Home > Pleasure of a Dark Prince (Immortals After Dark #9)(6)

Pleasure of a Dark Prince (Immortals After Dark #9)(6)
Author: Kresley Cole

On this day, she was supposed to have met the werewolf. All week she'd been in a daze, knowing she couldn't meet him, yet tempted to so badly. She wanted to know if she'd imagined the addictive taste of his lips. She wanted to discover why she hadn't been able to shoot him between the eyes. Why had everything in her rebelled against the idea?

And why had he taken her underwear?

That had confused her as much as anything from that night. Unlike her sisters, who were all obsessed with lingerie, Lucia wore athletic underwear - seamless, utilitarian. She didn't buy sexy silks like Agent Provocateur, instead favoring brands like Under Armour - the kind sold in a pack. She'd never expected anyone to see them, yet he'd stolen them. Why?

She sighed. Surely MacRieve would leave her alone now that he'd been stood up. Even as she thought this, she half expected to see him advancing on the manor, pissed off, his gorgeous face creased in a scowl.

But nothing was out there now. She relaxed a touch.

Ultimately, the choice of whether to meet MacRieve or not had been taken out of Lucia's hands. Her day planner had gotten filled to the gills when their coven had learned that Horde vampires were hunting for a particular Valkyrie, though they didn't know who.

Vampires were the Valkyrie's most hated enemies. They could trace - or teleport - from one location to another, disappearing and reappearing at will, making them difficult to slay. When the Valkyrie's mighty queen Furie had gone to face the Horde leader Demestriu, she'd never returned....

Worse, Ivo the Cruel, second in command to Demestriu, and his men were searching here. Rumor held that Ivo was up to something even more nefarious than usual - and that he'd teamed up with the vampire Lothaire, the Enemy of Old, an ancient foe of theirs as well.

"If I had to guess," Regin said, "I'd bet the leeches are looking for me. Because I glow and I'm wicked smart. They probably want to breed with me."

Lucia sighed, hoping Regin was kidding. "Doubtless."

"And what the hell is Lothaire doing here? He was always creepy. It boggles the mind that some women think he's hot." She shook her head, sending blond locks bouncing over her glowing shoulders.

Another secret from Regin. Lucia was one of those women. She'd always found the powerful vampire - with his blond hair and light red irises - compelling, attractive in an is-he-going-to-kill-me-or-kiss-me type of way. And Lucia was far from alone.

"You think Annika's really going to find any leeches in NOLA?" Regin asked.

"Dunno." In the wake of this news, Annika, their fierce coven leader, and other Valkyrie had set out to find them in the city. "They've always stayed away from the States before." Which was why the Valkyrie coven had moved here. Lucia had heard that was the reason many Lykae had come here from Scotland as well.

"I hope they're in town. I want to face them!" Regin stood and brandished one of the two swords that she usually wore in sheaths crisscrossed over her back - in addition to the dagger sheath she customarily wore on her forearm. "I'll lunch on their balls!"

That was Regin's new threat: to lunch on enemies' balls. "Reege, when you threaten males with that, I don't think it has the result you intend. They think less Lunchables, more tea bag."

"Huh? Whatever!"

Before Annika had left, she'd ordered Regin and Lucia to contact traveling coven members and get them home at once. But above all else, they were to make sure Emma, Annika's halfling foster daughter, returned to Val Hall from Paris.

Unfortunately, once they'd gotten in touch with Emma at last, the normally meek half vampire/half Valkyrie had declined to return. There was talk of a man she'd met - a hot man.

Annika was going to go berserk. Regin secretly called their coven leader Annika the Aneurismal for good reason.

"Dude, you've been antsy all day," Regin said, sheathing her sword. "What's wrong with you?"

I stood up a Lykae with delicious lips and intense golden eyes who, for a time, looked at me like I was the best thing in the entire world.

"Is it because of the new neighbors you saw?" Regin asked.

Lucia had reported back to the coven that Lykae were encroaching on Valkyrie territory.

"Ah-oooooo, werewolves in NOLA." Regin gave a snort. "If they're going to be sneaking out of the kennel, then I guess 'out of sight, out of mind' no longer applies, huh?" Regin had nicknamed their compound the kennel. To her delight, it'd caught on.

"Sneaking?" Lucia said. "They acted as if they owned this place."

"Well, maybe we need to Cesar Millan their asses and show them who's boss. Tsst, tsst!"

"I'm sure that'd do it," she answered, relieved when Regin's attention fell back to her papers. Sometimes her sister could be a handful even for Lucia, especially if Regin wasn't engaging in regular, fatiguing battles -

Lucia tensed, again thinking she'd spied movement in the bushes outside. Was it MacRieve?

Since the night they'd met, she'd learned much about him. When his older brother Lachlain had disappeared, Garreth MacRieve had become the king of the Lykae clan - though he'd never thought he'd be their leader. Before assuming the throne, he'd been wild, a ladies' man and a brawler, so bad he'd been nicknamed the Dark Prince.

He was the best kisser she'd ever imagined.

And what would Lucia say if MacRieve showed? It seems you want to have an affair with me. But I can't have sex. Though I want to in the worst way. Duty, chastity. Lucia was sick of them. Yet she'd had her shot to find a good man. Her shot at a normal life.

And I blew both targets by miles.

She squinted, identifying what had moved. A nefarious tomcat. As she exhaled a pent-up breath, she realized she'd been clutching her bow hard. This morning, she'd checked her abilities, and her skills remained intact. They must truly be penetration-based.

Still, all day she'd held on to her bow, absently running her fingers over the raised inscriptions. Skathi had hesitated to let Lucia leave Thrymheim with that bow, because of her "darkness."

To other Valkyrie, Lucia and Regin were relatively young, but Lucia had lived a long time and seen many things. Never had she encountered a male who brought out her darkness like MacRieve.

He might be her worst weakness. If so, he couldn't have come at a more inconvenient time. With a glare, Lucia glanced over at their command center. Her duty was coming online soon. She and Regin would do as they did every five hundred years and prevent Cruach from rising.

But this time, instead of using Skathi's golden arrow to weaken him until the next Accession, Lucia wanted to discover a way to kill him for good.

One problem: the Broken Bloody One was a... deity. The ancient horned god of human sacrifices and cannibalism.

So now Lucia and Regin sought the only thing that could obliterate him, a dieumort - a god killer. Extremely rare, the dieumorts were created by the Banemen, a league of immortals from all factions. They'd discovered a means to destroy gods, who in turn sentenced all the Banemen to death. The league had disbanded and fled, hiding their power in talismans, weapons - even in beings - all over the world and adjoining planes.

Any vessel of the power was considered a dieumort. And there were whisperings of an arrow.

Lucia and Regin had hundreds of leads, everything from riddles to ancient journals to mapped clues. They were nearing the time for action, gearing up for their worldwide search, and Regin liked to spread out their calculations, tips, Post-its, and atlases for clarity when they knew no one was home.

Tonight Nucking Futs Nïx was the only one upstairs, but she didn't count - since she truly was mad. She could see the future so clearly that the present and past gave her fits. If Nïx did stroll by the command center, she'd probably forget or would look at the maps and think to herself, Greeting cards. Must be December.

Lucia and Regin had repeatedly requested her help in their quest. The first time they'd asked, she'd answered, "What's a dieumort?" Once they'd explained, she told them that she'd look into it. When they'd followed up, Nïx had said, "Now what's a dieumort...?"

No one in their coven knew that Lucia and Regin spent a good deal of time researching the god killer, because they'd never told another soul what had happened with Cruach. Their sisters knew that Lucia felt pain when she missed a shot, but they didn't know why. Nor did they know Lucia was a Skathian. There simply was no reason to tell anyone. Lucia had cleaned up her mess last Accession, and the one before that, and she would again -

Her ears twitched just as Regin said, "Someone's coming!"

"Hide everything!"

"Hey, let's don't," Regin said. "I'm sick of sneaking around, being all furtive and guilty like we stole Freya's car and wrecked the alignment. Let's hang a lantern on this. Get everyone involved this time."

At the idea, Lucia grew nauseated. "You swore, Regin!"

"For once, I'd like the coven to know I'm a mastermind." At Lucia's unbending expression, Regin added, "No. Really. Do you know how bad their heads would explode if they knew we are masterminds? Instead of video-game flunkies?"

"Regin!"

Lucia must have looked as aghast as she felt, because she muttered, "Fine. We can act like we're f**kups idling about. As per our usual. But if we cap a god, I'm telling everyone I know! Two words: Press. Conference."

As they hastily hid their materials, Lucia said, "It's probably Annika." Who would not welcome the news Lucia and Regin would have to deliver. Your foster daughter met a man and told us she'd be home... basically whenever her happy ass felt like it.

Finished stowing their papers, she and Regin sped to the couch. By the time Annika burst through the door, they were sitting in the great room, painting each other's toenails while watching a TiVoed episode of Survivor.

With no hint that the two were conspiring - to exterminate a god forever.

Gasping for breath, Annika asked them, "Is Myst back? Or Daniela?" She weakly hung on the thick door, peering out into the darkness. "Have they returned?"

Regin said, "We thought they were with you."

"Nïx?"

"Hibernating in her room."

"Nïx!" Annika yelled over her shoulder. "Get down here!"

Lucia wanted to tell her, Good luck with corralling Nïx. The soothsayer worked only on Nïx Standard Time.

Annika slammed shut the front door and bolted it. "Is Emma on her way back yet?" She put her hands to her knees, still catching her breath.

Lucia and Regin shared a guilty look. "She's, uh, she's not coming back right now."

"What?" Annika shrieked. Aneurism in five, four, three, two...

Regin offered, "She met some hottie over there - "

Annika held up her hand. "Got to get out of here."

Where was the cataclysmic freakout over Emma? Lucia frowned. "I don't understand 'got to.' Sounds like you want us to leave?" Or even to flee? Valkyrie simply didn't flee - from anything. Monsters flee from us. Just as it'd always been.

You ran from that Lykae.

Shut up.

"There's a plane about to crash, isn't there?" Regin sighed. "That is so gonna hurt."

Lucia agreed. "I might run from a crashing plane - "

"Go... something's coming," Annika said. "Now..."

"We're safest here," Regin said, wriggling her toes and turning her attention back to her painting. "The inscription will keep anyone out."

The Valkyrie had bought protection from the House of Witches - their allies. The spell kept most nuisances out of Val Hall.

Regin quickly glanced up. "But, I, uh, I might not have renewed the inscription spell with the witches."

Lucia said, "I thought we were on auto-renewal. They charge our credit - "

"By Freya," Annika yelled, "I - mean - now!"

At that, Regin shot to her feet, lunging for her sword. Lucia was right behind her, scrambling for her bow. She'd just strapped on her quiver when the front door burst in.


 8

As Garreth ran for Val Hall, he began to grow uneasy, his hackles rising. Though Lykae loved to run - they'd traded tearing across the Highland hills and crags for tearing through the swamps and bayous - he took no comfort from the exertion.

He sensed something wasn't right but couldn't pinpoint his disquiet. He frowned when his sat-phone rang in his jeans pocket, then slowed to answer. "What?"

Munro said, "Can you come back to the compound? There's some news... possibly."

"Have you told anyone about Lousha?"

"No, I have no'! Where are you?"

"On my way to Val Hall. Concerned about my mate."

"Aye, Garreth, you need to know. Vampires are here, crawling all over the city."

Bluidy hell. "Which faction? Horde or Forbearer?" While the Horde was the Lykae's oldest and most hated enemy, the Forbearers were relatively new players in the Accession game. They were rumored to forbear from taking the flesh, refusing to drink blood directly from others.

Some in the Lore considered them noble vampires - as much an oxymoron for Garreth as cuddly snakes.

"It's the Horde," Munro said. "Ivo and Lothaire, specifically."

Ivo was cowardly - Garreth had never considered him a threat. Lothaire, the Enemy of Old, was a different story altogether. "What the f**k are they doing here?"

"The Horde might be... hunting Valkyrie."

Lucia. This was what he'd sensed. Just as Garreth was about to hang up, Munro said, "Wait! There's something else - "

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