Dark heirloom an ema mar.., p.20
Dark Heirloom (An Ema Marx Novel Book 1), page 20
Jalmari hesitated. He rubbed his reddening eyes until they cleared and turned green again. He approached Leena and knelt on one knee before her. With his index finger and thumb, he gently pulled her chin toward him.
“Leena ta Korento, you are no longer my prisoner. Do as you wish.” Cradling her face in his hands, he tenderly kissed the top of her head before letting go.
Standing, he faced me and took my hand. His eyes were noticeably red around the irises. He pulled me past Leena, to the back of the alley.
“Why are you doing this?” I hissed.
He stayed silent. We phased. My molecules ripped apart so fast, a sting of pain pricked each one. He gripped me tightly and pulled me through the night, flying like speeding bullets, back to the castle.
The instant I set foot in the foyer, my rage came forth in a ballistic frenzy as I bellowed my brother’s name. Taking hold of the nearest object, I threw it into the air, not waiting long enough to hear it crash as it came in contact with the wall.
The last thing I heard was the girl gasp beside me as I phased my body and flew through walls and furniture, until I arrived in my brother’s bedroom. I appeared, solid, before his bedside. I took hold of the nearest item, a wooden paint easel, and smashed it into the wall. Splinters showered the floor.
Jesu lounged calmly on his bed, facing me. He took a drag from his cigarette and tried to feign nonchalance, but I could clearly see his muscles tensing. He scowled at the broken wood chips scattered over his paintings.
“You had no right!” I grabbed another easel from the corner and held it high with one hand, threatening to smash it.
A stream of smoke leaked from Jesu’s nostrils. “No, Jalmari, you had no right. Besides, Leena already knew deep down. I merely confirmed her suspicions.”
I growled and pounced on my brother. In an instant, I had my hands around Jesu’s neck, holding him a good meter above the floor. Two sparks jumped from his cigarette, to the palms of his hands. Embers erupted as he grabbed my wrists.
I let go, grunting from the pain. “Motherfucker, you burned me!”
“Hardly,” he wheezed and rubbed his neck. “But maybe now you will watch your temper before you choke me.”
“She asked me to let her go, Jesu. She begged me. Do you have any idea what that’s like?” My chest heaved. I considered curling up on the floor like a child. “My Leena is gone. She’s gone.”
“Why are you doing this to yourself, Jalmari? Go to her. She will come back.”
“What do you know of love? What do you know of anything? Your whole life, everyone else has done everything for you. All you had to do was run to Mother, and even when she passed all you had to do was hitch a ride on my back.”
“That’s not fair. I was a human, I had no way to protect myself. I have done everything you ever asked me to. I have kept all your secrets. I have kept every oath I made to you. I have never asked you for anything, Jalmari, and yet you deny me the only thing I’ve ever wanted.”
“What, the girl?” I stood erect and scoffed. “Your obsession with her is pathetic. She won’t bring Mom back, you know?”
“Of course not, I do not expect Mother to come back from the grave, but… why her, Jalmari? You had Leena. Why do you have to have Ema too?”
“You know why.” I turned my back to him.
“To give the clan a queen? To please the Council? Bullshit, Jalmari. Since when did you care about that?”
Since the voice decided he wanted her crowned.
Jesu came around to face me. He clenched his fists and stood his ground. “I may not know as much as you do about love and sacrifice, but I do have feelings for Ema. Consider us even.”
I laughed and shook my head. “Even? We are so very far from even.” In a flash, I gripped the collar of his shirt and phased both our bodies. I carried him through the air with me, everything except his blasted lighter and box of Camels, which fell to the floor.
In seconds, we arrived in the dungeon, the only part of the castle I hadn’t used in centuries. I flew us past the cell bars, and then untangled my atoms from his. His body naturally pulled together, becoming solid just before he hit the ground.
I flew from the cell and materialized on the other side. Jesu’s gaze widened as he pushed himself up and took in his surroundings. The bluish tint in his face paled as realization sank in.
“Brother, what are you doing?” He gripped the cold plastic bars with both hands. His gaze pleaded, but I was in no mood for mercy.
I cocked my head. “You will not stand in our way any longer. Father will do what he wishes with the girl, and you will not be there to stop him, do you understand?”
Jesu frowned in confusion. “Father? What are you talking about? Dad’s dead.”
The voice in my head chuckled and pushed its way to the surface, wanting to speak through me. Powerless against him, I had to allow it.
“No, my dear ignorant son,” said my demon. “I was never completely dead. My body is, but my essence lives inside your brother.”
Jesu took a calculated step back. “You… you are lying. Let me out of here, Jalmari, I am your brother. You cannot keep me here.”
“Silence! I am going to make the gypsy your brother’s bride, and when he lays beside her on their wedding night, it will be me who will inhabit her womb.”
Jesu gripped his forehead with his palms. “How is this possible? How could you be possessed all these years without anyone knowing?”
“Oh, a few people know, my boy, a few people know.” I nodded my head for the voice.
“It cannot be.” Jesu paced back and forth, still kneading his forehead. He stopped and gripped the bars. “Father?”
“That is correct.” I grinned for the voice before turning away and flying out of the dungeon.
I flew to my bedchamber, where I collapsed on the bed. I curled into a fetus position on Leena’s side, and tried to soak in as much of her scent as possible. I could smell her hair and her skin as if she was still by my side. But I could not hear her heartbeat, nor watch her perfect perky breast rise and fall with each breath. I could not reach out to her and kiss her tender lips because she was gone.
Two-thousand years, we fought through the pressures to be what we really were; master and slave. A thousand times, she told me she’d love me no matter what. A thousand times, she promised she’d never ask to leave. And, a thousand times, I promised I would never mistreat her, never cast her aside, never let her go.
Even though I knew, in the darkest depths of my heart, that eventually the time would come when she would leave, when she would tire of being mine and wish for her freedom, I never thought it would end this way, with the fault being my own.
No, not my fault.
I sensed the girl approaching, heard her footsteps. She knocked on the door. I could tell from the sound how it must have taken all of her courage to approach me. And yet, this gypsy mouse was destined to be the death of me. No matter. I didn’t want to live anymore, not without Leena.
When I didn’t answer the door, the girl phased into the room. I found this surprising. I expected her to manually open the door like a human. A hint of pride rose to my chest, but was quickly replaced by the burn of regret and anger. I taught her how to do that. Like an idiot, I taught her how to use her powers so that she could kill me.
“Stop blubbering, you ingrate. Your mate has come to speak with you.”
She is not my mate.
Yet, I quieted my mind to listen to whatever the girl standing behind me had to say.
Hesitant, she took a breath and then spoke. “You didn’t keep your promise.”
“It seems I don’t keep many of my promises.” She wouldn’t know what I meant by that, but I didn’t care. I only wished she would kill me already.
“Idiot. This girl is to be your lover, your bride, and you will treat her as such until I am s
Ema fumed behind me. “I’m not leaving until I get some shred of information out of you. Things are getting a heck of a lot weirder around here, and I didn’t think that was possible.”
I sat up and faced her. She had changed back into her usual jeans and T-shirt ensemble.
“Whoa,” she gasped. “You look like shit.”
“Forgive me.” That was all I could manage. My brain wracked itself in search of the right words, something to say to get my future bride to like me. Not because I cared, but because I was cursed into obedience. This quest was absurd. She would never agree, or cooperate willingly.
I chuckled out loud.
You have failed. You can order me about all you want, Father, but no matter what, there’s nothing I can do to make this girl marry me.
“Why are you laughing? This isn’t funny. Your brother’s missing. And, what happened with Leena… and then you… You’ve always been insane, but you just set an all-time high for yourself.”
I glared at the girl when she uttered Leena’s name. It was her fault my Leena left. It was her fault all of this happened. If she was just another Romani rat, I could have killed her like all the others. But what did it matter now? Why not let her kill me? She and Jesu still had a chance together.
“Well?” She crossed her arms and tapped her toe.
I took a deep breath. “Jesu’s not missing, he’s in the dungeon.”
“You have a dungeon? Why is Jesu in there?”
I wrinkled my nose in disgust. “For what he did to me. For misleading Leena.”
“You locked up your own brother?” She smacked her palm against her forehead. “What am I saying, of course you did. Who else is crazy enough to lock up someone they care about?”
“I don’t enjoy your sarcasm,” I growled. “He had no right to mislead her.”
“You didn’t correct her, either. You could have told her it wasn’t true. You could have told her this was all a big mistake, but you didn’t. You got rid of her, using me as an excuse. You have no one to blame, but yourself.”
For such a petite woman, she had a very big mouth. I stood, knowing my height would intimidate her. “You shouldn’t speak of what you don’t know. I asked Leena to trust me, and she didn’t. I asked Jesu to trust me, and he did not. Now they can both suffer the consequences.”
“You’re a horrible monster,” she whispered. I looked her over. She stood poised, slightly crouched, her hands balled into fists. I snorted. The Nephilim in her blood made her react with false bravado. Underneath the vampyre skin, she was still the scared little mouse I should have snapped in half in America.
“Enough of this. Find a way to draw her to you, or I will.”
I shook my head and rubbed my eyes as though I could push the voice into the back of my skull. I knew what I had to do first. I had to get the girl to dislike my brother. With no other friends here, she might come to seek me out. But how?
I narrowed my eyes. “What do you care about Jesu? He’s just another monster like me.”
Ema shook her head. “Jesu is nothing like you. He’s kind, gentle, patient, and forgiving. He was human once. He knows what it’s like to be vulnerable. You are nothing but cold.”
I cocked my head. “You really think we are that different?”
She lifted her chin and looked straight into my eyes. “Yes.”
“You really think, that after two-thousand years, Jesu remembers what it’s like to be human?” I stepped to the right and began to circle her. She followed me with narrow eyes and a smirk on her face.
“Yes, I do.”
“A man who plays with fire like it’s water? A man who dreams of people’s death and then watches it happen the next day, right before his eyes? You really think a man like that remembers what it’s like to be a vulnerable human child?” I laughed. Completing the circle, I come back to stand in front of her.
She gulped and took a step back. “At least Jesu never lied to me. At least he never killed innocent people like you.”
“Oh really?” I snickered.
“Yes. I know who you are, Jack… Jack the Ripper.”
I froze for a brief second. “Jack the Ripper? Me?”
“I saw the articles in the library. They knew it was you, but you covered it up somehow. Probably just disappeared into the night, didn’t you? So, why do you do it, Jalmari?” She stood on her toes, as if trying to appear braver than she was. “Why do you kill innocent women? Why did you want to kill me?”
This was going to be easier than I hoped. Of course, I had to stall a minute to see if the voice would allow me to continue. When all was quiet in my mind, I let a sinister smile stretch across my lips.
“Ema, in my long life I have been to several parts of the world, but London is not one of them. I am not Jack the Ripper. Jesu is.”
“Don’t lie to me!” She swung her fist. I ducked and caught her hand in my fist. She panicked and struggled to free herself from my grip. I let go, watching her stagger back.
“I am not lying.”
“Why would Jesu do such a thing?”
“I told you, Jesu and I are not so different. We’ve both killed hundreds of people in our long lives, all over Europe, under several different pseudonyms. You see, both my brother and I are part of an elite group of vampire assassins. Our only target being the Romani people. Jesu has a hard time covering up his tracks, what with not being able to phase. The humans eventually caught on to his participation.”
The poor girl heaved in shallow breaths. “No. Jesu would never do such a thing.”
“Oh? Then he told you he’s a shape-shifter too?” I hadn’t known for sure, but I went with the knowledge that Jesu would be too shy to spend so much time with the girl as himself.
Ema’s eyes darted around the room nervously. “N-no.”
“So, he didn’t tell you he shifts into a cat?”
“Oh,” I snickered. “You didn’t know that the little cat you’ve been fondling all this time is really him?”
My lips curled as her eyes widened. Her arms went slack by her sides and she stared into the distance, as though considering the possibility for the first time.
I wondered how far I should push her. I could tell her about the vision. Would it be too much?
“You are being too coarse with her.”
I scoffed internally at the voice. Like he knew how to be anything other than coarse. Yet, whether I liked it or not, my demeanor changed. I softened my tone and relaxed my posture. I reached out and gently grazed her cheek with the tips of my fingers. “I’m sorry.”
No, I’m not. I took pleasure in her humiliation.
She flinched and backed away, heading to the door. My mind panicked, and I struggled to find the right words. Nothing about this was fair for anyone.
“Ema, wait. I’m sorry. Please stay. I have so much more to tell you.” That came out wrong. I wasn’t trying to mock her.
She shook her head. “I’ve heard enough.”
I grabbed her wrist. “Wait.”
“No!” She phased her arm while pulling away from me. My hand fell through the black smoke. She glowered at me for a harsh moment, her expression stern and ice cold.
I opened my mouth, but found myself rendered speechless under her piercing gaze. With a final purse of her lips, she exited the room, slamming the door behind her.
I slumped against the edge of the bed, feeling worthless. I was just a tool, and not even a good one. Closing my eyes, I took a deep breath, and spoke aloud to my master. “Forgive me, Father, for I’ve said too much and spoiled your plan.”
“Nonsense. You did what you needed to, and took the first step by breaking the gypsy’s trust in your brother. It is only a matter of time before she comes to us.”
I nodded, my mind numb. I laid back in bed, smelling Leena’s familiar scent, and pondered the quickest way to convince the girl to be my bride—the quickest way to be rid of the
Ema would never agree, though. She hated me, and I hated her. Maybe feigning interest was the wrong way to go about the task. Maybe honesty was better. Not complete honestly, of course. For who would agree to bear a demon? Yet, perhaps, if I explained the need for a queen, if I explained why she was capable of such position, if it was a business proposal, and not a forced relationship, she may agree? She could have Jesu, or whoever she chose, I didn’t care. And I could have my Leena back. Ema and I would be together solely as a political agreement, and nothing more.
But, of course, Leena would not want to come back, even if she knew the truth. I couldn’t blame her. I would be wed to another woman. She would be reminded of that day in and day out, and she had said she didn’t want to sit by and watch. Of course she didn’t. It would cripple her. I couldn’t ask that of the woman I loved.
Besides, my father wanted Ema and me to have a child. Even if all else was strictly business, how could I ask Leena to agree to that? How would I convince Ema to agree? All that would take much, much longer than I’d prefer. If I had any chance of getting Leena back, action would have to be taken immediately. I had to get my father out now.
An idea brewed and then quickly took on the form of a plan. It just might work. A sensation like worms crawling through my brain sent chills down my spine as the demon inside me smiled.
I ran down the rows of books in Jalmari’s library, frantically searching for the untitled black spine that held the Jack the Ripper articles. Spotting it, I grabbed ahold and yanked hard. The heavy book slid from my fingertips and fell against the marble floor, cover-side up.
I dropped to my knees, turned the book over, and flipped the pages until I found the article with the picture. I was so sure the young man standing in shadows was Jalmari, with the familiar dagger in tow. But, looking at it now, I really couldn’t tell.
The quality of the black and white photograph was so ancient, the article itself faded and frail. Studying the photograph, I realized how alike Jalmari’s and Jesu’s features were, especially when color was omitted.
by J. D. Brown have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes