Authors: Mia James
‘I— I’ll try.’
‘That’s not good enough. You
fight and you
win, otherwise all this has been for nothing.’ Her face softened. ‘I’m sorry to be so hard on you and I know it’s not what you want to hear right now. I probably look ancient to you, but I can still remember what it feels like to be your age – or at least some of it – and I know you can’t want to be involved. But you are, April. You can’t wish it away. And you’re special, my dear, very special.’
‘I don’t feel it.’
‘I know, but you will. It will come. You may not want your abilities – God knows, I wouldn’t either – but you’re stuck with them and you have to rise to the challenge.’
‘I want to, but on days like today, it all feels a bit overwhelming.’
Elizabeth Holden smiled ruefully. ‘Yes, I can see that. But look –’ she reached into her bag and pulled out a card. ‘I’ve written my number and address on there. If you ever want to talk about it, or just want to get something off your chest, give me a call, okay? I can’t promise I’ll have any answers, but at least I’ll have a fair idea of what’s going on. I imagine that must be the worst thing – having to deal with everything on your own. I know that’s how Annabel felt.’
‘But she had the Guardians, didn’t she?’
Elizabeth Holden’s face darkened. April wanted to look away, but didn’t think she could. ‘Remember one thing, April. Do not trust anyone. Question your friends, your family. And above all, question us.’
‘Us?’ frowned April. ‘Of course, you’re a Guardian too?’
‘Past tense. Oh, I swore their oaths and swallowed their rhetoric. I was young, newly-wed, in love with my husband and everything he said seemed wonderful. But ... there is a darkness there, April. The Guardians hold secrets, and with secrets come both power and deception, two very dangerous elements. They are not everything they seem.’
April didn’t know what to make of this woman, but she did know she couldn’t fight the vampires alone. ‘I need help,’ she said simply.
The old lady nodded. ‘Then choose your friends carefully, April. Very carefully.’
April walked back towards the station, feeling even worse than she had earlier. Why did everything have to be so complicated? Why didn’t somebody just walk up and say, ‘Listen April, forget all about this Fury nonsense; I’ll sort it out for you. You just go home and watch the soaps, have some chocolate.’ Instead, it seemed that everybody wanted something from her, everyone had their own agenda. She sighed. At least with the vampires you knew where you stood. They wanted to recruit you for whatever weird schemes they were cooking up at Ravenwood, or they wanted to drink your blood. Not pleasant, admittedly. But straightforward. She turned a corner and suddenly was aware of a figure standing in the shelter of a tree.
‘Gabriel!’ she cried, running up and throwing her arms around him. He smelled good; he
‘Hey, beautiful,’ he grinned, kissing her forehead.
‘What are you doing here?’
‘Thought you might want an escort.’
‘You have no idea,’ said April. ‘You have
They sat on the train in silence, watching as the countryside whizzed past. William Dunne had always loved trains; April had teased her dad about it, saying he was train-spotter and ought to wear an anorak, but secretly she had loved those journeys. They would look into people’s back gardens and make up stories about who they were: wizards or giants or pop stars, then they would play complicated games of “I Spy” involving colours and words and sounds.
Daddy, why did you have to die?
April blinked back her tears and squeezed Gabriel’s hand a little tighter – she didn’t want to cry, not now. Not when she felt so safe and close, snuggled up against the man she loved. Maybe Miss Holden’s funeral had affected her more than she had thought.
She was certainly going to too many funerals. She thought of what Detective Chief Inspector Johnston had said to her: ‘People keep dying around you, April.’
Was it her? Did being a Fury mean that she was going to have to accept death as a close companion, shadowing her every move, picking off people she was close to? She looked up at Gabriel – people like him, perhaps. Another of the little movies that played in her head late at night was of Gabe slumped in that burning house, half-dead, his clothes soaked in petrol, begging her to leave him behind. What if she hadn’t pulled him onto the roof? It just didn’t bear thinking about.
‘Gabriel,’ she said. ‘Can I ask you something?’
‘What were you doing at Sheldon’s house that night?’
He looked surprised. ‘The night of the fire, you mean?’
‘Of course,’ she said, more sharply than she had intended. ‘I mean, why did you go to see the Vampire Regent all on your own? Why didn’t you tell me you were going?’
He gave a small smile. ‘Because you would have told me not to.’
‘I wouldn’t ...’
‘You would. You would have said “Gabriel. It’s too dangerous!” or more likely, “Gabriel, you have to take me with you.” and I couldn’t do that, not without putting you in danger. Besides, I wasn’t planning on getting grabbed and tied to a chair – I thought I was going there to meet the Regent, do some sort of deal. But it turned out he knew who I was all along.’
April nodded thoughtfully. ‘But what happened when you got there? I mean, how did you end up tied to that chair?’
It was something that had been bothering April for a while. Yes, Benjamin had lured him there, but how had they overpowered a fully-fledged Sucker so easily? Especially one who was so massively ticked off.
Gabriel frowned, as if he were trying to remember. ‘I ... I’m not sure,’ he said. ‘I suppose I must have knocked my head coming off the roof. It’s all a bit of a blur.’ He turned to her and held both her hands. His eyes were dark, intense. ‘Look, April, I’m sorry to be so vague and I know I’ve been unreliable over the last few months, but as of now I’m all yours – one hundred percent. When the Regent dragged you away in that burning house, I thought I had lost you. I couldn’t stand feeling that again. I never want to be away from you. Okay?’
April felt lightheaded, her heart doing back flips. ‘That’s fine by me,’ she grinned.
He kissed her, on her face, on her neck. April hated the fact that he couldn’t kiss her properly – on the lips – but if he did the Fury virus would consume him slowly from within.
I’ll just have to make do with this instead,
she thought as Gabriel slipped his hands around her. God knew she could do with Gabriel’s protection – she wasn’t exactly doing a great job looking after herself. Either way, whenever she was with him, April felt that everything was right. Well, not
, obviously – the world was full of monsters who wanted to burn her alive – but that small detail aside, when April felt his hand in hers, she wouldn’t change anything.
‘So, where are we going?’ asked Gabriel. ‘Shall I escort you back to Covent Garden?’
‘No, I want to go to Highgate, the cemetery. I haven’t seen dad in a week.’
‘Of course, I should have thought,’ he said, opening the carriage door and then leading her down towards the tube. Despite the creepiness of Highgate Cemetery, April still loved going to see her dad. Sometimes it felt as if he was the only one who really understood what was going on. Crazy, of course. William Dunne was dead – no one knew that better than her – but April still liked going to sit by his graveside, chatting to him, telling him her news, imagining what he would say, what advice he would give. Today he would probably tell her not to worry so much about Gabriel – and certainly not to worry about going back to school tomorrow. In life, William Dunne had always given her great advice. Was there any reason he should stop now?
At Archway, they cut through the housing estate below the hospital, skirting around the bottom of the cemetery. Seeing all those headstones through the black iron bars still made April feel uncomfortable, even after all this time. It wasn’t so much that her father was buried in the cemetery, it was more the reminder of that night when Gabriel had pulled her out, the night Isabelle had been murdered.
‘Gabriel, you remember that night? The first night we met?’
‘In the Square?’
She looked at him sharply. ‘That was you? I was never sure.’
Gabriel smiled, his eyes twinkling. ‘It was the first time I ever saw you,’ he said, touching her face, stroking her hair back. ‘I didn’t think I’d ever seen anyone so beautiful.’
April felt butterflies within her take flight. She wanted to kiss him so badly.
‘So why did you suddenly disappear?’
He laughed. ‘Your mother turned up remember? I had a hunch she wouldn’t approve of some strange boy lurking around in the shadows outside her house. Turned out I was right.’
‘Oh, I think she’s warmed to you now. All those times you’ve saved my life probably helped.’
Sadly April’s relationship with her mother was rather less warm these days. Since Silvia’s confession of an affair with Robert Sheldon, April had scarcely been able to be in the same room as her mother and had moved out to live with her grandfather in Covent Garden. It wasn’t exactly ideal, but then what was in her life right now?
‘Anyway, I wasn’t talking about then – I meant that night you pulled me out of the cemetery, the night Isabelle died,’ said April as they turned up Swain’s Lane. ‘What happened? You never really told me.’
His expression darkened. ‘I don’t know.’
April knew she should probably drop it, but there was something about that night which had never quite felt right – and it didn’t help that Gabriel seemed reluctant to talk about it. ‘It’s just that when were at Sheldon’s house, Benjamin seemed to be saying that you were involved in Isabelle’s death.’
‘I tried to
her, April,’ said Gabriel, a note of exasperation in his voice. ‘But there was something horrible in that cemetery, something evil. I tried to drag her away like I did with you. But there was a darkness there, something bad, black at its heart. I’ve never felt anything like that before.’
‘But what about what Sheldon was saying ...’
‘This darkness...’ said Gabriel quietly, almost as if he was talking to himself. ‘It was like a blanket, a fog. I couldn’t get through, and it was pressing down on me. I felt almost powerless. If I hadn’t got you out of there, I don’t know what would have happened. And even now, it feels as if ...’
April held up a finger to silence him. ‘Sorry, Gabe! Look!’
Up the road near the cemetery, there was a large white police van parked half on the pavement, with a police car right next to it, their lights still flashing.
‘What are they doing there?’ she said, starting to run. ‘Come on!’
At the gates, April could see a uniformed police officer standing in the doorway to the miniature Gothic chapel that served as a cemetery office. He was talking to Miss Leicester, the sour-faced old woman in charge. Miss Leicester always had a frown on her face, but today she actually looked angry.
‘Excuse me,’ said April, ‘What’s going on? Has something happened here?’
‘Nothing to see here, darling,’ said the officer walking towards her. ‘The cemetery is closed. Keep moving along, please.’
‘Miss Leicester?’ called April over his shoulder. ‘What’s happened?’
The old woman whispered in the policeman’s ear and they exchanged a look.
‘I’d better call the boss,’ said the officer, stepping to one side and clicking on his radio.
Miss Leicester stepped forward, a look of sympathy on her face. Now April was really worried; Miss Leicester was not the kind of woman who gave the impression of caring that much for other people. She only seemed concerned with the well-being of her beloved graveyard. Sympathy from her was bad. Very bad.
‘There’s been an incident,’ said Miss Leicester, her mouth pinched. The way she said the word “incident”, it was clear she actually meant “another one of those incidents that keep happening around you, April Dunne”. April couldn’t really blame her for that.
‘What is it? What’s happened?’ asked Gabriel.
‘There’s been some vandalism in the cemetery. All rather unpleasant.’
April looked at her, her eyes wide. ‘Is it something to do with my dad? It is, isn’t it?’
Miss Leicester looked over at the policeman. ‘I think you’d probably better wait until the officer ...’
But April wasn’t listening. She pushed past the woman and into the courtyard beyond. Already running, she took the stairs three at a time, ignoring the calls to come back.
What had happened?
she thought as she ran up the path towards the tomb high on the hill. What sort of vandalism? Had someone defaced her dad’s grave? As she turned the corner towards the Vladescu family vault, April almost ran headlong into a man wearing a raincoat.
‘Mr Reece!’ panted April. ‘What are you doing here? What’s happened? Miss Leicester said there had been some vandalism. Is it something to do with ...’
‘All right, all right, calm down,’ said the detective inspector soothingly. ‘Catch your breath and let’s try to be as steady as we can, okay?’