Chains of darkness, p.10
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       Chains of Darkness, p.10

         Part #2 of Men in Chains series by Caris Roane
 
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  “Lucian, I want you to know that I’ll do whatever it takes to help you stop Daniel. He’s set the worldwide stage for this level of sex trafficking. He has Zoey in his power and now his organization has abducted Zoey’s sister and her friend. I don’t think I really connected all the dots before, but none of this will change until he’s brought down.”

  He closed his eyes, a frown never far from his forehead. She felt how upset he was that the very thing he’d promised himself never to do looked like the only way he could save his world from calamity. Saving Amber would be a side trip, though a critical one. But becoming an Ancestral in order to get the job done would accelerate their efforts on all fronts.

  Lucian turned and faced her fully. “The only way we make this work is with your disguising power enhanced with an infusion of Ancestral power. I truly doubt we’d even be able to find them otherwise. But once I rise to this level, nothing will stop us from finding the weapon. I’m sure of it. As far as my biggest concern goes, I have no idea which way this will fall.”

  “You mean whether the new power level will somehow seduce your dark side?”

  “Exactly.”

  “But you’re willing to take the risk.”

  “I am, but are you? This could backfire and you could get hurt.”

  She took his other hand and held his gaze with all the ferocity she could manage. “With all my heart, I believe you’re incapable of resembling anything like Daniel Briggs.”

  * * *

  From the time he could remember, Lucian had fought his basic nature, the one that matched Daniel Briggs point by point: his level of rage, his desire to hurt, his willingness to fight anyone to the death. He was more vampire than Claire would ever understand, and to some degree, when she questioned his civilization, she had it right about his species. What else could account for such a vast network of human trafficking in his world?

  His gaze settled on the double-chain. The new set would hit him about three inches below the well of his throat and were just big enough to slide over his head. And Claire would wear the matching one in order to sustain their bond. She would continue to siphon his power, but otherwise the primary changes would occur within him.

  He couldn’t believe that after four hundred years, he was making the Ancestral leap. But it had to be done. If he had any hope of stopping Daniel from getting the extinction weapon, he needed to be at Ancestral level right now and he needed Claire with him.

  He turned toward her, meeting her steady gaze.

  He picked up the set meant for him and for the strangest split second wished Claire stood beside him. Then suddenly she was there and touched his shoulder.

  “I can feel the difference and you haven’t even put them on.”

  He breathed hard now, because he was feeling it as well, the potential in the double-chain. His life would change from this moment forward. Nothing would ever be the same—and even more troubling, he’d never be able to go back. He would become an Ancestral. Once his power rose, he would be born into that new realm.

  He stared into Claire’s light-brown eyes, still breathing hard. He’d resisted and feared this moment his entire life: The double-chains would make him Daniel’s equal, his competitor, his true enemy.

  And once the chain was on, Daniel wouldn’t be far behind.

  But would the rise to Ancestral status make it impossible for him to battle the constant evil that threatened to take him over? Or would he become a sadistic killer? Would darkness rule his mind and his thoughts the way it did his father’s? Or was he truly the man Claire believed him to be?

  Claire’s beautiful voice eased through his mind. Are you ready?

  He nodded slowly. I am.

  Lucian drew the chains close. He could smell the power of them now, what they would bring him. He wanted that power—and here was another of his truths: He’d longed for Ancestral power from the moment he’d first learned of its potential.

  He drew in a deep breath, one that went to the base of his lungs, and without any more questioning of motive or purpose he slid the double-chain over his neck.

  On instinct, at the same moment, he took the single-chain off and tossed it onto Rumy’s desk.

  Then he waited.

  He met Claire’s gaze.

  The first thing he felt was the absolute purity of her soul. The second thing he knew was his complete unworthiness of being with a woman like her.

  Then the power struck like a blow to his head, and he fell to his knees. He hadn’t known what to expect, but the sheer level of the power felt like a tornado in his body. Some deep part of him resisted.

  Claire’s hand was on his arm once more, and she squeezed hard as she knelt beside him. Lucian, listen to me. I can feel that you’re holding back, but you have to let go, let the power become part of you.

  I can’t. I’ll become like Daniel.

  Gray spots flew through his vision. He’d lose consciousness soon.

  She shifted to get in front of him, then put both her hands on his face. Look at me, dammit. Lucian, look at me. You can do this! You’re not Daniel. You think you are, but you’re not, and that’s something both Rumy and I agree on. You’re worthy of this power and this power will change your world for the better. I know it will.

  Her words started filtering through the spots. Somewhere in the middle of the power crushing him and his fading consciousness, he decided to believe her.

  He opened his lungs wide, arched his neck, and let it come.

  Ancestral power, what had been his from the beginning, now flooded him in waves, perfect and beautiful, like an old friend returning to have a long brilliant conversation.

  Once his resistance left, his spirit soared. He extended his arms up and out as though embracing all that there was in the world, in life.

  Lucian, I can feel what you’re experiencing and it’s magnificent.

  He opened his eyes and looked at Claire. He saw her as though surrounded by a halo of light. Even his vision had changed, sharper, clearer.

  He rose up, lifting her to her feet at the same time. He turned to face her. He touched her gleaming auburn hair, letting the strands sift through his fingers. The texture was coarse yet somehow silky at the same time.

  He leaned in and smelled her hair, then her forehead. The scent of her blood came to him like a sharp blade of sensation. He’d loved tasting her blood from the first drop in the Dark Cave system. He wanted more, but something stood in the way.

  He eased his shoulders back and stood up straighter. He turned in a slow circle, just sensing his surroundings. He felt the club, even the miles of underground dwellings and theaters, even Rumy’s villa hidden in the center behind thick disguises, Rumy’s safe place.

  So this was what it meant to have Ancestral power, to have all of his powers and abilities heightened. He was astonished at how far he could reach out to gather information.

  He retrieved the second double-chain and put it over Claire’s head, settling it on her neck. As he’d done with his own, he took the single-chain and removed it at the same time.

  She gasped then smiled. “It’s amazing, like hearing a choir of angels sing.”

  Lucian felt nothing but gratitude as the bond between them strengthened. He drew her into his arms. For a long time, as his Ancestral power flowed and began to settle into every cell of his body, he held her close.

  After a few minutes he drew back and saw that Claire’s eyes were full of fire. “What is it?”

  “Let’s go get the girls.”

  “Can you feel them? Do you know where they are? Rumy tells me that when Adrien and Lily formed a tracking pair, she could focus on a specific cavern and get a reading.”

  He watched her turn her thoughts inward, but he could see that she still struggled to get a reading, despite the new level of power they shared.

  “I don’t think I have Lily’s gift—or if I do, it’s not the same. What I sense when I think of Amber involves deep swirling patterns. I think I’m sensing the d
isguising pattern that keeps her hidden.”

  “Can you tell if she’s in Hawaii?”

  At that, she nodded, then smiled. “Yes, absolutely. I can at least tell you that much.”

  CHAPTER 6

  Suddenly a new voice intruded straight into Claire’s mind.

  Claire?

  A young woman’s voice. How was that even possible?

  She drew back slightly. “Lucian, I think I’m hearing someone calling to me.”

  He shook his head. “Who?”

  “I’m not sure.” At first she thought it might be Zoey. But she focused once more on Hawaii and suddenly, Amber’s voice pierced her mind. Claire, is that you? Claire? Am I talking inside your head because I feel you inside mine? Claire?

  Amber? Zoey’s sister?

  She thought she heard a scream, or a squeal maybe, and she gripped Lucian’s arm hard.

  “What is it, Claire?”

  She shook her head in disbelief. “I’m communicating with Amber telepathically.”

  He looked stunned. “This is a result of Ancestral power.”

  Claire nodded.

  His lips worked as though he ran through a quick litany of questions. Finally, he asked, “Does she know where she is?”

  Claire asked her, but Amber’s response was cloaked in sobs. When Claire finally made sense of what Amber was saying, she addressed Lucian. “She doesn’t know. She smelled fruit of some kind, and some of it rotten, but that’s the most she could tell me.”

  “We’ll figure it out. Tell her we’re coming.”

  Claire nodded, then turned her thoughts toward Amber. It’s okay. We’re coming for you, sometime within the next hour. Be ready. We’re leaving now.

  Thank God. Just hurry. Some of the women are getting hurt.

  She ended the telepathy and yet again drew in a deep breath. “So, do you know where the Hawaiian cavern system is?”

  At that, he smiled, a big perfect smile, something he did so rarely. “Hell, yeah.”

  He turned toward Rumy. “Not sure when we’ll be back. Hold the fort and let me know if Daniel makes a move while we’re gone.”

  “Understood.”

  Before Claire could prepare for what was about to happen, Lucian switched to altered flight. Suddenly she was streaking through solid rock then high into the dark night sky, gliding through space like it was nothing.

  Feeling any pain?

  She gasped slightly. Not even a little.

  I’m so glad, Claire. I was worried.

  She glanced down. Wow, look at the Atlantic. So we’re heading west this time?

  Yep. Flying into the night.

  The flight was so fast—even faster than when he’d flown them both out of the Dark Cave system—that she watched the earth below her in amazement. The Atlantic gave way to the Gulf of Mexico to Mexico proper then the Pacific, all in less than a few beats of her heart.

  He began to slow, though she wasn’t certain why until she realized how easily he could overshoot the Hawaiian Islands.

  He dropped closer to the earth as well.

  Okay, Claire, you’re up. There are several disguised caverns along this side of the island, so focus on Amber because I’ll need you to guide me in.

  She settled her thoughts on Amber as Lucian’s movements grew slower and slower.

  I’m trying, she sent, but this tracking thing isn’t working for me.

  Then try your disguising power. Maybe that’s the key.

  The moment she shifted her focus toward her ability to create and detect disguises, the direction she needed to guide Lucian suddenly arrived.

  Head toward the volcano. The caves nearby have unique, powerful disguises. I haven’t seen this kind before.

  Once she’d set the end point, Lucian sped up. The next moment he said, Create a strong disguising shield around us.

  The funny thing was, when her thoughts became fixed on Lucian, what followed was a sudden powerful need to protect him. Was this the chains talking? Or something more typical of the vampire culture and experience?

  She was so intent on what she’d created that she didn’t realize he’d come to a stop, that they’d touched down at what looked like an enormous docking bay carved out of an equally large cavern.

  She glanced around. Oh, my God. This is a real business. But where are they shipping all those pineapples to?

  He moved her off his foot but kept a loose arm around her waist. We have thousands of legitimate businesses in our world. These pineapples are shipped everywhere. But I have to say that this new disguise you created around us is amazing. There’s actually a color now, sort of violet.

  You’re right. But I wonder why that is.

  Just probably part of your gift.

  Well, I think that’s interesting.

  What? Why are you frowning at me?

  Because I’m starting to understand you. You’re generous with me, but not with yourself.

  He stared at her for a moment, then shrugged. Not sure what that means, but let’s see if we can find Amber.

  Good idea.

  She turned her focus on Amber and extended her senses into the Hawaiian cavern system, searching as best she could for Zoey’s younger sister. From what she knew about all the systems in the vampire world, the caves could go back into the earth for miles, with layers of caves one on top of another, at times opening to massive caverns or at others shrinking to tunnels that would need work before being usable.

  But as she focused on Amber and her long, thick black hair, she found herself moving yet not moving, as though some internal visionary part of her could see. A second-sight window opened, and she reached for Lucian’s hand. He gave her a reassuring squeeze so that while she experienced this strange split viewing, she felt grounded and secure.

  What met her was one disguising shield after another, each one with a different texture. Some swirled, some moved in strange waves back and forth, but none of them was in color.

  As she witnessed the various disguises, she related them to Lucian, who remained very quiet. She sensed he was letting her explore without commentary or question—maybe to keep her centered, she wasn’t sure. She could sense, however, a certain amount of astonishment as he occasionally gave her hand a squeeze.

  Keeping Amber at the forefront of her mind, she traveled deeper and deeper into the system, one mile then two, until she knew she’d reached the last disguising layer, though she couldn’t say how she knew.

  This is it, the last barrier. I can feel it.

  Break through, if you can. Let’s see what we’ve got here.

  The final disguising layer proved more than Claire could manage, however. She moved up and down searching for a way in, but nothing budged. I don’t know what’s going on, but this last shield is stubborn. And I know Amber’s there, I can feel her.

  Lucian remained quiet, a sign he was thinking about the situation. I wonder if you can access more of my power. I’m going to try something.

  Do it.

  He let go of her hand. She glanced at him as he stepped behind her, moving in close. He surrounded her with his arms. Lean back against me and try again. Just think about Amber.

  Easy for you to say; I have a gorgeous vampire with his arms around me.

  He chuckled again.

  So what’s the plan?

  I’m going to funnel as much of my power into you as I can, holding you like this. Okay?

  Ready when you are.

  The power flowed in a strange zing of energy. As she concentrated on the second images in her strange split-vision, the disguise began falling away in bits and pieces.

  It’s working. Or starting to. I can see the tops of what look like jail cells. The floor is a dark slate and extends at least fifty feet in length. I hear the women now, all the slaves, some talking quietly, others weeping. They seem to be somewhere in the middle of this part of the cave system. The tunnel isn’t broad but it’s wide enough for a row of cells on each side, with bare lightbulbs overhead, that’
s it. These women must be scared out of their wits.

  No doubt. Do you see any guards?

  More of the disguise floated away, disappearing like mist. The lower portion of the west end of the space came into view.

  At least one man is standing in front of a desk. I can see the backs of his legs. Two more guards are off to his right and one, to his left. I hear them laughing now. But a woman is screaming. More of the disguise lifted. Oh, God. She gripped Lucian’s arms. They’re raping one of the girls right there. Right now. On a desk.

  Okay, take it easy. We’ll get to her, but I’ve got to call in reinforcements first.

  He released her, slipped his phone from his pant pocket, and the next moment spoke to Gabriel. Within seconds he’d relayed their position, called for a large team including medical personnel, then hung up.

  This is it, Claire. We’re going in, but don’t worry. I’ve been fighting for centuries and I can handle all five of these bastards. Set us down in the middle like you said, then find your friends. I’ll do the rest.

  Do it, Lucian.

  * * *

  “Do it, Lucian.”

  Just like that. No fear.

  Lucian was amazed by Claire’s courage. He didn’t know if she’d always been this way or whether the struggles of her abduction had created her confident spirit.

  Of course, once she witnessed the carnage soon to follow she might change her tune, but right now she had a warrior’s mentality.

  I should warn you, I’m going in to kill, not to save these vampires. They’re bad men. Do you understand?

  She turned to look at him, her soft brown eyes suddenly hard with an emotion he understood quite well. The young woman is still screaming, so beat the shit out of each one of them and cut their balls off if you need to. I don’t give a damn.

  He nodded and something like respect flowed through his chest. Then he ignited his Ancestral power, used Claire as a beacon, and took her straight to the center of one of the biggest abduction cells he’d ever seen.

 
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