Assassin: Fall of the Golden Valefar
Page 17

 H.M. Ward

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Reaching into his pocket, he took out his brimstone. He scraped his thumb against the sharp edge and it turned into a blade. Moving quickly, Eric slashed his palm. He didn’t wince as the blade cut into his skin. His hand filled with blood. Turning toward Natalia, he held it out for her. “Drink. It’ll heal you.”
She watched him, her ice blue eyes looking at his bloody hand and back at his face. There was confusion in her eyes, something he didn’t expect. Her lip curled slightly, “I don’t drink blood, Eric.”
“But you know what kind of blood this is, don’t you?” he leaned closer to her. Natalia didn’t shrink back. She watched his lips as he spoke, feeling lightheaded.
She nodded. She knew what he was, and was certain of it now. Up until this moment she doubted herself, questioning the visions that prompted the painting on the wall. “You’re one of them. You have their blood.”
“Say it,” he snapped. “You know I’m not human. Say it! What kind of blood is this? What kind of blood heals and commands?”
Again she looked confused. “I don’t know what you’re talking about. I don’t know what it does. I only know what I see—what I see in you. There’s so much darkness, its darker than you know, consuming you, devouring you. And you let it.” Eric’s eyes were wide, watching hers as she spoke. “You’re one of them. That’s demon blood, even though you’re a man. I don’t know what you are. Or why you’re the way you are, Eric.” She shivered, and looked away from him. The room shifted, and started to spin. Natalia wasn’t sure if it was her reaction to the blood or from her broken foot. She pressed her eyes closed and reopened them slowly, trying to make the spinning stop.
“Eric,” she said his name like a plea for help. Her hands darted to her sides to steady her.
Eric didn’t hesitate. He forced his hand over her mouth and made her swallow. Horror widened her eyes as she realized what he was doing. Eric kept his hand clasped over her mouth, waiting. If she was human it would only heal her... and make her easier to manage. If she was something else, if she was what he feared, the blood would have no effect on her.
When he released his hand from her mouth, Natalia smiled at him with blood-stained lips. Woozy, she leaned back in his arms. She sounded drunk, slurring her words softly. “I didn’t paint the whole thing, you know. There’s part missing...” her words drifted off as her eyelids drooped.
Eric pushed her hair out of her face, asking, “What part is missing?”
“The goddess dies. Her blood runs deep, and spills far. That’s why you’re covered in blood. That’s why I covered that half. It’s not happened yet, and I don’t want it to.” Her eyelids lowered, though she fought to hold them open. She’d tried not to swallow, but she did. His blood was odd and slid down her throat with an intense heat that erupted inside her body, making her feel instantly intoxicated.
Eric didn’t expect this reaction. It gave no clues to her origins, but it did confirm that she was human. He thought she was babbling. “What goddess, Natalia?”
She shrugged. “I don’t know her name, but she knows yours. She called to you, calls to you now, but you ignore her—the blue ghost locked in darkness.”
Natalia bent over, pulling on a boot. She was pissed. “You drugged me, Eric. You fucking drugged me!” She jumped up, ready to storm out.
She wasn’t what he thought. He didn’t know what she was. His blood healed her foot, but couldn’t compel her. Normally, demon blood could compel, but it didn’t work with her. If the blood formed a connection between them, she was able to override it.
Eric moved in front of her, blocking her exit. “I healed you! It wasn’t like that.” She gazed at him, and he said again, “It wasn’t like that.” Natalia was still angry, her eyes seething.
“Then give me your hand.” She held out her palm, waiting for him to comply. When he hesitated, she started to turn away.
“Fine,” Eric thrust his hand out to her, stopping her from leaving. He knew he should have let her leave, but something wasn’t normal about her. He didn’t want her to leave his sight until he figured her out.
Natalia took his hand, rubbing his palm with her thumbs. She placed one thumb over his, feeling his pulse. It quickened when he looked at her. This would tell her if she acted on her desires. God, if she slept with him she couldn’t look at herself again. All these years would be wasted. Every attempt she made to be better than the man who killed her mother would be wasted. She couldn’t stand the thought of him touching her, not because she didn’t want it, but because she couldn’t.
Gazing into his eyes, she asked, “Did you drug me?”
“No.” Eric was exasperated. He could have done anything. She babbled until she passed out. It was the strangest reaction to his blood that he’d ever seen. “I didn’t drug you. It was blood. You reacted differently, and passed out. I didn’t touch you.”
Natalia’s gaze was cold. “Rephrase, Eric No-Name. This is your last chance. Did you touch me?” Her body was tense, shaking. She had no recollection of last night, no memories of Eric beyond swallowing the blood as he forced his hand over her mouth. The world became hazy and there was nothing after that.
Not knowing what she said made her uneasy. Having no idea if Eric touched her made it worse. What if he…? What if she… ? Natalia shook, pressing her fingers tightly into his hand, looking for the truth, not caring if he realized what she was. Watching the little vein in his hand, carefully, she hoped to God that he didn’t kiss her—not while she was sleeping—the effects would ruin everything she planned.
Eric assumed she thought he really drugged her, and molested her in her sleep. Part of him was offended, but he understood. At least he thought he did. If the girl had no memories, it was no wonder why she was angry. His lips parted, searching for the right words. Natalia’s head tipped to the side, more rage pooling within her eyes every second.
He sighed, speaking softly, “I touched your foot. I felt the skin on your leg when it healed. I felt your body lean into mine as you slept.”
“And...” she knew there was more. She could sense it. His pulse quickened, she could feel it. She learned that she could tell if people were lying by touching their hand, feeling their pulse respond to her touch, her voice. And Eric was lying, she was certain.
Eric looked away, breathing deep. “And I held you longer than I should have. I wrapped my arms around you, as you slept in the nightmare room.” He ripped his hand away from her, ignoring the confusion on her face. Or surprise. Whatever it was he didn’t care. He didn’t have to explain himself to her.
Her tone changed, softening, “Why?” she asked. Her heart lurched. He held her?
Eric could feel her eyes on the side of his face. The muscle in his jaw tightened. He turned to her, “Why do I do anything, Nat? It doesn’t matter, okay. Just let it go.” But she didn’t let it go. She never let anything go.
The corners of her mouth lifted. The rest of her fear melted away. He held her. Eric acted like a schoolboy with a crush and held her all night. His golden eyes wouldn’t look at her, like he was ashamed of his pure actions. It was so sweet, and so unlike him that she couldn’t help but grin.
She stepped in front of him, trying to catch his eye. “You’re a little conflicted, Eric. One day you hate me, the next day you smell my hair while I sleep…” She watched him, with a mischievous smile on her face.
There was no way she knew what she did to him. Eric tried not to smile, and pressed his lips into a thin line. Natalia knew that expression—that face Eric made when he was happy and tried to hide it. It was rare and for a moment she forgot why she was there and reveled in it.
She continued, light and playful, asking, “Which boy do I have today? The nasty one? Or the creepy one?”
He laughed. He couldn’t help it. The smile stretched across his face making him look more beautiful than he already was. His rich amber eyes glanced up at her, “Probably both.”
After leaving Natalia to grab something to eat, Eric retrieved his book. The ancient tome was hidden in the shattered house because he knew it was safe there. That was the same reason why he left the girl here. There was information that was in his book, something he had to know before he went after his next target. There was a connection, something he didn’t really remember and he wanted to read his notes to be sure.
The book was hidden in a steel box deep within the rubble. Normally he wouldn’t have pulled it out when the girl was awake, but he didn’t see what harm it could do. No one was able to read it, save him. Getting to the book was difficult, even for Eric, but he managed. When he emerged, he was covered in dust and debris. Eric pulled his shirt over his head, and shook it out. Rumpling his golden-brown hair, he pushed it away from his face. His hair had grown quite a bit, and kept falling into his eyes. He’d have to cut it soon.
Sitting on the floor at the foot of Natalia’s bed, Eric stared at the painting on the wall. Half his face stared back. It bothered him that she saw him so clearly. And the cryptic words she said last night about the blue ghost concerned him.
There was only one blue ghost that could be described as a goddess, and he’d never kill her. Ivy meant too much to him, even though his actions indicated something else. Eric tried to force Natalia’s words from his mind, but they wouldn’t fall silent. Ivy had sent for him, and he defied her.
It was only a matter of time, now. He had to finish what he started, but watching Natalia laying still, breathing steadily in his arms all night—it made him realize how much he wanted her. It wasn’t just her sharp wit, and her beauty. It was her. His affection for Ivy hid his feelings for Natalia, and they had gone unnoticed. Or maybe something changed. He didn’t know what it was, but he wished things were different. He wanted to care for her, be soft and kind to her. That girl had such a hard life, and he knew he was the only person in the world that cared for her. Natalia was like him in that way, she pushed everyone away. She was a loner.
“What’s that?” Natalia stood in the door way chewing on something that resembled food. The curves of her form filled Eric’s mind with impure thoughts. Her eyes slid over Eric’s bare chest, then glancing at his shirt on the floor. Natalia took another bite, pretending not to be fazed seeing him there shirtless.
Eric answered, “Nothing. Just notes.” He lowered his head, ignoring the way Natalia looked at him.
“Yeah. Sure. That’s why you got all scratched up going to get it.” She huffed, pushing herself off the door frame and entered the room. Her long legs stopped, standing next to Eric.
She looked down, inky hair spilling over her shoulders. Her heart leaped in her chest. Holy fuck! Is that the book? It can’t be!
But it was, and he took it out in front of her. It felt like someone was choking her, but she couldn’t step away. If Eric had that book—if that was thee book—then he was the one she’d been looking for. She felt sick, happy, and afraid all at the same time. Natalia shoved the feelings away before Eric noticed.