Chains of darkness, p.11
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       Chains of Darkness, p.11

         Part #2 of Men in Chains series by Caris Roane
 
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  That part of him familiar with battling evil in his world came alive, a twisted creature that enjoyed doing what he did best.

  Just as he said, he left Claire in the center so she’d be away from the guards and could help the other captives. He then headed toward the desk and the five bastards. From behind him, he heard Claire calling for Amber and Tracy.

  One of the vampires had just finished, and the girl had stopped screaming. She lay with her eyes closed, breathing hard, blood smeared over her face, her neck having been pierced more than once, her features twisted in pain.

  Lucian felt his rage overtake him. They got off on it, the way his father had gotten off on hurting his sons, slicing them open with blades, beating them until they were a mass of vivid red, black, and blue.

  He shifted to flight mode and went for the first man, now zipping up his pants. His new Ancestral power, combined with his rage, had an unexpected effect. He grabbed the vampire, yes, but his movements as he shifted to altered flight took him through the cave wall and suddenly he was over the Pacific Ocean. He still had a proximity issue, though much longer than previously, because of the double-chains. He felt a profound tug on his neck.

  But his instincts kicked in and he snapped the rapist’s neck, then dropped him into the water, returning swiftly.

  He found that two of the men had remained by the desk but the other two now headed in Claire’s direction, looking around as if confused.

  He landed in front of Claire. These men didn’t deserve to live one second longer for their crimes, so he did what he’d been able to do since he was young: He split into two separate battling entities. His secondary self drew a knife and headed to the top of the room after the remaining two vampires near the desk.

  The ones closest to Lucian’s primary self started backing up.

  “We’ve got an Ancestral in here,” one of them shouted, reaching back and pulling out a knife. The men were fighters, and even though they were scared, they weren’t going to back down.

  Lucian laughed and with a wave of his hand beckoned the man forward. He drew a long battle chain from the pocket of his leathers and began to spin it quickly.

  The vampire sprang forward with a low growl, slashing at the chain with his blade, hoping to disrupt the spin. But Lucian had worked the long battle chains for centuries now and with the slightest flip of his wrist moved it away from the blade. The vampire rushed in, a big mistake, because another flick of his wrist brought the chain wrapping around the man’s throat.

  He slashed out with his hands, but Lucian used the chain’s strength and flipped the man over, then struck his lower spine hard, breaking it. His body went limp.

  He let the battle chain fall to the floor, then stepped over the dying vampire. The dark part of him that loved to make war caught the other vampire’s gaze and held on tight.

  The man looked scared, just as he should. He had the woman’s blood all over him, on his face and down his neck. On his hands as well. Looked like he’d already had his fun.

  Rage reached Lucian’s fingertips. He drew his second battle chain from his leathers and got it spinning. This time he lunged suddenly, and in a quick, arcing bite, he cut up the vampire’s face. He screamed and flew back against one of the cell doors. The young woman within also screamed then dove under her cot.

  Lucian let those chains fall as well, then slipped a dagger from the right side of his battle leathers. He could feel his second self punching the remaining two vampires near the desk, taking turns on each with a speed that came directly from his rise to Ancestral status.

  His primary self, now bending over the vampire whose hands shook near his cut-up face, thrust the dagger at a low angle through the rapist’s chest, reaching upward until the sharp point connected with the tougher flesh of the heart.

  He screamed one final time, lost air, and arched. Lucian held the blade steady until the vampire lay still, his hands falling away from this face.

  For a long moment, he stared down at the man he’d just killed, breathing hard. But as his adrenaline eased back, his hearing opened and he heard the weeping of the young women in the cells. They’d had to witness these kills.

  He stood up, stripped off his shirt, and threw it over the corpse. The captives had had enough trauma for one night.

  He turned and saw Claire put her arms through the bars of a cell and embrace a young woman with black hair. He made his way back to his second self, looked into his own eyes, and with a powerful vibration rejoined.

  All four vampires were dead, and the woman on the table lay very still. Her clothes hung off her in ragged, torn pieces. She’d lost a lot of blood, but she hadn’t died, and for that he was grateful. How many times had he found human women in this state: gang-raped, drained, in terrible pain, traumatized? And how many times had they died because of it?

  He didn’t dare try to touch her. She wouldn’t understand he meant to help. He called for Claire, who took charge of her, lifting her from the desk, putting an arm around her shoulders and speaking in a low voice. “We’ll have help here soon to get everyone out, medical assistance as well.” She drew the woman to a corner away from the desk as well as the cells and held her as she sobbed.

  With the victim taken care of, he turned to getting the dead bodies out of viewing distance. He moved them into an adjoining room, a task that, given his increased physical strength, took less than half a minute to accomplish. He didn’t want the women staring at this much carnage.

  He withdrew his cell and called Gabriel.

  “What’s your ETA?”

  “We’re already here, though we’re looking at a bunch of astonished dockworkers.”

  “I’m sure you are.”

  “So what have you got?”

  “One rape victim who will need medical attention and it looks like at least a hundred recent abductees. The guards are dead. They’ll need to be processed, and I’m sorry to say one of them got dropped in the Pacific.”

  “I’ll send someone out to retrieve the body.”

  They would do everything they could to keep the vampire genome a secret from the human world.

  Gabriel continued, “I’ve got my people with me, but this is some serious disguising power. There’s even a trace of something violet. Just a trace.”

  “Can you follow that trace?”

  Gabriel was quiet for a moment. “I sure can. I take it this is Claire’s signature.”

  “It is. Just follow it and you’ll find us.”

  “We’re on our way.”

  A moment later Gabriel arrived along with this team.

  * * *

  Claire turned the rape victim over to the physician in charge, but continued to hold her hand until the woman could let go. A shot of morphine for her pain helped a lot. Claire wasn’t surprised that by the time she was strapped to a stretcher, she’d passed out.

  Only then was she able to rejoin Lucian, who stood beside a vampire almost as big as he was. Lucian introduced her to the man called Gabriel, the one she knew Lucian thought of as his real father. He had short spiked black hair and gray eyes, similar to Lucian’s, but they held more tenderness than she’d seen in any of the vampires she’d met before.

  She liked him already, but mostly because from what Lucian had told her, Gabriel had taught three teenage boys to function with a conscience even though they’d each gone through hell at their father’s hands.

  “You’ve done a wonderful thing here, Claire.” He gestured down the long row of cells.

  All the young women were now clustered together in the middle of the room as his team began making its way through their number, tending to each one.

  “I was only too glad to help.” When she heard Amber call to her, she excused herself and hurried in her direction.

  Now that all the cells had been opened, she caught Amber in her arms and held her tight. Amber wept against her shoulder, then gestured for Tracy to join her. Claire had never met Tracy before, but she opened her arm and all three
women embraced.

  Claire, though having boasted to Lucian that she wasn’t a weeper, found tears streaming down her cheeks anyway.

  After a moment, Amber drew back, linking arms with Tracy. “What’s going to happen to us?”

  “You’ll be taken home.”

  “But won’t they come for us again? The ones who took us in the first place?”

  Claire glanced back at Lucian, who had remained near Gabriel. The men appeared deep in conversation, their expressions serious. “I’ll talk with Lucian, the one who battled your captors. I’m sure he’ll fix things so that you will never have to worry about being abducted again.”

  Amber nodded, but she had the skittish look of a woman who’d been taken against her will, her gaze bouncing around from the cells, to the medics, to the other young women.

  Claire didn’t say anything. She just let Amber find her own pace with the situation.

  Finally Amber’s gaze settled on Claire. “Do you know where Zoey is? I thought maybe she’d be with you.”

  Now the next hard part. “No, I’m afraid she’s not. It’s a long story, but after we were abducted, we were separated. Right now, however, I’m finally able to start looking for her. And I feel very confident that I’ll have the means to find her within the next few days.”

  “But it’s been two years? Why are you just looking for her now? I don’t understand.”

  Claire debated just how much to tell her but finally sketched out her own experience, adding that Lucian was now working with her to find Zoey.

  Amber kept shaking her head, and more tears streamed from her eyes. Claire hugged her once more, drawing Tracy in as well, then reassured them both that all would be well.

  As she held the girls, she glanced once more in Lucian’s direction and found that he was still talking quietly to Gabriel.

  * * *

  Later, Lucian met Amber and her friend, but he moved away shortly after. He could tell his sheer size and the fact that he no longer wore a shirt intimidated the young women.

  While he waited for Gabriel’s medical team to wrap things up, he watched Claire as she continued to comfort Amber and her friend and as she extended herself to many of the other young women around her. The new set of chains gave them both a much greater range of movement, one of the many benefits he was already experiencing.

  Other aspects were similar to the single-chain, especially that he remained driven as ever to follow her with his gaze, to desire her, to long for some alone time. His need to feed rose as well, a typical response to having been in a recent battle. Splitting into his dual selves, something he often did while fighting, also tended to use up his reserves. But because of his blood-madness recovery, he already felt twitchy.

  Claire caught his gaze and tilted her head, an inquiring expression. He smiled ruefully, knowing he’d been caught essentially lusting after her again.

  The new chains grew very warm there for a moment. Where were your thoughts?

  In my home in the Ozarks. Did I tell you I have a place there?

  No, one more indication how little we know about each other.

  I thought maybe you’d like to see it once we take Amber and Tracy home.

  Sounds like a plan. But do you know what is amazing?

  What’s that?

  Only that we’re standing at least thirty feet away from each other and it’s as though you’re right next to me.

  It’s pretty amazing.

  Amber said something to Claire so that she turned her attention to the younger woman, once more taking her in her arms. But over Amber’s shoulder, Claire’s gaze traveled to Lucian. Do you know if they’ll be going home soon?

  I’ll check with Gabriel.

  When he approached Gabriel, he saw the man smile, after which he tossed him a fresh shirt. “When I saw you in just your battle leathers, I thought we couldn’t have you frightening all these women. In case you haven’t noticed, you’re one big sonofabitch.” After Lucian and his brothers had escaped from Daniel, Gabriel had taken them under his powerful wing. He’d trained them as warriors, helping to focus all that they’d endured into a force that could help the world. Lucian thought of Gabriel as his true father.

  “Look who’s talking. And thanks.” Lucian shrugged into the shirt, grateful. “So how is everything shaping up?”

  “Really well, I’m glad to say. Most of these women haven’t been here longer than a few days, so hopefully we’ll be able to get them back to their homes before too long. A few have been hurt, but we’ll take good care of them.”

  “Thanks for coming, Gabriel.”

  “My pleasure.”

  In the end the doctors declared most of the women fit to be taken home, including Amber and her friend. Only a handful of the young women would require rehabilitation before they could leave his world. Those who had been brutalized, whether raped or beaten, would remain in Gabriel’s charge until each was completely healed.

  The whole thing sickened Lucian, this wretched part of his world that trafficked in human flesh. He blamed Daniel, who in the past several decades had built hundreds of clubs across the globe to service a hungry, perverse clientele. Some said his Dark Cavern system, which he personally owned, was dedicated almost exclusively to the trafficking of humans.

  The sheer size of Daniel’s operation appalled him, one more reason to get rid of him forever.

  Once Gabriel’s team had processed all the women, Lucian agreed without hesitation to personally see that Amber and her friend got home safely.

  Gabriel said good-bye without even asking how Lucian was taking to his new Ancestral status. For that, Lucian gave him credit. Gabriel, of all vampires, knew exactly how Lucian felt about rising to his father’s level of power.

  Making use of a second and third vampire to carry Tracy and Amber on a slow flight back to New Mexico, Lucian held Claire close. The journey took a very long hour, but because of the less demanding speed, neither Amber nor Tracy complained of headaches or nausea.

  Once he had the girls outside Amber’s home, he sent the other vampires on their way. Each took off, heading back to continue their service to Gabriel.

  Lucian felt the sudden nostalgic shift in Claire as she looked at Amber’s low, single-story house made of plaster and built with dark, round beams that jutted out at the roofline. The style was popular in the Desert Southwest.

  From inside the house, he heard arguing.

  “That’s Mom.” Amber’s voice was hushed, her lips trembling. “She always yells when she’s mad or sad.” She turned toward Claire and hugged her. “Thank you so much, Claire, for saving us, but please find Zoey.”

  “I will.”

  He approached both the young women and after Claire had hugged each of them again, he asked for hugs himself, something he only did when he had a specific job to perform. Claire knew what he needed to do, but neither had felt it wise to tell the girls up front. In this case, they wouldn’t remember, not even a little, where they’d really been for the past few days, or that a vampire named Lucian had actually rescued them.

  The girls went to him readily, thanking him for getting them home, for saving them.

  Just as each would have pulled away, however, he began the process of sweeping her mind clean. What surprised him was how easy it was now that he had new power. What might have been the work of several minutes became a fifteen-second jaunt inside each mind, exchanging traumatic memories for what would no doubt become a case of “selective amnesia.” They simply wouldn’t remember where they’d been or what had happened to them for the time they were gone.

  When he let them go, they turned and walked up the path to Amber’s home, not looking back even once. Lucian could feel how hard this was for Claire: They were getting to do what neither she nor Zoey had been able to do. He drew close and slid his arm around her waist.

  The screen creaked, a comforting sound all on its own. Amber knocked on the door and a few seconds later, a woman, clearly Amber’s mother, shouted then
screamed as she embraced first Amber then Tracy. The father came next, doing much the same but without the noise. He then got his cell out and called Tracy’s parents.

  At that point Lucian’s rage surfaced, a blinding heat of anger at what had almost happened to these girls. He promised himself that one day, there would be a reckoning with all traffickers.

  What is it? Claire asked, looking up at him. You’re suddenly so angry.

  He wanted to answer her, but for a moment he couldn’t even speak.

  When the front door closed and both girls were inside, he turned away from the house, glancing down the street. He’d been around. He’d been down a thousand streets like this all over the world. Every culture, in his opinion, was pretty much the same, including his own: Most humans—and vampires, for that matter—worked to take care of their families and their communities. Unfortunately, there were just enough psychopaths around in both species, to destroy hundreds, thousands, and sometimes millions of lives.

  We’ve done some good here, Lucian. You need to know that. I can feel how angry you are.

  He met her gaze. I hate this, you know. All this suffering.

  So do I. And that’s what I’d dedicated my life to before I was taken—helping women who’d fallen into prostitution.

  He nodded. I know you did.

  She then smiled, but there was a glint in her eyes. I’ve been thinking that there’s something I’d like to do right now.

  He glanced at her, frowning. He couldn’t quite pinpoint the sensation that the chains gave off, so he wasn’t sure what she was thinking. Revenge came to mind, but in what way, he couldn’t imagine. And what’s that?

  How about we pay a visit to The Prickly Pear—you know, the club that caused us all so much grief. I understand it’s owned by vampires.

  At that, Lucian’s lips curved. You have a very wicked mind, and I’m liking it. Let’s go.

  He knew the location well and had tried several times to get the club shut down. But the ineffective court system in his world never ruled against Daniel or the other more powerful traffickers, using the “secrecy” directive as an excuse for not taking action.

 
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