The Gates - By Rachael Wade

PROLOGUE

THE UPRISING

1890, Amaranth

Arianna

“My pure, sweet girl, Arianna. What has he done to you?” Samira, my mother, asked this in a strained voice as she floated down the throne steps toward me; her eyes filled with grief at the sight of my glowing skin. I worked hard to keep my gaze low and my fangs out of sight. Resentment flooded my chest, the anger simmering, and I was furious at her unconcern for my heartbreak, instead concerned with her own agenda to keep me human.

“My sweet girl. Please, look at me, my child.”

Determined, I kept my stare lowered to the castle’s cold stone floor, rolled my eyes from left to right, thankful for the lack of servants and the absence of Dali and Akim, her pet wolves, both as evil as she. At least my mother had enough respect to clear the room and keep our matters private.

I lifted my chin and my gaze locked with hers, meeting her arctic blue eyes with vengeance. “Samira,” my voice fell flat, hoping my address stung her maternal pride, “Joel will come. Now let Marie escort me to the gates for the change. I will wait for him there, and you will do him no harm when he visits.”

Anguish washed her face.

“Mother.” I glared at her. “He will come. And you will do him no harm.”

“Please, Arianna.” She reached out to touch me but I flinched, stepped backward. “Please my child, tell me why. He pressured you to change, did he not?”

“Joel did no such thing. Why is it so difficult for you to accept that I chose this on my own? I asked him to change me, Mother.” My resentment surfaced, bubbling as it gave way to exasperation. “Don’t waste your breath on false sympathy. I’m not a fool. You are thrilled I’ve returned to live in exile. Thrilled that Joel and I didn’t last. You want me locked away, miserable, because you’re miserable without my father. You’ve been betrayed, and you want to hurt someone like the cold, heartless monster you are—”

Her red nails swiped my face as she smacked me; her fist tightened as she used her magic to blow me across the room. I pulled myself up to stand and ran a finger across my cheek where blood now oozed, dark and cold, toward my chin. “Now that’s the Samira we all know and love.”

Her face flushed with shame, her breathing quickened while she gripped her chest with one hand. Reaching out, she twisted her fist in front of her again, her magic holding me in place so she could approach me and take my chin in her hands, gentle this time with her blood-red nails.

“Contrary to what you believe, I’d never harm the one you love.” A single raspy breath escaped her lips. “Though I shall never trust him in your presence again.” She pulled her head back slightly to assess my eyes, searching, desperate for something. “Your father knows not what he has done. You are a miracle. An angel. You’ve been swayed by his magic. And he was a fool to ever take you from me.” Angry tears welled in her eyes, momentarily softening her rigid exterior. I almost felt sorry for her, until I remembered the innocent lives she casually took, the rage she housed for my father and her own kind, her need to control and to take out her bitterness on the Amaranthians.

My empathy dissolved.

“This has nothing to do with Father,” I said. “I was eighteen when he took me from Amaranth, Samira. I was of age and of sound mind, free to make my own choices. I’ve seen what it means to live as both human and a frozen soul. And I made a choice to be with the one I love.”

I felt the ravenous power slowly weaken around my torso as her fist uncurled in front of me, and I was now able to relax my shoulders and move freely again. Warm thoughts of Gavin, my earthly brother, flitted across my mind. My father had sent me to live with him and his family, an adopted family per se. Living with them on earth, I’d been able to think freely, to decide whether I wanted to remain human. My relationship with Joel led me to my decision to be a vampire, much to my mother’s dismay.

She hung her head, turned to retreat to her Louis XV chair. “I will do Joel no harm, and will grant him regular visitation to the gates, as

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