Dark Heirloom (An Ema Marx Novel Book 1), page 29
“She’s dead… ” I said.
“There, there.” Maria embraced me, cradling my head against her abdomen. I gripped her blouse with my fists and pressed my face against her. I tried to hold back, but couldn’t resist any longer. My chest heaved, and I sobbed tearlessly against Maria’s blouse.
“You must be strong, Jalmari. She went through all that trouble to save you. It was the last thing she did, and she did it for you. Now you must go on for her. You’ll see her again, when your time comes.”
I wanted my time to come now. A vampyre’s life was much too long. I pushed myself up and wiped my nose with my sleeve.
Maria brushed my hair out of my eyes with her fingers. “Are you well enough to see your father? He’s been wanting to speak to you.” She smiled as if his return was an ordinary thing.
“Before dawn.” I agreed.
She nodded, then returned to the castle, leaving me to mourn alone.
I set to work gathering a thick pile of pine needles. Then I gathered sticks, branches, and whatever remained of the trees I had broken. I lay the wooden pieces length-wise to create a platform on top of the bed of needles. With a heavy heart, I lifted Leena’s body and laid it on the pyre.
I bowed my head and squeezed my eyes shut. When I opened them again, heat stung my vision. It was the closest a vampyre would ever come to really crying.
“My darling,” my voice cracked as I struggled against the lump in my throat. “I never got to tell you how much I love you. All these years, decades, millennia, I wanted to… I wanted to marry you, Leena. I wanted to make you my bride. My wife. A mother. To grow old and die beside you… I… I was such a coward. You deserved better.”
A cold frost warped my heart as memories of Leena flashed before my eyes. This was all her fault. If I hadn’t let that rat into our lives… if he hadn’t forced me… If I had listened to Leena…
Oh, Leena, oh no…
The sun peaked over the horizon. I sucked in a deep breath, and then exhaled while rubbing my forehead. I unsheathed my dagger and laid it in between Leena’s breasts. I took her hands and folded them over the hilt. Reaching into my pants pocket, I pulled out my brother’s lighter and lit it.
“Wait for me in Tuonela, my love. I won’t be long.” I set fire to the pyre and waited a moment to watch the blaze erupt. Sighing, I faced the castle and phased my body.
My father may have gotten his wish, but I knew I was still of value to him. Times had changed drastically since he was king. The Council would not welcome his return. I used this knowledge to propel myself forward. I turned my heartache into rage, and used it to fuel my determination.
I materialized just inside my office. The darkness was almost pitch-black. Plywood covered the window to protect my father’s delicate skin from the rising light as he sat in my armchair, behind my desk, in my fucking castle. He was no longer a skeleton. He had transformed back into his broad, brute self, the cup of blood in his right hand helping him quickly recover his strength. Maria stood in her place to the left of my father. For as long as he was alive, she would be doomed to serve him.
He gazed at me with piercing red eyes, disappointment evident. I didn’t care. I would not recoil. I would hold my ground like an equal. His voice was cold, and he clicked his long fingernails along the mahogany desk top as he spoke.
“Anger is good for you, my son, but you must use it wisely. Do not be a fool and allow yourself to become drunk with freedom.”
“Freedom is a lie.”
His lips curled in amusement as he sipped his drink. Maria immediately refilled his glass. Apollyon grimaced at her. I knew he was disgusted to receive his meal from a blood bank instead of a freshly slaughtered body.
“You wanted to speak with me,” I coaxed.
“I was not expecting to awaken so soon. I have much to discuss with you—”
“You have three minutes.”
He frowned and narrowed his eyes. “These things I plan take time. Despite your complete lack of worthiness, you are the only capable heir to the things I wish to achieve. I need you to keep the Council from—”
I barked a laugh. “Oh here we go again, old man. What are you going to do? Take over Europe? Take over the world? Times have changed. Your reign is long done for. No one fears you anymore.”
He glared at me. “I am not so ignorant. I have allies, Jalmari. I can still destroy you. Without me, you are nothing.”
“You have already destroyed me. Kill me, please. I want you to.”
He merely scrunched his face, exposing his crooked fangs.
I shook my head and scoffed. “There is nothing you can to do me that’s worse than what you’ve already done. Do what you want with the kingdom, I am powerless to stop you, but I will not help. I am no longer your vessel, or your slave.” I turned my back to him and phased.
I was almost outside when I felt Maria’s energy against my own. I debated whether or not to stop, and decided on the latter. We both materialized just outside the castle door.
“Do not try to stop me,” I warned.
“Jalmari, you’re upset.” She reached for my hand, but I jerked away from her.
“Upset isn’t even close.”
She hesitated, her eyes wide and pleading. “You can’t run from him.”
Guilt wracked at my chest. I didn’t want to leave her behind. None of this was her fault, but she would suffer in the clutches of my father’s hands for the things her husband did all those years ago. Naamah would return, if not for his wife, then at least for my father. He didn’t have a choice.
But I did.
“I’m not running, Maria. You’ll be okay, you know that? Naamah will come for you.”
“Jalmari, I’m worried about you.” She narrowed her eyes.
“I’m a big boy, Maria.”
She shook her head. “You’re a stubborn idiot. Where will you go? What will you do?”
I smiled and glanced at the brightening sky. “I am going to do what I should have done in the first place. I’m going to kill that rat named Ema Marx.”
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Exclusive Bonus Scene:
I sat on the cool, damp ground with my legs out in front of me, and rested against the cavern wall, settling in for the day. Ema sat in the shadows across from me, hugging her knees to her chest. My sunglasses covered her eyes. They were large on her small frame and gave the impression of a young girl playing dress-up. She tilted her head toward the cave opening, her whole face scrunched into one big, angry scowl. I half expected her to hiss at the sunlight. I bit back the urge to laugh, and fished around my pants pocket for a smoke. Lighting up, I took a long drag, and then sighed.
“How do you do that?” she asked, her nose still creased in annoyance.
“Keep your eyes open in the light. Doesn’t it bother you?”
I held the cigarette between my fingers and shook my head. “I am not using my eyes. I can see everything I need to see right now with my ears and my nose.” Like the cute snark in your tone and the rose oil scent of your hair. She was a fireball of a woman, prone to fits of emotion.
She pouted. “But, your eyes are open.”
“That does not mean I am using them. You could do it too, you just need practice.”
That earned me a frown as she lowered her chin to her knees. “Tell me something about yourself, Jesu.”
I took another drag then flicked the tip to remove the lingering ash. “What would you like to know?”
“Anything. We spend so much time together, yet I don’t know anything about you, except you’re Draugrian and you can ma
“It is exactly what it sounds like,” I told her. “The earth, air, water, and fire are mine to control.”
“Can you make fire out of thin air?”
I chuckled at her innocent question, remembering how little she knew of our nature. “I cannot make anything out of thin air. I can only manipulate the elements already around me.”
She bit her lip, and my senses soared. I loved when a woman did that, and with Ema, it was a habit. I’d give anything to put my fangs where hers were now.
“To what degree can you manipulate them?”
I couldn’t help the upward inclination of my mouth as I thought about telling her. Would she be impressed, or terrified?
“I can swim through the earth as though it were liquid. I can hold fire in my hands, and create tornados with the flick of a finger. Of course, I am not as powerful as a vampyre.” I shrugged, not wanting to sound overly confident.
She tiled her chin. “Show me.”
I wasn’t expecting that. I thought about it a moment. If I wanted to impress her, this was my chance. “All right.”
I took my lighter and flicked it open, igniting the flame. She turned away from the light, opting to watch from the corner of her vision. I balanced the cigarette between my lips, then used my free hand to grab the flame, closing my fist around the fire, and plucking it from the lighter.
Her breath hitched as she faced me. I couldn’t help the close-lipped smile that curled the left side of my mouth as I pocketed the lighter and then turned my fist palm-up. I opened one finger at a time, revealing the tiny flame as it floated just above my palm.
“If I touch it,” she marveled, “will it burn me?”
“Of course it will,” I chuckled.
She laughed. “Yeah, I guess that was a dumb question, but it doesn’t burn you. Are you nonflammable?”
I shook my head. “Fire can burn right through me if I do not keep it under control. Look close, under the flame. It never really touches my skin.”
She scooted closer and my body reacted, hardening under my jeans.
Get a hold of yourself.
Easier said than done. The curiosity in her eyes sparkled as wisps of dark silk hair feathered lightly across the milk-white arch of her cheek bones. My hands ached to push the strands back and burry my fingers in her hair, but this wasn’t like other times. Ema wasn’t a moment of fun. She was so much more. More than I could begin to understand. I couldn’t mess up. I had to do right by her. I wanted to do right by her. I had not felt this way about a woman in over a century.
“How does it work?” she whispered.
“Same way your powers work, I suppose, through concentration. It’s like telekinesis, only limited to the elements. It took me a long time to learn to master fire. In the beginning I burned off at least half my body hair.” I was babbling. I never babbled. I chuckled nervously, hoping she didn’t notice.
“Do something with it,” she challenged. “Manipulate it.”
Her eagerness made me grin. “What would you like to see me do?”
“Can you make a fireball and throw it?”
“That is easy.”
She cocked an eyebrow. “Let’s see it then.”
Grinning, I cupped the flame and moved both hands in a circular motion, adding just the right amount of oxygen to make it grow to the size of a baseball. I threw the fireball into the back of the shallow cave. The stone walls and stalagmites illuminated briefly as the ball passed them by and hit the back of the cave with a thunderous crack! Orange embers and black pebbles exploded around us.
Ema turned away, her shoulders curling forward. I may have overdone it. I lifted a hand to shade my gaze against the orange glow, trying to see her expression, but she pulled her knees to her chest and hid her face between them. Did the light bother her that much? I guess I was more used to it than I realized.
Way to go, Casanova.
“What other powers did the Draugerian have?” she asked, as though to fill the silence.
I took a puff while contemplating her question. I wasn’t going to spill the beans about the cat, but… could I trust her not to panic if I told her about my premonition? She needed to know eventually. It just seemed like too much too soon, though. I didn’t know how she would react.
I shook my head in answer. “That is all.”
“That’s all?” Her head popped up in disbelief. “You can’t fly, you can’t phase, you can’t do anything else?”
I chuckled and shrugged. “I would say manipulating the elements is pretty good. Besides, not all clans have extra powers. Some have nothing more than sensitive senses.”
“Must suck for them,” she said, before hiding her face between her knees again.
“They can be a bit envious, yes.” I wet my lips, mulling over an idea. Maybe, if I was careful how I articulated it, I could tell her a little bit more? “Actually, there is one other thing the Draugrians could do, maybe two.”
“I knew it,” she perked. “So let’s hear it.”
No going back now. “The Draugrian vampyres were psychic.”
“You mean they could predict the future?”
“Were they any good at it?”
I couldn’t help grinning as I recalled Mother’s talents. “Of course. Humans used to pay the Draugrian to tell them their future.”
She gave me a sidelong glance. “Weren’t they scared?”
I shook my head. “The Draugrian were a peaceful clan, the first and only clan to ever openly co-exist with humans. Some say they were too nice, unable to defend themselves, and now they are extinct because of it.”
“Except for you, right?”
“Yes.” Could she see where this was going? I chose my next words carefully. “But, even so, I am just a vampire, not a vampyre.”
She bit her lip and frowned. “I’m so sorry, Jesu. I can’t even fathom what it must be like to be the only vampire of your kind. But, can’t you just create more Draugrian vampires through bite?”
Okay, I wasn’t sure where that came from. She was so new and I wasn’t used to this—this being the role of teacher to a vampyre ignorant of her own kind.
“Technically, I could. Unfortunately, we have laws against creating clans of vampires. It would not be the same, anyway. Vampire powers are weak compared to vampyres, and each generation is weaker.” I paused to consider something, then chuckled. “We could probably bite our way back to human in less than ten generations.”
She frowned, probably not understanding the joke. “Does that mean you’re not psychic?”
Ah, there was the connection I was hoping for. Now, how to keep her on the correct line of thought without revealing too much? I didn’t want to frighten her. “My psychic abilities are… different from what they should be.”
“Well,” I shifted my weight and glanced to the side, fishing for the right words. “The Draugrian vampyres could see the future any time they wished. Anyone’s future. However, what they predicted was not set in stone. Freewill changes the future constantly. What they really saw was the definite outcome of any decision. Change your mind about something, and the outcome changed as well. My psychic abilities, on the other hand, work the complete opposite way. I get premonitions that I have no control over. They come unannounced, like bad dreams.”
She shrugged. “At least they can be changed.”
“No.” I scrapped the cigarette butt against the ground and automatically lit a second one, trying in vain to organize my thoughts. “My premonitions are set in stone. Every single one has come true, no matter how hard anyone tries to avoid it.”
She waved at the plumes of smoke and scowled. “I wish you wouldn’t smoke. The smell is unbearable.”
Of course the smell would bother her, she’s on sensory overload. I should have been more considerate. I turned away to blow my last puff out of her line of wind, and then put the cigaret
“Why do you smoke, anyway? It’s not like a vampire needs anything to make him look like a badass.”
I chuckled at her implication. “Yes, I suppose I am enough of a badass without them. I started smoking because it is a sneaky way to keep fire handy. I guess, over the years, it became a habit.”
She laughed, letting down a fraction of her carefully guarded walls just long enough to light up the room. My grin stretched wider.
“Well,” she said. “Knowing what I know now, I guess that is a justifiable reason. But, I’d rather you didn’t smoke around me. It’s not like we need to burn any more walls in this cave anyway.”
“All right,” I agreed. “No more smoking.”
“Thank you.” Smiling, she rested her head against her knees. The muted glow of the cooling embers cast rays of orange light to shimmer along her dark hair and halo her fair skin. If ever there was a time in history when angels were real, they must have looked like this; innocent and breathtaking, alight with heavenly fire. After all, the fact that Ema existed, and was here with me now, was nothing short of a miracle. Vampyres didn’t believe in any theology. Religion was a ludicrous idea when one lived as long as we did, but for Ema, I was ready to believe in anything.
“What are we supposed to do for food out here?” she murmured, her chin still rested against her knees.
“Nothing,” I admitted. “I did not bring any blood, and the animals have an advantage right now.”
“Then you better keep talking to me,” she warned.
I furrowed my brow. Her bloodlust was baffling. “Is it really that hard for you?”
“Yes. Is it really that surprising?”
“It is. You seem rather susceptible to it. Even more than most new vampires.”
“Aren’t all vampyres susceptible to blood?”
“No more than humans are to food. Forgive me if this offends you, but you seem to take to it like a drug.”
“It does feel like a drug. It gives me a high. I feel so alive and full of energy.”
I was afraid of that. “I think you might be part Upioran. Blood has strange effects on them as well.”
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