Home > Seduce the Darkness (Alien Huntress #4)

Seduce the Darkness (Alien Huntress #4)
Author: Gena Showalter

PROLOGUE

Devyn de bon ci Laci, prince of the Targonia Royal House, drew his knees to his bare, dirty chest for warmth. Though he told himself over and over to stop, his shivering didn't cease. He was fifteen summers, yet every time he was shoved into this cell, he felt like a child again. Lost, forgotten.

You are a prince, and have been promised to Princess Mika since birth. You disgrace our family every time you even glance at another female. His father's voice filled his head, the disappointment and disdain as fresh as before, and still enough to destroy him.

He'd learned at a very young age to lower his gaze when anything female stepped into a room he occupied. He'd learned to hold his breath so that he wouldn't smell their sweet scents, learned to inch away from them so that they could not even brush his shoulder with their delicious warmth.

But sometimes, he was ashamed to admit, even the thought of those things brought the traitor between his legs to attention, aching, filling, silently begging for contact. Any contact. Even the rasp of clothing would make him moan, desperate.

"Shameful," he muttered, echoing the reproach he'd heard too many times to count. A reproach that always preceded being sent here to "consider the depth of his betrayal."

For this newest indiscretion, he'd been as careful as always. He'd been reading in the library—a text of newly discovered worlds—wishing he were far, far away. Wishing he were anyone other than who he was, when a servant his age, but very female, had entered.

Servants were not supposed to talk to him, weren't even supposed to look at him, but she'd noticed him and had gasped in surprise. He'd glanced up. Rather than race from the room as was the custom, she'd stayed. Rather than pretend he hadn't spotted her, he'd stared, breath trapped in his lungs, skin hot and tight, mouth watering. His pants, already too tight, had strained against his growing manhood.

How pretty she'd been, her skin suns-kissed, her dark eyes heavily lashed, her br**sts straining against her robe. When her lush, pink lips had curled in greeting, his heart had nearly beaten its way from his chest. He'd wanted to rush to her, put his hands all over her body, lick her and kiss her and thrust into her the way a prince was only supposed to thrust into his wife. But she wasn't his wife, would never be his wife, so his guard, never far from his side, had pushed her from the room and called for his father.

How long ago had that been? How long had he been here, trapped in this cell? He'd lost track of the days. All he knew was that he was cold, enveloped by a sphere of thick darkness, denied any sound but the ring in his ears, and alone, forbidden to know the touch of another. In the last, he was greatly familiar. But to lose his other senses, as well ... it was a torment beyond comprehension and one he'd sworn never to endure again. No matter what he had to do to avoid it.

Devyn laughed bitterly I am a failure, even in that.

Hinges creaked, the first noise to greet his ears in so long he nearly moaned in pleasure. But to moan would have invited more punishment, so he pressed his lips together. A second later, a small beam of light shoved its way inside his cell.

Devyn blinked against it, his eyes tearing in pain yet also rejoicing. Finally!

"What do you have to say for yourself?" his father asked, devoid of emotion. Always devoid. Still the sound was welcome, quieting that frantic ring.

"I'm sorry. So sorry." He strove for a calm tone, as unfeeling as he was supposed to be. "I should not have looked at her. I knew better, and I know I'm dishonorable for the way my body reacted. I tell you now, it will never happen again. I swear it."

"That's what you said last time."

"I didn't feel this... shame before." A lie. The shame never left him.

That earned him a nod of approval. His first. It warmed him. "The little whore was tossed into the streets where she belongs," his father said harshly. "She's lucky I didn't kill her."

"Yes, Father." He knew better than to say anything else as he drew his knees tighter against his chest. His na**dness would offend, earning him another punishment, even though his clothes had been ripped from him before he'd been forced in here.

"Do you wish to be a good king? A good husband our people can respect and admire?"

"Yes, Father." Another lie. He did not want to be king. He did not want to be prince. He wanted to be free. The desire was an ache inside him. An ache he'd learned to ignore.

"Then you, more than any other, must control your baser urges, Devyn. Otherwise you are no better than an animal." There was a pause, a hardening of his father's stance. "Otherwise, you are no better than your mother."

His mother, another female he wasn't allowed to see or touch. But sometimes he heard her, laughing gaily in another room, feet shuffling as though she were dancing. Always he shouted for her in his mind, but she never heard him, never called for him, never tried to sneak a hug. "Yes, Father."

A sigh crackled between them, and then a bundle of clothing was flying through the air. Each piece slapped against his face, tickling his faithless skin, his arms too weak to lift to catch them.

"When I discovered how you had thrown yourself at that servant"—his father's tone was sneering —"I summoned the princess. Finally she has arrived. You will be wed today. And so help me, if you ever look at another female, if that beast between your legs ever shows itself in public again, I will kill you myself. I'd rather you were dead than a disgrace."

CHAPTER 1

Bride McKells meandered along the crowded street in the pulsing heart of New Chicago, moonlight and multihued shop lights blending together to create a sparkling canvas of dream and shadow. Chaos and calm. Red brick buildings stretched at her sides, each fairly new, no clear, breakable glass or blink-and-it's-in-flames wood in sight. A shame. She loved peeking into shops and imagining owning whatever was being sold just as much as she loved the smell of pine.

Neither of which she would be enjoying anytime soon. Windows were now made of dark "shield armor," and wood was scarce.

After the human-alien war, everything had had to be rebuilt for strength and durability, even while resources had been limited, the world a shell of its former self. Good-bye extraneous use of pretty glass and sweetly fragranced timber. Now, almost eighty years later—eighty years in which Bride had barely aged—everything was comprised of unattractive, dirt-scented stone.

Not a bad smell, but when paired with the reeking public ... Ugh. Every day it worsened. Perfumes and body odor, flowery laundry soaps and car exhaust. And food. Oh, God, the food, the spices. Her too-sensitive nose wrinkled in distaste. McBean burgers, fried chicken, and the ever-popular synmilk... the list could go on and on. Mind on the task at hand, or you'll puke. Already bile rose in her throat, burning.

Deep breath in, hold ... hold ... deep breath out. Men and women, both human and nonhuman, bustled in every direction, some in a mad rush to reach their destination, some as unhurried as her. Only difference was, they were shopping for clothes and shoes. Bride was looking for her next meal: warm blood from a live, jugular tap.

Unfortunately, tonight's buffet was lacking. As usual. All those smells ... Back to that already, are we? The bile threatened to spill over.

She supposed, to a human, finding a tasty meal among this stretch would be the equivalent of picking between over salted pasta, the charred nibblets left in the bottom of an oven, or stale toast seasoned with week-old mayonnaise. Again, ugh. But hungry as she was, weak as she was becoming, she needed to feed. Soon. No matter how crappy the buffet.

Lately, though, she couldn't eat indiscriminately without severe consequences. Most blood—human or otherworlder, it didn't matter—now left her writhing in a dirty alley, vomiting and moaning in pain for hours. Why, she didn't know. She only knew it had started about a month ago and had yet to abate.

If she'd known another vampire, she would've asked what was going on. But did she know another vampire? Nooo. Except for movies and books, she'd never even seen another of her kind.

She hated—hated!—not understanding her own body.

Just one bloodsucker. That's all I need. Were they dead? Was she the last? Her earliest memories were of herself, alone, always alone, walking the streets of New Chicago, just like she was doing now, the words "Bride McKells" tattooed on the inside of her wrist, lost, hungry, starving actually, stumbling and finally falling against the pavement.

A human male had scooped her up without a word— intentions unknown, even now—and Bride's gaze had locked on the vein fluttering along the column of his neck. Her mouth had watered, her

teeth had sharpened, and the next thing she'd known, she'd bitten him, gulping back every drop of crimson nectar she could. He had collapsed, but she hadn't released her hold on him. He had spasmed and gasped and fought, but still she'd maintained her grip. Only when he had stilled, his vein as dry as an empty cup, had she moved away.

Her strength—instantly restored. Her eyesight—unbelievably perfect. Her hearing—exponentially better. Her sense of smell—too strong, sickening, but filterable. Her touch—ultra sensitive.

Her guilt—raging.

She'd been a child in mind and body, perhaps no more than eight human years, starving, tired, desperate, and feeling utterly abandoned. Yet even with her limited understanding she'd known, beyond any doubt, that she'd just wrongly killed a man. And sadly, he hadn't been the last. Several years had passed before she'd learned to control her urges, to disengage before swallowing that final, life-taking gulp.

Now, nearly a century later, she should have been a wrinkled hag, doddering and senile, but she looked twenty-one and was stronger than ever. The people around her had aged, of course; most had even died. A few years ago, she'd had to fake her own death and come back as someone else. She could have traveled somewhere else, but hadn't. The only person she'd ever loved was here, somewhere. So here Bride would stay.

"Hey," a male suddenly said, keeping pace beside her.

Startled, she flicked him a glance and sized him up in less than a second. Sandy-colored hair, brown eyes. Young, probably early twenties. Several inches taller than her. Clean shaven. Looked about as dangerous as a stuffed animal. But if he was anything like her, he sewed razors into his shirtsleeves and pant pockets, proving just how deceiving looks could be.

"Sorry to rush at you like that. 'Cause I know it's uncool to approach a woman who's alone at night, but I'm not creepy or anything," he added, palms raised as if that proved his innocence. "I swear."

She quickened her steps, preferring a murderer to the sales pitch she suspected was coming. "Sorry, I'm broke." And sadly, that was the truth.

"I'm not selling anything," he said. "Swear to God!"

"All salesman say that—right before they reveal an item I just can't live without." That never changed, no matter the era or season.

"Okay, maybe I am trying to sell you something, but it's not what you think. Honest."

It never was. She sucked in a breath, preparing to use her voice voodoo and compel him to leave, when she caught the vaguest hint of grilled chicken, cloned of course, and white rice. Nothing else. No spices. No other scents to clutter up her nose and burn her belly.

Bride cast him another quick but assessing glance. Clearly, he was fresh from an enzyme shower, not a speck of dirt on him. His heartbeat was strong, his energy levels high. The moisture in her mouth increased.

Maybe she'd be able to keep him down.

The thought was heady. Appearances are deceptive, remember? Maybe he'd make her sicker than ever. Only one way to find out. She softened her expression. "So what are you trying to sell me, hmm?"

"Well... me. Only, I'm available free of charge." Twin pink circles painted his cheeks, and his pulse kicked up another notch. Desire wafted from him, barely discernible, but there all the same. "I, uh, noticed you back at Sid's and thought I'd introduce myself."

"I wasn't at Sid's tonight." Last night, sure. It was her favorite hangout, a local bar that catered to sensitives— otherworlders who were as overwhelmed by smells as she was. No perfumes were allowed. No illegal cigarette smoke.

She was a regular, and the otherworldly patrons assumed she was a human with a fetish. Yeah, that made them leery of her, but she let them assume it. While humans and aliens might cohabitate, that didn't mean they were comfortable with each other yet. But better to be feared than hunted. If nothing else, old vampire movies had taught her that.

"I know you weren't there tonight, but I saw you yesterday and then again as I was walking out tonight and you were, uh, passing by. So I ran after you," he admitted with a self-deprecating grin. "Impulse. Gets me every time. I'm Tom, by the way."

Points to Tom for being brave enough to approach her. She hadn't been asked on a date in months and had begun to think something was wrong with her. But... wait. She hadn't noticed him last night and wondered why he hadn't approached her then, if he'd been interested in her. Why now? Because she was on her own, seemingly helpless?

So suspicious! "What are you doing hanging out at Sid's? You're not the usual patron." His cheeks reddened again.

Ah. Trying to nail otherworlder ass. Should have known. A classic pastime for today's youth. No wonder his scent was so unassuming. He'd picked up a sensitive before and knew how to go about it. "And you decided to come after me, huh?"

"Well, yeah. I'd really like to get to know you."

"Get to know you." Code for "f**k your brains out and never call you," perhaps. God, when had she become so cynical? Since her last boyfriend had dumped her for being moody and secretive, and her rebound hadn't called her, she supposed. "Why didn't you try and get to know me last night? Since you noticed me, I mean."

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