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

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

"Da?" Declan rasped before the blackness took him once more.

In a kind of twilight, he felt his bones being set, his skin pierced again and again as his numerous wounds were stitched.

When he woke, he was in a hospital, covered in bandages and casts. A tal , dark-haired man sat beside his bed.

"I'm Commander Webb," he said, his Yank accent marked. "You're in a private hospital. You're safe now."

Declan recognized the voice of the man who'd saved his life. He was middle-aged, his hair closely cropped. He wore what looked like a military uniform, but Declan had never seen one like it. "Wh-what happened?"

"I'm sure you're in a state of shock right now. The docs are amazed you survived-"

"And me family?" He hated the way his voice broke.

"I'm sorry, Declan, but they're all dead."

He'd known, but he'd still held out hope. "You're the one who got me out of there?"

"My team and I did. I belong to an organization cal ed the Order, and it's our job to protect people from those miscreats. Unfortunately, our scouts didn't locate this pack until too late."

"Miscreats? Pack? " Declan pinched his forehead, wincing as the skin on the back of his hand pulled tight under a bandage.

Webb nodded. "Miscreations. They're immortal beings. Just about anything you thought was a myth is out there walking the streets. Sometimes various species band together in leagues."

Declan's lips parted. He'd also held out hope that they hadn't been real. That he'd gone crazy. Now someone, a man with authority, was staring him in the face, confirming what his eyes had seen. Declan's mind reluctantly accepted it. "You kil ed them?"

"Yes, a complete extermination. Again, too late for your parents and brother and ..."

And you, the man hadn't needed to say.

The things those monsters had done to him, to his skin. The blood in my mouth, blood that wasn't my own ...

Declan looked away in shame, his face flushing. "They ... they fed."

"Those were the Neoptera, some of the most nightmarish of them all."

"Why us?" Declan's voice was raw with bitterness. He realized he'd never grasped what bitterness was until this exact moment. Hatred that burns cold.

"As near as we can tell , you were picked at random. They attack simply because they can. Some of them feed on humans like cattle. Some play with us, torment us," he said. "That's why we hunt them down and kil them without mercy."

Declan faced him once more, his attention ful y engaged. To be able to hunt them ...

"They cal themselves Loreans," Webb continued. "We just like to cal them dead sons-of-bitches." He dug into his jacket pocket, then held up Declan's charm. "We found this. Is it yours?"

"Aye, it's mine." Hanging from a cord of leather was a thin medal ion imprinted with two birds. His da had gotten it for him at a fair.

My father's dead.

Declan's hand shot out to snatch the medal ion, the stitches up and down his body straining. Clutching it in his fist, he grated, "I want in."

"I thought you might say that. But it's not so simple. You're not even eighteen. Maybe if you were older, with some military training under your belt-"

"Now." Declan bit out the word. "Now, goddamn it!"

"And what about the drugs? I read your tox screen."

Declan flushed again. "I'll get clean."

"Even if we made exceptions for you, not everyone gets inducted into the Order. You'd have to be combat-trained, and it's grueling. Rangers and marines have told us that their training was a cakewalk compared to ours."

"I don't give a shite."

Webb's eyes bored into his own. "You'd be dealt pain on a daily basis to harden you, so that you could fight these fiends. And at every second, you would have to demonstrate a single-minded purpose, the obsession to eradicate immortals."

"This is mine by right, Webb. More than anyone's. Ye ken it is."

"You think about this. Long and hard. Because to fight these monsters, son, You'll have to become one...."

Declan shot upright, waking drenched in sweat. Drops of it trailed down his chest, past his dog tags, over his raised scars.

With a shudder, he stared down at the wounds that had been carved into his body from neck to waist. More covered his back and down both his arms to his fingers.

He dropped his head in his hands. The Neoptera had taken his flesh and made him drink the blood of the ones he'd kil ed. Why? And how much of that blood had tainted his own that night?

Maybe that was how Declan had gotten his strength and speed, his heightened senses. Maybe the drugs kept his change at bay all this time. What else could explain it?

God, to become a thing like that ...

Nothing that a Glock to the mouth can't cure, Dekko.

He forced himself to lie back, to control the mad drumming of his heart. It was too soon for another injection.

Twenty years later, and I'm still shooting up.

But the dream had been so realistic, gripping him harder than it had in memory. He stared at the ceiling, recal ing those ensuing years, focusing his mind on all the work he'd done to get where he was now. ...

After his detox-a bleak period of unrelenting nausea and bone-jarring tremors-and four months of physical rehab for his injuries, the Order had taken him to their compound.

The training had been as punishing as Webb had promised. Pain came daily, but it did harden Declan. The commanders who hurt him the most were the ones he respected above all others.

When he'd heard other recruits complaining about "brainwashing techniques," Declan had been astounded that anyone might disagree with-or resist-what the commanders were instil ing in them. How could Declan be brainwashed into hating the detrus more than he already did?

Physical y, Declan had every advantage over the other recruits. Even at seventeen, he was bigger, swifter, more powerful. Webb attributed it to kicking he**in, the training, the vitamins, and diet.

For once in his life, Declan had excel ed, even thrived.

And while he'd learned weapons, hunting tactics, and military strategy, he'd begun educating himself and disguising his accent; he hadn't wanted his enemies to determine anything about him.

He buried all traces of his past so that no one could ever connect him to the ignorant seventeen-year-old junkie who'd begged for death while his tormentors laughed around mouthfuls of his blood and skin.

After his initiation into the Order, Declan had hunted down the offspring and forebears of the creatures who'd butchered his own family. Yet that hadn't been enough to satisfy him. He'd become obsessed with tracking more and erasing them from the face of the earth.

And no matter how much the detrus begged-he always made them beg-he'd slaughtered them.

Nothing pleased him more.

But then two things had changed.

His abilities had become too noticeable; enter Dixon with her shots.

Webb had given him control of this instal ation, charging him with capturing and imprisoning the creatures Declan wanted only to kil .

Of course, Declan had obeyed the command, ignoring his own deep-seated needs. After all , the man had saved his life, then given him purpose.

Reminded of all Webb had done for him, Declan vowed to try harder to control himself, his ... impulses.

I know of no man more disciplined than me. He peered over at the monitor, saw the glowing Valkyrie on one of the bunks with her long blond hair spread out around her head. Like a halo.

I will crush this interest.

Eyes narrowed with hate, he rose and turned off the screen.

Chapter EIGHT

Magister Chase is making rounds today!" the shifter next door whispered urgently.

Regin rol ed her eyes. "Oh, quick, lemme check my hair." Directly beside their cel 's glass panel, she lay on her back with her legs stretched up against the metal wal , her arms folded behind her head.

Whatever was the opposite of checking her hair, that was what she'd be doing.

From the bottom bunk, Natalya yawned, waking from a nap. In the back of the cel , Roomie Number Three banged his head against the wal . Or at least, against the wadded up jacket Natalya had jammed there.

Wham ... wham ... wham ...

And so goes week one in the House of Horrors. From her spot on the floor, Regin watched the procession of evil researchers and guards going about their daily evil business.

Warden Fegley, the bane of their existence, had only made the first of his thrice daily rounds. The self-important trol loved to taunt immortals, egging them on to violence, then laughing when security gassed their cells.

And now Chase was making an appearance. Goody.

"Stil working out your escape plan?" Natalya asked. "There is a time element here, Valkyrie. I'm up for an examination soon. And You'll likely go before me since you were a high-priority capture."

Examination was a euphemism for vivisection. Where the subject was dissected while conscious. So far, they'd seen two victims brought by, their eyes glazed over, their chests carved open and held together with staples, like a flesh zipper.

Natalya had told her, "I heard that you experience pain like you've never known. They slice nerves or pluck at them just to see how you tick. You're awake when they crack open your chest to get at your heart. Afterward, they wire your ribs back together."

Unfortunately, Regin didn't have an escape plan yet. The only thing she knew for certain? The more she learned about Declan Chase, the more she wanted to take him out.

He truly was in charge of this entire hateful facility. all operations-from the experimentations to the torturous interrogations-were under his iron-fisted control. He himself was supposed to be a master at torture.

She studied her claws. Just thinking about the Blademan made them straighten and sharpen with aggression. For Aidan, they'd curled, aching to clutch his body close to hers.

"Care to crowd-source your plan?" Natalya asked. "Garner feedback? I actual y have some experience with escapes."

"I'll let you know." Regin did have that one ace in the hole. Chase would soon be dead if he remembered her. But, hel , she could be vivisected or executed before he ever did.

Regin had begun to see why some of the prisoners were going crazy in here. Their third roomie wasn't the only prisoner who banged his head against the wal . Time passed at an agonizingly slow pace. With no shower available, she'd been eyeing the sink for a whore's bath. Her side had ful y healed, but her clothes were stiff with dried blood.

Each second, Regin's anger toward Chase escalated, her temper redlining toward DEFCON REGIN.

In the old language, Natalya said, "I recal ed something I'd heard about you. Aren't you supposed to have a kiss that drugs men?"

"So everyone says." Regin didn't actual y ... know. Aidan had sworn her lips were like a drug. And with each reincarnation, her kiss had triggered his memories. As soon as their lips touched, his past assailed him.

But the "drugging kiss" rep sounded cool, so Regin had run with it.

Natalya said, "You could kiss Fegley or Chase, then command him to free us!"

What was so bad? They were equal y unappealing.

Regin's ears twitched. "Speak of one of the devils." Fegley's cheap orthopedic lifts were squeaking closer.

When the warden appeared outside their cel , he ogled Regin's bared midriff. Gross. Whenever men leered at her, Regin tended to leer back. She canted her head on the floor, turning it one way, then the other. "I finally understand what a dickie-do is. Your gut does stick out more than your dickie do."

Natalya guffawed, slapping a hand over her mouth.

His beady eyes slitted, and he wal oped his nightstick against the glass directly beside Regin's head.

Which made Roomie Number Three's tempo speed up. She clenched her teeth, wrestling with her temper.

"Your time's running out, Valkyrie." Fegley gave another wal op before he squeaked off.

Regin narrowed her eyes, watching him til he was out of sight. "One day I'm going to make that little piggy cry all the way home." With a sigh, she rose and crossed to the boy.

The only thing that broke up this prison monotony was studying their curious fel ow inmate, trying to pinpoint what species he belonged to. So far, she'd determined only three things about him.

Since he didn't fit a single species' traits definitively, he must be a hybrid or halfling of some sort.

His gray athletic T-shirt indicated that he played footbal for the Harley High Tigers.

And he sure was cute.

He was over six feet tal , his build corded with muscle. His eyes were hazel with blue flecks, his brown hair thick and tousled.

The first time Regin had awkwardly patted his banging head to calm him, the fey had raised her brows.

To which Regin had eloquently replied, "Oh, eat me."

That night Natalya had wiped the blood from his hair, then covered him with her jacket when he'd slept.

After that, the two of them had started to view him as kind of a pet rock, almost like they were the de facto guardians of their very own sea monkey.

Kneeling before him, Regin murmured, "Don't let that Fegley worm get to you." still staring ahead, the kid slowed his banging. "There's a good ... male of indeterminate species." Over her shoulder, Regin said, "We've got to come up with a name for him."

"Why don't we cal him Tiger?" Natalya suggested.

"For his footbal team? Good idea."

"Not quite." At Regin's quirked brow, Natalya admitted, "He has a trouser tiger. A waistband topper. He might have no other bodily functions, but last night when he slept, he must've been dreaming really hard about cheerleaders."

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