Alluring RavenJessica Sorensen
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About the Author
Also by Jessica Sorensen
(Curse of the Vampire Queen, #3)
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Copyright © 2018 by Jessica Sorensen
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17. The Demon
About the Author
Also by Jessica Sorensen
The Land of Moonlight is a frigid, cold place, at least from what I’ve seen so far. And considering I’m a vampire, part of the undead species that always runs cold, that’s saying a lot. Perhaps, though, the constant blizzard of snow pouring down on us is simply starting to wear on me. We’ve been in it for so long now, that tiny, crystallized icicles have formed on my eyelashes, my lips are numb, and my skin has a bluish purple tint to it. I even have on Rhyland’s shirt over my own and still, I’ve never been this cold in my undead life.
I’m uncertain if I should be worried, especially since Rhyland, Kingsley, Dex, and even Harper, the half faerie, half pixie that’s leading us further into this seemingly endless blizzard, don’t appear to be bothered by the cold. Sure, they look a bit chilly, shivering ever so slightly and frost glazes their skin, but I’m the only creature chattering like a sprite that’s had a taste of sugar. And trust me, don’t ever give sprites sugar unless you want to be up all night listening to them chatter your ear off about flowers and curses and spying on people. Which, yes, actually happened to me once. Accidentally, of course.
All sugar crazy sprites aside, I’m silently begging for the storm to let up or for us to reach our destination so the aching chill in my body can thaw. So far, though, our journey ending soon seems pretty damn bleak.
All I can see in front of me is snow covered mountains and that massive, silvery white sign that reads:
Welcome to the Land of Moonlight.
Please enjoy your time here, but as a precaution, stay within the walls of the mountains unless you want to die a torturous death. Thank you.
I swear to all the Eternal Readers we’re somehow getting further away from the sign, even though we’ve been walking toward it for over a night without taking any breaks. My feet are actually starting to ache, but that might be the heeled, thigh-high boots I’m wearing. I’d ask everyone to slow down a bit, but considering an army of created vampires might be headed our way to hunt me down and take me the Faraelee, the Queen of the fey, I’m thinking my feet could fall off and I’d find a way to hobble feetless at this pace.
Part of me wishes I could just turn back, but only to search for my parents and the missing guards. Kingsley and Rhyland keep assuring me that if the queen hurt them, she would’ve left the bodies behind for me to see. But I wonder if they’re telling me what they need to in order to keep me fleeing with them. Maybe the queen didn’t hurt my parents and the guards at all. Perhaps Nadine did something to them with her Wicca powers the queen gave her. I hate to believe it, hate to believe my own sister would harm my parents, but after what Nadine did and said to me in the tent, it seems possible. Plus, lets face it, in every single memory I have of Nadine, even the ones belonging to my original life, she was always a cruel hearted, straight up bitch, who once threatened to behead and punish anyone, even her very own sister. It was why I was so afraid to love Rhyland in my original life.
“You doing okay over there, sweetheart?” Kingsley calls out over the howling of the wind and snow flurries.
He’s stomping through the snow beside me with a sword clutched in his hand. The sleeves of his shirt are rolled up, and his short, dark hair is dotted with snowflakes and some of the strands are glazed with ice, yet he isn’t shivering at all. Not even a little bit, despite the snowstorm hailing down on us.
“I’m fine.” I chatter while wrapping my arms tighter around myself. Aeribella, my lilywolf tiger pounces through the snow just in front of me, unbothered by the snow too. That might be because of her thick coat of bluish blue fur and the bit of magic inside her. “How can you stand this storm, though? I feel like I’m freezing to the undead and you don’t even have your sleeves rolled down.”
The corners of his lips kick up into a cocky smile. “Because I’m absurdly strong. If you want, though, you can come over here and I’ll keep you warm with my body. It’s my duty as your Blood Protector to make sure you’re safe, even if it’s just from a storm.”
“Seriously, you’re as bad of a flirt as a faerie,” I mutter and he grins. Shaking my head, I arch a brow. “And how do you even plan to keep me warm? Your body temperature is probably as cold as the ice frozen to my eyelashes.”
His gaze skims across my face and for a flickering moment, concern flashes across his expression. But then he returns to his normal, blasé self, plastering on a smug smile.
“Well, I guess you won’t know until you try it.” He spreads his arms open with a daring glint in his eyes.
Even though I’ve remembered some of my old life and know that him and I were once good vampire besties, it feels strange for him to be joking around with me. Sadly, this life is where my emotions are connected to, to the painful memories of him torturing me with Nadine and Rhyland, all the teasing and mocking they directed at me. I want to let it go, but it’s difficult to when I’m not even certain why they treated me so poorly. Sure, we were all living the same damn cursed lives over and over again, but why did they have to treat me like a goblin, one of the most despised species in all of the worlds?
In my gut, though, part of me believes I can trust Kingsley and Rhyland; otherwise, I wouldn’t be out in the middle of one of the worst snowstorms I’ve ever endured, wandering around in a land full of powerful, dangerous creatures that are at war with each other.
My lips part with a snarky comeback for Kingsley when a set of cold fingers thread through mine. I glance to my other side and find Rhyland hiking in the snow, closer than he was moments ago. Wisps of his chin-length blonde hair dance in the wind and his facial piercings are glazed with ice. He doesn’t have a shirt on since he gave his to me, so the tattoos inking his lean arms are on full display, along with the faint markings of bite marks, remnants from when I drank from his vein and dragged my teeth down his chest. It’s something I’m trying not to think too much about, because it freaks me out if I overanalyze it and also because remembering about the way his blood tasted makes my fangs ache to
taste him again. The only reason I even drank from his vein to begin with was that I thought it might break the curse, but apparently it was only the first step. And who knows what the rest of the steps are. That is if I even get to complete the steps. Since the queen is trying to end the curse by killing me and everyone else, I may never even get that far.
“How are you holding up?” Rhyland plucks a few icicles from my hair. “Are you doing okay?” His hand falls to his side, near where his sword is tucked into the leather holster around his waist.
Like Kingsley and Rhyland, I have a weapon too; a knife that’s tucked in my thigh holster. Honestly, I doubt I’d even be able to use it if I had to. I haven’t been trained at all in the art of fighting. I was supposed to be trained by Rhyland, but we never made it that far due to the curse trying to end and us having to flee to the Land of Moonlight. And considering I barely became capable of moving as swiftly as a badass vampire, I’m pretty sure my knife fighting skills will be at the level of a bat swinging around a… Well, bat.
“I’m just vampire peachy,” I lie with a shrug, not wanting to seem weak.
In reality, I shouldn’t be weak. That is, if I really am the new vampire queen, like Fate and the Eternal Reader declared. Finding out I’m supposedly royalty changed everything, when I went from living my average life I was perfectly okay with to being thrown into a world of lies and danger. I’m not totally convinced I’m supposed to be the queen and wonder if maybe it simply has to do with the curse. I mean, first of all, I’m far nowhere near powerful, even after drinking Rhyland’s blood from his vein. And then, from what little I can recall of my original life, right before the curse started, Fate chose Nadine as queen. It was the catalyst to this curse, from what I understand anyway. I don’t know, though, a part of me believes there may be more to the curse than any of us realize. But only time will tell. That is, if I continue to remember my past memories and live that long. So far, I have no control over remembering—it just randomly happens. And as for living that long… Well, I’m hoping I do. Hope that this cursed life isn’t all I ever am.
Rhyland frowns at me. “Sweetheart, I can tell when you’re lying.”
“That’s not true.” And I’m pretty sure I’m right about that. He may have lived decades of lives with me, but I don’t think we’ve gotten to know each other in any of them, except for the very first life. “And what is with you two calling me sweetheart? I mean, I know you’re twins and everything, but why do you insist on using the same silly pet name for me?”
“I didn’t realize we both did.” His gaze briefly travels to Kingsley. I don’t know what Kingsley is doing, but Rhyland’s jaw ticks before his gaze welds with mine again. “You’re right. Sweetheart is a silly name. I’ll think of something better.”
“You could always just call me by my real name,” My teeth clank together as I shiver. “I’ve never been a fan of nicknames…” My lips spread to a wicked grin. “Rhy Rhy.”
His eyes narrow, but it’s a teasing move. “Not even funny. I’ve always hated your sister’s nickname for me. Just like I’ve always despised your sister.”
“I know you did in the first life,” I utter softly, my voice nearly getting carried away in the wind. “But all the others… You seemed to like her.”
His throat muscles work as he swallows. “That’s not true.” He inches closer to me and lowers his voice. “I understand why you’re having a hard time believing me, but I wasn’t lying about hating Nadine. What you saw over the years… Nothing about that was real.”
“And yet you haven’t explained why,” I say. Our shoulders brush as he moves closer, the snow crunching underneath our boots. “All I’ve been told is that it has to do with the curse, yet no one will explain the reason.”
“Because we can’t,” he whispers remorsefully, his hand tightening around mine. “It’s against the rules of the curse.”
“Why, though?” I huff, well past frustrated. “I mean, you’ve told me some things about the curse, so why can’t you just tell me everything.”
He shakes his head and shrugs. “I’m not sure, but trust me, I’ve tried.” He shrugs again, a frown dipping at his lips. “Some rules we just can’t seem to break.”
“Well, maybe you should just try harder,” I suggest. “I mean, from what I remember, you used to be quite the rule breaker. Maybe if you try hard enough, you’ll figure out a way.”
He rubs his blue tinted lips together, struggling not to smile.
Fog laces from my lips as I pinch his arm and demand, “What’s so funny?”
He chuckles, his eyes crinkling around the corners. “It’s nothing. It’s just that it’s so nice to hear you say things like ‘from what I remember.’” Guilt haunts his eyes. “It’s been a very, very long time since that’s happened.”
“Yeah, I know.” I sigh heavily. “I just wish I could remember everything.” I cast him a sidelong glance. “Maybe if you tried to tell me stuff now, it’d work.”
“Trust me, I’m always trying. All the time. For decades and decades.” He huffs an exasperated breath. “The original curse might not be in play but the queen still has a lot of control over us unfortunately.”
My teeth clank together as a spurt of shivers overcomes me. “How much control exactly.”
“A lot.” He sets his free hand on my shoulder and chants something underneath his breath.
Sparks of warmth abruptly rove across my body, melting the ice coating my skin. A soft gasp fumbles from my lips.
“You still have your magic,” I whisper as water drips from my eyelashes.
He nods, tracing the pad of his thumb across my cheeks to wipe away the water. “And since the queen’s the one who gave me these powers, I know she still has a lot of control over me. I have a feeling that once she loses control over me—over us—I won’t have them anymore.”
I smash my lips together as the warmth of his magic evaporates from my body and a chill spreads through my veins. “So how can you talk about her now? You never could say her name before—say she was the one who created the curse—yet now you can. But still, you can’t tell me about my past very much or what steps need to be done for me to break the curse?”
“I…” He struggles to form words then grimaces. “I have no idea. I really don’t. And that’s not her controlling me.”
“I have a theory,” Kingsley interrupts. “That maybe it has something to do with her not being able to enter the Land of Moonlight. Perhaps our distance and us being here is limiting her powers just enough that she can’t control us completely.”
“That’s a possibility.” Rhyland wavers, rubbing his jawline. “What I’d really like to know is why she’s so dead set on getting ahold of Raven if she’s ending the curse? I know Nadine said it’s because the queen wanted to end the curse by killing all who are a part of it, but there’s been plenty of times where the queen could’ve just killed Raven, like at dinner the other night. It seems strange she waited until now when Raven came into a world where the queen isn’t permitted to enter. Why not just do it before we could take off?”
In one of my memories the queen called me a moonlight abomination. It was right after the curse started and she said that the more I suffered, the more her powers grew. Nadine had called me an abomination too. I wish I knew why. What made me an abomination? Because from what I can tell, I’ve only ever been an average vampire.
I haven’t told anyone about being an abomination yet. I’m not sure why, other than I’m afraid how they’ll react. Afraid of what I could be.
One thing I do need to tell them is what really happened that night of the curse, the real reason Kingsley and I kissed each other and why I almost bit him, which led to Rhyland running into the woods and making some sort of deal with the queen. But I want to wait until we can have that conversation in private without Harper and Dex around. Sure, I trust them for the most part, but I’m not sure how much they know about the curse. And Kingsley seems a lit
tle guarded around them. Plus, Harper is half faerie.
“There’s probably more to what’s going on than we know yet,” Kingsley states while examining the blade of his sword. “There always seems to be with the fey queen and this fucked up curse. And I’m sure there’s more to why she’s building an army of created vampires than her just wanting to start a war. Nothing’s ever what it seems. We know that.”
“Why else would she need an army besides to start a war?” I ask with a shiver. When both their eyes dance with amusement, I add, somewhat offended, “That’s usually how it works in books and movies—the bad guy or girl wants to start a war so they build an army.”
Their amusement magnifies, their smiles breaking through.
“I forgot how entertaining she could be,” Kingsley remarks, brushing some snow off the top of my head.
“Adorably entertaining,” Rhyland agrees with a smile.
I scowl at both of them, but a smile nearly emerges at my lips.
This—the laughing and the teasing—is how they were before the curse started. And I was happy back then—that much I know. But I don’t understand what happiness is anymore. Not truly, anyway, and that revelation makes me as sad as a witch with no magic abilities.
“What’s with all the frowning, beautiful?” Rhyland’s warm breath dusts against my ear.
Normally, I’d lean away from his nearness, but I’ll take warmth from wherever I can get it.
“Oh for the love of all stupid bats, please don’t tell me you’re going to start calling me that,” I groan, bobbing my head back.
Rhyland’s eyes sparkle with delight. “I think it’s a fitting name.”