Home > Pleasure of a Dark Prince (Immortals After Dark #9)(8)

Pleasure of a Dark Prince (Immortals After Dark #9)(8)
Author: Kresley Cole

In truth, things were getting intense. The Valkyrie were on red alert. They'd hired the Wraiths, the Ancient Scourge, to protect Val Hall. That measure was drastic, but the vampire demon had shaken them.

Vemons were supposed to be truly mythical. The one they'd faced had been nearly invincible, which made them wonder how a creature like that had come to be - and how many more of them existed. They'd known Ivo was up to something nefarious.

"And now the long-lost werewolf king is in play as well," Regin said, tossing up her dagger.

Lucia herself had spoken to Lachlain, the werewolf king. That long-distance call had been so surreal, for more than one reason. She'd been standing in a room full of Valkyrie, and neither they, nor Lachlain, had any idea she'd been with his brother mere days ago, occupied with - oh, how had Garreth put it?  - riding his crotch like a wanton as she sucked his tongue.

As the "reasonable" one in the coven, Lucia had entreated Lachlain to release Emma. He'd refused. She'd asked him to be gentle with her. He hadn't sounded capable of gentle.

At least he hadn't seemed to want to hurt Emma - and he had protected her from a vampire search party, killing the three who'd come for her.

Annika's own attempts to further negotiate with Lachlain had ended with his roared "She's mine!" and Annika's chilling vow to go hunting for "Celts' pelts."

Afterward, everyone in the coven had voiced disgust for the Lykae, calling them dogs, animals, or worse, subhuman. Making Lucia's guilt mount. Aside from her own personal reasons, she simply had no business being with a Lykae.

Regin leaned in. "Luce, what's really going on with you?"

"I just think this is a bad idea." She plucked her bowstring faster.

"He's an animal. One hunt among many."

But that "animal" had used his unimaginable strength and ferocity to save their lives. Another example of how different he was from Cruach.

Lowering her voice, Regin said, "We keep secrets from everyone else - not from each other. I know you're holding back from me. Haven't I proved that I'm a vault where your secrets are concerned?"

Guilt flared. "Yes, always." This was too true, and besides, could anything be as shameful as Cruach? "Look, in a moment of temporary insanity, I might have... MacRieve and I" - she paused, then added in a rush - "we might have fooled around a little."

Regin's glowing skin paled. "What?"

Remaining away from Lucia had taken everything in Garreth. He needed to ease her pain from the night of the vampire attack, was frenzied to slaughter more of their kind for her.

Never had he seen a being in agony like his mate after she'd missed a shot. When he'd stormed into Val Hall, she'd been curled on the floor, writhing with her fingers knotted.

Gazing up at me in horror. He was desperate to erase that image of himself, to remind her how he normally looked. But the Instinct warned him to take it slowly with her.  - She will run. Be cautious.  -

So he'd been shadowing her, camping in the bayou near Val Hall. As long as Ivo, Lothaire, and that demon vampire remained at large, still looking for a specific Valkyrie, Garreth refused to leave the area, not even to return to the Lykae compound.

Leaving behind his kinsmen hadn't been as disagreeable as he'd thought - especially not those Lykae who'd found their mates within the clan. They had it so easy, were nauseatingly content. How I envy them.

But Garreth could still safeguard his own mate. He hadn't been able to spare the rest of his loved ones from the Horde - but he'd be damned before they hurt his woman. Whether Lucia wanted it or not, he'd watched over her every second he could. Except for the night of the full moon.

When he'd made other arrangements.

Not that she needed protection within her home. The disquieting manor house at Val Hall had just grown more so. After the vampire attack, the Valkyrie had called upon the Wraiths, the Ancient Scourge, to protect them. Red-robed skeletal females flew in a circle around Val Hall, their guard impenetrable. Each time a Valkyrie exited or entered, she lopped off a lock of her hair, handing it to the Wraiths - as if in payment. The creatures would then cackle with glee over the token.

Tonight, Lucia and at least two others had gone out in the bayou. She'd peered keenly into the darkness as if she sensed him, so he'd been keeping his distance.

But for how much longer could he silently follow...?


 10

"Keep your voice down!" Lucia hissed to Regin.

"And you didn't tell me this? I mean, it is gross, and I will rag you about this for the rest of our immortal lives."

"It's not that bad - "

Regin gave a mock shudder. "Dude must've been picking vampire flesh from his teeth for days. And you kissed him with that mouth? In any case, do you want Skathi to kick your ass? Or repo your powers? Who am I going to hang out with when you're a talentless nobody?"

Lucia glared.

"Wait! It all becomes clear - this is your chance to make up for that grossity, Luce. Bag and tag the Lykae!"

"Has everyone forgotten what he did for us?" Mac-Rieve could have escaped with Lucia but he'd stayed and defended them. He'd done that for her. And how was she about to repay him? With deceit.

Annika overheard that and crossed over to where Lucia was setting up her shot. "It seems you have forgotten his brother has my foster daughter." She punctuated her words by cocking her tranquilizer gun. "I know you don't feel right about this after what he did for us, but we need him to get my Emma back from that fiend."

"I'm here, aren't I?" Lucia said testily, making everyone stare. Levelheaded Lucia didn't get testy often. "Though I'm the one who's going to pay for this."

"No one wants you to get hurt," Annika said, then added more softly, "But, Lucia, you know Em must be terrified."

Cosseted Emma would in fact be losing her shit. Though Lachlain knew she was a half-vampire, and most of his family had been murdered by them, he hadn't sounded like he planned to hurt Emma. Didn't matter. Em would be terrified just by what he was. She didn't come by her name Emma the Timid lightly - she was afraid of her own shadow.

If only she'd been able to trace like other vampires, then she could've escaped Lachlain. They'd tried to teach her, but Emma had always been too weak....

"Yo, Annika. How much tranquilizer do you got in there?" Regin asked. "I don't want to merely piss MacRieve off. You didn't see him fight - because of the being covered in bricks and all - but he's brutal."

"I got the mixture from the witches," Annika said. "They swore it'd take down elephants."

Regin shook her head. "Dude's a werewolf, that won't be en - "

"Fifty elephants."

"Oh."

"Are you ready?" Annika asked Lucia.

Sure, Annika. I'm ready to go through agonizing pain, so you can catch my would-be lover. Why the hell not? Though her thoughts were crazed, Lucia evenly said, "I'll do what I have to in order to get Emma back."

"Good," Annika said with a firm nod, moving to stand at her side. "Then let's get this started."

As the others took their places, Lucia readied her bow, nocking an arrow. Duty to family. Loyalty to them and Emma. Gritting her teeth, she aimed for a distant cypress, drawing the bowstring. At the last millisecond, just as Lucia's fingers relaxed to release the string, Annika shoved her to the left. The arrow missed the tree.

At once, pain seared her - the agony of bones grinding, poisoned blood wrung from her body....

Lightning exploded, and she dropped to the ground, helpless not to scream.

Lucia's scream pierced the night.

Roaring in answer, Garreth raced in her direction. Vampires are hunting Valkyrie. And she'd just screamed. If they hurt his woman....

His fangs sharpened; rage burned hot. My mate in jeopardy. Somehow he charged faster. Tree limbs raked his face and body, animals skirting out of his way as he plunged deeper into the swamp.

He was already turning. Letting the beast out of the cage. He knew he horrified her like this but he couldn't help it - the need to protect overwhelmed him.

As Garreth ran for her, he scented other Valkyrie. There must be vampires, attacking in number. But as he neared, he smelled none.

He burst into a clearing, spied Lucia on the ground, twisting in pain.

Turning even more fully. He'd slaughter whoever did this.

-  What you see is not so.  -

He felt a prick on his neck, slapped at it. A dart? Oh, f**k no! Still struggling to reach her, he felt his body go boneless, his legs giving way.

Garreth crashed to the ground right beside Lucia, landing on his side. As Lucia gazed at him vacantly through tears, smirking Valkyrie surrounded them. Realization struck. Lucia had done this on purpose. She was the bait.

"You... helped them?" His words were slurred, rough.

She nodded. Despite the fact that she'd deceived him, he couldn't stand the sight of her tears. He reached forward to brush her face, but his arm went limp. "Why?" he rasped. "Why, Lousha?"

She whispered, "He took her... took Emma."

"Who?"

"You don't know?"

"Know... what?" He saw her lips moving but heard nothing as consciousness faded.


 11

"For the love of all that's unholy, will he not shut up?"

Regin demanded, pausing her video game.

MacRieve had been roaring in his cage in the basement for hours now, keeping Lucia on the razor's edge - an uncomfortable place to be with her muscles still aching from the night before. Gods, how she paid for those missed shots.

And more unnerving, Nïx was perched on the back of the sofa, absently braiding her long sable hair, studying Lucia's reactions. Nïx, usually so vacant eyed, was watching her keenly. She knows how I feel about him....

Or how she'd felt about him - before Lucia had seen him turned, his face savage, his fangs so sharp.

"Let me the bluidy hell out of here!" sounded up from below.

Regin glared at Lucia, as if this were her fault. "He is harshing my buzz, and I am" - Regin turned to yell over her shoulder - "not interested!"

"Open this f**king cage, you glowing bluidy freak!" Gods, he was fierce.

Yet as soon as the thought arose, she recalled how he'd awkwardly patted her tears. And last night, even after realizing what she'd done to him, he'd still reached for her.

"Somebody needs to make Scooby a snack or something, 'cause this howling is freaking old!"

They could hear him banging against the bars, but he could never break them. Though the Lykae were the strongest species in all the Lore, the metal was indestructible, made so by spells purchased from the witches.

"You go, Luce," Regin said, eyeing her video game longingly.

"What do you think I can do?"

"He's attracted to you. Skeevy as that is... At least go try. Just don't lift tail for him or anything."

"Regin!" Lucia snapped, slanting a telling glance at Nïx.

With a roll of her eyes, Regin said, "Oh, yeah, like the soothsayer doesn't already have your number."

Nïx winked at her.

"Come on, I've never gotten this far in the game."

Lucia rose slowly, stifling a wince when her muscles protested. "Fine, I'll go," she said, acting put out over seeing MacRieve, though she'd wanted to since he'd awakened. She wanted to finally thank him for saving her life - for painstakingly hiding her away, then rising up like wrath embodied against the vampires who'd invaded her family's home.

Apparently, the beast could be tender. Or deadly. No matter what he was, or what was inside him, he deserved her gratitude.

And she wouldn't mind a chance to find out why she reacted so intensely to him. How could she still be so drawn to him, even after she'd seen what he was inside?

"You owe me one, Reege," Lucia added in an aggrieved tone.

Nïx easily saw through her act and winked again, growing happy, entertained by Lucia's behavior. But when the soothsayer followed her to the basement door, Lucia turned and said, "No, I want to talk to him alone."

"Even when I already know everything you're about to say? Just as I already knew about the saliva swap at the swamp you two attended weeks ago." Then, more gently, Nïx added, "You like him?"

Lucia sighed, leaning her shoulder against the wall. "I don't understand it. He's like my kryptonite. Just his brogue..."

"Makes your claws curl?"

"Big-time. When I was with him, it was like I had no defense. He got this look in his eyes, and my mind went blank," she admitted. "Have you ever fought an opponent you had no defense against? Like a fire breather or an acid spitter?"

"Once I faced a female with diamond skin," Nïx said breathlessly. "I was transfixed - even as she was choking the life out of me."

"Really?"

"No, I saw that character on X-Men. I just wanted to commiserate. Alas, I have no weaknesses."

"Except your insanity," Lucia pointed out.

Sigh. "Well played, Archer. Then carry on...."

With a deep breath, Lucia opened the door. When she descended the steps, MacRieve's gaze locked on her, his eyes ice blue, his dark brown hair disheveled. He wore another pair of worn jeans and a long-sleeve black sweater. Simple clothing. Though she might yearn for more elaborate garments for herself, she liked simple for men. Another grudging check in MacRieve's plus column.

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