Assassin: Fall of the Golden Valefar
Page 23

 H.M. Ward

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Eric was growing stronger. She could sense it as they circled each other. Though Natalia didn’t think he could overpower her, she was concerned. All this time, she played the helpless victim, but not anymore. Her blood made her strong. Her abilities made her deadly. It took her too many years to find him. For most of her life, she’d been searching for an angel, but Eric was far from angelic now. Being condemned to this fate confused her at first. But in the past few weeks things came together. And the book strung his story together like a row of pearls ready to be crushed.
“Tell me,” she asked, “was your sadistic need for pain always there?” Her eyes were like ice and her voice was even colder.
“No,” he whispered. Eric didn’t elaborate. Watching her feet, her hands, he evaluated the way she moved. Eric needed to strike first and pull those damn scissors out of her hands. While he didn’t think she could kill him, getting stabbed and tormented would severely fuck-up the rest of his plans. And whatever was going on with Natalia, he didn’t want her around when it happened. Every time he thought he saw an opening, she closed it.
Eric tried talking, hoping to push her mind off balance. “So, do you always lie when people ask you if you’re mortal? Does telling people that you’re a real girl get you off or something?”
She snorted a rush of air through her nose, “I am a real girl.”
“But you’re not mortal. There’s something else… something more.” Her eyes flashed, widening slightly, telling him that he was right. “You’re a half-breed. An abomination. A perversion of something once good. Oh my God,” he breathed looking at her, watching her dark hair fall over her shoulder. Her stance, those incredible pale blue eyes, the shape of her face, the way her curves flowed and melted together… it was all familiar. He’d done this before, a very long time ago, but that fight ended and Eric was the only one who walked away. “I know who you are.”
Natalia nearly choked. He was lying. She retorted, “Impossible. No one knew about me. I was unknown and I intend to keep things that way.” Her throat was tight as she stepped one foot over the other. Eric’s left hand was dropping lower and lower. His stance was becoming more closed, but that spot was nearly open. It would be a vulnerable point that she could stab, if his arm dropped a fraction more. Natalia wondered if he realized it, if he was luring her to strike at that spot.
“No you weren’t,” Eric said with a smirk on his lips. “Who do you think hid you?”
Natalia snapped. Time froze and she heard nothing. Her eyes locked onto Eric’s face, as he spewed lies meant to throw her off-kilter. She saw the opening and she took it. Launching her body toward him, she moved the scissor at his left flank. It connected and she slammed him into the wall. It would only take a second to trap him. Then she could see if her powers extinguished his life or if she’d only get to torture him for eternity. She hoped he could die. She wanted to feel his body die beneath hers. After all the years of searching, she’d finally have her revenge.
Eric screamed when the sheers pierced his side. Natalia was strong. He couldn’t believe he didn’t see it before now, but she was a creature that wasn’t supposed to exist. He knew nothing of her power, of her capabilities. He felt the metal twist in his side as Natalia shoved the handle deeper into him. He called shadows quickly, saying incantations to throw her off, but they didn’t work.
She laughed in his face, “It’s funny how things work. I cancel you out. You’re magic is dead, Masterson, just like you’ll be in a moment.” She leaned in close to him, about to press her lips to his. Blood flowed down Eric’s side, the muscles screaming, protesting the steel that was lodged in his gut.
“You’re a succubus?” he whispered, no longer fighting her. If she could destroy him, he wanted her to try. The heat in his eyes began to waiver, making Natalia’s rage falter.
“Something like that. A creature that shouldn’t exist—like you.” She spit the words at him. “Tell me,” she said, twisting the sheers in his side. Eric gritted his teeth as she did it, his eyes shut tight. Natalia could feel his blood on her hand, but she didn’t care. Demon blood didn’t affect her the way it did other immortals. “How have you avoided the angelic assassins so long? How is that they killed my mother, but they left you alone?”
It was the only explanation. Eric had to be evading them somehow. They both knew that fallen angels were executed, and technically Eric had fallen. She didn’t understand how he survived so long. No one knew that she existed, but she still lived in fear of the assassins finding her. She had to know how he did it. Desperation filled every inch of her body, making her shake.
For the first twenty years of her life, she had no idea what she was. She aged until she was about nineteen years old, and then stopped. Her body didn’t grow taller, her hips didn’t fill out, and wrinkles didn’t mar her smooth skin. While her family aged and died, she remained young and vibrant. She was nearly as old as Eric was, and alone just as long.
Sweat coated Eric’s brow. His voice was raspy, breathless, “I slaughtered them. To protect you.” Sweat clung to his brow, his golden eyes downcast.
“What?” Natalia’s grip on the scissor loosened. She gripped Eric’s face, smearing blood on his cheek, making him look at her. Before she could speak, Eric shocked her.
“Kiss me. See if you can take my life and end this,” his eyes were intense, searching her face.
“Don’t play with me, Eric. Where are the rest of the assassins?” Grabbing his throat, she shook him once, hard.
Pain shot through his body when he slammed back into the wall. He groaned loudly, biting back the pain through gritted teeth. While she removed her hand from the metal, she hadn’t taken it out. The blade pushed through his back, cutting inside him.
“Dead,” he growled. “I don’t play games, and neither should you. Finish your threat. Forget everything else. I won’t fight back.” He tipped his head back, looking up at the dark ceiling in her room. “Destroy me. Do what I haven’t been able to.” His chest swelled as he breathed, and Eric groaned, pressing his eyes closed.
Natalia didn’t know what to do. She wasn’t sure if she believed him. She spent her entire life hiding from beings that didn’t exist? He killed them? For her? That just pissed her off more. She shook him once, lightly, to get him to open his eyes. A pool of blood had formed under his hips.
“Why?” she snapped, “Why hide Simone’s baby? Why would you possibly kill your own kind?”
His golden gaze was soft, like he knew he was damned from the beginning. “You were innocent. Your mother’s death, her assassination, is the only one that I regret. It was the best I could do at the time. I wasn’t old enough or strong enough to fight them off. I couldn’t save Simone, but I could save her daughter.”
Natalia’s insides were churning, her hands shaking as she held him in place, but he didn’t fight back. She remained rigid, ready for his attack, but it didn’t come. “Why is that missing from the book?”
Eric’s head was spinning. The girl was doing something to him. Just touching him seemed to drain him. His legs felt like lead. They gave out and the only thing holding him up was Natalia—the weight of her body leaning against him, and the scissor in his side.
Eric breathed, “Because it’s not something that I’d forget.”
She felt his legs give way. Eric wouldn’t heal as long as she continued to use her power to prevent his demon blood from working. Eric should die slowly, painfully. She could strip away his soul piece by piece, but the more he spoke the more she saw the boy who saved her. The center of her body felt like it was being torn in half. Part of her wanted to save him and the other part needed vengeance. It was a craving that she’d had for so long. How could she stop? How could she come this far and let him live? Her body shook as she stepped back, allowing him to slide to the floor—Eric’s back leaving a bloody smear on the wall. She reached for the wound and extracted the sheers. Eric screamed and she smiled, not able to hide what his pain did to her.
Gasping, he opened his eyes, looking at her. A satisfied smile twisted her lips. He had to get her out of here. His plan was already in action. It was only a matter of time, but he couldn’t stop himself from asking, “That’s why you were at Carina’s?” She nodded. Natalia was there because, like him, she needed to be. He gasped, pushing his hand over the wound, “What the hell are you?”
She breathed deeply, her eyes piercing his, “An Ori. Half mortal, half fallen angel. You know what that means… you know what I need to survive.”
He did know. His eyes were focusing better, the wound healing rapidly. “Ori are supposed to be mythical.”
She shrugged, “So are you. So is the Omen. So am I. I think it’s time to get over what’s supposed to be fake and what’s not.” She was an Ori, the child of a fallen angel that had the power to drain away one’s life force. She fed off if it the same way that Valefar feed off souls. She could drain a patron at Carina’s without killing them. That’s how she sustained herself.
Eric’s head was spinning. Natalia was an Ori? A mythical creature. He shook his head. It was insane. She’d been hunting him all this time, posing as a helpless girl. Natalia was anything but helpless. When she mentioned the Omen, he flinched. That thing was death. Only a few years ago, he was the one who protested the existence of the Omen, and now he was talking to an Ori.
“You’ve seen the Omen?” he asked.
She laughed, “You still don’t understand, do you? Do you know why Simone Portelli was condemned? What made her fall?”
Eric’s mind couldn’t grasp it. What was he missing? The only thing he could think of was that she was dually screwed. He liked her, so his curse would kill her, and she’d crossed paths with the Omen, which also had the same effect. That was a signed death certificate in his mind.
Before he could think about anything else, the hairs on the back of his neck began to prickle. Gritting his teeth, he pulled himself to his feet. “They’re here. Run. Go.” Eric had been masking his location from Ivy, hiding himself from the other Valefar. It wasn’t difficult, but when Natalia stabbed him, he lost the spell. It slipped away and revealed him.
Natalia shook her head, not sensing what he felt. Before she could even open her mouth, Valefar swarmed the house like roaches. Natalia never had a chance to run. Eric tried to effonate, but he was too weak. The Valefar grabbed hold of Natalia. She fought, but there were too many of them. They pinned her arms, and legs, pulling her hair.
Mandor stepped into the room. Seeing Eric and Natalia together, he smiled. “This makes things more interesting. You had an accomplice.” He walked over to the girl, sliding his hand down her throat, drifting his fingers across her chest. Natalia bucked, kicking off the Valefar holding her, but another promptly grabbed hold of her arms. “Bring her. She can die in the pit with him.”