Assassin: Fall of the Golden Valefar
Page 4

 H.M. Ward

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He crushed her hand, twisting her wrist, pulling her closer to him. “This is who I am.” His eyes met hers, burning. Natalie gasped, feeling the pain spreading through her hand, the bones threatening to crack. Eric’s lips were so close to hers that she felt his breath, “There is nothing more.”
Her pink lips parted, ready to say something, but she never had the chance. Eric looked up into the doorway and recognized the man standing there. Dark skin, black eyes, with a body built like it was made out of steel. Mandor. He hadn’t stood in front of the Valefar for years, but he knew they were tracking him. Eric had managed to evade them. The tricks he learned kept them guessing, making it impossible to find him. But somehow they found him.
Eric released her hand, hissing in her ear, “Leave. Now.”
He backed away from her, but Natalia didn’t move. She glanced over her shoulder and stared at Mandor, not knowing who he was, then back at Eric. There would be bloodshed and he didn’t want the girl involved, but she just stood there, in between them.
Natalia glared at Eric before turning to leave. She glanced up at Mandor, giving him a cold glare, as she tried to shove her way through. But Mandor didn’t move. He laughed softly at her. It was like a butterfly trying to push a mountain lion aside. He underestimated her just like everyone else did. When they looked at Natalia they saw a slight girl, not a dangerous creature that shouldn’t exist. Natalia remained demure, letting Eric and Mandor think their assumptions were accurate. Now was not the time for corrections.
Eric ignored her, turning back to the bar, trying to access if there were more Valefar outside. He wanted to make sure she was safe, and the best way to do that was for it to appear that they weren’t together. Glancing at her over his shoulder, he watched Natalia try to exit, pushing her way past Mandor, but the Valefar didn’t move. Shit.
Mandor glanced at Eric, deep voice booming, “Your tastes don’t change.” He grinned a bright smile at Eric, but there was malice behind it. There was always malice when it came to Valefar.
Eric’s expression remained unaffected. He glanced at Natalia, his eyes tracing her face and sliding down the curves of her body in a completely carnal way. Heat rose to her face, making her blush, which seemed to piss her off. Eric grinned and she looked away, back at Mandor blocking her path.
The heat still burned in her cheeks. What the hell was that? Eric never looked at her like that before, and she certainly didn’t expect to respond that way. Natalia glanced at the man blocking her path wondering what was happening, wondering what he wanted with Eric. She didn’t want to leave. Eric was her kill, and she wouldn’t just hand him over to be slaughtered by someone else. But Natalia had seen Eric fight and knew it was more likely that he’d win.
Eric leaned against the bar, folding his hands casually and replied, “She’s not with me.”
Mandor, smiled, amused. Reaching for the girl, he took her by the shoulder. Natalia tried to shake him off, but he tightened his grip. “Is that so?” Eric nodded. Mandor smiled, his eyes drifting over her curves, “So, you wouldn’t mind if I took her with us, used her like the Queen’s sister, and tossed her aside?” Natalia stiffened. She heard the stories of the Queen’s sister. She knew Eric’s involvement in that as well. Her mind was reeling. She couldn’t show them what she was capable of. Not here. Not now. It would blow her cover and screw everything up. The only chance she had of killing Eric was if he didn’t suspect her. This Valefar was about to force her to reveal a secret she managed to keep from Eric for three years. Rage shook her body, but they only thought she was trembling. They saw her as an insignificant piece of ass.
Eric’s golden eyes were hard, lifeless. He locked onto her gaze, forcing his tongue to say the words frigidly, “Like I said, she’s not mine, so I don’t give a fuck what you do to her.” He turned his back on them, gesturing for another drink, but the bartender was out of sight.
Natalia’s eyes burned, but Eric didn’t look away as he spoke. This was the bastard she knew—the man responsible for slaughtering her mother. Rage ignited in every muscle in her body. Without warning, Natalia was in motion. She transformed from the poor little victim to a fierce fighter, trying to hold her body in check so her power wouldn’t give her away. Natalia fought the way Eric taught her. She twisted in Mandor’s grip, while she blocked his hands, keeping her body out of reach and freed herself.
She growled, “I don’t belong to anyone, asshole.” He towered above her like a dark wall of muscle.
Mandor laughed, amused by her ferocity. “All the more reason to catch you, then.” Without warning, he reached for her, but Natalia jumped back on top of the bar. It wasn’t unreasonable for a human to jump like that, but she didn’t have time to consider if her movements seemed human or not. The Valefar was still after her. Mandor’s arm shot out, reaching for her ankle. The thick muscles under his dark skin rippled as his hand lurched forward to trap her, but Natalia altered her footing quickly and kicked her heavy black boot straight into his face. The sickening crunch of a broken nose was felt on impact.
Natalia bolted down the top of the bar, muttering, “Dick,” as she passed Eric.
Mandor lunged for her, but the lithe girl slipped between his fingers. She contorted her lean body, moving quickly through the caved-in storefront and was out of sight before the Valefar could catch her. Mandor cracked his nose back into place and turned toward Eric with blood dripping down his face. Eric knew the Valefar was here for him, but he had no intention of going. The bastard would drag him back down into the Underworld and there was no way he was doing that. Not yet. It was too soon.
Eric moved toward the door, leaning hard against the frame. The girl moved well. She didn’t hesitate. Natalia didn’t hold back. He nearly laughed when she cursed at him as she ran down the bar. That girl was trouble, he just didn’t know how much.
Mandor wiped the blood off his face with the back of his hand, before saying, “The Queen summons you.”
“Tell the Queen to...” he was going to say something nasty, but thought of Ivy and the words died in his mouth. He pressed his eyes closed, and opened them again, staring at Mandor with a grin on his face. He could feel the effonation burning under his skin. Unlike his fellow red Valefar, he had more power than them. Call it a side-effect of being him, the only golden Valefar. As his form shimmered, Mandor realized what was happening and lunged at him.
Laughing, Eric said, “Tell the Queen to kiss my ass.”
Eric didn’t need to be eloquent. He knew his message would never reach Ivy’s ears. He also knew the time he had left was limited. There were still several Tribunal members he needed to visit. A sadistic smile spread across his lips as he moved through a pile of rubble. There was a voice in the back of his mind warning him—no, telling him—that if he continued on this path he would lose what he had. Eric scoffed, shoving his hands in his pockets. He had nothing left. He had no one. There was no reason to breathe. His boot kicked a patch of plaster that was still attached to a rafter. The impact shattered both into tiny pieces. Displays of rage were fruitless. They did not calm him as they once did. Instead, the residual effects of the emotion lingered in his body, forcing him to act out later when he didn’t want to.
Eric had made his decision. His fate was all but sealed. Intentionally taunting the Queen of the Underworld, the only person who had enough power to destroy him, was cruel. Ivy was his friend and he knew what he was forcing on her, but there was no other way out. The cravings were growing within him, consuming him. There was more monster than man residing inside him. With the curse constantly changing him, making it so he never had peace, he could see the path he was on. There was only one way to get off, and that was death. He’d be destroyed and the curse would end. There was one part of his plan that was undetermined—Eric didn’t know if Ivy was capable of killing him.
Since he saw Ivy last, he had tried to kill himself several times. Once he even sought out the Omen, the massive black dragon that destroyed everyone who touched it. Eric didn’t touch the Omen—he stabbed the beast—but to no avail. The creature snapped at him, biting his shoulder with deadly teeth and swiping at him with razor sharp talons. The only thing the creature managed to do was make its wound hemorrhage more, leaving a pool of clear blood next to Eric. Beaten, but very much alive, Eric took the Omen’s spilled blood and saved it in a vial. Magic that dark and powerful had no effect on him, but he thought that he might be able to use it later. And he did. The clear drops of blood were deadly to everyone, everything—except him.
Eric moved into the inhabited section of Rome, swiftly walking into a store and selecting a snack. He wasn’t hungry, he just wanted something familiar. He waited his turn in line, like he wasn’t a deranged monster and ordered. When Eric turned around, food in hand, he saw her. Arms folded over her chest, pissed off, tapping her boot.
“Seriously? You ditched me to eat?” Natalia said, her head cocked to the side. Her black shirt had a small tear in the side from climbing through the rubble. Her long dark hair was down, flowing over her shoulders like spilled chocolate.
Eric paused. He wanted to feel something good—something normal. He could let her stay. He didn’t have to be mean to her, not since he wouldn’t be around much longer anyway. Would it hurt her? Would the curse still condemn her to death if he was already dead? He didn’t think so. The power that destroyed should die with him. Besides, pushing her away wasn’t working very well. Eric glanced at her, his amber eyes sliding over her face as he bit into a thin sandwich, “Maybe.” He smirked at her.
Natalia trailed after him out of the store on his heels. “You are such an ass!” She stopped following him. Her legs felt like they filled with iron, or maybe that was resolve. Either way, she wasn’t going to trail behind him like a love-struck puppy. Her arms clamped down tightly over her chest.
Eric turned, glancing at the swells of flesh hidden beneath that tight shirt. His gaze flicked quickly to her eyes. Natalia didn’t notice that he had trouble not admiring her curves. The softness of her flesh was enticing, but he knew why he favored her—why he let her follow him. It was exactly what Mandor said, she was his type. She reminded him of Ivy, of Lydia, of a time when he was someone else—someone better. There was no harm in that, right? It meant he could be near her and do what he wanted, but part of him held back, pushing her away.
Part of him knew she was Natalia and very different. Her body was taller, her curves were fuller, and her bite was harder. When Natalia was mad, she let him have it. And by the look on her face, Eric knew she’d had enough. This was a turning point. If he told her to fuck off, he’d never see her again. His eyes slid over her body before he stepped toward her. Eyes lowered, he looked up at her through his lashes, and held out the food. His voice was soft, “Here.”
Natalia glanced down at the insanely expensive snack and reached for it. Eric glanced up at her and smiled sadly. When her fingers brushed against his, she felt something that unnerved her. Her crystal blue eyes looked away, back down at the treat in her hands.