25 // SILENTIVM

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A faint murmuring arose, a rustle of fabric, a hiss of steam

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A faint murmuring arose, a rustle of fabric, a hiss of steam.

From somewhere out of sight, footsteps muffled by soft soles padded against a hard floor.

A curtain, thick and heavy, stretching from ceiling to floor, obscured my view. A wood-panelled wall, through which the wormhole had materialised, stood behind us.

I was frozen to the spot, with Ethan's hand clapped firmly over my mouth.

Concealed behind the curtain, he held me against him, and I could feel the rapid rise and fall of his chest on my back, his hot breath on my ear.

He was pissed - seriously pissed – and somewhere inside, I was sure it probably wasn't a good idea to antagonise a demon, even if demons weren't quite what we had been led to believe, but I really didn't see what choice I'd had. Ethan didn't really have a choice either, and I'd known that.

Used it.

I'd learned a long time ago that if people wanted something badly enough, they'd do literally anything to get it. Drugs. Sex. Alcohol. Money. Whatever. Quid Pro Quo, or whatever the fuck it was that Hannibal Lecter said to Clarice. You want something? Well, then you've got to be prepared to give up something in return. That's just how life went, that's how people were, and Ethan was certainly no different from the rest, demon or not. He needed me to be the Bonnie to his Clyde. Me. The addict. The liability. The hopeless wreck of a girl who stumbled from one fuck-up to the next. None of it had made any sense until I realised he wasn't being entirely truthful about why he'd brought me to Rome.

He couldn't do this without me, and that had to be worth something.

I wanted Addi back safe. Ethan wanted in to the Vaults.

Quid-pro-fucking-quo.

Lifting his other arm, he checked the time on his watch and held up three fingers to indicate how many minutes we had to wait. Each second stretched out agonisingly, each one a reminder of the danger we were clearly in and each one a reminder that I was now dealing with one very pissed-off demon, who didn't appreciate being blackmailed one little bit.

After a while, he dropped his hand from my mouth, but didn't let go of me, and I swallowed, trying to control my breathing. Three minutes felt like a lifetime. Three minutes was like a prison.

A clock chimed, its lyrical steady beat striking twelve times and filling the room beyond with a pleasant, resounding echo that seemed to reverberate in my ears long after it had stopped. Still, Ethan didn't move and on the other side of the curtain, I could hear the sound of shuffling feet, my stomach lurching with dread as they drew closer to our hiding place.

The footsteps moved away, the sound growing fainter with each step and it was only when I heard the distant creak of a door that Ethan let go, sidling carefully around me to avoid violently disturbing the curtain. Slowly, he used his hand to push back the edge, so he could peek out, before stepping out from our hiding place and crooking one finger at me, beckoning me to follow.

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