Home > Pleasure of a Dark Prince (Immortals After Dark #9)(14)

Pleasure of a Dark Prince (Immortals After Dark #9)(14)
Author: Kresley Cole

Aboard the Contessa, voices sounded dimly from indoors, and one - maybe two - males stomped around on deck.

At least it had people on it.

Beggars can't be choosers. She checked the braids she'd plaited to cover her ears, then called, "Is anyone up there? I need to board this" - tub, wreck, joke of a - "boat."

A crusty boot slammed on the gunwale, and a big, bleary-eyed man leaned over it to peer down. "Ship, lady. This here's a ship," he said defensively, as if she'd told him, "Your penis: I find it minuscule." The man's accent was American Southern, his voice raspy.

With blood-shot gray eyes, he gave her a once-over, then drawled, "Dr. MacRieve, I presume?"

Dr. MacRieve? Nïx had just gotten elevated from ass-kicking to certain death.

When dealing with humans, Lucia had always used Archer as her last name. Since she would never own up to her real one.

"From LSU?" he asked, snagging a hip flask from his jeans pocket for a generous gulp.

Wondering what else Nïx would have told this man, she answered, "Yes, that's me. And you're the... captain?"

"That I am. Captain Wyatt Travis." He wore a white button-down, mostly unbuttoned, and when the wind blew off the river, the material billowed, displaying a surprisingly rock-solid torso.

Lucia supposed he wasn't unfortunate looking, with his carelessly ruffled blond hair and stubble, but he was noticeably inebriated - even if she couldn't have smelled liquor wafting from his pores. She conjectured what Travis would blow on a BAC meter, wagering a healthy two-point-oh.

Why would Nïx book her on a rotted tub with a drunken captain? She could just see Nïx clapping merrily and crying "For fun!" "And my assistant booked a room, right?"

"We've held a cabin for you. Last one left."

"Air conditioner?"

"One. And it ain't in your room, darling." His accent wasn't just Southern. She realized the captain was a Texan.

"Wait, the last cabin?" She scanned the decks. The ship looked to have at least half a dozen of them, spaced equally on the first two floors.

He shoved down a rickety gangplank. "You don't have to sound so shocked that we're booked up." Ruffled feathers. The only thing worse than a perpetual drunk was a sensitive one. "There're three docs like you aboard and my cook and deckhand as well."

Including the captain that would make six humans. This wouldn't do. Unlike some Valkyrie, Lucia shunned mortals whenever possible. To reveal secrets of the Lore to one of them would draw punishment from the gods, and Lucia was already in a tenuous position with one. Or two. "How much for the entire boat?"

"You ain't the brightest bulb in the marquee, are you? I already got these passengers aboard - they're unpacking their scientifical crap in the lab as we speak. We've just been waiting on you."

Weeks on board with mortals? And clearly, she would have to hijack the boat to get to the deepest Amazon, where nobody dared to go. The humans would have to be dealt with then.

Perhaps Lucia could find a Lorean to captain another ship. A river city like Iquitos would be home to countless immortals.

But as she debated her options, that awareness returned, the sense of being watched. She rubbed the back of her neck and glanced over her shoulder, thought she saw a tall male, a too-tall male. Was MacRieve closing in on her even now? She knew he couldn't be far behind - because he hadn't been for the entire year.

Or maybe she was overreacting. Exhaustion weighed on her until she felt like falling down, and in the past, she'd imagined him in shadows, over a rise, or on a balcony overhead peering down at her.

For as many times as she'd seen golden eyes glowing with hunger from some nearby shadow, she'd imagined she had.

Her ears twitched. Awareness. No, he was near. "I'll take the cabin!" I can dump the mortals later. She chucked her pack over the railing, holding her graphite bowcase under her arm as she acted like a human female, teetering up the gangplank.

He frowned. "Uh, don't you have equipment you need to have loaded?"

"Nope. We're all good."

"Orientation and meet-and-greet is required."

"Yes, of course." She could play along, be sociable, or act like she was. "But we need to leave immediately."

"We're on river time here." He offered her a hand she didn't need as she stepped aboard. "Now, you're in the seventh cabin, first level, all the way fore in the bow. Here's the key - "

She snatched it from him. "I'll double - triple - your fare if we leave this instant."

He narrowed those gray eyes. "Quadruple it, and you'll see a big-ass boat go fast."

"Agreed." This heartened her. Mortals who were motivated by money were controllable.

As the captain hastened to the pilothouse, calling out for someone named Chuck to "kick her in the guts!" Lucia climbed to the observation deck. She shaded her eyes with her hand, scanning for MacRieve. Iquitos was the most populous city in the world that couldn't be reached by road. Only boat and air traffic in or out, difficult to get to in the best of circumstances. Maybe she'd lost him.

The ship's diesel engines fired up, coughing black smoke as they sputtered, but they stayed running. Travis began reversing from the shore, narrowly missing a floating gas station, then he increased the speed. The ship surged backward, water swamping the back platform that stretched the width of the boat.

The entire hull groaned, the motion sending Lucia tilting toward the railing. As she balanced herself, she craned her head around, eyes wary.

Nothing. After several heartbeats, Travis shifted gears, and the Contessa ground forward. Finally, Lucia breathed a sigh of relief. They were under way. She was on a boat heading out on the Amazon after flying all the way from across the world, in record time.

Really, how could the Lykae have headed her off here? There was no way he could catch her.

And her trail would grow colder in the days to come. She climbed down to the first level for her bag, then headed for cabin seven to stow her stuff. Just as she got to the door, her sat-phone chimed with a new text message. She peered at the screen, saw it was from Regin. Gods, she missed her sister and best friend like an ache -

RegRad: We're not BFFs anymore, Luce. So SUCK IT!

Lucia sighed. At times she understood why others could only take Regin in short doses.

Suddenly, her ears twitched again, which meant someone aboard was possibly about to attack her or that MacRieve was near. She hoped it was the former as she plunked her case down on the deck. Dropping to her knees beside it, she unfastened the titanium latches and yanked free her bow and quiver from their foam padding.

After stringing the bow, she stood once more. She spied something out of the corner of her eye, something glinting in the sun. She glanced up, over toward the shore.

MacRieve. Just there on the rise. To elude him for this long only to be snared now?

His timing. For the love of gods, his timing!

Could he still make the boat? One more dock lay ahead for the Contessa to pass, coming up swiftly, but fifty or sixty feet of water separated it from the boat.

Apparently MacRieve thought he could make the distance - he slung his duffle bag over his body and got that intent look she'd become familiar with. Wait... Did he have blood splattered over one side of his face?

No time to contemplate that; she dashed to the back platform. In a flash, she had her bow up and arrow loaded. His expression turned murderous, and he shook his head slowly, as if vowing retribution.

Damn him! She couldn't shoot, because she knew he wouldn't even try to dodge her arrows. He would still do anything to keep her from harm - even as each time she saw him he continued to appear darker, angrier.

And gods help her, sexier.

With a sound of frustration, she lowered her bow. MacRieve had already begun sprinting, gaining superhuman velocity, his massive body moving with the speed and smoothness of an animal.

She swallowed. He was nearing the end of the dock but hadn't slowed - was pumping his arms for more speed. No. No way he can make this distance, werewolf or not.

Heart in her throat, she watched him spring from the edge in an explosive leap. A second passed... still in the air... momentum hurling him toward her spot -

Just short! He landed chest-first against the side of the platform, his black claws digging into the teakwood.

After wincing at the sound of his ribs cracking, she remembered herself and reared back her leg for a swinging punt to his head. But he snatched her ankle with one hand, tossing her to her ass. In a single fluid movement, he sprang to the deck to cover her, pinning her arms - and bow - over her head.

A seething, soaked Lykae was stretched over her, his body a cage of damp, rippling muscles. She grappled to get free, a laughable effort against a being with his strength, but only managed to get as soaked as he was.

What would he do to her? What didn't she deserve?

"Now, that's no' nice, Valkyrie." His deep voice raked over her as his eyes scanned her face, taking in every feature as if relearning them. "And no way to greet your male."

"You're not my male!" He did have blood on his face - now it mingled with the water and sweat trickling down his cheek. "Let me up!"

He kept her pinned. "Missed you these months," he said. "Again and again." The double meaning was clear when his eyes flickered ice blue. "But no longer. The game's changed now, beauty."

Snared. Somehow the huntress had been hunted to the ground and trapped.

No! She was on a mission to save the world. She'd lose the Lykae and get on with it. She had to.

Or every being on earth would pay for what she'd done - and for what she would never do again...

At that thought, she renewed her struggles beneath him. Oh, gods, MacRieve was getting hard!

In a hushed, threatening tone, he said, "We've unfinished business to take care of."

"I want you off this boat, MacRieve!" Lucia snapped.

Garreth was growing erect, stiffening for her with a swift heat, and she had to feel it. "Do you, then?" His tone was disbelieving - because even now his Lucia was responding to him so sweetly. A blush tinged her high cheekbones, and her pupils were dilated with interest. Her lips parted as she stared at his own.

Then her dazed expression seemed to clear. "Get off me, you brute! If you won't leave, then I will!"

"You think I've searched - and fought and protected you from afar - for this long just to let you go now?" Not from too afar. Moments ago, he'd slaughtered two demon assassins who'd been lying in wait in an alley - for her. They'd had their swords raised, intending to take her head. He'd collected theirs instead.

But now Garreth had her safe in his arms. The urge to squeeze her into his chest grew nigh overwhelming. To have her truly under his watch... after so many months when she'd been in constant danger.

Satisfaction soared within him, and he eased his face down to her mane of glossy hair, taking her scent into him once more.

Gods, nothing smelled as fine as Lucia.

"Are you... smelling my hair?" She sounded aghast. Or titillated. Who could tell with Lucia, the Mistress of Mixed Signals?

His voice was rough when he admitted, "Aye, just one of the things I missed about you." Just as satisfaction mounted, so did lust. The smell of her hair was almost his undoing. And her body was so soft and warm beneath him.

She squirmed harder, but he wouldn't budge. "MacRieve, I'm here on important business! Business that doesn't concern you. If you're trying to win me over - "

"I'm no'. Gave up on that in the first month."

She flushed guiltily, which heartened him. Maybe his female wasn't as cold and unemotional as her vicious sisters, though she'd certainly convinced him otherwise over the last year. "No, my only aim these days is to keep you alive." They were in the midst of an Accession, and in this treacherous time, she'd come here, to his least favorite place on earth.

And one of the most perilous, even for immortals.

She struggled to free her arms and her bow, brushing her hip against his erection. A pleasured breath escaped him. "I remember the last time we were in this position." Of their own volition, his h*ps curled, making her gasp. At her ear, he grated, "I rocked against your sex till you came for me. You feared I'd stop before you could."

She glanced away, her blush deepening, her squirming intensifying.

"Little to the left, sweet. And harder."

She cast him a withering glare as she thrashed her arms. "I'll shoot you so full of arrows - "

He held her tight. "Eventually, you will run out of those."

"I make my own," she said between gritted teeth.

"O' course you do. But I consider your archery our foreplay. So - fire - away."

"You've stalked me, hunted me to the ground. I'm sick of it! I should have shot you when you leapt."

"Oh, so I'm to be the bad man? Have you forgotten what you've done to me? To my family?" And the worst of it hadn't even occurred until after she'd fled New Orleans. Then the fun had really begun - hijinks and traps all over the world for the last year. "And you should no' have run from me with no explanation."

She met his gaze with a mulish look. "I wasn't running from you. I've been doing my own deal. And I didn't owe you an explanation! Still don't. Now release me!"

"Maybe you dinna owe me an explanation, but thanking me for saving your life might no' be too much."

Instead, her chin jutted.

So that's how she's to be? Finally, he allowed her to scramble up but shot to his feet beside her, cupping her nape. "Take me to our cabin."

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