PRACTICE DRAFTS. Cries of the Blood – EPISODE 5

FREE READS FOR YOUR ENJOYMENT. Online Novel “Cries of the Blood”. Romance, Thriller and Fantasy that is actually possible.

No vampires, no werewolves, but something that you too can become. Based on scientific truths.

Novel Summary:

Aurelia is no longer a normal human. She’s grown young again, the perfect version of herself, but she’s far from the man she loves – the Blacksmith. Learning to use her new abilities and hiding in the wild depths of the Carpathians, she feeds on her memories and dreams of him.  Yet when a failed attack reveals itself as a coded message meant for her and for her alone, hope spins out of control. Following the hints, she travels to France, ardent to see him again. But the Regent’s wicked scheming and the Blacksmith’s own demonic nature will send his and Aurelia’s tormenting love on a path that will once again reveal deep mysteries but that might also claim her life. 

NOTE: Cries of the Blood is a sequel to The Blacksmith, available for you book lovers at:

The Blacksmith

I hope you savour it

Foto

The Regent looked at me with raised eyebrows and an amused expression, playing the cigar between his fingers. He leant back with his legs crossed and waited, as if enjoying the laden silence in the study. I’d sunken deeper in the cushioned armchair, watching him intently, as if any move he made could betray more of his intentions. His heart was still open to me, but only sent weak signals of satisfaction. Then it dawned on me – he could have shielded his feelings from me and maybe he was. A large part of them. I sensed only what he wanted me to. And as if to tease me, no other word came out of his mouth.

It was the Executioner’s hand tucking a lock behind my ear that stirred me out of focus. My eyes darted to that fine face that seemed carved in marble. As his finger brushed over my earlobe his body seemed to tighten under his shirt.

“I did this so we could be together, Aura. You would’ve never given us a chance otherwise,” he said, a glint of expectation in his abysmal black eyes. He was certain this would force me to sleep with him… I gritted my teeth and glared at him, while he gazed lost into my eyes. Jesus Christ, years ago I would’ve done backflips if a man looked at me like that. And now all I could feel was rancor and a stubborn wish the Executioner, the Regent and everything around me would just evaporate. All I wanted was to open my eyes to the white ceiling in the bedroom the Blacksmith and I used to share as husband and wife, on the seventh floor in a concrete block of flats among many. Two people melting away with the years, coming home from work and turning on the TV, gossiping about the latest throwout from the Big Brother house. Humanity. Mortality. How I would have embraced them now…

The Regent snapped his fingers.

“Time to seal the deal, children.”

Both the Executioner and I turned to the Regent’s grinning face. His eyes glinted wickedly.

“Two of my Guard are waiting outside, they will see you to your chambers.”

Chambers. We are to share his roof?

The Executioner’s fingers curled around my arm. Instinctively, I rose from my seat and slowly followed him to the door. He walked cautiously, as if the Regent could have suddenly changed his mind, leapt up and stricken us both dead in an instant. Unpredictable. Yes, unpredictable he was, I sensed it. I guess the Executioner knew it.

“Don’t get too cozy just yet, Ivan,” the Regent’s voice sounded behind us before we set foot out of his study. “You have yet to fulfill your part of the bargain.”

The bargain.

The Executioner bent his head respectfully and closed the door behind us.

I couldn’t hold back the urging curiosity as one guard led the way down the same corridor I’d been brought there, while the other trailed like some bully bodyguard.

“What have you promised him, Executioner?” I said under my breath, stressing the last word quite intentionally.

“Don’t call me that,” he pleaded, guilt lurking in his tone.

Guilt, yes. That was the least he deserved. For giving us in to the Regent, for trying to force intimacy with a woman he knew didn’t want him, for Raluca’s and Paulina’s deaths… Death. Taking off its monstrous mask, it looked like one of life’s many blessings right now. Redemption. Redemption from the role I was now forced into, from this place, from that sick, feverish longing for the Blacksmith. For the man I once called my husband. For Damian. That longing that pulsed in my womb, that pain that stung in my heart, that fear that made my skin crease and kept my eyes down, to the black and white diamond pattern on the marble floor. Or was it granite? There was no question to the layer beneath it, linking it to the subbase – flesh. Demiangel and maybe even demidemon flesh. I shuddered as one thought crept into my brain – how many had had to die to insulate this place? How big was it? Taken with that question I raised my head, my eyes gliding up the pillars to the vaulted ceiling. The windows were high but narrow, arched, letting in the diffuse light of a reddish dawn that spilled like bloody fog on the landscapes on the walls. French landscapes of green mountains and a picturesque mill further up. Then a chateau, ladies with puffed dresses, wide brimmed hats and sunshades in a painting close to the first corner. Chateau, a chateau. We were at a French chateau. Probably not far from what the Executioner had described as Aimee’s ‘haven’, close to Ambert. He’d led us directly into the lion’s mouth. My lips sucked lemon as the realization hit me.

The guard turned right and led us through a humongous ball room, his steps echoing loudly on the floor. It was round, with luxurious, spacious loges all around it, making it look like some palastial theater without a stage. No windows, heavy chandeliers hanging in circles around a high cupola. That moment it dawned on me where Boris Grabianko had taken his inspiration from for his own mansion in Constanta. A humble copy of this imperial… thing… that resembled some kind of Disney castle, going overboard even for France. It couldn’t have looked like that on the outside, I thought, it would have drawn too much attention. Instinctively, I sniffed at the chilly air. A rather rocky and at the same time metallic smell that I identified as the flesh of my kind pierced through to my sinuses, making my stomach twist and turn. I coughed in an attempt to release its contents on the shiny floor but again, it was only the sensation. And again, I craved for mortality and a base human body so I could just throw up and then fall into some state of awarelessness. For Christ’s sakes! Living creatures sacrificed to insulate all these walls and ceilings, pillars and arches. I coughed again, stopped in place and pressed my hand on my belly to force some release. An arm coiled around my shoulders and a hand pressed on my forehead to support it. I shoved it off angrily as I recognized the Executioner’s long, smooth fingers. Took a few seconds to slow my breathing, staring at my bare feet, now filthy from the dungeons. My jeans were severely ragged and the once marine blue shirt stained with sewage water.

A hand grabbed me roughly from above the elbow and dragged me across the room and the circling hallway. I looked up to recognize the ‘bully bodyguard’ and the Executioner at his side, his gaze now lustful ogling. Something stang sharply in my heart, my pulse seemed to skyrocket – they’d put me in a chamber with him. A chamber of which I’d have no way out, a chamber where I’d be completely at his mercy. My whole body contracted, I tried to struggle out of the man’s grip but it tightened around me until I could no longer move my arms. Legs. I felt them wriggle desperately as if by their own will, but the man lifted me in the air with one arm, keeping my feet off the ground. Voice. I sucked in a mouthful of air and screamed it right out of my lungs as he moved faster and faster with me up wide, red-carpeted stairs. One level, two, three, down another mazy corridor with thick stone pillars and dim lighting, to a double door. The Executioner walked by us and pushed it open, making way for the guard to drop me like a lifeless cargo in front of a king size bed with wooden canopy posts that seemed indeed carved for a king. Like everything else around us, everything else I didn’t look at but somehow sensed through my skin. The wooden framed mirror behind me, carved with looping and entwining patterns, the antique chest of drawers under it. The high walls, the sound of water in the bathroom – the Regent had already seen to a romantic first?

A second later the door shut. All my self-preservation instincts were frozen. As was I. Standing like a statue with my eyes fixed on what looked like feathery pillows. The sting in my chest was growing sharper and sharper, yet my mind seemed blocked on just one word. Feathery. I had no way out. This was it. The Executioner would have me at his whims. Then another word took over.

Protection. My pulse began to slow down, my lids felt heavy. Relaxed. Something deep in my belly seemed to open up, my eardrums drawing deeper into my skull, all senses adjusting their range. My Core, getting ready to protect me again the way it knew best, stretching its antennas to catch the beat of feeling in what it identified as an attacker. The Executioner’s gaze burned on my back, his heart sent rays of desire and… Oh… Slowly, I turned to face him.

He leant by the window, his tall, slender figure obscured in the shade of drapery folds. Still, my alarmed senses could make out every detail of those finely cut, ivory features and those glinting black eyes.

“I won’t make you do anything you don’t want to,” he broke the silence in a soft, pained voice.

“I know,” I breathed. Desire throbbed deep in him, I sensed that, but then there was a streak of… shall I call it good faith? He still believed I’d come to want him too.

“I need you to understand my reasons, Aura.”

Although I’d expected them, the words scraped my nerves and my lips tightened with the urge of walking over there and slapping him. Screw your reasons. Still, my self-preservation instincs were slowly coming back to life and opposing the Executioner in his best intentions didn’t register as the best idea.

“I understand,” I forced.

“Do you now?” he mused, strolling toward me. His gaze grew pleading with every step until he halted at an arm’s lenth, facing me.

“I understand you want a chance,” I muttered.

“I’ve made no secret of that until now either. But why do you think I brought us here?”

“Because here I’m stripped of all choice,” I spat, unable to keep the poison back. My eyes shot arrows at him.

“Quod erat demonstrandum. You’re still blind to my motives.”

Oh, showing off his Latin now

“Enlighten me.”

“You see? The first effect of constraint already becomes obvious. When did you ever make such a request when you enjoyed freedom of choice?”

His tone was growing pushy and the poison threatened to spill out of my mouth.

“So you figured you’d take that freedom away from me.”

“I figured I’d give you incentive to care, Aura. For over a year I worshipped the ground you walked on like a dog, hoping that you’d throw me at least a bone, but you grew colder and colder to all my efforts. Some turn of events… When I think that I once haunted your dreams…”

“Once. Upon a time.”

“Are you making fun of me?”

“I’m teasing you, Executioner. Call it foreplay.”

He frowned, trying to bridle the anger that was built up in him, I sensed.

“Don’t call me that,” he muttered.

“It’s what you are, isn’t it?”

His arm dashed to me, it coiled around my waist and pulled me against him. I jolted backwards and put my hands against his chest. It felt hard under my palms.

“Ivan,” his name came out soft and false from my mouth. I smiled a smile that stretched my lips of its own accord, as if to keep me safe from a kiss. That name. The name I hadn’t spoken in all that time pricked my tongue.

His eyes widened and his frown smoothed off his forehead, leaving it as clear as ivory again.

“Time, Ivan, I need some time. To… warm up to this, you know. I’ll have to do this in the end but please, be patient.”

“Ivan…” he whispered his own name and leant his head back, keeping a delighted gaze on me, “See, things already begin to change.”

I looked aside, afraid the treachery would show off its ugly grin on my face. Time I needed indeed. To find a way out of this.

“Tell me,” I said just as softly as I pushed down his arm and walked to the bed. My fingers started stroking the wooden post – again, as if by their own accord.

“What is your part of the bargain?”

A short pause. He replied in a low voice, hesitantly.

“Control. Over Nathaniel.”

“Control? What do you mean?” Damn, that question again.

“Nathaniel will hurry to your rescue, like he did last time. That means control.”

“And when that happens the Regent will have his head, right?” I said. My voice gave away the stress that was building up in me.

“No, Aura, no. Having you, Sidonia and Salma here, ensures the Regent a bargaining position with Nathaniel. It won’t come to a fight.”

“Are you taking me for a fool again, Ivan? Why would the Regent need to bargain with Nathaniel, the Order is much stronger than our Nucleus.”

“That’s what that black hulk and his puppet Jarred told us, Aura.”

“Why would they have lied?” I shrugged, skeptical and tense.

He took a couple of slow steps toward me, his eyes fixing mine.

“Nathaniel is old and experienced. Rumour has it he’s been leading his and all demiangel Nucleuses for over a thousand years, for even longer than the Regent has led the Order. He’s shrewd, Aura. The Regent has never seen him face to face, never. Nathaniel’s always slipped his grasp and this is the first chance to grab him. But killing him would only cause all demiangel Nucleuses that are scattered around the world to join forces and attack the Order. The Regent doesn’t know what to expect, because he doesn’t know how many there are and how powerful.”

I gulped the lump in my throat. The pressure was high in my head, my skin itched.

“So we’re decoy for Nathaniel, I get it. But what makes you think he’ll react the way you predicted? He’s a shrewd guy,” Thank God, “you said it yourself,”

“Nathaniel’s a Grabiel Core. His mission is to keep safe people and demiangels who choose to continue their existence in this world. There’s nothing he wouldn’t do for just one life.”

My nose creased and my skin now burned with a daunting feeling. I scratched my neck nervously.

“And all the demiangels who died only to insulate this building? To make weapons? What about them? Where was Nathaniel to save their lives?”

“What you don’t understand, Aura, is that demiangels trained as fighters, members of the Guard and Cleric, are people who put their existence in the service of war. People like Jarred, people like Hector, people like…” his lips drew in a hard expression, “the Blacksmith. They run high risk operations, they’re the first lines of defence and attack. It’s their flesh we use … when they fall. And demiangels don’t fight to rescue the bodies of their dead just to offer them a proper funeral,” he grinned, somehow satisfied, “As I once told you, Aura, angels are no better than we are.”

“But they save the weak, while your kind sacrifices them. Like you are now certain Nathaniel will try to save the others and me. But if one life is enough to get him here, let them go Ivan, please, keep me alone.”

He shook his head.

“I know how much you love your friends, Aura, so I already suggested the Regent to bring only you in. He refused. Now I’m starting to see why.”

“Why?”

“The Blacksmith and your… history together. I think he’s considering the Blacksmith might end up killing you, leaving me with no incentive of keeping my promise. The others are extra security,” he said, his gaze darkening into pitch black.

“The Blacksmith. Damian,” now that name felt like honey on my tongue, “Why is he even here? I mean… he was based at the Grabianko Nucleus…”

The Executioner pressed his lips together and hid his hands in his jeans pockets. The Blacksmith was a disturbing element of the ‘deal’ for him, I guess. One he clearly hadn’t expected.

“The Regent must’ve offered something pretty damn good to get that devil’s attention. But my concerns lie elsewhere.”

“Namely?”

“With you, Aura. Even though the Blacksmith has a steel heart, there is this craving for one thing that I’m afraid he can’t control…”

The words I’d read on the sole of that statuette slithered their way into my brain again, blood pumping their echo to my frontal lobe. My lids became so heavy that I could barely keep my eyes open.

                               And pierce the devil’s steel heart

                               With the vengeance in my womb

Hot wax on my face, flickering candles. A hooded monk, his face a hollow black, bent over me. My elbows stuck between the edges of something made of stone. A tomb. I shuddered. Another déjà vu.

The Executioner’s next words reached me as if from a fuzzy dream. His hands gripped my shoulders.

“If he approaches you, Aura, run to me. I’ll keep him off your back.”

“Off my back,” I muttered. A bitter grin slipped from my mouth, mirroring a bitter feeling.

“The Blacksmith isn’t on my back, he couldn’t care less about me, Ivan.”

“Oh, how I’d love to indulge with you in that thought. But now, with him so close, I can’t do that anymore.”

“Chill, Ivan, he’s not interested. He doesn’t want me.”

“Aura, you are the only thing he wants.”

“I’d like to believe that.”

“No, you wouldn’t. Not if you know what I’m talking about.”

“The Blacksmith… wanting me,” I breathed, exploring the idea. It felt like balm to my scraped nerves and stinging heart. My grin must have sweetened into some bimbo smile, since Ivan grimaced in aversion.

“Aura, don’t daydream on me, don’t picture him as some cheesy Prince Charming. The Blacksmith is a demidemon, one of the deadliest. What he craves for is to possess you, to flow like blood through your veins and fill you with his venom until the last breath leaves your body.”

“I’d gladly pay that price,” I said without thinking, the memory of the Blacksmith’s hot, carnal lips on my skin pulsing in my womb. I moistened.

“Oh yeah?” the Executioner growled, exasperated. “And what about Sidonia and Salma? What about Jarred and Hector? You call yourself their friend. Well, let me remind you that the only way of being a friend right now is staying alive yourself. Because if you die, Aura, I’ll have no reason to fulfill my part of the deal. I’d leave and the Regent wouldn’t delay in having your former husband forge blades and bullets of their bodies.”

Awareness went sharp again, the sight of the Executioner’s face cleared before my eyes. All my senses went back on full power.

“The Regent wants Nathaniel, Ivan, not you.” I pushed my luck.

“The Regent can’t manipulate Nathaniel, not without the information I provide.”

I paused and pressed my lips together.

“But what could’ve made me him come here? The Blacksmith, I mean,” I thought out loud.

“Get him out of your mind once and for all! He’s a filthy killer who drives saws into the flesh of your kind!”

The words were a stab in the heart.

“And how are you different from him? It’s you who brought my best friend to a torturous death, not Damian!”

“What the…” he snapped, running both his hands through his hair. Angry. Irritated. Again he gripped my shoulders with his deceiving pianist hands that felt as tight as wrenches.

“I’ve heard this way too many times, Aurelia, I’m fed up! How long will you have me beg? I told you, I so, deeply, truly, regret what I’ve done. I wanted to take you down that same path, that’s another truth I admit to, but you’re everything to me now! The thought of how your life could’ve ended, in misery, your body mutilated, makes my heart bleed,” he bellowed, punching himself in the chest with his fist, making his voice shake against his sternum.

For moments I didn’t speak nor move, I just kept glowering into his face as I struggled to keep tears in check. I remained stiff as Ivan pulled me to his chest again, locking his arms around me.

That second the door flung open. My head snapped in its direction. The ‘bully bodyguard’ stumbled backwards into the room, his palms up in a stopping gesture. Still, it looked more like he was retreating in fear than denying access.

“High Seraph, you can’t come in here,” he managed, his tone more of an anxious plea than an order.

High Seraph

Before I could blink a tall figure passed the threshold. Ivan let one arm drop off me and turned to the door, but kept the other one tight around my waist, making it look like we were just in some loving embrace. I froze. Shit, no! Damian’s gaze flashed turquoise steel, that sculptured face hard. He stopped for just a second and then stalked toward us, bumping against the ‘bully bodyguard’ again and technically running him down.

“Ivan Grabianko,” he said, “you are to come with me. Now.”

“And why’s that, Mr. Muscle Tank?” Ivan countered with a crooked grin, looking at the ‘bully bodyguard’ who was gathering himself from the floor.

A short pause.

“Business,” Damian’s voice caressed my senses, compelling me to look up at him again, along that black uniform of the Cleric that hinted at the athletic muscles underneath. That off-putting, serious suit that made him feel even more unattainable to me. Yearning sparked in my womb. God help me! I felt my eyes glide further up and sucking in the image of that face framed by wild waves spilling to his shoulders. He fixed me from under knitted eyebrows, his jaw clenched.

“What business?” the Executioner pressed forward. “Speak, brother, I’m keeping no secrets from her. And look at me when I’m talking to you!” The last words were an angry snarl that made me wince but seemed to have no effect on Damian. He kept his eyes on me for long, tense seconds and didn’t waive even as he turned his chin slightly toward the Executioner.

“You might want to keep this one. At least for a short while,” Damian said.

***

Enjoy the previous episodes at Free Reads Cries of the Blood. The next chapter is available at Episode 6.

For those of you who are in for a dangerous love story and an electrifying thriller, The Blacksmith is available in  digital format at:

The Blacksmith

Check out The Blacksmith Novel – Extended Trailer, posted previously on this blog at The Blacksmith Extended Trailer

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