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

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

It wasn't in the lightning bolts that he saw her that first night. It was in the dead black lulls between them.

Twilight's coming. Which means if his brothers will stay away, he would be closer with each minute to discovering what she looks like. He's hungry for the sight of her, hands clenching and unclenching behind his back in anticipation.

5

Am I reaching or does he seem much better?" Nikolai asked when the three traced into the room.

"He doesn't appear as... disordered," Sebastian said.

As if to prove them wrong, Conrad began to mutter unintelligibly in a language Néomi had never heard, his gaze darting to the window.

"Why don't you try to talk to him alone?" Murdoch said. When Nikolai nodded, Murdoch and Sebastian left.

Nikolai set the thermos on the nightstand, then pulled up a folding chair, turning it around to sit astraddle. Néomi loved it when men sat that way. His voice low, he said, "Where have you been, brother?"

Brother. She was still startled at the idea that Conrad was part of their family. Sebastian seemed determined and studious, Murdoch was quiet and mysterious, and Nikolai was authoritative like the general he was. In contrast, the madman was aggressive and struck her as dishonorable, as if in a stand-up fight between gentlemen, he'd fling dirt in his opponent's eyes.

"What do you want with me?" Conrad abruptly grated. "Why haven't you killed me?"

Seeming surprised by the interaction, Nikolai said, "That's not our intention."

"What is - to drug and starve me?"

Nikolai shot to his feet for the thermos. "I've some blood here. Will you drink?" He quickly opened the top and poured into the attached cup.

Néomi saw that the liquid was thick and dark. When it made a glug-glug sound, she wondered if it was possible for her to vomit.

"You feeding me blood." Conrad's tone was scathing. "How familiar."

Nikolai seemed to stifle a wince at that, but then he brought the cup to Conrad's lips.

Drinking. Blood. Conrad accepted obediently, drawing deep.

I want to vomit -

He spit a mouthful at Nikolai, hitting him in the face. Then he laughed, a rough, sinister sound. His red eyes brimmed with a hatred so virulent, Néomi believed that only death would cure it.

Nikolai wiped his face with his shirttail. When he seemed to draw on an unearthly supply of patience, Néomi felt sympathy for him. How much he must care for his brother to tolerate this. Nikolai didn't strike her as a normally forgiving male.

Of course, Néomi didn't bother hiding her disgusted expression. Strangely, when Conrad's eyes darted in her direction, she could swear he became more restless. Then his gaze slid to the window once more.

"Bagged blood is all you're going to get," Nikolai said. "If you don't drink it, then you go without."

"I hunt. I feed from the vein. Unlike you unmanned traitors," Conrad bit out, facing him again. "I know you hide me from your king. Your Russian king. He'll execute you for this - favored general or not."

"Possibly. So you know the risk we take."

"Why?"

"We want to help you - "

"Like you did last time!" Conrad bellowed, wrestling against the chain that trapped him to the bed, those tremendous muscles straining.

Undaunted, Nikolai continued, "We're going to help you combat your bloodlust."

"Never." Conrad's bloody fangs seemed to sharpen. "No one comes back. The red on my eyes will never go away."

"It would if I bled you out, drained you completely dry. But you'd only want to return to that state, killing even more than before. And you'd lose all the power you'd amassed."

"I know this!"

"Then did you know you can learn to control the memories if you're not constantly adding new ones?" At Conrad's mildly surprised look, Nikolai said, "We're aware of the memories. They're a sickness. You can't differentiate between those of your victims and your own. They make you hallucinate constantly, and your head feels like it will explode from them."

What did they mean? Conrad was sick? Was there an actual medical reason behind his madness?

"Yet what if you could turn them on and off, accessing them at will?" Nikolai asked. "How much better do you think your life would be without them tormenting you? If we can get you stable, you can learn to hold them at bay."

Conrad shook his head sharply. "I want blood from the vein. Only from the vein - "

"That's why we're going to help you find your Bride. Because there is one drive that's strong enough to compete with bloodlust."

His Bride? Did Nikolai mean the need for sex?

"And the need to kill?" Conrad bit out. "I savor it... ache to end you right now."

"Just as there's one drive that can overcome bloodlust, there's one need that's stronger than the need to kill."

"And what's that?" Conrad sneered.

Nikolai said only, "You'll know when it hits you."

Conrad glanced at the window yet again. "What are you injecting me with?" Sometimes when he spoke, he would hesitate as if even he couldn't believe he'd just sounded sane. He must have been mad for a very long time.

"A soothsayer got it from the witches for us. It's a sedative of sorts. It'll continue to weaken you physically, but after a few days, it shouldn't put you in a stupor."

Attention back to his brother, Conrad snapped, "You've no right to drug me!"

"We'll do whatever it takes," Nikolai said, with steel in his tone. "You were a good man and can be again."

"Not a man! No longer!" He ground his teeth. "I'm a killer, that's all."

"Most in the Lore believe you're lost. That the red automatically means we have no choice but to destroy you. I do not agree. Mark me, Conrad. One way or another, you will be cured of this," Nikolai vowed, his voice fierce, his gray eyes turning black, as if with emotion. No matter what had occurred, she knew that Nikolai indeed loved his younger brother. "We have resources at our disposal that you can't begin to comprehend."

Nikolai's answer seemed to be just cryptic and confident enough to intrigue Conrad. "And exactly how long am I to be jailed and drugged?"

"A month. We're going to keep you from killing for a month. If there's no change by then, we will... reevaluate."

Any interest in Conrad's expression dimmed. "I don't have that long."

"Why? What do you mean?"

Conrad didn't answer, seeming to go adrift in his own thoughts, his red eyes skittering in her direction again. She could have sworn he began following her movements, so she floated to the window seat. But he continued staring at the spot where she'd just been.

She saw the exact moment Nikolai knew he'd get no further, because he looked whipped with disappointment. With a grave nod to Conrad, he traced out, and seconds later, Murdoch appeared.

He turned the folding chair around and sat, leaning forward, elbows to his knees. "We've missed you, Con," he said quietly. This brother seemed weary to Néomi, like a man undertaking an arduous journey. And his expression constantly looked as if he'd just, at that very instant, determined he wasn't even halfway there.

"I know you hate Nikolai and me for what we did to you," he began. "But we can't take it back."

What did Nikolai and Murdoch do? These undercurrents, the tensions, the unspoken words - she had to admit all of this was fascinating to her.

"No matter how you treat us, Nikolai won't give up on this. Not until he's convinced you're beyond salvation."

Conrad smiled, his teeth still bloodied, fangs prominent - the most menacing smile Néomi had ever seen. As she shivered, he said, "Convince him then, brother. There's no delivering me from being evil."

6

When does the goddamned sun set in this place? He checks the sun's progress - no different from twenty seconds ago - then studies his brother's tired visage.

"Con, I can't convince Nikolai to give up on you, not when I won't," Murdoch says. "Just cooperate with us. Life can be good again."

Murdoch is much altered from how he'd been as a human. Back then, he'd been lighthearted. Women had found him charming, and he'd had few cares past servicing every pretty maid within a hundred-mile radius.

All I had was cares, no time for women, and a distinct lack of charm.

"Tell me what you've been doing these three hundred years. I haven't seen a glimpse of you since the night right after you died and rose."

He hates to be reminded of that. Swords in hand, he and Sebastian had been defending their four gravely ill sisters and father from marauding Russian soldiers. Two against battalions; they'd had no chance. Nikolai and Murdoch had returned home to find five dead from plague and two brothers mortally wounded, barely clinging to life.

Unconscious, he hadn't been able to fight off Nikolai when he'd dripped his vampiric blood down his throat. He'd woken a monster.

Neither Sebastian nor he had wanted to be turned, but then he'd had quite a bit more reason to resent the betrayal. Changed to the very thing I'd been conditioned to hate and trained to destroy...

"Don't want to tell me?" Murdoch says. "Then I'll leave tonight to dig on my own, now that I know what you were - "

"What I am. I'm still a killer for hire."

"Look at yourself." Murdoch seems to stifle his exasperation. "Who'd hire you?"

His face heats. "Fuck off, Murdoch." His brother makes him sound like a washed-up failure. Which he doesn't give a damn about - except that he doesn't want the female to believe this. The one who isn't real. The one I'm about to see.

Almost sunset... any second now. At the window she flickers in the last of the muted light. He begins to make out a more distinct shape.

"Very well," Murdoch says as he stands. "Con, you can resist us because you hate what we are or because you resent our actions. But don't fight just because you're prideful and stubborn." He gives a grin, a hint of the old Murdoch. "What am I saying? If you weren't prideful and stubborn, you wouldn't be Conrad Wroth." He traces out.

Shortly after, Sebastian enters and turns on the overhead light. The glare blazes, and she disappears.

"Turn it off!"

"What? Why?"

"My eyes pain me. Do it."

Chapter 4

With a shrug, Sebastian flips off the switch, then sits with his long legs stretched out in front of him. "I understand the anger you feel for Nikolai and Murdoch," Sebastian begins in a measured tone. "I hated them too, you know. For so long, I yearned for revenge. But life can be good again. Better than ever before."

"According to you? There's nothing wrong with my life." Everything's wrong with my life... . How much longer till I can see her?

"Then you'll like it even better sharing it with your fated Bride," Sebastian continues. "She'll calm you, and will help you find clarity. I was on the edge myself before I met mine. One day I had nothing, no real home, no friends, no family. Then as soon as I recognized her as mine, suddenly there was possibility."

Sebastian's obviously musing about her right at this moment, his expression so satisfied. Sickening. "I want you to meet Kaderin soon. Once you're recovered."

They're acting like it's a given that I'll heal.

Impossible. He would know if there was a way to come back from bloodlust. There is no return. No instance of it.

But his brothers' confidence forces him to wonder.

"Kaderin's had... well, her history with fallen vampires is extensive, even for a Valkyrie."

"Kaderin the Coldhearted?" he asks with a slow nod. "An assassin like me. Rumored she snaps vampires' fangs from their decapitated heads, strings them together for her collection. Sounds really f**king calming, Bastian."

Darker outside...  The female appears backlit by an iridescent source. He can't discern her features yet. But he can see the outline of her figure. His lips part. Of her br**sts.

Sebastian shrugs. "Like I said, Kaderin has a long history with them. Which means we're fighting on the same side. Who knows, you might even have a Valkyrie for a Bride."

Darker. Valkyrie were strange, fey-looking women, with far too much strength for their small bodies - and no hesitation to wade into battles or start wars. If one was his Bride, he'd greet dawn.

Dark.

And there the female is.

Though her image is flickering and colorless like an old TV show, he can make out her dress and her bared arms and shoulders. She's turned away as though perched on the window seat, with her head leaning against the window. He begins to see that she's not entirely colorless. Her nails, her choker, and the ties at her bodice are all a deep crimson.

Are those red petals sprinkled in her wild hair?

The more he can discern of her hazy form, the more he... likes.

She's small in stature, but she has generous br**sts. His hands fist behind him again, his fangs subtly aching for that plump flesh. He's never drunk from a woman - and why in the hell has he never drunk from a woman?

He can make out the shine of her nails and the sheen of the slipper ribbons laced up her calves. A slit in her dress climbs up her thigh to reveal a garter.

For some reason, he raises his brows at this. As a vampire who hasn't encountered his Bride, he has no sexual ability or need; her br**sts and garters shouldn't interest him whatsoever, not any more than food would.

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