Home > Dark Needs at Night's Edge (Immortals After Dark #5)(11)

Dark Needs at Night's Edge (Immortals After Dark #5)(11)
Author: Kresley Cole

Néomi had been heartbroken - and alone for the next ten years... until Conrad and his brothers had come.

"You've never frightened anyone away?" he asked, as if that was precisely what he would've been doing in her position.

"In truth, I do get very territorial with vandals. I scare them off - and they never return," she said proudly.

"I've already done much more damage to your home than some vandals. Yet you won't help me leave?"

If she gave him a key, he would be gone before the chains hit the ground. And she knew she would never see him again.

Merde, that pang hurt. She inwardly shook herself. "Even if I could get it, why would I give it to you? So you could make good on your threats against your brothers?"

"You would give it to me because, if you don't, then I'm as much your prisoner as theirs."

"Why are you so keen to get away from them, Conrad? They're only trying to do what's best for you."

"You know nothing."

"Then tell me why you hate them so much. Because they turned you?"

He gave a bitter laugh. "That's not enough?"

"It was a long time ago, and they're doing so much for you now. They aren't sleeping. They trace across the ocean, warring against evil vampires when it's night over there, and then they rush back here to try to help you."

His expression inscrutable, he asked, "Do you hate?"

"Pardon? As in hate a person?"

He nodded. "Picture who you hate most in the world."

"That's easy - Louis. The man who stabbed me."

"Imagine dying and then waking, only to be bound to that miserable f**k for eternity. Would you not resent whoever put you in that situation?"

Oh, Lord, he has a point.

"They took from me my mission, my comrades, my life as I knew and wanted it - "

"Would you rather be dead?"

"Without question."

She could see there was no convincing him of anything different in this matter.

"You've heard that I have all kinds of factions gunning for my head," he said. "It's only a matter of time before they find me here. I need that key, ghost."

"My name's not 'ghost.'"

"Mine's not 'dément.'"

"Touché, dément," she said blandly.

"Damn it! I've told you not to call me that - "

Murdoch suddenly appeared in the room.

12

Call you what?" Murdoch asked, but Conrad only shrugged. "Even with your one-sided conversations, you still seem a hundred times better already." Murdoch wasn't nearly as surprised as he should be about his progress.

They had an ace in their pocket. Conrad narrowed his eyes. They know something I don't about the bloodlust. "If I'm so much better, then free me."

"Can't do that. You could relapse. It's not even an option until you're drinking bagged blood, and you go at least two weeks without a rage."

Barely reining in his temper, Conrad said, "Am I to stay here the entire time?"

"No. Of course not. At the end of the next week, we're tracing you to a meeting about the Accession. A huge crowd is expected, with Lorekind from all over the world attending. Thousands of females will be there - Valkyrie, sirens, nymphs. You might find your Bride among them. Especially now, on the cusp of the Accession. We're also going to search for Nïx, a Valkyrie soothsayer. She's been aiding us with you. When we can find her."

Conrad had heard of Nïx the Ever-Knowing. She was powerful and supposedly as mad as he was. But whereas his mind was clotted with memories, hers was filled with visions of the future. "Why would she help you?" Just because Sebastian and Nikolai had married Valkyrie didn't mean the rest of their kind accepted vampires. "Leeches" were universally hated in the Lore, even the clear-eyed ones.

"We're not entirely sure," Murdoch admitted. "But she could help locate your Bride."

"And what about your Bride, Murdoch? Your heart beats. Sebastian and Nikolai know it. You can't hide it."

When Murdoch stood and crossed to the window, Néomi relocated from her window seat to the spot beside Conrad in the bed. The first female ever to move away from Murdoch in favor of another Wroth. He felt a surge of satisfaction.

"I've made a vow to my Bride that I would tell no one, and Wroths keep their word." Murdoch ran his hand over the back of his neck. "I ask you not to bring it up to them."

"It's none of my concern - just as my Bride isn't yours," Conrad said.

"But we believe finding your female could help you recover fully."

"Fully recovered still means I'm a vampire."

"That's true," Murdoch said. "Everything we're doing will be wasted if we can't convince you that some vampires aren't evil. Not all of our kind have to be destroyed."

"What did Nikolai mean about controlling the memories, pulling them up at will?"

"You can learn to do it - but you have to be stable first."

Stable? When was the last time he'd been stable? "What have you been injecting me with?"

"A sedative and muscle relaxant concocted by the witches. They also put some element in it that's supposed to make you more susceptible to your Bride's influence. If we can help you find her."

Son of a bitch. "You don't say." His gaze landed on Néomi. She tilted her head at him.

Was she... his? Was this why she affected him so strongly? Then why hadn't she blooded him? Especially if he was more susceptible to her from the shots?

He inwardly shook himself. No, it wasn't possible. She wasn't truly alive. "What witches?" Conrad asked. "Mariketa the Awaited?"

"How did you know about the Witch in the Glass?"

He didn't remember Mariketa from his own experience but from the memories of one of his victims. "Someone I drank must have."

Conrad's casual tone had Murdoch raising his brows. "We couldn't ask Mariketa for assistance with this. Her male is Bowen MacRieve, the Lykae who helped us capture you. It happens that he wants you put down. At the tavern, he told us he'd give us two weeks to get you straight or he'd come destroy you himself."

"Why would he wait? Why assist you?"

"Sebastian saved MacRieve's life recently. He also spared the Lykae from what he considers a fate a thousand times worse than death."

"Then why come after me at all?"

"You're a fallen vampire who showed up not only in his town, but in a place he and his mate patronize. A little too close for his comfort. So MacRieve is sympathetic, but only to a point."

And the Lykae's witch could easily scry and find Conrad. Yet another enemy bent on destroying him. The line begins here, gentlemen.

"Conrad, the three of us have vowed to bring you back from the brink, even with you spitting and bellowing if we have to. I'm asking you, as your brother, to just... try."

How far are they willing to go?

Conrad shook his head. What am I thinking? Imagining a recovery from this? He'd made his choices. He'd suffer the consequences.

Even if there was a way, he wouldn't have time. Pain shot through his arm as if to punctuate his thoughts.

If the curse of the mark was true, then the fact that Conrad had begun dreaming of Néomi could mean far more than he'd imagined.

He needed to get free and hunt that bastard. If he could defeat Tarut and take the demon's blood, Conrad would truly be the most powerful male in the Lore. He would be unstoppable.

Which would help him defeat his next set of opponents: the Woede.

Months ago, Conrad had unwittingly drained a warlock who'd known a critical secret: the only way to defeat Rydstrom's usurper.

Now Conrad was the last living being with that information - not that he consciously knew what it was or even how to find it.

Rydstrom would kill for what was in Conrad's mind. So would his brother, Cadeon the Kingmaker; as a mercenary, that demon had seated five kings. But he couldn't quite reclaim his own brother's crown.

Conrad said, "You risk much, taking me to the gathering."

"It will be wild there, so we'll stay on the periphery of the crowd and see if any female catches your fancy."

Conrad was to skulk in the bushes at some field party, looking for a woman. My degradation is complete. He willed himself not to look at Néomi. "I have no interest in having to care for and protect a female that I don't get to choose for myself." Even as he said the words, he lost himself musing what it would mean if fate had chosen Néomi for him... . Could Conrad find a way to bridge their existences? To make it so he could claim her? He'd dreamed about taking her - if it was a fraction as good as his dreams...

Chapter 8

"Conrad!" Murdoch snapped his fingers.

He blinked. "What?"

"I said that we know about your involvement in the Kapsliga, and we know the vows involved."

Conrad's eyes shot wide. "Don't - "

"We know you've never been with a woman."

13

Cadeon Woede of the rage demons would rather have had his black claws pulled from his fingers or his horns filed than come to this bar - a grungy biker dive, patronized almost entirely by male demons.

But if Cade hadn't accompanied his brother and crew here, he would've gone to stalk her - and Rydstrom was already getting suspicious about his late-night activities.

Besides, they had a business meeting with a soothsayer this eve. "And here's the dove of the hour," Cade muttered when Nïx and another Valkyrie entered the bar. They'd been searching for Nïx for days now, and a mutual friend had arranged the meeting.

Rydstrom twisted around in time to see the two small females accosted by a pathos demon. The pathos was a brawny biker, but he looked young, too young to tangle with the much older Valkyrie.

"Step aside," Nïx told him, already glancing past him.

When he didn't, her companion tensed. "Move." The female was wearing a low-hanging cowboy hat. Good money said that the hat was shading the glowing face of Regin the Radiant, a combat-loving Valkyrie. "Or hurt."

"My friend here has been spoiling for a brawl for weeks now," Nïx said. "At this point she'll smack down unwary kindergartners over sandbox toys. I suggest you get out of our way."

"None doing, lovelies," the pathos said in a nineteenth-century Cockney accent. "Pretty little things like ye come in a place like this, methinks yer keen for a demon twixt yer thighs."

Nïx rolled her eyes. "Only about, oh, always," she said in an exasperated tone. "As long as they don't resemble you in any way."

The pathos put his arm in front of Nïx, blocking her. "Now, that's not nice."

Cade shook his head. The f**kwit has no idea what he's provoking.

"No," Regin began, "making you wear your bulbous horns out of your ass wouldn't be nice."

Rydstrom asked, "Should we warn that demon?"

"Let them sort out the tosser," Cade answered. "The Valkyrie'll be in a good mood after violence." And the spectacle would be something to take Cade's mind off his obsession.

In a flash, Nïx snared the pathos's hand and smiled, baring her small fangs. His eyes widened with belated recognition, just as she squeezed his hand in her own, pulverizing the bones. He yelled, alerting a kinsman, who unwisely decided to join in.

Rydstrom's battle-scarred face creased into a grin. "It's never dull with Valkyrie around."

"Hey, Nïx," Regin said minutes later, "my demon screams like a singing bitch - what does yours scream like?"

Nïx replied conversationally, "Also like a singing bitch. Hmm. Only without balls." As Nïx plugged his left horn into a wall socket, Regin got to enjoy a round of the cheap shots she was known for, until her hat got knocked off in the skirmish. Her glowing face made everyone back away.

Though Nïx was older and therefore stronger, Regin had a notorious vicious streak.

The crowd quieted as a whole, but more than one creature cursed under his breath, "Not Regin."

A drunk hunched over the bar muttered, "That glowing one made me eat a transistor radio once."

In the lull, the Valkyries' two battered opponents fled.

With a shrug, Regin collected and dusted off her hat, then cast Nïx a blazing smile. "Nïxie, you were on fuego!"

Nïx tucked her black hair behind her pointed Valkyrie ears. "And your waif fu is as diabolical as ever!"

As predicted, the chits are in a great mood now.

Seeing the show was over, Rydstrom rose to go collect the pair, which meant Cade rose as well. "Nïx?" As Rydstrom strode to her, even hardened denizens of the bar dived out of his way. Nïx and Regin had to crane their heads up to look into his face.

"King Rydstrom," she said with a smile, "and behind you as usual is your guard Cadeon the Kingmaker."

"Why don't you have a seat with us?" Rydstrom led Nïx to their back table, with Regin and Cade following.

"Excuse Cade's mercenaries." Not bothering to hide his disapproval, Rydstrom indicated Cade's crew. "Some of them are in town. Indefinitely." Rydstrom could be just as ruthless as Cade and his men, but he never wavered from his personal code.

Cade wondered where Rydstrom had gotten that code, because his own was missing.

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