Chains of darkness, p.2
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       Chains of Darkness, p.2

         Part #2 of Men in Chains series by Caris Roane
 
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  “Well, that’s too bad, then.” Daniel leaned down and, taking a blade from his pocket, sliced open the man’s throat. The victim thrashed, his hands to his throat, blood leaking everywhere.

  As Marius collapsed, Daniel stepped out of harm’s way. Apparently he didn’t want blood on his expensive suit.

  Shouting sounded through the pit.

  On instinct, Claire covered her ears, aware of the reason a few seconds later: Lucian had started bellowing like a wild animal, straining against his chains. “Marius! My brother! Marius!”

  Claire felt his pain because the chain shared it with her, letting her experience Lucian’s horror. He was losing something infinitely precious.

  Her chest started to hurt.

  She tried not to look at Marius, who now lay still, but whose blood had created a lake near his head. Instead her gaze drifted to Daniel, who watched Lucian’s suffering with a half smile on his lips, his gaze hooded.

  So he got off on his son’s suffering. Of course that much had already been made evident to Claire in the recent exchange.

  “It’s just you and me now, Lucian. Marius is gone. Adrien is holed up somewhere with the woman who bound him up and subdued him. Become an Ancestral and rule beside me. You’ll forget this pain, and you won’t believe the power you’ll wield. It’s intoxicating.”

  Claire knew Daniel’s words were wasted. She could feel Lucian’s venom. He hated his father, wanted him dead.

  Daniel skirted Marius’s body. “Say you’ll join me, Lucian. I have a thousand slaves here and you’ll get all the blood you need. I can feel your starvation, and I want to take care of you. That’s what you’ve never understood. I have tremendous compassion for you.”

  Lucian, still prone, strained once more against his chains trying to reach his father. “I’ll see you in hell first, Daniel.”

  But again Daniel touched the top of his head. The powerful warrior rolled onto his back, his body seizing again.

  Through a mist of tears, her hands pressed over her mouth, Claire watched Daniel revel in the pain he caused his son. He stood over him, both arms spread wide, staring down at Lucian’s body, a smile on his lips.

  At last, Lucian must have passed out, because his eyes closed and his body grew lax. For a moment she thought Daniel might have killed him, but Lucian’s chest moved up and down. Only then could Claire finally breathe.

  She held her disguising shield tight, fearing that Daniel might suddenly realize she was in the cave. If he ever turned that level of power against her, she wouldn’t survive for the time it took to blink.

  Fortunately, with a sheen of perspiration on his forehead and a satisfied dip of his chin, Daniel turned and left the space. The guards and med tech followed after him while a cleanup crew hurried in.

  She turned away as two of them carted Marius’s body out; the rest set to cleaning the floor. Powerful emotions moved through her: the grief that Lucian would now experience, and the horror she felt at watching a man killed in front of her eyes. She knew enough to let the sensations flow, as hard as they were to bear.

  She would have a lot of processing to do later, but right now she had to get Lucian out of the cave.

  With the last of the blood cleaned up, the crew left. Claire waited until the hall beyond grew quiet. Finally, she hurried toward Lucian, her disguising shield tight around her.

  She withdrew the vial of her blood from the pocket of her jeans, then dropped to her knees beside him. Uncorking the small plastic tube, she held it beneath his nose, hoping he’d catch the scent.

  At the same time she smoothed her hand over his forehead. “Come back to me, Lucian. Let me take you out of here before Daniel returns. Please wake up.”

  She thought about what he’d said, that he was loyal to those who sought justice and equality. Here was a man who deserved so much more than what life had dealt him.

  His head began to shift, first left then right. A moan left his lips. “Blood,” he whispered.

  When his lips parted, she began easing the blood into his mouth, then stroking his throat to encourage him to swallow. Little by little the vial grew empty.

  “Lucian, can you hear me?”

  He finally opened his eyes and stared at her. “You’re the human, the one I saw earlier.”

  “I am.”

  “My God, your blood tastes the way you smell, like sweet herbs. And there’s strength in you. Great strength. But who are you?”

  Claire stared into Lucian’s smoky-gray eyes and for a moment got completely lost in what he’d just said to her. She’d never heard a more beautiful compliment.

  “My name is Claire. Rumy sent me here to help you.”

  Maybe it was the chain she wore, or that she admired how he’d stood up to his father, or his kind words—but suddenly he became more than merely the vehicle by which she could find her friend. Something inside her began to warm to him, a sensation that brought heat to her cheeks.

  He sat up and took several deep breaths. He winced suddenly and shaded his faced with his manacled hand. “Marius.” He whispered. “Oh, God, Marius.”

  As much as she needed to get him out of the cave, the sooner the better, she had to give him just a little space to recover from what for her had been a horrifying spectacle. She swallowed several times, her throat tight.

  In addition to the sudden swell of grief, she also sensed that he was working hard to recover from Daniel’s most recent assault. He was still in a lot of pain.

  After a moment he lifted his face to her, but his gaze dropped to her neck and he frowned. “You’re wearing a blood-chain.”

  She nodded. “Your blood-chain, Lucian. Rumy said that being bound together through the chains would be the only way you could leave this cave, but I don’t know exactly what he meant.”

  He glanced down at his manacles. “Rumy was right, because these shackles are preternaturally enhanced with Daniel’s power.” He lifted his gaze to hers. “The blood-chain bond will expand my abilities, give me what I need to break free. But tell me what Rumy told you.”

  “That we’ll have a proximity issue, with about a twelve-foot reach, which means we’ll have to be close to each other for however long we’re bonded in this way.”

  He lowered his chin. “And? Surely he told you more than that.”

  “Rumy was very specific that you’ll be in a blood-starved state. You’ll require a recovery period, and I’ll have to donate.”

  “And you’re okay with that? Because the sense I’m getting is that this is all new to you.”

  “Very.”

  “Then why did you come here? Why would you put yourself in this kind of danger?”

  Claire needed him to understand the whole picture, especially the promises Rumy had made. “Two years ago, my friend Zoey and I were abducted from a club in Santa Fe. I’ve been held captive all this time in Florida at Daniel’s command. But Rumy got wind of it, suspecting that I might have the ability to forge a tracking pair with you. Does this make sense? The ‘tracking pair’ thing, I mean?”

  He nodded. “It does. It’s very rare in our world, but I’m starting to get the picture. Rumy helped you escape, didn’t he?”

  “He did, but he insisted that I search for your blood-chains first. When I actually found them in my captor’s office, I finally believed everything he’d been telling me. You have to understand, until three days ago, I didn’t even know about your world except for vague rumors some of the staff mentioned now and then. I thought it was all gossip.”

  Lucian scowled. “So Rumy sent you here wearing the blood-chain intending for you to bond with me.”

  She swallowed hard. “Yes. He believes that Daniel orchestrated my capture and that he’d fully intended one day to use me for exactly this purpose, to become part of a tracking pair in order to find the weapon he’s after.”

  His frown deepened. “What did Rumy tell you about the blood-chains?”

  “That when they were created, they were infused with your blood,
which makes them specific to you. He also said that you had tremendous power and that once you put on the blood-chain and we bonded, that you’d be able to break out of these shackles.” She glanced down at the horrible, heavy iron bands around his wrists and ankles. Lifting her gaze back to his face, she added, “And I hope more than anything that it’s true.”

  Lucian searched her eyes. “But what’s in it for you?”

  Claire’s throat seized and her eyes filled with tears. “I need help to find my friend, Zoey. She’s lost somewhere inside your world.” Images of her best friend from childhood suddenly came to mind. Zoey was so different from her in almost every way. She had short, jet-black hair, for one thing, and large blue eyes. They’d lived on the same street and been in and out of each other’s houses from the earliest time Claire could remember. The moment Rumy had told Claire that Zoey had probably been trafficked into the vampire slave system, she’d set her course. She had to find her if it was the last thing she did. “Rumy’s convinced Zoey was auctioned off as a sex slave. If you and I do form a chain-bond, and it turns out we really can track things, then I’ll need your commitment to help me find Zoey. That’s what’s in it for me and Rumy assured me that you’d be willing to help.”

  Lucian wrapped his arms around his knees and closed his eyes. “Fuck. This isn’t right, not on any level.”

  She reached out to him, touching his arm. “Lucian, I don’t have the luxury of thinking in terms of whether this is right or not. I only want one thing, to find my friend. I have no idea if she’s alive, but I can’t leave your world without knowing one way or the other, without making an effort. This seems like the only way.”

  He put a hand to his abdomen.

  “Are you still in pain, even though I just gave you some of my blood?”

  He nodded, then lifted his gaze to hers once more. “Again, this won’t be simple, and you could get hurt in the process. There will be times when I’ll be completely out of control, do you understand?”

  “You’re talking about your recovery process.”

  “I am.”

  “I know and I’m still okay with it. I just need your promise that if we do this, you’ll help me look for Zoey.”

  He met and held her gaze for a long moment, as though considering all that she’d said. She sensed not so much his deliberation as a rebuilding of his commitment. “We’ll need to find the extinction weapon,” he said at last. “That’s the commitment I need from you. We’ll hunt for both, for Zoey and the weapon, whatever it takes, but I can’t let my father get hold of a weapon that has the capacity to destroy every last vampire on the planet. Do you understand? Will you make that commitment to me?”

  She didn’t hesitate, not for a second. “Absolutely.”

  He put his hand to his chest. “I can sense that you’re speaking the truth.” He rose slowly to his feet, this very naked man, this powerful warrior.

  He overwhelmed her as much by his sheer size as by the strength of his commitment to end Daniel’s reign of terror.

  He held her gaze. “Then I’ll bind myself to you.”

  She dipped into the pocket of her jeans and pulled out the matching blood-chain. “Let’s do it.”

  * * *

  Lucian struggled to remain focused on the human and on her intentions. His thoughts wanted to fix themselves exclusively on Marius’s death and his burning desire to hunt Daniel down and destroy him. But he couldn’t do anything until he got out of this prison, which meant he had to turn his attention to more immediate issues, like the weapon and to helping Claire find her friend.

  He met her light-brown eyes again, caught by their unusual shade, and dipped his chin once. She extended her hands, and as he lowered his head to give her a better angle he felt the vibration of power that both sets of chains held.

  She quickly slid the second chain over his head, lowering it onto his neck. Her gentle touch reminded him that for over a year he’d known only brutality and isolation.

  He met and held Claire’s gaze once more, but this time she came into sharp focus. Her auburn beauty struck him all over again; he had the sudden awareness that if circumstances had been different, she was exactly the kind of woman he would have gone for.

  She blinked several times as she searched his eyes. “Rumy showed me pictures, but you’re so tall in real life.” He watched a blush suffuse her cheeks and sensed a rippling of interest. She found him attractive.

  Her gaze skated over his face, then down his neck. She touched his chain and gasped softly. “The vibrations have really grown stronger.”

  “They have.” He leaned close, sniffing her neck and her cheek. “There it is again. You smell like sweet herbs. Your blood tastes like that as well.”

  Her hands found his arms and slid over his biceps. “Lucian, this is so strange. I can’t believe how much I’m feeling from you right now. It’s as though I know you.”

  He nodded. “Same here.” The sensation disturbed him deeply. She threatened him in a way he couldn’t quite understand.

  When she pulled away from him, her lips were parted. “I think I’m in trouble here. I’m feeling things that don’t seem appropriate. Is it the chain-bond?”

  He shook his head. “I’ve been told that the bond can only reflect what’s already there.”

  She blushed again. “Oh, I see. I guess that makes sense.”

  The next moment, a jolt of something powerful passed through him.

  Her eyes went wide. “Did you feel that?”

  He nodded. “Almost like a steel door slamming shut. It’s the bond.”

  “I feel so strange right now. More than just human.”

  “That would follow. You were siphoning some of my power before, but now it will become a strong, steady flow. Your vision will improve as well.” He glanced down at the powerful chains that held him captive. “And now we’ll see if the bond will be enough to take care of this part of the equation.”

  He focused on his manacles, on the charge Daniel had placed within the chains. If they hadn’t been preternaturally enhanced, he could have broken out of them two seconds after they’d locked in place. But Daniel’s power had made them impervious to his natural strength.

  He let his newly enhanced power flow, and little by little he felt Daniel’s locking mechanism give way. He applied the full force of his ability, but the resistance to his effort stunned him.

  “I can sense what you’re doing. I might be able to help.” Claire placed her hands on his arms, and that small touch caused his power to surge. The next moment the charge within the shackles fizzled. A little more pressure and the manacles split apart, falling off his arms.

  Claire squealed her excitement. “Yes!”

  Adrenaline spiked and his heart rate went through the roof. “Hell, yeah.”

  He repeated the process for his ankles. Once the shackles fell away, he was free.

  He stepped away from Claire and turned in a circle. “I haven’t had these off in a year. Now just like that, they’re gone. They’re fucking gone.”

  Suddenly he glanced toward the entrance to the cell. “Daniel’s coming.”

  Then without warning, his stomach seized once more. Drawing away from her, he doubled over, the pain like fire through his abdomen.

  * * *

  Claire saw that Lucian’s blood-madness issue had just resurfaced. “How do we fix this?”

  “It’s not going to be simple. I’ll need to feed from you again soon. But right now I can’t even move.”

  Suddenly she heard running down the hall, as well as Daniel shouting. She couldn’t mistake his voice. He must have divined that Lucian was close to making an escape.

  She embraced Lucian and extended her disguise to envelop him as well. “We have to leave.”

  “I can’t, not yet.”

  She felt the level of his pain. Once more he was almost paralyzed.

  “I have you hidden behind my disguise, but can you at least move with me, away from the shackles on the floor?”<
br />
  He nodded. “I’ll try. Just pull me, if you can. I’ll see what I can manage.”

  She took his arm, tugging at him. He started shuffling so that she was finally able to get him back near the wall where she’d originally been standing.

  Daniel appeared in the short tunnel entrance and immediately strode to the chains lying on the stone pavers near the smooth wall. “Where the hell is Lucian?”

  At least ten guards had followed him inside. The one in charge stepped forward. “He was in here just a few minutes ago. No one went in. No one out except the cleaning crew. I swear it.”

  Daniel, his flecked blue eyes glowing, turned in a slow circle as he checked out the entire space. He ended up facing the exact spot where Claire stood with Lucian. It was clear that he didn’t actually see them, yet he must have sensed their presence, or maybe Lucian’s.

  “I know you’re still in here, my son. I can feel you but I can’t see you. Show yourself. I take it you’ve had help. It will go easier with you if you don’t defy me right now.”

  He started moving slowly in their direction.

  Claire rubbed Lucian’s shoulders. “You’ve got to fly us out of here. Now. Daniel can’t see us, but he’s coming straight for us.”

  Lucian groaned loudly as he forced himself to stand upright. His eyes were narrowed as if in great pain, but he put his arm around Claire’s waist. “Okay.”

  Having flown with Rumy, she knew the drill and threw her arms around his neck. She held on tight.

  Daniel was only fifteen feet away and moving faster now.

  She shouted, “Lucian, get us out of here.” The vibration of flight began.

  Daniel lunged the remaining the distance, just grazing her back as Lucian shifted to altered flight.

  His words trailed after them. “I’ll come after you, Lucian. You’ll never be able to hide from me, and when I find you, I’ll destroy you.”

  But Lucian had them in the phenomenon called altered flight, allowing them to pass easily through any kind of solid matter. Faster and faster he flew, away from the horror of his prison cell, away from Daniel.

 
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