Hannah stared at her cell phone for a long moment before looking to the others. They had stayed at nearby hotel downtown Cincinnati in order to be close Joe's office. They had spent late nights researching and reading Esther's journals. What Hannah had just heard from her friend blew her away.
"Well, that seemed like it went pleasantly", Isaac said going to his sister. Mark had to go the library that was a block away for Joe. Hannah was grateful he wasn't there to hear the conversation she had with Esther.
"She's going insane. I'm pretty sure she's falling in love with that psychopath Charles," she said with a shiver.
"Stockholm syndrome," Joe said coming into the office and they looked at him.
"You think that's what it is?" Isaac asked.
"Well, no but it would make sense. She's essentially being held under duress. Her emotions are high and she still has the plague in her system". Joe sat down the briefcase in his hand and sat down at his desk.
"She said that she was much better since being with Charles. Like a miracle," Hannah said and Joe looked up at her.
"That's an illusion. They must be doing some heavy supernatural stuff, because there's no way it's gone. Did she say when they would be back and what her plans were?"
"She's so blinded. I don't think she knows what to do, but her intentions seemed to stay with Charles and Malia".
"What do you mean stay with Charles and Malia?" Mark asked coming into the room holding books. Hannah sighed not wanting to have to tell him everything.
"Esther is experiencing Stockholm syndrome," Joe said and Mark dropped the books he held.
"You've got to be kidding me. Charles is a monster and she's willingly keeping my daughter with him," Mark said enraged and Hannah started picking up the books he dropped.
"In her defense, she feels like you betrayed her and she's only thinking about Malia. Charles is a master manipulator from what I gather," Hannah said trying to explain it to him.
"Plus, you killed the doctor. You're not exactly a boy scout," Isaac said and Mark looked like he would punch him.
"Look, we're not going to get her back by arguing about the details of the last few weeks," Joe said standing up looking at three people in front of him.
The group settled into a routine of researching and brain storming. They didn't have many options, but Joe did have a few friends who were the federal government. He was going to show them what they found within the next week. At the same time, they had to do this without the society getting wind of it. Then, they would kill both Esther and Malia.
Mark sat in silence as he thought back to the day when he and Esther left for college. He would have never gone to Harvard if could have seen the future.
"Are you sure?" Mark asked Esther the month before they were supposed to head off to college. They were literally going to separate sides of the United States. He had got accepted into Harvard and her into Stanford. It had been Mark's dream to go to Harvard and Esther wouldn't hear about him going with her. She was reluctant to let him go, but she told him she would manage. They had scheduled out times when they visit one another and promised to talk every day.
"I'm going to miss you," she said as the laid in a hammock outside looking up at the stars. They had fixed up the old cottage a long time ago as their hiding spot. This would be what Mark missed most about leaving her. He would miss the time they spent together sharing their hearts.
"Me you too," he said wrapping his arms tighter around her. Then he remembered the ring he had in his pocket. It was a little blue box from Tiffany's and he brought it and placed it in front of her.
"What is this?" she asked taking the box and opening it. It was a diamond ring with pink sapphires on the sides.
"I know it seems early to think about marriage, but I don't want to be with anyone else. You're everything to me. You're my past and my future. I love you Esther," Mark said as they sat there in the hammock under the stars. Esther's eyes filled with tears as she took the ring out of the box and handed it him.
"Yes, for forever and always". The ring was a perfect fit and she loved it. He was the only one for her and her for him. They spent their night under the stars as they had many times before, but this was different. That night Mark confirmed his love for her. A love Esther had never doubted. He was the constant in her life that never changed or yielded under pressure. Mark knew the darkest parts of her soul, but only saw the good in her.
I was wearing an elaborate dress with the most handsome man at my arm. It was an evening to remember. There was beautiful music and diplomats from all over the world. They were all there to see my engagement to Charles and meet my child. It was overwhelming and scary. My hands shook all night, but Charles was right there to comfort me. The four days I had spent with him in London opened my eyes to a man I hadn't seen before. I knew Hannah was right about everything, but I couldn't bring myself to dismiss Charles. I felt that he was falling in love with me and I with him.
It was close to midnight when Charles stood up for the last speech of the evening. The closing of the gala was important, but I thought it had been done earlier by the prime minister. As Charles stood he motioned me to stand with him and I did.
"Ladies and gentlemen, tonight I have shown you my finance and the most powerful woman in the world. You all have been so patient to wait for her to rise to the occasion and fulfill her destiny within Fallacia. Your prayers have not in vain and tonight I consummate this unity by blood," Charles said taking the knife on the table and cutting his wrist open. He put his blood into a chalice and took my wrist roughly doing the same. I shrieked back in horror, but he kept a tight grip on me. He took the chalice mixed with our blood and drank some of it. The blood stained his lips and he looked devilish. All the while he watched me with lust filled eyes and I knew I was getting more than I bargained for. He gave me the cup and I drank from it. It burned my throat going down and the metallic taste made my stomach churn. Cheers want up all around us and Charles eyes never left mine. My wrist was still bleeding and he brought it to his mouth and drank my blood. I gazed at him with fear and knew he couldn't be human. Afterwards, he did the same to me and I sucked the blood from his wound. I didn't look up at him as I moved away from him. My wrist had stopped bleeding and there was no mark from the knife. I looked up at Charles and he smiled at me through blood stained lips. Then he pulled me towards him and kissed me hard. I tried to move away from him, but thought better of it. I was in the midst of a hundred vultures that would gladly kill me.
Hannah was more than right about Charles and I couldn't believe that I was momentarily blinded. My nerves were on edge and my body felt intoxicated. The lights went out in the room and the people began to chant. Not again, I thought to myself and I had to sit down. Charles looked down at me with pity and shame. As they called upon the gods I wondered if Deror would show himself. It wasn't Deror who appeared before us that night. It was the prince of darkness himself and the one who controlled Charles. Diabolus came before the group and silence filled the room. I couldn't contain the tremors that went through my body. The demon in front of us was beautiful and grotesque. He showed himself as a beautiful human, but I could see glipses of his true nature.
"Charles my son you have fulfilled your task with greatness. I will reward you with my powers," the demon said to Charles who bowed his head to him.
"I represent my bride. The purest woman from the house Deror one of your own," Charles said taking my elbow and making me rise to my feet.
"She is a rose," Diabolus said with a laugh and Charles frowned. I'm not sure what it was, but this demon didn't like me.
"From the house Deror comes the most powerful and destructive mortal. Do you know what you possess?" The demon asked me and I couldn't say a word.
"Apparently, not. You possess the truest form of purity and love. If you have not realized it, but you are able to make the darkest soul love you. Charles is the symbol of pure evil and together you are stronger than all the forces of hell," he said to me and I looked up at Charles who was glowing with pride. I wanted to shrivel up and hide in the corner.
"You don't want this power? Deror hasn't done a good enough job convincing you. Let me show you what you will have," Diabolus said and began to display images of wealth and power.
"I don't want it," I said and he stopped cold. I could feel the disapproval radiating from the demon's body.
"You don't want it? You really are the chosen one. Charles you know your station and don't let her trick you," Diabolus said in anger and I felt Charles grip on me tighten.
"Yes father," Charles answered and Diabolus gave a sinister smile.
"Your child will be blessed," he said looking at my stomach and felt sick. My instincts wanted to know where Malia was, but Charles had a firm grip on me. Diabolus left and the room filled with a red glow. The people began to disburse like ants back to wherever they came from.
"That went much better than I anticipated," Charles said looking at me with delight. I didn't understand his exuberance and he didn't bother to explain. I found Malia with the prime minister's son and horridly retrieved her.
"This is my new friend," Malia said as I took her hand and I smiled at the boy.
"It's nice to meet you, but it's time to go Malia," I said tugging her hand and she pouted. Charles came up behind me and laid a hand on my shoulder.
"What's his name?" He asked Malia and she smiled up at him.
"Daniel," she said with a giggle. I rolled my eyes at her childish girlish ways. It was too early for her to have crushes.
"We'll see Daniel again ok, but for now it's time to go". Charles led the way out of the Tower of London where the gala was held. I was surprised that Malia wasn't asleep with the person watching her. It was two in the morning when we arrived back at the hotel and Charles followed me to my room. I looked at him questionably as he got undressed and into my bed.
"What? What did you expect Esther?" Charles asked looking up at me. I don't know what I expected, but what had happened wasn't it. I went into the bathroom and put on my pajamas. I sighed wondering if life would ever be normal. The nightmares of that night haunted me in the mirror. I must have been in there a while, because when I got under the sheets Charles was already asleep. I slept on my side closest to the edge as possible until I felt his arms pull me towards him. I looked down at my right hand where the diamond ring sat. My engagement ring from Mark was so important to me that I never had the heart of giving it back or taking it off. The pink sapphire made me smile and I missed him. I closed my eyes and pretended I was that eighteen year old girl being held by Mark.