Chains of darkness, p.13
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       Chains of Darkness, p.13

         Part #2 of Men in Chains series by Caris Roane
 
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  She knew he didn’t understand himself at all.

  “Put me to bed, Lucian. That’s all I want right now, because I’m exhausted.”

  Concern swept over his features as he pulled out of her. He reached for a napkin and pressed it between her legs, then he held her close against him and they were flying, a very short flight to a massive, literally cavernous bedroom. He’d left much of the cave in its original shape.

  “Shower first,” she whispered as he drew close to the bed.

  “Right.”

  “You left a lot of yourself inside me.”

  She felt his chest swell and sensed a very strong male satisfaction. She chuckled again, but sleep began to work at her consciousness. She made short work of a shower, dried off, then headed straight to bed.

  He showered after her and she might have recalled the bed dipping when he climbed in, she wasn’t sure, because she fell into a deep and profound sleep.

  * * *

  As Lucian lay beside Claire, he didn’t understand what had just happened, but he felt extraordinary. This woman did something for him that he couldn’t quite explain, except that he felt more like himself than at any other time in his entire life.

  She’d begged to see all that he was, so he’d shown her the part of him that liked control. Yet not once had she seemed afraid of him, or worried that he’d hurt her, not even when he’d split into his two selves. His secondary self had held her in place, and he’d enjoyed her body thoroughly.

  He also felt instinctively that she wouldn’t have done this with anyone else. At the same time, he couldn’t imagine doing this with anyone other than Claire.

  He lay awake for a long time, watching her sleep. She had a sprawling style, her arms wide, her lips parted.

  He’d never spent this much time with one woman, ever. He knew who he was and he’d avoided close relationships. He’d proven the truth of his nature by splitting and pinning Claire down while he took her, drinking from her. Yet it had all seemed so natural.

  What’s more, she’d loved it. That’s what the chains had said to him, that she’d loved how he’d controlled her and made love to her.

  He wanted to do it again.

  And again.

  He rolled onto his back, sliding his hands beneath his head. He’d left the ceiling of the cavern in a natural state. He liked the jagged edges of the rock, which tended to reflect his state of mind more often than not.

  His chain vibrated softly against his upper chest and to the sides of his neck. The sensation eased him, in the same way the recent sex had. For one of the few times in his life, he didn’t feel so alone—and damn him for liking the way it felt.

  He also realized that the remnant of his blood-madness had disappeared during the experience.

  After a while, he fell asleep.

  Much later, when he woke up, he sniffed and groaned because he smelled bacon frying. What was it about bacon sizzling in a pan?

  Coffee, too.

  He threw the covers back and hopped from bed, then paused and looked back at the bottom sheet. He rounded the bed, his heart beating hard in his chest as he pulled back the covers on Claire’s side. Even though she’d assured him that he hadn’t hurt her, he still worried that somewhere in working her up, he’d gotten too rough.

  But when he saw that her portion of the sheet remained unstained, with no sign of blood, he breathed a deep sigh of relief.

  You okay? Claire was suddenly in his head.

  Fine. At least he was now.

  You felt worried there for a moment, through the chains I mean, almost panicky. Any sign of blood-madness?

  He actually touched his chest, then his gut. I’m good, thanks. And he was. He felt almost normal, or at least as normal as the son of a psychopath could ever really feel.

  All right then. Breakfast in ten minutes.

  He went into the bathroom and shaved, then showered. He donned jeans and a snug black T-shirt, no shoes. He liked feeling the cool smooth marble of the tiles on his bare feet.

  When he walked into the kitchen, Claire had her auburn hair brushed to a shine and drawn away from her face, revealing strong sculpted cheekbones. Her complexion glowed, maybe from the sex or perhaps from the power she siphoned. Either way, seeing her tightened something deep in his chest.

  He glanced at the place mats set on the island, right over the area where he’d taken her.

  She smiled. “Thinking good thoughts about last night? I am.” She chuckled.

  Damn, he loved that she wasn’t embarrassed. Maybe she’d had a lot of experience, but he didn’t like thinking of her with other men. He stopped a growl from forming in his throat.

  “Thanks for cooking.”

  “You’re welcome. And you were right, your fridge was well stocked. You have steaks in there, and a nice imported beer.”

  He smiled. “Yes, I do. Standing orders.”

  She poured scrambled eggs into a sizzling pan, and toast popped up from the toaster. She buttered the bread, stirred the eggs. “Pour us some coffee. It’s a nice, hearty French blend you have there. Love it.”

  He poured two cups and took them to the place mats on the other side of the island. But his gaze remained fixed to her backside, covered in a fresh pair of jeans, something she must have discovered in one of the guest rooms.

  “You went on a hunt, I see.”

  “I did. I borrowed some clothes and I like these leather flats. Very nice. Do you have women here often then?”

  “Nope. They belong to my housekeeper. Apparently, you’re about the same size.”

  “Will she mind?”

  “Don’t worry. She has a generous spirit and I’ll compensate her.”

  She glanced at him over her shoulder, still stirring the eggs. “She pretty?”

  “She’s one of the finest people I know, but I’d never use her like that. Besides, she’s married to one of our university professors.”

  He felt her surprise as she gently scooped eggs onto a couple of plates. “I didn’t know you had universities.”

  This time he refused to be offended. “Only three on as many continents. Not everyone is cut out for study.”

  “Did you attend?”

  He snorted. “Gabriel insisted on it, and every fifty years I had to take a new degree. Some of them at human universities, night courses, naturally.”

  “Naturally.”

  She put the toast on the plates as well as the bacon, then brought them over to the island and set them on the place mats. He waited for her to sit down and get comfortable before diving in.

  “Go ahead.” She laughed this time. “I know you’re starved. I can feel it through the chains. You can take from my wrist afterward as well, if you want.”

  He met her gaze and blinked a couple of times. She’d offered him blood, just like that. “You sure seem to have adjusted to things quickly. I can’t tell you how many times you’ve surprised me.”

  She picked up a strip of bacon and took a bite.

  He set his coffee mug down and turned toward her. “Claire, I need you to level with me. Tell me once and for all, did I hurt you last night?”

  She chewed her bacon but didn’t look at him. A smile curved her lips, and the chains at his neck started to vibrate. He felt something emanating from her, a kind of tenderness he didn’t understand.

  Finally she turned toward him and met his gaze. “You don’t know who you are, Lucian. I wish I could convince you of it, but I know I can’t. Did you hurt me last night? No, not even a little. It was wonderful and that’s my point. I don’t believe you could hurt me even if you tried.

  “What I enjoyed so much was feeling your strength, feeling all that you were, that you didn’t hold back. That’s what I loved. Did you enjoy yourself?”

  The question startled him because he realized it had been one of the finest experiences he’d known for exactly the reason she’d stated, that he’d truly been himself with her.

  “Now you tell me. What was it like for you,
splitting like that and holding me down?”

  He couldn’t quite pinpoint what he felt as he stared into her light-brown eyes. He laid a hand on her arm. “I’ll never forget last night. But I hate just how much I loved having control of you. You weren’t afraid, were you?”

  She shook her head and took another bite of bacon, then scooped up some eggs. Not even a little.

  Something inside him gave way, a big piece of fear that he’d hurt her. He hadn’t. He ate his breakfast and sipped his coffee.

  For the most part, Claire remained quiet as she finished her meal.

  Once she’d drained her cup, he rose and started washing the dishes. She offered to help but he told her he had a rule about the cook getting to sit out during cleanup.

  He felt the chains once more, only this time he felt her distress. Scrubbing out the frying pan he turned to look at her. “What gives?”

  “Well, Rumy called while you were sleeping. Thought I’d wait to share the news.”

  “What’s that?” He rinsed the pan off and set it in the drainer to dry, then continued loading the dishwasher.

  “He said to tell you that Daniel has raised the stakes on his hunt for the extinction weapon. He’s now offering three million for any information about the remaining weapons, payment made on retrieval of even the smallest part of the weapon, whether design or machinery itself. This is bad, isn’t it?”

  “I honestly don’t know how it could be worse. Just like in your world, there are vampires without a conscience who won’t think twice about making a buck any way they can, including selling out the rest of the population.”

  “So what do you think we should do next? We have to find that weapon.”

  “I know.” He shifted to look at her. “I think we should head back to The Erotic Passage and have a chat with both Eve and Rumy.”

  “Eve?”

  “Oh, that’s right. You haven’t met her yet. She’s as well connected throughout our world as Rumy is, and might have an idea or two about where to look for the weapon. She owns and operates a theater called The Ruby Cave.”

  “Does she put on plays of some kind?”

  Lucian grinned. “Of a sort. She presents sex shows.”

  “Oh.” She sipped her coffee. “And is she a former girlfriend of yours?”

  Lucian shuddered. “Hell, no. She’s full-on dominance. I’d rather eat glass than take up with someone like her. But other than her sexual proclivities, she’s good people and she will probably have an interesting idea or two.”

  When Claire headed toward the bathroom, he made a quick call to Rumy and set up a meeting with him and Eve. Shortly afterward he flew Claire back to Lake Como and straight into Rumy’s office.

  CHAPTER 8

  Claire sat in one of two oversized leather clubs chairs while the one called Eve, almost equal in height to Lucian, sat in the chair next to her.

  Claire tried not to stare, but an absolute vampire beauty met her gaze. The woman had on heavy stage makeup with thick false eyelashes, wide black eyeliner, and varying shades of eye shadow from black to red climbing to her brows. Despite the makeup, Claire saw the exquisite lines of her face, her straight nose and strong cheekbones. She wore her blond hair caught up high on her head and flowing in a long ponytail well past her bottom. She held it wrapped around her forearm, petting it like she would a cat.

  But beyond her flamboyant style, Claire couldn’t believe what Eve wanted her to do. “An erotica fashion show? You want me to walk down a runway modeling clothing fit for porn stars?”

  Eve smiled. “Exactly.”

  From the vibration at her neck, she knew Lucian had a serious problem with her dressing in a series of fantasy outfits, but he remained stoic. The stakes were incredibly high.

  Claire turned to Rumy. “And you’re sure these two men, Arsen and Salazar, know where the extinction weapon is?”

  He nodded. “My informant tells me that they’re trying to get Daniel to cough up about thirty million for the information they have on the weapon.”

  The figure staggered her mind. “But they don’t actually have possession of it?” This just didn’t make sense.

  “No, but word has it that as soon as Daniel posted his reward, they were on it. Like me, they have a powerful network, though theirs involves every criminal from here to Beijing and they don’t mind torturing for information.

  “It’s my understanding that they’ve physically hunted for it themselves, but can’t quite break through a couple of disguising shields to actually get their hands on it. Still, the fact that the information is hidden behind a powerful layering of disguise is telling in itself. I, for one, believe they’ve landed on the real deal. Also, they wouldn’t be so stupid as to play fast and loose with Daniel by faking it. No, I’m convinced they’ve got something solid, which is also why they’re asking for thirty million.”

  She considered the amount again, which at first had seemed phenomenal. But given the potential the weapon had, she wondered why they hadn’t asked for ten times that amount. “And from what you’ve told me, a serious trafficker like Daniel would have assets in the billions. He could afford to pay any price.”

  Lucian crossed his arms over his chest. “I think you’re exactly right.”

  She shook her head. “So the plan would be to lure these two men into coming here—then what?”

  Lucian frowned heavily. “We’d basically put them in the same kinds of chains you found me in, then work to get the information out of them.”

  She looked away from him nodding, thinking things through, then returned to him once more. “Why not go after them?”

  Lucian rocked slightly on his heels. “Because they live in a fortress, well stocked with every kind of weapon imaginable. Even if we got in, we wouldn’t get out, not without an army. But I’m still not on board, not even a little.” He turned to Eve. “You must have a dozen beautiful women you could use, dress up in bits of leather and a few rubber bands—”

  Eve glared at Lucian. “Hey, I design these clothes. You’re disparaging my creative efforts.”

  Rumy barked his laughter. “Rubber bands. Love it. He got you on that one, Eve.”

  Claire strove to understand the merits of the plan. “Okay, let’s say that it’s necessary they come here. Why me? Why would I so tempt these careful, well-armed warrior types that they’d actually agree to come to Eve’s theater to watch me parade around in pretty much nothing?”

  All three vampires turned to look at her. She glanced at each one in turn. Something was up, something that hadn’t been said. Eve turned to Lucian. “You want to tell her, or shall I?”

  Lucian’s nostrils flared. He appeared disgusted beyond words, but he spoke anyway. “Both these men have a thing for redheads.”

  She laughed. “What? You’re kidding. Why?”

  But Eve stepped in. “Just about everyone has a craving for something specific. Some men love feet, can’t get enough of them, that’s why they’re called fetishes. You have red hair, and I’ll admit it’s a beautiful auburn. You’ll have them both panting. We don’t have a lot of redheads in our world.”

  Claire pulled a lock of her hair forward and stared at it, then glanced at Lucian. “Is this really true? I mean, do you believe this?”

  “I have some friends who will only date Asian women. Period. Others are drawn to blondes. We’re all built differently.” A half smile curved his lips. “But in this case I don’t see how they could resist.”

  “So essentially, I’d be the bait.”

  “You’ll be more than that.” Lucian drew close, looking down at her. “We’ll need your disguising power to surround Rumy’s security team. The last thing they’ll be expecting is that the object of their lust will be the prime reason they’ll get caught in the trap.”

  Claire took Lucian’s hand and lowered her voice. “It will be really hard for me to do something like this. I’m fairly modest by nature. But what about you? I’ll be parading around in front of a lot of men, and n
ot just bad guys, but Rumy’s security force as well. Are you sure you’ll be okay with this?”

  He met and held her gaze, but a haunted look entered his gray eyes. “I hate the idea more than I can say, but I keep telling myself that this isn’t about me, or what I want, but what needs to be done.”

  “And there’s no other way?”

  “Believe me, if I had an army, I’d head to Arsen and Salazar’s compound and battle my way in. But I don’t. And if what Rumy has said is true, we have an extremely narrow window of time before Daniel accepts their offer and finds his way to wherever it is that their information leads.”

  He took her arm in his large hand and squeezed gently. “But say the word, and we’re done here, no questions asked, no recriminations.”

  Once more, she took a lock of her hair in hand and stared at it. “I’ll never think of the color of my hair in the same way again.”

  “But you’re right. I don’t want other men looking at you, and I’m pretty sure I’m going to have a hard time holding my temper.”

  She slipped into telepathy as she said, And you’re the only one I want looking at me. No one else.

  Memories of the night before came flooding back, of being pinned down on the island. She’d encouraged him to tap into something very primal and so he had. Because of it, she felt even closer to him than ever. Sex had definitely complicated their arrangement. She was a human in a secret vampire world, needing desperately to go home. But every moment she spent with Lucian, getting to know him, to know his fine character yet at the same time his deep sense of unworthiness, the more she felt drawn into something she wondered if she’d ever be able to leave. She’d known the man such a short time, but she already cared about him more than she could say.

  She turned to Rumy, then Eve as she said, “Because it’s a private show, I’ll do it. I know I couldn’t walk a runway in front of hundreds of people, but if it would mean getting information like this, about the weapon, I think we have to try.” Taking a deep breath, she added, “So, how many changes would I have?”

 
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