Home > Dreams of a Dark Warrior (Immortals After Dark #11)(5)

Dreams of a Dark Warrior (Immortals After Dark #11)(5)
Author: Kresley Cole

And gods, he looked it.

"Woden should be honored to have me as a son."

"Aidan!"

"Wil he deny me when I win a thousand battles bearing his mark?" He pounded his tattooed chest. "I wil win the entire world in his name if I have to!"

The power of this warlord's body. The strength of his will . The might of his sword ...

He was so confident that even she began to believe it. If they were together, why couldn't they do any-thing?

He rejoined her, covering her once more. "And you will wait for me. I do not ask this of you. I demand it." His lips descended on hers, his rough kiss brooking no refusal.

As she arched up to him, she knew she would wait forever. Something about this male had always drawn her, captivated her. She couldn't explain it, but she was through fighting it. Love or not-this was her man and always would be. ...

More hours of blissful coupling fol owed, more unimaginable pleasure.

And afterward, as she began drifting to sleep with their bodies still joined, he cradled her face with his cal used palms, brushing kisses over her forehead, her cheeks. "I promise you eternity, Reginleit. And

each day I will love you more than the one before-"

Suddenly pain stabbed in her torso like fire. "Aidan!" A blade had sunk into her? How? In a panic, she pushed up against him. Blood poured as she disentangled them.

"Reginleit?" he bit out in confusion. A sword tip jutted from his chest.

"Aidan!" she shrieked. "Ah, gods, no!"

A vampire loomed behind him; the assassin had traced into their home and stabbed Aidan from behind.

The vampire wrenched the sword free, raising it to finish Regin as well. "For the lives you took yesterday, berserker! For your wars ... now you and your woman die!" He swung; Aidan shielded her with his body, taking the blow across his back.

Just as the vampire readied to strike once more, Brandr burst inside, cleaving through its neck with his ax. The vampire col apsed.

Brandr cast one look at Aidan and fel to his knees. "Nay, Aidan," he rasped. "The fiend must have fol owed you back."

Stil struggling to protect her, Aidan rol ed onto his lacerated back, reaching for his sword.

Brandr hastened to hand it to him, but said, "There are no more, my friend. R-rest easy."

When Aidan turned his head to her, shock threatened to engulf her. Even as she numbly curled up beside him, in her mind she was still shrieking, still hungering to slaughter the thing that had done this.

Aidan's mighty chest labored for breath. "Brandr will earn ohal a and watch over you." He faced his friend. "Vow it."

His voice ragged, Brandr said, "I vow it."

Seeming relieved, Aidan turned back to her. "I love you, Reginleit."

She swal owed back a sob. This cannot be happening. "I-I love you, too."

"Nay. Your heart is ... still your own." He raised a bloody hand to her face, and she knew he'd lost sight in his eyes. "I but needed more time."

She seized his hand in both of hers, squeezing hard. "Then take it, warlord. Take more time-you fight for us! You heal so quickly, you can recover from this!"

But his lids slid shut, his breaths rattling. Brandr roared with grief.

"Aidan, come back to me." She wept over him, tears spil ing onto his skin. "Come back to me, come back to me!"

Just before his breaths ceased, he vowed, "Somehow, love ... I will find you."

***

And Aidan did.

Yearning for Regin endlessly, he was reborn again and again for the next thousand years, re-embodied in different guises and lives, with no memory of his past. Yet each borrowed lifetime ended more tragically than the last.

A pair of lovers-bound and cursed by fate.

Some say 'tis Woden who punishes Aidan for his hubris, dooming him to perish just when he's found Reginleit and remembers his love for her.

Some say Aidan's indomitable will proves so strong that, at times, he can escape the Reaper's gaol; but no man can elude that dark scythe forever.

Others say that the Valkyrie's kiss was so sweet that it enchanted the mortal, who finds her through eternity by following a mad longing within his heart.

Whatever may be the case, to this day, Reginleit awaits.

To this day, Aidan returns. ...

"Check yourself before you wreck yourself?"

If I hear that one more *$#&%@! time...

-Regin the Radiant, Valkyrie,

prankster, modern-day swordswoman

The only good immortal is a dead immortal.

-Declan Chase, magister of the Order

Chapter ONE

Outside of New Orleans

Present day

Declan Chase eased his Humvee down a winding bayou drive leading to Val Hal , the estate where a notorious coven of Valkyrie lived.

My target will be within.

Regin the Radiant.

Though his head was splitting from lack of sleep and his usual tension plagued him, he felt a measure of excitement about his mission. Ever since he'd received her dossier two weeks ago, Declan had been impatient to seize this female.

Perhaps because no other magister had ever captured a Valkyrie?

Yet he reminded himself that tonight's target would be merely another capture, yet another prisoner he delivered to the Order-the mortal army to which he'd pledged his life.

When he spied lightning in the distance, he pulled off into the thick brush, deep enough to conceal his truck. After turning off the ignition, he readied for the night with a swift efficiency born of years of combat.

He strapped his sword to his side, then checked the pistols in his dual holster and the extra cartridges in his dark flak jacket. More cartridges fil ed the pockets of his camo pants. He was well aware that a gun couldn't kil an immortal, but an armor-piercing round between the eyes at close range could bring one to the ground.

He opened a briefcase fil ed with sensitive electronics, retrieving a minuscule GPS beacon/listening device. After careful y stowing the bug in another pocket, he tested his radio earpiece.

Despite the lateness of the hour, the bayou heat was intense, assailing the truck's cab. With the jacket, his customary gloves and high-necked shirt, he began to sweat. Drops of perspiration trickled down his chest, over the countless scars covering his torso.

His never-ending reminders of a time spent in hell. ...

Tamping down those memories, he focused on the mission. Tonight's was one of only two remaining.

Then he could return to his island, to his sanctum. To my medicine ...

With that thought in mind, he stepped out into the humid air, then began jogging along the dirt driveway.

Under a canopy of oaks, he ran through muddy ruts until he reached the estate's opened entranceway: a pair of battered stone columns, each with a rusted gate clinging by a hinge.

He turned a corner and slowed, taken aback by the sight before him.

The Valkyrie's antebel um mansion was draped in a dense fog that didn't stir, not even with the breeze.

Lightning struck all around the building; the grounds bristled with metal lightning rods. Spectral wraiths flew around the manor, defend-ing it against intruders.

An incongruous row of luxury cars lined the drive. Inside, loud music boomed and raucous women's laughter sounded. Intermittent Valkyrie shrieks pierced the night.

So this was where Regin the Radiant lived.

Though the Order possessed much information about other species of immortals-such as the vampires and demons-they had acquired only basic facts about her kind.

Valkyrie had little need for sleep and didn't eat or drink, instead taking nourishment from some unknown mystical source. Though they varied in looks and abilities, they all possessed superhuman strength, speed, and regenerative powers.

Declan knew of only one way to destroy her kind: beheading.

The Order had garnered a few specific details about Regin. History: Thought to be over one millennium in age. Description: Five foot three, slight build with smallclaws and fangs. Pointed ears.

Waist-length blond hair and amber eyes.

But her most notable feature was her skin. She'd been named the Radiant One because she purportedly had skin that glowed.

The file had contained no clear photos of her. The exposure would show only a bright light where she was supposed to be.

Glowing skin. Another freak of nature. Yet she went out freely among civilians.

She customarily wore two short swords crisscrossed over her back-even in public-and was rumored to be an exceptional swordswoman.

That skil wouldn't save her tonight.

If Declan had been put in charge of this immortal's capture, then she was a priority to the Order. He'd never failed to bring in a target. He had backup troops awaiting in the city, ready to mobilize in an instant.

Initial y, he'd considered storming this place, inflicting as much damage and destruction as possible.

But there were other Valkyrie inside, and though their species was uniformly female, they were among the strongest and most vicious in the Lore.

Regin might be slight, but she could likely lift a car by herself.

To bring in a team would risk his soldiers' lives unnecessarily, and he'd already lost men at a recent capture. A powerful, older vampire had put up a fight as few others ever had.

Plus, Declan had no idea how to battle those wraiths guarding the house. No, he'd wait until Regin the Radiant was separated from her kindred. Then he'd strike.

He approached the row of cars, pul ing the bug from his jacket. Determining which one was hers proved simple enough. The RegRad license plate on a red Aston Martin was a dead giveaway.

The field notes in his dossier had described her as ostentatious, prone to flaunting her uniqueness in public. No wonder she'd been targeted. One of the Order's objectives was to prevent civilians from ever discovering the deathless beings living in their midst.

He eased open the door and affixed the bug under the driver's side headrest. After testing the sound with his earpiece, he gingerly shut the door and turned to leave-

Out of the corner of his eye, he spied a light, turned to it.

Through one of the mansion's front windows, he spotted her, or at least the radiance she emanated.

She does truly glow. ...

He silently moved in, camouflaged behind a tree about two hundred feet from the front porch. He couldn't see her face, but from the back, her figure was curvaceous. She wore a pair of indecently low-cut hip-hugger jeans and a cropped red T-shirt that revealed her midriff.

Indeed, two swords in black leather sheaths crisscrossed her back.

Her blond hair cascaded all the way to her waist, except where it was braided into haphazard plaits that jutted out all over the top and sides of her head.

Declan suspected she would be as attractive from the front; Lorean females often were. He detested all immortals but especial y the females. They used their seductive looks as a weapon, a tool to rob mortal men of their senses.

They will separate you from your purpose, lure you to your doom. How many times had his superior told him that?

A row of bushes between him and the house rustled. Another enemy lying in wait? The Valkyrie had plenty of adversaries. And they had no idea danger lurked so close-

The front doors burst open; a woman stormed outside.

Regin.

He released a sharp breath.

Those wild braids held her hair back from her face, revealing all her delicate features. Her cheekbones were high and defined, her nose pert. Blond brows drew together over her vivid amber eyes, and her full lips were parted.

She radiated a pure golden light.

A feeling of recognition swept over him. At once, the near crippling tension he'd endured for decades began to ebb. Why? How?

She wasn't the first unearthly beauty they'd tracked-the Order's island compound was fil ed with them -so he would've thought himself prepared for her comeliness. But he feared she might be the most beautiful.

At least to me.

"Make a hole, bitches!" she yel ed to the wraiths, tossing one of them ... a braid of hair? When the red- robed beings parted, she strode down the steps, her thick-heeled boots clicking.

Out on the lawn, she stopped and cocked her head, drawing those swords with a lethal grace. One of her pointed ears was visible and clearly twitching as she scanned the night. She would see Declan ...would sense him.

He was about to slip back when the bushes nearby rustled once more.

Without a second's thought she dove into them, pouncing on whatever skulked there. A moment later, a ghoul's severed head came flying out. When she bounded from the shrubs, her swords were already sheathed and twigs protruded from those haphazard braids. She reached up, felt them, then left them there with a shrug.

When a trio of other women staggered out onto the front porch, Regin held up the head and made an exaggerated curtsy. They cheered drunkenly. Witches, no doubt. They were the Valkyrie's all ies and notorious drunks.

One laughed, tripped over her own feet into a pratfal , then laughed again.

Regin turned back to face his direction. With her skin glowing brighter and her expression animated, she punted the ghoul's head like a footbal , then shaded her eyes melodramatical y. As it sailed far above him toward a nearby swamp, she cried, "It. Might. Go. all . The. ... Way!"

She cannot be one thousand years old.

The witches cheered again.

That task completed, she plucked a sat-phone from a holster on her belt. She texted something, her fingers so fast they were a blur, then strol ed over to her car and hopped inside. The engine purred when she started it. She pulled up in front of the house, honking the horn and rol ing down the windows.

"Nix!" she cal ed. "Get your ass out here!" She said something to the witches in a lower voice, and they howled with laughter. But when Regin turned from them, her easy grin faltered, her demeanor preoccupied.

Another Valkyrie sauntered from that madhouse, a black-haired one with vacant eyes, cradling what looked like a paralyzed bat in one arm like a babe.

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