Chains of Darkness, p.1Part #2 of Men in Chains series by Caris Roane
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To the fabulous Felicity Heaton, good friend and fellow author, who has helped me climb this mountain
Many thanks to my editor, Rose Hilliard, for her hard work on the Men in Chains series, and to my agent, Karen Solem. A special thanks to my copy editor, Laura Jorstad and her careful eye. And to Danielle Fiorella, as always the artwork reflects the series beautifully!
Also by Caris Roane
Praise for the Guardians of Ascension series
Savage Chains series
Men in Chains series
About the Author
Claire Turner hid at the end of a long cavern tunnel, deep in the shadows. Her nerves were like fire on her skin. Guards moved in and out of a nearby prison cell, some with whips and Tasers, others with cleanup gear. The air smelled damp and musty as though death came often to this part of the world.
Her heart slammed against her ribcage. She’d been thrust into a secret cavern-based vampire society with the task of rescuing a prisoner, a famous warrior called Lucian, from his captivity.
She didn’t even know where she was exactly. Rumy, the small Italian vampire who had left her here, had said something about Malaysia. He’d dropped her off just minutes ago, told her to trust her instincts, then insisted repeatedly that she’d be fine, just fine. Like hell.
She took deep breaths. She couldn’t believe she was doing this, risking her life by agreeing to what now seemed like a ridiculous plan. What did a social worker from New Mexico know about running covert operations?
But Lucian had become the key to finding her best friend, Zoey, who had been abducted two years ago and was now caught in some kind of sex slavery in this part of the world. According to Rumy, Lucian was the only vampire who could help find Zoey.
Lucian. She could feel him now and even sensed his location, and all because of the single strand of small, dark metal links she wore around her neck: blood-chains. She carried a matching chain in her pocket and once Lucian put it on, he’d have enough power to break out of the prison. Or at least, that’s what Rumy said he hoped would happen.
Several guards left the adjacent tunnel that led to Lucian’s cell, leaving only one behind now, but she wouldn’t be able to make her move until Lucian was finally alone.
None of the vampires even glanced in her direction, which meant they couldn’t see her, another reality she struggled to comprehend. Despite the fact that she was a mere human, the blood-chains she wore had somehow sparked an innate ability she possessed to create something called a “disguise” and which acted as an invisible shield around her.
So much was at stake in this moment that her heart thumped in her ears. If she failed to rescue Lucian and was caught, she’d probably be sent into sex slavery herself or even killed outright. Though given a choice, she was pretty sure she’d prefer the latter.
More than once while waiting, she’d thought about going in and wrapping Lucian up with the same disguise that kept the guards from seeing her. However, any guard who happened to enter the prison cell and found Lucian gone would shout an alarm. No, the moment she extended her disguise to include Lucian would have to be the same time she left with him.
She drew a few deep breaths trying to get calm. Then as the last guard left and disappeared down the hall, she moved swiftly through a short adjoining tunnel that led to the large cell lit by torchlight. Moving off to the right, she entered a sloping pit that ended with a smooth wall.
The sight of him stopped her cold. He sat completely naked on a small patch of cement, chained to the wall. His wrists and ankles were shackled, chains hanging between. Another chain, locked onto the back of his left ankle, secured him to a thick black iron loop bolted into the wall behind him. The arrangement restricted his movements by about ten feet in any direction. If she’d doubted the story Rumy had told her about Lucian and his brothers, and their abusive father, she didn’t anymore; only a monster would treat his son like this.
She knew Lucian from the photographs Rumy had shown her as well as by the new vibrations of the chain at her neck. The chain recognized him, allowing her to siphon his power, clear evidence that the chains held a magical quality. Even her vision seemed to have improved in the dim, torch-lit cave.
But hearing about the man and seeing him in person were two very different things. She hadn’t understood the size of him before. He was physically imposing and on some level, even beautiful. He had to be at least six-five. He had short dark hair that set off strong cheekbones, giving his face a sculpted appearance. His lips were full and sensual, his jawline angled, and his nose straight but with a slight curve at the bridge. His shoulders were broad and heavy, his arms ripped, his hands large and fleshy.
His thick, straight brows, however, were drawn together in a tight line as he rocked his head slowly back and forth, his lips moving over words she couldn’t quite make out.
Rumy had told her Lucian would probably be suffering from a kind of madness that vampires experienced when their blood-needs weren’t met on a regular basis. With his eyes closed and muttering unintelligible things, he seemed to be in exactly that state. At Rumy’s suggestion, she’d brought a vial of blood with her that would help clear Lucian’s head so that he could focus better.
At the same time, Lucian looked like any other male in her world. Her gaze dropped to his muscled thighs and as if on cue, he lowered his knees to stretch out his legs. Very male.
She looked away. It seemed invasive to be staring at him.
She fingered the single blood-chain at her neck, and realized she really could sense what he was feeling, the depths of his despair, his rage, and even his madness.
The same chain would create the powerful bond once Lucian wore the matching set. She still couldn’t believe she was about to bind herself to a vampire, but through a process she couldn’t begin to understand, the chains would make it possible for her to form a tracking pair with Lucian. If she wanted to find Zoey, this was the only way. And right now, she’d do whatever the hell Lucian wanted her to do, if it meant locating and rescuing her best friend.
She called to him. “Lucian, can you hear me? Rumy sent me. I’ve come to take you out of here. Lucian?”
* * *
Lucian struggled to make sense of what he’d just heard. A woman had called to him, or maybe he’d just imagined it, another illusion. The blood-madness was killing him.
“I’m here to your left. Can you see me? Try to focus if you can.”
There it was again, the same voice, a melodious sound, very feminine.
He shifted his head in the direction he thought the words had come from, struggling to see her. His vision came and went because of his debilitated state, but suddenly she was there, near the far wall. A woman, human by his reckoning, standing just beyond the torchlight. He had
His captor and father, Daniel Briggs, had kept him in a state of intense blood-starvation so that he suffered from recurring episodes of dementia and distorted vision.
He blinked several times, working hard to hold the image. The woman appeared to be cloaked behind an intricate disguise, something only a vampire could create. Yet how had a mere human accomplished a design like that?
But with his next breath the scent of her blood reached him, and the sudden craving he experienced cramped his stomach. He couldn’t repress the groan that followed. What he wouldn’t give to take from her vein.
A protective instinct rose as well, the warrior part of him that always put the welfare of others above his own. “You need to leave, woman. It’s not safe here. Daniel will be back. If he finds you, he’ll kill you or put you to work in one of his sex clubs.” He lifted his manacled wrists. “And in case you haven’t noticed, I won’t be able to lift a finger to help you.”
He needed her to know something else as well: that he was Daniel’s spawn. Within him, he’d always felt the same nature at work, the one that could easily brutalize others. The same instincts had made him a good fighter, he knew that, so he wasn’t completely disgusted by who he was; just grateful that the darkness he carried around with him had an outlet. Given his blood-madness, given that he wasn’t in control, he could hurt the woman.
“Lucian, please listen to me. I’m here to get you out of this prison. Rumy sent me because I have a gift for making disguises. We’re just not sure if it will protect us from Daniel.”
He lifted his head. “I can hear Daniel coming now. He’s not far away. You have to leave.”
Footsteps sounded on the stone floor. He looked up, barely able to make out the faces of the men who entered from the tunnel to his left, not far from the woman. The guards had been coming in and out, cleaning him up, making him presentable. His vision cleared once more and he recognized Daniel, who had a couple of guards and a med tech with him.
“Give him two ounces,” Daniel called out. “He’s spiraling from blood-madness and I need him coherent.”
Daniel’s voice always sounded like he could give seminars on positive thinking. The bastard was charismatic, charming, and filthy rich—in a literal sense, because he’d made his fortune off the backs of anyone who came near him. He saw nothing wrong with inflicting pain to get what he wanted.
The more pain the better.
As the guards advanced, Lucian’s mind slipped away. Ancient memories surfaced, of being bound to Daniel’s table, enduring his “corrective punishments,” as he liked to call the torture he inflicted on his sons. He wanted Daniel dead. More than anything in life, he wanted the bastard dead.
He struggled in his chains, straining to get at Daniel. But what could he do, bound as he was?
One of the guards got a little too close and four centuries of battle experience took over. Lucian slid onto his side, kicking out with his foot at the same time. He connected with the guard’s leg and sent him sprawling. The man shouted in agony, his knee shattered.
The other guard backed off.
Lucian leaped to his feet, once more pulling at the chains, trying to get to his father.
Daniel smiled. “Just Taser him. I haven’t got all night.”
The uninjured guard drew his weapon and fired.
As a searing pain shot through his chest, Lucian roared. A terrible electrical charge followed that caused his arm and back muscles to seize, then spasm.
Vampires and electricity didn’t mix.
He fell to his knees, rolling onto his back. The charge paralyzed him long enough for the tech to come at him with a needle-less syringe and to slowly insert two critical ounces of blood deep into his mouth. He sputtered, struggling to swallow, but the blood tasted so good and at the same time began having a positive effect.
The moment his lucidity improved, he started calming down, though his body still jerked with aftershocks. The paralysis, though beginning to fade, kept him immobile.
He shifted his gaze to the far wall, to the human who had been talking to him, and there she was. She hadn’t been a hallucination after all. Better yet, Daniel couldn’t see her. The woman’s disguise held, and for the first time in months hope rose that he might just make it out alive.
For a long moment, he stared at her. She was dressed simply in jeans, a light-green T-shirt, jogging shoes. She was beautiful with deep-auburn hair that flowed in waves past her shoulders. Her creamy skin gave her an almost angelic appearance. Her nose was straight, her cheekbones high and strong, yet she watched him with tears in her light-brown eyes. No doubt she wasn’t used to Daniel’s barbaric ways.
Yet what surprised him was how clearly he could sense her emotions—as though he had some kind of connection to her. She was frightened by where she was, but there was something more, a powerful determination to do what she’d come here to do.
He remembered now. She’d spoken of Rumy; Rumy had sent her here. If all went well, this might just work.
He glanced back at Daniel, who stared at him with arms folded over his chest. Daniel really didn’t seem to be aware of the woman, even though he was one of the most powerful vampires in their world. He’d reached the highest form as an Ancestral, those vampires with tremendous power who tended to rise to positions of leadership or, in Daniel’s case, autocracy. Daniel all but ruled the vampire world.
And with that much power, he should have seen the woman.
Yet he hadn’t.
Was it possible she really could get him out of here?
The dose of blood eased Lucian and helped him to start healing the debilitating effects of the Taser. Even so, his body felt raw, reminding him of the torture he’d endured over the past year in the prison he’d previously inhabited. Daniel had brought him here, along with his brother Marius, but he’d quickly separated them. Lucian had no idea where Marius was.
Daniel called to him. “Is your head clear now?”
Lucian sat up, swiveling to face the man who’d sired him. His father wore an expensive, tailored suit of dark-blue silk, a goatee trimmed close, with his short, dark hair slicked back. His eyes were light blue with a hint of green, not quite teal, but lighter and flecked with gold. He defined all that was evil in their culture.
Lucian despised what his father stood for. “What the fuck do you want anyway?”
“I want you to return to me, Lucian. That’s all I’ve ever wanted from you and your brothers.”
“I know you have Marius imprisoned here somewhere, but where’s Adrien?” There were three brothers in all. Recently a human female had taken Adrien from their previous, shared prison, but he hadn’t seen him since. He didn’t even know if Adrien was alive.
“I’m not here to discuss Adrien. I want to talk about you and what I can do to persuade you to join my ranks.”
“Not a goddamn thing.”
“You’re being absurdly stubborn for a prisoner in chains.”
Lucian just stared at him, letting him feel his hatred. The man had been his torturer as a child. He would die before he ever joined Daniel’s ranks.
Daniel gestured with a sweep of his hand. “Let me be specific. I need help finding the extinction weapon. It seems you and your brothers all have a special kind of tracking ability, and with just a little effort I know you’ll be able to find it. Join me, Lucian, help me gain a weapon that will allow me to rule our world for the next millennium, and you can share in that power. Just think what that would mean for you: the position of prominence, the enormous wealth. And together we’d be invincible.”
“I’ll never return to you. And after four hundred years, I don’t understand why the fuck you’re still asking. My loyalties lie with those who seek justice and equality in our world, not monsters who enslave and torture the innocent.”
Daniel’s eyes narrowed to thin, unreadable slits. But Lucian knew that expression well. Nothing good would follow. “I don’t think you
“Then kill me now, Father, because I’d prefer death to serving you and I’m sure my brother would feel the exact same way.”
Daniel pulled his lips back, revealing the sharp points of his fangs. He moved in swiftly, before Lucian could get out of the way, then placed a hand on top of Lucian’s head. An excruciating stream of power flowed from Daniel’s hand, once more paralyzing Lucian.
“This is just the beginning, my son. I have more in store for you. Trust me, little by little I’ll tear you down until you will do anything I want you to do. For now, feel my power.”
Pain ripped through Lucian, traveling down his spine and into his legs. He roared once more, then fell back unable to breathe, to think, to move. It took several seconds before he could finally make sense of his surroundings once more.
“Good. You’re back. And now I have another piece of persuasion for you.” He pivoted slightly and snapped his fingers in the direction of the tunnel entrance.
* * *
Claire felt some kind of vibration in the air shift, some level of Daniel’s intention. He turned toward the arched doorway behind him, where two large torches cast a glow at the end of the cave. He waved an arm and once more snapped his fingers.
Guards appeared, one on either side of a man they dragged behind them. He was naked like Lucian but covered in grime. She wasn’t sure of the color of his hair because he was filthy, including his face, which was bruised and bloody.
Lucian leaned back like he’d been hit. He rubbed a hand over his face, narrowing his eyes as though he couldn’t see well. “Marius, is that you? What have you done to Marius?”
The guards dropped the vampire at Daniel’s feet.
“You sure you don’t want to join me, Lucian?”
“Never.” He leaned forward on his knees, his gaze fixed on Marius. His head wagged back and forth again. Claire had a strong sense that he couldn’t see his brother clearly.
Chains of Darkness by Caris Roane / Mystery & Detective have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes