Sun Kissed (Guardian Angel #2) - Page 15
The trip was a lot quicker than I imagined, it was now six on Saturday night and we had to be there by this time tomorrow. The GPS told us we were twenty-three hours away from Mount Kuuce, which I assumed was our destination. Eli said we needed more time, so we didn’t stop for dinner. It wasn’t an issue; I’d eaten too much at lunch, so dinner was the farthest thing from my mind. It was twilight and the moon was full, casting unmoving shadows along the horizon. The tall hillside was coarse with boulders and the fog began to roll in, making the world around us slightly more eerie. Soon the busy motorway fell away and we were travelling along an old service road leading us deeper and deeper into the forest.
Eli flicked on the high beams; it allowed us to see more and watch for any animals that might stray onto the road. The trees had changed style. They were white and weathered instead of brown and hard.
“They’re Paperbark trees,” Eli said, making me wonder if he could actually read my mind.
They looked as though they were made with papier mache. Bits and pieces stuck out in every direction, like torn tissue paper. It was strange and eerie yet painfully beautiful. Out from behind a tree hopped a grey, long-legged animal.
“Eli, look out!” I shouted.
I squeezed my eyes shut as the car lurched and I was thrown forward violently. The seatbelt bit into my chest, knocking the wind out of me. The car slid a small length before coming to a stop. Our breaths were ragged and uneven as adrenaline and fear dominated our systems.
“Are you all right?”
“I’m fine,” I gasped, trying to even out my breathing. “Did you hit it?”
“I think I nudged it. It hopped into that bush. I should make sure it’s okay.”
I nodded in agreement.
“Wait in the car,” Eli ordered. I watched as he disappeared into the bush.
A shadow moved rapidly past my window, catching my eye. My breath became quick again, my heartbeat speeding up with it. I hadn’t hit my head, so I know I wasn’t seeing things.
You can handle yourself against a vampire. You know how to use your magic … kind of.
I decided to do the one thing I yell at silly girls in horror movies for doing — I exited the car. The moon seeped through the branches and sticks of the trees and cast scary, emotionless shadows onto the road. My eyes swept over the surrounding bushes, searching for Eli.
The fog blanketed the world in a murky-grey as I took a few steps forward. I saw him in the near distance, half concealed by the fog.
“No.” My voice was barely above a whisper.
No, it couldn’t be … I saw it with my own eyes. Shock shot through me as cold as ice and I ran. I didn’t go back to the car. That was pointless. Instead, I took off in the direction Eli went, hoping I would run into him.
I could hear his footsteps snapping sticks and crunching leaves behind me. Stray twigs and branches snagged strands of my hair but I had to go faster. My scalp stung as hair was torn from my head. I didn’t scream, I couldn’t — I grasped at my chest. Shit! I left my whistle in the car. How far in had Eli gone?
“Unh …” I gasped as I rebounded off a hard body and fell backwards, hitting my head on the forest floor. For a moment my vision spun. When my eyes came back into focus, I panicked at the face the loomed over me, shaking me.
“Ruby? What’s wrong?”
It was Eli, his voice alert and panicked. A part of me relaxed in his grip but the other part was still shaking in fear and disbelief.
“I … I … I —” I panted, trying to speak. “I saw Hunter.”
Eli grasped my shoulders and pulled me gently to my feet.
“Did you hit your head in the car?” he asked, examining my forehead.
“No … Eli, I saw him. I saw Hunter.”
I pulled away from Eli’s grasp, stumbling slightly. I felt my face cringe as a headache surged through me. He didn’t believe me, of course he didn’t. He saw Hunter die as well.
“It’s normal to think you see things when you’ve witnessed such a traumatic event.”
“No. I saw him. He wasn’t some kind of apparition or hallucination, he was real.”
Even in the low light of the forest I could see the concerned expression dominating Eli’s features. I know what I saw, the creepy pale skin and the soulless dark eyes.
“He’s a vampire,” I whispered.
“C’mon, let’s go back to the car. We still have a long drive to get to Mount Kuuce. You can sleep it off.”
We stepped out of the bush and onto the road. I kept my eyes on the area I saw Hunter. The unpleasant feeling of being watched returned to me, only this time I knew someone was watching.
My attention turned back to Eli. I hadn’t realized I’d stopped walking.
When we were in the car, an uncomfortable silence fell. Eli didn’t believe me. As far as he was concerned, I’d hit my head when he slammed on the brakes, or the trauma from Hunter’s death was playing with my mind, but it couldn’t be. He was so vivid and real. I saw the way the moon glinted off his deathly pale skin. His denim jeans were vibrant and his shirt an outstanding blue. His image wasn’t washed out like a ghost. Against the high beams, I didn’t see any color in his eyes, just blackness — a skin-crawling, hair-raising tunnel of darkness.
Neither of us slept that night, we just kept on driving in silence. Every time I closed my eyes I saw his face. It wasn’t the sweet, kind face I remembered. It was horrible and dark. It was exactly the same and yet totally different. I felt like he was a stranger, like I didn’t know him. Maybe he was angry at me? I’d let them kill him, I didn’t do anything to help, and now he was a vampire. He’d become the one thing he wanted to kill.
A shimmering gold orb began to rise in the inky sky, pulling me from my depressing thoughts. I sat, drinking in the invisible rays that kissed my skin. Moments later, the golden sun was sitting in its rightful place, adorning the soft blue sky.
“Do you want to talk about last night?”
Oh, so he hasn’t lost his voice.
“There’s no point. You don’t believe me.”
“Ruby.” Eli exhaled in frustration. “It’s not a simple as that. I saw him die, I saw his eyes… he was way past the point of being brought back as a vampire.”
“He is, Eli. I can’t prove it to you but I saw him.”
His brow furrowed. “We’ll be at Mount Kuuce tonight. We’ll clear this mess up then.”
I exhaled out of my nose in frustration. “Fine.”
The forty-eight hour car trip had come to end. The winding mountain we had to ascend popped my ears and made me nauseous. I couldn’t stop my trembling knees as we rolled to a stop outside a huge wrought iron gate. The twilight sky was beautiful. There were no clouds and no stars. It was peaceful, but it still wasn’t enough to calm my nerves.
The gate screeched as it pulled itself open. Slowly we drove forward through the wild, untamed greenery. Once we passed the first fifty meters of gravel road shrouded by thick trees, the scenery changed. The dark, mossy trees were gone, replaced by elegant gardens. The road became stable as we reached the tar driveway. I glanced sideways at Eli in disbelief.
“Is this the place you came to when he summoned you?”
“No. There was no beauty or color where I went, only old bricks and darkness.”
In the distance the unnerving silence engulfed the surrounding hillside, where the castle stood elegantly against the backdrop of the inky horizon. Surprisingly, it wasn’t a sad place, even though I could rattle off a million reasons why it should be. Still, it wasn’t a happy place, either. The castle was old. It was larger than the ones we had at Sage, but this one was graceful and appealing. The aged bricks seemed to groan in pain, as if they hated the creatures now occupying it. By the looks of the glass windows that fitted nicely into the castle, it must have been renovated to fit in with today’s needs. Instead of the drawbridge and moat I was expecting, there were big, wooden double doors and a fountain.
As we neared the end of the driveway, we were officially face to face with our prison. While I admit it was beautiful, serene, and regal, it was forbidding enough to make my stomach leap all the way into my throat.
“It seems empty,” I commented as we pulled into the car park.
“That’s because it’s not quite dark enough yet. Any minute now, though, I’m sure.”
We exited the car and walked towards the door. The castle towered over us, dominating us. Eli appeared unaffected. His guardian mask was on, that meant he couldn’t show his true feelings and he didn’t.
Five minutes later, when every one of the sun’s rays had well and truly gone, the big wooden door opened.
“Welcome,” a short, smiling Asian man greeted us. “We’ve been expecting you.”
His thin lips spread into a wide smile and he made no attempt to hide his fangs.
“Thank you,” Eli replied politely, stepping inside.
I followed closely behind him. I glanced down at the cold hard floor — it was marble and each tile was chosen with a specific taste in mind. None of them matched and yet, they seemed to paint a beautiful picture. Paintings decorated the walls and large stone pillars were placed around the castle, supporting its heavy brick frame. In front of us was a large, stone staircase which eventually split into two different directions. Flowers were carved into the stone and edged subtly with gold.
“The look of confusion when people see my home never gets old.” Lucian chuckled, descending the stairs. “Is it the garden? Or the modern design of the interior? Maybe it’s the fact that I’m a vampire and still like beautiful, serene things?”
I swallowed hard. Seeing his face again sent chills down my spine. One by one, vampires began popping up all over the place. They seemed to have appeared from thin air. They were quick, too quick.
“No answer?” Lucian smiled at me.
“You have a beautiful home. It isn’t what I expected,” I forced out politely. By some miracle I was able to keep my voice steady.
“What were you expecting?” He eyed me curiously.
“Gargoyles, deep red carpets, coffins, dead trees, you know, the usual vampire things.”
Lucian laughed loudly and the rest of the vampires joined in. I glanced sideways at Eli. His dark eyes were watching me in amusement.
“We’re going to get along just fine,” Lucian exclaimed. “Ludiia!”
She appeared in an instant. She had curled her long dark hair in ringlets down her back. They matched her nineteenth century black and green gown perfectly.
“Please show Miss Moore to her room. Mr De Luca and I have many things to discuss.”
Ludiia stalked toward me.
“I’m not leaving him,” I blurted.
I couldn’t trust Lucian. What if he hurt Eli in my absence, or worse, killed him?
“Oh hush. I’m not going to hurt him. You can come back down when it’s time for dinner.”
Ludiia grabbed my arm tightly and I winced. Her skin was so cold it felt like it was burning mine.
“Sorry, I haven’t had any blood today. My skin is a little colder than usual.”
The sadistic smirk that grew on her face told me she didn’t actually care she was hurting me.
The castle was big, much bigger than I had first thought. It felt like we walked past at least a hundred rooms before we reached mine.
“Oh, before I go, I should probably mention that Lucian has left a little welcoming gift for you.” She chuckled loudly before turning her back and walking back the way we came.
Slowly, I opened the door. When I was sure no one was hiding inside, I entered.
Vampires or not, they sure knew how to live in luxury. A Jacobean four-poster bed took up a good area of the room but it still left space for two armchairs and a desk. Through the door on the side, I assume, was a bathroom.
My breath caught in my throat and my heart sank into my shoes. Slowly I turned around.
“No,” I whispered, backing away cautiously.
“Why are you so afraid of me? Aren’t you happy that I’m alive?” He was hurt by my fear.
“Y-you’re not alive… You’re a vampire,” I stammered. I rubbed my sweaty palms on my jeans. My subconscious was threatening to shut down. Hunter was blocking my exit; I needed to get out of here.
“Yes, I am.” Hunter reached out to me. He was real.
I folded in on myself. I curled my face into my knees and the tears began to flow. “Please don’t touch me.”
“Ruby, I’m not going to hurt you.”
‘I’m not going to hurt you’ says the vampire. I couldn’t help but link his phrase to the Big Bad Wolf in Little Red Riding Hood.
“Don’t lie to me.”
A cold hand reached out and touched my arm but I recoiled away. His touch was once so warm and loving, but now that was only a memory, and in its place was the cold hand of death. My chest started tightening.
Please go away, please.
I was so overwhelmed. Seeing Ludiia, Lucian, and the other vampires was uncomfortable, but seeing Hunter was completely different. I thought I’d lost him. He’d been murdered by Liam right in front of me. Now he was kneeling in front of me, cold and calculating, dead and alive at the same time. I prayed for Eli to come and rescue me.
“Please, go away.”
“Because I live here. Lucian turned me.”
I cried loudly into my lap. Not only was I stuck on top of a mountain with a bunch of vampires, I was also stuck with Hunter, my supposedly dead friend and a boy I had developed feelings for. How could I justify being torn between a guardian angel and a vampire? One was forbidden and the other wasn’t just forbidden, it was wrong on so many levels.