Chains of darkness, p.5
Chains of Darkness, p.5Part #2 of Men in Chains series by Caris Roane
Claire, though barely knowing anything about his world, had already been abducted when she was thrust into the Dark Cave system to rescue a blood-maddened vampire. And he’d spoken the truth when he said that they’d be wise to pace themselves. The shared chains added a difficult layer to an impossible situation, so yes, he thought this a smart move.
He changed into some clubbing clothes, brushed his short hair, and put on his handcrafted Italian shoes. He then sat on the bed and waited.
But after another ten minutes passed, he felt antsy with a need to be going, to be doing, to be out there battling and taking care of business.
“You okay?” Claire sounded worried.
“It’s the chains. You feel, I don’t know, distressed.”
He sighed. “Pay no attention. I’m trying to take my own advice. It’s not easy to let go, not with the extinction weapon hanging over our heads like an ax ready to fall.”
The door opened. “I feel exactly the same way.”
He shifted in her direction, then stood up.
This wasn’t the same woman.
She was Claire but more.
He’d forgotten how beautiful she was, her skin like cream, her lips full. And she was smiling. Despite her situation, Claire smiled, and he really liked this quality in her. She not only made the best of things, she tended to brighten the space around her as well.
She’d added a little makeup that seemed to enhance her unusual light-brown eyes. The dress fit her like a glove, revealing a beautiful line of cleavage, a narrow waist, and a soft curve of hips. She’d chosen a pair of four-inch stilettos so that if he took her in his arms, she’d hit him just right. He was a big man and by human standards, Claire was tall for her species—somewhere near five-eleven.
He opened his mouth thinking words would follow, but nothing came out.
* * *
Claire left the bathroom but didn’t get very far. Lucian looked at her with his mouth slightly agape, but that wasn’t what stopped her. He wore a blue silk, long-sleeved shirt, tailored slacks, and looked like a million bucks. She blinked a few times, trying to gain her bearings. It was one thing to have brought a wounded vampire out of the Dark Cave system, and quite another to be staring into the smoky-gray eyes of one of the handsomest men she’d ever known.
Her heart raced. Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea after all. When Lucian had said that they should pace themselves, he’d made a lot of sense. But she hadn’t counted on this sudden, overwhelming attraction she experienced.
Essentially, she now saw him in an entirely new light, as a potential boyfriend, which of course was ridiculous. The man wasn’t just a man, he was a vampire, living in a different culture, one that could never mesh with her deep need and desire to return to her life in Santa Fe.
Regardless, she’d agreed to go with him to see Rumy’s band.
Reorienting herself yet again, she held her hands wide. “So, how do we do this? Would it be possible to walk to the club from here?”
Lucian shook his head. “Not exactly.” He glanced down at her feet. “And definitely not in those shoes. Our room is at least a mile from the club. We’ll have to fly.”
She put a hand to her stomach. “Oh, no.”
But he smiled. “It won’t be bad at all. I’ll take it really slow for you. I promise, you’ll be fine. You won’t feel a twinge.”
“I suppose I’ll have to take your word for it.” She then glanced across the room at the shimmery red tickets. “Does it make me a bad person to say I’m just a little curious?”
He laughed. “No, not at all, and I don’t blame you.”
“Have you seen the show before?”
“A couple of times. Not sure if it would be the wisest move, but we could step in at the back for a moment so you can have a look.”
She shook her head, heat climbing her cheeks. “I’ve never done anything like that before, but Rumy has mentioned Eve several times.”
“She’s a wonderful person, just very different from what you’re probably used to.”
At that, she sighed. “Like everything else I’ve experienced over the past three days.”
He crossed the room and slipped the tickets into his pant pocket. “We can decide later.” Moving back to her, he held his arm wide. “Ready?”
“I am.” When she balanced her brand-new shoes on top of his expensive footwear, and he pulled her tight against his side, there was nothing for it but to slide her arm around his neck and hold on.
But for just a moment, as his gaze caught and held, she felt a powerful sensation of really being in trouble with this man. She didn’t know what it was, but something about Lucian just got to her, as though on a deep level his soul spoke to hers and she was listening.
He cleared his throat and looked away. “It might be easier if you closed your eyes.”
She agreed. “Eyes closed. Fly at will.”
She felt the shift to altered flight and what followed, as he began flying them through solid stone, felt like soft hands barely reaching for her and touching her. She made use of telepathy. Just tell me when we’ve arrived.
As promised, the flight didn’t take long at all.
He landed her in a space that reminded her of a large hotel foyer with a number of people coming and going, all dressed up. The walls were decorated with extraordinary walls of crystals, all in huge swathes of different colors, violet, light blue, sea green. She could hardly take it in, it was so beautiful.
Off to the left a long counter made of exquisite burl wood served as an information center, guiding visitors to the various venues in Rumy’s extensive club complex. At least a dozen women and men served behind the counter answering questions.
“This is amazing,” she said, stepping off his foot. “I had no idea.”
“I thought it might surprise you.”
“To say the least.” She glanced down and saw that the floor held an opalescent shimmer. She had no idea what kind of stone it was, but again the design stunned her. She had to do a quick mental realignment: This wasn’t just a frightening vampire culture, but an entire civilization.
She glanced at Lucian once more, taking him in and feeling vulnerable yet again. In the back of her mind, she wondered if maybe this had been Rumy’s plan all along, to get her to see Lucian and his world in a different light. Rumy had made no secret of the fact that he thought her power could benefit their world, and he wanted her to stay and help their cause.
“Everything okay?” he asked, frowning.
She shook her head, blinked some more. “I’m overwhelmed.” The next moment the music started up, though at a distance, with a strong bass beat, very bluesy and sexy.
“I think you’ll like this.” He held out his arm. She slid hers around his elbow, once more having the weird feeling they were on a date, yet not on a date.
She took a deep breath, hoping to stay centered as he led her down a long hall that turned to the left for a couple dozen yards then opened up into an enormous cavern. On the other side of the vast space, the band was on stage, wearing silver-studded black leather outfits, cut to display muscular arms and chests.
The audience sat at small, linen-covered tables; female wait staff in skimpy black-and-white costumes moved quickly, serving drinks and appetizers. Each of the tables had a single candle, giving the club a romantic appearance.
The hostess greeted Lucian with a broad smile. “So glad to have you back, boss.” Everyone seemed to call him by that name.
Yet again, she wondered about him.
The hostess was ready to take them to VIP seating, but he quietly asked for one of the more private booths near the back. “My friend here is rather shy and I’m trying to keep a low profile.”
She nodded knowingly. “Of course.” She led them down a short flight of stairs. Carved out of a shelf of rock was a row of relatively private booths. Scooting to the center, Claire realized that the design created a layer o
Once more, she was grateful. And again, the man was considerate.
* * *
Lucian ordered Glenlivet neat, while Claire chose a mojito with sage and honey, her favorite drink.
He couldn’t remember the last time he’d done something like this—and not just because he’d been in a prison for over a year.
He didn’t date. Ever. He hooked up occasionally, but only for sex.
He sipped his drink and let Claire take in the club. More than once her gaze was drawn to couples who were getting affectionate. For himself, he looked away.
From the moment he’d first engaged with Claire at the Dark Cave, he’d been attracted to her, and from beginning to end this idea of Rumy’s to take her to see the band wasn’t helping.
His stomach cramped slightly, a faint signal that eventually his blood-madness would come roaring back. Because he’d been through it before, however, he knew he had time. He just wasn’t sure how much.
Claire shifted toward him slightly. “I have an idea.”
She was so close, and the booth afforded a very private environment. Even the immediate acoustics would allow for conversation.
His gaze shifted to her full lips. He had an idea as well, but he was pretty sure hers was different. “And what’s that?”
“Well, these chains have thrown us together in an unexpected way. So, how about we tell each other something, and not necessarily of a serious nature, that we’ve never told anyone else.”
His lips curved. “Only if you go first.”
She nodded. “I think that would be fair.” She glanced around the club, no doubt thinking.
The music from the band shifted to a quicker beat, livelier. He sipped his whiskey, waiting.
Finally she turned back to him and smiled. “I once dreamed of becoming an astronaut.”
He sputtered over his drink. “Seriously?”
She set her elbow on the table and settled her cheek in her palm. “Well, not exactly. I was ten, I think, and had gotten a book with all these incredible pictures of our galaxy. But when I learned that all I’d ever do as an astronaut was travel in a circle around the earth, I gave up my quest then and there.”
He set his tumbler down. “I think I know exactly what you mean. The reality simply did not live up to the fantasy.”
“Very true. One of the hardest lessons about life, I think.”
He held her gaze for a long moment. Claire wasn’t a simple woman. She had thoughts behind her thoughts. He liked that about her.
Maybe it was the whiskey easing through his veins, or maybe the trusting light in Claire’s eye, but he decided to offer his own never-before-mentioned experience, something no one knew about him. “I have a thing for puppies.”
“No judgment please. I just do. I’ve never had a pet, but once when I was young and Daniel had left the compound for a few days, one of the servants had brought in a puppy, maybe ten weeks old. I’d never seen one before—Daniel hated everything that resembled normalcy—and I used to sneak away to play with him. I made up a braided cloth toy and I must have thrown that thing a thousand times, all in secret, of course.”
“Why in secret?”
He turned his tumbler in his hand. “Because if Daniel knew that I cared about the dog…” He didn’t finish the sentence.
“That bastard,” she muttered, sipping her mojito. But she met his gaze again. “What kind of puppy was it?”
“A golden retriever.”
“Does your kind keep pets, generally?”
“Sure, just not in a place like The Erotic Passage.”
She laughed. “No, I suppose not. So what happened to the puppy?”
“He lived deep in the cavern system until he died of old age.”
“Daniel never found out?”
“It wasn’t that. I chose to ignore the dog, to keep him safe. I think it might have been one of the hardest things I’d ever done.”
Claire drew close and put her hand on his back. “I’m glad I’m here, Lucian. And I really do hope that I can help in a meaningful way.”
“You already have.”
She was so close and she smelled so good. Her blood tempted him; her eyes, her lips, the swell of her breasts.
When she didn’t pull away, but instead continued to stare into his eyes, he didn’t mistake the invitation, but he debated for a moment what he should do.
Finally he leaned toward her and met her lips with his own, offering a soft kiss that had her moving into him just little, returning the pressure.
When he drew back, she lifted her glass. “Here’s to puppies everywhere.”
He lifted his tumbler. “And to the universe waiting to be discovered by young girls.”
He clinked her glass and they both drank.
Then his phone rang. After he fished it from his pocket, Rumy’s voice came on the line. “You need to get back here. I’ve got news.”
“We’ll be right there.”
After paying the bill, he took Claire back to their room where Rumy waited for them, pacing once more.
Lucian could feel that he was revved up. “What’s going on?”
“I’ve just received top-notch information that there’s an extinction weapon hidden somewhere here in the Como system.”
* * *
Back at the beige room, Claire found it difficult to process what Rumy was saying, in part because only a few moments before she’d been listening to music, enjoying a drink, and kissing a vampire.
But apparently, the agitation cycle had decided to start up again. She worked to refocus her thoughts away from Lucian, puppies, and her almost-date to once more pursuing the extinction weapon. “And you’re sure this isn’t some kind of prank?”
Rumy shook his head. “No, this is solid information. You have to remember, I have a spy network more powerful than your CIA.”
Claire believed him, yet something didn’t feel right. “If you have this information, isn’t there a strong possibility that Daniel will as well?”
“If he doesn’t have it now, he soon will.” Lucian held Claire’s gaze. “Would you be willing to see if we can track it together?”
“Of course.” Could they truly form a tracking pair? She’d soon find out.
For some reason, her words stopped Lucian. He stared at her unblinking for a long moment.
“What is it?”
Finally he gave himself a shake, but what she felt from the chains was a strong sense of disbelief.
At that, her lips curved. “Should I be offended that you’ve thought so little of me? I told you I would help you, but it appears you didn’t believe me.”
“I’ll admit I’m surprised. I thought by now, after all that you’ve been through back at Daniel’s cavern system and even here”—he waved toward the bed, referring to the recent feeding—“you might want to take off and frankly, I wouldn’t blame you.”
“I won’t say the thought hasn’t crossed my mind, especially given the numbers that Rumy so recently shared with me. But I want to be here, to do what I can. And yes, I realize that the odds are against my friend still being alive. Still, maybe once we’ve followed this current lead, we can use the same tracking ability to find Zoey.”
“Absolutely.” He took her hand once more. “Again, I’m so sorry Claire, about all of this.”
She looked into his eyes and believed him. The more she knew about Lucian, the more she saw him as someone very heroic in his world. He wasn’t anything like she’d expected, on any level, starting with his sheer size. But he was a good man, one she could trust.
Yet he was also a vampire, something she needed to remember. It wouldn’t do any good to get attached to the man, not when her heart still lived in Santa Fe, with her mom and dad and her two younger brothers, where she’d been building a life as a social worker and trying to make a difference in her community. For the past two years, she’d envisioned returning home—and that dream, mo
She nodded several times, drawing her hand out of his clasp. “I think we should get changed, then figure out how to track this weapon.”
Lucian watched the auburn-haired human gather up her clothes and disappear into the bathroom. He was stunned at her resolve. She’d already been through so much and had only recently learned that her friend was probably dead, but she still wanted to help. Where had so much essential courage come from?
He liked Claire—that’s what he decided in this moment. From the beginning he’d felt her strength, despite the fact that she looked physically fragile with her pale skin, and the tender compassion that she displayed as her most basic quality. This was a woman who could go the distance.
A woman he’d just kissed.
But he couldn’t think about that right now, or how much the experience had warmed his heart. They had a job to do.
He changed into his battle leathers once more, with a long-sleeved T-shirt. He shifted his attention to this thing called a tracking ability, something the blood-chains were supposed to have created between them. He’d never done anything like this before.
But one thing he knew for certain: In the same way that Claire had an innate ability to create disguises—something the siphoning of his power had allowed her to do—she was the one who carried the tracking gene.
When she emerged from the bathroom, back in her casual clothes, she hung up the black dress, her chin firm. She appeared ready to go to work. “So tell me what you know about the tracking power.”
Lucian nodded. He approved of her demeanor and of the vibration in his chain that spoke of her resolve. “For the most part, the capacity to track people and things belongs to you.”
“You mean, like the disguising power I have.”
“Okay.” She spread her hands wide. “So, how do you think I can access it? What do I do?”
He took her hands once more, connecting his power to her more securely. “Just try focusing your thoughts on the weapon.”
Chains of Darkness by Caris Roane / Mystery & Detective have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes