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   Chapter 24 23.

On Her Knees By Chyna McCartney Characters: 22964

Updated: 2018-02-10 18:56


"Do you really believe that she will like this, " I asked Berthold for the umpteenth time from the backseat.

He sighed, muttering something in German under his breath as he focused on the road ahead. "I am very certain that she will approve, Giovanni. I was not the one who suggested the chain after all. Melanie did. Being a female, I believe she has some knowledge of what another young woman like herself would appreciate."

Absentmindedly, I ran my fingers along the edge of the gold wrapping paper on the lid of the box. " Knowing what another female would want is not the same thing as knowing what Teryn might want. She is entirely different."

My gift to her was a simple gold chain. The gold band suspended upon it was my idea; engraved in the band were the words 'Cupita; Dilectus' -- both translating to 'beloved' in Latin. Maybe it would be of some sentimental value to her. Only, I hoped she would not assume this to be some kind of bribe. I did not plan to give her this to replace the perception I had created of myself the last time I saw her. The act would be purely genuine. I wanted to take care of her; to lavish her with gifts and affection. This was just the precursor. If she accepted the truth when I revealed it to her, there would most definitely be more of that to come.

"But what if she does not.." my subconscious nagged.

I did not want to think about her rejecting me..in truth, I was not prepared for that eventuality. Yet, even if I was, I doubt that it would make that pill any easier to swallow if that was the case.

"Calm down, Giovanni, " Berthold said, his brown eyes meeting mine in the jeep's rear view mirror. "You, more than anyone else, are deserving of some version of a happy ending. I have faith that this might be just that. All that is left for you to do now is to tell her the truth."

The street lights cast an artificial, yellow glow on the walls of the club as Berthold pulled the car to a stop near the rear entrance. Besides the droning sound of the engine idling, an eerie silence was settling around us. It was like the lingering tension in the area before a gunfight erupted in the Old Western movies I had seen in the human world.

Perhaps, it was my own natural talents being particularly overactive--- a case of hyper-perception on my part. Or maybe it was my own confliction about my decision to 'come clean', as they say, that made this building seem like a place of greater depravities than I already new existed behind those doors.

Regardless, my senses were piqued and I found myself scrutinizing the surrounding parking lot. "Hopefully, this works." I commented, my attention somewhat diverted.

Berthold chuckled, twisting in the chair to look at me. "Have faith, brother. How many women have fallen at your feet, in the last hundred years, hoping to catch even just a drop of your affections? By all accounts, you are irresistible, my friend. Do you really doubt that you will get your girl?"

"I know that she tolerates me at the very least, Berthold. She has never rejected my touch until I attempted to kiss her, so I do not believe that she is disgusted with me. Yet, I would still be a fool to prematurely assume than I might be able to predict her reaction to my declaration of love." I swung the door open and climbed out of vehicle without hesitation.

I ran my hands over the fabric of my suit: searching for pleats or wrinkles in the black legs of the trousers; the black sleeves of my open suit jacket and in the black cotton of the dress shirt underneath it. I had to be sure that the coffee- colored tie was positioned properly..

Berthold grabbed a hold of my shoulders. "Mein Gott, Giovanni! You are falling a part at your seams." I saw the anxiety burning in his brown eyes and only then did I stop my fussing with my clothing. Only then did I realize how insane I must really look. And only then did I remember to breathe-- I did not truly need the oxygen but my anxiety was in a large part, hinged on it.

"I need her, Berthold, " I confessed, looking the other man squarely in the face. "It is no mystery to me now why men my age go mad...

Hundreds of years of this: bleeding without cause. Fighting without a cause. Chasing after status and positions of authority without a cause. I might have justified it all as simply self preservation; trying to create my own nest in the world but I have lived for far too long for such an excuse to even been a valid reason to prolong this existence.

Do you not see it, Berthold? I am exhausted with chasing after things that I do not truly want. She is what I really want and I do not know what I will do with myself if I can not have her."

His eyes softened and one hand gripped the left side of my face. "You will go on living, brother. That is what you will do with yourself if that should happen.

God knows that I am not the only one who values your life here. I have seen the change you have brought about here in the last 50 years since you were appointed to council. They wanted you because of your military expertise but never in a million years did they assume that you might show them that there are other means to resort to other than bloodshed. Decades or suffering and anarchy have been ended by your own hand. Hundreds of thousands of soldiers have pledged their lives and their swords to you because they believe that you are the way. This realm needs you.

You are my brother-- my closet friend; I need you. And I believe; I feel this in my bones, that Teryn needs you as much as you need her."

I felt something flutter in my sluggish heart-- a spark of compassion; a glimmer of understanding, perhaps. Whatever it was, it pushed back the fog in my mind. I had not realized that I actually been so close to insanity after these years until I verbalized it without thinking. Neither did I realize what I would have to forfeit if I lost my battle with this despair.

I had to win that battle; I owed it to the men I had sworn to lead. I owed it to the man next me who I had sworn to support.

I smiled in spite of myself. It was not often that I felt this vulnerable. In fact, I seem to feel more vulnerable the more time I spend obsessing over Teryn. Yet, this vulnerability made me feel closer to her-- more human somehow.

"Thank you, " I told him. In some way, he had said what I had needed to hear. I imagined Teryn might have even said similar things. And just like that, my mind was swept up in thoughts of that beautiful girl..

The sound of one of the heavy, metal doors being pushed open directed Berthold's and my attention to the building. Johnathon, the disturbingly jovial auction host stood framed in the shadows behind the door. His brown eyes flickered to me and I sensed his fear almost instantly.

"Do not doubt, Giovanni. Just do what it is you came to do." With a pat

r."

"It was a feat that took us nearly two months but Marcelle alone was the one who confronted the culprit: a prowler who traversed between the human realm and our own, looking for girls to enslave."

Instinctually, my hand flexed around Teryn's-- anger boiling in me at what happened to my innocent ward.

"He claimed to have mistaken her for a stateless, human girl who belonged to no one, and thus, he took her to be employed within his brothel. He sold her there soon aftee to another vampire but only after he had raped and murdered her, did the coward release who she was. My position and influence made her disappearance a public matter and Christa was no longer able to affirm her identity when he became aware of what he had done.

Marcelle could not bear the knowledge within that confession in that moment, anymore than I could when he reported to me later with the brothel keep's blood on his hands.

Marcelle had killed the man by the time he came back; murdered him in a blind fit of rage and even I, with all my power could not protect him from the consequences of that act..."

"What do you mean you couldn't protect him?" The skin between her dark brows wrinkled as they furrowed, a look I began to understood to mean that she was scrutinizing something intently.

"One vampire can not murder another in In Umbra lest the act has been sanctioned by the Council and/or its lesser courts, an act of self defense or committed during times of war. Our laws did not permit a vampire to kill one of his kind in defense of human either. So the council ordered his execution.

Try as I might, there was nothing I could do to have the decision revoked. Marcelle himself had even confessed to it; well in truth, I believe he welcomed the thought of dying. He did not wish to live without Christa and nothing I said made him more willing to act in the interest of self preservation...

So he was killed; burned at the stake in the city square. Such a horrible fate he suffered yet, he made no sound. He did not cry out; not even at the very end."

Teryn crawled onto my lap. "I know you still mourn their passing but what is left to avenge? Marcelle killed the man who was responsible for Christa's death and he bore no ill will when he paid for that crime with his life. I'm not saying its right but what more could you possibly do to change what happened to them?"

"I know that I can not change what happened to them; I have long since stopped wishing that I were a time traveler or a man who could bend the state of affairs of the world in which he lives to his own will." I ran my hands through her curls, caressing her silken, tear stained cheeks.

"Yet I know that many more will suffer like I and Marcelle and Christa have suffered if places like this are allowed to exist. If I can produce the relevant evidence as to their ill treatment of humans in a month's time, then I will be given leave to formally charge any man operating a brothel in any of the districts. That is my ultimate goal. This is the justice I seek."

"It would seem that I have a great deal of work to then, " she muttered, resting her head against my chest, right where my heart should be.

I lifted her face with one finger under her chin. "Your laboring is no good to me if you are not well, Teryn. Will you please tell me what has you so upset?"

"Two of the other girls were murdered, " she murmured, fisting the cloth of my jacket in one of her small hands. "Bailey and Cassidy. They were auctioned off to a monster and hunted like animals. They were tortured and raped and finally murdered. The creature was depraved enough to take pictures of their broken bodies and... Marcus had the gall enough to show them when they kept me in that room.."

There was a vacancy in her lovely eyes, in spite of her admission; a hesitance in the way her eyes wandered about the room without meeting mine. There was more to it than what she admitted. " What room? What else have they done to you, Teryn?"

The tears started again and my heart broke to see her cry. "I don't want to talk about it, " she whispered and I wrapped my arms around her tiny waist, pulling her into an embrace. I felt the warmth of her skin against mine and her breath tickling against my neck as she spoke.

"But I know that I hate vampires." she seethed. "I hate them all. They're all soulless monsters.."

I gulped, feeling the remainder of my frozen heart crumble to pieces at the feverence behind her words. "And alas, there has never been a man who has wished to be human more than I do.."

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