot. “I don’t trust him, but it seems to be the only recourse you have. At least, for once, you hunters and vampires actually agree.”


I turned toward Natalie. “What did the Elder say about how we’re to negotiate with them?”


“All I know is that they want the portal opened in exchange for Derek.”


Xavier shook his head. “Vivienne, you can’t seriously be considering not accepting the trade. Our number one priority is to make sure Derek is safe. Our loyalty is to him. The trade is the easiest way to ensure that he won’t be harmed.”


“Of course you’d be willing to have the portal opened,” Zinnia muttered. “Why wouldn’t you want more vampires coming in to help you?”


Both Vivienne and Xavier glared at her, but both decided to ignore her.


“I don’t think we have a choice, Xavier.”


“The Blood Keep is the Elder’s territory. He is most powerful there. You know what the Elder did to your father, Vivienne. Do you really think we stand a chance against him?”


A muscle on the princess’ jaw twitched at the recollection of the horrible way Gregor Novak had been killed. “I don’t know, but we have to try, Xavier.”


“It’s done then. The hunters and the vampires will work together to rescue Derek and Sofia Novak from The Blood Keep with a witch’s help.” Arron seemed pleased with the results of our discussion. “Seems like we’re creating history right here, folks.”


I stared at him, wondering what his motives were. What’s so valuable about Derek and Sofia? Even though Sofia’s an immune, she’s still mortal. What do they have that the hunters need? “What’s in this for you, Arron? What’s so important about Derek and Sofia that you want them away from the Elder?”


“I think we’ve all established how powerful a duo your daughter and her husband are, Aiden. Why wouldn’t I want them away from the Elder? Besides, I would give anything for a chance to find The Blood Keep and destroy it.”


I couldn’t deny the allure of destroying a place like The Blood Keep to a hunter—especially someone as high up in the organization like Arron.


Before anything else could be asked, Sam and Ashley, two of Sofia’s most trusted allies at The Shade, appeared in the doorway.


Sam’s eyes searched for Vivienne’s, while Ashley’s searched for mine. Both spoke in unison. “We’ve got trouble.”


“Yuri just attacked one of the hunters. It’s chaos out there,” Sam explained.


“He was trying to protect Claudia. Some of the hunters were apparently coming on to her,” Ashley added in defense of the vampire.


I stifled a bitter chuckle when I saw Vivienne’s and Arron’s faces. What a great way to kickstart this experiment of getting hunters and vampires to work together. Yuri Lazaroff, one of the most level-headed vampires I know, lost his cool and attacked a hunter. We’re creating history indeed.


Chapter 14: Vivienne


We arrived in what used to be the town plaza in the Vale to find a stand-off between the hunters and the vampires. Several of the vampires held hunters hostage while the other hunters had UV guns or wooden stakes pointed at the vampires. Several of The Shade’s human citizens were standing in the middle of both sides, attempting to ward off a full-on fight. Gavin, Ian and Rosa—three of Sofia’s most trusted among The Shade’s humans—immediately caught my eye.


I walked right to them, Xavier, Aiden, Sam and Ashley following behind me. The way several stakes and guns pointed toward us as we walked by didn’t escape my attention.


“What is going on here?” I demanded in as authoritative a tone I could manage. “Who started this mess?”


All eyes turned toward one side. Claudia hovered over a wounded Yuri, several stakes lodged into his body, one in particular barely missing his heart. Right behind Claudia was a dead hunter—heart ripped out.


“One of ours for one of yours, princess.”


The words sent shivers down my spine.


Arron.


I slowly turned around to face him. By my comrades’ faces, none of them were going to allow this to happen.


“A life for a life, Vivienne.” Arron shrugged a shoulder. “It only seems fair.”


“Who’s going to tell me what happened here?” I screamed out.


Gavin stepped up. “The hunter”—he pointed at the lifeless corpse—“recognized Claudia from when she was held captive at hunter headquarters. He began taunting her as she and Yuri were passing by. Yuri lost it. There was nothing anyone could do to stop him.”


“Your hunter went too far.” I glared at Arron. “He had it coming.”


“Nonsense. We had a truce. No one was to be hurt.”


“My people have been harassed ever since you hunters took over the island. Enough is enough. None of us are going to take it anymore.” I let my claws out.


Every other vampire surrounding us bared their fangs and extended their claws.


Arron didn’t even flinch. He just smirked in response. “Your people, Vivienne? Is that what you think you monsters are? People?”


I was both offended and intimidated at the same time. I tried to recall the confidence and strength I’d had before the hunters had succeeded in breaking me.


Xavier’s hand gently pressed against the small of my back. A show of support. I drew from his strength and tried to reach some form of calm.


What would Derek do?


Derek intimidated people by the sheer force of his very presence—one look, one frown, one growl. When that didn’t work, he had brute force going for him.


I didn’t have the kind of power he had and everybody knew it. I had to exert my own authority in my own way.


One thing Derek did that I could also do, however, was to not back down. I looked Arron in the eye and gave him my sweetest smile. “I don’t care what you think we are, Arron, but trust my word on this. Push us too far, and we can be monsters. We’ve killed and bled for this island many times over the past five centuries. Don’t think that we’re not willing to do it again.”


Arron calmly walked toward me. “You, princess? Is it not true that you have never shed blood? Didn’t you tell us back at headquarters while we tortured you again and again and again that you have never even fed on a human? You were simply too innocent, too precious. Your brother went through great lengths to keep you from ever having to turn into the monster that he became, and now, he might just die under the hands of the Elder… all because you refuse to cooperate with us.” The moment he was close enough, he pulled out a wooden stake and directed its point right to my heart.


Half a dozen vampires stood ready to attack him—Xavier included. I raised my hand to stop them. “Don’t.”


“Arron, enough.” Aiden spoke up. “We need to figure out a way to work together. This isn’t it.”


“My men cannot work with these monsters until our man has received the justice he deserves.” Arron pointed at Yuri with his free hand while the other pushed the wooden stake ever so slightly—just enough to press against my skin but not to break it. “I demand his life in exchange for the life that he took.”


Nostrils flaring, blonde curls running amok, Claudia stood to her feet, her petite form not intimidating, but the manic look on her face showing that she would kill hunters—and vampires if needed—should anybody take even a step closer to Yuri.


I tried to remain calm, keeping my stare on the head hunter. “Go ahead, Arron. Push that stake into my heart and earn the ire of every vampire on this island. You need us. I don’t know why exactly, but I know that you need us much more than we need you. If you didn’t, we wouldn’t still be alive, would we?”


Before thinking it through, I ran my claw across his left jawline, drawing blood. A collective gasp surrounded us and for the first time, Arron flinched. Rage flashed across his eyes along with a spark of orange color that seemed inhuman. I was taken aback.


What is he?


I could swear that my bluff hadn’t worked and that it was going to be the end of me, but then Arron relented. “I guess you’re stronger than I thought, princess.”


“You have no idea what I would do to ensure that everything my brother fought for all his life will remain safe, so don’t push me again, hunter. You are in our territory and if you don’t want war, you will get your men to relent.”


Arron’s jaw tightened but he backed down. “You heard the princess. We are to work with them, not against them.”


A wild commotion broke out, the hunters clearly not happy with their leader’s pronouncement. Zinnia, in particular, seemed the most peeved.


“No way,” she exclaimed, shaking her head, as she charged toward me. “A life for a life. That has always been the rule of a hunter. Hell, three lives of theirs for one of ours. They’re dead already anyway.”


Anger blazed in her eyes. The petite young woman drew a gun to point at me. She was about to shoot when Gavin pushed her to the ground, knocking the gun out of her hands.


“You heard your leader, little fool.”


“Traitor,” she spat at him. “You’ve betrayed the entire human race by siding with them.”


“If the human race you’re referring to are the hunters who have long since considered humans of The Shade dead, then yes. I’m indeed a traitor, but not to my own people.”


“Vampires aren’t people. I will never understand how you can be loyal to them.”


“It’s not these bloodsuckers I’m loyal to. Heck, I probably even hate a good handful of them, but I am loyal to Derek and Sofia. It’s they who hold my allegiance. As long as they rule The Shade, it is home to us. We protect our home.”


“Well, they’re not here ruling, are they?”


“Zinnia, enough.” Arron finally broke their spat. He nodded toward one of the hunters. “Calm her down.”


Several hunters pried Gavin off of Zinnia, who was fighting violently against everyone who got in contact with her. The two glared at each other. Zinnia oozed hatred. Gavin, on the other hand, looked like she was just some mild irritation.


I felt a sense of pride over how resilient Gavin was. I also sensed guilt. Gavin had been born into captivity at The Shade.


It seemed we had reached truce. I had several of the vampires make sure that Yuri was taken care of. Arron told his men that anyone who did anything to irk a vampire would answer directly to him. Leaders were assigned on both sides, instructed to maintain the peace.


Arron, Aiden and I still had to decide how we were going to rescue my brother and Sofia. We retreated to the Sanctuary for discussion. Everything had to go perfectly. We had to have the element of surprise on our side.


We had a plan, but I found myself restless. I took a long walk, finally ending up at a lake southeast of the island. I had no idea how long I’d been there before Xavier showed up.


“I thought you’d be here.” His voice brought me comfort, let me know that I wasn’t alone.


“Are we doing the right thing? I feel like something’s wrong, Xavier.”


He remained silent. I knew that he would have preferred to trade the opening of the portals for Derek, but I knew Arron and Corrine would sooner have us all killed than allow that portal to be opened. Still, I felt like I was gambling my brother’s life and the risk was far too great.


For the first time in a long time, I felt like I couldn’t trust Corrine. I knew she was hiding something from me. Motivations were beginning to get blurrier than I could deal with.


“What are you thinking about, princess?”


“I wasn’t cut out for this, Xavier. I was never meant to rule.”


Xavier shook his head adamantly. He grabbed my shoulders and forced me to face him. “Now that’s a lie, Viv. You ruled this island for four hundred years while Derek was asleep. You kept us together. He didn’t do that. You did.”


“And look what I allowed to happen. Look at the mess Derek had to clear up when he woke up.”


“No. You did the best you could under the pressure your father and brother put on you. Don’t ever sell yourself short, Vivienne.” He stared straight at me. “You were magnificent today. It was breathtaking seeing you stand up to Arron. It was beautiful to see you in your element—ruling like you deserve to, in a way only you can pull off.”


I wondered why I’d never given Xavier the chance he deserved. He’d always been there for me. Always.


He was the one who’d stayed with me through all those nights I’d tried to recover from the torment I’d gone through under Borys Maslen’s grasp. Xavier was the one who’d stood by me after my return from hunter captivity.


I loved him. Deeply. I had always loved him. And I knew he loved me. Everyone did, but I tried to pretend that he didn’t.


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