Chains of darkness, p.21
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       Chains of Darkness, p.21

         Part #2 of Men in Chains series by Caris Roane
 
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  Lucian drew in a deep breath. “Worse. My grandfather.”

  She sank back against the pillows. “Oh, Lucian, no. Please don’t tell me there are two of them, father and son.”

  He shook his head. “No, not anymore. Grandpa suffered a terrible accident at the penal colony, going headfirst into the volcano.”

  “Let me guess. Your father happened to be visiting.”

  “Bingo. However, I would have to say on that particular day, my father did a service to our world.”

  “That would only be true if he’d jumped in after.”

  Lucian chuckled. “Way too much to have hoped for.”

  She slid from bed to stand next to him. From her bare feet, he was even taller. She took the phone and looked at the picture of the diamonds again. “Okay, so when do we go?”

  “You’re not going, remember?”

  She put her hands on her hips. “Do you want to get this weapon, or not?”

  “I don’t understand. What are you saying?”

  “I’m saying that if we just figured it out, there’s a good chance Daniel will, too, if he hasn’t already, and we ought to move fast.”

  His jaw tightened. “I’m going to take you home first.”

  “But didn’t you just say this whole section of your world exists under a heavy disguise? Then you’ll probably need me. Whoever it was that created the layered disguises in the Siberian cavern must have done the same here, at the Four Diamonds system, right?”

  Lucian ground his teeth. “Oh, shit, you’re probably right.”

  “Then you’ll need me. Besides, together we have a magnified tracking ability. Even if it’s not really strong, it might be enough to get a fix on the weapon. I’m sure a facility like this would have been huge in its day.”

  “It was. I was only there once, but it covered several miles of caverns underground.”

  She turned into him and grabbed the front of his pajama bottoms, at the waist, and gave a tug. “Then you do need me.”

  His lips parted as he stared down at her. She felt the chain at her neck vibrate again. Once more, she felt his desire for her, which sharpened her own. Between the T-shirt she wore and his really thin PJ bottoms, too little fabric separated them.

  “You should get dressed.” His voice was hoarse.

  She nodded then sighed. “What I’d really like is a shower, but my guess is that I don’t have anything to wear. My clothes must have been a mess.”

  “They were, but I had Rumy send over your things from The Erotic Passage. I’ll get them.” She still hadn’t let go of his bottoms, and he hadn’t even blinked or moved. “Damn, Claire, I was so worried.”

  She tossed the phone on the bed, and he caught her up in his arms, kissing her hard, his tongue deep in her mouth.

  Lucian.

  She kissed him back.

  You feel so good in my arms.

  Back atcha. She loved telepathy while kissing. But when his hands slid down to cup her bare ass, she drew back and huffed a breath. Maybe we’d better set this aside for now.

  The left side of his mouth curved, and he looked so adorable. Imagine a monster-of-a-vampire looking adorable? She put a big smacking kiss on his lips.

  “I’m getting in the shower now, and you can go find my clothes.”

  He nodded and left the room.

  Within twenty minutes, Claire was dressed, and though her hair was half damp she pronounced herself ready to head to the Four Diamonds.

  * * *

  Lucian held Claire next to him, his arm wrapped tightly around her waist, but not because he needed to anymore. She shared enough power with him right now that linking pinkie fingers would have sufficed. But it felt damn good to hold her close, and the knowledge that his time with her was about up made him take the trip to Four Diamonds slower than maybe he should have.

  She didn’t seem to mind. She must have been on the same page, because she nuzzled his throat and sighed heavily about half a dozen times.

  Soon enough he arrived at their destination high above the four islands. The smoky disguise came into view so he slowed to a crawl to get a good look. Though he had no problem seeing the disguise, he couldn’t see through it. Claire’s comment told him all he needed to know about her powers.

  The islands are beautiful, and they form what looks like a lake between them.

  You can see through the disguise then.

  And you can’t?

  No, but then the consortium that owns the casino designed it this way, to have control over who entered and left their system, timing, everything. But they definitely had Ancestral help to set this up. Anyone arriving to enjoy the casino would have to contact their communication center. Okay, guide us in.

  Just stay on this trajectory. You’re about a thousand feet out, but the disguise isn’t deep—maybe fifty feet, no more.

  He trusted her and shot through the gray veil, using regular flight. Two seconds later there they were, all four islands.

  The largest island, in the northwest, billowed volcanic smoke. He approached from the south. It was daylight in this part of the world. We may have to wait, if the weapon is where I think it is.

  What do you mean?

  A section of the penal colony that will be a bitch to navigate.

  He slowed his flight to approach the large cavern entrance, then dropped them just outside, where the mountainside created a long patch of shade. Even then, the shade helped only a little bit; his skin felt like it was on fire.

  “Lucian, doesn’t this hurt? The sun’s out.”

  “Like hell, but I didn’t want to just fly straight in without checking it out first.”

  “Good thinking, because who knows what’s inside.”

  “Exactly.”

  He drew her close. Claire stepped off his foot. He set all his senses on alert to the presence of any other vampires, but nothing came back.

  He breathed a sigh of relief. “We’re alone.”

  “Oh, thank God.” Claire nodded, but slipped her hand in his. “I’m not liking this place at all given its history.” She shuddered. “So which way do we go? Down?”

  “My guess is that we’ll find the weapon in the worst possible place, but let’s give our combined tracking ability a try.”

  She glanced up at him. “What do I do?”

  “Just focus.”

  “On what in particular?”

  He waved an arm to encompass what would be the high, northeastern portion of the island, near the volcano. “There’s a series of caves up there, open at dozens of places to the sky above. Those openings were part of the torture process—the prisoners would be exposed to sunlight, pinned there to the point of death. They’d be hauled back to their cells, though often too late to be saved. Think being burned by a welding torch.”

  Claire shivered. “Got it. You’d have to be a sadist to work here.”

  “Pretty much. This same stretch, which goes on for half a mile and covers a portion of the base of the volcano, also draws near a lava flow so the heat can become unbearable. And as I recall, electrical grids could be tripped anywhere along the way to give a hefty jolt or two. It was said that as many vampires died by torture as by execution.”

  “A few days ago, I would have said that made no sense, but then I met Daniel. He strikes me as the kind of man who never really needs a reason to kill. If he has to invent one, his imagination is fertile enough for that.”

  “You’re exactly right.” He glanced at her. “Okay, try focusing on the weapon now, and think northeast.”

  He felt the chains at his neck vibrate softly, the response weak. He supported her as best he could, but nothing much happened. However, Claire stayed with it, which might have just been what defined her best, and after about a minute, her voice moved through his mind. I’m getting an end point. It’s growing stronger. I can see it now. A large metal piece of equipment similar to the one Daniel showed us at The Erotic Passage. Can you picture it?

  Yes. A jolt of adrenaline w
ent through him, firing up the muscles of his thighs and arms, because right now he could see the same image within his own mind.

  “We found it, didn’t we?”

  “Well, you found it, but I’ve just seen a vision of it in my head because of you.”

  “Seriously?”

  He glanced at her, nodding.

  “Just to make sure, describe it.”

  “The same ventilation flaps, same color, but the whole thing has an additional black section on the bottom.”

  She turned toward him, eyes wide. “That’s it. And there’s a welded loop on top.”

  “Probably for hauling by crane.”

  “That would make sense.”

  He cupped her face with his hands, then leaned in to kiss her. But that was when a familiar voice called from across the space. “How precious. And look, you both survived. Neat trick with the disguise out in Siberia, Claire, but you won’t be lucky twice.”

  Daniel. Again.

  Best to just ignore him.

  I agree.

  Ready?

  She squeezed his arm and he flew her straight through the rock, in a northeasterly direction.

  Lucian, I caught a glimpse just before you took us out of there. Your father has brought a whole bunch of men with him, but they don’t look right. They look ill, underfed.

  Slaves. He’s brought slaves, the bastard.

  What does he intend to do with them?

  You don’t want to know.

  Fortunately, she didn’t ask, but she’d probably soon see for herself.

  He brought her to the edge of the torture zone where a low gray metal wall separated what looked like a combined minefield and war zone. There were also several paths they could take, but each of them led beneath the openings through which sunlight streamed.

  “Can’t you just fly us to the destination?”

  “Do you see the webbing that hangs all through the space from the cave ceilings, even the shorter tunnels?”

  “Yes.”

  “Electricity. If I’d flown you in, we could have been zapped and lost consciousness. Part of what’s along here are fire pits that lead to lava flow.”

  “We would’ve fallen in and been burned up completely unaware.”

  “Exactly.”

  “So what do we do?”

  “Daniel will be along any second, and it seems to me we’ve got a race on our hands. We need to start down one of these paths.”

  “What about the sun?”

  He gritted his teeth. “I can take it.”

  “What if I piggybacked you, created sort of a physical shield, at least as much of you as my body can cover?”

  He met her gaze, brows lifted. “That would definitely help.”

  “You seem surprised.”

  “I suppose so. I’ve just never gone on missions with humans before—and definitely not with women. It would never have occurred to me.” He shifted his back to her. “Hop on.”

  She jumped up and he caught her below her buttocks and pulled her up. She wrapped her legs around his waist and slung one arm over his shoulder and chest. The other she balanced on his other shoulder and hung on. “Let’s go.”

  Because he’d seen the end point, his innate sense of direction kicked into high gear. Surveying the pathways, he chose one to the far right. Just as he levitated over the metal barrier, Daniel showed up and took the path all the way to the left.

  Daniel sent three of his slaves in front, however, shouting directions. The moment one of them hit an electrical field and fell, Daniel leapfrogged then ordered more of his people forward. He’d brought a hundred, at least, and he’d use all of them if he had to just to keep testing the path in front of him. If they died, Daniel just didn’t give rat’s ass.

  Lucian heard the first scream and set his vision forward. He’d trained for centuries in how to battle with single-minded purpose, and he let all that training serve him now.

  Ignore those sounds, Claire. There’s nothing either of us can do for those lost souls.

  I know. Patch of light coming up. She leaned over him, covering as much of his face as she could, but sunlight streamed, burning through his clothes; he hurt at every point that Claire didn’t cover him.

  He took deep, heavy breaths as he pushed forward.

  Behind him, more screams hit the air as Daniel’s slaves formed a shield for him through the distance of several feet of sunlight.

  Am I smelling flesh burning?

  Yes, you are.

  I knew the sunlight-thing was true, but I had no idea.

  It’s bad. We live out our lives at night.

  In caves.

  Yep.

  In extraordinary caves.

  It helped to have her in his head, making bland conversation when screams of the innocent filled the air and he had a huge pit to traverse with great care. The heat from the lava flow below would scorch Claire’s body, and if he hit the electricity above, they’d both be dead.

  He stopped at the edge. Do you trust me?

  Hell yeah.

  Lucian smiled. She did that for him, made his heart light. Okay, I’m going to levitate like I did while you were on the platform, stretching out prone, remember?

  She purred softly and tweaked his ear. You gonna take your clothes off? I wouldn’t advise it. I can feel the heat from here and I’d hate to think of your cock unable to function even a little.

  You done, Claire? But he smiled a little more despite the fact that he could see Daniel gaining on him, using up his slaves, plowing through the obstacle course.

  Do it.

  He stretched out and her body slid out to lie the length of his. Still, he knew parts of her would be burned after this. Hang on. This will be brutal.

  He felt her take a deep breath then he shot forward.

  The heat was furnace hot but he got to the other side.

  Claire whimpered. My arms.

  Damn. I’m sorry.

  Just go. I can take the pain.

  His heart swelled as he moved forward, levitating past a patch of sunlight. His hands were blistered, probably like hers. He sent as much of his power as he could to her, to heal her. But he was damn proud of her.

  Thank you. That’s better. She rose up to piggyback him again.

  How much farther? Can you feel the distance?

  I think it’s a quarter mile. Is that what you’re getting?

  Yes. The word came out with a slight hiss. He ran now, having gained a better feel for the path, and the mind that had set up the horrendous obstacles in the first place.

  He got zapped just a little by an electrical field, but it didn’t stop him; he’d only caught the edge.

  The dirt gave way to sharp rock and he levitated now, summoning his Ancestral power, breathing hard. Claire held on tight, but she’d stopped joking. He knew why. He could feel she was in a mountain of pain, again.

  When he reached the next pit of fire, he didn’t need to warn her. He could feel she was ready.

  Lucian, it’s okay. Do it. I’m good. Holding steady.

  And she was. God, he was proud of her.

  He stretched out and as soon as he felt that she was balanced he shot forward, faster this time. She didn’t cry out or whimper, but her whole body had tensed.

  She held him around his chest, with the pressure of her wrists. He didn’t want to look at her hands.

  He moved faster now, especially since he could see Daniel and a handful of slaves racing along the far-left track. He carried ten of them with him over the pits, but lost at least two each time he had to pass beneath sunlight.

  He kept pace with his father through the next eighth of a mile. He kept his head down and ignored the severe blisters on his hands and the deep burns through the parts of the clothing that Claire’s body couldn’t block.

  She shivered now. Burns would do that, send a body into shock. He wanted to offer her more power, but he needed to beat Daniel to the weapon.

  We’re close, Lucian, closer than I th
ought. There’s a disguise around the weapon that has altered the sense of direction and location. We’re close. You need to pull up.

  If I stop, Daniel will know something’s going on. He’ll shift course.

  Keep going, but I’m going to start fake-screaming, which will give you a reason to start slowing down, like you’re worried about me.

  Got it.

  Claire let out a scream and held up her hands, which were bloody now. Lucian shifted his gaze toward Daniel as he called out, “Claire. My God, Claire.” All a fake, of course. The pain was real, but the ruse worked; Daniel took the bait and raced forward.

  Where’s the weapon?

  Claire slid off him and continued to scream, then let her screams fall to outright sobs. Off to your right. I’m going to give you directions, but I’m staying put. I’m in a lot of pain.

  Got it.

  All you need to do is take ten steps straight ahead.

  There’s a rock wall in front of me.

  No, there’s not. Just do it.

  Lucian felt like something of a fool. He was sure he was going to slam into the wall and end up with a bloody nose, but the disguises he’d seen today were way beyond anything he’d seen before, except in Siberia.

  He walked straight ahead. The next moment he passed through the fog and there it was. Now to do the transport and do it quick. Daniel would figure this out and he would be pissed as hell.

  Get over here, Claire. We need to leave. Now. I can haul this with one hand if you can hop on my back again.

  She was already with him and jumped up, surrounding his neck with her arms and his waist with her legs.

  Hold on tight.

  I am and I’m ready.

  He took hold of the iron loop on top with both hands, felt the weight, then hefted it into the air. The weapon was four feet tall and three feet wide. He levitated and once he knew that Claire was stuck to him like glue and that he could manage the weight of the machine, he used his goddamn righteous Ancestral speed and took the weapon and Claire straight out the side of the mountain.

  And nothing followed him.

  Daniel had fallen for the trick.

  Lucian sped west, past two continents then through the Middle East, heading to the northern regions of Egypt.

  The Pharaoh Cavern system wasn’t far, but it was one of the most heavily fortified in his entire world: Gabriel’s lair.

 
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