Southampton Docks, March 1893
I was cold and alone without her. There was no life for me without Juliet. Her betrayal cut deep into my soul and I feared I would never recover. The physical ache in my temples intensified as she put more distance between us and I watched the ship depart the docks. My mind called out to her in desperation but she was to shut me out and leave me to rot in this dark cold barren world alone. She would not hear me. She would not hear her mate, her counsel, her Knight of Swords. I was banished from her mind like a common criminal. Was I nothing to her now? Did she really prefer the comfort she took with her Lycan suitors?
The demon I allowed free reign of my temperament cursed my beautiful Queen. He threatened her with the promise of violent punishment when he retrieved her. But my human soul that lay trapped beneath his fierce control could only feel despair as I watched the ship edge further and further away.
Could she not understand that if I allowed my true human nature to control my person I would fail her again. The demon could more safely protect her than I ever could from the Taleian knights and the evil that stalked her. I could not lose her or bear to see her hurt again. Why did she refuse to listen to good sense?
The demon wanted to follow her to Venice on the next ship but it was not to leave for two days. He was frantic and destructive in his rage. I lifted the collar on my long black woollen coat to shield my face from the icy air and walked from the docks to make my way to the nearest drinking establishment.
I sat alone in the deserted public house as the night rolled in over the seedier part of Southampton. The demon had cleared the place with his fighting and irresolute temper that could find no rest or sympathy. The barman viewed me with fear and kept pouring the gin so that I should not want but it was insufficient to quell the tempest within my soul.
I closed my eyes remembering when the demon part of my soul approached her on the train. The way she looked at him with painful need, despite all that he had done. Every fibre of her being reached out to him calling for their joining. The demon’s own need was potent, stronger than I as a mere human had ever allowed myself to feel for anything or anyone. It’s strength and limitless boundaries made me fearful. Whenever I indulged in such careless liberty with my feelings I would lose the person to whom they were attached to death itself.
In truth my point had already been proved, my parents, my uncle were dead and my younger brother Xavier was all but headed in the same direction. But Juliet was more precious to me than any other being and as a result she had suffered the worst. I felt my stomach tighten with anger as I remembered her rape at Sebastian’s hands and her near death at my own when I was under the witch’s power. No, the demon employed a far better technique in ensuring the Queen of Talus’s protection even if sometimes his treatment of her was harsh. I desired Juliet more than life itself and if that was the sacrifice I was forced to pay to possess her love then I would endure it. Yet now she rejected the demon out of hand. Why such cruelty? What else could I give her?
With a concurring growl of raging dissatisfaction the demon picked up his empty glass and threw it hard at the bottles of liquor lined up on shelves behind the barman. The man ducked in adequate time to avoid the splinters of glass that burst forth from the explosion as three bottles broke with a loud crash.
‘Please, sir,’ the barman begged. ‘You will do me out of business . . .’
But I was insolent to his pleading. I cared for nothing or anyone at that moment only the rejection and loss that weighed down my soul. I reached over the bar and caught hold of his shirt and brought him to face me. His whiskers were damp with the sweat of anxiety as I held him there.
‘Stop your complaining and pour me another one and maybe I will let you live another day,’ I demanded.
I knew not why I drank the gin. It had little effect on my body but there was some comfort in old human habits. The man nodded furiously and I let go of him with abruptness so much so that he fell backwards to the floor. I sat back on the stool and watched him scrabble to his feet to pour me another glass with his shaking hands as my finger tapped impatiently on the bar. I glared at him and moved from the stool to sit at one of the wooden chairs. I leant back in it and put my feet up on the table and downed the liquor in one before calling for him to attend me again.
The door opened and a young gentleman of birth carrying a black and silver cane entered. He took off his top hat and shook the rain from it. He ran his fingers through his short light brown hair and turned towards me as he began to undo his winter coat. I was treated to a courteous nod and polite smile of acknowledgement. There was a flamboyant confident air to his frame as he strode towards me He seemed quite undeterred by the ferocious glare I gave him. I did not want visitors and I had no mood for polite small talk. I downed another drink watching him with suspicion as he began to approach me.
He came to sit down across from me depositing his hat and cane on the table. I straightened ready to throw the fool from the table but he put up his hand and spoke before I could make any movement.
‘Lord Valancourt, I presume,’ he smiled. ‘Or perhaps you would prefer to be addressed by your new royal title, Knight of Swords,’ he finished in a low voice diverting his somewhat strangely vivid topaz eyes cautiously at the terrified barman standing shaking behind the counter.
‘And who is it that asks for me?’ I demanded gruffly scrutinising his light countenance and fine chiselled features that gave him an almost angelic appearance.
There was an otherworldly air to this man. He was not human in the strictest sense of the word. Instinct made me reach to breach his mind and confirm my suspicions but I was to be met with darkness and a strong fortified barrier to his thoughts. My suspicions grew stronger. But he was to keep nothing from me.
‘My name is Cadell and yes, Knight of Swords I am what you believe me to be.’ He gave a wide grin and leaned over to whisper. ‘I am indeed an Angelic being and I am here to bring you a message.’
The demon narrowed his eyes. He was interested in what the Angel Cadell wanted to tell him yet he did not fully trust him. He believed he may be being tricked by a harpy or other creature but the human side of me was in awe. Cadell called to the barman.
‘Be gone and leave us alone,’ he told the man in a commanding voice. ‘You will not come to any harm.’
The man did not question him. With wide fearful eyes he fled to his rooms behind the bar in an instant.
‘Now, Nathan we can talk freely. It seems you are splintered in your personality. You allow the demon vampiric part of yourself to rule while you condemn the finer wiser human side to your nature in darkness. All, I may add in the name of love and protection,’ he said softly.
He leant his elbow on the table and placed his fingers to his lips as though trying to fathom the complexities of my sacrifice. ‘You are a worthy being Nathan. Your actions are honourable, but sadly, I have to say, very misguided.’
He gave a small laugh.
‘It is not your concern what I decide,’ the demon snapped at him.
Cadell gave another small sarcastic laugh of disbelief and sat back in his chair smoothing down his black cravat.
‘Oh, but I am afraid it is most definitely my concern. Your Queen, Juliet is very important. Her birth was no accident, Nathan and neither was yours. She was born to unite your people and help to assist them to live in harmony with the humans. Your role is to assist and protect her as she does that. You are equally important to us Nathan as are all humans. We make no exceptions.’
‘Then you are all fools. Not everyone is worthy of love. Juliet has taught me that well,’ the demon sneered with contempt.
The Angel’s eyes seemed to glow brighter as he watched me.
‘Is that self pity, I detect, Demon?’ he asked lightly.
I remained silent with guilt.
‘It does not serve you well.’
‘That is what Juliet always says but she is naive and idealistic in her pursuits for a better nature. I prefer to face the truth. We are all selfish, self-piteous creatures who want whatever we can take. It is the way of the world.’
The demon turned to throw his glass behind the counter and smashed another two bottles in his rage.
The Angel shook his head and tutted.
‘So jaded for such a young person,’ he remarked with amusement. He leaned across the table towards me. ‘But I know you feel hope that she will still have you. There is nothing you want more in this life. If you do not sacrifice your beliefs and make yourself whole again you will never possess your beautiful Queen. She will be ripped apart by those seeking to use her to meet their own ends in power and glory. Then you will be left living an endless life in limbo between one consciousness and the other. You must make the sacrifice and become whole in your being once more. Your queen is in grave danger . . .’
‘Then the demon will serve her better,’ I informed him suddenly afraid of the danger Juliet was in.
His raised his hand to halt my speech once more.
‘She needs all of your soul to help her. The enemy she faces alone is devious and cunning. A reckless demon will not be able to outwit him. But a human of strong mind and valour joined with a Taleian Knight of Sword’s ruthless power and strength will help her defeat him.’
‘Who is it that stalks Juliet?’ I demanded, a storm brewing in my voice yet again.
But I was to be ignored.
‘I cannot compel you to become whole again. It is your choice. Your will is always your own but know this, if you do not and fail to protect and assist your Queen, the world as you know it will be in more peril than you realise.’
The Demon rose to his feet and grabbed Cadell by the lapels of his coat to pull him up.
‘Who dares to take my Queen for himself?’ he shouted.
Cadell nodded. He appeared relieved.
‘Good, Nathan. Your anger spurs you to action instead of self-pity,’ he said with approval, unafraid or distressed by the Demon’s behaviour. ‘I can help you change if you follow my guidance. I will show you how you cannot function without both sides of your nature operating as one whole being. Let me help you, Nathan.’
‘Who, is it? I won’t let him live. Tell me or so help me I will . . .’
The Demon shook him. More relief flooded Cadell’s features and at last he would answer.
‘Juliet’s power is so potent the Devil himself intends to take your Queen for a wife and the mother of his child. With her at his side under his power he will scorch the world in fire and clear everything in his path to own it. He must be stopped. Juliet is the only one who can stop him and you must stand by her side and protect her from him.’
I stared at him in disbelief and horror, unable to speak as I considered the implications of his words.
‘You must assemble your army, Knight of Swords and sail tonight,’ he instructed with urgency, his eyes gleaming with triumph. ‘But first we must make you whole again.’
I let him go, feeling resignation weigh heavily upon my human soul and anger burn in the demon’s heart. The demon would not give up the reins on my human soul so easily. The battle would be fierce, to the death but it was one I had to win or Juliet would be lost to me forever.
A sudden sharp pain pierced my temples. My hands flew to my head as its intensity grew. The Angel watched me without emotion as I moved about the room scattering chairs trying to contain the sharp overwhelming pain threatening to consume me.
A sharp pulling sensation overtook my body as though something was trying to tear me apart. The Angel clasped his hands in front of him calmly as he stood and watched me writhe in agony. The pulling became unbearable and I roared with my torment. I felt something move from inside my body and begin to leave it from the side. My world became an excruciating pain ridden hell that I believed had no end. A part of me was being removed and I felt empty as it departed.
The pain came to an abrupt stop. I looked up from my crumpled position on the floor to find an identical image of myself, a twin no less standing above me. It was the demon. He stood marvelling at his own body, holding out his hands, staring at them with amusement. He let out a loud laugh as I forced myself to rise unable to take my eyes from the curious mirror image that stood next to the Angel.
As I came to stand the demon’s eyes narrowed darkly with nothing less than murder in his eyes. He was his own free spirit without my weak human soul to temper his impulse to kill. We both knew that one of us had to win and consume the other to make us whole again. The battle was for control of my soul and the prize was Juliet. Neither of us intended to lose. The demon’s hands were around my throat before I could think anymore and our fight to the death had begun.
This is a publishing partner title, published by Wild Girl Publishing.