Home > Dreams of a Dark Warrior (Immortals After Dark #11)(14)

Dreams of a Dark Warrior (Immortals After Dark #11)(14)
Author: Kresley Cole

"You speak my tongue?" Lothaire asked.

"Enough of it. Now, answer me!"

"Or what? What can you do to me that hasn't already been done?" With a laugh, he related, "I've been hung from a tree with the length of my intestines. I've been unmanned with a whip made of razor wire.

Natural y, that took many lashes. I've watched a Lykae lord eat my eyes after scooping them out of my skul with a rusty spoon. Of course, I could only watch the first; for the second, I listened to him chewing it wetly, until there was a pop that he seemed to particularly enjoy."

And when Dorada got hold of him? Now, that would be torturous.

"You see, that's the thing with you detrus," Chase began in a contemplative tone. "Your bodies are abominations. If I severed your arms-"

Lothaire yawned loudly.

"-you'd merely regenerate from the injury. You might experience pain, but you wouldn't suffer the horror of permanent loss, not like a human."

Lothaire grew increasingly bored by this. "When I get free, I believe I'll show you your spine. I'll hand it to you so casual y, politely even, as if expecting you to remark upon it."

Ignoring that, Chase continued, "Of course, mortals also don't suffer from ... the sun." He flipped a switch, and overhead, the lights changed.

Lothaire's skin began to burn. UV bulbs.

Chase ripped open Lothaire's shirt, exposing his chest. Though Lothaire was older and not as sensitive to the sun as other vampires, this was intense. "Chase, my master thanks you for this." With a laugh, he grated, "You prepare me ... for trials to come."

As charred flesh began to fal from his body, he writhed in agony. His hair turned to soot, the tip of his nose and the ends of his fingers disintegrating.

And he couldn't stop laughing.

"You're glowing," the kid told Regin. He stood to his ful towering height and pointed at Natalya. "And your lips are black." He gave a strained chuckle, looking like he was about to start banging his head again. "Snakes have arms and can talk, and men have horns, and-"

"Take a deep breath, my poor lad," Natalya said. "Here, have a seat next to me." She guided him over to one of the bunks and sat close beside him.

"You both have pointed ears."

"I'm a dark fey cal ed Natalya. That's Regin. She's a Valkyrie."

Regin said, "So, you got a name?"

He absently replied, "Thaddeus Brayden, ma'am. Everybody cal s me Thad."

Ma'am? "How did you get here? What do you remember?"

"I, uh, I drove to my date's house to pick her up," he said warily.

"Go on." Natalya patted his knee.

"While I was waiting, her dad kept looking at me funny, questioning me about stuff. But then he seemed to calm down, even gave me a shot of whiskey. When I woke up, I was here, seeing things. Things that can't be right."

Regin asked, "What are you?"

"A senior, ma'am."

Natalya murmured, "I could just eat-him- up." She scooted closer to him until their thighs touched.

Regin glared at her, then asked, "I meant, are you human?"

"Of course, I'm human! Wh-why ask me something like that?"

"Because you're in a Lore supermax," Natalya said. "A prison for immortal creatures."

"I don't understand."

After Natalya relayed the basics about the Order and the Lore, he said, "These people made a mistake. I play bal , go to church on Sunday. I'm an Eagle Scout! I never heard of any of this stuff." He raked his fingers through his tousled hair. "I just want to go home."

Regin snorted. "Don't we all ?" Actual y, she only wanted to get to Lucia. Would her sister still be in South America?

Natalya patted his knee again. "What'd the dad say before he micked you?"

"That I play bal better than anyone he's ever seen. But I get that all the time, you know," he said without conceit. "I've set all these records and everything. So I thought he was going to accuse me of juicing, but I don't touch that stuff."

"Records, huh?" Regin said. "Sounds like super-human strength and speed to me."

He exhaled. "I guess. But if I'm not human, then what am I?"

"We don't know," Regin admitted. "You don't have horns or pointed ears, no glyphs or scales."

Natalya added, "I thought you might be a vampire, but you have a tan line."

In a measured tone, he asked, "How do you know that I have a tan line?"

"I checked to make sure you weren't a vampire," Natalya said. "You see, we're enemies with the vampire Horde."

Regin narrowed her eyes at the kid. "Hey, you didn't use tan in a can, did you?"

"Of course not. I was out in the sun over the weekend, playing touch footbal . I was on the skins team."

Natalya was all but purring. "Did you hear that, Regin? The lads played touch footbal . And Thad was shirtless. "

Regin rol ed her eyes. Luckily, Thad was too preoccupied to notice the cougar going into heat right beside him.

"So does this mean I'm like invincible to bul ets or something?"

"No, you're still total y vincible," Regin said. "At least until you stop growing and reach your full immortality."

Menacing growls sounded down the corridor as another fight broke out. Thad's eyes started to go buggy again, so Regin snapped her fingers. "Hey, Thad! Stay with us, kid. tell us about yourself. What are your parents like?" Really strong? Probably don't look much older than you do? "Anything unusual?"

"My mom's a widow. My dad died on the work site when I was four. They'd adopted me not long before that."

An orphan. No wonder Thad had no idea what he was.

"I live with Mom and my grandmother now. Nothing unusual. Mom likes to cook. Gram sews."

"So you eat your mom's cooking?"

He glowered. "She's a great cook."

Talk about ruffled feathers. "I meant, do you eat?" Clearly, nobody better talk bad about Thaddeus Brayden's mama.

"Of course I eat."

"When was the last time?" Regin said.

"I had a burger yesterday."

Natalya said, "Not quite so, my boy. You've been here for over a week."

"A week!" He shot to his feet, towering over them. "I'm not even hungry. How's that possible?"

"Some species don't have to eat a lot. Regin's doesn't have to eat at all . There are phantoms, ghosts, succubae, incubi. Maybe half a dozen more." To Regin, she muttered, "My money-and my hopes-are on incubus."

"I can't believe I've been here that long! Oh, man, I missed a game Friday. Coach is gonna kil me."

If the mortals don't kill you first. ...

"Mom and Gram are gonna be worried sick. I've never even broken curfew." Then his voice went low.

"Is my family gonna be safe?"

"We don't know," Regin said. "But since you were adopted, they're probably mortal, which means they'll likely be left alone."

"If anybody touches them ..." His eyes flickered. Black.

She and Natalya shared a look. Black indicated vampire, or possibly demon.

Then Natalya's gaze flittered toward the corridor. "Ah, gods, Valkyrie. Look."

Guards were dragging by Uil eam MacRieve. The werewolf's blue eyes were glazed, his body shuddering, his skin bloodless. Dixon had vivisected him, leaving a line of staples down his broad chest.

His ears were bleeding.

"Wh-who is he?" Thad croaked.

"One of my all ies," Regin said. The Lykae were now united with the Valkyrie, part of the Vertas army. In fact, Regin was distantly related to Uil eam by marriage. Her halfling niece Emma had wed his cousin, the werewolf king-a king who gazed at Emma with utter adoration and wolven protectiveness.

And the Lykae's prince? He was the werewolf in love with Lucia. The one who had better be protecting Luce since Regin couldn't.

Before all this had happened, Regin had briefly wondered if maybe she oughtn't cal them dogs or crack Cesar Mil an jokes in front of them. Then she'd shrugged and said, "Neh."

At present, she felt fiercely loyal to Uil eam. She leapt to the glass. "We're going to get out of here soon. MacRieve, just hang tough!" She watched until he disappeared from view.

"Al ies? We need all ies?" Thad's gaze darted to the wal , as if he yearned to start banging his head again. "Have they done that to you? Are th-they going to do that to me?"

Regin looked at Natalya. "Not if I can help it."

I couldn't break the vampire.

As Declan stormed down the winding corridor, guards gave him a wide berth and researchers skittered out of his way. He heard their whispers. ...

"It was grisly, even by the Blademan's standards."

"I almost felt sorry for a leech."

By the time Declan left him, Lothaire's skin had been seared away to the bone, his body more ash than flesh. Those UV lights burned vampires the way frostbite attacked a mortal-first the extremities, then spreading up the limbs like gangrene.

Declan had been merciless.

Yet nothing he'd done could make Lothaire talk. Toward the end, all the creature would say was, "She comes, she comes. She's going to want it back. ..."

Was the "she" even real, or a hal ucination?

More soldiers cleared a path, their expressions wary. Declan knew they feared him, often overheard them talking about him. Recently, he'd heard a new recruit mutter, "Chase gives me the ever-living creeps. Like he'd slit your throat just for shits and giggles."

But Declan didn't give a damn how they felt as long as they fol owed his orders.

As he strode down the ward, he stared down any prisoners who didn't avert their eyes. Did they sense something about him, as the vampire had? "You're no normal mortal," Lothaire had told him.

Paranoia had Declan running a gloved hand over the back of his neck.

His shite day only continued to worsen. He'd been off his game with Lothaire because of his encounter with the Valkyrie. And MacRieve's escape attempt just highlighted the security risks inherent in overcrowding.

Yet Webb continued to accept prisoners, disregarding Declan's repeated recommendations for culling. The two would discuss this soon. Either I run this place my way, or Webb should come take over.

Then Declan had a flash thought. What if Webb agreed with him-and wanted to terminate the Valkyrie?

So be it, he assured himself. Yet the idea sent a chil through him. And he didn't know why! His job, his purpose on this earth, was to destroy her kind, one at a time.

If he couldn't do it, then why was he here? Damn her, what hold did she have over him?

Tomorrow I plan to torture her. Yet I'm drawn to her, attracted to her as I've never been to another.

And he hated her for it.

Chapter THIRTEEN

"Hey, fresh meat!" a Ferine demon cal ed from his cel as a burly guard led Regin down the ward. "Not so high and mighty when you can't get to us, huh?"

Regin was cuffed, shaking off the effects of poisonous gas, and on her way to be either interrogated or vivisected.

Now demons were going to taunt her? She half-lunged, half-stumbled toward the cell.

"Easy, Valkyrie," the guard said, drawing her back in line. She believed some inmates had called him Vincente.

The demons shrank back from the glass. As she passed, she heard one say, "That Valkyrie made me eat a crab trap last summer."

Regin smirked. She'd thought she recognized him. Her smirk faded when she spied the occupant of the next cel over.

Carrow the Incarcerated, one of Regin's good friends and a party-hearty pal. The black-haired witch stood at the glass, forcing a smile. "It's like a bad hangover that won't stop, huh?"

Behind her was a sorceress Regin recognized, the Queen of Persuasion. Sorceri were tricksy, some good, some evil. "You all right in there?" Regin asked, as if she were still a badass Valkyrie bosswoman who'd fix the sitch otherwise.

Carrow nodded. "The sorceress is cool. So, you heading for an interrogation? Or an ... exam?"

Regin made with the stiff upper lip when she casual y said, "Dunno. Chase or Dixon. One of them will have my foot up their ass directly." She shrugged. "Catch you on the flip side, witch."

About ten cel s down from Carrow was Brandr- Aidan's kinsman. Who'd taken his vow to his leader and friend very seriously.

"Regin!" He leapt up from a bunk.

"Wel , well , the gang's all here." Nix must've given him Regin's whereabouts. Again.

"I'm going to get you out of here," he said, his green eyes aglow.

She snorted. "Let me know how that works out for you, Job MacBangup." Seeing Brandr here just brought her situation into stark relief. "It's curious though-you don't usual y show until it's time to bury him."

Brandr flinched, and immediately Regin felt guilty. Both of them had a role to play in this curse. Regin forever triggered Aidan's death. Brandr was forever too late to save him. No matter how hard that man tried.

Many in the Lore had begun to cal him Brandr the True.

In a milder tone, she said, "You know who brought me here?"

"Yes, it's him, though I barely believe it. Regin, just hold on. I'll figure something out ..."

Vincente forced her along the corridor.

When they passed the centaur king's cel , Volos pointed at Regin and slid his forefinger across his throat.

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