Dark Mercy (Preternaturals #0)

Chapter 8

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Angeline stared at the witch on the altar, looking back every few moments with trepidation at the ropes in Hadrian’s hands. “You’re a vampire, too, now. Don’t act like you’re too good for it. Your line to God has been shut off. You’ll do the same things. You’ll control people. Some day you’ll get lonely and you’ll make a vampire. You’ll want someone you can shape and mold to your liking. You have it in you. I saw it. Why do you think I turned you? I watched you long enough to know.” She sounded desperate with the need for him to hear her, understand her.

Father Hadrian nodded. “Oh, I believe you. But that doesn’t make it a good way to live. I think the only way I can help you now is to let you go.”

Her eyes widened at the implication. “No!”

“Oh. You know the word and its meaning. Excellent. I had thought earlier that maybe no wasn’t a part of your vocabulary.”

Tears welled in her eyes again. “You’re a monster. I’m centuries older than you. You can’t keep this hold on me. I will kill you. Do you hear me, you bastard? I will kill you! Whatever magic you did will wear off soon enough. Nothing can break or twist the bond between a sire and her creation, not even your two-bit exorcism ritual.”

“Be wise, Angeline. Your theories, though quaint, may not play out as you’d like. In which case, you’ll still be at my mercy.”

The wind seemed to go out of her sails. Hadrian took her by the arm and led her outside to a covered stone porch. There was an old rocking chair he’d enjoyed sitting in to read his Bible. The morning sunlight had always been on his face while he prayed. He gritted his teeth, trying to hold back the anger that he’d never sit in that rocking chair in the bright morning again. Angeline had stolen that from him.

Was he killing her to release her from her own hell, to protect himself, or out of vengeance? And if he truly believed he was trapped in hell, shouldn’t he greet the morning with her? Without the demon influencing him, he would have met the sun. But the demon’s pragmatism along with his own human curiosity was a damning combination. What would life be like as a vampire? And should he miss the opportunity to find out? The old man’s warning from the in-between place seemed like a distant wisp of a dream now. Hardly worth heeding.

“Sit,” he said.

Angeline collapsed in the chair, and he used the ropes to bind her. He met her eyes, keeping her gaze in his, his hand holding her chin firm. “You will not try to escape. Do you understand?” He wasn’t sure if the force of his power was strong enough to override her survival instinct, but that plus ropes should be enough.

“This is cruel. Why are you doing this? I’m sorry. Okay? Just let me go and I’ll leave you alone. You can have your freedom. Just let me have mine.”

“Remember, Angeline, I’ve heard thousands of confessions. I know when one is truly sorry. I’ll be back to talk with you, but first I need to hunt and think.” He went back to the cemetery and retrieved the gag, not that he thought anyone would hear her anyway. After he’d gagged her, he stalked off into the night to explore his new powers.

An exciting idea was forming, and he was intoxicated with it: now he’d know who was worth saving.

Angeline blinked back the tears that clouded her vision. Didn’t Father Hadrian know what she’d given him? She’d freed him! She’d made him into a god, young and beautiful and strong for eternity. And this was how he repaid her?

She’d been foolish for not paying more attention to what he’d been chanting. Although her Latin was weak, at least one of those words should have tipped her off. Exorcizo.

She’d been so drunk on his blood, the purity and sweetness of it. Father Hadrian had been a good man. Good like she’d been once—so long ago she could barely remember it. She didn’t know what she’d expected, but him being able to fight back hadn’t been on the list. She hadn’t been able to fight back. It wasn’t fair. Nothing about any of it was fair.

Surely there was enough good in him left to let her go. But then, if he had goodness in him it would rebel against the darkness in her. Who was she kidding? She was in trouble either way. Deep trouble.

The vampire who’d turned her had been vicious beyond imagining. His name was Linus, a name of Greek origin which means flax. Not a name that strikes terror—until you meet him.

Angeline tried to shut out the memory, but it surrounded her, a three-dimensional vision that wouldn’t go away.

She was sitting in a dank cell that had been built by her sire. They were deep in the bowels of an opera house. Angeline suspected he kept her here so she could hear the voices of angels while she was trapped in hell. Why would God let this happen to her? How could she be abandoned like this to a demon?

She hadn’t fed in two weeks. She was weak, emaciated, seeing things. Unfortunately what she was seeing in front of her right now, was real. Linus paced outside her cell, lecturing her as if she were a small child in need of basic survival instruction.

“The next human I give you to feed from, you’ll drain them and you’ll like it. Keep feeling this guilt, my little angel, and see where it gets you.” He stopped and faced her, his expression dark. “Or maybe you do see now. I’ve never encountered a vampire quite like you. I think I should like to start a menagerie with such little oddities. It would entertain me greatly.”

He’d left her there for an hour, then returned with a formally dressed noblewoman who had come to see the opera. She was shaking, her face streaked with tears. Linus hadn’t bothered to put her under.

“Angeline, dear? Pay attention. This is how a real vampire feeds.” The woman struggled in his arms, her screams so loud surely someone would hear.

But he’d timed the feeding to the climax of the opera when the voices above were far louder than the screams below, drowning out the woman’s cries. He let her body drop when he’d finished feeding. She wasn’t quite gone yet, but she was weak, crying, staring up at Angeline with wide, terrified eyes.

“P-please,” she said.

As if Angeline could help. There was nothing she could do, standing inside the makeshift cell, gripping the bars, her knuckles going whiter than normal at the smell of the fresh blood.

The woman was bleeding to death on the stone ground less than a foot away, her wrist within easy reach. The vampire eased herself down to the ground and pulled the woman’s wrist through the bars, her fangs descending.

Then the woman was against the opposite wall where she’d been flung, dead.

“I didn’t say you could eat yet. You can eat when you’re ready to be a proper vampire.” He’d left her there and she’d screamed for hours, but no one ever heard her.

Angeline shook herself out of the memory, her gaze darting around the dark cemetery as she renewed her struggle. What if Linus was near? What if he found her here somehow before Hadrian returned? He’d take her back.

She tried to calm herself. The last she’d heard, Linus was on the other side of the Atlantic. He rarely came to the states. He couldn’t know where she was, and he’d left her alone for well over a century when she’d escaped him.

Although she’d finally broken free of him, there was no saving the woman she’d been. That person was gone. Linus had poisoned her.

She kept her human half locked away because that part of her couldn’t take all the horror. She’d had to become the horror to survive. If she was the villain, she could never be the victim again. Only, her calculations on that score had been a bit off, because here she was, the victim again.

I thought I could trust Hadrian. How could he turn on me like this?

Had she been wrong about him? The many months she’d come to Mass watching him, waiting for those brief moments to feel his hand grasping hers, to talk with him and dream about the day they’d be together. That first night, the drug-induced vision had felt like something real, like a sign that he was hers. How could it have been wrong? The universe had opened to her that night and shown her everything.

She wondered if she’d approached the priest differently if things would have still gone this way. Maybe if she’d slowly introduced him to what she was—if she’d given him a choice. She hadn’t been given a choice. How could she make the same mistake? If only he hadn’t done that stupid chant, things would be different.

Angeline was so lost in her pity and self-recriminations that she didn’t hear the small, quiet footsteps until they were in front of her. The first thing she noticed when her vision cleared from the tears were delicate, bare feet.

She startled as her gaze rose to take in the girl in front of her. She couldn’t have been older than twelve. The vampire licked her lips. It had been awhile since she’d had a good veal. The girl still had the tiniest bit of baby fat around her face. If only Angeline could get the gag out of her mouth and the ropes off.

She wanted to struggle to escape, but she couldn’t make her body obey. Oh yes. Father Hadrian’s order. Damn him! If not for him—for that voice of his—ropes never could have held her. Had he sent some child out here to taunt her? Was that part of the punishment he was cultivating for her sins? Was it some sort of penance? Whatever happened to the Hail Mary?


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