Dark Heirloom (An Ema Marx Novel Book 1), page 23
Storm clouds gathered together, blocking out most of the sun, but not enough to see with sensitive vampyre eyes. A change in the atmosphere ruffled my fur. I wasn’t alone. A predator waited, doubled over in the lethal scent of vampire. I perked up as my mind supplied the name.
She materialized not more than ten feet away. A black dress hugged the contours of her hourglass figure, and her hair blew wild and crazy around her pale face. Her green eyes burned into mine as her lips curled into a mischievous grin.
“Grab your clothes.” Her voice rang in a sing-song way as she closed the gap between us. “We have much to discuss.”
I couldn’t speak as an animal, so I growled a warning.
Leena rolled her eyes. “I am not here to fight. Come.”
She snatched my clothes and then, like a lightning strike, one hand flashed out and touched my back. Next thing I knew, we phased and shot into the sky. Jalmari was right, Leena was fast. Faster than he was. A myriad of things passed through me as we flew, so many that the names buzzed and blurred in my mind. My atoms felt nauseous.
Within a minute, we materialized. I fell forward on my hands and knees, and regurgitated a puddle of maroon vomit on a white carpet.
Leena grumbled her disappointment. “Haven’t you ever flown before?”
“Not that fast.” I wiped my mouth with the back of my hand, then stood and glanced around the room. The bare white walls matched the plain white carpet. The room lacked life. No pictures. No bookshelves. No nightstand, or dresser, or television. Just a bed in the corner with an old fashioned flower-print comforter, neatly done and wrinkle-free. At least the room was dark. “Where are we?”
“We are in Helsinki.”
“But whose house is this?”
“That doesn’t matter,” she snapped. She phased out of the room for a moment and then returned with a rag that she tossed at me. Sighing, I knelt next to the puke and tried to scrub it off. Big mistake. I smeared it, making a large pink stain.
Leena sneered at me as if I were a worm.
I looked at the stain and shrugged.
“How much do you know?” she demanded.
I hesitated. I better not tell her about the dirty deed I did with Jalmari this morning.
She slapped me clear across the face so hard my head snapped to the right.
Shoot! I forgot she could read thoughts.
“Leena, I’m so sorry. I don’t understand Jalmari’s interest in me. I wish like crazy that he would just leave me alone. I don’t like him, really. I don’t want anything to do with him. I feel terrible.”
Leena glowered. Her fists clenched tight. “Never mind all that right now. Do you know what you are?”
I gulped. “Yeah, a vampyre. King Apollyon’s great, times twenty, granddaughter.”
Leena nodded. “Good. Now, do you know what Jalamri is?”
I despised the way she spoke to me, as though I were slow, but I played along. “He’s a vampyre. He’s the prince. He’s Apollyon’s son.” I winced. “He’s my great-uncle.”
Gross, I had sex with a relative.
“Besides that,” she seethed. “Jalmari needs your help. He is possessed by a demon.”
I quirked my brow in disbelief. “He is?”
She narrowed her gaze. “Do you remember, in the alley, when Jalmari told me to do as I please? It was technically an order, but one that gave me a shred of freedom, until he could order me to do something else. Since I could do as I please, I took a quick peek into his head before the two of you vanished. I heard a second voice in his mind.”
She crossed her arms and glanced away before continuing. “I should have known from the beginning. He’s only acted this way once before, during the Second World War. Apollyon somehow got stronger, and Jalmari lost control. He went to Germany that year with the crazy idea of using the Holocaust to help rid the world of Romani.”
“Why am I not surprised?” I muttered.
Leena faced me and wrinkled her nose. “That was not like him. He worked so hard to make Finland a friendly place for both vampyres and humans. It was his demon father who convinced him otherwise.”
“Are you sure he’s not just schizophrenic?” I frowned at the knowledge of Jalmari having anything to do with the Holocaust. The past just kept getting worse.
“What do you know of King Apollyon?” she demanded.
I shrugged. “Nothing, I guess. I never met the man. Jesu said he’s where the idea of Satan came from.”
Leena nodded. “King Apollyon wasn’t stupid. He knew he had enemies. He was good at alchemy, and bound a part of himself, his soul or whatever you choose to call it, to Jalmari’s body so that if anything happened to him, his soul would jump to Jalmari and live inside him like a parasite. When King Apollyon was finally assassinated, that’s exactly what happened. Only, no one knew. Jalmari kept it a secret for years, ashamed of being at his father’s mercy.”
“So, you’re saying Jalmari’s possessed by his own father?” I stared at her, looking for some sign that she was joking, or lying, or insane.
“Yes.” She crossed her arms and narrowed her eyes. “The Neo-Draugrian Council stripped Jalmari of his title when the war ended in 1945. He exposed us to Hitler, and several of his generals. Jalmari worked twice as hard to win his status back. Of course, it helped that no one else was available to claim the position.”
“Right.” I nodded. “Jesu couldn’t do it because vampires aren’t allowed to.”
Leena nodded. “Yes, unfortunately.”
“So, you think it’s really Apollyon who’s interested in me, and not Jalmari?”
Leena scoffed. “I am positive it is.”
I rolled my eyes. As I absorbed this information, the question which dominated my thoughts was, why me? Why was Leena sharing this information as if I had any way of fixing things? Oh. Because I did. Supposedly.
“I think I understand why you’re telling me this. You know about Jesu’s vision. You think I can help Jalmari.”
Leena tilted her chin and let her arms fall to her sides. “Yes. You can.”
“There’s only one problem. If the only way to stop Apollyon is by killing Jalmari, then…”
“No, I’ve found a different way.” Leena knelt and reached for something under the bed. She pulled out a medium-sized trunk, and unlatched the lid. “There is a way to free Jalmari from Apollyon, and kill him separately.”
She pulled a thick, leather-bound book and a cotton knapsack out of the chest. The book had Greek letters imprinted on the cover. She put them both on the floor, and then opened the knapsack and laid out its contents for me to see. A small pot each of red and yellow paint, a skein of white wool, several small red candles, a bushel of small red berries still on the stems, an apple, and a lighter.
My eyebrows rose in question. “What is all this?”
“This…” She pulled the thick book into her lap and lovingly traced the symbols with the tip of her finger. “This is a collection of spells I’ve gathered over the years. My father started it in ancient Greece.”
“Your human father?” I cocked my head.
“He was an alchemist. He gave me his collection of spells when I was just a girl. I was his apprentice, destined to become an oracle of the goddess Athena. He said my ability to read minds was a gift from the gods.” Leena smiled at some distant memory of her childhood.
“Wait a second, your telepathy has nothing to do with being a vampire?”
She shook her head. “I was born with my gift. Now, back to the point. There is a spell that will open the gate to the underworld, and allow us to enter. Once inside, we can find the rest of Apollyon’s essence, separate him from Jalmari, and kill him.”
“Whoa.” I stood. “Hold on. You’re saying we can use magic to go to hell and kill Satan?”
Leena rose. “That is correct.”
“Are you out of your mind?”
“I am perfectly sane.” She put her hands on her hips.
Leena snorted and mumbled something that sounded like “stupid human.”
She rolled her eyes. “Before mainstream religion, everyone used magic. But the dumb humans die so quickly, they forget what they’re capable of. We remember.”
“Uh huh. Let’s say, for the sake of arguing, that the spell does work and we go to the underworld, and actually find Apollyon. You really think you and I can kill a man that evil?”
“Oh please.” Leena waved a hand. “He will be weak from being in the underworld for so long. Defeating him will be easy.”
I grumbled. “If everything is so peachy, then why do you need my help?”
Leena pressed her lips into a thin line. Her brows furrowed as she stared at the pink stain on the carpet. “Neither of us would make it alone. You need me for my knowledge and experience. I need you for your power and strength.”
I almost laughed out loud. Me, strong? She must be mistaken.
“I am not mistaken.” She stomped her foot and clenched her fists. “Please, you do not know what it’s like to lose so many people you love. Everyone around me grows old and dies so quickly. Jalmari is all I have left and—”
“I know what it’s like,” I blurted out. “Not the ‘growing-old-and-dying’ part, but the ‘losing-someone-you-love’ part.” Images of my mom and Anthony flashed through my mind. I winced, knowing Leena probably saw those images too.
The smile on her face confirmed my suspicions. “So, you’ll help me?”
I groaned. Nothing good could come from this. I should stick to my original plan and fly to Alaska.
“Please? I am begging you. I cannot lose Jalmari. Not like this. Not without the choice being his own.”
I hesitated. The last time Anthony and I spoke, he told me he had cheated on me. Anthony wasn’t possessed. He was just a normal guy breaking up with his normal girlfriend. He chose to be dishonest. Had it not been Anthony’s choice, had it been something vile and sick inside him, wouldn’t I have done everything in my power to help him? Of course I would. I was even willing to forgive him.
Leena bit her lip. No doubt she had heard everything I just thought, yet she waited patiently for my answer. Something inside me shifted as I studied her. Suddenly, none of it mattered. My human life was history. I was a vampyre, and these were my friends and family now.
I nodded at Leena. “Okay. I’ll help.”
Dusk fell over the forest. I faced the wrought iron gate separating me from Jalmari’s castle. Ivy trembled against the stone walls, blowing in the wind. Gargoyles stared down from the towers. I shuddered, and peeked over my shoulder at Leena.
“Go on,” she whispered while vanishing into the woods. I faced forward, sucked in a deep breath, and then sighed.
Here goes nothing.
I phased and flew past the gate, past the door, into the castle. All was quiet as I slithered down the hall. I couldn’t sense Jalmari or Jesu. In fact, I couldn’t feel a single ripple of movement other than the normal flow of air. I hoped that wasn’t a bad sign. I didn’t stop to investigate. I stuck to the plan, and headed straight for Jalmari’s office. Only I didn’t make it.
In the ballroom, Jesu’s energy hit me like a brick wall. I froze at the top of the stairs, still invisible, but he noticed me anyway and called out. I felt the ripples of his voice, slow and even, like a dip in a pond. He’d said my name. It was only because I didn’t want him to follow me into Jalmari’s office that I materialized.
He stood at the bottom of the stairs. A hundred different emotions flashed through his eyes as he stared up at me. I winced. Jesu wasn’t the one I needed right now, and I hoped he wouldn’t get in the way.
He ran his hands through his hair, took a deep breath, and then dropped his arms to his sides. “Ema, you came back.”
I wasn’t sure if that was a question or a statement. “Yeah, well, I have nowhere else to go.” I shrugged and looked away, hoping he would take the hint and leave.
He didn’t. Instead, he started coming toward me, climbing the steps two at a time. “I looked all over for you.”
Ah, shoot. I descended the stairs, grabbing his hand on the way down, and pulled him as hard as I could across the ballroom, past the dining room, into the kitchen. He didn’t resist.
“Ema, I am so sorry.”
I stubbornly forced myself to wait until I had pulled him all way inside the fourth wing, where no one else could hear us. Finally, I exploded. “Do you even know what you’re apologizing for?”
He glanced at me with solemn eyes. “For what Jalmari did. I… I am so sorry I did not get there sooner.” He reached for my hand, but I jerked my arms away.
“Don’t apologize for him, he can do that himself.”
Jesu winced. “I am not apologizing for him, he does not deserve forgiveness. I am apologizing for not saving you. If I had gotten there sooner—”
“Just stop, Jesu, okay? I left you in the dungeon on purpose, do you understand? I left you there because you lied to me. You’re not my hero. You’re not my knight in shining armor. What happened between Jalmari and me, well, that was as much my fault as it was his.”
Jesu’s gaze widened with fury. “How can you think that? He took advantage of you, Ema. He mistreated you, and none of it was your fault.”
I looked away. Heat rose to my face as anger and frustration boiled beneath my skin. I didn’t have time for this. I needed to get Jesu off my case, but how? The words spewed from my mouth like vomit. “Jesu, I want to marry Jalmari!”
His face shattered, but only for a second. Then it turned cold. His brows pulled tight in the center, and his blue lips pressed into a thin, hard line.
“No you don’t,” he firmly stated.
“Yes, I do.”
“No, you don’t. I may not know everything about you, but I know you despise my brother.”
He was right, of course, but that was the lie Leena told me to use with Jalmari, so I ran with it.
“It’s not because I like him. He owes me a new life, and he’s offering me the chance to be a queen. Can you imagine?” I spoke a few octaves higher so I would sound excited. “I was dirt poor before, living in the slums of an infested city. Now, I’ll be rich and powerful. A vampyre Queen. I’ll be a celebrity.”
Jesu frowned, and looked away. “You do not really want all that.”
“Yes, I do.” I crossed my arms.
He shook his head. “No. You want love. Real love. You do not care about material things.” He looked into my eyes. “You are better than that.”
I rolled my eyes and muttered. “Humph. I bet you think you could be the one.”
My jaw nearly dropped, but I caught myself, and fixed my face into a hard scowl. “Too bad, Romeo, that Ema is dead. This Ema isn’t going to make the same mistake. I’m all about the cash now. Excuse me, I have to go find my fiancé.”
Jesu sagged against the wall, his expression broken. I phased and left him behind. In my phantom chest, a sharp pain pierced my heart. I pushed the pain away and went in search of Jalmari.
I materialized before a door not quite thick enough to mask Jalmari’s musky scent. He was talking to someone, his voice gruff and urgent. I listened to his conversation for a moment. Too bad I couldn’t understand a word of it. All I could tell was that he was speaking on the phone to someone named Victor. Whatever, I was sick of waiting for him. I phased through the door and appeared in front of his desk just as he hung up the phone.
I placed my hands on my hips and plastered a smile on my face while batting my eyelashes.
He looked me over with raised eyebrows, yet his voice was dry and straight to the point. “Where did you run off to?”
“Just the woods. You could have
He snorted. “It is not so easy in daylight. I am surprised you stayed out so long. I worried you’d get a horrid sunburn.”
Sarcasm. Good ol’ temperamental Jalmari.
“So worried, you figured you’d stay inside to keep from burning yourself.” I rolled my eyes. “I guess I have an advantage.”
He slowly nodded, his lips pressed into a thin line. “That you do. So, you’ve come back?”
“Yeah. I thought about it and…” I took a deep breath and rattled off the same lie I told Jesu. “I want to do it. I want to be a queen. You owe me a new life, and you owe me a good one. I can’t think of anything better than royalty.”
He narrowed his eyes and studied me. I tried to hold my ground, but couldn’t, and looked away.
Damn, I’m such a crappy liar. I should say something.
I took a deep breath. “But… you should know I still don’t like you, and I am not sleeping with you again. Ever. I’m only doing this because I have nowhere else to go. If I’m going to stay here, I might as well make the best of it and take you up on your offer.”
Now I could face him with confidence, to show that I was serious, especially about not sleeping with him. He leaned back in his leather armchair and stroked the tip of his chin. I hoped he hadn’t changed his mind about getting married. I hoped he bought the lie and wouldn’t press me. He leaned forward on his elbows. The corners of his mouth curled in a sinister grin.
“Very well. We can make the engagement official tomorrow.”
I sighed in relief. If everything went according to plan, Jalmari would call the whole thing off by tomorrow. I glanced at the floor and scuffed my toes. “So, shall we celebrate a little tonight?”
Jalmari cocked his head. “What do you have in mind?”
“Oh, I don’t know, maybe a glass of blood or something like that.”
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