Home > Dreams of a Dark Warrior (Immortals After Dark #11)(3)

Dreams of a Dark Warrior (Immortals After Dark #11)(3)
Author: Kresley Cole

He returned to his pallet, and in the dark she saw his eyes closed and his lips curled, as if with anticipation.

She inwardly sighed. You will never see me grown, warlord. But from time to time, I might think of the stubborn mortal who was kind to me.

-ii-

Nine years later

"What are you doing, sister?" Lucia the Archer demanded as she barged into Regin's room.

Though Regin had hoped to slip away this night from the manor house she shared with Lucia, her sister's huntress senses were too acute.

I should probably lie. Yet out spilled the truth: "I am deciding which garments will best please a warlord."

Lucia gasped, her hands falling to the bow she always wore strapped over her body. As her fingers nervously plucked the string, she said, "You are seeking out that berserker?"

She nodded. Regin would become a full immortal soon and, as she'd finally been warned, her desires were growing overwhelming.

When she imagined fulfil ing them, only one man's face arose in her mind. Just as Aidan had predicted, she needed him now. "He's near. His army is camped within the dark woods."

Over the years, as she and Lucia had sought out other Valkyrie on this plane and others, Regin had often heard tales of her berserker. He was little closer to his gift of immortality, having spent more time searching for her than for battles to win. And already he had forty winters.

He was said to be changed-his beastlike nature even more dominant. He was quick to conflict, letting his berserkrage free at the earliest provocation.

And yet she couldn't stop thinking of him.

"Now, shall I wear the nigh-transparent skirt"-Regin tapped her chin-"or the trews that encase me like a second skin?"

Lucia sputtered.

"Yes, well said, Lucia. Males do ogle me more when I wear the trews." She pulled them on over her generous backside-with effort-then lay on the bed to tie the tight laces. Next she donned a sleeveless leather vest with a plunging neckline. Though it covered her br**sts, the vest bared her midriff.

Lucia had begun to pace. "We've talked of this."

"You talked of this," Regin said as she braided her hair into a dozen haphazard plaits around her face. The rest she left flowing. "I averred nothing."

Lucia wanted her to join the Skathians-the celibate archeress order she herself had entered-but Regin was too curious about coupling, too eager to discover what the warlord's secretive smile that night had promised.

Yet that wasn't the only reason she would seek him out. Though he'd been so stubborn and arrogant, he'd also laughed with her and enjoyed her humor. Over these years, men had gazed at her with lust, reverence, and even, on occasion, respect-but Aidan had looked at her as no man had since.

With appreciation. He'd appreciated her exactly as she was.

"To seek him out is madness, Regin. He believes that he alone will possess you. Like some ... some thing, some object. He will never let you go!"

"Then he will not have me to begin with. We will make a bargain for three months, or for nothing." She would explore her attraction to him, slake these drives, and loosen the hold he had over her.

Regin dug into her copious chest of jewels-containing no glittering stones, of course. She decided on adornments of polished gold. Males grew fascinated with how she made it glow. She donned serpentine bands of it around her upper arms and a circlet crown with strands to dip over her forehead.

"If you must do this, choose another male, any but a berserker! They're animals, and I do not use that word lightly," Lucia said, her eyes still haunted by her own encounter with a male nine years ago.

The man she'd thought she loved had been a monster in disguise, one who'd turned on her, harming her in unspeakable ways.

Regin had been right to worry-and to leave Aidan behind. If I'd been but a single day later ...

"I cannot choose another male. Else break an oath." It seemed her brash words from all those years ago had come back to haunt her. "I vowed to Aidan that I would be as faithful to him as he was to me.

Lucia, rumors hold that he's forsaken all others. If 'tis true ..."

Yet this only alarmed Lucia. "An insatiable beast lurks within him, one that wants only to rut and conquer and possess. I hope to the gods, for your sake, he's not tried to leash it for nearly a decade."

"I am going to him," Regin said simply as she turned toward the stairs. Her mind was made up. She wasn't one to debate things with herself. She rarely pondered, never mul ed. She acted.

Lucia sighed, fol owing her down to the front entrance. "Then for once, be circumspect." At the door, she handed Regin her hooded cloak. "Survey the situation before you stride into his army's camp as if you own it. Promise me."

"Very well." Regin shrugged into the cloak, then stepped outside, glancing at the darkening sky. A spring storm neared. "Wish me luck," she said cheerily, leaving Lucia to pluck her bowstring with disapproval.

Regin set off across the countryside, hurrying through melting ice fields into the forest. She was so eager that she easily outpaced the oncoming storm.

As she neared Aidan's encampment, she heard women's voices among the men's. Camp wenches, as usual. What bawdy scenes would she come across this time?

Perhaps Aidan had a bedmate this very night.

The thought made her claws straighten with aggression. He vowed to me. Yet though she would feel betrayed, her desires were growing so intense that she might just toss the woman away and take her place.

Nay. If he'd broken his oath, she would not gift him with her innocence.

I have to know. ... At the edge of a central clearing, she leapt into a tree, adjusting her cloak to keep her glow concealed. Around a great fire sat berserkers of every stripe, all with women or jugs of mead or both clasped in their meaty fists.

Except for one.

Aidan.

He sat off to one side on a long bench, his blond head in his hands. He looked to be squeezing his temples.

Brandr, that cur, sat beside him with a wench in his lap and one hand up her skirt, fondling her backside. With his other hand, he clapped Aidan on the shoulder. "There will be other leads, friend."

"I felt so certain." He raised his head, revealing a miserable expression. "Last night, I dreamed I'd found her."

Regin stifled a gasp at his appearance. Aidan's striking face was weary, his mien defeated. Yet underneath the signs of the ongoing years, he was still the most beautiful male she'd ever seen.

Brandr handed him a jug. "Here. Drink this."

Aidan pushed it away. "I need a clear head. We ride north tomorrow."

"Forget for one night," Brandr said with an exaggerated slap of the whore's bottom.

Aidan scowled at that, then all around at the men groping and the women writhing. He took the jug, turned it up. When he'd emptied it, he swiped his tunic sleeve over his mouth. "Gods, what was that? It burns my throat."

"That was the choice spirits! Now fol ow them with a choice woman."

Nay, do not!

"For once, Aidan."

For once? He truly had kept his vow?

When Aidan cast him another scowl, Brandr sighed. He lifted the woman to her feet, tell ing her, "Go pleasure others for this hour. I'll find you for the next."

Once the two men were alone, Brandr said, "This cannot go on, Aidan. I am your friend, and I cannot see you like this any longer."

"What would you have me do?"

"Return to being the leader you used to be. For all the gods' sakes, Aidan, I am closer to ohal a than you are, and you've half a dozen years of age on me. Forget this obsession. You think of nothing but her."

"And can you blame me? Imagine the woman she would be." He gazed up at the cloudy sky as if picturing her at that moment, and Regin's heart clenched again. Then Aidan faced Brandr. "Nay, do not imagine her."

Brandr exhaled. "There are women aplenty in this camp. Women who burn to bed you. Surely you can replace her."

"The idea is laughable. As well you know."

"I'd take a warm woman in my hands over a cold Valkyrie in my mind."

I am not cold!

"By the way," Brandr added, "that was enough drink to put down a horse. You'll be on your face soon.

Mayhap You'll actual y sleep a night through."

With a snarl, Aidan shot to his feet, then lurched toward a nearby tent.

"Go to your lonely bed, old man!" Brandr cal ed.

Brandr and I are going to cross swords one day, Regin decided. Then she leapt from one limb to another, settling in a tree outside Aidan's tent. From there, she could spy the dimly lit interior through the outer flap.

Inside, he angrily ripped off his tunic, displaying broad shoulders and a brawny back that tapered down to narrow hips. As he moved, his muscles flexed beneath smooth tanned skin.

Magnificent male. She hissed out a shaky breath at the sight.

He kicked a shield on the ground, then knocked a tankard from a table. He was like the approaching storm, his ire building as he began to smash his belongings-weapons clanging, wood splintering.

Regin tilted her head in wonder, frowning at the mortal's rampage.

When the storm gave up its first bolt above, he froze. She thought she heard him mutter, "Lightning.

Lightning?" Out of the tent he staggered, clearly the worse for the liquor, and headed away from the camp.

Regin dropped down and silently fol owed as he made his way out of the forest into a nearby field. He stopped before an ancient rune stone-an upright slab of rock more than ten feet tal , carved with glyphs.

They were numerous in these Northlands, each created to be a direct path to Woden's ear.

He faced the stone. "You give me lightning this eve?" With every word, his voice grew louder, until he was shouting: "To remind me of what I have lost?" He launched his mighty fist against the rock.

Regin's jaw dropped at the blasphemy.

Aidan punched it again, bloodying his hand. "To remind me of what I cannot find?"

With his every word, she felt his pain. It washed over her like a flood, temporarily numbing her desires.

She'd never known hurt like this-a torment not of the body but of the mind.

Of the heart?

She'd never known he would come to this.

As if pulled to him by an invisible force, she eased closer. When he drew back his bloodied fist again, she stayed his arm with a touch.

He went still , but his whole body seemed to be thrumming. Regin's was as well ; her own lightning lit the sky from her turbulent emotions.

Slowly, he turned to her. With a shaking hand, he reached for her cloak. She didn't think he even realized he spoke aloud: "Be her, be her, gods, let it be her. "

He unfastened the garment, let it drop to her feet, then sucked in a breath at her uncovered face. His bloodshot eyes now glowed gray as they flickered over her features. Brows drawn together as if he were pained, he held up a lock of her hair, threading his fingers through it. "So fair."

A light rain began to fal , misting their skin, but he seemed not to notice as his gaze dipped to her body.

Rocking on his feet, he rasped, "Gods, angel. I dreamed of you like this. Every night." Then he frowned, muttering to himself, "Stil in reverie. That was the choicest spirits."

"'Tis no dream, warlord-"

One strapping arm shot out to circle her shoulders; the other was a band around her arms and torso, dragging her against him. She felt him groan from deep in his chest as their bodies met.

The closest she'd ever been to a man.

"You've returned to me. No longer must I worry for you, out in the world alone," he said, his voice breaking lower with emotion. "You were just a little girl. Without my protection." He nuzzled her hair, inhaling with another groan. "But you're a woman now." His erection pressed against her belly as he growled, "My woman."

The bare skin of his chest was smooth against her cheek and felt so hot in the rain. His scent surrounded her, enticing her as much as his muscles rippling all around her. When he rubbed his chin over the sensitive tip of her pointed ear, her claws curled, readying to sink into his body and pul him ever closer.

Yet then he drew his head back, suspicion in his expression. "Have you lain with another?"

She frowned, genuinely curious when she asked, "Would you not want me if I had?"

A muscle ticked in his jaw. He ignored her question. "Has there been another, Valkyrie?" His wild eyes were seething gray. "Tel me! The beast in me stirs. It can't share its mate. I can't share my mate."

Regin swal owed at the intensity of his gaze. He would never give her up, would never accept the mere months she'd intended to give him. "Th-this was a mistake."

"There has been." He threw back his head and roared like an animal in pain, crushing her against him with one arm as he pounded his fist into the wet stone over and over. "You were meant for me, meant only for me!"

"Aidan, wait," she cried, grappling to free herself, but he'd pinned her arms to her sides. "Listen to me!"

He didn't. "I was true to you, Valkyrie!" The rune stone began to crack under his assault. "I will slaughter any who've touched you. ..."

Seeing no other recourse, she sank her fangs into one of the thick muscles of his chest.

He seemed not to feel it. She bit harder until she'd drawn blood.

Final y he slowed. "You're biting me?" he slurred.

With a rol of her eyes, she released him.

"If you mean to pain me, you will have to do better than that. I've had nine years of perfect misery."

"I had to do something to make you listen. Aidan, I've never been touched. Not that it should matter- since you are certainly no innocent."

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