Chains of darkness, p.26
Chains of Darkness, p.26Part #2 of Men in Chains series by Caris Roane
“Oh, that’s all.” His lips curved a little, then he kissed her forehead.
She glanced at Adrien. “Please tell me you’re not laying plans to go after Daniel.”
But Lucian’s chain vibrated and carried an edge of rage, something Claire also recognized. “Can’t be helped,” Lucian said. “With Marius free, we have to do something and we know our brother will go after him.”
Claire nodded. “Then what can I do?”
Both vampires stared at her. Lucian glanced at Adrien and smiled. “See what I mean?”
But Adrien turned in Lily’s direction, his expression soft as he said, “I know exactly what you mean, and I have a feeling that whatever we do, it won’t be done alone.”
“No,” Claire stated, lowering her chin. “It won’t.”
At that, both men laughed.
She looked up at Lucian. “I know we’ve agreed to remain here for a while, but I really need to see Zoey, to speak with her just once. Can you arrange that?”
He nodded. “Absolutely.”
An hour later, Claire flew with Lucian back to The Erotic Passage, having surrounded them both with a powerful disguise.
Within a handful of minutes, Rumy led her to Zoey’s room. Claire worked hard to prepare herself for how thin and weak her friend would be. But when she opened the door, Zoey was actually sitting up in bed, the adjustable mattress angled to support her. She had a computer open on her lap, her gaze fixed on the screen. Despite the fact that it was clear her friend was out of danger, her skin showed the outlines of way too many bones.
“Zoey?” She moved inside with Lucian.
Her friend glanced up and her blue eyes widened. “Oh, my God, it’s you.” Her black hair was damp and slicked back away from her face.
Tears started to stream down Claire’s cheeks, as she hurried to the side of the bed and gathered Zoey up in her arms. Claire felt the bones of her friend’s shoulder blades and spine, which brought more tears rolling. She held Zoey for a long time, unwilling to let her go.
Zoey seemed to feel the same way and held on tight as well. “You’re here,” she whispered against Claire’s shoulder.
Claire only released her after several minutes. She drew back and asked, “Are you okay?”
Zoey held her gaze. “I don’t know yet. I was so sure I was going to die, but now I’m sitting here looking at you. I still can’t believe I survived.” A haunted look crept into her eyes. “What happened to you, Claire? Where did you go? I mean, Rumy told me you were in Florida, taking care of a kid. Is that true?”
Claire nodded, then gave her a brief history of her time with Josh.
Zoey’s gaze fell to the bedcovers. “No one hurt you.”
Guilt poured over Claire. She’d lived a relatively safe life in Daniel’s compound, but Zoey had endured the unimaginable. “No, I was never hurt. Not like you, but I was as much a prisoner. I couldn’t leave. Rumy somehow stole inside the compound and got me out, otherwise I’d still be there and who knows what would have happened to me.”
More tears fell down Zoey’s cheeks. She fingered the light green blanket next to her. “I’m glad. I thought about you all the time and of course I wondered if you were going through what I was. I lived as Daniel’s slave, his mistress, his toy, his fucking punching bag. You need to know that. I’m not clean. He called me his favorite, but he hurt me.”
Claire took Zoey’s hand and pressed it to her cheek. “None of that matters and there will be time to mend what happened.”
Zoey lifted her face to Claire, her eyes almost panicky. “Is it even possible?”
Claire held her gaze. “Damn straight it’s possible. And we have time, lots of time to make things right again.” She petted Zoey’s thick black hair. “I take it you’ve had a healer with you?”
Zoey gasped. “The healer. Oh, my God. I’ve never felt anything like it.” She spread her free hand to the side, waving it back and forth. “I mean look at this. I’m sitting up, I’m on the computer, I’m talking. By the time Rumy brought me to this room I was about two breaths away from six-feet-under.”
Claire didn’t bother telling Zoey that she’d also experienced the care of a healer or about anything else that she and Lucian had been through. She might have survived a couple of difficult battles over the past few days, but by comparison Zoey had endured two years of a violent war. There would be time enough in the coming weeks and months to explore all that each had endured.
She shared about Amber and Tracy, which of course created a new wave of tears, though this time of gratitude that both young women had been spared Zoey’s fate. When the same dark, uneasy light once more entered Zoey’s eyes, Claire told her how Lucian had burned the Prickly Pear to the ground.
A smile curved Zoey’s lips and for just a moment she looked like the young, carefree woman Claire had grown up with. “I wish I could have seen it. You did the right thing.”
“Slavers owned that damn club so I didn’t have the smallest twinge of conscience in burning it down.”
Zoey shook her head slowly. “Can you believe this world even exists?”
She glanced past Claire. “And you must be Lucian, Marius’s brother.” Rumy would have filled Zoey in on everything.
Claire made the introductions, bringing Lucian forward and taking his hand.
“It’s nice to meet you, Zoey.” Lucian’s deep voice filled the small room.
For a moment, Zoey’s eyes narrowed as she looked up at him. “I know what you went through. Daniel liked to talk about his sons. I’m sorry.”
“And I’m sorry as well.”
Claire glanced at Lucian. His gaze was centered on Zoey and it seemed to her that an understanding flowed between them, each having experienced the brutality of the same monster. Finally, Lucian said quietly, “We’ll get him, Zoey. My brothers and I are set on that.”
Zoey drew in a breath that sounded like a hiss. “I didn’t know such evil could exist. I really didn’t.”
For a long moment, Zoey shaded her face with her hand. Claire didn’t say anything. Neither did Lucian.
When she’d recovered herself, Zoey met Claire’s gaze, then glanced at the double chain she wore. “You’re bonded.”
Claire looked up and squeezed Lucian’s hand. “We are.”
Zoey glanced from one to the other. “Is it love?”
“It is.” Claire’s eyes grew wet again. She’d sworn she wasn’t a weeper, but events of the past few days had proved her wrong repeatedly. “I’m staying with Lucian, in his world. I never thought I’d say this, but I belong here.”
“You look really happy, Claire.”
Her heart full, Claire nodded. “I am.”
Zoey leaned back against her pillows and released a deep sigh. Claire saw her fatigue and rose from the bed. “I don’t know when I’ll be able to return. Rumy wants us to lay low for a while until all the plans are made for bringing Daniel down.”
Zoey squeezed her hand, then released it. “I’m so glad you came. Rumy had already warned me that you’d have to stay hidden, so I wasn’t expecting a visit, but I’m so glad I got to see you.”
“I’m only a phone call away, and I’ll come anytime you need me. Just let Rumy know.”
Zoey nodded, but her eyelids had begun to droop. The visit had no doubt worn her out.
She let go of Lucian’s hand and would have left. But Zoey looked pained suddenly as she held her arms out to Claire.
Giving a small cry, Claire embraced her one last time. “You’re safe now,” she whispered against Zoey’s ear.
At last, Claire drew back and after turning at the doorway to wave, she left her friend. Lucian called Rumy to let them know they were leaving. As before, Claire wrapped them up in an intricate layered disguise and Lucian held her close as he flew her back to their hiding place.
* * *
After sleeping beside Claire
He took her hand gently in his and slid it lower, but only far enough to hold it cupped beneath his chin. She shifted slightly, turning on her side to face him, her eyes closed. She sighed softly but didn’t wake up.
His chest swelled. He couldn’t believe this had happened to him, this miracle in the form of a human female.
The double-chain at his neck vibrated softly, and it was all he could do to keep from touching her. Love had come to him, crashing through his life in the most incredible way, washing away the darkness of the past four hundred years.
Claire had done this not by offering him a simple path to freedom, but by binding him with chains.
He dipped his chin and kissed her fingers very gently. He didn’t want to wake her up. He was content to lie beside her, to let her sprawl, to watch her sleep.
The coming days would be difficult.
Adrien had contacted him just a few minutes earlier, mind-to-mind, letting him know that rumors had shot through the vampire world to the effect that Daniel had located what was now believed to be the last remaining extinction weapon. The Siberian lead wasn’t the only one Daniel had been pursuing.
A battle was heating up, maybe a decisive one that could end with Daniel’s subjugation of the entire vampire world—or if luck would fall just this once to Adrien, Marius, and himself, with Daniel’s destruction.
Claire’s eyes opened slowly. “I really liked the first part of whatever it was you were thinking, and yes, I’ve been awake since you took my hand, but this last part has tensed me up something bad. What’s going on?”
Lucian rolled onto his back, still holding her hand, which caused her to slide in his direction and press her naked body up against his, right where he wanted her. “Sorry, sweetheart. I went from savoring your presence in my life to thinking about you-know-who.”
“Ugh. Please don’t speak his name, at least not before I’ve had my morning, I mean evening, coffee.” She hugged him and sighed. “So what gives?”
“Adrien contacted me a little bit ago.” He tapped his forehead. “Woke me up, too, which was fine, just a little unsettling.” Their shared Ancestral status was allowing them to communicate more easily than ever before.
At that, Claire shifted to lean up on his chest and look him in the eye. “So why are you so distressed?”
“It’s just a feeling, Claire, but I think things are going to heat up. I think we’re in for it.”
“Oh, is that all?” Her brows rose.
He chuckled softly and ran a thumb down her cheek and over her lips. “Thank you for that.”
“For what you always do—making me laugh.”
She sighed, pushing herself up to reach his lips with hers. She kissed him soundly. “You’re welcome.”
“I’ve been thinking that once this business with Daniel is settled, you’ll want to reconnect with your family.”
He felt her sudden alarm through the chains and wasn’t surprised when she lifted up a little more and stared at him. “Lucian, I’m not going back. My life is here, with you. I can’t believe you would even think…”
“Hey, you’ve misunderstood.” He tugged on her to bring her back against his chest once more. “I want to go with you, at night of, course. To meet your family. We’d go together.”
“Oh.” She frowned. “Oh, I see. It’s possible, then? I mean, I thought I had to choose permanently against returning to Santa Fe.”
“I won’t kid you, it’ll be difficult, but we can manage it. If we need to establish a home base in Santa Fe, and live there part-time, we can do that. But there will come a point, especially as it becomes clear that I’m not aging—and you won’t either, by the way…”
“Yes, I know. I mean, I talked to Lily yesterday. They said that humans bound by blood-chains don’t age as fast as ordinary humans. So that will be a big problem.”
“Exactly. And so long as the vampire world is kept secret, at some point you will have to separate from your human family.”
“Hey, what if we faked annual visits to a plastic surgeon?”
He laughed. “Okay, whatever. We’ll figure this out.”
“I have no doubt about that, but thank you.” He felt a sudden wash of sentiment flow through her. “I just never thought I’d see any of them again.”
“You will. I promise you that, with all my heart. We’ll make it work.”
She kissed him again, lingering this time, and her voice pierced his head. So is there any reason why we have to get up right away? Does Adrien need you, or Rumy? Or can we stay here for a few minutes, say about twenty, although with your vampire speed it could be much quicker. She shivered with pleasure.
He drew back, laughing some more and gazing into her soft brown eyes. “I love you so much.”
“I love you, too, more than I thought I could ever love anyone.”
He shifted her to lie on top of him once more and held her tightly against him. “Gabriel is coming over in a couple of hours, so we’re not expected to show our faces until then.”
“Oh, that sounds wonderful. We can take our time.” She squeezed him as she spoke.
Yes, he’d take his time. He’d work her body backward and forward, letting her know over and over how grateful he was that she’d shown up in his life and changed everything.
In just a few short days, she’d become his light and his hope, having bound him with a set of blood-chains that had replaced the dark chains of his childhood.
He could never repay her for a kindness he doubted she could ever truly comprehend. But by God he’d spend the rest of his days letting her know he loved her.
Also by Caris Roane
WINGS OF FIRE
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GATES OF RAPTURE
BORN IN CHAINS
PRAISE FOR THE GUARDIANS OF ASCENSION SERIES
BY CARIS ROANE …
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
This is a work of fiction. All of the characters, organizations, and events portrayed in this novel are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.
CHAINS OF DARKNESS
Copyright © 2014 by Caris Roane.
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St. Martin’s Paperbacks edition / July 2014
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Caris Roane, Chains of Darkness
(Series: Men in Chains # 2)
Chains of Darkness by Caris Roane / Mystery & Detective have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes