Home > Dreams of a Dark Warrior (Immortals After Dark #11)(10)

Dreams of a Dark Warrior (Immortals After Dark #11)(10)
Author: Kresley Cole

Declan gazed at the monitor, regarding the female with puzzlement.

"In any case, now that we finally have a Valkyrie, we need to learn everything we can about her species, and what sets this one apart."

Whenever the Order had been close to capturing a Valkyrie in the past, the target had grown spooked, as if she'd been tipped off. Likely by Nix the Ever-Knowing.

So why had Nix all owed Regin to be captured?

Why tell him he was late?

"And we need to know about the vampire's ring," Webb said. "I understand how difficult it is to get miscreats to talk, but I'm confident you can get me these answers."

Though Declan had become an expert at torture, the immortals were astonishingly closemouthed, even withholding information about their natural enemies. The only way to get results was by tormenting a loved one or mate, but Declan had no leverage like that over either the Valkyrie or the vampire.

No matter. Somehow he would break them. "Yes, sir," he said absently.

"Son?" Webb sighed. "You're not feeling mercy for the Valkyrie? Because you had to harm a female?"

Thirty-five years of something had rushed to the fore.

"Remember, their beauty is a weapon. This one will not hesitate to wield it on you." A pause. "Has she compromised your judgment? Tempted you in anyway?"

Declan grated, "No, sir!" The Order would mind-wipe and cast out any member who became involved with a detrus. Even an involuntary entrancement was enough to have one's memory erased.

Unless it happens to me.

Two years ago, a witch had entranced Declan, cursing him to relive every terror and agony he'd ever experienced.

Webb had procured a countercurse before Declan had been driven insane-or at least noticeably insane. Then the commander had covered up the whole ordeal.

How many more rules would the old man break for him? Would he fix any more transgressions?

On this night, Declan had savored the feel of a captive's body in his arms. And I'm ... changing. His doses could barely control it.

Cast out.

At the idea, sweat beaded on his upper lip. The Order was all Declan had. He'd rather die than lose it.

"I'll get the results, sir."

"Maybe I'll come out and check on things next month or so. Might be a good time, with so many developments on the horizon."

"Very good, sir. And perhaps we can talk then about cul ing some of these prisoners."

Declan didn't want them contained, or, God forbid, created. He wanted them all exterminated. "This facility is well over capacity."

"We'l talk about that when I get there."

Once they'd hung up, Declan cal ed for Vincente. The former Ranger was as trustworthy as any, he supposed, though Declan could never ful y trust another, no one but Webb.

In moments, the burly guard arrived. Not for the first time, Declan wondered if the man ever slept.

He handed Vincente the protective box guarding the vampire's ring. "I want you to get this ring analyzed. Have the metal urgist test for any mystical properties. The usual precautions-no one touches it. Return it before I question Lothaire."

With a nod, the man took the box and exited.

Even after the warning that Webb's cal had provided, Declan turned back to the monitor for another look at the Valkyrie. She was sitting on the floor of her cel in front of the glass, resting her forehead and hands against it, as if she expected the door to open at any time.

Instead of feeling satisfaction to see her like this, he suffered more of that inexplicable conflict within him.

He'd done his duty with her. So why this ... guilt? He clasped his aching forehead.

Why do I feel like I'm going mad? If so, then it'd been a long time coming.

He'd always known he wasn't a perfect soldier, had known he was f**ked up. How could he not be? His days of torment had left him emotional y stunted, unclean. But he got the bloody job done, control ing his eccentricities and deviations with exhausting training regimens.

Every day, he worked out in his room, lifting weights with a punishing intensity, then he ran at least forty miles-half the width of the island. He ate only enough food to stave off the worst of his hunger.

Anything to weaken himself, to help him appear normal.

And for years, his injections had rendered him an automaton, mindlessly carrying out the Order's agenda. Those years had been the most satisfying in his entire life.

Clearly, he just needed stronger doses to get back to that state. Tonight he'd begin doubling up. It would help him ignore his new prisoner and finally get some sleep.

Decided, he stripped off his clothes, then snagged the case. Sitting on the edge of the bed, he plucked a needle from its cradle, using it to extract the clear contents from two glass vials.

He rested his elbow on his knee and squeezed his right fist, readying one track-marked inner arm.

A hungry vein answered the cal . Kill the tension and pain, let me rest. He pressed the plunger ... exhaling with pleasure as his heartbeat grew plodding, his breaths slowing. The higher dosage confirmed his suspicions.

Oh, aye, Dixon had been adding something il icit. Bless her.

The strain eased, the pain of old battle wounds lessening until he could lie back-but he kept the monitor in sight.

His lids grew heavy as he watched the Valkyrie, until he eventual y fel asleep.

Yet instead of the oblivion he'd expected, he dreamed of a night in Belfast when he was just seventeen, the night his life changed forever.

Chapter SEVEN

Declan rol ed off the chit onto his back, staring up at the rotting warehouse ceiling above his mattress. Maybe he wouldn't have it this time. That feelin' in the pit of me gut, in me chest.

Waiting ...

The girl-he didn't remember her name-slurred, "Ah, Dekko, that was just grand."

Bullshite.

She was some loose bird who hung with the junkie gang he'd fal en in with three years ago. Their city was unforgiving. Since then, half had died. The other half were like him: hankering for the next score, fleecing anything and anyone.

"Though for a spell," she muttered, "I thought ye weren't to come a'tal . ..." Then she passed out.

Declan yanked off his empty condom. I didn't. Already anticipating the misery to fol ow, he'd gnashed his teeth, struggling to finish like a man. And couldn't.

He gazed over at her, feeling the strain build. Wrong. Wrong girl beside him, wrong time, wrong place.

He rubbed the medal ion hanging from his neck, frantical y circling his thumb over it-

He shot upright, shoving his fist against his mouth to hold down whatever meager slop he'd forced himself to eat during the day. Chil s seized him, his muscles shaking.

He felt this way every time he was with a woman.

Hel , he felt a measure of the strain constantly. Whenever Declan woke, his anxiety was worse than the day before, as if acid seethed in his bel y and barbed wire cinched around his heart.

Tracks lined his arms; he could take or leave food even though he was still growing like a weed; bouts of nightmares plagued him.

For as long as he could remember, he'd had a frenzied sense that he was supposed to be doing something. No matter where he was, he felt like he was supposed to be some-where else.

And that strain was kil ing him.

After sex, it grew stronger, like a beast lived inside him, clawing at his insides to get free. Though only seventeen, he was ready to give up women altogether.

For now, he'd numb the feeling the only way he knew how. He reached toward the battered crate beside his mattress on the floor and plucked up the syringe that lay ready.

Why did he always expect to feel different after sex? When he knew better?

Because, Dekko, ye're not ready to admit ye're done as a man.

He frowned at the weight of the syringe in his hand. He'd been shooting he**in for three years, and knew it was too light. Dread seized him as he gazed down. Empty.

Rage building, he hurled the syringe across the room, then turned on the girl. Jostling her awake, he yel ed, "Ye feckin' slag! Ye stoled it?" That was all he'd had. No money to buy more.

She woke, mumbling, "Needed a wee bump-"

"Get out!" he roared, shoving her up and out on her arse, tossing her clothes at her before slamming the door in her face.

He punched the wal , moldy plaster exploding. Tonight he'd have the nightmares again. A monster at his back. Burning pain slicing through his chest. A woman's grief-stricken screams.

Those screams ...

Desperate to avoid those dreams, to numb the strain, he yanked on his pants and threw on a jacket, readying to leave. On his way out, he passed the bitch in the hal way, spat in her direction.

Half an hour later, he pleaded his case to his dealer: "Just a couple of quid's worth. Give me the shite now, and I'll fleece ye some of me mam's jewelry if I have to." Would he actual y steal from his own mother?

Oh, aye. But it'd take time to get to his parents' house and back.

The verdict: "Cash first, Dekko."

Declan would need even more time to fence the jewelry. Might take him a day to get back here with the scratch. He didn't have that long.

"I'm beggin'." He was about to vomit. The dealer clearly thought it was from withdrawal. No, from madness, more like. He'd do anything to avoid what awaited him. Anything. Others in his gang had no problem giving to get. With that in mind, he said, "There's got to be something I can give ye?"

His dealer's eyes widened with surprise. He hadn't known Declan Chase would suck for it.

I hadn't either. Could anything be worse than this feeling?

"Hie yer arse out o' me sight, Dekko." The man booted him in the back, sending him reeling out the door.

Unsure whether he was relieved or not, Declan scuffed back out into the streets.

When a biting wind blew in from the sea, his chil s worsened until his teeth chattered. With a despairing eye, he gazed around, tempted to break into a house right off the main strip, but everywhere he turned, bars covered the windows.

No choice but to set off for his parents' place. They were working-class; any jewelry of his mother's had been either handed down from her own mam or hard-earned by his da.

But she can't need it like I do.

An hour into his journey, Declan passed the run-down cathedral where he'd been an altar boy. At fourteen, he'd confessed his constant gut pains and tensions to the parish priest-a stern old codger who'd told him to keep his ailment to himself and find a vocation.

Declan had found he**in instead. He'd never told another what he grappled with every day. Not even his brother, Colm-not even before their fal ing-out.

His mam wouldn't be the first family member Declan had stolen from.

By the time he reached his parents' at three in the morning, he was quaking so hard his vision blurred.

He'd already vomited twice, laden with strain. Those screams ...

The front door was open, the house quiet. He eased inside, going straightaway to the kitchen, to the bottle of whiskey he knew he'd find in one of the cabinets. Might help him get through the next couple of hours. He lifted it, chugging-

He lowered the bottle, peering into the dark. In a murky corner of the kitchen, someone lay on the floor.

Was his brother passed out? "Jaysus, Colm. Ye're too young. Ye want to end up like me?" Declan would beat his arse for this. "Colm?" he demanded, striding over. "What the bloody-"

His brother's sightless eyes were opened wide, fixed on the ceiling. His throat was slashed down to the spine.

"C-Colm?" he rasped. Dead? Someone had murdered his little brother? He stared dumbly, tears wel ing. Until muffled screams sounded from the living room.

Somebody's hurting me parents too! Fury ignited within him, burning away the tears. In a daze, Declan slipped into his parents' bedroom, grabbed the bat propped by his da's side of the bed.

When he entered the living room, he faltered, barely able to comprehend what he saw. Red-eyed beings with fangs and claws fil ed the area. And those were the creatures with humanlike bodies. Others were winged monsters with bulging eyes and limbs jutting out all over.

The winged ones had gagged and tied up his parents on the floor so they could ... slowly feed. Their deformed mouths peeled away one strip of flesh at a time-while his mam and da still lived, screaming in agony against their gags.

Me mind's going to break, can't do this, can't believe this is happening. But just when Declan thought he'd pass out from the crazy pounding of his heart, one monster's head rose up from his da, and blood dribbled from its mouth.

Da's blood.

A mindless wrath overwhelmed Declan, and he attacked them. all he could hear was his thundering heart, his bel ows, the bat connecting with bone over and over. He didn't know where this frantic strength was coming from, but he crumpled the metal bat against their skulls.

Yet as powerful as he was, they were more so. They kept coming and coming until they overpowered him, pinning his thrashing body to the floor. Even as he flailed, he spied a glimpse of some eerie kind of intel igence in the hideous eyes of a winged monster, and Declan had an instant of clarity.

Colm was the lucky one. ...

As ever, Declan's mind wasn't ready to relive what those creatures had done to him-the unimaginable torment until he'd blacked out; twenty years later, his dream easily flickered past, picking up at the time when consciousness had trickled in once more. From outside his parents' house, he'd heard voices, and finally the blackness wavered.

He felt the biting tension on his bound wrists and ankles ease, nearly screaming as circulation coursed to his hands and feet once more. How long ago had he been tied up?

Days. ...

He was aware of a man's voice tell ing him that he would live, that help was here. "Those things have been slaughtered, son. They'l never hurt anyone again."

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