Deception (Deamhan Chronicles #3)

CHAPTER ONE

 

Anastasia stared at the woman who stood in the middle of the desolate street. Her hair, cut short, swayed in the light, cold breeze coming off the shores in the direction of the Atlantic Ocean. Her brown skin radiated among the darkness with help from a yellow colored blinking street light.

To her, the woman resembled something she could only see in a fantasy. Free from any flaws, she presented herself as a goddess in human form—a woman who had no weaknesses, only strength and stainable courage. Afraid of being noticed, Anastasia remained palliated and still.Anastasia stared at the woman who stood in the middle of the desolate street. Her hair, cut short, swayed in the light, cold breeze coming off the shores in the direction of the Atlantic Ocean. Her brown skin radiated among the darkness with help from a yellow colored blinking street light.

Rain poured from the heavens and the brown-skinned woman pulled out her umbrella. The drops pelted it in rhythmic patterns. She walked toward the office building and Anastasia had no choice but to follow, curious as to what the Ekimmu Deamhan might do next.

Somehow, she felt attached to her—bewildered that Amenirdis, the very first of their kind, the same woman who slithered out of Limbo, was interested in some three-story structure.

She looked different from the night of her escape. Somehow, in the two months since she left Minneapolis, she had adapted to the 21st Century. Manicured nails, the modern clothing she wore, and the smell of Taylor Swift’s perfume told Anastasia so. The advancement of human technology startled the Ekimmu since the night of her rebirth. The sacrifices which freed her from an eternity living in nothingness did little to please her. It had been too long since walking on the earth and she had a lot of catching up to do. Humans seemed no longer scared and superstitious. Their modes of transportation advanced further than she could imagine. The building she now stood in front of attested to that.

However, her body still pulsated with immense power and age and she was sure that the Ekimmu’s goal to start Revelation hadn’t changed.

Amenirdis made no attempt to hide her thoughts as she glanced through the front glass, staring at the bright interior space before gripping the door handle. Images and questions flowed freely and Anastasia absorbed every little detail. How humans were capable of taking precious metals and twisting, melting, and combining them to form a super structure, boggled Amenirdis’ already over-compensated mind. She’d learned a lot in the past two weeks except for how to intermingle with the humans in this new era.

She wanted to see and explore many places in this new world. She left the city of Minneapolis but not to pursue the Deamhan who tried to thwart her escape from Limbo. They would get theirs in due time. She ran in Deamhan speed—a pace faster than any human or car could travel—and made her way to Missouri. There she fed from a human who called himself ‘Ted,’ and after resting she continued southeast, reaching Florida that night. The warm weather and sunny skies reminded her of her beloved country, which she yearned to go back to. However, no human she encountered lived during the time when the great city of Ur reigned strong.

All of this made Anastasia question why and how this woman continued to invade her dreams. “What are you trying to show me?” Her question went unanswered and she followed her into the building. With each step she opened her ears, listening to Amenirdis’ heels clack against the hardened floor. Her acute hearing also picked up on voices coming from the back. Her sense of smell told her a group of humans—three males and two females—were near. Amenirdis took interest in one female in particular.

The human’s scent was like nothing she’d ever smelled before. It was sour and foul. Amenirdis found herself standing aloof, curious as to why the scent told every part of her body to have the woman at all costs. The woman’s opened thoughts consisted of her two children—twin boys—whom she’d not seen in years. She concerned herself with purchasing gifts for their upcoming birthday.

A tall, overweight male walked out of the room and paused as his eyes set sight on her. He wore a thick brown shirt and brown pants. “Are you here for the meeting?”

Meeting? Amenirdis didn’t answer. Anastasia watched as she walked around him and looked inside the room with her mind set on one goal. The female.

The male turned around. “Excuse me, are you here for the meeting?” he asked again. “It’s about to start in a few minutes.”

She still ignored him and surveyed the room. Near the back she saw a large table adorned with a pink tablecloth. Bags of chips and liters of orange, grape, and cherry soda sat on top of it.

“What meeting?” Anastasia asked, but the human ignored her. She approached him and when she reached out, her hand broke through his body like mist.

Befuddled, she gazed at her hand. “What is this?” She wasn’t dead and she wasn’t a ghost. She counted four humans sitting in a circle just to the right. One male, tall in stature and dressed in a business suit, sat quietly with his hands folded on his lap. From Amenirdis thoughts, Anastasia picked up his name. Peter. The other male sat across from him, flirting with another woman. Their names also came to her. Jack and Sue. A woman sat away from them, alone, with a plate full of snacks in her lap. Lynn.

“Excuse me,” again, the human male said. “Are you here for the meeting?”

This time Amenirdis replied. “Yes. I’m here for the meeting.”

“Well, my name is Mr. Jackson.” He held out his hand. “And welcome.”

She walked in slowly.

“We have a new person today.” Mr. Jackson began his introduction while she walked casually and sat next to Peter.

Anastasia crept around the circle. She reached out to each victim and the result remained the same. Her hand went through their bodies and they didn’t notice. She then decided to try her luck with Amenirdis, but before she had the chance, Mr. Jackson spoke again.

“Feel free to get some snacks.” He pointed to the back table.

No matter how tempting human food looked to them, Deamhan didn’t eat. However, if they wanted to they could, with the expense of expelling the items from their stomachs afterward. It was a tiring and pointless process.

“Let’s get started, shall we?” Mr. Jackson closed the doors and walked over to the group. With his hands he motioned for everyone to stand up and Amenirdis, realizing she had to play along to fit in, rose to her feet. They grabbed hands, and Peter held his hand out to her, smiling.

“We start all our meetings like this,” Mr. Jackson said.

Amenirdis slid it into Peter’s palm. Immediately he jerked.

“Your hand is like ice.” He spoke in a prominent lisp and retook it again.

“Everyone repeat after me,” Mr. Jackson said. “Today was a good day.”

The humans repeated while Anastasia watched.

“We thank those around us for being supportive in our time of need.”

The humans repeated again.

“And we thank God for allowing us to cope with our troubles.”

Amenirdis dropped her hand from Peter’s grip. Humans spoke a lot about this ‘God’, a Being whom they could not see but put their trust in. She heard the name when she killed Ted in Missouri. She saw the name plastered on the walls of what they called ‘churches.’ She sensed the name numerous times in Lynn’s thoughts. She wanted to know more about this ‘God.’

“Is there something wrong?” Mr. Jackson asked her.

“God. I know nothing about this deity you all seem to worship.”

“You’re not a Christian?” Peter asked her. “Are you an atheist?”

“No. I’m Amenirdis.”

Being kept in Limbo meant being apart from the world. Trying to break through the veil in an attempt to see what was going on was the hardest challenge for her and the other seven Pure Deamhan. She remembered when they had found a small slit, inches wide, and they fought each other just to take a peek. She won the battle, and when she finally looked out, all she saw was darkness. They believed the world had ended and that their gods had destroyed it for what they had done. They blamed her. After all, it was her father—a Kashshapu—who had summoned the spell that created the Deamhan in the first place.

So it surprised them when Kei called out to her, asking for help. He wanted to send his sire, Lucius, into Limbo and in exchange he offered to free her. She didn’t hesitate to accept the agreement. She learned a lot from him and how the world changed. But he never mentioned religion or how humans had evolved. He kept quiet about the new countries that arose and their old country that fell. He only spoke of the Deamhan and how unpredictable and ruthless they had become. This new world—this new land called ‘America’—felt too big for her to comprehend. She tried her best to absorb every little detail, comparing it to the city of her birth. So learning about ‘God’ was something she yearned to do.

“You can only learn about God through our savior, Jesus Christ,” Peter said.

“Now, now. Remember, we aren’t here to talk about religion,” Mr. Jackson replied. “Sorry, Amenirdis. We just assumed everyone here is Christian. We welcome anyone into this circle. Your name is different. What does it mean?”

Amenirdis sat down. “Daughter of Kashshapu.”

“Ahh, well that’s interesting.” he replied. “I’m sure we can talk about that later, but let’s start where we left off last time.” He looked to Lynn.

Anastasia watched as she stood up from her chair. Nervous, she cleared her throat before speaking. “My name is Lynn Sanderson.”

“Hello, Lynn,” the group repeated in unison.

She smiled. “Well, I’m not really good at this.”

“Take your time,” Mr. Jackson replied.

“I’m here because of my addiction.” She began to fumble her hands together. “I, um… well, I’ve had a problem with drinking for quite some time now. I’ve been to several AA meetings and they’ve never worked.”

While she continued, a flood of emotions rushed from her brain and into Anastasia. She sensed dread, despair, and doubt mixed with images of two boys, identical twins.

“. . . my husband has the kids now. I haven’t seen them in a few years.” A weary smile appeared on her face. “Their birthdays are coming up. They’re turning seventeen.”

“So how have you been dealing with your addiction lately?” Mr. Jackson asked.

“I’m coping. I found a friend. She takes good care of me. She listens and gives me good advice. It’s hard but I know in the end, I’ll be able to see them. That’s all that matters.” She sat down and Sue placed her arm around her in an embrace.

“Thank you for sharing, Lynn,” Mr. Jackson replied. “I hope you’ll be able to mend things with your ex-husband and your children.” He turned his sights on Amenirdis. “Would you like to go next?”

“No,” she spoke.

“This is a support group,” he replied. “Don’t be shy. You can tell us any of your problems or what’s on your mind, and if you need help dealing with them.”

Problems. She knew plenty of problems, starting with why she tolerated their presence and the reason behind a support group. Their problems were nothing compared to her own. After her father created the Ramanga, Lamia, Metusba, and Lugat Deamhan, to protect the inhabitants from the vampires, he unleashed them into their great city. When that failed, he created Estrie, Ekimmu, Empusa, and Adze Deamhan but they also fell under dark influences. His incantations called on the wrong energy and corrupted the vessels. Deamhan were manifestations of their dark sides, dosed with supernatural gifts. By nature they were malevolent.

To quell the king’s complaints, her own father used her as a vessel and when that didn’t work, he went after the only thing she loved in the world.

He took her own flesh and blood, ripping the innocent child from her blood-soaked hands.

“Your problems are trifling. Not worth the conversation.”

The humans remained tongue-tied.

“My father, a powerful man of magic, was killed for something that he had no control over. He was the advisor to the king but even he couldn’t get our gods to listen. Perhaps he should have turned to your God. Do you think your God would have listened?”

Sue raised her hand. “Excuse me, but what did you say?”

“Your God. Do you think he would have listened?”

She shook her head and her golden curls bounced from shoulder to shoulder. “Where did you say you grew up, again?”

“I didn’t say, but the name of my city is Ur. Have you heard of it?”

She shot her a weird look. “My geography isn’t all that great, but I’m sure there isn’t a city by that name in America.”

“Not America. Mesopotamia.”

“Hush, Sue, let her continue.” Jack leaned back in his chair and smiled. “This sounds interesting.”

“Wait a minute. Isn’t that like, some old ancient civilization?” Sue raised herself in her chair.

“You could be right,” Jack added. “Either she has a very active imagination or she’s full of it.”

“Jack!” Mr. Jackson quickly spoke. “We must be respectful of others here.”

“What does this have to do with addiction?” he replied back.

“I do have what you can call an addiction,” Amenirdis replied. “Feeding. And I’m in control of my addiction as best as anyone of my caliber can be. I’ve killed thousands of people. I’ve spent four thousand years in Limbo, holding onto every thought, creeping close to madness, and finally, I’m free.”

Anastasia noticed Lynn’s breathing becoming unstable. She placed her hand on her chest and her mouth opened slowly.

“You believe this crap?” Peter spoke. “She doesn’t belong here. She belongs in an insane asylum.”

“She isn’t lying.” Lynn trembled in her seat.

Amenirdis looked to her. “I believe you know this tale.”

“Okay, I think we’ve heard enough.” Mr. Jackson leaned forward. “We don’t provide the support you need here.”

“Yes, that’s right. Humans in this day and age are not afraid,” she interrupted him. “They don’t crawl under their blankets or hide in their homes from the darkness anymore. Instead they question it and they believe that their God will save them. No god, not yours nor mine, can save you.” She pointed at Lynn. “No Deamhan can save you.”

“I belong to Sia.” Her bottom lip quivered as she spoke.

Everything finally made sense to Anastasia. She now understood why Amenirdis traveled all the way to Florida. She was after a Deamhan—Sia. But she didn’t know who this person was or why she was this important.

Her eyes brightened slowly, resembling an illuminated red color. Anastasia had seen it before, in the eyes of Lucius who became just one of her pawns in her escape from Limbo. Lynn screamed at the top of her lungs.

Amenirdis slowly opened her mouth and let her body do all the work. She sucked her victims at a leisurely pace, first starting with Peter. As he coughed, she moved onto the rest, letting her inner desire—her hunger—push her to suck harder. Soon every human in their little circle, except for Lynn, began to feel the effects. Sue screamed, only to be silenced moments later as her voice box constricted and shriveled up like a prune. Jack grabbed his throat and toppled over. His body began to convulse. None of them had an idea that soon they would meet their ends and she liked it that way.

Her eyes, now full red, gazed at Mr. Jackson and within minutes she rushed to him and snapped his neck. The remaining bodies began to slowly deteriorate into husks that resembled Egyptian mummies.

Feeling the psychic energy regenerating her own, Amenirdis held her head back. Her eyes fluttered. “That was refreshing.” She turned to Lynn, who moved back slowly in fear. “I’m always so hungry. It’s part of the Curse. As a Pure One, I can never seem to feel full.”

Lynn gripped hard onto her purse. “I belong to Sia.” Her lips quivered.

“And where is your master?”

“Please…don’t hurt me.”

Amenirdis’ eyes ogled into Lynn and she scoured the woman’s thoughts for information.

“You’re going to kill me.” Lynn’s trembled voice carried in the air.

“No. She is going to kill you.” Amenirdis turned her head in Anastasia’s direction.

Anastasia looked over her shoulder in hopes that the Pure One had seen straight through her. Yet her glowing red eyes proved otherwise. She saw her instantly. Maybe she’d always seen her.

Lynn also caught wind of her and, in fear, she tried to run from the fray but Amenirdis moved quickly and grabbed her by the throat.

“You always knew I was here?” Anastasia questioned. “How?”

“Because this dream is my gift to you.” She pushed the human toward her. “Now feed.” Her lips pulled back into a wide smile.

“No, I won’t.” Her refusal did little to halt the situation.

“You will be an obedient servant to me.” With a twist of her wrist, Amenirdis felt Lynn’s throat crack under her strength. She let go and she turned around before Lynn’s dead body hit the floor.

She slithered, her hips popping from left to right in her approach. Cold air followed her and for the first time in her Deamhan life, Anastasia felt her body shiver.

“I will live through you.”

She moved quickly, fooling Anastasia’s eyesight. Cold hands now had her by the back of her neck.

“And you through me.” Placing more pressure, Amenirdis forced her to tilt her head back. Her mouth opened and her fangs dropped from her gums.

The Ekimmu bit into her own wrist and positioned her open wound over Anastasia’s mouth. Blood oozed into it and coated the back of her throat. It forced itself into her body and the energy that followed lifted Anastasia on the tip of her toes. It wasn’t the first time she tasted the blood of a Pure One—so rich that it put anything she’d ever tasted before to shame. Suddenly she wanted more of it. She wanted all of it.

Amenirdis let her go and she stumbled back. Her chest felt as if it was about to explode. The world opened around her, carrying the tunes of everyday instances to her ears. Cars sped down freeways miles away. She heard the loud horn of an ocean liner just off the coast. Human heartbeats, dogs barking, a jumbo jet flying overhead—she heard all of it and it became too much. She dropped to her knees and covered her ears.

“Now you belong to me.” Amenirdis turned and approached the table of food. She picked up a soda can, examined it, and placed it back on the table. “I’ll always know what you do. I’ll know your thoughts.”

Although the outside interference rang at her ears, her voice broke through the racket. “If you know my thoughts, you should know that I plan to send you back to Limbo where you belong.”

“You are no match for me, Ramanga. You can try if it makes you feel better. But in the end, you’ll be on your knees, begging me to let you in. You will experience every gratification your heart desires knowing that you’ve earned a special place at my feet.”

 

CHAPTER TWO

 

Anastasia shot awake.

A sense of fear still traveled throughout her entire body, making her go into high alert.

Even though it was all a dream, Amenirdis’ glowing red eyes immobilized her in such a state that she felt small and surprisingly powerless.

The Pure One had matured and grown stronger since she materialized in front of her face—naked and weak from her six-thousand-year stint in Limbo. Those who witnessed her crude rebirth—Kyra, Maris, Remy, Ayden, and herself—didn’t know what to expect. No Deamhan knew of anyone of their kind who met these god-headed creatures face to face and lived to tell about it.

Most importantly, Amenirdis knew the incantation that could release the other seven Pure Deamhan in Limbo. Did Amenirdis want to start Revelation, a ritual cleansing of Deamhan on the Earth? Or did she and the other Pure Ones simply want to go after the Ancient Deamhan in this world?

Anastasia didn’t what to imagine what awaited not only her kind but humans, vampires, and any other supernatural creature on the face of the Earth if that happened. No one could stand in her way, not even the Dorvo Vampires—Dorvons—plaguing the city at this moment. They all would succumb to the might of the Pure Ekimmu. Their wrath would devour the city’s inhabitants, claiming her life and the lives of Remy, Hallie, and Nathan as well.

Anastasia raised herself from her bed. Her lips felt swollen. After touching them she examined her fingers and noticed dried blood. She hurried toward the bathroom to look at herself in the mirror. The sticky substance covered not only her lips but her chin as well. What kind of dream could do this? Was it possible that Amenirdis had this much potential to unleash her influence on Deamhan, regardless of their age? She had to prepare for the worst. Amenirdis had a plan for her.

She turned on the faucet, cupped her hand under the spout, and proceeded to clean her face. Hunger pangs gnawed at her stomach, and she dressed herself and left her room. She walked quietly down the hallway of her home, Blind Bluff Manor. The path she took was the same path she walked every night in order to avoid the gaze of Nathan and the others who lived under the same roof. When she made her way to the balcony, she paused before descending to the foyer. Below, she heard voices echoing from the study.

“Nathan, shouldn’t you be sleeping?” Hallie asked.

“I slept all day,” he replied. “I don’t think I can sleep anymore.”

“Are you feeling any better?”

“I’m fine, Hallie. I told you before. You don’t have to watch over me.”

“It’s not like I have anything better to do.”

His failing health had become Hallie’s main concern. Anastasia smelled the sickness emanating from him from where she stood. They all could. The scent teetered on the smell of rotten insides and sour air. It was a carbon copy of the scent she recognized from her past, coming from the whores inside London taverns and call girls in New York speakeasies. She figured it was tuberculosis, but common medicine had a cure for it. This had to be a cancer of some sort, but she was no medical physician nor did she know that much about human ailments. He refused to talk about his health so she didn’t push the issue. For him, he didn’t see it as a major concern. However, he owned the manor and without any children to inherit it, the future of the estate rested in urgency. That much she knew. In the meantime, Hallie cared for him—a trait that wasn’t strong in a Deamhan. She bathed him, cooked meals for him, cleaned his clothes, and straightened his surroundings. She also spent most of her nights in his study, reading the research journals in his possession. Slowly, she was becoming educated in everything ‘Deamhan.’

“I don’t mean it that way. I just. . .it’s not like I go out at night like the others do,” she said.

“You should be out there with the rest of them. If you stay around me long enough, you’ll turn into a miniature me.” He laughed and began to cough.

Anastasia placed her hands on the railing and continued to peer down at the dust on the collection of Greek marble statues in the foyer.

“I’ll go to the city. Get you some medicine,” Hallie said.

Just then Remy’s Lamia-commingled scent hit Anastasia gently. The aroma also carried a thick smell of cologne, masking Nathan’s own sickly scent still drifting in the air. She turned her head to look over her right shoulder, eying him standing firm behind her. His presence startled her. Never had she been this distracted to allow someone to sneak up on her and invade her thoughts. She felt his stare nipping at the back of her neck and finally she maneuvered around to face him.

“Your thoughts are exploding right now.” He stood with his arms to the side; a Deamhan ready to make the first move if the situation allowed it. He wore a tight-fitting short-sleeve dark shirt, which matted and outlined his nipple piercings, and dark blue jeans. His frame blocked the moonlight entering through a tall window in the hallway behind them. His brown hair rested on his shoulders.

“What do you want?” Her question came off brash, but in reality, she knew exactly what he wanted. Since the night The Brotherhood took Veronica from the manor, he had been patiently waiting for the right moment to get her back. He couldn’t do it alone. She promised to help him, but they couldn’t just walk into their Chapter and demand her return. Like their main building in San Diego, it was heavily guarded. Veronica fared better surrounded by other humans.

“I’m not sorry for prying.” He placed his hands on the railing and leaned forward, looking down at the main floor. “It’s not like you’re trying to hide them.”

“Of course you’re not sorry.” Stubbornness overtook her and she returned to listen in on Nathan and Hallie’s conversation.

“You know, that baby Deamhan is right,” he said, referring to Hallie. “Nathan is sick and he isn’t getting any better.” He then nodded in the direction of the study. “He’s going to die on us soon. Do you think we should do something?”

“Sire him? Just like you wanted to do to Veronica when you thought she was also going die?” She watched while his hands squeezed the railing. “He doesn’t want to be a Deamhan. Lambert offered to make him vampire and he refused. He wants to live a normal life and die a natural death—so I say, let him.”

Remy shrugged. “What about vampire blood? Did you ever think of that?”

The thought never crossed her mind.

“He’s your friend. He’s our friend. You and I both know that creatures like us don’t have many of those,” he said. “He’s wasting away.” He rocked his body back and forth. “Unlike you, I like to help when and if I can.”

She felt the conversation taking a drastic turn, just like their previous conversations seemed to do the past few weeks.

“Your problem is that you can’t see beyond Veronica. You only care because somehow, in your distorted mind, you think it’ll help you free her. There are more important things than what you desire.”

“I’m talking about Nathan now, not Veronica,” he said while raising his hands in surrender. “All I’m saying is that when he dies we’ll be shit out of luck. We won’t have a sanctuary to call home and we don’t know any human who understands The Brotherhood like he does.”

“Ahh, yes, The Brotherhood. It always goes back to them because they have your Veronica.” Anastasia sighed in her captious approach.

“Or because they set up their Chapter right in the heart of downtown. How about when that asshole came here and threatened us? Did you forget about that?”

“They aren’t a threat.”

“Not yet.”

His constant nagging only angered her along with whatever secret activities he did outside Blind Bluff Manor. She never questioned how much he spent venturing on his own, only to return shortly after sunrise, smelling like human. What she felt in her gut told her that he had a plan up his sleeve and whatever he decided to do, she didn’t want any part of it. His behavior wasn’t worth risking her life for.

“What’s happening around us is more important than freeing Veronica or worrying about human researchers.”

“There you go again.” He leaned against the wall and folded his arms. “Always trying to lie your way out of a situation. I don’t think I’ve known anyone in my hundred-plus years of existence who lied better than you.”

She grunted.

“Hit a soft spot, did I?” he said with an underlining giggle in his voice.

“No. You’re just annoying me, like usual.” Her thoughts turned to subdue him, which she could easily do. It came with age and experience. She had both which helped her survive for over 400 years. It helped her heal after Selene nearly killed her at the warehouse. Age helped all Deamhan.

“You’re still on that remorse train about betraying Maris, aren’t ya?” he asked. “I don’t like this new and improved you. You’re all emo now. I bet you still eat squirrels.”

“Remy. Back off.”

“Or what?” He lowered his voice and moved closer to her.

Her brown eyes gazed into his and for a moment his thoughts moved aimlessly into her own mind. He hated her offspring, Maris, with a passion and he wouldn’t hesitate killing her the next time he saw her. It was then that she had to let him know that wasn’t going to happen. Better yet, Amenirdis wouldn’t allow it.

His thoughts continued to speak to her. I’m no one’s bitch. Finally, he opened his mouth. “Amenirdis doesn’t scare me. I’m not going to get on my knees and serve her, wherever the fuck she is.” He placed his hand on her forearm. “You and I both know the moment she comes back here, she’ll kill us without hesitation.” He glided his hand to her shoulder. “Whether you like it or not, it’s just you and me. We’re the only ones in this city who can rely on each other.”

But Anastasia wasn’t so sure. Her dreams told her otherwise. Amenirdis needed her, but she didn’t know why. She kept her dreams confidential, never telling anyone at the manor. Not even Nathan, who was the only human she trusted.

She felt her body tense as Remy’s hand moved, resting over her cleavage. With every other heated argument, they’d had in the past, he turned to sexual advances when he wanted to make a point, but this time she had no patience for it. Quickly, she grabbed his hand and twisted it with such force that his body lifted onto the tips of his toes.

“I could never trust you.” She strengthened her grasp and, instead of fighting back, he laughed in enjoyment. “I know you’ve been leaving the manor a lot lately. You always come back smelling like human. What are you doing, Remy?”

“I’m keeping my end of the deal. That’s more than I can say for you.”

She squeezed harder, feeling his finger bones crack underneath his skin.

“I thought you didn’t give two fucks about what I do?” he replied in pain. “You’re a little stronger than usual. You haven’t been missing your Wheaties.”

He tried matching his strength to hers. The more he pulled back, the stronger she increased her grip. His scent reeked of Lamia, but she found herself attracted to it in an unusual kind of way.

She eventually let him go. “I don’t care what you do, but you know where I stand when it comes to Veronica.”

“Yeah, yeah. You have more important things to do. I get it.” He moved back and rubbed his hand. “But you made a promise to me.” He examined his palm while the bones healed themselves back into position. “You said you’d help me get her back.”

“And I will, but not now.” Very few humans remained on her ‘to care for’ list. Unlike Remy, she didn’t miss Veronica. Showing that she did only revealed a sign of weakness.

“When?”

“When there’s time.”

“You used me and I don’t like it.” Darkness hazed over his eyes and they stared her down. “You may be the oldest Deamhan living under this roof, but that still doesn’t make you invulnerable.”

“Is that a threat?”

“What do you think?”

His uncanny ability to turn the situation back in her direction didn’t impress her. Like all Deamhan who whispered great things in her ear, she found his reply bland and unforgiving.

“Make your move, Lamia.” She waited for him to go on the attack. Instead he straightened his composure and shook his head gently, which somehow made his eyes revert back to their natural brown color.

“I thought so.” She proceeded down the steps and into Nathan’s study, finding him and Hallie standing over a long table covered in research journals. As soon as Hallie saw her, she halted in mid speech. Her face changed from concern to annoyance and she had every right to be. She considered Nathan the only one in the manor who understood her wants and needs. While Anastasia ordered and pushed her around, and Remy treated her like a second-class citizen, Nathan made the youngest Deamhan in the household feel comfortable and wanted. He gave her access to his study where he kept hundreds of books written by other researchers. When bored, she read up on the origins of their kind. Only when he found his father’s cryptic journals did all the information about Deamhan fill in the holes and answered her questions. In those journals she learned more about the Pure Ones and other supernatural creatures in the world. She learned about Deamhan, now dead and gone, who existed before her. For a long time she believed that Deamhan sat on the top of the food chain. That was before she read about the Dorvo vampires and their coven.

“I found a few mentions of Revelation in the journals.” Nathan made his way back to a plushy, dark chair centered just shy of the fireplace. His feet shuffled across the floor with his upper body bent slightly forward. His white skin now looked pale and dark bags rested underneath his eyes.

“Have you come across the name ‘Sia’?” Anastasia caught a whiff of cough drops mixed with Vapor Rub coming from his direction.

“No.” His tired hazel eyes turned to her.

“I wonder who she is. I heard her name in my dreams.” She paused. “How are you. . . feeling?” She stuttered.

“I’m doing fine.” He lowered himself in the chair. “Why do you ask?”

“You look more tired than usual.”

“So do you,” he replied. “Are you getting enough rest?”

Her thoughts turned to her dreams. “I’m sleeping fine,” she lied to him. “So, what did you find out about Revelation?”

He looked through just one of the many Journals of Blank Pages they found months ago packed away in boxes located in the basement. No one in the sanctuary knew enough about them to truly understand how important they could be in finding an answer to the dilemma they faced. Although one journal did help them locate the missing piece of the Dark Curse, Anastasia felt that he recently spent more time shifting through these journals in order to not face the possibility that nothing could prepare them for the future. To the human eye, the journals looked empty; but for Deamhan, they carried a wealth of information that could only be accessed with help from the moon’s illuminating glow.

“I’ll help you go through these ones if you want,” Hallie said to him while lifting a journal from the table.

“I told you that you don’t have to,” he replied.  “And before you tell me that I should rest instead of reading, remember that…I don’t have time to rest.” He opened one journal. “From what it says here, Limbo isn’t a self-sustaining place.”

“Self-sustaining?” Anastasia repeated, curious.

“It needs inhabitants.” He flipped through it. “I think that’s what this means. Or it could be blood.” He looked up at her. “Maris’ blood, perhaps?”

“Good thing she left Minneapolis with Ayden when she did,” Hallie said. “She did leave with him, right?”

Anastasia nodded.

She placed the book back on the table and walked toward him, hearing the wooden floor creak underneath her weight. “Maybe there’s more in these journals about Amenirdis.”

“Perhaps.”

“She scares me.” Hallie cupped her hands in front of her chest. “Everyone has an idea about what she wants, but no one really knows.”

“What about Amenirdis’ blood?” Anastasia questioned. “Is there anything in the Journals that describes the blood of a Pure One?”

He shook his head. “I haven’t come across anything referring to that. From my knowledge, Selene and Lucius are the only Deamhan who drank her blood.”

“What about Kyra?” Hallie asked. “I thought I read somewhere that she also drank that stuff?”

Just the mention of that name made Anastasia angry. She wanted to hate that woman more than she already did, but Kyra acted as all Deamhan did to secure their own survival. She played the role perfectly and in doing so she lived to walk the Earth for another night while Lucius, Selene, and many other Deamhan perished.

“Did someone mention Kyra, the Queen of Liars?” Again, Remy’s surprise appearance caught Anastasia off guard. He leaned against the open door to the study with his arms folded across his chest. His retort carried a hint of sassiness. He only had harsh words for the previous so-called savior of the Deamhan race.

“We were just talking about the ongoing situation,” Nathan answered.

“Oh, yeah. That.” Remy passed through the threshold and walked over to the Journals resting on the table. “Where’s the one about me? It’s here, isn’t it?”

Uninterested in his snippy remarks, Anastasia glanced at the Journals and sighed loudly. “All this talk about Kyra annoys me. I’m going to eat.” Suddenly, she saw Hallie’s body shiver, revealing the same reaction she knew all too well. All Deamhan did. It signaled hunger, warning them that they had to feed soon. The pain always started with unpleasant rumbling and the feeling of something attempting to gnaw its way out. If Hallie ignored it, Nathan would turn into the only substance that would quench her feeling. Having human sounded pleasant, but Anastasia knew the reality. The only time the youngest Deamhan in the manor killed a human was a detective. Before and after that incident, she stuck with furry, four-legged creatures that lived in the vicinity.

Oddly enough, Nathan also appeared delectable to her, but she quickly pushed that thought out of her mind.

“I’ll be back in a few minutes,” Hallie said.

“You’re going to hunt?” Remy laughed.

She rolled her eyes at his statement.

“You’ve killed every rodent around here.” He shrugged. “There’s nothing left.” He approached her. “I have a suggestion. Why don’t you go outside the gates with your big sister, Ana? Find a succulent human in the city or a Dorvo vampire? God knows they’re breeding like cockroaches.”

Nathan crossed his legs and placed his hand between the pages of his book, using it as a makeshift bookmark. “It’s dangerous in the city.”

“It’s dangerous anywhere,” Remy replied. “Plus, it’s good for her. She needs to learn, if she wants to survive. She can’t stay with you forever. You probably won’t last another year. She needs to stop sucking on your teat and graduate into Deamhan adulthood.”

“Shut up!” Hallie screamed at the top of her lungs, which did little to stop his shenanigans. Instead he continued.

“You know I’m right. She has to start eating normally, which means killing. Nathan, you’ve studied our kind for decades. You know our behavior from head to toe. We’re Deamhan. It’s what we do.”

For the first time, Anastasia wanted to hear Nathan’s thoughts regarding Deamhan behavior. Before the sanctuary fires in Minneapolis, he spoke against it, giving them options of feeding from animals that lived in the vicinity. Now he couldn’t object to the idea, especially when he knew that rodents provided little sustenance for them.

Nathan lowered his head and returned to his books.

“You’re an asshole!” Hallie screamed at Remy. “I’m not going to kill anyone.”

Unwavered by her outburst, he shrugged. “You’ll thank me later.” He turned to walk out when she spoke again.

“Yeah, well, if I wanted your opinion I would have asked for it!”

His shoulders jumped up and down as he laughed silently.

“Let her make her own decision.” Anastasia walked out of the study and to the front door. Both of them followed her.

“You would say that.” Remy picked up his pace and positioned himself in front of her. “After all, wasn’t it you who ordered Hallie to not leave this place?” He tapped his chin as if he were deep in thought. “Or did you order her to stay because of The Dictum? I don’t remember.” He giggled.

“The Dictum is dead. It died along with the only other two Deamhan who followed those outdated rules religiously.”

“Oh, you mean Lucius and Selene? The ones who committed ritual suicide to release Amenirdis, who’s after your precious Maris?” He attempted to play her for sport. “Didn’t you used to follow that crap as well? Guess you can’t do that now. There’s no Deamhan left in the city who’ll help you enforce it.”

“You guys can’t tell me what to do anymore,” Hallie said.

“You’re right, my littlest Deamhan,” he joked. “There’s nothing holding you back from sheer craziness. Time to let it all out.”

“Go if you want.” Anastasia stepped aside and motioned for Hallie to leave. “Here’s your freedom. Go to the city and feed. Go have your human fill for the night.”

“I told you. I’m not going to kill anyone.” She held her head high, defiant.

“Then stop talking about it.” Anastasia stepped outside, letting the warm air brush against her skin for a moment. It rushed at her face, carrying along with it the smell of grass and dew and another scent that made her pause in her step. “Maris?” The name hung on the tip of her tongue. She smelled her offspring’s scent as clear as day. It moved all around her, through her hair, brushing up against her face.

“Maris is here?” Picking up on her confusion, Remy’s eyes looked around the horizon. The sun had set, coloring the horizon in hues of blues of purples. Coming up empty, he shot her a confused look. “What you’re smelling is horse shit, my dear.” He returned his attention to Hallie. “You’ll have to leave sometime. How else are you going to get medication for Nathan?” He shot her a playful smile. “Do you want me to come with you?”

Hallie now turned her anger at him. “No.” She began to waver in her strong stance. Her eyes blinked rapidly and she turned to look away.

“You might as well go to the city,” he said, “and pick up a human and medication.”

Noticing Hallie’s growing need to feed, Anastasia stood fast. “What you’re feeling is hunger. Regardless of who or what you eat, the fact is that you have to eat eventually. You can stay here and ignore it, placing Nathan in danger, or you can go out and find a meal. Either way, you’ll have to eat something.”

“Or someone,” Remy joked.

“I know. I’m not an idiot.” Hallie’s body shook again. She stared out at the horizon, her voice now empty, with no signs of a comeback. Like an untrained Deamhan, she exposed her thoughts in the open. Anastasia picked up on them, sensing fear and anger. Hallie’s ultimate goal was to go to the city whenever she wanted without having to worry about her shadow swallowing her nature into an abyss. Now she had the chance, but the current population of vampires held her back. She didn’t want to go to the city with her, yet she knew that Anastasia was strong and old enough to guarantee her safety. She didn’t trust Remy enough to provide that for her.

“I have no intention of staying with you in the city,” Anastasia said. “But if you want me to, just ask.”

Hallie snapped her head in her direction. “Stop reading my thoughts.” She tilted her head as her thoughts continued to rush from her mind like a waterfall. She tried to block them but failed. She feared for Nathan and didn’t want to leave him. Blind Bluff Manor had been breached before. It wasn’t safe like it used to be. Her desire to protect him at all costs ran deep.

“First thing I’m going to show you is how to block your mind from other Deamhan,” Anastasia said. “Then I’ll show you how to hunt.”

“Have fun with that,” Remy said. “I would join your little party, but I have prior obligations.”

She glared at him with stark eyes, knowing full well that he enjoyed the unsettling argument.

Hallie sighed before rushing off in Deamhan speed down the pebble driveway and Anastasia waited for a split second before following her.

 

Deception. Deamhan Chronicles #3 is available on Amazon

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Thank you for taking the time to read the prologue and the first two chapters of my novel.

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Happy reading!

~Isaiyan