His eyes were cold and lifeless as he stared at her, as dark as a starless night. "You have no idea who I am, do you?"
The lamp slipped off the table, shattering against the stone floor, but neither noticed. She clenched her jaw, tasting blood as her teeth ripped into the inner flesh of her mouth. "Not anymore." Backed against the wall, she slowly reached into her jacket pocket where the comforting handle of a knife slipped into her palm.
"It's been three years!" he screamed, his hot breath stinging her face as he drug his fingers down his dry face. "Three years, Ella! Do you know what I've done in those three years?" His lips parted to reveal a grin of yellowed, decaying teeth. "I've prepared for this moment, and now that it is here, you cannot do anything to stop it!" He began to laugh but his brief moment of mirth was interrupted by a coughing fit, blood and spittle alike splashing onto her cheeks.
Ella tried to slip past him, but he caught her arm with a clammy hand, ignoring her attempts to break free. The knife still sat heavily in her pocket. If only she could reach it.
She had to stall; it was the only way. Pressed against his side, she could feel a lump in his pocket that could only be a gun. A gun against a knife. She wasn't going to make it. She was going to die.
"Please," Ella begged, calling tears to her eyes. "Whatever I've done to you, I'm sorry. I'm so sorry." She wished the words didn't have to be a lie, wished that what had happened between them had never occurred.
He had to still be human. Whatever he'd done three years ago hadn't completely changed him. It couldn't have. His eyes flickered over her tear-stained face and for a split-second, she could have sworn she saw a dash of sympathy. Using his moment of weakness to her advantage, she slipped the knife from her pocket to her hands.
"I wish there was another way." Her voice shook as his eyes widened, the cool blade slipping in between his ribs and piercing his heart. She froze, expecting a spurt of blood, a gasp. Death. Just how they had all gone before him.
Instead, the only thing she got was a triumphant smile. "I guess you didn't get the full story, did you?" Reaching up, he yanked the knife from his chest, not a splatter of blood on the metal. Fixing his lifeless gaze on Ella, he shrugged coolly. "I wish there was another way. Let's make a deal."
She gaped in horror at the monster he'd become. She hadn't known the full story. This was so much worse than what they'd told her. Worse than she ever could have imagined.
"No...." Her voice was hardly audible as he slowly crept toward her. There was nowhere to run. She only wished she could warn the others what they were up against. What she knew she couldn't stop alone. "Why? Why would you do this to yourself?!" she demanded, and when the tears began to fall she made no effort the stop them.
His smile crept upward, reminding Ella of the Chesire Cat. "A deal can bring me back to what I was. I can be the same again." He seemed to stare into distant memories for a moment, stroking the knife blade. "Wouldn't that be nice?" he mused. "A deal, then?"
Ella looked at his lifeless eyes, his bony hands. It was impossible to kill him. The world would burn and he would rule as king over the ashes. This had been his plan all along.
"So? A small... simple deal?" He moved to stroke her face, but she swatted his hand away.
"What do you want, then?" It was more a scream than a question, hands tightening into fists. "What do you want from me? What do I possibly have that could benefit you? I HAVE NOTHING!" The reality of her words stung. She had absolutely nothing left.
"A heart." Ella froze at his words, her mouth dry as sandpaper. "I need a heart."
He was power-hungry, immortal. A heart would change that. It would make him mortal, able to be killed. His plans of mass destruction would fall apart. He must have seen the downsides, but he showed no hint of concern. No sign it bothered him.
"Your heart, to be precise. With it, I would no longer look like this. I would not be decaying slowly. I'm rotting, Ella! Piece by rotten piece. I'm not truly immortal. Not like this."
Her heart lurched, her mind racing. He wasn't fully immortal, then. There was a way to kill him. But it would take too long. Too long. They couldn't wait for him to slowly fall apart. He could demolish entire civilizations during that time.
"Ella. Sweet, innocent Ella. Look what all this has done to you." He chuckled cruelly, a sound that turned her blood to ice. "The world must start over. It's not worth saving. You know that perhaps better than even I. Help me, Ella. You were always the most generous of my daughters."
Her heart hardened at the word. Daughters. "If I recall correctly," she spat through gritted teeth. "I'm the only daughter you have left. You slaughtered the other three a long time ago."
His face remained a blank page. "I regret nothing," he said simply, tenting his fingers. "Unlike you. You reget many things."
Ella's gut snapped. "Do you want to know what I regret?"
"Do tell," the wrinkled man drawled, sounding bored. "I'm sure there's to be no stopping you."
His lack of interest fueled the explosion of anger inside her and she snarled, the words she'd been holding back for years tumbling as freely as water from her lips, "I regret ever trusting you. I regret ever calling you father. I regret all those times we spent together, all those memories you manipulatingly created. I regret every hug I ever gave you. But most importantly-" She glared into his soulless eyes, too far gone to stop now. "-I regret ever telling you I loved you! I regret ever listening to your lies, ever being called your daughter. I regret not slitting your throat when I had the chance. And now, I disown you. I will never again be labeled as your daughter. I want no part of anything to do with you. I disown you, Parker."
She spat his name like it was poison, hatred overruling her common sense and the next instant she lunged at him. Her fingernails had barely scraped his papery skin when his hands curled around his wrists like cuffs, binding her to him.
When he spoke, his lips brushing her ear, her entire body numbed. "Disown me, then. It will make you so much easier to kill, Eleanor." The gun surfaced from his pocket and he set it gently against her forehead. No tears wet her cheeks, no anger exploded; she was emotionless. Empty. She barely felt the cool kiss of the metal barrel on her skin. "Any last words, little Eleanor? Because I am going to need that heart."
One last surge of strength coursed through her, one last spark of rebellion, and she grinned. "I hope you enjoy every last ounce of hatred it contains for you. I hope it tears you apart, knowing it will never be fully yours. And most importantly, I hope you enjoy it while it lasts. Because you. Will. Lose."
He smirked, hissing in her ear, "Too bad you won't be there to see it."
One gunshot was the last thing Ella heard before the blinding light overwhelmed her and everything faded to dust.