In the rural limits of Lima city, an old mansion from colonial times was the setting for the invocation of a being almost as terrible as a demon.
His wings ripped by divine punishment.
The eldest son of the Camargo family was holding in his hands an old book that he got on the black market, it said that its lining belonged to human skin. That was unimportant for Jacob Camargo, he had something more important in mind: a wish, one that God did not accomplish even though his prayers fulfilled for many long years.
He drew a circle with sheep's blood in methodical precision; in it, he placed candles pointing to the four cardinal points; he repeated every symbol and rune that was necessary for the invocation.
Everything had to be perfect.
In the anteroom, the furniture and objects of the room that were removed from the place rested. The patriarchs, Jacob's wife, and her little baby, about nine months old, waited in silence. The latter was busy with her bottle.
Jacob's dark prayer could be heard. The house shook, all the doors and windows opened wide, the lights flickered until they went out, and a sound similar to the bells filled the place has captured the baby's attention.
A shadow began to materialize within the circle, taking on a human figure. A man with a well-defined body dressed in a tailored suit, hair red as blood and a lethal gaze, warned of his dangerous presence.
“I was in an important meeting, you wretched human.” Her cold gaze glared at him, piercing his bones with icy feeling. “Your sense of timing must have played its final card. What is the reason for your damned summons?”
The dominant male voice shook the family outside the room.
Jacob watched the red-haired man dressed for business, his emerald green gaze promising savage torture if he was not giving the correct answer.
“I have a favour to ask, Vincent,” Jacob replied in a servile tone.
The red-haired man turned his head to one side like a bird of prey, looking on. By that moment, it was impossible for him to leave the summoning circle, surrounded by fatuous fire.
The size of the large church candles that were used, indicates that Jacob had at least one day left to live. It was the time it would take for them to burn out completely, which would break the circle, and he would be free to tear his summoner to shreds.
Vincent would write a whole story with the juice of his guts. By the moment, it was up to him to wait and decide what his punishment would be. He hated being summoned twice by the same contractor.
“In exchange for what?” Vincent asked in cold calm.
He focused his attention on the innocent, chubby baby in the woman's arms. The door did not close again after opening with the force of the summoning.
Dariel joked about her 'big fiancé' as the night wore on, it was her twenty-third birthday. Her cousins, a pair of identical twins, had started this crazy idea as soon as they set foot in their old house.
“And how do you know he won't use toys on the wedding night?” One of her cousins prodded. “I'm sure it'll be just like that book… 'Fifty Shades'.” She started laughing, hallucinating the scenes.
Dariel, blushing, began to shake her head.
“I don't know what kind of books you read, Lucia.”
Her cousin was gesturing handcuffs and silent orgasms, teasing her further.
“You're a fan of those things” she muttered very embarrassed, her cousins laughed loudly.
“And why don't you wear the dress?” Brunella smiled without any good intentions, she was Lucia's evil twin sister. “The one your fiancé sent you.” She challenged her a little more. “I want to see it.”
Dariel dismissed it with a wave of her hand in the air, blaming it on that little glass of pisco sour that must have been a little strong.
“Come on girls, I'd like to keep joking” Dariel replied, “that dress was a gift from my mum, I told you” she clarified, confusing the others. “I've barely graduated from university, I've got my life ahead of me,” she said, still thinking about her projects.
One of them was to travel the world to learn various types of pattern making and collect exotic souvenirs.
Lucia's lips curved in amusement, almost bordering on hysteria.
“Dariel, don't be silly.” She secreted something to her sister. They laughed at her misdeed before turning back to her. “Look, I know you think the whole family's visit is far-fetched. However, you're really getting married today,” She told her in complicity.
A secret that deserved to be revealed in honour of blood.
Because they were cousins and whatever.
That joke was getting a bit sickening for Dariel, so she put aside her glass and decided to get a couple of glasses of water and maybe some coffee espresso for her cousins.
“Why come here when it was cheaper to take you and your parents to the old country?” boasted his cousin Brunella. “You understand that you're still living in hardship after your dad's screw-up, don't you?”
“I promise to bring you something to drink,” said Dariel confidentially. “Not alcohol.”
Both twins laughed before approaching the other cousin they spotted, who seemed to have a built-in radar. The new victim was slightly younger than the three of them, having just turned sixteen earlier this year.
A year ago, she had a car accident and her memory became totally erased, annihilating the personality she had developed up to that fateful date:
From an insensitive bitch, she became sweet and charming. The twins always find a way to remind her.
I'm sorry Luria. Dariel apologized in thought. She went out to get some coffee for her cousins, they were going to need it… soon.
Her mother suddenly approached, blocking her on her way to the buffet table.
“Dariel, you should have already dressed,” she said with concern.
She was wearing very elegant high heels. The kind that Dariel found sexy and daring, after all, her mother was always mistaken for a woman in her late twenties, and the cobalt blue dress set off her black hair in a discreet bun.
She didn't know how to explain that her cousins were a bit tipsy and that. They insisted that the dress was for a wedding, because, unfortunately, it was white.
“I thought it would be for Luria's party.” She smiled casually.
Her attention became split between the drinks and the shrieking coming from the background. Her cousins were keeping Luria in their clutches.
Furthermore, her mother's frown told her it was an order.
“Mum.” A weary sigh. “Lucia and Brunella have a slightly different idea about the dress.” She grumbled with a pout she applied to get out of good pranks.
Her mother's brown gaze focused on her.
“I'm decent,” Dariel insisted.
Her attire was anything but casual. She wore a pretty cream dress with rose gold-plated chain straps and chiffon headdresses, which she had designed herself; five-centimetre heel sandals were more than enough for her. Her mother was a good fit in a number nine heel, and her French braid didn't seem such a bad choice.
“Get dressed, there's no time.” Reinforcing her order, she looked at the imitation watch resting on her wrist. It read a quarter to eleven. “You'll be down before midnight, it's important you don't delay. If you take longer, it might not be…” Joahne cut off her words to hurry her along. “Go, remember that your grandmother must rest soon.”
For the daughter, that request was impossible.
It's too extravagant for a designer to receive designer dresses on her birthday. Especially if she can make them, thought Dariel, exhausted.
“It's fine, mum.”
She paraded through the family whispers, to know what excited them; her uncles and grandparents came from all corners of the world for the first time. At least she remembered that they never visited anyone in particular in such a massive way.
Uncle Johnny seems to have gained more weight, she mused, as she noticed a burly man laughing uproariously. He was the twins' worthy father.
The Camargo family had not produced any children, just her and her three cousins, and their efforts were titanic; the twins were the expensive result of in vitro fertilization, which, according to her uncles and aunts, went wrong.
Dariel could feel the stares of the whole family on their way to the stairs. It was curious to mention that there were more women than men.
Whispers and snooping eyes focused on her.
“I'll be right back,” she announced, noticing that everyone stopped talking and looked only at her. Her guts began to churn.
Heels to match the famous dress and a set of jewellery appeared, courtesy of her cousins. They were going to have a blast every time they remembered her birthday.
Ignoring the whole thing, she decided to take a shower, to get dressed and dry her hair with the hairdryer, so, that her mother wouldn't fuck her. Her phone kept vibrating, announcing her delay.
“I'm coming, I'm coming” she mumbled, thinking it was time to blow out the candles, so everyone could start the family selfies.
Even her grandmother Arabelle was a food blogger.
No sooner had she picked up her favourite cherry-pink lipstick than Joahne appeared through the door
“Dariel Camargo de San Vicente.”
She looked at her mother's reflection, making a prayer. It had no effect; her mother came closer and painted her lips a carmine red and lined her eyes with Kohl's.
“You don't need any more” she decreed to Dariel's pout.
She didn't feel very sexy, dressing similar to a bride with gothic make-up for a change.
“Do you remember you told me I was going to marry the love of my life?” asked Dariel suddenly, her mother looked up at her, turning pale. “Are you all right?”
“I do!” she exclaimed. “What do you mean, married?” she asked nervously.
“Well, you were always telling me I was going to meet my prince charming and reign on my tropical island,” she replied, concerned about her pale countenance. “The way I dress, I look like a bride,” she confessed. “I feel uncomfortable. I don't think I can go downstairs with this on. I'm sorry, Mom.”
“Just that?” her mother insisted; her daughter nodded, and she sighed. “Don't do these things to me,” she huffed in annoyance.
With trembling hands, she began to arrange her hair in an elaborate bun. The tiara was the icing on the cake.
“Mother, I'm twenty-three now,” pleaded Dariel, noticing the little flowers in the headdress with white zircons.
She began to guide her towards the door, her attention on the watch.
“It is a very important occasion.”
Dariel could only afford it because she will be leaving in a few weeks; with her arrangements in place and her aunt Tina and uncle Johnny having promised to finance her trip in a symbolic graduation gift, and they were complying.
In her email was her plane ticket.
It must have distressed her parents, however, Dariel had no intention of slighting them for their curious eccentricities. She always received a different dress from her parents on each birthday, the last one being an elegant black. She was surprised that they could afford something so expensive despite their current financial situation, which was less than ideal.
And losing the family business turned out to be a very hard blow for her father.
They started down the stairs to the living room, the largest room in their modest home. It was now silent.
“I think they're asleep already,” Dariel muttered to her mother, who glared at her. “Just saying.” She kept silent as they made their way down the stairs.
Murmurs began to echo from the background. A visitor she didn't know arrived to top off the evening. A young red-haired man wearing a tailored black suit. She assumed he must be in his late twenties, almost thirty.
She was bad at judging someone's age.
She noticed that all his clothes were black, and he wasn't bad at all. He kept his hair tied back in a man bun or modern samurai style. He looked athletic and despite his fair skin, at least, a light tan confirmed that he was active in the warm sunlight.
Nothing to do with pale, depressed vampires.
Dariel appreciated the clothes he was wearing, identified the designer and agreed very much with the cuts and lapels. The trousers were not skinny but more classic, the black fabric absorbing the light and giving him the perfect contrast to his skin tone and hair. The silk scarf that accompanied the jacket spoke volumes about his possibly extroverted personality.
“I don't think he's a stripper,” she thought, disgruntled.
Her cousins were capable of doing things a bit too radical. Once they hired one dressed as a geriatrician for grandma's 76th birthday. And she enjoyed it very much.
The young man stood in the centre of the hall waiting with the rest, his emerald gaze focused on her golden eyes. Despite his expressionless countenance, making Dariel even more confused.
The dude didn't blink, he kept his cold stare gazing at her.
Her father took her hand in a tight grip and pulled it roughly towards the man without touching him.
It could easily become the transaction of a slave on the black market.
“Vincent, according to our agreement: the firstborn of our family, given by the firstborn of the sixth generation.”
Dariel's stomach flipped at the words spoken by her father, her body shuddered violently as he took her hand in a strange judgment, she wanted to pull away, but unfortunately that seemed impossible.
His grip was cold, and effective.
“What's going on here?” He looked around for answers. The twins' laughter, the gossip and the noisy mood that seemed to have reigned seconds before, turned to expectant silence. “Mum, Dad?” her golden eyes filled with confusion.
Her father shook his head and turned away, dragging her mother with him, she resisted a little, at least for a few seconds until her husband showed her his watch. Joahne opened her eyes wide and nodded vigorously.
“You belong to him now,” Jacob replied firmly to his daughter.
Dariel's golden gaze focused on the cold emerald eyes assessing her, he expected something that she did not grasp, his clean-shaven, firm masculine face did not express emotion. He tilted his head to one side and in a gravelly voice he blurted out:
“I am your husband,” he confirmed with a neutral expression. “The one you've waited a long time for.”
A scream escaped Dariel's throat. It was impossible to break out of his cold grip and no one, not a single member of her family, came to her aid.
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