New Kingdom: American Court Ch. 06byMicKay©
Edward carried the broken body of his mate to another clean room. He would have preferred to move her to his rooms and place her in his bed. Unfortunately, her injuries would require a firm, unbiased touch to administer the transfusion. Gabriel was the man for that job. His indifference to Iona would ensure that he would not give in to her pleas for mercy and his strength would guarantee the job would be completed correctly.
As they entered the treatment room, Edward looked at the personnel that were waiting to begin the task. Gabriel, the epitome of efficiency, had apparently ordered the necessary people and items to be ready for Iona's treatment. With a fleeting thought, Edward wondered how long they had been standing at their posts.
As Edward placed her body on the treatment bed, Iona whimpered as though in great pain but too weak to voice her complaint. He stared for a few minutes at the face he had loved when she was once human and then one of his own. She had not been given the luxury to choose to be a vampire but, barring the night terrors, she had seemed to finally be adjusting to his way of life. Staring into her strained face, he saw the evidence of her severe blood loss in the gaunt, paleness of her cheeks and the dark bruising under her eyes.
Feeling Gabriel's hand on his shoulder, Edward turned to look at his friend. The stress of the day had not escaped the normally well groomed, emotionless man. Gabriel still exuded the confidence required to complete his job but not without cost. The tall man, with black hair and eyes, scared most immortals and all humans that he encountered. Edward hoped that, even with his own exceptional abilities, he would never have to compete against Gabriel's strength and prowess.
Still, Gabriel's eyes confirmed the torment that he was experiencing. Causing Edward pain through the abuse of his mate was not a delight. Alena had chosen her sister over him once before and, with tonight's events, she may choose to do so again. If he could turn back the clock, he would have never agreed to the interrogation. He would have never let her learn about his true nature. Hell, maybe he would have never met her.
No, he would not deny the one light in his life of knowing her. No matter how much pain their relationship had caused or received, he would accept losing her in the future but he would not forget their past. He wondered if she considered him a monster capable of beating her sister to a pulp. Knowing that Alena had been escorted safely to his rooms, Gabriel willed himself to quit thinking about her and focus on completing the task at hand.
"Edward," he said to his friend, "you will need to be close and available when the time comes to share your blood, but you may want to step outside of the room until we are ready for you."
Before Edward could answer, he felt the nudging of his mate's broken hands against his arm. When he leaned close to her face, tears poured from her eyes. He read a myriad of emotions including pain and fear mixed with the remains of her trust in him.
"I won't leave her now," he stated in his voice that ruled his domain.
"You know that there will be considerably more pain for her," Gabriel stated.
"Damn it, Gabriel, I won't leave her!" Edward exclaimed and then leaned closed to her body to kiss her forehead.
"Then at least avoid the tainted blood," Gabriel conceded.
With a nod of his head to the medical staff, Gabriel put the system in motion. Swiftly inserting IVs into the woman's major arteries, they began evacuating the remains of the contaminated blood. As the dark, red liquid filled the clear tubing, the faint sound of a dying heartbeat could be heard. With her body struggling to survive, she began whimpering in pain.
"How much longer?" Edward implored moving away from her dying body.
"When the heart is near its last beat," Gabriel responded with answers Edward already knew.
"I can't stand this," Edward moaned pacing around the room.
As the quiet heartbeat struggled, the woman's moans became quieter until they ceased altogether. Finally, the unnatural heartbeat assumed an eerie percussion of a single beat interrupted by pauses of silence. Each quiet pause grew longer between the muscle's struggles.
"Gabriel," Edward screamed running to the bed, "we're going to lose her!"
"Edward," Gabriel cautioned his friend, "Step back and be ready when I give the word."
The woman's heart continued its erratic rhythm, searching for the rich liquid needed to feed its body. As the intermittent silence increased, her body seized and a final breath was forcibly exhaled from her lungs.
"Edward," Gabriel instructed, "Now."
Without hesitation, the king of the American vampires lovingly lifted his mate's dying body and sank his fangs into her neck. Forcing the venom that would not only sooth her pain but assist with her change, he held her close until he knew that he could no longer delay feeding her. Quickly sealing the bite marks, he then bit his own wrist and held it to her mouth. Because she was unconscious and not able to swallow, he tilted her head back to open her throat. Rich, strong blood flowed from his veins into her mouth. Gently massaging her throat, Edward watched as the blood that had pooled in her mouth slid into her body.
When he was sure that she had swallowed enough of his strengthening blood, he moved to each of her injuries, gently licking the wounds so they would instantly seal and eliminate further blood loss. Heeding Gabriel's warnings about contamination, he protected his own mouth with his venom and spit out any blood absorbed from healing his mate. As he touched each wound, the medical staff removed the contaminated lines and inserted new tubing that quickly began pumping new, donated blood into her system. At the touch of Gabriel's hand on his shoulder once more, Edward stood back from his beloved's body.
"We've done all that we can," Gabriel advised. "She needs to sleep and let the change proceed without interruption."
"I won't disturb her," Edward responded with his eyes never leaving the woman's frail features, "but I won't leave her."
After a few moments, Edward finally looked at his friend and vowed, "Nothing means more to me than her. I will not live without her."
Understanding his friend's statement, Gabriel simply nodded his head and looked at the woman's body once again. He could not deny that she had been beautiful as a woman but he could not understand this love his friend and Alena had for the woman. In her human life, she had been a selfish, rebellious girl with a reputation of having fun, no matter the cost. In her immortal life, she had been sired by something evil and had betrayed her mate in exchange for tainted blood while bargaining away the life of her sister. That sin alone was enough to make Gabriel hate her. Yet, at Edward's request, he had preformed the only task that offered any hope of her salvation.
"Gabriel," Edward said after watching his friend for a few minutes, "It's dawn already. You've been with her for several hours. You should go to your mate and let me take care of mine."
"To tell the truth, I'm almost afraid to see Alena," Gabriel confessed with a sad smile. "She left me once for this girl and she didn't look very happy with the results of my treatment of her today."
"She knows that you did what was required," Edward stated. "We both do." Hesitating for only a moment he finally added, "These women share a unique gift. It's a gift of sight." Looking back at his mate's body, listening to her faint heartbeat, he paused in his explanation, "I could feel her pain and hear Iona's conversation with you. But Alena was watching through her eyes and saw something or someone."
Looking back at Gabriel, Edward continued, "My friend, she saw a monster but it was not you she saw."
Gabriel looked at his friend and felt a new wave of emotions. He was fearful of what Alena had seen, glad that it was not him she feared, and then ashamed that he was so pleased with that revelation. "Then, I guess there's no reason to avoid the inevitable," he said and then added with a laugh, "If I don't go see her now, she will be packed and gone before I can get a kiss goodbye."
"In her. In your love for each other," Edward answered.
"Yeah well, that last one hasn't paid off yet."
"No, your love did not fail," Edward offered, "The kingdom that you have served failed you. You gave and we took. Do not allow anything to keep the two of you apart. I forbid it. Take your woman and start your life."
"I won't leave until my duty is complete," Gabriel adamantly stated. "But," he added with a grin, "If she's not on the next one way ticket far away from me, I will accept a few days vacation to take Alena away. I had hoped to ask the Council tonight for permission to change her."
"Ask?" Edward seemed shocked. "You know it will be granted. The Council would never deny you anything."
"Just the same," Gabriel said walking to the door, "It's best to follow the rules."
In Gabriel's kitchen, Alena sat at the table staring at an untouched sandwich and rapidly cooling cup of coffee. When she had returned to the apartment, she had nervously looked for something to keep her busy. After taking a lengthy shower, she had dressed in the red, silk robe and took extra care in drying her hair. When she decided that she had primped enough, she moved on to the kitchen.
While not hungry, Alena decided to fix some dinner. If Gabriel's promise came true, she would probably need to eat to keep her strength. The end of their wait was so near, and yet she could not help but blush. Hoping Gabriel's patience would continue, she consciously focused on her food and avoided remembering the recent events with her sister. As she stared at the food, she smiled at the memory of Gabriel's observation of the scrambled eggs she had eaten for breakfast. She wondered what he would think of her peanut butter and jelly sandwich that currently graced her plate. Maybe he would overlook her sandwich as she overlooked the bottles of red liquid that were tucked into the rear of the refrigerator. With a shake of her head, she smiled at their companionable tolerance they had shared in regards to their differences.
"And I still have so much to learn," she said aloud to herself.
Taking a small bite of the sandwich, Alena sat back in the chair observing the room. The appliances appeared to be high priced, stainless steel pieces found in the best restaurants. She wondered why Gabriel would spare the expense of an epicurean kitchen when the refrigerator was the only appliance apparently used. While most kitchens were considered the heart of a home, a place where parents and children gathered to prepare and share a meal, this room boasted wealth in a cold, unwelcoming display.
Chasing the thick sandwich's contents with a drink of coffee, Alena grimaced at the taste. The dark, strong liquid made a double espresso taste gentle. She had attempted to brew the drink because she wanted be awake to talk with Gabriel when he came home. In a combination of her earlier conversation with him and the memory of her sister, beaten and broken, Alena was fairly confident that no caffeine was needed to keep her from sleep.
In addition, she would need to find the words to describe what she had seen through her sister's eyes. Shuddering in fear, she reaffirmed her promise to avoid those memories until she could speak with Gabriel.
Following Edward into that treatment room may have been the worst experience in her life. She could never forget the sight of her sister lying in a heap in the floor, with so many apparent broken bones and open wounds. Alena was feeling faint from the smell and sight of blood and then she had heard the girl's response to Gabriel's questions. To hear the pitiful woman claim to be Lia was just another log on this emotional fire that had been burning through Alena for too many years.
Yes, the girl favored Lia, more so now, even with the injuries, than she had as Edward's mate. Her eyes were normal or, more accurately, human. Succumbing to the memories of her sister, Alena focused on Lia's human life. In the past, both women had suffered the same losses, but Lia had continuously rebelled against her sister's attempt to provide a decent life for their family.
Alena had always admitted that she had not handled the stress of raising younger siblings very well but she had given everything that she had to their family. At a time when she was preparing for college, she had to rapidly change her plans and stay home attending the less expensive, local community college. Distant relatives and family friends had commended her decision to keep the family together and all had promised to assist, but no one was available when Tony's health declined or Lia's rebellion escalated.
After seven years of struggling financially and emotionally, Alena thought that she had survived the trial when she was offered the position as the Director of Finance at the Children's Hospital. Within weeks, she realized that the financial reports were just a façade hiding misappropriation of funding resulting in the investigations.
The hospital had then been sold and news of a strict CEO brought fear to the remaining employees. When Alena was called in to review the financial statements, the moment of stress became the turning point in her life. Never confident in her looks, she had always been proud of her work to the point of being arrogant. This trait, admired and reciprocated by Gabriel, started their relationship on solid footing.
Just when she had a chance to enjoy this new love, Alena was forced to refuse Gabriel's proposal and focus on her family. Finding another school for Lia had been a nearly impossible challenge because the girl had been expelled three times in last two years. While Lia never seem to mind, Alena refused to let the state foster care system take Lia into custody and place her in some abusive, temporary housing. Fighting for her family and forfeiting her chance for happiness, Alena had continued her path in life but eventually lost everyone.
Alena remembered the night she had come home after her last meeting with Gabriel. When she entered the house, her face was streaked with her tears and if she had ever needed a friend, it was that night. Her sister had been anything but sympathetic.
"Are you telling me that your knight in shining armor shows up and you tell him to take a hike so you can stay here?" Lia threw at her. "Jesus, what's your problem? Are you so afraid that he won't let you control his life that you refuse to give up controlling ours?"
"Controlling?" Alena had screamed back. "If I controlled you then you would still be enrolled at St. James Academy with passing grades and no juvenile delinquency record."
"Yeah well," Lia had retorted, "Forgive me if I enjoy life. Even with my mistakes, I will never look back and regret missing out on some fun. You'll never see me crying over the one that got away."
Before Alena could reply, they had heard a crash in another part of the house. Both women ran down the hall to Tony's room, to find him lying in the floor having a seizure. The next few minutes melted into days as they contacted EMS, sped to the hospital, spent the next several hours at their brother's side and then wept in each other's arms when his life support was disconnected.
Dropping her head onto Gabriel's table, Alena lost her fight in hating her sister. Tony's illness had absorbed so much of their lives that Alena had forgotten how much of a void they had felt when he was gone. Between losing Gabriel and the death of Tony, she had then become bitter and even more critical of Lia.
Then one day, Lia had attempted to cook dinner. When Alena walked in the house, she was greeted by the unmistakable smell of burnt food and the site of Lia beating the smoke detector with a broom. The combination drove her senses into a small hysteria that began with a smile and no matter how hard she tried, Alena could not prevent the uncontrollable laughter that shook her body and forced tears from her eyes.
Relieved at her sister's reaction, Lia joined in the laughter and added a few details about what not to do during a grease fire and why windows should not be painted shut. As the evening progressed, the girls talked, apologized and forgave each other while sharing a pepperoni pizza. At the end of the evening, they had vowed to be more considerate of each other.
Their truce redefined their relationship. Unfortunately, their differences continued to plague them until Lia finally graduated from high school and agreed to attend college as long as she could move out. The separation had been both difficult and necessary for the women. Alena learned to appreciate the small amount of time she could visit with her sister and Iona grew to respect the amount of responsibility her sister had managed so well. Yes, they were different, which created their need for personal space. Their separation increased their appreciation for each other and their new bond emerged.
Furthermore, Lia now had Edward who could devote his life to saving the girl from herself. Being a man, he could probably deal with her chaos in a logical way without Alena's emotional outbursts. Being a king, he would be able to afford Lia's desires. Being a vampire, he had eternity to learn how to deal with the girl.
Of course, Gabriel was also facing the same challenges.
Smiling at the comparison, Alena raised her head to see Gabriel standing at the kitchen entrance watching her. His expression was unreadable but the shadows under his eyes revealed his exhaustion.
"How is she?" Alena asked.
"Beginning to heal," he simply answered and started to turn away. Before walking out of her sight, he added, "Alena, tonight, I will still ask for the Council's permission to change you."
Knowing that he had more to say, Alena sat patiently waiting for him to continue.
"I had planned for the two of us to leave town tonight, just for a few days, but I understand if you need to be with your sister. I will wait." he added with dejection in his eyes.
As he walked away, Alena felt the impact of his words. Based on their past, he must have viewed Alena's silence as new rejection of him. And yet, he had offered to wait. Finding the strength to rise from her seat, she followed Gabriel's path through the apartment and to his bedroom.
Alena stood at the door of the master bath where she could hear the sound of the shower. Taking a deep breath, she stepped through the door and stopped at the sight that greeted her. At once she felt as though she were seeing him for the first time while yet knowing him all of her life.
Through the glass of the shower doors, she could see Gabriel standing under the rain head of the shower with his hands pressed against the wall, letting the water beat down on his strong neck and back. Slowly approaching the door, Alena let her eyes roam down the magnificent body of the man that had promised to wait for her. How he could be the least bit attracted to her was beyond her understanding. She may not be grotesquely disfigured but he was absolute perfection.
Muscles rippled from his arms as he leaned closer to the wall allowing the water to pound on his lower back. Then pushing himself upright, his shoulders flexed as the water was angled at his face and chest. The strength of his body was defined through the years of training that had sculpted his massive chest. The same chest that had led the armies of his people had cuddled her in her sleep and encased the heart that had vowed to love her for eternity.
How could he ever think that she would ask him to wait?
Suddenly, Gabriel turned to stare at her through the glass. His black eyes held hers as they revealed so much to each other without sharing words. Then, he shut off the water, wrapped a towel around his waist and stepped from the shower. Alena squealed with delight when he lifted her by the waist and sat her on the cool, black granite counter.