A demon’s kiss would kill most. But, for Koa, it merely slowed her down. The screams of dying vampires and humans chased Koa as she flew through the dark night sky to the tallest mountain in the Cumbria countryside.
What happened at Lady Colleen’s grand ball would reshape civilization.
Lines had been drawn.
War was inevitable.
Images of blood being splattered all over the polished marble floors and stone walls of the castle flashed in Koa’s mind.
The truce between vampires and humans was broken. Why the angels had given up on them was beyond Koa, but all of that could wait. Right now, all that mattered was finding Halston.
She landed on the rocky terrain and ran to the cliff. Her tattered ball gown was covered in blood. Not all of it was hers.
Halston. She spoke with her heart, knowing that Halston would hear. He had to. She sucked in a sharp breath, her chest heaving as the wind whipped her long blue hair around her face.
The fact that Halston had sacrificed his only chance for redemption brought her to her knees. She buried her face in her hands and sobbed.
It was her fault.
All of it.
Now, the Netherworld Division would hunt them both. When she removed her hands from her face, she wiped her eyes. Crying would not solve anything.
“Halston,” she called into the wind. “I’m sorry.”
The effects of the demon’s assault on her body left her weak. She fell back onto the ground, nearly paralyzed as the claw marks on her back stung all the way to the bone. Bund had intended on enslaving her. It had been his primary goal, and now he was gone.
That didn’t mean that his torment would end.
She coughed up blood and stared at the black sky. The stars twinkled through a veil of warm tears as Koa sucked in a sharp breath, and all was calm.
Dying would be too easy.
* * *
The Vangelis Estate sprawled over acres upon acres of lush French land. Standing in the doorway, an eerie sensation overcame Koa.
Is this death? Have I crossed over?
Her eyes widened as she stood and looked around her father’s manor. This was the home that she had been brought to after growing up in poverty in South Korea. She remembered the scent of their hut burning at dawn, and the rain squelching its embers.
Her heart broke at the memories. Her mother never looked back once they were claimed by her father.
When two of King Greggan’s Syth thugs had attacked her in her father’s manor months ago, Koa and Raven packed their things away and abandoned the estate for England.
She touched the stone wall of the foyer. The cool surface sent shivers into her body, with it memories of sliding down the banister and flying from the landing played like a movie in her mind. It had been ages since Koa had smiled so big.
Just moments ago, she had been fighting for her life against angels, humans, and a demon determined to make her his eternal slave. But now, the pleasant memory brought a smile to her face. She breathed in the familiar scent of freshly cut roses and closed her eyes, desperate for it to remain.
She’d fly through the many dark corridors, whipping past the estate staff. No one seemed to mind. In fact, they encouraged her, chiming her on to go faster, but to watch out for her father’s valuable statues and treasures.
The staff of vamps were amazed by her gift of flight, but those weren’t New World vampires that worked for Koa’s father. He had brought them from Elyan, the eastern kingdom in the Netherworld. In the Netherworld, vampires of pure blood had all kinds of special powers, or “gifts” as her mother would call them.
The sound of footsteps came to her, and she scanned the halls with narrowed eyes.
“Who is there?”
The footsteps stopped, and Koa tensed. Warnings flooded her body like cold water, and the tiny hairs on her arms stood on end. This was her afterlife, the place she felt safest. Why did someone else have to be there, ruining it?
She reached for her sword and gasped when she realized it was gone.
When the footsteps resumed, they grew louder. Whoever was there, was coming toward her.
Frozen, she stood there, waiting. She watched the darkness of the hallway just across from her. It was pitch black, and a draft of cold air flew from the dark depths and blew her hair away from her face. White mists emerged from the ground and the scent of brimstone and coal overpowered the pleasant smell of roses that had brought back her fondest memories.
Now, memories of the Netherworld were ushered forth by that scent. The one place that had nearly killed her.
She covered her mouth with her hands when a familiar face began to materialize out of the darkness.
Instead of the dread she had been expecting, an overwhelming feeling of joy brought tears to her eyes.
Koa ran to him and leaped into her father’s arms.
Alsand Vangelis embraced her as she sobbed into his shoulder. The air around him was cold, and his body was as hard as a statue. None of that mattered. After his death, she’d prayed for a chance to see him once again. This was one of the only times her prayers had ever been answered.
“Why did you leave me, Father? We’ve been so lost without you.”
He smoothed her hair. “Lost? I don’t think so. You’re stronger than you think.”
She pulled away and looked him in the eyes—the same green eyes she had.
“I’m not. I’ve done so many stupid things in my life that I can never take back. I’ve hurt people. I’ve disappointed mother and myself. You have no idea of all of the things I’ve done.”
He smiled and rubbed his thumb across her cheek, wiping a tear away. “I know what’s in your heart, Koa. I know what you are capable of. It is time for you to discover your true potential. It’s time for you to come home.”
Koa’s shoulders slumped. She shook her head. “I don’t understand. Why?”
He set her back on the ground and kissed her forehead. His voice lowered to a whisper so faint Koa had to close her eyes and focus to decipher his words.
“You’ll see what I mean, Koa.” He stepped away. As his body began to fade, she reached out for him.
“No, Father. Don’t leave me. Not again.”
“Come,” he said, his body going translucent as he floated into the darkness of the main hallway that led to the ball room.
She nodded and followed, running as he quickened his speed. His ghost led her through the house and to the base of the back staircase where some of her father’s old trinkets were kept on a bookcase that had been built in.
Silently, Alsand pointed to the shelves and looked to Koa.
She licked her lips and examined the artifacts set on the shelves. Nothing was particularly eye-catching. Just some old statues her father had found in Africa and Asia. Perplexed, she picked up a wooden carving of an old man and checked for anything of note.
When she looked back to her father, he was gone.
Her shoulders slumped as loneliness crept onto her, leaving her feeling exposed. He’d brought her there for a reason, and she needed to figure it out before she awakened.
If this is a dream, and I’m not already dead.
Narrowing her eyes, she traced the grooves of the wood. A grin came to her face as she discovered that the bookcase was indeed a doorway. With a gentle push, the bookcase made a clicking sound and opened outward.
Koa stepped aside and gasped at the intense glow that filled the small space.
Once the bright glow dulled, her eyes widened at what she saw before her. On a pedestal awaited a weapon. Her heart raced as she realized what it was.
An enchanted dagger designed much like her Lyrinian sword.
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