Dark heirloom an ema mar.., p.21
Dark Heirloom (An Ema Marx Novel Book 1), page 21
My fingers trembled as I gently lifted the article from the corner pieces which held it in place. I skimmed through the text. When I reached the description of the ‘murderer caught at the scene,’ my heart skipped a beat. I read slowly while holding my breath.
The witness described the murderer as a tall man, standing at about six foot, in his early twenties, having very pale, almost blue complexion, green eyes, and black hair.
I read it again. Blue complexion. It couldn’t be.
I folded the article in half and slid it in my pants pocket. Leaving the book on the floor, I turned and ran to the kitchen of the first wing, phasing past doors and furniture. I called out Maria’s name until I could sense her approach.
She appeared with a glowing smile. “Good day, darling.”
I grumbled. “There’s nothing good about today.”
Her smile fell. “Whatever is the matter, dear?”
“Maria, is Raven… I mean… is the cat Jesu?”
A grin crept across Maria’s face. “What makes you think that, darling?”
I closed my eyes. “Please, just answer the question.” I swore, if one more vampyre tried to bend the truth, I was going to snap.
Maria’s smile grew from ear to ear. “Yes, darling, Jesu is the cat.”
“Why didn’t you tell me?” I whined. “I feel like such an idiot.”
Really, now that I thought about it, I should have known. I could shift into a bat and a wolf. Why wouldn’t Jesu be able to do the same? I blushed, thinking about all the times I had undressed in front of the cat, all the times I had snuggled up close to him and scratched his belly. Worse were the things I told him when I thought no one else could hear.
“Forgive me, dear, I meant no harm. I just wanted to help Jesu meet someone special.”
I shook my head. “Maria, where’s the dungeon?”
“The dungeon? Whatever do you want to go down there for?”
“Jalmari locked up Jesu.”
Her eyes widened and she frowned. Her fear was quickly replaced by annoyance as her brow furrowed.
“I swear, those boys…” She shrugged. “Brothers. Well, come along, I’ll show you.”
She led me to the majestic, marble ballroom where she stood directly in the center of the large, white marble heptagram design on the floor. She waved her hand, motioning for me to stand beside her.
“The dungeon is under the ballroom. The only way in—or out—is to phase.” She smiled, and then descended into the marble floor. I followed.
The air in the dungeon stood still, thick with dust. I squinted in the dimness. Even with vampyre vision, I strained to see. The dungeon wasn’t what I expected. The jail cells were made of hard, clear plastic instead of iron and cement. The design was quite modern, and looked like a regular county jail.
However, none of the cells had a door or a lock. I gulped as understanding dawned; the entire dungeon was designed to hold vampyres that couldn’t phase. Even if they managed to break out of the hard, plastic shell of their cells, they would be trapped by the thick walls of the castle’s foundation.
Maria gasped. “Oh, my word.” She moved to a cell in the far right corner. A shadow stirred within. I recognized Jesu’s voice the instant he spoke.
I rushed to Maria’s side and stood before Jesu. He clung to the plastic bars with both hands, and stared at me with a look of longing and regret.
I stared back, not sure how to say what I wanted.
Maria scolded. “What did you and Jalmari get into this time? Haven’t I told you to mind your brother?”
Jesu answered her without looking away from me. “It is a long story.”
Maria tsked him, and then reached a slender hand between the bars. I knew instantly what she was doing, and grabbed her wrist to stop her. “Wait. I’d like to speak with him first… privately, please.”
Maria studied me for a moment, and then nodded. She phased and flew through the ceiling, leaving us alone. I waited a moment while looking at Jesu. I opened my mouth to speak, but he interrupted me.
“Ema, are you all right?” He reached out and cradled my face with his hands.
I flinched out of reach. “Stop that, I’m fine. I wanted to ask you something. Jesu, is it true that you’re Raven?”
He winced and looked away.
I shook my head. “I know you are. I just need to hear it from you.”
He bowed his head and whispered. “Yes. I am the cat, Raven.”
Humiliation boiled under my skin. “Show me.”
Hesitantly, he backed up and then began to shift. His body shrank while his ears moved from his temples, to the top of his head, and grew to a point. His fingers turned into tiny nubs as his nails lengthened into sharp claws. As he shrank smaller and smaller, his clothes fell into a heap around him. From his shirt, a wide-eyed Raven crawled out and sat before me.
“I see. Now shift back.”
Jesu-Raven glanced at the pile of clothes, and then shook his head.
My eyes narrowed. “You know how many times you’ve seen me undress when I thought you were just a stupid animal. Now shift back.”
He hesitated and then shifted, standing buck-naked with nothing more than clear plastic bars between us. For a long moment, he didn’t bother to cover up. I didn’t bother to look away, even though my pulse quickened at the sight of his lean body. It took an extra effort not to look below his waist, but he didn’t need to know that.
“I am sorry,” he breathed. I shrugged and turned away to give him some privacy while he redressed. “I never looked, though. I swear to you, I never looked when you changed clothes.”
“Save the apologies, Romeo, there’s more.” I waited until I heard him zip up his pants, and then faced him. “Are you Jack the Ripper?”
He pulled on his shirt, ran a hand through his long locks, and breathed out a loud sigh. “Yes, I guess I am.”
Anger surged though my veins as my heart dropped into my stomach. “You sick bastard, how could you?”
Jesu kept his gaze on the ground. “You do not understand. I did not want to hurt those women, but I had to. I had to fake interest in the job to stay in the group.”
“The elite vampire assassins group?”
“And why the heck would you want to belong to a group of assassins?”
“So that I could find you before they did.” He looked straight at me, his eyes grave. His lips fell into a somber frown.
I shook my head. “How could you know about me in the 1900s? I wasn’t even born yet.”
He winced. “Actually, I joined the assassins in the 1200s.”
I rolled my eyes. “Why were you looking for me? How?”
He gripped the bars with both hands and pressed his forehead against them. “I tried to tell you. Remember when I said that Draugrian vampyres see the future?”
I nodded. “Yeah.”
“My father, the king, killed millions of people throughout history. He is not even really of royal blood. He killed another clan leader, the Ekimmuen leader, back in the days of ancient Babylon, and named himself their king. He created vast armies of vampires and used them to wipe out entire tribes of men, both human and vampyre. He demolished any clan or nation that refused to submit to him.
“As such, he had a lot of enemies. He married my mother for her psychic abilities. He forced her to predict the outcome of every decision he made so he could choose the option that got him what he wanted without getting caught by his enemies.
“My mother eventually helped plot the murder of my father, but she was caught by his guards. She was given the death sentence. The day before she was to be beheaded, I had a premonition. I saw you, battling against my father. I did not understand at the time. Why would I have premonitions about a dead man? So I snuck into the dungeon where my mother was being held and I spoke to her about it. She looked into my father’s future, a clear sign that he must still be al
“But, why me?”
Jesu shrugged. “I don’t know. I assume, because of what you are, you might be the only one who can stop him.”
“And what am I, exactly?”
Jesu sighed. “You are my father’s great granddaughter, by roughly twenty generations.”
“Wh-what?” I stammered. “We… we’re related?”
“Yes. You are my great half-niece. My father had many relations before and after he married. Some of those women were human. Many of them birthed him offspring. Of course, he ordered his human offspring to be put to death, but some, like me, got away and survived. These offspring married, had their own children, and so on, until a population of humans came about which all carried the vampyre gene. These people are now known as the Romani, and are your ancestors, Ema.”
I wet my lips and shook my head, completely dumbfounded. “But that’s insane. The Romani are just a race of misunderstood people.” I thought about what I knew of my heritage. It wasn’t much. I was only half-Romani, and I’d never lived in a Romani community the way my mother had when she was growing up.
“Think about it, Ema. None of the humans seem to know where the Romani race originated. They’re all over Europe, yet they have no starting point. It is because your ancestors lied about their vampyre origins. They had to, because they were being hunted. The Romani have always been outcasts, because they are not fully human, yet they also do not have enough Nephilm blood to be vampyric. That is, until you came along.”
My head spun. I placed my fingers against my temples. “So, you’re saying I inherited this?”
Jesu nodded. “Of course. It is the only way to be a vampyre. The real question is how the gene was triggered, to which, I am afraid, I have no idea.”
“The elite vampire assassins… they still hunt Romani… why?”
“My father’s law, remember? All vampyre-born humans have to be destroyed. When he realized what the Romani were, he ordered that they be hunted down and killed on sight.
“Ema, when my mother and I saw you in my vision, we saw you as a human. Other than that, I had no information to use. I had no idea what year, or where in the world I would find you. I tried on my own, at first, but when that didn’t work, I joined the assassins to travel with them and hunt down the Romani in hopes of finding you before they could.”
Jesu shook his head. “It was crazy. So many thousands of women in the world, over the span of nearly eight-hundred years. I gave up and left the group in 1925. Besides, there was never any news of my father coming back from the grave. I assumed he must have been really dead, and my premonition must have been false. But then, eight weeks ago, Jalmari walked into the castle with you in his arms. I nearly fainted.”
He laughed, and then shook his head again. “Jalmari, of all people. He should have killed you. Either way, I was extremely shocked to see you alive and, well, here.” He glanced at me and waited for a response, but I wasn’t sure what to make of this information.
I thought a moment. “Jesu, you knew about this the entire time. Why didn’t you tell me?”
“I am sorry. I know I should have. I tried to a couple of times, but admittedly, not very hard. I did not know anything about you, who you were, or what you were like. I did not know how you would react. I also did not understand it completely myself. I was expecting you to be human, for one thing. And, like I said, I thought my father was dead, so I was confused as to why you would show up now.”
“Wait, are you implying he’s not dead?”
Jesu sighed. “Yes. I just found out he is still alive.”
I frowned. “When?”
“Not more than an hour ago, when Jalmari tossed me in here. He is the one who told me.”
“Wow. Shit. Wow.” That was all I could manage to say.
Jesu reached through the bars and took my hands. “Ema, my father is no ordinary man. Aside from the Nephilim, he is the most evil, unstable, and power-hungry creature in history. He’s killed more men, women, and children than any war or sickness. In fact, your generation knows my father as Satan.”
I did a double take. “I’m sorry, did you say Satan? As in the devil?”
Jesu winced. “He is not really the devil as personified by Christianity, but he is where the idea of the devil took root. His real name is Apollyon, but he’s gone by several different names throughout history, including Abaddon and less-obvious ones, like Lucifer.”
Nausea gurgled in my stomach. “You still think I am the one to stop him?”
He paused and looked at me. “I really do not know. I have never understood my premonitions fully. I just know that they have always come true.”
“In your vision, did I win? Did I live?”
Jesu caressed my cheek with his hand and whispered. “I did not see the ending, Ema.”
I pulled away. My thoughts clouded with hysteria. “I don’t have to fight him. I still have my freewill. Why would I fight Satan anyway?”
“He is going to seek you out, Ema. You have to be ready. You have to protect yourself.”
A metaphorical lightbulb turned on in my head, and I laughed. How many times had he told me that before?
“I get it now, Jesu. The training, the strictness, the desire for me to learn how to defend myself. It was all for this. You knew the whole time, and you lied to me.” I backed away as I spoke.
“Ema, wait.” His green eyes widened.
“No, Jesu. I don’t know if I can trust you right now. I need to be alone to think about all of this.”
“Just give me one more minute, there is something else you need to know, please Em—”
I laughed. “Of course there is something else! All you and your brother do is lie. There will always be something else the two of you aren’t telling me. What is it with men and lies?” I turned my back to him and flew toward the ceiling.
“Ema, wait,” he shouted. “Do not let Jalmari come near you. My father is—”
“Not listening right now, Jesu.” With that, I phased my body and flew out of the dungeon. I went back to the fourth wing and solidified in the hallway between my bedroom and Jesu’s. I decided to go into his room.
Art supplies littered the tiny space as usual. I did a careful scan of the area, looking for the canvas with the dirty sheet covering it. I almost didn’t notice it on the floor, wedged between the bed and the wall.
I floated over Jesu’s stuff, snatched the canvas, and yanked the sheet off. Gasping, I nearly dropped the painting and almost tripped over piles of junk as my feet landed. Disbelief wracked my brain. The painting sent chills down my spine.
On the canvas, a very skilled artist had painted a portrait of a girl dressed in a flowing emerald green robe, leaning leisurely against a marble pillar in a rose garden. What shocked me most was that the girl looked the way I did when I was human. Red hair, chocolate-colored eyes, and a honey tan.
I looked at the date painted in black in the lower right-hand corner. It read, Vintr.1588. The portrait was painted four-hundred years before I was born.
I wrapped the sheet around the painting and hugged it against my heaving chest. I knew Maria would help Jesu out of the dungeon, and then he would look for me, so I didn’t go to my room. That’s the first place he’d look, and I didn’t want to see him.
Instead, I phased to the guest room in the first wing, where this whole mess began. The room was exactly as I remembered it. Priceless artifacts glorified the mantle. The king-size bed stood plump with multiple layers of pillows and red silk comforters.
I laid the painting on the antique nightstand, then slumped on the bed, where I sank an inch into the goose down. The first rays of dawn leaked over the horizon, sending ribbons of gold through the wall-sized window.
I closed my eyes against the blinding light and tried
I unphased my hand and sighed. Well, I didn’t have to feed on humans. I could move to the country and hunt game animals at night. I couldn’t go back to Illinois. Jesu was right; I’d risk hurting everyone I knew if I did. Letting them believe I was dead was for the best. They could remember me the way I was, before I became a monster.
I could live in Alaska. The cold wouldn’t bother me, and the population was low. I decided I would leave Finland at dusk and go back to the States the same way I came; flying.
The hairs on the back of my neck stood as the atmosphere filled with Jalmari’s musky scent. A second, more desirable fragrance wafted into my nostrils, one which smelled of salt and metal.
I cursed Jalmari under my breath. He knocked on the door. I rolled my eyes and wondered how long he would fake being polite this time. “Go away.”
He allowed himself inside. “I know you’re upset, so I brought you this.”
“I’m not thirsty,” I lied.
The glass clinked as he set it on the nightstand. The scent burned my throat. My tongue felt like cotton, and my primal instincts screamed in protest. I lifted a finger in the direction of the nightstand, but quickly corrected myself.
If I can control myself here, I can control myself in Alaska.
The foot of the bed sank as Jalmari sat near my feet. I opened my eyes and shot him my best ‘can’t-you-see-I-don’t-want-to-talk’ look.
“So, you’ve seen the painting.” He nodded at the nightstand.
by J. D. Brown have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes