A touch of midnight, p.14
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       A Touch of Midnight, p.14

         Part #0.50 of Midnight Breed series by Lara Adrian
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Page 14

 

  Then, nothing.

  That's all she could remember of the past couple of hours at least.

  Sorry had to do it like this, he'd written in his note.

  Damn him!

  Savannah vaulted off the bed. She threw on her clothes, ran to the front door. She yanked on the latch. It wouldn't budge.

  He'd locked her inside?

  Pissed now, she went to the windows and tried to open them. Sealed permanently shut, each of them shuttered from outside. The whole house was locked down, she realized, making a frantic perimeter check of the entire place.

  She finally came to a rest in the small, empty kitchen, breathless with outrage.

  There was no way to get out.

  She was imprisoned here, and Gideon was somewhere out there, looking to face off with a powerful enemy on his own.

  She knew she couldn't help him--not in the kind of battles he was used to fighting. But to leave her behind like this to wait and worry? To strong-arm her into complying with his will by flexing his Breed power over her? If she wasn't so worried about him, she'd want to kill him herself the next time she saw him.

  She choked back a panicky breath. God, please, let me see him again.

  She sagged down to the rough plank floor on her knees. . . and noticed something in the far corner of the kitchen that she hadn't seen in her search for a means out of the house.

  There was a door in the floor.

  Hardly visible, fashioned out of the planks and perfectly level with the rest of the flooring.

  With a mix of curiosity and foreboding, Savannah crept toward it and felt around for its seams. She pried her fingers between a couple of the planks and found the hidden, square panel was unhinged and unsecured. She lifted it, slid it aside, and sat back as a draft of cool, damp air breathed out of the dark opening.

  Savannah peered down into the space, trying to see if it the gloom led out of the house somewhere, or merely down to an old cellar. A prickle at her nape told her it was neither, but now that she had opened the door, she couldn't simply close it again without having the answer.

  A crude ladder was built into the earthen wall below. She slipped down into the hole and carefully climbed about twenty feet to the bottom.

  It was a deep pit, lightless, except for the scant illumination spilling in from the kitchen above.

  Had she thought the house felt like a tomb last night, when she and Gideon first arrived? This hand-hewn chamber in the cold, dark earth brought the feeling back tenfold.

  Who made this?

  What was it for?

  Savannah peered around the forlorn space. Nothing but dank walls and floor, a place of sorrow and isolation. A place of forgetting.

  No, she thought, seeing the purpose of the hidden room only now--a niche carved into the far wall, created to hold the crude wooden box that had been carefully placed within the nook.

  This hole in the earth was a place of remembrance.

  Of penance.

  She drifted closer to the alcove and the aged box it contained. Even without touching it, she could feel the anguish that surrounded the reliquary.

  Where had the box come from? Why was it here? Who had set it so deliberately in this place?

  She had to know.

  Savannah ran her bare hand lightly over the top of the ancient box.

  Grief swamped her, seeping straight to her marrow.

  A young woman's remains were inside from long, long ago. Ash and bone, anointed in tears. A man's tears.

  No, not a man.

  A Breed male, unfamiliar to her, mourning his dead mate. Blaming himself for her demise.

  Savannah saw him in a flash of her extrasensory gift: A massive warrior with shaggy, tawny hair and piercing gem-green eyes. Eyes that burned hot with rage and sorrow and self-loathing.

  His pain was too much, too raw.

  Too wrenching for her to take any longer.

  She drew her hand away in a hurry and backed off, putting as much distance as she could between herself and the terrible past contained in the box.

  Shaken, wanting no more knowledge of this house's hidden rooms or secrets, she ran back upstairs to wait for Gideon's return.

  After pulling a B&E on the Faculty Administration building at the university as soon as night had fallen, Gideon headed into the working-class neighborhood of Southie, his sights set on the home of one Professor William Charles Keaton.

  The run-down, turn-of-the-century New Englander didn't exactly scream swinging bachelor pad, but there was a flashy white Firebird parked on the side driveway that was advertisement enough for a coed skirt-chaser like Keaton.

  Or rather, a skirt-chaser like he had been.

  After hearing Savannah confirm that afternoon what Gideon had suspected--that Keaton had, in fact, been bitten by the Breed male who attacked him--Gideon was pretty sure the only thing that interested Keaton now was obeying his Master's orders.

  Gideon needed to know who Keaton served.

  He needed to know who wanted Hugh Faulkner's sword bad enough to kill for it, and why.

  He wasn't holding out much hope that Keaton would give up those answers easily, if at all. Interrogating Minions wasn't often the most productive effort. A mind slave's allegiance belonged totally to its Master.

  Still, Gideon had to try.

  For Savannah's safety, if nothing else.

  He'd hated like hell to have to resort to trancing her just before sundown, but he didn't see where he'd had much choice. He never would have gotten out of that house without her. Locking her inside probably wasn't going to win him any hero awards, either.

  Shit.

  He'd have to add another apology to the rest he owed her--starting with the one he planned to open with as soon as he saw her again.

  The one about how he'd let her go on thinking all this time that the way they first met had been simple serendipity. Fate, as she'd christened it, just before her sweet confession that she was falling in love with him.

  She needed to know that despite his reasons for seeking her out in the beginning, what he felt for her now--immediately after meeting her, if he were being honest with himself--was real.

  She needed to know that she mattered to him, even more than his personal quest for answers about the damned sword and the Breed male who'd been willing to kill for it.

  She needed to know that he loved her.

  He didn't know a better way to prove that than removing the threat of anyone who sought to do her harm.

  Starting with the Minion inside this house.

  Gideon entered stealthily, the feeble lock on the old front door no contest at all for the mental command he gave that opened it. A television blared unattended in the living room just off the entryway. A day-old dinner sat dried out in its foil container on the TV tray next to a cushioned brown recliner. Spread open on the seat was a state map of Louisiana.

  Son of a bitch.

  Gideon had to clamp down hard on the fury that began to boil in his gut as he noted the penciled line tracing down to the south central region of the state.

  He swept his gaze all around him, searching for the bodily energy of the house's occupant with his ESP talent. He found Keaton's faint orange glow beneath the floorboards at his feet. The Minion was in the cellar.

  Gideon stalked toward the hallway stairwell leading to the basement below.

  A dim light was on down there.

  Sounds of vague rummaging filtered up the steps. . . then, abrupt silence.

  The Minion had just clued in to the presence of a Breed male other than his Master.

  Gideon had one of his guns in hand as he descended the stairs into an open area of the basement. Keaton was gone, fled somewhere to hide, no doubt. Not that he could get far.

  Gideon walked down, his gaze straying to a rough-hewn workbench and wallboard hung with home impr
ovement tools and small containers of supplies. A dark duffel bag sat open on the bench. Inside it were coils of rope, a hunting knife, a roll of silver duct tape.

  Gideon's blood seethed at the sight of an obvious abduction kit.

  Keaton's Master had apparently changed his mind about siccing Rogues on Savannah and now wanted her taken alive. The thought didn't sit any better with Gideon.

  He swung his head around the cluttered basement, looking for the Minion.

  Found him lurking in a back room of the space.

  Gideon strode forward, toward a connected room separated by a beaded curtain. He swept it aside and entered a room decorated in what could only be described as Assorted Early Warfare. The walls sported an extensive collection of muskets and maces, rapiers and powder horns. Evidently, Keaton preferred his history with a dash of bloodshed.

  Gideon stalked toward the glow of Keaton's form, concealed behind a closet door at the far end of the room. Gideon wanted to blast a hole in the bastard through the wood panel, but he needed the Minion breathing so he could wring the name of his Master from him.

  "Planning a road trip, Keaton?" he asked.

  No reply. The Minion made small, urgent movements inside the closet, movements Gideon saw as slight shifts of the human's energy mass. He couldn't kill Keaton outright, but taking off a limb at a time might prove his point.

  "We need to have a talk, Keaton. You need to tell me who you serve. "

  The Minion snickered now. Gideon blew out a curse and shook his head. "You can come out now, or you can come out in pieces. "

  Again, no response. So Gideon fired a shot into the door.

  The Minion grunted upon the impact, but hardly reacted to the pain. Then he started chuckling. Tittering maniacally.

  Gideon realized his mistake only a fraction of a second too late.

  Keaton opened the closet door. He was smiling, holding two World War II-era grenades in his hands. The pins were already gone.

  Holy Christ.

  Gideon turned and sped in the other direction.

  Made it halfway up the stairs just as the grenades detonated.

  The blast threw him into the wall, smoke and debris flying all around him. He hit hard, felt the burn of random shrapnel peppering his back. But he was alive. He was still in one piece. Relief washed over him. . . until his nostrils filled with the alarming scent of his own blood.

  A lot of it.

  He shifted from where he had fallen on the stairs and looked down to assess the damage. Hundreds of lacerations and singed skin where the hot shrapnel had hit him. Nothing his Breed genetics couldn't heal on their own in a few hours' time.

  But it was the other wound that gave him pause.

  The catastrophic rip in his left thigh, which had nearly severed the limb and was currently gushing like a geyser with each heavy pound of his heartbeat.

  Blood seeped out of him fast and hard.

  His body could mend itself from injury. It had, more times than he'd ever bothered to remember.

  But this was bad.

  This was deadly bad, even for one of his kind.

  Chapter 14

  A heavy thump hit the front door, drawing Savannah up from the chair with a start.

  Gideon?

  It seemed like she'd been waiting forever, concern for him and distress over being left alone in the sorrowful old house making time drag endlessly.

  Another loud thump sounded from outside the door.

  She crossed the room, feeling a surge of relief. "Gideon, is that you?"

  She wanted it to be him.

  Prayed it was. . . until she heard the metallic snick of the lock, then the door opened and a large, blood-and-sweat-soaked body slumped in onto the floor.

  "Oh, my God. Gideon!"

  Savannah raced to him. She dropped down beside him, horrified at his condition. His hair and face, his hands--every exposed inch of him was covered in black ash, sweat and blood. So much blood.

  He tried to speak, but all that passed his lips was a rasp of sound. "Keaton," he wheezed. "Minion. . . he's dead. . . can't hurt you now. "

  She blew out a curse that sounded more like a sob. "I don't care about him, damn it. All I care about is you. "

  He tried to sit up, only to slump back down onto the floor in a heap. Blood was pooling under him, pulsing out from scores of shrapnel wounds and a very severe injury in his thigh.

  She glanced down at his leather weapons belt, cinched as a makeshift tourniquet around the upper portion of his leg. She could see muscle in the open gash on his thigh. Holy shit. She could see bone in there too.

  "Gideon," she cried. "You need help. You need a hospital--"

  "No. " He snarled the word, his voice sounding unearthly, lethal.

  His eyes were on fire, swamped completely in bright, glowing amber light. His pupils had thinned so much they almost weren't there. His fangs filled his mouth, stretched sharp as daggers between his parted lips as he struggled to drag air into his lungs.

  "Get away," he gasped when she reached out to smooth away the soaked hank of hair plastered to his brow. His skin was pale white and waxy. His face contorted in pure agony. "Stay away. "

  "You have to let me help you. " She leaned over him to try to lift him up.

  Gideon's eyes rolled hungrily to her throat. "Stay back!"

  The hissed command made her flinch, recoil. She stared at him, unsure what to do for him and half-afraid he was already too far gone.

  "Gideon, please. I don't know what to do. "

  "Order," he said thickly. He recited a string of numbers. "Go now. . . call them. "

  She tried desperately to remember the sequence, repeated them back to him to be sure. He gave a vague nod, his eyelids drooping, skin growing ever more dangerously pale. "Hurry, Savannah. "

  "Okay," she said. "Okay, Gideon. I'll call them. Stay with me. I'm gonna get you help. "

  She flew into the bedroom to retrieve her wallet from her purse and a pen to frantically scribble the digits onto the palm of her hand. Then she raced out of the house and down the street, praying the battered pay phone on the corner wasn't out of service.

  Fumbling change into the slot, she then dialed the number Gideon had given her. It rang once, then silence as someone picked up on the other end.

  "Um, hello? Hello!"
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