Chains of darkness, p.18
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       Chains of Darkness, p.18

         Part #2 of Men in Chains series by Caris Roane
 
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  She opened her eyes to mere slits. He felt her exhaustion, which would soon pass, because he also felt her streaming his vampire power and growing stronger because of it. Her voice came out hushed. “What’s going on in that head of yours?”

  He stared down at her, amazed by the connection he felt to her. “I don’t know. You amaze me, Claire. This was astounding.”

  He didn’t want to, but his internal clock knew they needed to get on with things, to clean up then head to Siberia.

  But he didn’t want to leave the well of her body.

  As he stared into her eyes, he felt his chest seize. At first he thought the blood-madness rolled again. But he quickly realized it was something else: One day, probably really soon, he’d have to take this woman to Santa Fe.

  She put her index finger between his brows, rubbing at his frown line. “What are we going to do?”

  He shook his head. He understood her. They were both trapped by the chains that bound them. “Everything will be all right.”

  Slowly, he withdrew from her, his chest once more feeling tight. He went about his business methodically, but he didn’t meet her gaze again as he unlocked each of the manacles. He then helped her to her feet, but she fell limp against him; if he hadn’t caught her she would have dropped to the floor in a heap.

  He scowled. “You okay?”

  But she looked up at him, laughing. “I’m better than okay. You softened my bones with so much pleasure. I think I might even have passed out once or twice.”

  He smiled in return and ran his fingers through her beautiful auburn hair. He wanted to say something to her, but words wouldn’t come.

  She put her hands on his face, as she often did. His body stilled for her, waiting, as he looked into her light-brown eyes.

  “I loved every minute of this experience.”

  He nodded, searching her eyes. “I did, too.” He put a hand over his heart. “I feel better than I have in decades. Hell, maybe even centuries, and I have you to thank for that.”

  “I feel the same way.”

  “But you’re leaving.”

  “I am.”

  He nodded. “How about we gather up our clothes and get back to our suite.”

  “Sounds like a plan.”

  * * *

  Claire sat on the side of the bed, her legs and arms crossed. She’d insisted that Lucian shower first because she’d need more time in the bathroom and she didn’t want him waiting around for her, especially if Rumy needed him. Men were quick in the shower, and she wanted to wash her hair and strip off all the makeup.

  Her thoughts, however, had stayed fixed in the specialty room. She’d loved every second of the experience, which still stunned her. Where had this penchant come from for dominance and sex combined?

  All throughout the lovemaking, she’d been so fully engaged, but now, separated as she was from his body, she felt terribly removed from Lucian. The chain at her neck was perfectly quiet. She could tell that Lucian held his emotions in check, not surprising. He’d said it exactly right: She was leaving.

  The memories of what had just happened on the platform began to flow in a sudden stream. She watched them almost as an observer, especially each time she orgasmed and what she’d felt: the pleasure, the desire, and something more, something she had a hard time putting a name to.

  Then it came to her: affection. She’d felt affection for Lucian the whole time, the burgeoning of something greater than mere like or even respect. Dammit, she’d started to love the vampire, the very thing she’d been avoiding.

  She leaned over, planted her elbow on her thigh, and dropped her forehead into her hand. Oh, hell, what was happening to her?

  She no longer recognized herself, which was part of the problem. She streamed so much of Lucian’s power that she didn’t know where he left off and she began. In psychological terms she was growing far too dependent on him, on a vampire with a darkness that lived inside him, one needing to dominate. She’d not only let him, she’d savored the experience.

  She might even have treasured it, which made matters worse.

  Tears burned her eyes. In the space of just a few days she’d grown fond of Lucian—yes, she loved him, or had the beginnings of love for him—but she couldn’t be feeling these things. She had a life to return to, a family, a job she loved, and a mission to continue with her social work.

  She deserved a chance to be a wife and a mother, married to a normal human man, arguing with him about finances and how to raise their children, not whether he needed his blood-needs met or wondering if this would be the night Daniel would kill Lucian and she’d never see him again.

  If this kept up, if she continued to have sex with Lucian, how the hell would she ever be able to part from him when the time came?

  Everything okay?

  Lucian’s voice drew her out of the sudden pain that had engulfed her chest. She sat up and squared her shoulders.

  Everything’s fine.

  You don’t sound all right.

  I’m trying to be sensible and it’s proving difficult.

  The water no longer ran in the shower. She rose to her feet, heading to the open bathroom door—and there he was. He stood with a black terry towel tucked around his waist.

  She met his gaze, trying not to feel so much for the man.

  He stared back, shaking his head as though he understood. “I don’t want you to be unhappy.”

  His words did her in. Claire gave a small cry and went to him. He engulfed her in his arms, holding her tight.

  Claire.

  I’m sorry, I’m just feeling way too much right now. I loved what we just did together and I shouldn’t. I shouldn’t be caring for you as much as I am, but I do. And now we have an extinction weapon to find, my friend to save who-the-hell-knows-how, and some kind of River of Lights ride to take.

  For a long time, he rubbed her back, just holding her. He said nothing, but the double-chains vibrated with his concern.

  Knowing that she needed to get herself together, that they had critical tasks to accomplish, she pulled out of his arms. Don’t pay any attention to me right now. I’ll be okay. And I really do need a shower.

  She threw levers and yelped when cold water hit her then yelped when the water got too hot. But she didn’t care. She’d made the mistake of getting involved, of wanting Lucian to see himself the way she saw him. And now she cared about him.

  Lucian’s voice once more broke through her thoughts. Rumy’s sending over some clothes for the trip to Siberia, something warm so you’ll be comfortable.

  She took a deep breath. Sounds good.

  She spent the next several minutes washing her hair then getting rid of all the makeup, trying to find some balance. But the last thing she’d expected, when Rumy had given her the first blood-chain to wear, was that she’d fall so hard for a vampire.

  CHAPTER 11

  Lucian thanked Rumy for the clothes. His staff was incredibly efficient, highly motivated to please and to do their best at all times. Eve had sent along an iPhone for Claire to use for the duration, and Rumy had provided a long fur coat for her as well. She might be siphoning his power, but it would be cold on the River of Lights ride for her, human that she was. He wanted her to be comfortable.

  Rumy took off, asking Lucian to stay in touch and to come back to The Erotic Passage as often as he needed while he continued his hunt for the extinction weapon. He also said he had a few remote connections to the Dark Cave system, where Zoey probably would have lived for the last two years and where Daniel no doubt had her caged up.

  “I think it’s sweet. The River of Lights. Just precious.” Rumy had smiled, but wisely took off before Lucian could smash his face in.

  Some vampire couples went on their honeymoon in Siberia, which made Lucian shudder. Just what he needed, to be with Claire in a romantic setting. He didn’t want to think of her like that, in any context, and yet how many times had he made love to her over the past couple of days? It had to be some kind
of record for a pair of strangers.

  And now she was really distressed.

  He slipped on a long-sleeved black tee, fresh battle leathers and accompanying weapons, steel-toed boots. He tapped the chains at his neck. Damn chains. This was the real problem. Maybe they didn’t lie, but if Claire hadn’t bound him in the first place, he wouldn’t be stuck feeling so damn much for her. When she’d come into the bathroom, she’d looked beyond upset, so he’d held her. But the whole time, his chest had started to ache in a way he’d never experienced before, which was the exact moment he realized that the woman meant something to him.

  So much for keeping things simple.

  A string of curses rolled through his head, one after the other, hot bits of invective that summarized his frustration about their present relationship. He desired Claire, wanted her, hungered for her, and it wasn’t because of the chains, it was because of Claire herself … and there wasn’t a damn thing he could do about that. She’d come to mean something important to him, and he was so screwed.

  When Claire emerged from the bathroom, a towel wrapped around her, he gestured to the clothes hanging on the rack then turned around so she could get dressed with some degree of privacy.

  “Thanks. This is awkward.”

  With his back to her, he tried not to think about her being completely naked. “I know.”

  “Am I supposed to wear this fur?”

  “It’ll be cold. Don’t worry, it’s faux.”

  She fell silent but he heard her movements, sidesteps of her feet as she probably put on the thong that he wanted to look at really bad, but didn’t. Next, her jeans, which he knew she preferred and looked hot on her. Claire had a beautiful ass. She’d wear a bra, one of several that Rumy’s staff had bought for her and arranged in the top dresser drawer. He knew, because he’d checked them out while she was showering

  He heard a faint grunt, then, “This is a bit snug.”

  The comment made him instinctively turn around to look. There were the shapely mounds of her breasts overflowing a low-cut, lacy black bra. His heart might have simply paused for a few seconds, he wasn’t sure. His breathing certainly had.

  He frowned then looked away. “You want a different one?” He wanted her to say no.

  “No, it’s okay. I’ll be fine.”

  He waited. She’d already chosen a purple silk top, so she’d be putting that on.

  “It’s sure a good thing I’ll be wearing fur.”

  Once more, her comment tugged his gaze in her direction. He held back a moan since her perfect cleavage showed through a long cutout in the blouse.

  She rifled through the clothes and found a second pullover to solve the problem. He should have been grateful, but he was just enough of a man to admit he liked looking and Claire had great stuff to look at.

  She met his gaze, tugging at the hem of the pullover. “What’s with all the sexy vibrations? Didn’t you take me enough times back there in the specialty room?”

  “No.” The word left his mouth before he could stop it. He scrubbed a hand through his hair. “I mean sure, yeah, of course. I mean, hell, whatever.”

  “You said no. Honestly, Lucian, what is it with you men?” But she smiled, and some of the tension left her.

  He shrugged, then he laughed, that thing she could make him do. “We’re men. Our dicks dictate most of our decisions. I didn’t mean anything by it and I know we both need to move on.”

  The amused light in her eye dimmed. She sat down to put on a pair of socks and soft brown leather flats. “Yes, we do. I’m trying, Lucian, but all this sex is getting to me and making feel things that I know aren’t real, can’t be real, and can’t last. Know what I mean?”

  He leaned his elbow on the upper brace of the steel rack, looking down at her. “Yeah, I do. We’ll get through this, Claire, and I’ll get you home as soon as we have the extinction weapon in hand and after we rescue your friend.”

  Claire slid her foot slowly into the second shoe. She stared at the floor and released a deep, almost labored breath. “It’s funny to me how what we each wanted to accomplish dovetailed like this—your father having bought Zoey, I mean. Now I have yet another reason to detest Daniel, as if what he had already inflicted on your world and on you and your brothers wasn’t bad enough. God, Marius…”

  She shaded her face with her hand.

  He kept forgetting that she’d witnessed his brother’s murder. Another shard of pain took a slice off his heart for a brother lost, one he’d loved for four centuries.

  But he couldn’t dwell on his loss, not yet, maybe not until he had Claire safely home. Right now she had to be the focus, as well as the extinction weapon and Zoey.

  “Sorry,” Claire murmured. She then rose and jerked the fur from the rack. “So, have you got the tickets?”

  He patted the inside pocket of his long leather coat.

  She glanced at his chest, then her gaze skimmed him head-to-foot. “This is a different look for you. It’s nice. Your other jacket was shorter. I like this long look, kind of Old West.”

  His lips curved. “Yeah, I’m a real cowboy.” For fun, he flashed the tips of his fangs.

  She grinned then laughed. “The cowboy vampire. Okay, that just sounds weird.”

  “Yeah, it does.” He reached out and caught her arm through the thick fur. “We good, Claire?”

  She put a hand on his face. “We’ll always be good, you and me. You’re my kind of peeps.” She nodded several times then drew back. Pulling on her gloves, she added, “So it’s Siberia, then?”

  “Yep.”

  “Ready if you are.”

  “Your timing is perfect.” He held out his right arm, she stepped into him, and as he clamped an arm around her waist, he shifted into altered flight and headed northeast.

  * * *

  The moment Lucian touched down, Claire was more grateful for Rumy’s foresight than at any time before. It was cold, way too cold for Claire to be comfortable, but the faux fur, lined with down, kept her from freezing her tush off.

  The landing area for the River of Lights show went on for at least an eighth of a mile. Lucian slid his arm around Claire then turned back to look over his shoulder.

  She looked up at him. What is it?

  Jitters. Don’t know why.

  Do you think we’ve been followed?

  It’s possible.

  After that, she marveled at the disguise around the entire built-up entrance. “I’ve never seen so much movement in a shielding disguise before.”

  Lucian laughed. “Part of it’s for show—even vampire children can see through it.”

  Claire knew that there were children in Lucian’s world; vampires were born into the world just like humans. But their long-life genes were balanced out with the difficulty of procreation. Children were a rare occurrence.

  Practicing birth control was unheard of. That Daniel had somehow managed to produce several sons from several human women had been deemed a result of his considerable Ancestral powers and nothing less.

  Vampire attendants, for what turned out to be a gondola ride experience, directed the arriving guests into four lanes. The guides wore costumes, with tall colorful hats and fur-lined vests.

  Soft orchestral music floated across the lanes. Two female vampires levitated, carrying baskets of single red roses to sell to the guests.

  Claire frowned, wondering what was going on, then looked around and noted just how many couples there were, some locked in tender embraces.

  Hold on. This is a romantic getaway, isn’t it? Because I can see a hotel through the disguise on the left.

  You can see that?

  Sure.

  You amaze me, Claire.

  I don’t think seeing through the disguise is about me; it’s about you. Ever since you took on your Ancestral power, my abilities have kicked up a notch.

  An attendant approached with a basket slung over her arm. “A rose for your lady?”

  Claire met Lucian’s questioning
brow but shook her head.

  Lucian reached into his pocket anyway and withdrew a money clip. He handed the woman twenty euros, but she handed it back and in a quiet voice said, “For you, Lucian, no charge. Keep up the good fight, boss.”

  He took the flower, and she moved on. He touched the soft petal to his lips then turned to Claire. The good fight. Is that what I do?

  She slid her arm around his. Yes, and that defines you exactly, who you really are, boss.

  He frowned slightly, then handed her the rose.

  She took it, and just as Lucian had she let the velvety petals glide over her lips, but her thoughts had turned to the mission at hand. Of all the places to hide a clue to the whereabouts of an extinction weapon, why in a Tunnel of Love gondola ride?

  Lucian smiled. Last place anyone would look?

  You may be right.

  Once inside the initial cavern, couples could purchase a bottle of champagne, served in a silver bucket with two glasses. If done properly, sipping the champagne would last the entire mile-long trip, which apparently required a full hour to complete.

  An hour to go a mile.

  Every gondola was self-propelled and ran on a track beneath the water, much like rides at a theme park.

  The seats were comfortable and semi-reclined, but Claire had reached the limits of her patience. Lucian, can’t you just fly me along the river’s course until we find the serpent pillar? I think this is going to drive me crazy. We have a weapon to find, a psychopath to trap, and my friend to save.

  Unfortunately, no. There’s no flight allowed. An electric webbing throughout would cause serious pain to anyone who levitated.

  What are we going to do when we reach the pillar?

  We’ll play it by ear. He glanced at her. Is this changing your mind?

  Not even a little, but it is making me nervous.

  A female voice from a speaker inside the gondola told them to prepare for the magic of the River of Lights, to give themselves fully to the experience, and to be assured that they would have complete privacy the entire trip.

 
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