Home > Pleasure of a Dark Prince (Immortals After Dark #9)(7)

Pleasure of a Dark Prince (Immortals After Dark #9)(7)
Author: Kresley Cole

"No' now!" Garreth yelled as he sprinted, slamming the phone closed so hard, it lay crushed in his palm.

Hunting Valkyrie. Lucia was in danger from the Horde, a filthy species responsible for the deaths of Garreth's entire family. If he lost his mate to them as well...

Never. Already turning.

Only a dozen miles away. Letting the beast out of the cage. Never wanted her to see me like this...

An immense horned vampire filled the doorway of Val Hall, peering keenly at Regin and Lucia with eyes the color of blood.

"What is that, Annika?" Regin drew one of her swords. "A vampire turned demon?"

"Not possible," Lucia said. "That's supposed to be a true myth." Whatever it was, it had made Annika run like hell, and she was a notorious vampire killer.

"Has to be." Annika panted. "Never seen one so powerful."

"Is he one of Ivo's minions?"

"Yes. Saw him giving orders to this one. They're still searching for someone."

Lucia nocked her arrows just as two more vampires traced behind the demon.

"Just go," Annika hissed to them. "Both of you - "

Ivo the Cruel materialized then, appearing directly in their living room, his red eyes surveying the scene.

"Hello, Ivo," Annika said gravely.

"Valkyrie," he responded with a bored sigh.

When he sank onto their couch and carelessly kicked his boots up on their coffee table, Annika said, "You still have all the arrogance of a king. Though you aren't one." She shook her head. "Can never be one."

"Just a wittle wapdog," Regin said with a snort. "Demestriu's wittle bitch man - "

Annika rapped the back of Regin's head.

"What?" Regin stomped her foot. "What'd I say?"

"Enjoy your taunts, Valkyries - they'll be your last." Ivo turned to the demon vampire. "She isn't here."

"Who?" Annika demanded.

"The one I seek," he answered cryptically. Which Valkyrie had he been searching for all over the world?

Suddenly, Lucia spotted the faint outline of a figure wavering behind Ivo. Lothaire? He'd traced into the room, lurking in the shadows, as sinister as she remembered, with his red-tinged irises and menacing face.

When Annika caught sight of him as well, the vampire put his finger to his lips. Why would he be hiding from Ivo, his cohort?

Ivo rubbed the back of his neck, clearly sensing a presence behind him. But when he whipped his head around, he saw nothing; Lothaire had already disappeared. Why wasn't the Enemy of Old standing shoulder to shoulder with Ivo, poised for a fight? Or shoulder to head - Lothaire was as big as the demon, and both towered over Ivo.

Seeming to dismiss his apprehension, Ivo ordered his minion, "Kill these three."

At once, the demon vampire teleported behind Annika with mind-boggling speed. The other two vampires traced for Regin and Lucia before Lucia could get a shot off. Regin traded sword strikes with one, while Lucia kicked the other in the chest, sending him back so she could take a shot. But he traced forward too quickly. Lightning flashed with increasing furor.

Out of the corner of her eye, Lucia spied Annika getting in some good hits on the demon vampire. As he yelled, spraying blood, Annika kicked him between his legs so hard he crashed into the ceiling.

But when he landed, he grabbed her neck and hurled her across the entire great room into the fireplace forty feet away. Annika hit headfirst, with so much force that the first layer of bricks turned to dust from the impact.

"Ah, gods! Annika!"

Just as another layer of bricks dropped onto her limp body, Regin scrambled from the vampire she'd been fighting to guard their fallen sister. Lucia dashed to Regin's side, finally garnering enough room for a shot.

"Lucia, the big one," Regin said between breaths. "As many arrows as you can. I'll pry his head off."

She added two arrows to the pair she'd already nocked, pulling the bowstring so tight, intending a kill shot. She released her volley...

The demon's muscles went rigid. He brushed three arrows aside like they were gnats. He caught the fourth.

Incomprehension. She'd... missed? No! How? Ivo's laughter echoed as the pain assailed her. She dropped to the floor from the sudden onslaught.

Too much! The remembered agony. Bones grinding... skin so tight.

Her body twisted and her fingers clenched as a shriek was ripped from her chest, then another and another. Every window and light in the manor shattered all around them, raining daggers of glass, leaving them in darkness.

Over the pain, she dimly heard a Lykae's beastly roar answering in the distance....

Annika unconscious. Regin fighting off two. Want to tell her to run. Ivo and the demon watching. Can't move...

Another roar, even closer. MacRieve? He'd heard her. Was he coming for her? Would he help her sisters?

Through the chaos, she caught sight of movement across the murky room. White fangs and pale blue eyes stood out against the blackness, but she could barely see him through the dust and haze of her tears.

Then lightning illuminated him, and she recoiled, her pain redoubling. Can't be him... can't be.

He was massive, even more towering than before, his fangs and dark claws longer and sharper. A shadow of a ferocious beast flickered over his body.

MacRieve. A monster from legend.

As he crept over to where she shook on the floor, she gritted her teeth but couldn't move, crippled by the pain.

Crouching over her, he reached for her face with his huge hands. When his claws glinted like onyx, she flinched. What would he do...?

He's trying... to pat my tears? "Shh, female." He scooped her into his arms while she stared up with dread. "Do no' fear me." His voice was guttural, his ice-blue eyes burning with possession.

In an instant, she comprehended two things: why immortals feared the Lykae.

And that she was this one's mate.

"Protect you."

Yes, he could never hurt her, would believe he'd been born to safeguard her life. "And my sisters," she weakly bit out.

He gazed at the door, clearly wanting to remove her from the threat -

"Please, Lykae... fight these vampires."

Finally, a jerk of his chin. He carried her out of the way, gently tucking her behind a table. In that beastly voice, he grated, "I'll give you... their throats." He gazed at her with such longing, but she was horrified to see him completely turned. He knew it, could see - she was in too much pain to hide her disgust.

He twisted from her and reared up with an awing fury against the vampires. After recovering from her surprise, Regin teamed up with the Lykae, each facing off against a vampire. The demon vampire held back, guarding an enthralled-looking Ivo.

There was no contest against MacRieve. With dizzying speed, he lunged forward before the vampire could trace a retreat, snapping his jaws closed on his opponent's neck. Bones cracked and arteries spurted as he ripped the vampire's throat out.

In a gruesome spray of gore, MacRieve spit it into the male's shocked face. Then his Lykae claws sliced through the rest of the vampire's neck cleanly. Head and body dropped to the crimson floor.

MacRieve turned to Regin's vampire next. She'd stabbed it several times, but it was tracing around her like crazy, materializing and vanishing, delivering blows. She couldn't land a killing strike.

Seeming to predict where the male would appear next, MacRieve sprang for the vampire. He tackled him between traces, pinning him to the floor. The Lykae's head descended, and he savaged that one's neck as well.

In mere moments, the two enemies were decapitated.

Confronted by a fully-turned, battle-maddened Lykae, Ivo and the horned one traced away, fleeing.

As soon as the threat was gone, MacRieve sped to Lucia's side, crouching with blood dripping from his fangs. She stared up with revulsion. "No, no." Just like before, a handsome face concealed a monster.

Delirious, shuddering, suddenly she was back in Cruach's lair. The Broken Bloody One was above her, blood pouring from his gritted fangs, splashing into her eyes. Crimson pools and grisly leavings all around them. I give you meat and wine, my love....

"Lousha," MacRieve grated, rousing her back to the present. "You're... safe." He tenderly skimmed the backs of his wet claws along her cheek.

"No, get away... get away from me."

Brows drawn as if in pain, he rose and loped out into the night.

The deadly shadow that was Garreth MacRieve disappeared.

But she knew he'd be back.


 9

He hadn't been back.

But unfortunately for MacRieve, for most nights over the last week, he hadn't strayed far from Lucia.

"Celts' pelts! Celts' pelts!" Nïx cried happily, summing up the reason there was a hunting party of over two dozen Valkyrie gathered in a remote swamp on this desolate eve.

Lucia, Regin, Annika, Nïx, and several others were stationed in a carefully selected clearing, while even more Valkyrie were positioned throughout the misty bayou to call in sightings from distant vistas or trees.

All this effort was to trap... Garreth. And Lucia was the bait.

"Helloooo." Regin snapped her fingers. "Lore to Lucia!"

"Huh? Yeah."

"You're spacing again." Regin's look of irritation immediately shifted to one of concern. "It's too soon. I told Annika it was too soon."

Though Lucia had just missed a shot so recently, the coven had asked her to shank one more, predicting that if Garreth had come running the first time, he would again. "No, I'm good," Lucia said. She'd had to delay them a few days to build her strength - and nerve - back. She paid for each miss, had nearly forgotten how much, it'd been so long since the last time.

"You sure? Let's call this off." Regin alone comprehended how punishing this would be.

"I can handle it," she insisted, even as she nervously plucked her bowstring.

"All right. They wouldn't have asked, but...."

But aggression against any of the Valkyrie was always met with a show of force - swift, vicious force. And a Lykae had seriously aggressed them.

Garreth's older brother, Lachlain MacRieve, had returned as if from the dead to reclaim his crown. But his very first order of business? Nabbing little Emmaline the Timid, Annika's foster daughter.

King Lachlain had been the "hottie" Emma had mistakenly trusted in Paris. And now he had her trapped at the Lykae castle in Scotland.

After Annika had gone aneurismal, shrieking until car alarms blared in three parishes, she'd hatched this plan: trap Lachlain's only living immediate family and use him as leverage to get Emma back.


 4

Garreth MacRieve. With his firm lips and maddening touch...

Regin said, "If not the pain, then what gives with you? You're not thinking about MacRieve, are you?" She tossed up her dagger, catching the tip in her fore-claw. "Since you're his mate and all. And for the record, ewww."

Lucia drilled her knuckle into Regin's upper arm. "Take it back."

"Yow!"

"How many times do I have to tell you? I'm not his mate! Full moon - no MacRieve. Case closed." To her everlasting confusion, he hadn't come for her the night it'd been full. Legend held that nothing could stop a male Lykae from reaching his mate on that night.

Lucia had been so sure she was his. Now she didn't know what to think.

Of course, she'd been pleased to confirm that she wasn't. Who would want a hulking male like that, one with a face that fell away, revealing a beast?

Yet, strangely, seeing him at his worst during the vampire attack hadn't been as bad as she'd imagined it. He'd been brutal and unsettling, but the terror she'd felt that night had ebbed - because once she got past her memories of Cruach, she saw how different MacRieve was from the Broken Bloody One.

That didn't mean she liked MacRieve's beast or anything; it just reminded her that nothing could be as bad as Cruach.

"Wait!" Nïx suddenly blurted. "Is anyone else seeing a pattern here?"

They all stared blankly at her.

She tilted her head. "Yeah, me neither." Then she grew enthralled with her palm. Nïx, crazy as ever.

Still rubbing her arm, Regin asked, "If you're not MacRieve's mate, then why does he keep following you?"

"I don't know," she lied. MacRieve had clearly ground out the words protect you. And she suspected he had been doing just that.

Just last night in the city, as she'd hunted back alleys for kobolds, an animus demon had been hunting her. Right when she'd been about to confront the colossal male, she heard a thud behind her. She'd whirled around and had seen the demon on the ground. Or at least his legs. The rest of his body had been concealed behind a building, but only for a split second, before he'd been yanked back out of her sight....

Annika hastened by then, with her blond brows drawn together, checking all the logistics of her trap, as meticulous as ever. Though she could motivate people and was a legendary strategist, she was never supposed to be leader of their coven - the missing Valkyrie queen Furie was.

Once Annika had buzzed past them, Regin said, "Things are getting intense around here, eh, Luce? With the vemon attacks - "

"Dempire," Nïx corrected, glancing up from her palm. "Demon vampire equals dempire, not vemon."

Regin shook her head hard. "Which sounds so lame. Say it in a sentence, Nïx. 'I got my ass kicked by a dempire.' Forget it! Vampire demon. Ve - mon."

"You're taking this stance just to be contrary," Nïx sniffed.

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