Chapter 1

It's over… everything's over. Van Helsing looked at Carl with relief. But the relief was gone at once, when he met the look Carl returned to him.

Where's Anna? A sudden wave of panic rushed over him. Moment later, he noticed her lifeless body, laid on the couch.

"She's dead…"

"How is she?" Gabriel asked, concerned, once again sitting aside her bed. He could not take his eyes off her. Every time he had to leave the room for some reason, he was afraid that he was not going to find Anna in this world when back. She had been lying like that for two days, unconscious… but still alive. Her long brown curls, scattered over her face, were just as ever. But her face… it appeared to Gabriel as if her complexion was too pale, looking so papery… From time to time he could not chase away the horrifying idea that her lips have already begun losing their colour, as has her skin. If he didn't know, he could have sworn that the princess was already dead.

"She will survive, if that was your hidden question. At least, I think so." Carl smiled at him. The friar was just as worried as Van Helsing, but he did not want to disquiet his friend any more - seeing Van Helsing like this was something neither usual nor intelligible for him. He could not remember any other time Gabriel was that uneasy.

"You do need to have some rest," the friar repeated. It was the phrase he had said to Gabriel for over twenty times, but his companion always ignored it.

"I will not be able to fall asleep anyway." He was thankful to God that Carl knew so much about medicine. Otherwise, Anna wouldn't have survived. But… if he hadn't felt her pulse, while carrying her for one last time –

Gabriel winced at the thought. He was really afraid that Anna might die at any moment, but, after hearing from his best friend that she was going to survive , he did feel much better.

"Gabriel, we don't know for how long she will be lying like that. I'll take care of her, I'll bind up her wounds if it's needed, and if- I mean, when she wakes up, I'll call you right away!"

"I thank you for your care, and for your help, Carl," Gabriel stated, and for a moment the friar thought that his friend was going to listen to his advice, "but – it was I who almost killed her. And my soul has almost died with hers. My soul will be alive only when I'm sure she's fine… do you understand me?"

Carl nodded, losing any hope to succeed in persuading his friend to go to rest. He chose to ignore the desire to tease his friend about that last sentence. It could not be Gabriel was in love with that wild princess? The friar chased away the idea, almost laughing at himself.

"Maybe it is you who needs some rest, my friend." Van Helsing said, sighing.

"Maybe you're right – are you sure you can take care of her?" Carl suddenly realised how tired he was. Both of them had spent two days and two nights at Anna's room, quaking with fear at every movement of hers.

"That, my friend, I can swear." He tried not to show it, but he was glad that Carl was finally leaving. He wanted to share some moments with Anna alone, no matter how sad they would be.

Gabriel could not stop thinking about what would happen if she wouldn't wake up. He couldn't bear the thoughts of himself, telling the people that their princess was gone… dead… and that was all his and only his fault.

He felt tears forming inside his eyes once again. God… please, don't let her die. I don't care about anybody now, anybody but her. I don't know what will happen if- when she wakes up, maybe she will be mad at me and just go away… all I want is her to be alive and well.

Van Helsing tried to look at the funny side of it. He, the one who was called a killer, a murderer… was actually caring about someone. There had been other women in his life – but none of them affected him the way she did…

The brighter side of death… maybe someday he would be able to see it. But not Anna's. His finger ran through her face, hoping to see, to feel anything that would confirm the friar's words. Looking at her pale face, her slightly parted lips, he smiled sadly. He knew much about her family – but almost nothing of her. I will show you the sea, Anna, I promise. His mind was filled with many memories of them together. It all happened so fast, and yet, he could swear it was the best episode of his life.

Once again, his mind stopped by memories of their kiss. The kiss he could still feel on his lips, so sweet, so passionate, desperate… so real.

Gabriel got up, turning his face away from Anna, who was lying on her bed in one of her nightgowns, carefully covered with blankets … it would appear that she was only sleeping… however, underneath the blankets and the nightdress there were many bruises and wounds… made by him, Van Helsing.

The guilt was once again flooding over him.

"I'm sorry, Anna! I'm sorry!" he said, not sure if he was saying that for real or were these only the words echoing in his mind.

Van Helsing drew the curtain. It was already dark outside, and he was soon to have another sleepless night. He could not even say if he was tired or not, he probably was… but he didn't feel it. There are more important things than sleep right now.

Gabriel turned to Anna. Her breathing was silent and still, but suddenly it seemed to Gabriel that she was smiling. God. Maybe I should try to get some sleep, after all. It was hard to see her face in the darkness, so he had to turn away from her once more to find a candle.

Lost in his thoughts, he was desperately trying to find one in the darkness - - -