Cosmina shook her head, her eyes round, and her cheeks drawn. “I would never have believed it unless I had seen it with my own eyes.”
“So what now?” Eden shrugged, cutting right to the chase. “Are you still going to kill me?”
The Neith eyed her, her expression warring between hate and awe. “You should not exist, Eden. How can we ever trust something that was once a soul eater? But this…” she eyed the ground and then she shook her head. “If I were to let you live… I cannot just let you roam free.”
“What happened to your family?” Eden asked quietly, trying to distract her, ‘befriend’ her.
Cosmina glanced up, startled. “How did you know?”
“Because I know a need for vengeance when I see it. I’m kind of the poster child for it these days.”
“They were killed by soul eaters. My mother, my brother. My twin sister’s soul was almost devoured and they set her loose on me. She tortured me.”
The horror of that punched Eden in the gut and she shook her head, unable to find the right words. “I’m so sorry.”
Arcos narrowed her eyes in thought. “Perhaps I do not kill you? Perhaps you work for me, where I can keep an eye on you. And you do this.” She pointed at the girl. “You free them?”
It was a step in the right direction but Eden had no intention of going anywhere with this woman. Still… perhaps if she convinced her she would, she could get away somehow.
Blood splattered across Eden’s face, the stench of dirty copper flooding her nose and she gagged, blinking in utter confusion.
Darius was in front of her, his energy pulsing into her shocked body. At his feet was a headless Cosmina Arcos, the pulp and gore from her decapitation bespattered his uncovered arms and face.
And Eden’s face.
She hadn’t heard him come in, hadn’t seen him move.
One minute she had been talking to Arcos, the next the woman was… beheaded. A rush of vomit, brought on by the suddenness and violence of what had happened, burned up Eden’s throat and she dropped to the ground, emptying the contents of her stomach on the hardwood floors.
Distantly she heard footsteps in the background and then a warm hand pulling her hair back from her face. The scent of Valeria’s Chanel perfume filtered into Eden’s awareness.
She wiped her mouth and shuddered in a breath, her cheeks blooming with humiliation. She was a warrior and she had just thrown up. It was unbelievable. Embarrassing… what an understatement. But…
… Darius terrified her.
Afraid to look at him, Eden let Val help her to her feet.
Although Cyrus, Alain and Noah had crowded her, desperate for answers, desperate for Eden to acknowledge them, she couldn’t quite make her mouth form words. As if she understood, Val had brushed by them and helped Eden into the passenger side of the SUV. With just the two of them in the car, Val pulled away, knowing the others would follow. Back in the apartment, Darius and Cyrus would be dealing with the girl Eden had turned, with the unconscious soul eaters. With the obliterated Cosmina Arcos.
He’d just executed her. No warning, no questions, nothing.
“He scares you?” Val asked softly. She had been driving for ten minutes.
“Darius?” Eden croaked, shivering at the thought of him. “Yeah.”
When Val didn’t reply Eden looked over at her, her mouth still open in horror. “He just killed her, Val. He just ripped her apart. She might have been talked around.”
Val threw her an astonished look. “Eden, that woman has been trying to kill you for months.”
“No buts. You let her see your gift! You let your enemy see your vulnerability!” Val hit the wheel with the palm of her hand.
“It changed her mind about killing me,” Eden argued. “And believe me, she was going to kill me and succeed, Val.”
“And that is exactly why she needed to be dispatched. She was too powerful. And too bloody crazy.”
“The way he did it though…”
Her mentor’s sigh was huge and weary, full of a thousand years of history. “You have to understand, Eden, Darius is not like us.”
“Yeah, Cyrus tried to explain that one over too.”
“No. Eden, he’s… he sees a threat and he takes it out, no fluffy emotions to cloud his very good judgment. You might think that it is harsh, inhuman, immoveable, but Darius has kept our race and the human race safe for a long time because of his ability to make the kinds of awful decisions others cannot.”
“And Cosmina was one of those decisions?”
Val cleared her throat, seeming embarrassed. “Darius has one weakness. Although I’m sure he wouldn’t be thrilled I called it that. His weakness is me.”
Eyebrows raised in surprise at that admission, Eden waited, suddenly extremely curious.
Val gave her a rueful look and then shrugged. “I pursued him a long time ago. He eventually gave in. We were in love.”
Eden gaped. Back in Edinburgh, Val had talked about being in love with someone she couldn’t be with and Eden had assumed it was Darius. She’d also assumed that that love hadn’t been reciprocated. She had assumed wrong.
“He realized it was causing him to make bad decisions. We parted ways. But our love didn’t just disappear, Eden. And… Cosmina knew about our gift. If more people found out, the Neith might start to dig into our history and Darius is always concerned that we left a trail somewhere, that somehow someone will find out I am also Unforeseen.”
Comprehension dawned. “He killed Cosmina to protect you.”
As Eden stewed on that, Val sighed again. “You were just shocked by the confusion of it all. How quick. How bloody. But you know deep down that Cosmina needed to be taken out. Eden, she was an obsessed, bigoted woman with only revenge in her heart.”
Eden nodded, not sure if she was agreeing or not. She was too preoccupied.
Was that what she was? A crazy-ass weirdo like Cosmina Arcos. Obsessed with revenge? Is that what she’d turn into?
And would that be her end?
Her head ripped off by a ghost called Darius of Mesopotamia?
She didn’t want that. She didn’t want to be consumed by revenge. She didn’t want to be hunted by the man that was supposed to protect her as he did Valeria.
Could she let Romany go? Could she forgive?
Stellan’s laughing face flashed across her mind.
“You might not have Ireland, Paradise… but you’ve always got me.”
A tear slipped down Eden’s cheek. It burned with remembrance.
Forgive the girl who killed her brother? A sharp ache tore through her. No. She guessed she just wasn’t strong enough for that.
Tobe watched Terrence usher the clean-up crew out of the mansion. He assured her that Cyrus had said Eden was OK. Cosmina Arcos had finally tracked her down at the same time a couple of Rice’s soul eaters had. Cyrus and the others had tracked down Eden’s SUV at the bookshop and from there Darius had followed her energy. The ancient warrior had killed Arcos and the soul eaters were taken care of too. Tobe was just glad Eden was unscathed. The last thing she needed right now was another missing family member.
Finally the men and women were gone and Terrence gave McLeish a brisk nod before disappearing out of the foyer. The silence that rang in his wake was deafening – Tobe felt the pressure of it on her chest and sucked in a deep gulp of air. She glanced behind her, her butt growing numb on the marble step of the grand staircase. Cameron was a few steps up, leaning against the wrought-iron railing. He looked bored.
He always looked bored.
They hadn’t had a proper conversation in days… since it happened. They’d been successfully avoiding each other and Tobe would continue to avoid her boyfriend until he had his bloody soul back. He just freaked her out otherwise. It shouldn’t be long now, she reminded herself, trying to calm her racing heart. As soon as Cyrus and t
he others returned they’d all be heading out again to rescue her mum and dad.
Mum and dad.
She worried her lip in an effort to stem her tears. The memory of her mum’s arms around her and her dad’s deep, rich voice constricted around her heart and Tobe glanced at her watch. Where were Cyrus and Eden?