Monday, 20 May 2013

MOTHER OF DARKNESS


As promised, a treat for fans - an advanced sneak peek of Mother of Darkness!

This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to people living or dead is purely coincidental  All rights reserved by Arthur Murray ©2012-2013 and beyond. You may read, but must not copy any part of this manuscript. Plagiarism is a crime. This excerpt of Mother of Darkness is published by Twilight Fantasies & CGB Press with the permission of the author. Cover designed by Kikki Knox.







Chapter One

DEMI'S CELL PHONE buzzed on the floor among her scattered clothes. She reached down and almost fell out of bed. Today was meant to be her day off. The first year Resident had been kept up late by her so called ‘mature’ boyfriend, who had held his job with the local police department for eight years. Paul’s eager decision to help her out with a difficult case study meant he ended up staying the night, and she never got much studying done with him around.

‘Come back to bed, Demi.’ Paul groaned as he stretched out, seeking his lover.

Demi giggled when his strong, rough hand cupped her modest breast to seduce her back into his arms. 

‘Stop that,’ she chuckled. Picking up the phone, Demi recognised the number. It belonged to her father’s cell phone. ‘Agh!’ Demi moaned. ‘Why does he always have to check up on me?’ She ended the call and threw the phone back into the pile of clothes. ‘I’m not a child anymore. When will he get that?’

‘Babe, he cares about you.’ Paul’s tone didn’t come across to as being agreeable to her plight.

‘You’re taking sides with my father now?’ 

Demi screwed up her nose and wriggled back into bed and into Paul’s waiting arms. The phone rang again. She would have buried her head in the sand, if it meant not hearing her favorite Big and Rich ringtone, but settled for the warmth of Paul’s scarred chest and put her hands over her ears. ‘I don’t want to be thinking about my father when I’m lying naked in bed with you.’

Paul laughed. ‘Did I suggest that?’

She glanced up at the amused expression spread across his thin lips. ‘Don’t make me answer that phone,’ she pleaded. Using the spare pillow behind her, Demi pulled the item over her head. ‘Make it go away…’ she groaned. ‘Why does he always have to call me on a Sunday morning? Why can’t he get a life of his own?’

Demi had been receiving the ritual Sunday morning phone call from her dad ever since she moved out of home. She suspected the call had been his way of keeping tabs on where his little girl was and to make sure she went to church. Growing up without a mother had been hard enough for her, but when her father got over protective with his church reminder phone calls every Sunday morning, something needed to be done about it.

I’ll answer the damn phone…’ Paul leant over his cowering lover to feel around on the floor for the melodious, buzzing pocket device.

‘No!’ Demi shrieked. She threw the pillow on the floor and wrestled Paul to the phone. Snatching it away from his grip, Demi cut the phone signal once more. ‘If my father finds out you stayed the night, he’ll make me go to confession for the rest of my life and lock me up far away from you. He already thinks you cramp my ‘potential’ to be a doctor.’

‘I’m deeply hurt by that comment, Demi. You know I am only here to help.’ Paul traced the line down Demi’s spine to the tip of the well rounded swell of her heart shaped ass. ‘What would ‘Daddy’ say if he knew what we got up to late last night?’ The loud crack of his hand stung her ass.

‘Paul!’ Demi yelled before the burning sting of his brand caused her to writhe about. Pain mingled with pleasure where her innermost desires stirred to life. He knew how to awaken her lust and what buttons to push. ‘Paul…’ her voice dripped with desire as she rolled over and into the arms of her lover once more.
Lips collided in with unbridled passion as limbs became entwined in the heat of the moment. The light stubble of his morning growth chafed the side of her neck as his mouth lavished her creamy white flesh with kisses. His playful bites sent a rush of euphoric delight to her core. She wanted him to make love to her all over again.

Demi’s home phone rang, bursting the lovers from their bubble of love. Paul froze. His lips clamped to the side of Demi’s neck mid-hickey and groaned. An audible pop preceded his vocal disappointment. ‘What now?’

The lovers waited as Demi’s cheerful greeting played back before they heard a somber male voice slowly leave a message. Demi recognized that it was her father’s boss, Gus.

‘Demi, if you’re there I need you to pick up the phone honey. I’ve been calling your cell. Please Demi…’ he went onto say.

She did not like the tone of his voice. The tiny hairs on the back of her neck prickled and an ill feeling settled in the pit of her stomach. She sprang from the bed; leaping over the couch that separated her bedroom from the lounge room in her tiny studio apartment to grab the phone. 

‘Gus?’ her hands trembled as she turned around to find Paul pulling on his trousers. ‘What’s going on? How come you have Dad’s phone?’

Dressing in front of her with the speed of a fireman, Paul listened to the entire conversation. 

Listening to the unbelievable words flowing from the other end of the phone, Demi’s thoughts went to Paul and the urgency in which he dressed. Her father never approved of her association with a Cop, but both men had long ago reached an understanding that she was the reason they remained civil toward one another. The color drained from Demi’s flushed cheeks, and he was by her side in an instant. She suspected he realized the news she received wasn't pleasant.

Her voice wavered  ‘Alright. Thank you, Gus. I’ll be there in ten minutes.’ Demi’s eyes met Paul's. Her bottom lip began to quiver before he took the phone from her and hung it up.

‘Shh baby...’ Paul cooed. ‘I’ll drive you to the hospital.’ He held her for a moment before leading his dazed girlfriend to the bed where she sat down.

Demi went into shock. The lively girl whom only moments previously had been cursing her father for annoying her was now wishing he would. When Gus told her there had been an accident and her father was in a critical condition, she realized how selfish she’d behaved. 

'I've been a horrible daughter…’ her voice came out in a whisper as Paul dressed her.

‘No time for regret now, Demi. We have to get to the hospital. Help me dress you. I can’t do everything.’ Paul pulled panties up to her knees and thread her arms through the shoulder straps of her bra. He then threw a t-shirt and a pair of sweat pants at her.

As if struck by lightning, Demi snapped out of her dumbstruck daze and fixed her clothes. She still couldn’t comprehend Gus’ words to her over the phone. For every word he spoke only two or three had time to sink in – accident, father, critical… She regained the same sense of urgency as Paul and pulled on a sweater before shoving her bare feet into her well-worn runners.


THE THING DEMI hated the most about hospitals was the smell. When that smell got into the back of your throat, your next swallow would be tainted with the taste of antiseptic. Still, the sterile scent couldn’t mask the stench of death that hung thick in the dimly lit room. One look at her pale father lying in the bed and the raspy rattle of his breathing told her he didn’t have long to go. 

She held his clammy hand. ‘Dad? Can you hear me…papa?’

Draco Chekov was as passionate about being a History teacher as he had been about being a devout Christian, who never missed a single Sunday service in his adult life. After the death of his wife Helena, Draco thrust his only child into a life of Christianity, to which she rebelled. Demi sat by his bedside and waited for any kind of response from her father. He lay with an almost serene expression on his face. His eyes flickered and he slowly opened them.

‘Papa? It’s me, Demi. I’m here.’ She held his hand up to the side of her cheek and he managed a weak smile in return. His lips quivered as he tried to draw her closer. ‘What is it, Dad?’

His voice was barely a whisper and the closer she got to his crushed chest she could hear the gurgle of fluid filling his lungs. As a graduated medical student, Demi didn’t need a graphic run down of his injuries. Any person found crushed under the weight of a truck would be lucky to be found alive. The other doctors had informed her that there was nothing they could do for him. After being pinned under the truck out in the cold, it had been a miracle he survived overnight. She felt helpless not being able to do anything for him and knew his heart would give out once the fluid had filled his lungs.

‘My little girl.’ Demi couldn’t stop the flood of tears from streaming down her cheeks. ‘Don’t cry,’ he whispered. ‘Go home…in study…under desk…loose board…black box…bring it…’ Draco summoned the rest of his remaining strength to grip her arm. He opened his eyes wide and stared into hers.

‘I will Papa,’ Demi whispered. ‘I’m sorry I can’t save you,’ she wept. At that moment, Demi questioned her abilities as a young doctor and if she’d have what it took to save a life. ‘I wish there was something I could do.’

‘Don’t cry…’ her father kept whispering. ‘I love you so much…so much…the box,’ and closed his eyes.

‘Dad?’ Demi watched the pulse pumping blood through his jugular slow. Long gaps began growing between raspy breaths. ‘Dad?’ She stroked the side of his cheek as he continued gripping her forearm, knowing the last breath wasn’t far away. Inhale, exhale and wait. He drew another breath and when he let this one out, she closed her eyes. Demi couldn’t bear to watch to see if he would take another. She didn’t have to. He squeezed her arm with such a force as his limp body tensed before his spirit left. ‘Dad!’ Demi shrieked and tried to pull away from his iron-like grasp before she gave way to an uncontrollable bout of sobbing over his crushed, broken and now lifeless body.

Paul tried to pry her arm from the death grip of her father’s hand, but she would not let him. ‘Come on baby, it’s time to go.’

‘No!’ Demi shouted through the torrent of tears. ‘Leave me alone,’ she lashed out at him with her free hand. ‘Leave me!’ There was an unexplainable burning sensation in her arm where her father still had his fingers wrapped tightly around her limb. She wanted him to let go, but as strange as she felt, she’d never felt closer to him than at this moment.

Paul glanced at the nurses who came into the room to pronounce Draco dead. He snuck out of the room to wait for her to be ready to leave.

Guilt filled thoughts raged through Demi’s mind as she sat by her father’s bedside still in the grip of his lifeless hand. ‘I could have been a better daughter, told him I loved him more,’ she thought. Then she remembered the last few words he had said. Her thoughts were so loud they drowned out the sound of the nurse’s voice trying to get her to sign a consent form to donate his organs. 

‘No!’ Demi said rather shaky. ‘No, you’re not chopping my dad up for spare parts. I’m sorry, but he wouldn’t have wanted that. His beliefs were clear. No autopsy either.’ Demi wiped her runny nose on the sleeve of her sweater.  ‘He wants to be kept in the morgue for three days before a private burial at our ancestry estate. Those were his wishes.’ The words rolled off her tongue like a rehearsed script. She felt a quiet strength surge through her soul and found the courage to pry her arm free of his hand.

Paul patiently waited for her at the door with Gus by his side. Paul reached out to rub her back, but she shrugged him off.

‘Just don’t touch me right now, okay? I need to process this.’ She gingerly fingered her forearm where her father gripped it so hard. The skin still tingled. When she glanced down at her forearm where the strange cluster of freckles she’d always had; they seemed to form a pattern. Were they always like this? She couldn’t remember and then glanced up at the two men staring at her, ready to offer their condolences and offer help.

‘Your boyfriend is only trying to comfort you,’ Gus said. ‘You had better let him take you home now and look after you or you’ll have to answer to me. Am I understood?’ Gus had a way of demanding respect, even from her. Demi gave a slow nod and turned to embrace Paul. ‘I’ll handle all the arrangements necessary here.’

She gazed at Gus with glassy eyes then wiped her runny nose on the back of her sleeve. ‘But Dad was particular. He made me memorise his wishes when I was a kid. No autopsy, no organ donations and he wanted to be kept in the…’

Gus smiled warmly and finished her sentence. ‘Morgue for three days before being buried at the family estate,’ he pulled an envelope from his coat. ‘You’re right about your dad being particular. He put it all in writing with explicit instructions for me on what to do. Everything will be fine. Now, go home and wait for my call.’

She buried her head in the warmth of Paul’s chest. ‘I’m so sorry.’ Demi sobbed. ‘I don’t know what came over me.’

‘It’s alright baby.’ Paul cooed. His soothing tone sent shivers down her spine and calmed her. ‘I’ll take you home.’

Demi let him lead her out of the hospital. She was still trying to make sense of everything and then she remembered his dying request. ‘We have to go to dad’s place first. There’s something there he wanted me to get.’

‘What is it?’

She sighed. ‘I don’t really know, but whatever it is, he really wanted me to get. I have to do this, Paul. Will you help me please?’

Demi’s dark-blue eyes seemed to stare off at nothing, but Paul couldn’t turn away from her alluring gaze. ‘Anything.’ He replied as though he were in a trance.

A million thoughts buzzed through Demi’s head on the way over to her father’s house. ‘What was so important about this black box?’ she thought. Did he have a stash of money he didn’t want the IRS to get their hands on? She had no idea, and there was only one way to find out for sure. She hoped Paul wouldn’t get in her way if the contents of that black box were illegal and would deal with him decisively if necessary. Demi knew her family history was cloaked in a darkness that her father went to painstaking efforts to try and cleanse them of. All his religious attempts to get her to learn passages from the bible cover to cover suddenly came to mind and she smiled at the memory of him.


Chapter Two

THE HIDING PLACE her father explained on his deathbed was real. She found the box hidden beneath the floor board like he told her. What other secrets did father keep hidden in here? Demi sat down in the big old leather chair behind the desk then cautiously slid back the lid on top of the cold marble box. Inside she found an envelope and nothing more. The red wax seal seemed out dated; something from another century. Taking the envelope from the marble box, Demi found the source of the seal. She held up the heavy oversized solid-gold ring to marvel at the craftsmanship.

Paul snatched the jewel encrusted ring from her hand and let out an awe inspired, low whistle. ‘What do we have here? This is a nice fat inheritance, Demi.’ He marvelled at the giant ruby surrounded by tiny diamonds. ‘I better take this with me to make sure it’s not stolen.’

‘No!’ Outraged, Demi snatched the ring away from his greedy fingertips. The metal warmed in her fingertips, sending a strange tingling sensation up her arm as she gazed at the inscription inside the wide band. ‘Typical,’ she grumbled. ‘Bloody inscription is written in Croatian. “Izabrani. Jedan Bog.”’ Saying those words out loud made every hair on the back of her neck stand on end and the tingle in her arm grew in intensity to a throb with every beat of her heart.

‘Can you translate it?’ Paul leant over her chair, still mesmerized by the brilliance of the Ruby and Diamond studded gold ring.

‘Yeah, Paul,’ Demi rolled her eyes as she tried shaking off the pain in her arm that was slowly beginning to radiate throughout her whole body. ‘I never really bothered to learn. At best, I can swear proficiently, but I can’t read the language to save my life.’ She thoughtfully traced her finger along the inverted etching of two clashing swords, each with five defined points made of Rubies. ‘Strange,’ Demi whispered. A shiver ran down her spine. ‘I think I’ve seen something similar before, but it’s crazy.’

‘What? Where? Maybe it means something.’ Paul picked up the envelope and pushed his thumb under the wax seal.

‘What are you doing? Give that back!’ Demi demanded, but before she could grab the old parchment envelope from him, he already had it unfolded. ‘You have no right to touch my father’s things.’ She could feel the tingle grow beyond a throb. The fire that raged in her blood grew stronger. Feeling faint, she shook her head to try and clear the fog of voices that whispered to her.

‘Come on, Demi. I’m only trying to help you figure all this weird shit out.’

Demi clenched her teeth and felt an uncontrollable urge to hit him. She slapped him up the back of the head.

‘Don’t say that about my father.’ The impact almost knocked Paul off his feet and he staggered a couple of feet away from her.

‘Hey!’ Paul rubbed his head. ‘You were thinking it, weren’t you?’

‘Don’t presume to know everything about me!’ Demi fired back at him, her nostrils flaring with anger and something much darker.

‘Woe baby. Settle down. This is hard on me too. He was like the father I never had.’

She gripped both sides of her head as if trying to squash the sounds of the voices into silence and only after a pregnant pause, she swallowed her pride. 

‘I’m just a little on edge. Why didn’t he tell me about this sooner?’ She groaned, glancing at the letter. Again it had been written in Croatian. She swore in the same tongue. ‘Jebi!’ Her eyes wandered over the page and down the bottom noticed a sketch of the ring. Further on, and in a lot more detail, was a similar scrawl of the clashing swords that reminded her of an incomplete pentagram. ‘This letter must have something to do with this ring and seal, but I can’t understand what it says.’ Demi thrust the letter down on the table, grabbed both sides of her head again and began trying to mouth her way around the words, frustrated. 

Izabran jedan će biti rođena s oznakom proroštva. Dva mača posluživanje jednog Boga. Spasitelj svijeta. Donositelj mira, pravde i mudrosti. Savršena ravnoteža, uvid i besmrtnost pripasti njima. Skrbnik i zaštitnik zemlje.

‘What does it mean?’

Demi shrugged then an uncharacteristic calm befell her before a wicked grin spread across her lips. ‘I’m sure Dad had a laptop lying around here. I’ll Google it.’

‘You’re not just a pretty face.’ Paul returned a smile the mirror of her own. Demi’s mischievous nature infected him and he eagerly joined in the search for the hidden laptop. Sifting through piles of musty paperwork in the dingy confines of the basement office, Paul stumbled over a step. With outstretched arms to brace for the fall, he landed against the wall pretty hard. One of the stones moved. The wall before him began to open. Dust particles fell as the rumble of grinding stone drew back the wall just enough for the two of them to enter.

A lone voice inside her head called to her, whispering something in a tongue she didn’t understand, but it sounded familiar. She couldn’t make out the voice, but she wasn’t afraid of it.

‘What have we done?’ Demi whispered. Wide eyed amazement, mingled with a hit of fear, lit up their faces as they stared into the cold darkness beyond the threshold of the entrance. A secret passage beneath a suburban home was not an everyday occurrence.

‘Got a light?’ Paul’s sense of humor, however inappropriate at times was the reason she fell in love with him in the beginning.

‘My cell phone is bright enough,’ she reached into her pocket and pulled out the device. A pale bluish-white glow illuminated their path as they crossed over into the unknown. Clutching the letter in one hand with cell in the other, Demi found a light switch. ‘I think this is the light.’ Demi flipped the switch and the silence that passed between the two lovers could be cut with a knife. A large coat of arms forged from a combination of gold, silver and ruby stared back at them.

Paul broke the silence with a low whistle that echoed off the stone walls. ‘How on earth did your family manage to keep this a secret?’ He stretched out his hand to touch the carven image of clashing swords. ‘You’re filthy rich!’

‘No!’ Demi rebuked him. ‘Get your hands off that.’ Something inside her made a chill run down her spine, and once more, the hair-raising sensation prickled the skin on the back of her neck. The room suddenly began to chill and she shivered. ‘I’ve seen this before, well something like it,’ she whispered as she stepped forward to join him in his marvel of the sculptured image.

‘What? Where?’ Paul enthusiastically asked.

The voice inside her head seemed agreeable and was in tune with her own thoughts. ‘Da,’ it whispered. She knew that meant yes in a number of languages, so she decided to share her thoughts with Paul.
Demi pulled up the sleeve of her sweater. She thrust out her left forearm for him to inspect.

 ‘Do you see the resemblance?’ she asked him.

‘See what, a bunch of freckles and moles?’

‘Gah!’ Demi groaned. Stand behind me and look down at the same patch of freckles and moles. Paul complied, but still couldn’t see anything. He glanced at her with raised brows and a pouting bottom lip. She glanced around for something to write with and found an old inkwell and pen nib. She dipped it in and connected the dots. ‘Do you see now?’

Paul couldn’t believe his eyes. ‘What does it all mean?’

‘I don’t know.’ Demi whispered still focused on the image hanging on the wall as she glanced down at the similar drawn image on her arm. She bit her lip. ‘But I’m going to find out.’ Clutching the letter in hand, Demi realized the same inscription was engraved along one of the golden swords and not the other. ‘I have to translate this,’ she shoved the piece of paper at Paul and then tried lifting the image off the wall, but it was fixed into the stone. ‘You’ve got to be kidding me!’ Demi groaned stamping her foot out of frustration. ‘Come on!’ she growled and tried again. Breathless, she stepped back. ‘Dammit.’ She sighed, defeated by an immovable artifact  It certainly was old, much older than anything she had ever seen in her father’s history books. His library was filled with them. ‘Paul, we’ll go back to your place and use your laptop. Dad’s den is beginning to creep me out.’
                                                            
TYPING AWAY WITH heavy finger strokes, Demi entered the text her father had penned into an online translator. She sat back in her chair with her arms folded defensively across her chest, waiting for the computer screen to reveal the secrets of her past. The golden image from her father’s secret den played on her mind. Somehow the image looked unfinished, like half a pentagram – why only half? What did it mean? she thought, as she surfed the Internet looking for the meanings of pentagrams and supernatural symbols. There was a lot she didn’t know about her father or her family history. All this time, she thought he was a devout Christian. What was he doing messing around with dark symbols? And what do they have to do with me?

All she knew was their family had a deep dark secret that had to be protected. She didn’t think her father would be involved with black magic or the dark arts – his convictions on Christianity were always so powerful. Could they have been a façade to hide the truth – was he actually involved in something quite dark? she thought, as the screen beeped and the translation was complete and she switched screens back to the translator.

‘Paul!’ she cried out and he came running in from the lounge room. He hovered at her back to stare at the screen over her shoulder.

‘Did you crack your family secret?’ he whispered in her ear while he wrapped his arms around her. ‘So, what is your deep dark secret, babe?’

Demi swallowed hard as the words on the screen trickled into her consciousness.

The chosen one will be born with the mark of the prophecy. Two swords serving one God. The saviour of the world. Bringer of peace, justice and wisdom. Perfect balance, insight and immortality will belong to them. Guardian and protector of the earth.”

‘Bugger me!’ Demi said, abruptly pushing back her chair into Paul.

‘Hey, babe. Careful! You almost ran over my toes!’

‘I’m sorry,’ she clasped her hand to her mouth. She knew her father had been a religious man and anything to do with God was a serious deal with him. The same shiver returned to her bones and the hair on the back of her neck stood on end once again. This revelation scared her. He had been practically spoon fed stories of the apocalypse as a child. The book of revelation gave her frequent nightmares whenever her father would tell her about judgement day. ‘I think I know what this means, but I’m not sure what it has to do with our family. My dad was always religious, but I stopped going to church years ago.’

‘The black sheep…’ Paul kissed her head.

She printed the page of the translation before flicking back to the open page on the pentagram symbol.

‘Woah, Demi!’ he cried and backed away from the computer. ‘Your father wouldn’t approve of you looking into things like this.’

‘But I have to know why the placement of the swords and,’ she thrust out her arm at him to inspect, ‘I have to know why I have it too.’

Paul scoffed. ‘You don’t seriously buy into this Savior bullshit, do you? I mean, come on…it’s just a bunch of scary stories.’ He massaged her shoulders, trying to seduce her to bed. ‘Come and forget about this for the night. You’ve been cooped up in here all day and I need you,' his growling whisper held the promise of a steamy bedroom romp, and the more his magic fingers massaged her shoulders and up into her head, stroking through her scalp, made her forget about the scattered pieces of her shattered world.

His fingertips fired up her drive as he pushed all the right buttons with his lips, nibbling the side of her neck in a slow, intimate dance designed to arouse and ignite hidden passion concealed below the surface. When she turned her head to his, she met his moist and slightly parted lips. His tender kisses had the power to ice her troubles and cares as she welcomed his exploring hands over the rest of her body. With the slightest touch of his hand, brushing across her cheek, he managed to erase the cares of her day, dousing the flames of worry, grief and anger only to ignite the smoldering heat and passion that came from his lovemaking.

Their scattered clothing lay en route to his bedroom. The curtain wide open and the luminous soft glow of the moonlight shone through his window to bathe their bodies in soft light as they made love, unabashedly on top of the bed covers. Beads of sweat rolled down his sculpted chest as he supported his weight on his arms. Battle scars and work related injuries were kept hidden by shadows and only the pure essence of their entwined silhouettes could be seen against the back wall of his bedroom.

Demi dug her fingernails into his sweaty back and wrapped her legs tightly around his hips as he continued taking her from one to pleasure to another. The imminent burst of ecstasy was almost upon her when he withdrew and began teasing her hardened nipples with his mouth. The pain in her head from the denied release left her body quivering with anticipation for more. Breathlessly, and in a lather of sweat, she reached for the back of his neck. He glanced up at her parted lips then covered them with his, and as he entered her again, she moaned deeply into his mouth.

LYING BESIDE HIM, sated by love, she listened to the sound of his steady breathing as he slept. For a moment, he had managed to get her to stop thinking about the peculiar markings and symbols she had earlier been studying. She’d have to get up in a few hours for work, but now the euphoria of their lovemaking had worn off, she couldn’t sleep. Slowly rolling out of bed, and with the stealth of a cat, she wrapped his shirt around her naked body then crept back out to his spare room he called his ‘study’.

She fired up his computer and rebooted the last page she was looking at online. Reading about the history and meanings of the various pentagram images, she was shocked to discover they were mainly used in witch craft and some were associated with signs of the devil. The symbols were also connected to religious meaning and for a moment, she thought she understood the reason for her father wanting her to have such a grounded faith in Christianity. None of it made sense.

The brightness of the computer screen began hurting her eyes as she read in the dark. She pinched the bridge of her nose to try and alleviate some of the pressure. Demi rubbed her temples as she stared at the screen trying to make sense of the five elements of the symbol. The top point of the pentagram represented Spirit, while the left and right symbolically represented Air and Water. The bottom two points were left to Earth and Fire. She screwed up her nose and pursed her lips together in a crooked sneer as she ran her fingers through her disheveled hair.

When she glanced down at her mark and tried making sense of the points representing elements, she realized the image was incomplete. The fifth line was missing on the family crest – where is that fifth line, and how does it fit into the inscription on the swords, ring and letter father left for me to find?

She should have been an expert solving puzzles. She did it almost every day when a patient came in with conflicting symptoms. Unraveling their lies was something she was good at and even managed to save the odd life of two when she quickly cut through the bullshit and got to the truth. This mystery was proving harder to crack.

The lights snapped on and bright light flooded the study. She closed her eyes tightly to shield them from the sudden change and heard him clear his throat. When she opened her eyes and let them slowly adjust they focused on him standing in the doorway with his arms folded across his chiseled chest. The bemused expression on his face made her wonder what he was thinking, but considering he stood there stark naked and slightly aroused; she didn’t have to be a mind reader to know what he wanted.

Demi conjured her mischievous, three cornered smile in an attempt to distract him from the material on the computer screen and swung her chair around to greet him.

‘Hello, lover,’ she grinned in appreciation at his manly form.

‘Come back to bed. Can’t you see we need you?’ he gestured to his growing erection and tilted his head to give her the sad puppy dog eyes glance – begging her to do as he wished.

Demi began unbuttoning the shirt of his that she wore just enough so that when she stood up and slowly walked toward him, the subtle movement of her stride made the shirt fall open. She reached up to wrap her arms around his neck and planted her lips to over his, pressing her body against his.

He broke off her kiss and nibbled his way to her ear. ‘I take it that’s a yes?’ he whispered but didn’t wait for a verbal reply. His hands roved over the shirt and peeled if from her shoulders then watched as it fell to the floor. With renewed hunger, he reached for her and drew her into his feverish embrace. Raising her around his waist, he carried her back to his room, pausing briefly in the hall to lean her against the wall and lavish her body with warm kisses.

Boldly grabbing a hold of his head in both hands, Demi pressed her lips to his, opening her mouth to accept his hot tongue while his strong hands supported her supple ass. The bed squeaked as their bodied fell onto the messed up covers and they made passionate love over and over again. In the afterglow of their heated urgent need, they lay there drinking in the silent, loving glances exchanged between them both while Demi revelled in the subtle touch his fingertips made, tracing the lines of her curves.

‘I love you, Paul.’ Demi sighed, content, fulfilled and satisfied.

‘I can’t explain it, Demi,’ Paul whispered as his fingertip traced the back of her arm. ‘It feels as though I’ve known you forever and I still can’t get enough of you.’

‘Hmmm, me too,’ she grinned and rolled into the warmth of his muscular mass to wrap her arm around him and snuggle.

Chapter Three

DAWN, AND HER cell phone buzzes to life with the bold, hypnotic thrumming of guitar riff and drum beat of Evanescence’s Whisper. Demi’s eyes snap open and she rolled out of bed, searching through her clothes to turn off the ringtone alarm as Amy Lee’s angelic, yet haunting voice begins to sing. Demi grabbed the phone to stop the alarm as Paul stirs. Snatching her clothes off the floor, she heads for the shower.

Warm water washed away her cares and she began humming the rest of the tune to Whisper as she showered. Alive and energized from the spontaneous romp with Paul, Demi scrubbed off the ink on her arm before giving into sensual joy as her hands roved over her feminine curves. When she closed her eyes, she imagined they were Paul’s hands. As the memory of their sensual union came flooding back to her along with the way he touched her, kissed her, held her, left behind a flustered memory – unsated; the desire for more consumed. 

She finished washing and turned the water off. The bathroom is filled with steamy fog that makes searching for her towel almost impossible. Still a little confused about the dreams that flooded her sleep last night, she smirked as she dried herself and remembered sporadic details of her imaginative dream – Paul the Knight, Paul the Watchman, Paul the Prince…. Her imagination sure got a work out in her dreams last night but he met and lived up to all her expectations in all lives. She sighed as she continued wiping her body then quickly dressed before leaving as quickly as possible.

She didn’t stop at Starbucks for her customary Grande, Hot White-Chocolate Mocha, opting to drive straight on into work. She needed to speak to her supervisor to take a few days off. Her father’s funeral would be in a couple of days and she still had much to get organised.

The parking lot was full when she arrived and she checked her phone for the time. ‘Dammit!’ she cursed as she raced from her car to the employee entrance. She dropped her key trying to push it into the lock with trembling hands. She wasn’t looking forward to dealing with her busty, mocha skinned superior who had large dark eyes the size of saucers – the kind you could never say no too when asked to do something out of your way, and the kind you never wanted turned on you in anger.

Christine Meyer was not the type of boss you’d expect to associate the word compassionate with. Her no nonsense approach to medicine was factual – the end. She never broke the news to grieving families gently and didn’t believe in sugar coating the cold hard truth. She was direct and to the point. There were times she liked that about the woman, but other times, Demi hated her eagle eye over shadowing every judgement call made in the ER. Still, she had to credit the woman with having nerves of steel when dealing with children and drunk drivers. The woman was not only a great surgeon, but one who could make the tough calls on the spur of the moment and prioritize without second guessing.

As Demi dressed into scrubs, slipped into her white coat then tied her shoulder length tresses up in a bun and glanced at the tiny reflection in the mirror that hung on her locker door. She looked a little pale and hoped she wasn’t coming down with a cold. Pinching her cheeks for a little color, she turned on her heel and made for the door to start her rounds with the iron Lady.

‘Chekov!’ Christine Meyer’s high pitched shrill of a voice screeched her name and Demi felt every pair of eyes in the wing glance at her. ‘You’re two minutes late,’ her boss grumbled as she shoved a pile of folders into Demi’s arms.

‘Meyer, er…’

‘Well? What is it, Chekov? I ain’t got all day, there are patients to see and I have very little patience for slackers like you!’ Meyer said in one breath.

Demi found herself staring into the mad, wide open black orbs of the woman and swallowed hard, trying to salvage her courage. ‘I wanted to ask you if I could take a bereavement leave? My dad died the day before last and I don’t…I don’t…’

‘Well spit it out,’ her boss snapped, as she paused outside a patient’s room and flicked through their chart.
For Demi to admit she needed help or had a weakness was just her pride getting in the way. She had never needed anybody’s help and prided herself on being efficient. Admitting she needed a break and some time off to process her father’s passing was something she knew she had to ask for, but didn’t really want to have to do it.

‘I don’t think I can be relied upon to be thinking and functioning as you need me to be right now. I just need a few days to get my head together and then I’ll be able to better focus on the patients. I’d hate to be responsible for the death of someone because I was distracted.’

Christine snapped shut the folder of notes in her hand and eyes Demi from head to toe. The makings of a snarl curled her lip as she put her hands on her hips. ‘You come in here late when my ER is already down three staff members and you have the nerve to ask me for a few days off to grieve your decaying father? Harden up girlfriend! He ain’t going nowhere – he’s dead. You’re still with the living. Get over it!’

‘But I….’

‘Get over it! That means my answer is no. Now, get in there and give Mr. Jacobs in bed 3B a sponge bath. You can also remove his sutures, but make sure his wife isn’t in the room. She threw up last time and another patient almost slipped over in the muck.’

Demi sighed and accepted her punishment. She kicked herself for being late. Christine was efficient and hated stragglers. ‘Maggie?’ she called to one of the nurses. ‘Would you please help me prep 3B for his sponge bath?’

Maggie Knags was a young nurse but one who had been there longer than Demi had been working under Meyers’ tyrannical reign. The petite tawny colour haired woman with freckles smiled.

‘Don’t let her get you down.’ Maggie’s encouraging words and friendly smile were enough to lift the heavy weight from Demi’s shoulders as the two women worked together.

Time flew quickly and by noon, Demi was ready to quit. Paul showed up wearing his uniform and she wanted him to take her away from this place. He approached her, holding out a Grande Cappuccino from Starbucks. As she reached for it, he leaned in close to kiss her on the cheek. 

‘With whipped cream,’ he whispered hotly against her ear.

The sharp citrus scent of his cologne mixed with the freshness of crisp linen and sweat made her blush and remember their earlier bliss. When he stepped back, she noticed he wore a lopsided, mischievous grin; the type of grin that had the power to cause her thighs to tremble with anticipation for his warmth. She stared at him for a moment; remembering her bizarre dream where he wore the same lopsided grin and the images flashed before her eyes of him wearing a suit of armor atop a horse, riding victoriously from a battle with hazy glimpses of him them running into the arms of a woman. Demi shook the image out of her mind, infuriated at the pang of jealousy writhing in her bosom that the woman hadn’t been her – or was it? She tried to remember her face, but it was partially hidden behind a large red riding hood and long, flowing cape.

‘Demi?’ Paul’s concerned voice cut through her thoughts.

‘I’m sorry, what did you say?’ she licked her lips then took a sip of sweetened coffee.

‘I asked you if you were able to get time off?’

Demi shook her head and gazed up at him with a weary expression on her fine featured, angelic face. ‘No. Christina won’t let me have the time off. Can you believe she told me to get over it? Can you believe it?’

‘Seriously?’

Demi gave a weary nod as she sipped her coffee again. ‘Yep. Sometimes I want to slap her so hard across the face for being so callous.’

‘That woman has the compassion and warmth of a viper. What if I say something to her?’

Demi scoffed and almost spilled her coffee over her whites. ‘Be my guest, but I doubt you’d have any better luck than I did. The woman’s a black hearted monster.’

Paul glanced over her shoulder and saw Meyer’s poke her head out of her office. She signaled him to get Demi in her office. He glared at the woman and took Demi by the hand. He spun her around and she dropped her coffee as he practically yanked her in line to follow him.

‘She’s about to receive a piece of my mind…’ Paul muttered under his breath as he walked with Demi in tow behind.

They reached her boss’ office and Meyer ushered the two of them inside then closed the door behind them with a gentle click and not her customary window rattling slam.

‘Demi, it’s so nice you have time for visitors when our patients are still waiting on procedures I asked you to perform this morning.’

Shit! Demi thought, Mr Jacob’s sutures. ‘I’m sorry, Christina. One thing lead to another and I completely forgot about removing Mr Jacobs’ sutures. I know I was supposed to do it after his sponge bath, but it must have slipped my mind. I told you I might not be up to task with everything weighing on my mind. Please, I need to take some time off to get my head right.’

Dr Meyer didn’t smile at either of them; she stood there glaring at them like a pair of truant misfits, skipping out on school. ‘I don’t care about your half assed excuses, Demi. You’re a Dr in my hospital and I expect you to be fully functional when you clock on and walk through the doors of my ER every morning – no exceptions.’

‘But, Dr Meyer, with all due respect,’ Paul began. Demi could see he was doing his best to reign in his anger as his hand came to rest on the holster of his gun. He let out a frustrated sigh. ‘Demi is going through a rough time at present what with her father passing away and her pregnancy…’

Demi shot him a suspicious side-way glance then turned to the judgmental expression on her boss’ face and smiled as sweetly as she could. She knew she wasn’t pregnant, but her boss didn’t, and that was the loophole that would get her time off. She almost held her breath waiting for Christina to respond.

The woman licked her teeth; sucking food from the gaps between her two front teeth while glaring at one and then the other intruder in her office before throwing her hands in the air – defeated.

‘Alright. Fine! Take the damn time off. Two weeks and then I expect you back here. Hope that’s enough time for you to get your baby brain under control and get over the loss of your father.’ There was no mistaking the begrudging tone of her voice and the reluctant way she let Demi go.

Paul didn’t miss it. ‘Thank you for your generosity.’

Demi heard it in his voice that he was being sarcastic and hoped Christina didn’t make matters worse for her when she returned to work, or worse – forced her to take a pregnancy test. She squeezed Paul’s hand as he grinned at her boss before the two of them left her standing behind her cluttered desk piled high with paperwork.

When they were out of earshot, Demi slapped his chest. ‘Are you crazy? What a liar you are! I’m not pregnant. What happens to my job when she finds out it was a lie?’

‘Technically, you didn’t lie about it. I told her that – not you.’

‘Yes, but she’s not going to see it that way. Oh, Paul…what have you done?’

‘Don’t worry about it for two weeks and then we’ll think of something. We’ll say it was a false alarm. Hey, it got you time off to grieve for your father. One white lie isn’t going to condemn your soul for all eternity,’ he smirked.

‘I think my father would disagree with you.’ Demi pursed her lips together as they strode arm in arm to the locker room so she could change. He waited outside for her and in a few moments, she emerged in the same outfit she left for work in.

‘You wore the same outfit twice?’

‘Well it wasn’t like I had the choice.’

‘That’s it; you’re leaving a change of clothes at my place from now on. I have spare clothes at your place…’

‘That’s because you spend more time at my place than you do at your own.’ Demi grinned as he reached for her and let out a shrieking giggle when he tickled her. ‘Stop that, you’ll attract the unwanted attention of the Boss Lady.’

‘Oh, you referring to that fire breathing dragon as a ‘Lady’ is hilarious.’ Paul held open the rear door of the building for her and she couldn’t resist the urge to repay him in kind for tickling her. He doubled over in a fit of laughter as her fingers dug into his ribs. ‘Okay, I was holding back before, but now you’re going to get it.’
Demi squealed and raced toward her car with him close on her heels. She ran into the car and spun around only to have the warm weight of his body crash into hers, pinning her against the side of her car.

‘Hmm…’ she breathed. ‘What am I going to get now?’

He gazed down at her with the setting sun at his back to shield her from the glare and tucked a strand of hair that had fallen out of her ponytail behind her ear. His hands tenderly cupped both sides of her face and he move in slowly. ‘This,’ he whispered and when she could no longer feel the warmth of his breath at her lips, he consumed them with a voracious appetite that licked the familiar flames of desire that lurked between her thighs.

LYING NEXT TO her lover sprawled out beside her, Demi woke and sat up. Hugging her knees up to her chin, she watched the man of her dreams softly breathing. Paul seemed utterly relaxed and she didn’t have the heart to wake him as his faced looked almost boyish in sleep; only the masculine stubble on his face betrayed his age. After watching him for what felt like hours, she crouched over him and lightly ran her fingertips over the scar on his shoulder then followed the line of his pectoral muscle before edging her way close to and then around his nipple, pausing to brush her finger over the swollen bud.

Paul stirred beneath her hand and a wistful smile creased the corners of his mouth as he stretched out beside her. His steel-grey colored eyes opened, searching then focused on her. With a grunt of desire, he pulled his naked lover close, pausing briefly to brush her hair out of her eyes before tenderly kissing her parted lips. The muscular V of his hips cradled her inner thighs as her moist mound sat astride the fleshy part of his tight, lower abdomen.

He sat up, holding her close so that their loins meshed and ground as one until the sweet sensation of his maleness grew long and hard to probe against her feminine folds. Demi’s breathy kisses and passionate groans were reciprocated by his own as their bodies teased each other into submission.

She anchored her attention on the guarded blue hue in his eyes as the full length of his gland filled her. Demi watched him until subtle lines creased his forehead from exertion and she threw back her head to let out a hearty moan. The swollen friction between their two bodies slowly began to give way to moist slipperiness that made each intense bump and grind quicker, building toward the inevitable euphoric release each other yearned to give, and get.

Paul tightly wrapped her in his arms, crushing her full breasts against his chest.  The beat of his heart matched the rhythm of hers as they held onto the rapture that followed the torrent of bliss the moment their worlds collided, leaving them in a sedated state where exhaustion and sleepy pillow talk consumed.

A sleepy grin creased the corner of her mouth as she lay on top of him, listening to his breathing return to normal and she kissed the side of his neck. The delicate strumming of his fingertips up and down her spine made her nipples tingle and she curled her leg over his so that her moist, sticky mound ground against his bony hip.

‘I wish we could always be like this, Demi.’ Paul whispered into her hair then lightly kissed her head.

‘Hmm…me too,’ Demi dreamily replied; she couldn’t wipe the contented grin off her face.

Paul took a deep breath and let it our slowly. ‘Marry me?’ his voice was deeply serious.

Demi froze, wondering if she heard him correctly. Her heart thumped wildly in her chest and she swallowed but choked on her saliva. She sat up coughing and the concern in his eyes spoke volumes as to his love for her, especially when he touched her to try and sooth her coughing. Demi took a shaky breath and gazed down at her naked lover bathed in moonlight. Her eyes searched his, begging him to ask her again.

He slid out from underneath her to reach into his bedside drawer to pull out a small red velvet box. Propping himself up on one elbow, he opened the box to reveal a simple solitaire diamond ring. Its brilliance shone in the pale moonlight and took her breath away.

‘Please, Demitra Katarina-Marianna Chekov, will you do me the extraordinary honor of becoming my wife?’

She hadn’t heard him wrong. He really did ask her to marry him and her eyes swelled with tears of joy. She loved Paul more than life itself, and now he had asked her to marry him, something inside her made her reply catch in the back of her throat. She wanted to say yes more than anything, but accepting his proposal didn’t feel right without telling her father. She knew her father never particularly liked Paul, but she wanted to be able to tell him face to face – even if he lay frozen on a slab in a morgue.

The pregnant pause that lingered between them made her nervous and she saw the confusion in his eyes as he lowered the ring then closed the lid. ‘Shit!’ thought Demi, ‘I’ve wounded him!’ She reached out to tenderly grasp his head in her hands and caress his cheek. 

‘Paul,’ she whispered as he raised his eyes to meet hers. ‘I love you with all my heart and would love nothing more than to be your wife, but I wouldn’t feel right accepting without at least letting my father know.’

Paul screwed up his face. ‘I don’t understand, Demi. Your father is lying in a morgue. What good would telling him do? He can’t hear you or give you his blessing.’

Demi heard the panic in his voice and tried to console him. ‘I know, I know,’ her voice begged him to understand. ‘But I just need to see him one more time to at least say the words and then I can let go, knowing I had the courage to tell him anyway – dead or alive. I know he won’t be able to hear me, but it would make me feel right about accepting.’

‘Then your answer is yes?’ Paul sounded hopeful as he waited for her reply.

Demi smiled and inhaled deeply. ‘Yes,’ she said with her exhaled breath.

Paul let out a relieved sigh and opened up the velvet box. ‘I hope it fits,’ he chuckled as he worked the ring onto her finger.

‘It’s perfect.’ Demi whispered as he pushed the ring into place then drew his head close with her other hand to kiss his tender lips. ‘Will you come with me to the morgue? I don’t want to go in there alone.’

‘Of course I’ll go with you. We’re inseparable now. You’re the future Mrs Rivers. What’s mine is yours and when you have a difficult matter to deal with, I’ll be right by your side to share the load.’ When Paul smiled, his eyes lit up with joy and she couldn’t help but be infected with his glee.

Demi threw her arms around his neck. ‘Thank you, Paul. You’ve made me the happiest woman alive.’ She kissed him again – harder and almost pushed him out of bed.

‘Woah!’ he chuckled and cradled her in his arms.

Chapter Four

ANGERED BY THE dim witted woman’s response, Demi glowered at her, trying not to let the frustration get the better of her emotions.

‘What do you mean his body has been removed already?’ Paul shouted at the timid nurse behind the double plate-glass window. He hammered the window with clenched fists. ‘His body was to stay here in the morgue for three days before burial. Demi is his daughter and next of kin. She had every right to know if you were planning to move him!’

‘I’m sorry sir,’ the dark skinned beauty told him as calmly as possible. ‘According to our records, Mr Chekov’s body was signed out by Dr Braden for transport to the funeral home and accompanied by Gustov Stevens. There’s nothing I can do for either of you here. You’ll have to take the matter up with the funeral home.’

The rage Demi felt inside boiled over and a tingling sensation radiated throughout her body. She channeled her anger to will the woman into giving her a positive and satisfactory result. ‘Please, at least give us the name of the funeral home.’ Demi beseeched the featherweight of a woman. She locked eyes with Demi and for a split second time seemed to stand still. Then as if by some miracle, the nurse began to speak as though she read from a script.

‘I will give you the name and address. Let me write it down for you.’ The nurse said in a trance as she slowly sat down at her computer and scribbled a note without looking at it then passed it through the paper tray to Demi.

‘Thank you.’ Demi smiled and turned to Paul. ‘Let’s go!’

Paul grinned. ‘What was with the weird Jedi mind trick you pulled back there? That was so cool! You have to tell me how you did that sometime.’

‘Did what?’ Demi innocently replied.

‘That whole staring mind trick. You got her to do a one-eighty and give us the address of the funeral home!’ 
His glee would have been infectious had she taken notice. ‘Man, I wish I could do that to the perps we pull off the streets. Hey, can I borrow you the next time I have to interrogate someone?’

‘Get in the car Paul,’ she ordered and slammed her door, ignoring his enthusiastic praise and questions before speeding off like a bat out of hell. She didn’t know how or why the woman co-operated with them. All she knew was that when she stared into the woman’s eyes, the tingling sensation disappeared the moment the woman complied with her wishes, but the memory of how it felt made her a little nervous. She didn’t mean to snap at Paul; he was only being supportive and sweet. ‘I’m sorry, Paul. I didn’t mean to snap at you.’

Paul shot her sideways glance. ‘That’s alright baby. I know you’re a little nervous about seeing your father. Heck, I’m nervous and he’s not even alive.’

Demi reached over to take his hand and gently squeezed it. ‘I know,’ she sighed. ‘You’re the best.’

She sped off to the edge of town to where the funeral home was meant to be. When they arrived at the address the woman gave them, the large wrought iron gates and sandstone walls looked more like a prison or fort than a funeral home. Something didn’t add up.

Demi pulled into the driveway and was stopped by a security guard.

‘Do you have an appointment?’ the burly officer said with a low, gruff voice that made the hair on the back of her neck stand on end.

‘No, sir we don’t, but I think my father is here in the morgue and I just need to see his body one last time before burial.’

The officer leaned heavily on the rolled down window of Demi’s Silver convertible mustang. She glowered at him as the buttons on his coat sleeves scratched the paint work.

‘What’s your father’s name?’

‘Draco Chekov.’

The officer’s face turned pale and he swallowed hard as if the name inspired fear in him. ‘I’m sorry. No one here by that name. Move along.’ He quickly stopped leaning on the car and tapped the driver’s door. ‘Get out of here,’ he growled.

Demi put the car in gear and reversed out of the drive. She noticed the officer was quick to jump on his radio and communicate with someone. The security cameras on top of the walls panned to face her car and she felt like someone was watching them.

‘I have a bad feeling about this,’ she whispered. ‘Something doesn’t add up.’

‘I couldn’t agree with you more,’ Paul replied.

Glancing in her rear view mirror left her with a feeling of déjà vu.

‘What is it?’ asked Paul as he turned around to glance at what she was looking at in the mirror, but saw nothing unusual.

‘It’s the strangest feeling, like I’ve been here before – those gates; did you see how the wrought iron twisted in knots around that crest?’ Demi chewed her lower lip and did a U-turn to drive back past the gates. She pulled the car to a stop across the road and Paul leant over to gaze at the gates out her window. ‘See, the crest. It’s like the one from Dad’s den.’

‘You’re right.’

‘Dad wanted to be buried at the family estate, but I never knew where it was. He was always secretive about it and never told me where it was. Perhaps this is it, but why would the guards turn us away?’

‘It doesn’t make any sense. I mean, if the burial is here, where’s the funeral home, and why did the nurse give you this address as being the funeral home where your father was moved to?’

‘I don’t know,’ Demi’s brow furrowed as she continued to chew her lower lip. ‘But I’m coming back tonight to find out.’

Paul sank back into his seat. ‘You know you’re forcing me to walk a fine line between you and the wrong side of the law.’

‘But you’re a police officer. Can’t you get a warrant or something so we can get inside by legitimate means?’

‘I can’t do that, Demi! It would be violating everything I stand for. I can’t manipulate the law for personal gain.’

‘Then you’re going to have to arrest me because I’m coming back tonight and I’m busting in there to find my father’s body. I just know he’s in there.’

‘Demi – no.’ Paul was firm but gentle with his voice. Demi didn’t care. Her mind was made up and there was nothing he could do to try and stop her.

She grinned and turned to face him. With every fibre in her body, she tried to will him to see things her way. She thought so strongly about it as she stared into his steel-grey eyes, the eyes that at this very moment felt as though they bore right through her. The tingling sensation began to flood her body and she willed him with all her might to agree to come with her tonight. The tingling feeling left her and he shifted uncomfortably in his seat.

‘Please?’

‘No, Demi. That is my final word on the subject.’

Demi didn’t understand what went wrong. Why didn’t he agree to do as she wanted him to do? She folded her arms across her chest and refused to drive away, pouting and sulking like a spoiled child.

‘Come on. The guards are getting restless, Demi. They’re armed and we’re not. I don’t fancy losing you over some stupid quest of yours.’

Demi’s mouth fell open and she turned to face him. ‘Some stupid quest? Is that what you think this is?’ she scoffed. ‘Oh, you don’t know me very well,’ she pointed her finger at his face. ‘I don’t need you coming with me. I’m a grown woman and can manage this on my own. I can’t believe my fiancé is hiding behind his badge when the woman he professes to love is in need of absolution.’

‘Is that what seeing your father is all about? You want to seek his forgiveness for marrying me?’

‘No! But he never really liked you to begin with. He always told me he’d let me marry you over his dead body, and now I think that it’s highly appropriate I at least let his dead body know what I intend to do?’

‘Well maybe I don’t want to marry you if you have to ask your dead father for permission to marry me!’
Demi sat there in shock from Paul’s confession. ‘You don’t really mean that, do you?’

‘I can’t believe we’re fighting.’

‘You started it.’

‘I didn’t start it – you insisted on coming here.’

‘Oh, and you’re being such an ass biscuit!’ Demi slumped in her car seat, removed the key from the ignition and folded her arms.

‘And you’re so stubborn!’

Demi refused to answer him. She knew what she wanted and was determined to get it, even if it meant she had her first real fight with Paul over it. She couldn’t understand why he didn’t see her point of view and why he didn’t want to support her. He promised to support her and stand by her.

‘Why do you want to break your promises to me so soon? Is this the way our marriage will be? You making endless promises and then breaking them? What happened to you standing by me and all the rest of the wonderful empty speech you gave me earlier?’ She was so angry at him that her voice began to waiver. ‘If you really meant what you said, you’d stick by me, through this now.’

Paul let out a defeated sigh. ‘You’re right. I am what you called me – an ass biscuit. I’m sorry, baby.’ Paul leaned over to try and hug her, but she shied away.

‘I’m still mad at you.’

Paul put his hands up in protest. ‘Alright, I get you’re mad at me, but can we please get going? That really big security guard looks like he might be the trigger happy kind and his hand hasn’t left the butt of his gun.’
Demi glanced over at the gates again and saw the guard in question. ‘You’re right. He does look trigger happy. Maybe I’ll call him over for a little chit chat?’

Paul grit his teeth and clenched his fists. ‘Stub-born….’ he obnoxiously enunciated in her face.

Demi turned from him and leant out the car window to the big security guard with his hand poised on the butt of his gun. She drew in a deep breath to shout out to him when Paul dragged her back inside the car by her shirt collar, clasped his hand firmly on both sides of her head and locked lips with hers.

At first, she fought him and then once the delights of his tongue tickled her pallet, igniting the hunger for him between her thighs, she gave in.

The security guard had crossed the road and was walking up to their vehicle with his weapon drawn.

Demi’s inhibitions were stripped away and she tried climbing over the shifter to get into Paul’s lap when she caught the security guard coming their way.

‘Oh shit!’ she quickly fumbled around on her seat for the car keys as Paul chuckled. She started the engine and her 55 Mustang roared to life. Demi spun the tyres, speeding away from the estate, flicking up dust and gravel cloud in her wake.

‘Seat belt!’ chimed Paul, as he clicked his belt securely into place.

‘I know….’ Demi groaned and pulled hers across her lap, letting him fit it for her as she continued driving down the road.

‘That was close. Did you see the look on that guy’s face?’ Paul laughed.

‘I don’t think he was too impressed.’

‘We’ll have to be careful when we come back tonight.’

‘What? You mean you’re going to come with me?’

Paul gave her a playful wink. ‘Side by side.’


THE PLACE WHERE the Twin Pines funeral home was situated, on a huge estate at the edge of town, seemed closed for the evening as they slowly drove past the heavy wrought iron gates.

Demi removed her dark gloves and unzipped her matching hoodie jacket to reach inside for her cell phone to check the time.

‘Where’s your ring?’

Demi fingered the empty place on her finger where her ring had been and pursed her lips together. ‘I left it at your place. Didn’t want to lose it.’

‘Or maybe you’re still feeling a little guilty about wearing it while talking to a corpse?’

Demi’s shoulders dropped as she sighed. ‘Paul,’ she turned to her lover. ‘I didn’t want to lose it – the end. Stop reading into everything,’ Demi grabbed both sides of his head and drew him close to kiss away his fears.

Bright lights coming toward their vehicle highly visible and they ducked down to avoid being spotted by the guards as the truck passed. The rolling hiss of screeching brakes as the unmarked truck slowly turned into the driveway and the gurgling rush of the diesel engine as the driver ground through the gears to get it going again were the sounds that echoed through the night. After the truck’s passing, Demi could hear the guard’s low chatter and the occasional radio transmitter blip and invisible electronic voices being board cast over their channel as the guards paced the perimeter.

‘How on earth are we going to sneak in?’ Demi whispered as she raised her head to sneak a peek at the security on the front gate. Luckily she didn’t recognise the guards on duty from earlier in the day.

‘It’s a little strange that a funeral home has such heavy security.’ Paul was at her side silently counting the number of men under his breath then sighed. ‘I could always flash my badge…you know…the long arm of the law and the rest?’

‘Paul!’ Demi hissed. She couldn’t believe he was prepared to manipulate the law after rejecting to help her earlier. ‘I wouldn’t want you to risk it. I know my father’s body is in there. We just have to find a sneaky way in.’

She knew breaking and entering would have violated one of the Ten Commandments her father had preached to her, but right now, her morals had been thrown out the window. She wanted to get into that funeral home, and if breaking a few rules was the price to pay for peace of mind them she’s happily pay the price. Carefully negotiating the road, checking her mirrors to complete the three point turn before driving between shrubs of bushes that lined a driveway a few doors down, Demi parked and got out of the car. They snuck out behind a forest of trees and shrubbery to conceal their approach to the rear of the building. It didn’t look fancy once she caught a glimpse of the small building behind the gate house. Beyond that, all she could see was darkness.

‘See, it looks like there’s only one guard at the back and no cameras.’

‘Why would the front be heavily guarded but the back isn’t?’

‘You sound suspicious, Paul.’ Her tone was cold, calculating.

‘You think?’ he grinned across at her crouched in the shadows. Paul’s sarcastic nature was beginning to grate on her nerves. Demi grabbed him and forced him into the bushes.

‘Paul, I need you to trust me. Can you do that?’ she frowned, deep in thought, debating whether or not to tell him the truth about how she felt. ‘I know this might be strange for you to understand, but I feel different. I know things. I wanted that nurse to give me the address of this place. I wanted her to give it to me so bad that this strange feeling came over me and then she did as I asked her. I tried the same thing with you, but it didn’t work. I don’t know why it didn’t and then we had that ridiculous fight in the car. I’m so sorry for calling you an ass biscuit. I love you and I hope we live through this because I want to marry you more than anything in the world.’

‘Wow,’ Paul scratched the back of his head and his lip curled into a smirk. ‘That was quite the apology. I thought the make-up sex was great, but that right there – that takes the cake, baby.’

‘Will you stop being sarcastic?’

‘Just trying to lighten the mood, baby.’

‘I really need you to believe me or I’m going to go insane. Your confidence in me would really be appreciated right about now,’ Demi held him close. ‘I need you,’ she whispered and a plume of her warm breath mingled with the cold night air to form a pale cloud between the two of them. She was well aware of the warmth radiating from his body and her breathing quickened when she met his gaze.

‘Alright,’ he quickly submitted to her every whim and became quiet as the grave. ‘I trust you implicitly with all my worldly possessions, including my car, remote control and my life. There, are you happy now? Can we just get on with breaking into this joint so you can find your dad and then the two of us can get back to living our lives?’

Demi grinned and gave him a nod. ‘Alright, let’s do this.’

They crept through the bush, scraping their feet along the dirt so as not to step on any twigs, but the rustling sound of their approach drew the attention of a few guards who threw stones into the bush close enough to, but without hitting them.

‘They probably think we’re some local wildlife, foraging through the forest at night…’ Paul whispered low as they stopped to crouch down out of sight, waiting for the search light to swing past them and then they continued to the next tree and well-manicured hedge that lined the border of the estate.

‘I see only one guard at the door and no security cameras,’ Demi whispered as she unzipped her black hoodie jacket and slipped out of it to reveal a snug fitting, black singlet top. Paul’s eyes roved over her voluptuous curves and he drew in a deep breath.

‘Well, if you’re planning to distract the guard with your cleavage, I think you’ve got half a plan. Let’s just hope he’s not a happily married man so you can beguile him with your feminine charms.’ Paul half groaned as he hung his head. ‘You’re already distracting me, and I got to have you a couple of hours ago.’

She winked at him over her shoulder. ‘Aren’t you the lucky one?’ she turned a little of his sarcastic humor back on him.

‘Touché,’ he grinned, and slapped her on the backside.

‘Stay here. I’ll distract him so we can sneak inside.’

She got up off her knees, dusted herself off then walked brazenly up to the guard out the back. His hand immediately went to his side arm and she raised her hands to show him she was unarmed.

‘Hi,’ she said with a broad smile. ‘My car broke down about a mile down the road and I was wondering if I could use your phone?’

The guard made an attempt to refuse her request but when she used every fiber in her being to want him to let her inside the building, he did without question. The tingling sensation left her body and he seemed to be mesmerized by her unspoken spell. Demi signaled Paul to follow and he ran out of the bushes after her while the mesmerized security guard showed them both inside the funeral home; he even turned off the alarms.

‘Thank you,’ Demi told the guard with cool authority that Paul couldn’t resist.

He wrapped his arms around her, planting a kiss on her cheek. ‘You have to tell me how you do that. You’re sensational!’

She shoved him off. ‘Stop that. This isn’t the time or the place for making love.’ Demi’s prime focus was on finding her father’s body. She wanted peace of mind that could only come from seeing him one more time.

Grabbing Paul by the hand, Demi dragged him down a long concrete corridor lined with doors. The ambiance of the building was sterile, cold and gloomy. They reached the end door; a tall door made of steel. She stopped abruptly and Paul bumped into her. Demi felt unusually cold and the hair on the back of her neck began to prickle and stand on end.

I’m beginning to hate this feeling, she thought, as she placed her palm to the lifeless, grey-metallic door.

‘In here,’ she whispered and Paul began to follow her. The latch on the door wasn’t even locked. With an easy entry, Demi flicked the latch back and slid open the door.

The room was dark and the freezing temperature hit her hard. Paul handed her jacket back and she shrugged it on. ‘Thanks. It’s so much colder in here than the rest of this place.’

Paul paused at the threshold of the door and clasped his hands to his lips, blowing into them for a little warmth. ‘I’ll say.’

‘I’ll go in first,’ she whispered and then a voice spoke to them out of the darkness.

‘Don’t move,’ said the chilling male voice. ‘He can’t come in here.’

Demi and Paul exchanged a glance between each other and she saw him swallow nervously. ‘I’ll wait out here then, Demi.’

With an agreeable nod, Demi left him at the doorway and disappeared into the dark. Once she was completely inside, the steel door slammed shut behind her. Without Paul to have her back, Demi realised this was a very bad idea. She knew she wasn’t alone in the room, thanks to the male voice.

‘Who are you?’ she enquired, but no one replied. ‘Show yourself.’ Feeling her way along the smooth surface of the concrete wall, she found the light and flicked it on. The fluorescent light flickered to life after three attempts to flash then stay on.

It was the freezer room. Her father had to be in one of the six drawers lining the wall opposite the door. She reached for the first one to open it and then the voice spoke to her again.

‘Don’t bother looking in there. Turn around, I’m right here.’

Demi knew that voice and froze while facing the freezer door then felt the presence suddenly behind her. Startled, she turned to face it.

‘Dad? Is that really you?’ she couldn’t believe her eyes. Draco Chekov stood a good foot taller than she did but it wasn’t his towering height that intimidated her; rather it was the unusual shade of his eyes. They were a dark brown color before he died, but now they were practically the shade of polished garnet and their intensity scared her.

‘Hello, Demitra.’ Draco breathed her name, but no plume of breath escaped his lips, unlike hers.

‘But you’re dead….I’m having a hallucination. Must be from hypothermia,’ she muttered to herself before forcing herself to try and identify the stranger standing before her that looked like her father, but who seemed somewhat different. ‘You’re not really talking to me, are you?’ Demi didn’t know what to believe. Several possibilities raced through her mind, but none of them made any sense and only one of them scared her beyond belief.

‘I am here and am alive,’ he paused briefly and then gestured to his physical appearance, ‘if this is what you can call alive.’ Draco Chekov held out his hands and gazed in a nonchalant manner at the paleness of his skin. ‘This damned, ice-cold existence isn’t living.’

‘Perhaps you ought to move to a warmer climate?’ Demi let Paul’s infectious playful sarcasm surface and she was rewarded with a scowling disapproving glance from the man claiming to be her father. The last time Demi saw him, he was wrapped in a hospital gown, and now he wore his Sunday best. The black pin striped, single breast suit with matching slacks and vest were set off by the blood red neck tie that made a clear line, separating white collared shirt from suit and his shoulder length hair was tied back in its customary pony tail. High cheek bones and strong jawline gave testament to his Slavic genes. The more she gazed at the man, the more she recognized he really was her father.

A rush of relief washed over her when she wrapped her arms around him as she buried her head in his chest, but the familiar warmth she used to feel was replaced by a rigid, cold exterior similar to the smooth marble box she found in his den. Hugging him was a frigid experience, like embracing an ice sculpture. 

‘You really are alive. How is this even possible? Am I dreaming?’ Demi asked her father.

‘I wish you were dreaming my sweet,’ he said and then smiled.

Demi stepped out of his embrace, but had nowhere to go. The freezer doors blocked her escape. For the first time, Demi noticed his fangs. Folk lore, history and fairy-tales might have been playing tricks on her mind, but there was no denying the fact that his canines were unusually long when he flashed a broad smile.

‘Is something wrong with your teeth, dad?’ Demi took a couple of steps away from him until she was abruptly stopped by the wall behind her.

Draco closed his eyes then slowly shook his head. ‘I was destined to have them, and eventually, you will have to choose your own destiny too. This is who we truly are. This is our dark curse and the secret I have kept hidden from you for centuries.’

Demi frowned. Her father wasn’t making any sense. ‘Dad, what are you talking about?’

‘My darling, Demitra,’ Draco stretched out an ice cold hand to stroke the side of her warm cheek. She flinched at his touch but didn’t turn away. ‘It is time you knew the true nature of our ancestry, but not here.’

Demi grabbed a hold of her father’s arm. Even though he wore clothing with sleeves, she could not get over how intense the coldness of his body came through the fabric. 

‘What do you mean, dad? What ancestry? You’re scaring me.’ She couldn’t bring herself to say it out loud, but the only type of being she knew that fit the profile and that could explain her father’s resurrection was the legend of the Vampire. 

She shivered, but not from the cold. The thought her father was a blood sucking demon repulsed her.

‘No need to be afraid when you’re with me. I will not let any harm come to you,’ Draco tried reassuring her ‘I know your thoughts, Demitra. You need to confront what I am and what you too will become someday.’

‘You think I want you to be a Vampire, or that I want that kind of life for myself?’ Demi screwed up her nose in discussed.

Draco sighed. ‘Your mother had the same reaction when she discovered Marius was one, but in time, she came around.’ Draco gazed at the open door and then back at Demi. The excruciating pain of hunger etched into his face and caused her to feel a little uneasy.

‘Dad? Are you alright?’ she backed out of her father’s way and then Paul was behind her. She was the only thing standing in the way, separating two men who were never particularly civil to each other, unless in her company, and now her father was a Vampire. He could tear through her to get to Paul, if he wanted too.

‘Draco?!’ Paul’s surprise at seeing Draco Chekov walking and talking caused his hand to instinctively rest on the butt of his gun when Draco flashed his new set of teeth.

Sensing the tension, Demi pleaded for Paul’s side. ‘If you’re worried about Paul, don’t be. He’ll take good care of me. We’re going to be married,’ she blurted out and then wished she didn’t.

Draco closed his eyes again and shook his head. ‘My sweet daughter, I have nothing to fear from him, but he has everything to fear from me…’ Draco’s voice trailed off into a whisper. When he opened his eyes, he gazed straight into hers and she heard his voice inside her head. 

You have no idea how much his blood appeals to me. It is for his safety that we must leave without him.

Demi gasped. ‘You wouldn’t!’ she blurted out; horrified her father would even consider him a meal.

Draco grabbed a hold of her arm and pulled her out of the way before grabbing Paul around the neck, slamming him into the wall adjacent to the freezer room. Paul’s feet dangled six inches from the ground as Draco pinned him to the wall, eyeing him with extreme hunger. Snarling like a wild beast, Draco’s grip tightened around Paul’s neck.

‘Dad, no!’ Demi lunged for her father to push him out of the way, but he stopped her with his free hand, gripping her by the collar at arm’s length.

‘You listen to me,’ Draco spoke slowly so the young officer had time to process what was being said. ‘You will never see my daughter ever again. I can’t kill you without harming her, so you’re going to leave her alone and never come looking for her. Do I make myself clear?’

Paul’s face began turning purple. ‘Let go of her. Your threats don’t scare me,’ he spluttered and gagged as he reached for his weapon.

‘Still defiant.’ Draco eyed the younger man up and down. ‘You’d do well to adjust your attitude or in time, you’ll certainly end up dead.’

‘Is that a threat?’ Paul gasped through clenched teeth.

‘Dad, let him go – please! I love him.’ Demi interjected.

Draco’s dark eyes glanced at his daughter then back at Paul. ‘No, it’s a promise.’ Draco dropped Paul to the floor, gasping and coughing for a breath as Demi fought free to get to his side.

‘You’re not my father!’ she venomously spat at the figure towering over them and then he was inside her head again.

This is for his protection, and for your own good. He will certainly die if he pursues you.

Demi’s eyes welled up. Her father showed her a vision of Paul’s gruesome death at the hands of men she couldn’t identify. The vivid image caught her breath and she tightened her grip on Paul’s arm. She didn’t want to let him go, but her father was right. She didn’t know how her father did that, but watching Paul die once was bad enough, even if it was only in a vision. Paul’s hand stroked her back as they held onto one another. 

Her heart felt as though it was about to break. She had to send him away if he was to live.
Stroking the sides of his face with her hands, she coaxed his gaze to meet hers. 

‘You want to know how I did that freaky Jedi mind trick thing back at the hospital?’ she sniffled as she gazed into Paul’s eyes that she knew might be the last time.

He smiled warmly but then the warmth from his smile faded as he stared back at her tear stained cheeks. Tears flowed down her cheeks as she compelled the only man she ever loved to forget about her and to not come looking for her.

‘Remember how much I loved you and move on with your life without me in it.’ Demi swallowed hard, as though she choked on every word. ‘Get out of here, back to the car and never return. Forget about this place. Forget about everything you saw with me tonight. Forget…’ her breath caught in her throat. ‘Forget I even exist, but remember how much…you were loved,’ she closed her eyes to break the bond but couldn’t stop the tears. 

She sat crumpled in a trembling heap on the floor. She didn’t notice her father drag Paul up from the floor and usher him outside. From that moment, nothing mattered to her anymore. Oh, what have I done? cried her soul as her entire being mourned the loss of her lover.

Chapter Five

OUTSIDE, AWAY FROM his daughter, Draco stared into Paul’s eyes and compelled him to leave the building and never return. He didn’t want the man coming back into their lives again – not after all the other times he came back and almost ruined everything.

‘Forget about my daughter. She is not the one for you. You’re not the right man for her. Find someone else and move on with your life – this time, you had better make it forever, or I will kill you and be damned by the consequences.’

Paul stood quite still and listened, but not of his own volition. Draco had him captured under his spell. The young man lowered his eyes, turned then calmly left without putting up a fight. Draco was pleased he had managed to save his family for another decade or century – however long it would be until his daughter’s path crossed his again and the two of them would have to be separated.

For centuries, Draco had been able to keep him away from his daughter by enlisting the help of his estranged, twin brother Marius, but now there would be no need for Marius to intervene now he had turned Vampire. He could look after his own daughter and keep her away from the only man who could bring her family down.

Draco waited to hear the young man’s heart beat fade into the distance before he turned his sights back to his grieving daughter. He knew he’d have to ease her suffering by making her forget about him. He knew he couldn’t kill Paul because, when it would finally be time for Demitra to turn Vampire, all her locked memories would be opened and she’d remember everything. Keeping her in the dark was one thing, but living with her for an eternity, having her hate him forever for killing the only man she ever truly loved would be insufferable. He didn’t want that responsibility on his conscience. He realized er powers were beginning to grow – she wouldn’t have been able to gain access to the place if she couldn’t successfully compel a human. That was part of the many gifts he knew were in store for her the older she got. He was relieved that his death had managed to trigger her instincts again. The last time Marius compelled her to forget about her lover, Demi’s powers grew weakest until she could no longer hear her uncle’s thoughts or compel humans to do as she pleased.

For the first time in eighty years, Demitra was beginning to return to the daughter he knew. It saddened him it had to some at the expense of his own life, but protecting their family and the longevity of her mother had to come first.

Demi never knew her mother. Draco could never find the right way to explain what had to be done to protect her as a child and give her the optimal chance of survival. As an adult, he hoped Demi would someday be reunited with her mother, but he knew that might be dangerous. Draco’s wife had never wanted to be a Vampire, but it was the only way their daughter would be spared her mother’s Slayer curse. He knew, one day, he’d have to explain everything to his daughter, but as the years turned to decades, and decades to centuries, somehow the finer details became blurry and lost in worlds that had disappeared right before their eyes.

Times had changed since the Middle Ages – children were less obedient and craved independence that at times didn’t prove healthy. He knew all along that neither of them had anything to fear from death; their original bloodline gave them immortality from birth whether they wanted it or not. It was only at death that their ultra-powers were granted making them live forever as gods among men – untouchable and indestructible.

He watched his brother fall in 1514 among the many peasants killed in the Hvar Rebellion. Marius sacrificed his life to save Helena. That sacrifice forced Marius to keep his distance, and became the reason Draco and Helena grew so close. Their dysfunctional family worked. They found Helena as a child, orphaned by the Rebellion. Her mother and sister were brutally slain after the government’s noblemen took women at will, tearing families apart, sparking the Rebels to take action against the City’s officials.

When Marius rose after he was slain and took his vengeance on the men who killed him, as well as Helena’s family, he helped Draco and Helena escape the City. He was the only one strong enough who could, but still the Rebels lost that war. Had Marius stayed to fight, the outcome might have been different, but history could never openly record their secret.

Draco had witnessed major cultural changing events, revolutions, wars and still, all he remembered was how frail human life could be and how unfair their curse had been to spare them from the restful peace that is associated with death.

Now Vampire, immortality became a dark existence, relying on the need to feed on human blood to continue living. They needed to take life in order to keep it. The concept didn’t seem fair, but he’d rather live forever, watching over his daughter than give her up to her fate at the hands of her lover. The survival of their entire family lay with her being kept apart from Paul, and Draco would make sure his daughter never remembered him again.

 At least now he would be able to compel the pain away instead of leaving the task up to his brother.
He strode back into the cold room where his daughter was still crouched in a ball, sobbing uncontrollably.

‘You should stop crying, Demitra. You saved that young man’s life by letting him go.’

‘I can’t breathe without him, Dad. It hurts so much…I….’ Demi gasped as another bout of heart wrenching tears ran down her cheeks. ‘I can’t live without him. He’s my life, dad. I love him.’

Draco placed his large hand on his daughter’s head. ‘You only think you’re hurting, but everything will be alright. Look at me, Demitra,’ Draco’s tone was soft, compassionate, but the gleam in the black saucer shaped orbs screamed dangerous intent.

Demi couldn’t turn away from her reflection in his large round eyes and obediently listened to every word her father spoke.

‘You will forget the boy.’

‘But he’s not a – he’s a police officer….’ Demi fought her compulsion.

Draco flashed a cunning smile. ‘You will forget about your police officer. He means nothing to you. The next time you see him, you won’t remember him and the pain you feel right now, you will never feel again.’

‘Never again…’ Demi repeated and stopped crying.

Draco hauled his daughter off the floor with a swift, fluid movement. She landed on her feet as sure as a cat and wiped the wet trails from her cheeks with the back of her sleeve.

Pleased with himself, Draco chuckled. He’d seen how easy it was for his brother to do the same thing to his daughter, but now, he had the power to do it for himself. It would only be a matter of time before he would be able to reunite his family and introduce Demitra to her mother.


DRACO GRABBED HER around the waist and rushed out the door with lightning speed. The world whizzed past in a blur so that she felt faint.

Demi wanted to ask him where he was taking her, but the words wouldn’t come out of her mouth. She sensed him in her thoughts again and listened intently to every word he had to say in her state of unconsciousness, but something didn’t feel right. Even though her father was alive, something inside her felt hollow – missing and she couldn’t understand why.

Demitra, I knew you would find me. I called you to me. I knew you would get the clues I left you.

The wind swept her hair back off her face as they raced through the dense forest. Her breath came out as plumes of cold air as the cold closed in around her from every side. It was strange hearing his thoughts directly in her head.

I know your fears. I raised you knowing someday you would come to know your true heritage. I hid the truth about us in the stories I told you as a child. Deep down, you know what I am now. But what you don’t know is how or why I am this way. Everything I’ve ever done was to protect you. My death came early so that I could protect you. There are ancients who want to use you as a vessel for evil. Your mother and I know you were born to use your power for good. We can’t risk the dark forces influencing you.

Demi didn’t know what he was going on about. She tried to remember back to her childhood to the stories he used to tell her. The inscription on the wall in his den kept popping into her head along with stories that were legend; legends about ancient gods and the apocalypse mentioned in the bible. Recalling anything about the stories was more than a little difficult, considering the childhood tales were buried deep in a past she had spent a life time trying to forget.

Draco reached the ancestral homestead and paused outside in the courtyard. Demi got a good look at the huge sandstone arches and balconies which vaguely reminded her of a place from the past. Without warning, Draco leapt up to the open bedroom window then whisked her over to the bed. Once the world around her came back into focus, she realised she had been in this room before. He quickly wrapped her in a blanket and clasped his hands together as if praying before tilting his head to rest his lips against his fingertips, as if waiting.

‘You mean the stories about Vampires and the Devil were based on truth?’ Demi gasped as her teeth chattered and she hugged the old patchwork blanket around quivering shoulders.

‘Demitra,’ he began but she cut him off.

‘Demi.’ She swallowed. ‘I hate my full name. Why can’t you call me Demi?’

He ignored her question. ‘Demitra, you bear the mark of the chosen one.’ Draco sat on the window ledge and hung his head. ‘But you are vulnerable as a human.’

Demi didn’t like the tone of her father’s voice when he mentioned her humanity. She swallowed hard knowing he would read her thoughts. ‘Are you going to force me to turn Vampire too?’

Draco chuckled. ‘I can’t turn you. That is the other half of the curse and the reason you must live, listen and learn.’

‘How can I expect to live if someone is coming after me?’ The door to her room opened and three figures appeared. Her eyes grew wide with fear as she felt the coldness of their presence and instinctively knew the three intruders were Vampires.

‘We’ll protect you.’ Draco gestured to the other people in the room. ‘I’d like you to meet your uncle Marius, my twin brother.’

The man who stepped forward looked like a younger version of her father. Demi was confused to see the two of them side by side. Up until tonight, she believed the two of them were alone – she had no living relatives.

‘Bosh and Leith are sired to Marius. He created them. They are not day walkers like us, but were bitten.’ The other two men who traveled with Marius came forward to stare at her.

Bosh spoke up first. ‘We’ve been watching over you and your father for many years, keeping you both safe.’

‘Safe?’ Demi couldn’t hide the growing anger in her voice. If she heard anyone telling her one more time they were keeping her safe, she was going to completely lose it. ‘Safe from what? Living?!’

‘No,’ Leith spoke up. ‘Luca.’

The double syllable word sent an unearthly chill down her spine. She had no idea who Luca was, but the way Leith said his name inspired fear. She swallowed hard. Demi nervously shifted away from them to gain a little distance on the edge of the bed.

Bosh rushed at her then stopped just shy of a whisper. His sudden movement startled her. ‘Don’t forget the Slayers; you should always live in fear of them too. They are not to be trifled with.’ The reeking stench of death and decay on his breath made her turn away from him.

Demi couldn’t believe the crazy things she was being told. ‘Why should I fear them? Don’t they hunt Vampires? I’m still human.’ Demi’s words came across a little smug. She knew the legends; Slayers only protected innocents from evil Vampires, lurking in the shadows. She wasn’t afraid of them. If anything, she hoped one might come to her aid right at that moment to help even up the demon/human ratio.

‘No,’ Marius’ voice was cold, cutting through her thoughts and got straight to the point. ‘But someday you will.’

Demi shot a confused expression over at her father standing beside the man claiming to be her long lost uncle.

Do not fear your family, my daughter…they mean well.

Demi heard her father’s voice inside her head again. ‘Oh, Dad! Will you stop doing that with the telepathy thing! It’s freaking me out.’

‘Get used to it, Demitra. Embrace your natural gifts,’ he chastised her.

Demi sprang up from the bed. ‘What gifts? I’m no one special. So what if I can hear you talking inside my head or if I can make people do what I want them to. I’m a freak! It doesn’t mean I’m going to turn out like any of you. I don’t want to be a Vampire. I like – love my life as a human. I have a wonderful –’ she paused searching for the right word, but the natural word was missing. She filled it with the second thought that popped into her head instead. ‘Job! I’ve just become a doctor – I have a great life! I don’t need this!’

‘Demitra.’ The female voice came from behind her and she saw her father’s expression twist in pain. He looked like a man who had been stabbed through the heart. Demi turned to see a woman standing in the doorway of her bedroom. The woman appeared to be a little older than she was, but not by much.

‘Helena?’ Draco whispered and pushed past his daughter and the two that Marius claimed as his own to get to the intruding woman.

‘Yes, my love. It is I.’ The woman’s words came out sounding warm and velvety, almost a purr, but something about her tone also screamed deadly, manipulating.

Draco reached for the woman and drew her into his arms before engaging in a very intimate kiss. It was the first time Demi had ever seen her father kiss a woman. She didn’t know how to react.

‘Who are you?’ Demi strode up to the two of them, pushing them apart. The woman gasped and a smile lit up her face. Demi noted the fangs and wondered if she was another long lost relative.

‘Demitra,’ the woman whispered and clasped her hands in front of her mouth as though overcome with emotion. ‘She’s beautiful, Draco.’

Draco wrapped his arm around the intruding woman who gazed at Demi with an overwhelming sense of familiarity that made her a little uneasy.

‘Demitra, this is your mother.’

Demi took two steps away from them and backed into Bosh, stepping on his foot. A spine chilling sensation tingled through her spine and the hairs on the back of her neck stood on end hearing him hiss.

She shook her head. ‘No, my mother died giving birth to me. She can’t be my mother.’ Demi kept trying to back away from the others like a wide-eyed, frightened rabbit, but the pain she inflicted with those few words were plain in the woman’s dark eyes so that gazing into them mirrored Demi’s own. ‘You can’t be my mother…’ Demi whispered as the woman followed her around the room until Demi was cornered by a dresser. Her heart thumped wildly in her chest as she searched for a way out, and then the woman placed an ice cold hand to her warm cheek. 

Demi heard her inside her head whispering and the contact calmed her.

You’re so beautiful, my little girl. I am your mother. I am sorry we have been forced to live this lie for so long, but now is the time. Let me show you.

Her head began to fill with images like an old movie. Memories that didn’t belong to her kept flooding her conscious thought. Demi saw everything the woman had ever done in rewind – killing and feeding. Images of Marius, Bosh and Leith in a place she never knew. Flowing memories and feelings invaded her being, consuming her and then came the images of her giving birth. Demi felt the woman’s pain and struggle to bring a new life into the world. She saw her father’s face holding a child and she instinctively knew he was holding her. Then the woman’s memory skipped further back to a time when Draco and Marius were her family and then horrific memories of a bloody and violent war and a brunette woman slaying a Vampire while holding a baby in her arms. Demi gasped, stepping back to break contact. The images stopped.

‘You knew Slayers?’ Demi couldn’t control her fear.

The woman smiled. ‘Yes. What you saw was my past, my mother and my youth.’

‘Were you a Slayer?’

‘Once,’ Helena lowered her eyes as if the memory pained her.

‘How did you become a Vampire, and how did you just show me all of that?’

‘How I became what I am is a long and painful memory. It’s something I don’t want to go into. It doesn’t matter now.’ Helena gazed at Marius; regret and sorrow furrowed her delicate brow....

***

You were reading Mother of Darkness by Arthur Murray - Coming soon exclusively to Twilight Fantasies & CGB Press

No comments:

Post a Comment