Here is another unedited gem that was cut from Constricted on the editing floor. Afterward I pegged it for the Prologue of Altered, but it just didn’t flow into Dorian and Cain’s story. There is a beautiful aftermath and I hate not including it, so here y’all go.
Korrigan Garland—Von Baron
Human life no longer existed. Men did not enslave all women, but the world as humans knew it ceased to exist. God’s rejects, misfits, and Hell’s spawn crawled the remaining quarter of the globe. My existence altered as the pieces lost to me jumbled and jumped inside, refitting and forming Angelica’s memories with mine. Lies Jules once told pushed aside, but the horrendous deeds done unto me forever etched into my mind, body, and soul.
A courtesan sold to a cursed vampire was my past regardless of whom I was now or in the future. Each decision made scratched scars into my skin and formed me as it did those around me. Love Petre I had just as Angelica had once loved her husband Veric. But that man died at my hands, and I knew then as I know now that I would never love another.
Petre’s final words threatened the tears. “Love him once more,” he had said to me as if realizing it was good-bye. I wore through the ground as I paced, waiting for him to awaken for days, but I was too late to save him as he had rescued me from Jules’ brothel. Our last argument ended as his life faded in my arms. I struggled with that notion and the reality. Forever remained unseen torture and rather lonely.
“I think I know what he meant,” Tomas whispered. “Before the accident, I asked you to leave us.” I nodded. Despite the risk, he had asked me to leave them alone. Hands pushed the orange tinted goggles from his eyes, and they rested atop his blond head. Tomas cupped my face and lowered his lips. I glanced away noting Veric and Nicolai preoccupied and nodded my acceptance. “Stay still,” he whispered and touched his dry lips to mine. “Let me show you Petre’s thoughts and what I showed him.”
Human. Breath. Heartbeat. Three terms that meant food to a vampire. The coffee tasted like mud, but after hundreds of years of blood, Petre vowed to enjoy the substance humans adored. Centuries wasted slaving over the beans and countless lives lost in its name. Yet humans never stopped and thanked those souls for their bitter brew. Petre tipped the metal mug in salute.
The sweet roll felt dry on his tongue and tasted too sweet. He made a slight face, and I snickered. At least lives weren’t lost in its creation, but just in case there were, he offered a silent prayer to them too.
None of it compared to Petre’s Angel, his love. Ah, but the taste of Korri’s lips, her skin, and her blood lay fresh in his mind. The three flavors were heaven in his mouth, and he hadn’t had his fill that morning. No, Petre doubted he ever would have enough of her.
I said, “She worries.” He snorted and grimaced as the hot coffee burned his mouth. “Petre, I agree with her.”
“I’m not turning my back on my brother.” Petre tossed me a sharp look and handed me the mug. I stared at the substance before placing it on the fold down table with cup holders. His hands dragged through long black hair, and he fished in a bag for a tie. “It’s doubtful he’d listen to anyone else.”
With his hair fastened back, he grabbed his jeans. Clothes and blankets landed everywhere in the tiny cabin, and Petre flashed a grin as if I had not noticed the disarray on my arrival.
My hand squeezed his shoulder. “You’re thinking like a vampire, but you aren’t one anymore. I want to share something with you, but you will have to connect.”
The last time we’d connected, I’d made him look like Veric. Jules in an attempt to capture him had the vampire’s image plastered over the news channels. Petre mumbled, “Screw it.”
I held his face and warned him not to turn away no matter how painful. Our lips connected as the distant past replayed around us.
Transported from our train car we arrived in Texas. Korrigan flashed into view dressed in finery well above the station of a whore. Silk draped her tender frame, but the modern style was from twenty years ago. The world hadn’t fully descended into chaos, and Boric Garland had just been elected as the Texas Governor -unsuspecting to the humans that he wasn’t one of them.
A fancy dinner party, complete with guests and servants, had surrounded her. Veric, dressed in his Garland uniform, sat beside the Elioud. No smile or happiness graced her features as adults conversed. The love in his eyes, however, was the same then as it was now.
Angelica reached for his hand under the table, and their fingers folded together. Petre bristled at the image, but I reaffirmed my grip, skipping past any images proving their love. The images shuffled and flashed forward. Angelica snuck around whispering to someone in the shadows. She kept glancing over her shoulder as she handed the hidden person a package. Every night she returned and gave the shrouded person items of food or items wrapped in cloth. Her lips moved, but we heard no sounds. Again, the image changed. There she was again, but this time guards held her in custody. Chains weighed the Elioud’s slender arms and lanky legs, but she trembled with no fear, and her nose stuck high into the air.
Jules and Boric tied her to a stake and bound her arms above her head. Petre tried to pull away again, but I knew he must witness and understand why Korrigan and Angelica were the same, yet different. Boric shouted at her, and Jules handed him a long black whip. Petre flinched as it lashed across her breasts and slashed through her dress. She shed no tears. Boric whipped her again to no prevail. Angelica refused to bend, and she’d paid for it. Not satisfied, the bastard turned her around and ripped her dress off. Two guards tied her legs apart. Petre wanted to see no more, and neither had I as my eyes burned, and my blood boiled.
One by one, they raped her, and when they had finished, Boric dismissed all, called his brother Veric and another, Angelica’s brother in to his chamber, and slit Angelica’s throat as Veric and Cain watched. The bastard made him watch, and Petre’s heart stung for the tortured demon. Boric cut her free and departed as if he hadn’t killed his brother’s wife. Tears rolled down the demon’s face, and he dropped to his knees. Cain gaped at the gore-coated scene. Angelica died; Veric crawled to her, and he clutched her bloodied body. A cloaked figure stirred in the shadows. Veric’s head glanced toward the person. Two strangers, a young woman holding a wiggling newborn baby, approached forth, and I let Petre go.
“This is where the vision ended,” I said to him. “But I will fill in the gap. Angelica snuck food and supplies to her family in Boric’s brothel. She also plotted against Garland and other details remain fuzzy. Veric stretched the truth in what happened next.” I motioned for Petre to sit. His fists clenched, and the veins beneath the skin bulged and throbbed. “Angelica chose death. Petre, she chose to die rather than serve the monster. Our blood … hard to explain, but Angelica didn’t want to live.”
His lips twitched. Petre cracked his neck and faced me. “How’d she live then?”
I chewed my lip and stared at him. “Her mother.” He stretched his arms behind his neck. “She bound Angelica’s soul into the body of a baby. Also told Veric as much, but I hadn’t believed him when he told me all those years ago. He came to me for help.”
Petre’s mouth dropped. “You turned him away?”
“I did and have regretted it every single day. My burden to bear for like Veric, I too was responsible for her abuse in Jules care. When her brother came back years later, I vowed not to repeat my mistakes.” Long fingers tapped on my chin as he glanced out the window. The train met less turbulence at the slow speeds, but the movement churned my stomach. “Soul swapping is both dark and dangerous, and even the most powerful warlocks and witches wouldn’t dare attempt the magic. But it has been done before, mon ami.” He nodded slow and knowing. “Hestin as you called him performed the magic on twin brothers.” His lips tightened into a grim smile. “It is not without severe consequence.”
I blinked, as Tomas’ scene grew dark and the Arcadian landscape reformed, not from the abundance of knowledge I already held in my possession but from watching Boric kill me. The long knife cut through my flesh as if it were nothing. “Mother sacrificed her life to save mine.” Fact not a question but I did not understand why. As I drew my final breath, she drew hers. Mother’s soul ascended to Tartarus while mine drifted into a new body, a baby with its own life and soul. Dizziness swept over me, and I crouched into the snowy bank. Love him again … my gaze drifted to Veric; his amber eyes fixated on me. Tomas had meant for me to see the agent’s love, but neither man listened to me.
I was not Angelica. Her memories survived, but the feelings had not. Parts of me cared for Veric; I cared for many people, but he needed to move on and accept that I wasn’t his wife. His lip trembled and his flame colored hair lifted in the breeze. Whatever he loved died eighteen years ago and after my revenge, I would die like the vision. My brows scrunched as footsteps crunched behind me. There was no life worth living without my Petre.
“Korri, we go.” Nicolai brushed my shoulder, but only blood hazed my vision. The former Romanian Lord spoke more words but in his native tongue. Like his brother, he too was a cursed human that survived the final calling. Too bad God did not send his tainted soul into the pits of Hell. Nicolai’s presence hurt more than it helped, not for his past, but because aside from the eyes, he resembled Petre. They were twins, but Nicolai’s eyes were blue, and my Petre’s were grey.
“Soon.” I stood and lifted my chin higher. Unlike most Elioud, I was rather short, pixie like in my slender and delicate features. “There has to be another way into Delphia.” Another way in besides the steam engines or horseback but we had no horses. I tapped my chin, staring over the horizon. Churning waters and fractured earth separated me from revenge. Garland remained the goal; the country lay within the remnants of Texas and South America, but that meant traveling through the isles.
The Sundering as the demons called the event had eradicated the humans and the majority of the world. These thoughts ran over in my mind as I thought of Jules’ torture, but he too met his demise. Bloodied hands rose to my face. Nails imbedded with the rusty filth. The blood dried; the smears stood as a reminder of all lost in this hellish war on earth between the Demonic clans. Neither murder nor revenge brought him back to me, but nothing else mattered. If I didn’t stop Boric than who would?
Tomas patted my head. “We shall have revenge, ma petite fee.”
My dark brow lifted, still new to this emotionless façade expected of my kind. While we were both Elioud, Tomas was also a warlock. Witches and warlocks read minds if they wanted to although Tomas seemed to do so all the time. I held a different ability; my dreams came true and I felt emotions from paintings and photographs. Not an empath as I did not feel the emotions from those in my presence but clairvoyance from objects created by others.
Veric finished packing away the camp, another downside to the human Nicolai. We stopped more often than needed. Unlike us, he required more sleep and food.
“Luv, we should return to the station.” The agent rubbed his neck and the long scar running down his neck exposed itself. Boric sliced him there, meant to be a killing blow, yet Veric had survived. “Continue to the Summit.”
I shook my head. No, the train reminded me of Petre. Eyes blinked and focused on the landscape as Veric inched closer. All things reminded me of him. Heavy boots sloshed through the wet snow and his large wings snapped.
Between the sea sprays and Arcadian wilderness, coated in a thick layer of snow, nothing held my interest. Down was up and up was down as I scoured the coast of Montreal, Arcadia and sought to cross the shattered world and gain entry into Delphia, anything to keep my mind from Petre or the man who lived. Without transportation by air or large boat, entry into Delphia seemed an impossible feat. Fingernails dug into my palms, but the skin healed before blood spilled.
Veric whispered, “Angel?” and stroked my hair. Petre saved my life, yet I pondered whether death would have been the better choice. My name whispered again. To him he meant his wife, and I was not she. Veric grunted. “Korrigan, bloody hell you’re difficult. Just wanted you to feed.”
Heat rose in my cheeks, an oddity since vampires weren’t supposed to blush. Veric blamed demon blood; his was rather potent since his father was Nephilim where mine was Elioud.
“Too bad vampires can’t fly,” Tomas said in his haughty French accent; I silently thanked his interruption. Blood related or not, I did not like those stupid goggles he insisted on wearing everywhere or him for that matter. Out of place were his top quality clothes too. I grew up wearing scraps until old enough to don Jules uniform: a hand me down corset and jeans.
The thought stow away as I gazed at my wardrobe choice. More so, my eyes glued to Petre’s boots. After the train accident, our train car and luggage strew across the snow, I gathered what I could. His jeans and t-shirt also adorned my body, as we were close in size.
If we could fly, we would still have faced difficulty with a human passenger. “Non, I change him first.”
Nicolai raised his eyebrow and once again I saw through his language façade. Petre had said his brother understood only Romanian. My heart squeezed at the thought of his name and I fought the urge to shut my eyes.
Veric too appeared to notice his body language or he had thought Tomas’ suggestion absurd. If you asked me, I would have said no too. In his previous life, Nicolai committed unforgivable sins and a warlock cursed him to live as a demon horse. His brother broke their curse and found peace. A tear slid from my eye. I could not utter his name. The ache sliced my unbeating heart as my fists curled and I tossed my head back, screaming at the top of my lungs.
Grey clouds settled in over my soul. All of me belonged to him; the fight died with his last breath. How could I take Boric down when my will to survive hung, billowing in the wind? I opened my eyes and stared into Veric’s concerned gaze.
“Keys,” Veric muttered and folded his hand on mine. Angelica stole the keys, not all but enough to weaken Boric if the arch demons found out. The blood flaked, and I tugged myself away. “We’ll have all the power to free them, luv.” But not the power to bring Petre back and that was all I truly wanted. Auburn brows touched. “Once upon a time, you wanted more. Long before the vampire, ducky, you wanted to free the slaves.” Veric stood and shadowed me, hands on his hips. “You’re stronger than this.”
With immortality and cunning quickness in my third life, I held a chance to slit Boric’s throat. For my Petre and every soul beaten, starved, raped, and killed … I had a score to settle. Memories floated in and out, but they belonged to Angelica. She started this, but God gifted me another chance, and I squandered it away, allowing the despair to drown me. Petre wouldn’t have wanted me to stop. No, he asked me to continue without him.
Veric was right; I gulped and accepted his outstretched hand.
“All I have is a name,” I said. Cain, before my first death, Angelica entrusted the keys to her brother; three of the seven keys were to a special prison. Neither she nor I knew anymore than that, the keys represented power among the seven families. After Jules died, there was another to add to our family’s cache. “Halifax.”
Four of us arrived at the Montreal Train Station two weeks later. After the Sundering steam and biofuel grew into major industries. Life was not the same as before, but we had a few luxuries. He upside was I held only memories of before the collapse, but the downside was the memories I did have revolved around Hampshire House in Delphia. Food and clothing were not one of them, but we had trains, satellite phones, and gifts granted by God.
The sight of the old steam locomotive sparked memories of Petre. Its body shined as black as his hair. Billowing smoke blew in the wind like his flowing locks. The stone platform beneath my feet speckled grey like his eyes. A sigh tickled my chest, and I choked on it. Each moment without him burned and slashed at my insides. All of this belonged to me, but I would have given every bit away just to have him back.
After all he had owned the trains, massive properties and farms, and co-owned the Arcadian and Delphia Alternative Energy Initiative. They were worth something to someone. Everyone has a price, but my price was the return of Petre’s life.