Chains of darkness, p.6
Chains of Darkness, p.6Part #2 of Men in Chains series by Caris Roane
She closed her eyes, and his chains vibrated with her efforts to concentrate. He remained very still to let her do her thing.
After a moment he sensed a shift and watched her brows rise, then fall. When she opened her eyes, she shook her head. “For a second there, I sensed something, a definite shape. I mean, it was real. But then it just sort of disappeared.”
“Good, that’s good. Try again.”
She repeated the process. As before he felt the change in her. He could sense how hard she was working to find the weapon, as though reaching through time and space.
At last, she opened her eyes but once more shook her head. “I feel close to the object, but I really do lack the power to complete the connection.”
“You know what it is?” Rumy drew close and glanced up at Lucian.
“Don’t say it,” Lucian snapped, but he could see that his abrupt response startled Claire. “Sorry.”
He turned back to Rumy. “I’m not going there. I promised myself that I’d never take that step. It’ll bring me too close to being what my father is.”
“What do you mean, what your father is?” Claire shook her head, frowning.
“Oh, right. We talked about that earlier.”
“If Lucian would take the leap and become an Ancestral vampire, he’d have enough power to take your tracking ability the distance. He could also serve as a judge in one of our courts or rule the Ancestral Council himself.”
Lucian let go of her hands and scrubbed his fingers through his short hair. “It’s one of the things that level of power would achieve.”
She glanced from one to the other. “This is an advanced civilization, then.”
Lucian glanced at her. Once more, Claire seemed surprised, which of course did nothing for his habitually short temper. “Yes. We even walk around on two feet and don’t drag our arms on the ground.”
But she laughed, her light-brown eyes sparkling. “Oh, come on. You must have seen some of our vampire movies, especially the older ones. You have a reputation in the human world. Which means that I just didn’t expect, when Rumy brought me here to what is essentially a sex club, that I’d be hearing about judges, leadership, and Ancestrals. Just please give me some time to catch up.”
He squeezed his eyes shut for a moment. “Sorry, I have a short fuse.”
He glanced at her. Once more the woman had surprised him. “I’m allowed?”
“Lucian, you’ve been in hell for over a year. If the least negative response you exhibit is a certain level of impatience, I’m impressed beyond words.”
Rumy punched his arm and smiled. “She sees you like I do. You’ve never given yourself enough credit.”
Lucian thought they’d both lost their minds. He knew what he was. He lived with Daniel’s genes always threatening to take him over and to destroy the good he tried to do in his world. In part, he blamed Daniel’s Ancestral genetics for making him the man he was. Daniel had taken all that power and turned it into something evil.
If Lucian ever embraced his Ancestral calling—and he knew he had it within him—what would keep him from becoming just like his father? That much power would tempt anyone.
“All right, fine, think of me as you will, but let’s get back to figuring out this damn tracking thing.”
* * *
Once more Lucian took her hands as Claire closed her eyes. She relaxed as much as she could, focusing on the extinction weapon. She had no visual representation for the weapon, so she kept her thoughts trained on what it could do, its potential for annihilation.
As before, an image would arrive at the periphery of her consciousness, trying to break through, then fade away. She centered her mind more carefully on that image. She felt Lucian’s power flowing through her now, a sensation she was gradually getting used to. She tapped into that power.
Finally, the image began to take shape, in bits and pieces, sitting in a rough-looking cavern, smallish in size. In the center was a large gray metallic box with vents on the side. Without opening her eyes, she relayed what she saw.
She felt Lucian’s corresponding excitement through the vibration of her chain. “Hold that location. That’s all you need to do.”
“Got it.” But the edges beyond the weapon were wavy, as though the rest of the space was hidden behind a disguise. “Wait. Something’s not right here. I think there’s a disguising shield in place.” She opened her eyes and met Lucian’s gaze. “Is it possible Daniel is behind this?”
Lucian shrugged, frowning. “I don’t know.” He turned to Rumy. “Daniel could be here, couldn’t he, without your security system knowing it?”
“In some of the more remote regions of the Como system, yes, of course. There are a lot of miles that I haven’t explored. Don’t really need to.”
Lucian frowned. “So this could be some kind of trap.”
Claire nodded. “It doesn’t feel right to me at all.”
“We’ll go with your instincts, and cruise the area first to get a good look at the object and the cave. I think we’ll know more then.”
Claire gulped. “You’re talking altered flight.”
“I know, but I can take it slow. We won’t be exposed like we were earlier in the open air. Mostly we’ll be traveling through solid rock and not in a location where other vampires in flight could see us.”
She supposed his words were reasonable, but her previous headache still lingered, though not nearly as severe as it had been when she’d first arrived. “Okay.”
His lips curved. “You sound doubtful.”
She rubbed her temple. “What else would you expect?”
“Point taken.” He glanced first at his bare feet, then hers.
Claire smiled. “I guess we’d better shoe up.”
Lucian laughed. “Shoe up?”
She shrugged. “It made you laugh, didn’t it?”
His expression held for a moment. “Yeah, it did. I can’t remember doing that in a long time. All right, Claire, let’s shoe up.”
Once she had her socks and jogging shoes on and he’d donned some serious steel-toed boots, he held his arm wide for her. As his arm tightened around her waist, she stepped onto his right foot. To feel secure, she slid her arm around his neck, but the sudden physical proximity brought another wave of desire flowing through her.
She became aware of just how male he was, and how much his scent appealed to her. She swallowed hard and focused once more on the task at hand. Knowing they’d be in flight, she switched to telepathy. So how do we do this? I mean, what do I do?
Just stay centered on the image and I think you’ll be able to direct me. His rich voice pierced her mind, adding another layer of sensation, which she worked to suppress. Rumy had warned her that the chain-bond would enhance all her responses to Lucian, but she hadn’t thought she’d be so drawn to him.
She closed her eyes. This time the image came to her quickly, a metallic-looking box, sitting on the floor of a rough-looking cavern. Got it.
Now concentrate on finding a path from this point to there.
After a long moment, she suddenly knew where to start. There’s a tunnel straight ahead.
And just like that, he put them in flight. He took it slow, which helped her headache problem. However, when the first solid wall of rock came at her, she screamed.
He slowed to a stop in a cavern tunnel. Close your eyes. You should be able to direct me without having to look.
Yes. Give it a shot.
She closed her eyes and much to her relief, the pathway seemed written on her mind. She continued to direct him down one tunnel after another, a trip that took a long time. We’re covering miles, aren’t we?
Yes, we are.
Finally they drew close to the end point. Claire, I want you to wrap us up in your best disguise. Can you do that?
Claire didn’t hesitate. She focused on building the preternatural shield that still hardly made sense to her. But she was definitely growing more comfortable with the process.
Well done, he murmured. I can feel the strength of it. So how much farther?
Actually, we’re here. The machine is just beyond this wall of rock.
Lucian made a slow pass through the small cavern. There it is, but I don’t see anything else. Do you still detect a disguise?
A very powerful one. I feel like I could see through it if we dropped out of altered flight.
I’m not going to take that chance.
The next moment Daniel emerged from behind what was indeed a serious disguise. He wore a black leather jacket and tailored slacks, a silk shirt—more of his casual look, she supposed.
He stroked his goatee. “Show yourselves. Don’t worry. I come in peace.” He sat down on top of the metal box.
I can’t believe he knows we’re here.
That’s his Ancestral power.
Lucian, what should we do? I don’t trust him.
Neither do I, but he’s got something important up his sleeve, so here’s how I want this to go. We’ll touch down, and you have a quick look around—and I mean quick. If you can see through the disguise and he’s brought backup, I’ll get us both out of there. Just shout into my head.
Sounds like a plan.
He landed them, and Claire searched the area. All she saw, however, were two women, one of them weak and emaciated, huddled by the far wall.
Daniel just smiled, his arms crossed over his chest.
Lucian squeezed her waist. Claire, are you able to see through the disguise? What can you see?
Just two women.
Right. I forgot that this is my skill and not yours. But they’re by the back wall of the cave, maybe twenty feet past Daniel. There’s no one else here and I’m sure the women can’t harm us. One of them is really sick. I think they both might be slaves.
Daniel narrowed his gaze at Claire. “So you can see through the disguise I created. You have some serious power, Claire. Now tell me what you see.”
Lucian interjected. “What do you want, Daniel?”
“I want to offer some incentive for your help, but first I had to find out if you had the tracking ability. It appears you do. And yes, I sent the tip through Rumy’s spy network.”
Lucian gestured to the box. “So this isn’t a complete weapon, maybe just part of one?”
“You’ve guessed accurately. It’s of no use to me. I almost had the plans once, but they got turned over to Gabriel, the one you erroneously refer to as your father. He probably destroyed them.”
Claire glanced at Lucian. She didn’t know who Gabriel was or why Lucian might have thought of him as a parent. More questions to ask.
Daniel turned his flecked, light-teal eyes on Claire. “Don’t you recognize at least one of these women?” He swept his hand toward the far wall.
She searched their faces. The gaunt one, who couldn’t be far from death, shifted slightly in her direction as though in pain. She had black hair and her large eyes were very blue. Then she saw the faint resemblance. “Zoey. She’s alive. You brought her here.” Her heart thumped hard in her chest. Her friend was right there.
On impulse she started to move in her direction, but two things happened at once. Lucian held her tight, preventing her from leaving his side, and Daniel snapped his fingers. With that small movement, the other woman gathered Zoey up in her arms and instantly shifted to altered flight. They both disappeared.
Claire felt dizzy. “What have you done with her? Where is that woman taking her?”
But Daniel only smiled. “As for her appearance, she’s been with me for over two years now and is going through the normal debilitation that your kind generally experiences. She doesn’t have long now, but she might survive if you help me.”
Claire would have launched herself at Daniel, ready to scratch his eyes out, but Lucian held her in a tight grip. Don’t let him get to you like that. He’s taunting you. If you want her back, we’ll have to play his game.
She settled down, working to compose herself.
“Claire has spirit, Lucian. You’ll enjoy that in the coming days. A real livewire, but then I knew you’d like her the moment I saw her in Santa Fe. Zoey, on the other hand, was just a lovely bonus. Now, as for my terms, it’s simple. If you want Zoey back, then bring me the extinction weapon. Seems like a fair trade, doesn’t it?” He stood up. “You won’t need to contact me because I’ll be watching you both.”
Then just like that, he was gone.
Her throat grew tight. “I can’t believe she was just here. I barely recognized her.”
Lucian drew several deep breaths. At first Claire didn’t know what was wrong, but then she felt it. “You’re starting to spiral again, aren’t you?”
He nodded. “We need to get back. Now.”
“Let’s go then.”
To her surprise, he didn’t inquire about return directions; he seemed to know the route even though it was miles long and took a number of twists and turns.
Throughout the flight, she remained quiet, hoping that in doing so, she wouldn’t aggravate the growing tension in his body and in his mind.
By the time he brought her to their room, he stumbled as he moved in the direction of the bed. “Claire, you’ve got to call Rumy, now. You’re not safe.” He was breathing hard, struggling to get sufficient air into his lungs.
Using the landline, Claire did. “Rumy I need you. Lucian’s blood-madness has returned. Please hurry.”
“I’m on my way with reinforcements.”
She hung up, but her hand trembled so badly that she had a hard time getting the handset back on the cradle.
Lucian leaned over the bed, his hands planted on the comforter, his eyes squeezed shut.
She felt myriad emotions swirl through the shared blood-chains—rage and fear, deep confusion, even shame.
She just hoped Rumy would get there in time.
But the next moment the door slammed open and Rumy walked in with three powerful vampires, each almost as big as Lucian.
Claire tucked herself into the corner of the room, which was as far as the chain-bond would allow her to go. The tug on her neck made her wince.
She held a hand to her mouth as she watched Rumy’s guards grab Lucian, tackle him to the bed, then work on the wrist restraints. The left restraint was attached to the steel bar on the side of the bed, but another steel loop, located between the halves of what proved to be a split mattress on top of the bed, held the other restraint. The ankles were lashed to the bar that ran across the bottom of the bed.
Lucian snarled and sank his fangs into each of the men in turn as they struggled to secure him. Yelps followed and a mountain of curses.
Lucian’s twisted, furious expression, as well as the madness that flowed through the chains, beat at Claire, speaking to her in a constant stream that kept her heart thumping loudly in her ears.
Once Lucian was subdued, all three heavily muscled guards stood back, checking their wounds. Blood flowed from a number of bites. To Claire’s surprise, however, each of them laughed.
“Damn, he’s strong.”
“Always was. Jesus, look how much I’m bleeding.”
The third guard chuckled. “I know. I’m gonna need a new shirt.”
Rumy’s voice drew Claire’s attention as he addressed his men. “Aw, you three babies need some Band-Aids? Want me to kiss your boo-boos, make them better?” His medical team moved in, as well as several more guards.
One of the initial guards grinned. “Would you, boss? I’d feel so much better.” But he had a chunk missing from his forearm, which he held away from him. Blood had formed a pool on the carpet.
Great. Just what she needed to be looking at.
Rumy jerked his thumb in the direction of the hall. “Stay at your posts, assholes. Let th
Claire stared at Rumy, still shocked by all that had just happened. Between seeing Daniel again so soon and now having Lucian devolving into blood-madness, she wasn’t sure how much more she could take.
Meeting her gaze, he smiled and shrugged. “What can I say? We’re vampires. But please don’t worry. My men will be fine in about half an hour and the doc here will give Lucian something to calm him down, at least a little. And of course we’ll get someone in here to clean things up. You okay, though? None of this is very pretty, is it?”
Claire shifted to look at Lucian once more. “I don’t know where to begin. He was fine, then the madness returned so fast and he slipped back into this terrible state.”
“If it’s any consolation, my experience has been that what he’s about to go through right now, over the next few hours, will be the worst of it. He’ll have minor bouts later, now and then, but usually a major crisis will help put him on the road to full recovery.”
Claire didn’t know what to think. She was reminded yet again that this was a wildly different world.
Lucian pulled against the restraints, his back arching off the bed. His fangs still protruded as he snarled at the medical staff. His arms were now tightly secured in the restraints. The setup was a far cry from the chains that had held him captive in Daniel’s prison, but Claire hated to see him bound like this again.
One of the medics removed Lucian’s boots, then went to work cutting off his clothes in order to make him more comfortable. When the doctor gave him the shot, he settled down a little, but to Claire’s mind not all that much.
Once a sheet lay over the lower half of his body, Claire moved to stand at the foot of the bed. Rumy joined her, his gaze fixed on Lucian.
She glanced at Rumy, who’d never looked more solemn. “He’s the best of us, you know. He saved his brothers when he was only fifteen and helped them escape Daniel’s compound where they’d all been tortured since they were little. From that time, despite what happened to him, he’s worked for the four centuries of his life trying to make our world a better place, trying to keep the traffickers, of all kinds, from making the serious inroads they have.
“But he gets little enough credit. Of course having Daniel Briggs for a father has always made the average resident suspicious of him, and of his brothers.”
Chains of Darkness by Caris Roane / Mystery & Detective have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes