“No,” Cyrus insisted. “The Neith that fought you and Noah are members of a rebel faction I’m trying to shut down.”
“Rebel faction?” That sounded so ridiculous. And yeah as one of the Unforeseen she was aware of the irony in judging anything else ludicrous.
“Ankh who believe you are an abomination,” Romany responded, drawing Eden’s eyes back to her. Eden looked at her for a moment, taking in the big brown eyes and golden hair, the toned physique. Romany appeared to be a year or two older than her but the Neith seemed intimidated by Eden’s gaze and turned away to look at Noah, her ponytail swishing with the movement.
The image of Stellan’s murder flashed before her and this time she saw the face of his murderer.
“Oh my God.” Her eyes burned into Romany. “You!” she growled and lunged from the bed, a blur of movement across the duvet. She had the Neith pinned to the ground, her hands wrapped around the girl’s throat, before the others even processed what was happening. “You killed him!” she snarled and spat in the girl’s face, saliva dripping down her chin as she squeezed tighter, ignoring the bite of Romany’s clawing fingers around her wrists. “You killed Stellan!”
Hands, many hands, hauled her off, and she jerked and slapped at them, screaming and shrieking like a madwoman.
“Let her go,” Cyrus’ voice called out over the racket she made, as Romany coughed and choked. The other hands disappeared and Noah reached for Romany.
With only Cyrus’ arms wrapped around her waist, the madness seemed to dissipate. Eden trembled in his arms, still heaving with hatred and fury.
“Eden.” Noah looked up at her, his face twisted with confusion. “You have to understand, our duty is to kill soul eaters. Stellan was a soul eater. Romany was just doing her job.”
How could he sit there and say that to her when he knew Stellan was the only one in her life who had looked after her, who loved her? In that moment she wanted to kill them both. The hunger roared at her to do it. Cyrus squeezed her arm and the hunger cowered at his touch.
Her grief-fuelled fury did not.
Eden’s pale eyes froze Noah in place. “You,” she spat. “You are dead to me, you hear me? You come anywhere near me again and I’ll rip your throat out. And you,” she warned Romany. “You better run and hide… because I’m going to destroy you for what you’ve taken from me.”
Maybe the Beginning…
Noah was shaken. In all his life he had never felt this out of control over a situation. He didn’t like it. He hated not knowing whether Eden would ever forgive him. He hated seeing her like a rabid animal over the death of her brother. Especially after how brave she’d been at the Ceremony. She had refused to kill him, had fought back a hunger that had bleached her eyes of all color, a dangerous, powerful hunger, and Eden had conquered it because…
Noah hung his head, leaning a palm against the wall of the sitting room of the house Cyrus had rented in the next town over from Salton.
… because she had cared about him.
In that moment, something had changed. Or maybe it hadn’t changed. Maybe he’d finally accepted that his feelings for Eden were real. And strong. He had never met anyone as courageous as her.
Romany, Alain, and Emma stood behind him, waiting on Cyrus returning. The sound of his footsteps echoing down the hall brought Noah around expectantly. His heart pounded. The Princeps entered the room, his face drawn and tired. He looked to Alain first, as he should, Alain being the only member of The Circle in the room. “I had to put her in the basement.”
Noah frowned, uncomfortable with the idea of Eden locked down there behind the heavy metal door that had been the reason for Cyrus renting the place. The basement had once been a cold store. “Why? Is that necessary?”
Cyrus nodded slowly. “I appear to have a calming effect on her but it… considering the circumstances it is not enough. She is determined to leave and will no longer listen to reason.”
“Drug her?” Alain asked softly.
Noah stiffened at the thought. There was a drug the Ankh and Neith used when interrogating soul eaters that helped abate the soul eaters hunger, so they were able to focus on what was being asked of them. Noah didn’t think drugging Eden was a way to incite her trust.
Cyrus apparently agreed. “No. I need her to trust me. It is irrelevant, as the hunger is not what is causing the pain. She is grieving.” He turned his dark, penetrating eyes on Noah and Noah saw the hint of accusation in them.
He bowed his head in respect but insisted, “I told you how she felt about her brother. I told you it would be wise to leave him out of this.”
“And in return I told you he was not to be harmed.”
They all felt Romany stiffen guiltily but Noah refused to feel bad when he turned his eyes on her. “And I relayed those orders to everyone. Including Romany.”
Romany glared at him, a mixture of anger and hurt pooling together in her brown eyes. But Noah was too upset to care. Too furious with her impetuosity and bloodlust. “I’m being admonished for killing a soul eater. I don’t believe this.”
“You’re being admonished for disobeying a direct order and jeopardizing the integrity of this assignment,” Noah responded coldly.
She scoffed, “Oh please. You would have happily killed him if he hadn’t been your precious Eden’s brother!”
Her apparent jealousy echoed around the room and they all shifted uncomfortably. Noah shook his head, feeling a twinge of sympathy as her cheeks blushed red. “Stop,” he said quietly.
Her eyes flared with pricked pride. “Stop? I’ll-”
“Enough,” Cyrus commanded softly and strode silently towards Romany. Her eyes widened at his approach. “You forget yourself, warrior.”
“I apologize, Princeps,” she whispered, lowering her gaze deferentially.
“Noah is correct. You disobeyed a direct order and while I would like to think it was because you were caught up in your duty, I am beginning to suspect it was something petty and childish that compelled your actions last night.” His face remained expressionless but Noah recognized the bristling in Cyrus’ body. He was angry. And Cyrus very rarely grew angry. Suddenly, Noah felt as if he should throw himself between the Princeps and Romany. “I would hate to think that my reconciliation with my daughter-”
Everyone gasped, cutting him off. “Your daughter?” Alain stepped forward, alarmed. “Cyrus…?”
Cyrus snapped around at him, his eyes flashing, his usual admirable control gone. Noah almost smirked, thinking Eden had a tendency to do that to a man. “Yes. My daughter. That is how I see her. Merrit made me promise to raise Eden as my own. I never had the chance to fulfill that promise, but if it is the last thing I do I will save Merrit’s daughter and care for her as if she were my own for the rest of my eternal life.”
At the grave oath of the Princeps, a little piece of Noah’s concern chipped away and he couldn’t help the small smile that formed on his lips, despite his father’s disapproving frown and Emma’s anxious expression.
Eden would finally be alright.
With a man as powerful as Cyrus protecting her and caring for her, she had the best chance in the world to turn her life around.
Cyrus had shut them up, and like a large panther satisfied at having made his domination known within his jungle, he turned back to Romany. “As I was saying, I would hate to think that my reconciliation with my daughter has been jeopardized by a Neith’s childish petty jealousy.”
Romany paled and threw Noah a beseeching look. When he didn’t come to her aid he saw the realization dawn on her face. She was Neith. He was Ankh. And he would always put the Ankh before her, no matter their friendship or shared duty. It was the way he had been raised. Arrogant? Perhaps. Selfish? Perhaps. But it was a part of him that was obdurate.
He winced inwardly at the flash of disgust in Romany’s eyes as she finally understood that fact. She huffed and straightened her shoulders to face the Princeps like a warrior. “I apologize, Princeps, for my error in killing Eden’s brother. But I can assure you that it was purely done in the heat of the moment. There is nothing between Noah Valois and me anymore. Nothing that would constitute a deliberate breach of your command.”
Noah wasn’t surprised with her publicly breaking up with him. If she hadn’t done it, he would have. He had defended her to Eden to try and calm Eden down, but the truth was he was furious at Romany for killing Stellan. The wail that had erupted out of Eden as she’d watched her brother’s death would haunt him for a long time.
Cyrus nodded stiffly. “Fine. I will be reporting your error to your Councilman and he will deal out an appropriate punishment. You are dismissed.”
Romany responded with a brittle bow to Cyrus and then she strode from the room and the house without looking back.
As always when one of his ‘relationships’ ended, Noah felt the freedom of relief.
Alain exhaled. “So what now?”
Cyrus shook his head, his dark eyes full of more emotion than Noah had seen since Merrit’s death. He knew it had been a shock when Cyrus saw Eden in the dining room. He hadn’t known how to tell him that Eden was the spitting image of Merrit – except for the color of her eyes. It must be hard to be faced with such a reminder of his lost love. “We wait. I do not want to keep her in the basement for long. Just enough to calm her. I am thankful Romany is no longer here.” He cursed. “I was close. Before the Romany incident, I was close.”
“Don’t worry,” Noah reassured him. “Cyrus, you’ll get through to her. I know it.” His father turned on him and he could see the displeasure in Alain’s eyes. His father knew him. Knew what he was feeling and did not like it one iota. Tough shit. He shrugged. “She said no.”
His mother’s eyebrows drew together. “What do you mean, darling?”
Noah smiled at Cyrus. “I mean at the Awakening Ceremony… she said no. She told them she wouldn’t kill me.”