Shades Of Gray Chapter Thirty Four
She paused outside their bedroom, her hand on the latch. She knew, knew, something was wrong.
Taking a deep breath, she opened the door and stepped inside.
The heavy drapes at the window shut out the light, so that the room was nearly dark. As soon as she stepped inside the doorway, the overhead light went on.
Tension went out of her in a whoosh as Edward stepped in front of her.
’’Edward! You scared me out of a year's growth. What are you doing here? Edward?’’
The relief she had first felt at seeing him quickly turned to alarm as he stepped behind her and closed the door. ’’Edward?’’
’’Go sit down, Marisa.’’
’’Nothing, and everything.’’
’’You're not making sense.’’
’’You'll understand soon enough.’’ He gave her a little push and she stumbled forward.
It was then that she saw Grigori. He lay still as death on the bed, bound by a heavy silver chain ... a chain that looked very much like the one that had once bound Alexi.
’’What have you done to him?’’
Edward pulled a syringe out of his coat pocket. ’’I put him to sleep, and then I bled him.’’ He nodded at the basin on the table beside her chair. It was a large bowl, and it was filled with blood. Grigori's blood. Enough to weaken him. Enough to...
’’He's not... not dead?’’
’’Edward, please - ’’
He pushed her toward the chair in the corner. ’’Sit down, Marisa. Alexi will be here soon.’’
’’Alexi! He's coming here?’’
Edward nodded, his expression unutterably sad. ’’I'm sorry, Marisa.’’
She sat down heavily. ’’Why are you doing this?’’
’’I have no choice.’’
’’What do you mean? Of course you do....’’ The words died in her throat. ’’He's done something to you, hasn't he? Oh, Lord, you're like Antoinette.’’
’’No. She had no mind of her own. Alexi has left me my mind, Marisa, but he has robbed me of my will.’’ His voice was raw with torment. ’’This is worse. I know what I'm doing, and even though I don't want to, I can't refuse.’’
’’Fight him, Edward! You've got to fight him.’’
’’I can't.’’ He began to pace the floor. ’’He's too strong.’’ He stopped in front of her, his eyes wild, his hands clenching and unclenching. ’’He took my blood, made me take his. I can hear his thoughts in my mind. I can't shut them out!’’ He placed his hands over his ears and shook his head. ’’I can't shut him out!’’
’’He's going to kill us, isn't he?’’
’’He's going to kill Grigori. I'm afraid he has worse things in mind for you.’’ Edward dropped to his knees in front of Marisa. ’’I'm sorry.’’ He pulled a short piece of rope out of his coat pocket. ’’So sorry.’’
Instinct overcame fear. With a cry, she jerked her knee up. It caught him under the jaw. His head snapped backward and she kicked him in the chest with all her might. The air whooshed out of his lungs as he fell to the floor.
Jumping to her feet, she ran for the door. She screamed as she felt his hand close over her arm.
’’Let me go!’’ she shrieked. ’’Let me go!’’
She struggled against him, but he was too strong for her. Twisting her arm behind her back, he quickly tied her wrists together, then guided her back to the chair and pushed her into it.
’’Marisa, I'm sorry.’’
She was shaking now, frightened beyond words. Alexi was coming. She felt a ripple in the air, a stirring against her skin, and knew that Grigori was emerging from the dark sleep.
Edward felt it, too. Reaching under his coat, he withdrew a sharpened stake.
’’I won't. Not unless I have to.’’ He glanced at her over his shoulder. ’’Alexi wants that pleasure for himself.’’
’’Edward, please, please don't do this. Please. I'd rather be dead than become his creature.’’
’’Marisa.’’ A groan rose in Edward's throat. She saw him struggle against Alexi's hold on his mind, saw the torment in his eyes.
’’Please, Edward. He'll make me like Antoinette.’’
He looked up at her, helpless, every muscle in his body taut. Pain flickered in his eyes, and she knew that Alexi was reading Edward's mind, knew the vampire was exerting his influence.
’’I... I can't fight him,’’ he said, panting heavily. ’’He's too strong.’’
Moving stiffly, he stood up and backed away from her. ’’I can't help you.’’ Pain twisted his features and he bent at the waist, clutching his stomach. ’’Stop,’’ he begged. ’’Please stop.’’
She watched him writhe in agony. What was Alexi doing to him? Fighting the urge to scream, to give in to the panic surging through her, she began to work her hands back and forth in an effort to loosen the rope.
Her head jerked up at the sound of Grigori's voice. She glanced at the bed. His eyes were closed. As far as she could tell, he hadn't moved.
Are you hurt?
No. Are you all right?
Weak... Alexi is coming... You must be strong.
Are you in pain?
The silver... it burns... makes me weak...
What can I do?
Don't fight Alexi.
Are you crazy?
You are the one who is crazy, if you think you can defeat him. You are only a mortal, and a woman, at that. If you fight him, it will only be so much the worse for you.
So you fust want me to submit? To let him kill you and then turn me into some kind of zombie? I don't think so!
The very idea made her mad enough to spit. She was outraged that Grigori would even suggest they just give up without a fight. Adrenaline flowed through her as she tugged against the rope, and then, to her surprise, she felt the knots give, felt the rope loosen, just a little. The next thing she knew, one hand slipped free.
She glanced at Grigori again. He still hadn't moved, but she could feel him smiling in her mind.
Think you're pretty smart, don't you, she thought, getting me all riled up like that?
Your hands are free, aren't they?
Marisa swallowed a grin. He knew her much too well.
A sudden heaviness seemed to pulse through the air and she knew, with a sinking feeling of dread, that Alexi had arrived. The thought no sooner crossed her mind than he was there, in the room. Darkness seemed to trail in his wake, like a miasma of evil.
’’So,’’ Alexi said. ’’We are all together at last.’’
Marisa fought the urge to cringe in her chair. Clenching her fists, she stared at him, willing herself to be strong. Grigori's life depended on her now. Edward would be no help. Even now, he was kneeling in front of Alexi, accepting his master's terse words of praise for a job well done.
’’Edward, it is time I made the woman mine. You will leave the room. Wait for me in the hallway.’’ Alexi sniffed the air, his nose wrinkling as the smell of cold blood reached his nostrils. He jerked his chin toward the bowl. ’’Get rid of that.’’
Slowly, Edward rose to his feet. Moving like a robot, he picked up the bowl and started toward the door.
’’Edward,’’ Marisa cried, ’’don't leave me! Please, help me!’’
’’I can't.’’ He tried to turn to face her, his whole being longing to help her, to strike Alexi down, but the vampire's power was too strong to resist. He told himself to stop, to turn, but his body refused to obey. One step after another, he moved toward the door.
’’Edward!’’ The fear and anguish in her voice stabbed him to the heart. But there was nothing he could do. Nothing...
Ramsey! I've taken your blood, made you a part of me. Listen to my voice. Draw on my strength. You can fight him. Think! Combine your will with mine. Together we can defeat him.
I can't. Edward stared into the bowl, at the blood that was so dark it was almost black.
You can! Marisa needs help, help I can't give her. Damn you! Fight!
Cradling the bowl in one arm, Edward opened the door and stepped into the hallway. He heard Marisa's shriek of terror as he closed the door behind him.
Alexi leered at Marisa as he jerked her to her feet. Locking one arm around her waist, he caught her chin in his hand and kissed her, his tongue plunging into her mouth, choking her.
She struggled against him, the taste of him making her gag. There was a darkness in his kiss that seemed to smother all the light in her soul. She kicked him, but he only laughed. Shaking the rope from her wrists, she scratched his face, clawed at his eyes, but he only laughed harder.
’’Fight me all you wish, woman;you cannot escape me. I will take you here, now, and there is nothing you can do about it. Nothing Chiavari can do to save you.’’ Wicked laughter bubbled up from his throat. ’’I know the power of those chains. He does not have the strength to remove them. Even now, the silver burns his flesh and weakens his powers. Only a vampyre who has lived as long as I could withstand them. And he is but a babe compared to me.’’
He gazed down at her, his eyes glowing with hatred. ’’He took Antoinette from me, and now I shall take you from him. I will defile you, here, in his presence, and then I shall destroy him. And when that is done, you will be mine for a hundred years. And he will know it. In whatever hell he finds himself, he will know it.’’
He bent her back over his arm and licked her face, laughing when she shuddered with revulsion.
’’It is time to end the game.’’
Grabbing her by the hair, he forced her to her knees. ’’Disrobe.’’
Marisa shook her head. She slid a glance at Grigori. His eyes were dark with hatred. She could see him trying to summon his power, knew he was trying to get past the pain, the loss of blood, trying to find the strength to free himself of the heavy silver that weighed him down.
You can do it! I know you can. She tried to will him her strength, rocked back on her heels as Alexi slapped her across the face.
She was reaching for the zipper when the bedroom door slammed open and Edward burst into the room. Mouth stained with blood, eyes wild, he hurled himself at Alexi, the stake in his hand aimed for the vampire's heart.
With a cry, Marisa jumped to her feet. Hurrying to the bed, she lifted the heavy chain from Grigori's chest, and thrust her arm in his face. ’’Hurry!’’
He didn't argue. She felt the prick of his fangs, the oddly sensual flow of blood from her veins. He seemed to drink forever, yet it was only a handful of seconds, and then he put her from him and rose to his feet.
He was wholly vampire now. His eyes blazed with a pure red flame.
Marisa watched it all, too terrified to move.
Edward and Alexi were locked in a fierce embrace. The stake had missed Alexi's heart. He pulled it from his body with a savage cry and tossed it aside. Unmindful of the blood that spurted from his chest in a dark torrent, he flung Edward against the wall, held him there with one arm while he jerked Edward's head to the side and buried his fangs in his throat.
A strangled cry rose from Edward's lips as the vampire began to drink.
And then Grigori was there. Like an avenging angel, he pulled Alexi away from Edward. With a triumphant cry, Grigori snatched up the stake and drove it through Alexi's heart.
A horrible cry of anguish and rage rose in the vampire's throat. With a look of satisfaction, Grigori twisted the stake, driving it deeper, deeper. Alexi sank to his knees, his eyes growing dull. He tried to dislodge the stake, but he lacked the strength. A horrible hissing sound issued from his lips as he sank to the floor. His face turned a hideous shade of gray.
’’Marisa, bring me the chain.’’
She stared at Grigori, one hand pressed to her mouth.
Unable to take her eyes from the horror before her, she picked up the chain.
’’Drop it over him.’’
She did as she was told, though it seemed unnecessary. Alexi Kristov was truly dead this time.
She blinked up at him, and then fell into his arms, sobbing. ’’Edward... what about Edward?’’ She looked over her shoulder at Edward, who lay sprawled on the floor, a gaping hole in his throat. ’’Is he...?’’
’’Not yet, but soon.’’
’’We can't let him die. Please, Grigori, you've got to do something.’’
’’He won't like it.’’
’’Please! He saved our lives.’’
’’Very well. But you will have to take the blame.’’
’’I will. Please, hurry.’’
’’As you wish, cara.’’
He let her go, and then put a hand on her shoulder. ’’Are you all right?’’
’’Fine. I'll be fine.’’
Sweeping her into his arms, he carried her across the floor and placed her in the chair. Yanking the bedspread from the bed, he covered her with it. ’’Rest.’’ He brushed a wisp of hair from her cheek. ’’You might want to close your eyes.’’
She nodded, but she didn't. Hands clutching the bedspread, she watched as Grigori knelt on the floor and drew Edward into his lap. With surprising gentleness, he turned Edward's head to the side. She saw Grigori take a deep breath, and then he bent down, his long black hair falling over Edward's face, blocking her view. Several long minutes passed. The ticking of the bedside clock seemed very loud in the stillness.
Once, she glanced at Alexi's body, half expecting it to vanish into thin air. She wished Grigori had thought to cover it.
A movement drew her eye back to Grigori. She pressed her knuckles to her mouth as Grigori bit his own wrist, and then placed the bleeding wound to Edward's lips.
’’Drink, Ramsey.’’ His voice was soft yet compelling, as soothing as a mother's lullaby. ’’That's right, drink your fill.’’
And Edward was drinking, his mouth fastened to Grigori's wrist, his hands clutching Grigori's arm as if he feared it would be suddenly snatched away. His eyes were open, his expression one of near-rapture.
Grigori turned his head, his gaze meeting Marisa's.
This is what I am, what I have always been.
And Marisa met his gaze, unflinching, accepting him, loving him, for who and what he was.
’’Enough.’’ Grigori jerked his arm from Edward's grasp, ran his tongue over the wound in his wrist.
Edward sat back, looking confused. ’’What happened?’’
Marisa leaned forward in the chair. Color suffused Edward's cheeks;the horrible wound in his throat closed, healed, in a matter of minutes.
Edward glanced from Chiavari to Marisa. ’’What the hell happened?’’
’’How do you feel, Edward?’’ Marisa asked.
’’I feel fine,’’ he retorted. ’’I want to know what the...’’ His words trailed off when he caught sight of Alexi's body. ’’Is he dead?’’
Marisa shrugged. ’’I hope so.’’
’’He's dead,’’ Grigori remarked. He regarded Ramsey through narrowed eyes. ’’How do you feel?’’
’’Why do you two keep asking me that? I feel’’ - he frowned - ’’I feel funny.’’ He looked at Alexi again. ’’I stabbed him, and then he - ’’
Edward lifted one hand to his throat. ’’He bit me. Ripped my jugular. I remember... what happened?’’
’’You were dying,’’ Marisa said.
Ramsey stared at Grigori, a look of horror spreading over his face. ’’You didn't? For the love of all that's holy, tell me you didn't!’’
’’It was my idea,’’ Marisa said. ’’He didn't want to.’’
’’You told him to turn me into one of them? How could you?’’
Marisa stood up, clutching the bedspread to her chest. ’’Would you rather be dead, Edward?’’
He scrambled to his feet and backed away from them both. ’’Of course I would,’’ he began, and then, shoulders slumping, he buried his face in his hands.
’’Edward, I'm sorry.’’
Rising to his feet, Grigori went to stand beside Marisa. ’’Don't be sorry, cara. If he'd rather be dead, I'll be only too happy to accommodate him.’’
Edward's head snapped up. ’’Yeah, I'll just bet you would.’’
’’It's your choice, vampyre hunter.’’
Edward snorted. ’’Not anymore. I guess you just put me out of business.’’
’’Yes, I guess I did.’’
Edward lifted his hands, turned them this way and that. Crossing the floor, he stared into the mirror above the dresser. ’’I look the same,’’ he murmured. ’’How can I look the same and feel so different?’’
’’You'll get used to it.’’
’’I don't know what to say.’’
’’You might thank Grigori,’’ Marisa suggested, ’’for saving your life.’’
Edward turned around. ’’I was going to kill you, you know.’’
Grigori nodded. ’’I know you were going to try.’’
Edward gestured at Alexi's body. ’’What are we going to do with him?’’
’’I'll drag his body out onto the balcony. The sun will take care of the rest.’’
Edward shuddered, and then squared his shoulders. ’’Well, I guess I'll be going.’’ He took a step toward Marisa, but then stopped, as if uncertain how she would receive him now.
Marisa held out a hand and smiled. ’’Keep in touch, Edward.’’
He took her hand in both of his and squeezed it. ’’I will. Good night, Marisa.’’
’’Good night, Edward.’’
’’Be careful, Ramsey.’’
Edward met Grigori's eyes, surprised by the genuine concern in the other man's voice. ’’You too. And... thanks.’’
’’Will he be okay?’’ Marisa asked when they were alone.
’’That's up to him.’’ He gave her shoulders a squeeze;then he dragged Kristov's body out onto the balcony, careful not to touch the chain coiled on his chest.
Marisa was sitting on the bed when he returned.
Grigori smiled at her. ’’Some honeymoon.’’
’’Well, you can't say it hasn't been exciting.’’
’’And are you still happy being Mrs. Chiavari?’’
’’I'd be happier if you were holding me.’’ She slid off the bed and wrapped her arms around him. ’’Can we sleep in another room?’’
With a nod, he pulled the blankets off the bed, swung her into his arms, and carried her down the hall into one of the other bedrooms.
Dumping the blankets on the bed, he sat down and cradled her in his arms.
’’You are a most remarkable woman,’’ he said.
’’And you, husband, are a most remarkable man.’’
’’I'm glad you still think so.’’
’’I love you.’’ She caressed his cheek. ’’Nothing will change that.’’
’’Do you think Edward will be happy being a vampire?’’
’’That's up to him. Life is what you make it, cara, whether you're a man or a vampyre.’’
’’Are you happy?’’
He nodded. Before Marisa, he had merely been content. He had accepted what he was, learned to live with it. He had made the most of the good things, and wasted little energy worrying over the drawbacks.
She cocked her head to one side, her eyes shining with love. ’’So, do you think I'd be happy as a vampire?’’
He stared at her, hardly daring to believe his ears. ’’You're not serious?’’
She nodded. Until this moment, she hadn't realized how seriously she had been considering it, how desperately she wanted to share his life, all of it, how desperately she wanted him to share hers. There was only one way that could ever be possible. ’’Would you change me if I asked you to?’’
’’Only if you were certain it was what you wanted.’’ He looked deep into her eyes. How many times had he dreamed of bestowing the Dark Gift on her? A hundred? A thousand? Yet he had never suggested it, certain she would refuse. ’’Is it what you want?’’
’’Yes, but not right away. I'd like to spend Easter with my family up at the cabin one more time, maybe go on vacation with Mom and Dad next summer, and spend one more Christmas with Mike and Barbara and the kids.’’
Grigori nodded. ’’There's no hurry, cara. We have all the time in the world.’’
’’All the time in the world,’’ she repeated softly. ’’I like the sound of that.’’
’’Ah, Marisa, you'll never know how much you mean to me. I wish I had words enough to tell you.’’
She gazed up at him, her lips parting in a sensual smile as she slid her arms around his neck. ’’You could show me.’’
And it was his pleasure to do so, not only that night, but every night for centuries to come.