Chains of darkness, p.20
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       Chains of Darkness, p.20

         Part #2 of Men in Chains series by Caris Roane
 
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  Instead he sniffed her throat. “A fighter like Zoey, and your blood smells like heaven. No wonder Lucian is smitten with you.’”

  Claire met Lucian’s gaze and held it firmly. She didn’t attempt telepathy, maybe suspecting that Daniel could intercept, which was probably a smart move. There was a lot about Daniel that even Lucian didn’t know.

  She then shifted to meet Daniel’s gaze once more. “You know what? You can eat shit and die for all I care.”

  Daniel grinned. “I want to see you go through your death transition. I want to be the one pumping into you, just like I did Zoey.”

  Daniel lifted his gaze to Lucian. In that moment Lucian’s life flashed before his eyes: his desperate childhood, escaping Daniel’s compound, enduring a rigorous retraining process with Gabriel that involved a thousand exercises to purge his rage, then later battling the results of Daniel’s criminal influence in his world.

  And now Daniel had Claire.

  Something greater than rage flew through him, something enhanced with his Ancestral power. In the same split second that he’d watched all the events of his life, Claire fell purposefully limp in Daniel’s arm, a signal for Lucian to attack.

  He flew at Daniel’s head, both hands extended toward his face. The natural protective instinct caused Daniel to loosen his grip on Claire so that she dropped to the floor.

  Lucian’s momentum carried Daniel across the cavern space and into the far wall with a terrible thud.

  The blood-madness tremors took over his body as a rage, built of centuries, poured through his brain and stole his rational mind.

  Daniel flung him away, but Lucian roared and launched again. Daniel looked surprised, and maybe a little pleased. He reached a hand toward Lucian and Ancestral power poured from that fist, striking at Lucian hard and breaking his attack so that the blow he struck Daniel slid off his cheek.

  He caught Daniel around the neck and dragged him to the ground, but his father flipped Lucian onto his back and pinned him with his millennia-old abilities. He slapped Lucian several times in a row.

  Lucian bucked, but filled that movement with his new Ancestral power. Suddenly Daniel flew into the air.

  Lucian gained his feet and launched once more, meeting his father mid-flight. He grabbed him and called on his power, pulling it into him as he pinned Daniel’s arms to his sides.

  You’ve learned some things, haven’t you?

  Lucian heard Daniel’s voice in his mind, but he operated now on instinct and said nothing in response. He gave himself to the feeling of harnessing what he’d gained by putting on the double-chains.

  Daniel drew back and punched him, a hard left to his nose. The force thrust Lucian into a spin so that he landed hard on his back on the floor.

  Lucian! Claire called to him.

  He trembled now, but he didn’t care. He’d finish this with his father right now. He rose up, slower than before as Daniel drifted down toward him. Daniel’s cheek bled, and his left eye was swollen. Lucian had gotten in a couple of good hits.

  He intended to get in a few more. Despite the tremors in his hands, he bolted toward his father.

  Then he saw something glint.

  “Lucian!” Claire shouted. “He has a blade.”

  He felt the slice deep into his gut. He grunted and gasped for air. He couldn’t breathe and now he couldn’t see.

  Daniel twisted the blade. “I made the mistake of trusting others to kill Adrien and I failed. Now that you’ve reached Ancestral status, you’re a danger to all that I’m building. You need to die, and the great thing is that because you share the blood-chains with Claire, she dies with you.”

  Daniel pulled the blade out as once more Lucian landed on the floor. He saw Daniel, blade in his fist, smiling at him. He felt his intention: His father would come for him again, probably to sever his head.

  The next moment he couldn’t see Daniel, but Claire was beside him, her hands on either side of his face.

  She forced him to look at her, then sent her words piercing his skull. Lucian, I’ve created a disguise, strong enough to hold Daniel off for a few more seconds. Which means you’ve got to fly us the hell out of this cavern. Straight up will do. Just do it now.

  Tremors racked his body.

  Daniel’s voice broke through the disguise. “You think you can hide from me, Lucian?”

  How many times had he heard that in his childhood?

  “Lucian! Now!”

  Lucian let Claire’s orders reach through to his rational mind. The blood-madness had him trapped again, but despite the intense pain in his gut, he flew straight up. He heard Claire cry out in pain at the same time, though he had no idea why, but he had hold of her and he kept flying.

  He focused as best he could on The Erotic Passage. He dropped straight into Rumy’s office, which set the alarms shrieking.

  He heard Rumy say two things: “Put him in restraints,” and “Oh, shit, Claire’s been sliced deep.”

  CHAPTER 12

  Claire’s back burned.

  Lucian.

  Where was Lucian?

  He had to be nearby and alive, because she wasn’t dead.

  Something sharp pierced her arm first near her shoulder, a shot of some kind, then another needle into the vein inside her elbow.

  Eve’s voice. “We’ve got him, Claire. He just needs some of your blood to get him through again. Focus on healing. Sleep now.”

  Focus on healing.

  Her back hurt and stung and burned.

  Her mind grew dull, and she dropped off.

  She awoke sometime later and felt a hand caressing her face. “Claire, I’m so sorry.”

  She turned, but the turning caused a mountain of pain up and down her back. “What happened?”

  “Daniel cut you deep but you’re healing fine.”

  “We made it? We’re alive?”

  “Yes, we’re alive. I have to take you to a safe place, though, and it’s going to hurt.”

  She nodded. He gathered her up in his arms. Searing pain sliced through her. She started to cry.

  Then she was flying and the pain sharpened so badly that she passed out.

  She awoke again on a soft mattress, on her side. She heard sucking noises and felt pulls on her arm. Lucian. She smiled. You’re feeding. Good.

  The madness came back so feeding was necessary, but the serum I’m releasing will rebuild your supply.

  I know.

  Focus on healing. Try siphoning more of my power straight to your wound.

  Okay. She glanced around. But where are we?

  My home in Uruguay.

  She turned her mind toward Lucian’s power. With what was left of her pain-and-drug-riddled thought process she funneled Lucian’s power. The sensation of a warm wave rolling down her back eased her, and she floated away once more.

  When she woke up, she rolled onto her back and stretched. She tensed up, expecting pain to grip her all over again, but nothing happened. Working herself slowly to a sitting position, she reached around as far as she could and she felt as much of her back as she could.

  Nothing. No pain. Nothing.

  “Lucian?” She glanced around. So this was his South American home. Opposite the bed was the most beautiful modern mural composed of red, yellow, and blue crystals with splashes of green. She stared at it for a long time, marveling all over again at the world she’d entered.

  Lucian appeared in the doorway, sipping a mug of coffee. He leaned against the polished stone wall. “Feeling better?”

  “Yeah, and you’re not dead. How the hell did that happen? Your father, the sweet man that he is, gutted you.”

  She glanced at his abdomen. The vampire wore the bottoms only to a pajama set and looked sexy as hell, but there wasn’t even a scar on him. “Wow.”

  “Thank you.” His lips curved.

  “I meant only that you should have a scar and don’t.” Her amusement bubbled.

  “Ah, I see.” He moved into the room, smiling fully now,
a nice look for him. “I’m glad you’re okay.”

  She shook her head, arching her back once more, which made her suddenly aware of her bare breasts beneath the sheet so she let go of the provocative position. “I don’t hurt at all. I take it Daniel cut me pretty bad.”

  “He could have killed you but didn’t. Instead, he flayed you open, one of his specialties.”

  Claire had seen the thin scar that ran the entire length of Lucian’s spine. Only a repetitive injury in the exact same location could leave a scar on a vampire.

  He sat down on the side of the bed. Without asking permission, she took the mug from him and sipped. He smiled again. “You’re not afraid of me, are you, not even a little?”

  “No, never, Lucian. Not even with my ankles and wrists shackled.”

  He shifted toward her and met her gaze. His gray eyes glimmered. He stroked the back of his finger down her arm but didn’t say anything. Not that he had to: The chains vibrated, letting her know what he felt.

  Desire sparked, but she didn’t want to fall down that rabbit hole, not yet. She had some processing to do.

  After taking another sip of his coffee, she handed the mug back, but he held up his hand.

  “Is it to your taste?”

  “Black is perfect.”

  “I’ll get another mug for myself, then. Be right back.”

  She watched him leave, enjoying the sight of his muscled back and tight butt as he moved. She wondered if she had more chores she could give him that would bring him in and out of the room, just like that, another hundred times or so. Watching could be fun.

  She chuckled, but just as swiftly her amusement dimmed. She scooted back up to what turned out to be a leather-upholstered headboard, then bunched her pillows up behind her.

  She drew the sheet up and settled in to think about the trip to the River of Lights. She could have started at the end of the trek, but for just a moment she contemplated the beginning and all those extraordinary sculptures, the music, the moving lights.

  For some reason, her mind got stuck there and she couldn’t let go, but she wasn’t sure why.

  When Lucian returned, however, her mind connected the dots. It was because of him, because she’d once thought of him only as a vampire and the world he lived in as monstrous. But that ride, including the level of organization, the Tunnel of Love nature of the experience, the absolute beauty, spoke of something she could relate to implicitly as a human.

  Which meant that her views had been so wrong about Lucian’s world. Initially, because of Daniel, she’d landed in the filth-end of a culture that had the same spectrum as her human world, ranging from scum to saints, and she’d judged his world by her extremely limited experience.

  “You look so serious, Claire. What’s going on?”

  She shook her head and sipped once more. She felt absurdly vulnerable right now and took comfort in hiding behind the small black mug with a four-diamond pattern on the side.

  “Just thinking about last night. It was last night, right? Or have I been out longer than that?”

  “Just last night.”

  “And we’re both healed.”

  “Welcome to my world.” He fingered the double-chain at his neck.

  He sat on his side of the bed this time, angled away from her slightly. She turned in his direction, finally allowing her thoughts to travel farther, to leave the ride itself and move into the separate, hidden cavern, what had happened there, what she’d learned.

  “My friend is dead.”

  He didn’t look at her. This time he sipped his coffee. Maybe they both needed to hide a little. So much had happened, so much grief.

  Her throat constricted, but she didn’t want to cry, not now, not yet.

  “I’m sorry about Zoey.”

  “And I’m sorry about Marius.” She drew a deep breath. She’d been grieving Zoey’s absence from her life for two years, but her death would change things. The loss of all hope was a terrible thing.

  “Hey.”

  She shifted her gaze to Lucian.

  “Would you like to go home now?”

  Claire at first didn’t understand what he was saying to her. She shook her head. “Sorry?”

  He looked away from her and licked his lips. “Your journey is over, isn’t it? Daniel finished things with you last night when he told you about your friend. You have closure now.”

  But even as he spoke these words, Claire sensed a small ripple of his doubt vibrate through the chains. “What is it, Lucian? What are you not saying?”

  He shot his gaze back to her. “You could feel that?”

  She chuckled and touched the chain at her throat. “Of course. What’s going on?”

  He looked away again. Glancing upward, his brow creased once more, he said, “I don’t know. I guess I’m questioning what Daniel said about Zoey. I don’t trust him on any level, especially not to tell you the truth.”

  “You think she’s alive?”

  He shrugged and shook his head. “I don’t know. Probably not. Forget I said anything. What would Daniel have to gain to tell you that Zoey died? Nothing. Sorry, this is just me never trusting my father. I want you to have closure.”

  “Closure.” The word had no meaning—or maybe it was more apt than she wanted to admit: The door had closed, so it was, therefore, “closure.” She wished she could reach for a small piece of hope through Lucian’s doubt about his father’s statements, but Lucian was right: Daniel would have nothing to gain by killing off her hopes.

  No, she needed to face the hard truth that Zoey was dead. “When you’re ready, Claire, I’ll take you home. Just say the word.”

  She frowned as she met his gaze. “I won’t leave yet, Lucian, not until we’ve found the weapon.”

  He seemed genuinely surprised. “No, you only needed to stay long enough to find out what happened to Zoey, and now that you have, you can go home, which is where I know you want to be. I can keep hunting for the weapon, or I can find some other means of trapping Daniel and ending his reign of terror.” He rose to his feet, mug in hand. “But you don’t need to stay. In fact, I wish you wouldn’t. I’m living with enough guilt as it is that you were hurt last night.”

  Claire leaned back against the pillows once more. Lucian looked worried, and she could feel the level of his distress through the chains. “I survived just fine.”

  “Yes. You did. But there’s no reason why you have to keep being thrown in harm’s way. You’ve helped me so much, but you’ve done enough. I think we should get your chain off and get you home.”

  She could feel that he’d made his decision, and the truth was that without Zoey alive, she didn’t have a reason to stay. Not a real one. Just a powerful, absurd desire to stick close to a vampire.

  She nodded. “You’re right. I should be going.” But her throat constricted all over again.

  She looked anywhere but at Lucian. She didn’t want him to know exactly why she was feeling this way.

  Her gaze fell on her iPhone. She picked it up. Setting her mug on the end table, she opened up the video from the hidden cavern and let it play.

  The distraction helped the tightness in her throat to ease up, then the video caught her attention. “Lucian, look at this pattern on the stone floor in the cavern.”

  He approached her side of the bed. She handed her phone to him while keeping the sheet pressed against her chest. She wished she at least had a shirt to put on.

  As Lucian watched the video, he moved to a nearby chair, turned, and handed her a black T-shirt. One of his. He must have felt her need; the chains were amazing. And Lucian was thoughtful. The man really didn’t understand who he was.

  She held the shirt in her hands, and since he’d once more turned away from her, maybe to give her a little privacy, she pressed it to her nose. The fabric held his smell, a deep, rich scent that she’d come to associate with him and especially with sex.

  Her body trembled head-to-foot with a sudden, overwhelming wash of pure desire.<
br />
  He whirled toward her and stared at her. “You sure you want to go there?” But he smiled.

  She shook her head and held the shirt up. “You have a scent that gets to me every time, and it’s in your shirt. But thank you for this.”

  “Okay, but as you told me during the photo shoot, if you could dial it down a little, it would help.”

  She remembered. “I will.” She unfurled the T-shirt, then slid it over her head, not caring that the sheet dropped to her waist first and she’d therefore just flashed him. The chains at her throat vibrated once more, this time as his desire prickled her skin. But he said nothing as he continued to watch the video.

  She swam in the T-shirt, but she loved it. She even thought that if she was very smart, she’d take it home with her to Santa Fe.

  Glancing at the iPhone still in his hand, she dipped her chin. “What do you make of that? The pattern on the floor.”

  He slid his finger over the front of the phone, backing up the video, and played the floor portion once more. “It’s a very old pattern.”

  She glanced at her cup, at the four diamonds. “All except one, which has the same pattern but turned sideways so that it looks like four diamonds, like this.” She gestured to the mug on the bedside table, turning it slightly in his direction so he could see the pattern better.

  He narrowed his gaze and focused on the video once more. “Well, I’ll be damned.”

  “What is it?” She picked up her cup. “Did this mug come from someplace in particular?”

  “A collection of four volcanic islands in the Pacific, owned by a consortium and protected by an intricate Ancestral disguise. On one of the islands is the Four Diamond Casino Resort.”

  “And you think the weapon is there?”

  He ran the video again. “Not at the casino, exactly. I think whoever chose to put the weapon in this location chose extremely well.” He brought the phone close. “Do you see how the diamond in the upper-right quadrant is larger?”

  “Sure?”

  “That’s the largest island in the northeast. It has a very active volcano as well as a cavern system that was used at one time as a penal colony for our kind, designed for torture.”

  “Let me guess. Your father ran it.”

 
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