Dark Heirloom (An Ema Marx Novel Book 1), page 28
“But, I could feel everything. The pain, the horror.” I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. “My flesh was torn open. I bled, and I fought it, even though the pain consumed me.”
Jesu cleared his throat. “No one said the soul cannot feel pain. Frankly, I have no idea how you made it back to your body, since Leena did not. I can only assume that my father brought you through.”
My eyes grew wide. “Apollyon?”
“Yes. Your spell was successful.”
I sighed and pressed my fingers to my temples. “So Apollyon is alive and walking the earth again.”
“Alive, and as crazy as I remembered my father to be.”
“Then we weren’t successful at all. I was supposed to kill him.”
Jesu cocked an eyebrow. “Ema, you cannot kill someone who is already dead and in hell.”
I rolled my eyes.
Now he tells me.
“Ema, what were you thinking?”
I frowned. That didn’t seem fair. “It wasn’t my idea. I didn’t even know it was possible to open the gates to the underworld, or whatever.”
He sighed. “I figured as much, but what on earth made you agree to go with Leena?”
Well now, that was a legitimate question. “I thought I was helping, that I would just get your dumb premonition out of the way, and put a stop to all this. To Jalmari, mostly, but also to you—”
“Me?” Jesu almost turned to face me, but kept his eyes on the road.
I scowled. “Yes, you. I liked you at first, but…” I trailed off, feeling an ocean of emotions that I hadn’t quite figured out. I was trying really hard not to snap and go hysterical.
After a few moments, Jesu broke the silence. “But?”
I sucked in a deep breath. “You lied to me Jesu. You killed people, and you lied about it.”
“Ema, I explained this already. I only did it to find you.”
“You think that makes it better? Do you think that if you asked me a hundred years ago, I would have said ‘Yes, Jesu, kill as many people as you have to so I can see you again?’”
“Maybe. If you knew the kind of danger you would be in.”
I crossed my arms over my chest. “Well I know now, and I still don’t like what you did.”
“What does it matter? You did not know any of those people. It was in the past, decades before you were born. I am not a ruthless killer, it was a job.”
“Killing innocent people is always ruthless.” I slumped in my seat.
“Just because they were human—”
“No,” I snapped. “Humans kill each other all the time, but guess what? I’ve never associated with those kinds of people, and I’m not about to start now.”
“You were ready to kill Apollyon.”
“He’s not an innocent person.”
Jesu pulled the car over and came to sudden screeching halt. He sat in silence, gripping the steering wheel until his knuckles turned a frosty white, while I sulked in the passenger’s seat.
After a while, he spoke, his voice low and even. “Do you fear me?”
I thought about it.
I shrugged. “You’ve never given me a reason to really be afraid of you.”
He faced me. “And I never will. I care about you a great deal. I will never, ever hurt you, Ema.”
I knew he was telling the truth.
“It is your choice, though. I can take you back to the castle, or you can go with me. But if I am such a ruthless killer, perhaps you will be safer with Apollyon and Jalmari.”
I rolled my eyes. “You know I’d rather go with you.”
“Good.” He faced forward and steered the car back onto the road.
“So where are we going?”
He hesitated. “Maria instructed me to take you to Naamah’s house in Helsinki. She said he would help us.”
“Where is Maria? Shouldn’t she be with us?”
Jesu frowned. “Maria cannot leave my father’s side. A long time ago, she and her husband swore their loyalty and service to my father in return for his protection.”
“Why would they do that?”
He wet his lips in thought. “There was a battle between clans at the time. Naamah and Maria fought for the opposing clan. When they lost, my father gave them a choice. Vow their loyalty, or die. Now that my father is alive again, so too is the oath Maria and Naamah took.”
I slouched in my seat and rubbed my temples. This was truly a disaster. “Jesu, I am so sorry. I had no idea how much this affected everyone else.”
He took my hand in his and squeezed it gently. “We will get through this.”
“Can I just ask you one question?”
“Where did you get a car?”
A grin dimpled his left cheek. “I may have… borrowed it.”
My brow rose, but somehow I didn’t care if he stole it. Too much had happened to argue over a car, and I didn’t have the energy to fly us both to Helsinki. We drove in silence for a few hours before the spruce forest and country roads gave way to concrete buildings and highways. Fat drops of rain continued to splash against the windshield of the compact car, and I was grateful to them for blurring my vision against the humans that encompassed us in the growing traffic.
Jesu reached into his pocket and produced two pairs of sunglasses. I could have kissed him for remembering. He handed me a pair, and I put them on just before the synthetic light became unbearable.
He turned the car down an exit ramp off the freeway. I glanced at the road signs, even though I couldn’t read a word of Finnish, and noticed the skyscrapers in the distance. When I spoke, my voice crackled, feeling dry against my throat.
“Is that Helsinki?”
What I could see of Helsinki through the blur of rain and street lamps was that it was beautiful the way all cities were beautiful, once you peeled away the dirt and grime. Everything was, of course, huge and squished together. The buildings were not nearly as tall as the ones in Chicago, and Helsinki seemed to enjoy red brick with smaller windows. This wasn’t my first time in Finland’s capital, but it was the first time I’d traveled here by car.
As we continued toward the heart of the city, the architecture shifted into one of historical grandeur. We passed a plaza with a garden of trees and bushes, all cut into perfect rectangles. Just past the plaza, I saw a building that made me gasp. It looked like a castle-sized Roman church, with domed roofs and golden walls, sitting atop a mountain of concrete stairs.
I faced Jesu to ask about the building, but he was already grinning at me the way all natives grin at tourists. I blushed, and looked away. We turned around a corner, facing away from the plaza, onto a street lined with tiny cafés and boutiques, all closed for the night. Past the shops stood rows of apartment buildings encompassed by tall, wrought iron fences. Jesu parallel-parked in front of the gate, and turned off the ignition.
He took a deep breath and raked his pale blue fingers through his hair. His jet black tresses hung just past shoulder level, gleaming softly in the lamp light. He exited the car and approached the ten-foot tall iron gate. I followed suit. He pressed a button and glanced to the right. Following his line of sight, I noticed a security camera twitch back and forth.
I jumped as the hinges squealed and the gate opened. Jesu placed a hand on the small of my back and led me forward. He smiled, but it looked forced, and I wondered if maybe there was something to worry about. Something he hadn’t told me.
As we ascended the three steps to the door, I noticed the building was dark. There weren’t any porch lights, or any sort of illumination from within the windows. If I didn’t know better, I might have thought everyone in the building was asleep. But I did know better. This was home to a vampyre, after all.
My acute hearing picked up the soft sounds of footsteps. Sure enough, the door opened before Jesu could knock.
A man standing six inche
Jesu inclined his head, gesturing for me to enter the building. We stepped into a hall made completely of polished wood; the floors, walls, and ceiling all smelled like Pine-Sol. From there, the man led us into a penthouse living room with plush red couches arranged in a half-square in front of a sleek fireplace.
Soft light glowed from behind frosted glass-covered lamps mounted on black marble walls. A very expensive looking pool table stood in one corner with a mini-bar on the opposite side. I glanced at my dirty fingernails and torn clothes, and silently vowed not to touch anything.
The man continued to jabber in Finnish. Thankfully, Jesu remembered my presence and cleared his throat. “Ema, this is Naamah. Naamah, this is Ema. She only speaks English.”
Naamah’s pale complexion blushed slightly. “Pardon me, madam, my wife failed to mention that.”
I shook my head and smiled politely, already liking Maria’s husband. He had a faint accent that wasn’t Finnish like Jesu’s. “Maria told you about me?”
“She speaks about you nonstop, my dear.” He laughed, causing the perfectly gelled black ringlets of his hair to bounce. Naamah swept his hand from left to right, gesturing to everything around us. “Please, make yourself at home.”
“If you don’t mind, it’s been a long drive here, I’d rather stand for now.”
“Of course.” He seated himself on the couch. “I apologize, my friend, but we have urgent business to discuss, and not much time for formalities. It is unfortunate that your father has returned.”
I started to speak, but Jesu held up a hand, signaling for me to stop.
“Maria said you could help?” Jesu looked hopeful.
“I am afraid I must join my wife and your father, but I want you to know that I am not your enemy, Prince Jesu.”
Jesu nodded, but he didn’t seem comforted. “I have always known that, Naamah.”
Naamah faced me. “Maria wanted me to give you something.” He rose and disappeared into a room. I glanced at Jesu questioningly. He shrugged his shoulders.
Naamah returned with a scroll under his arm. He held the scroll out to me, and I took it.
“Thank you, but what is it?”
“It’s a record of your father’s clan.”
Jesu and I both glanced at each other. He took the scroll from me and unrolled it.
“My father… was a vampyre?” My knees wilted, and I sank against the edge of the couch, despite the stains on my jeans.
“How did you get this?” Jesu asked him.
“My wife made a few calls to the American R.E.D., pulled a few strings, got Ema’s background, and asked me to look into it. She said you haven’t seen your father in thirteen years, is that right?”
“Yes,” I mumbled.
“Your father is not a vampyre, though. He chooses to remain human thus far.”
My brow rose. “But, he belongs to a clan, how can he not—”
“It says here your father is registered with the Jumlin Clan,” said Jesu. He glanced at Naamah. “I thought the Jumlin were extinct.”
“There is a small tribe of them, no more than twenty or thirty, residing in Canada.”
“Wait,” I stood. “You said my father chooses to remain human?”
Naamah nodded. “The Jumlin are the only vampyres in the world that remain human until they choose to consume blood.”
“It has been rumored that stress also causes the change in them,” Jesu added.
Naamah nodded. “Unfortunately, there is not much information on the diminishing clan.”
“Whoa! Can you guys just stop talking for a minute? I’m… I’m not such a mystery after all, then. My mom is a descendant of Apollyon, and my father’s a walking vampyre time bomb, it was really only a matter of time for me, wasn’t it?”
Jesu bit his lip then re-rolled the scroll. “Ema, I am sorry.”
“My dad knew. He knew, and he decided to leave me and Mom. Didn’t it ever once occur to him that I might need to know that information?”
“It seems I am the bearer of more bad news.” Naamah nodded in my direction, but spoke to Jesu.
“Your brother is after her.”
“Why?” Jesu demanded.
“I do not know,” Naamah shook his head. “But he has issued a warrant for her arrest, and my wife seems to think that he means Ema harm.”
I rolled my eyes. Of course Jalmari meant to harm me, that’s all he ever meant to do since the day we met.
Jesu’s fists clenched at his sides. His brow furrowed, and he bared his fangs as he sat rigidly on the couch. Naamah placed a hand on his shoulder.
“I know what she is.” He glanced at me, meaning intent in his eyes, then he looked at Jesu. “I know what she is meant to do, and I know that you are cursed.”
Jesu’s head snapped up, his mouth gaping at Naamah’s words, but Naamah held up a hand to silence Jesu before he could protest. “You must try, Jesu. You must try to let her do it.”
I wanted to ask Naamah what he meant, but only to confirm my own thoughts. I knew he was talking about Jesu’s premonition. I knew he was trying to tell Jesu to let me face Apollyon, despite his promise to keep me safe. Jesu stared at the floor, his expression blank, his body motionless. He just… stared.
I reached forward and placed a hand over Naamah’s. “I will find a way to make this right.”
“No,” Jesu snapped. “This is not our war.”
I sucked in a deep breath and closed my eyes. I remembered how intently Apollyon had looked at me. How he had said my name out loud. I opened my eyes. “You’re wrong, Jesu. It may not be our war, but it is my battle. Apollyon wants me, and I doubt he’ll stop until he gets me. Besides, I can’t spend the rest of my life running away with you.”
Jesu glanced away. I wrapped my fingers in his. “I have to defeat him, Jesu. I won’t have a war happen because of my selfishness.”
He looked at our hands and tightened his fingers around mine. “Then, I will fight with you. But for now, we have to bide our time until we figure out what to do next.”
Naamah leaned back in his seat and pressed his fingers together like a steeple. “I am afraid Jesu is right about biding time. Ema, you are not safe in Finland with a warrant hanging over your head. You must leave the country as soon as possible.”
Both Jesu and I looked in Naamah’s direction.
“What?” I demanded, but the guys ignored my question.
“The sun will be up in five hours, where would we go?” Jesu stood, the urgency in his voice rising.
Naamah also stood, waving a hand before him. “I have already arranged tickets and passports for both of you. You will go to the German R.E.D. in Berlin. She’ll be safe there. As soon as you can, you must contact the Council about your father. I wish I could help further, Prince Jesu, but if I do not depart soon, King Apollyon will grow suspicious.
“I understand,” Jesu said. “When does the plane leave?”
Naamah glanced at his watch. “In two hours.”
My jaw hung open.
This is just peachy.
I showered and borrowed some of Maria’s clothes. In the shower, I thought I would have a meltdown as I scrubbed my own blood from my limbs and hair. Now, I smelled like lilac and aloe shampoo, and my hands were clean. I sat on the steps just outside Naamah’s penthouse to get some fresh air while Jesu finalized things. He joined me on the stoop and locked the front door behind him.
“Are you ready?”
I sucked in a deep breath. “Airports are usually crowded.”
His grin dimpled his left cheek. “We have a private plane.”
I knew I should have
I stood and faced Jesu. “Someday, I would like to come back and take a tour of Helsinki.”
Jesu’s grin widened as he placed his hand on the small of my back and led me down the walkway to the compact car. “I will see that you do, Ema.”
Rage blurred my vision as I carried Leena’s body into the forest. I gently laid her on a bed of pine needles and knelt beside her. I pushed her midnight-black hair from her face and gazed upon her body.
My jaw clenched at the sight of the wounds on her chest. They looked a day old, even though the terrible incident couldn’t have happened more than an hour ago. My head spun. That fucking demon fed on her essence, and then left her to bleed out before her body had a chance to heal.
She was so cold. So cold and… I didn’t want to think the rest, even though the word presented itself in my mind.
I pounded my fist into the earth. “It’s not fair, damn it. Do you hear me? It’s not fucking fair!”
I wrapped my hands around a tree trunk, ripped it out of the ground, and hurled it into the air. Before it landed, I had my fists on another log and flung it over the cliff. Pebbles and dirt sprayed across the forest. Wood chips exploded as the first tree came crashing down.
“Why’d you do it, Leena? I asked you to trust me. You’re so stupid, you know that?”
I kicked the trunk of a thick pine tree until it splintered. The ground trembled on impact as the tree fell over. I dropped to my knees, panting.
A hand rested on my shoulder. Maria’s gentle voice spoke behind me. “Your Majesty, it’s time to go.”
“Fuck you,” I spat. “Leave me to die.”
I took Leena’s lifeless hands and kissed the tops of them, willing her to come back to me. She had figured it out. She’d tried to save me, and this was what I had to show for my own stupid, selfish behavior. If only I had told her the truth.
Maria pulled me away from the body.
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