Home > Dancing with the Devil (Nikki & Michael #1)(15)

Dancing with the Devil (Nikki & Michael #1)(15)
Author: Keri Arthur

Maybe he and Jasper had a lot in common after all.

He listened to the sound of the zombies’ awkward footsteps fade away into the silence, then, using the wall as a brace, rose to his feet. The drug in his system would take hours to dissipate, and, with the sun strengthening towards noon, there was little he could do now but wait.

"The creatures have gone,” he said. “We'd better head back to the office."

"And make no attempt to find her?” Jake said incredulously.

"I have no other choice,” Michael bit back.

So much for control, he thought bitterly and stepped out of the hole. A glint of silver caught his eye. He walked across the track, and bent to pick it up. It was Nikki's silver cross. The small amount of silver within the charm tingled against his palm, but he ignored it. At least he had something of Nikki's to hold on to. Something to remember her by in the years ahead.

He glanced across at Jake then strode through the darkness. There was nothing more they could do in the tunnel, and Jasper just might try to contact them at the office—if only to taunt them. Tonight he would search.

And Jasper would pay when he found him.

* * * *

The darkness stirred, coming to life.

Shifted, then disappeared.

Nikki blinked, wondering if her eyes were playing tricks on her. The night appeared silent, empty. Yet the more she stared into the darkness, the more certain she became that someone was there, watching her.

She shivered, but resisted the urge to rise from the cold concrete floor. Until she had an idea of where she was, there was no point in moving. Who knew what traps might wait in the darkness. The minutes crept by. Sweat broke out across her brow, and fear crawled through her heart. Though there was no sign of Jasper in the uneasy darkness, he was there, somewhere. The foul scent of his evil filled the air.

She clenched her fists and tried to still the sudden rush of panic. She had to stay calm if she wanted to survive. Taking a deep breath, she tried to contact Michael through their link. Only he wasn't there.

Nothing was.

Her psychic abilities no longer answered her call. Bile rose in her throat. She swallowed heavily. What had Jasper done to her?

Laughter rolled across the night, a rich sound that made her skin crawl with terror.

"Your lover will not hear you."

Jasper's voice spun through the darkness, entwining her in corruption. She still couldn't see him, nor did she have any sense of him. What was wrong with her?

"He's not my lover.” Her voice was little more than a harsh whisper that burned against her throat's sudden dryness. She licked her lips and tried again. “And why won't he hear me?" The night stirred, and Jasper appeared. There was an almost terrible beauty in watching his perfect body find shape from the midnight silence.

Then she realized he was na**d.

Her heart skipped several beats. Closing her eyes, she tried to control the terror squeezing her throat. Despite the soreness of her limbs, she sensed Jasper hadn't touched her yet. But he would. She could feel his hunger.

He laughed. She resisted the urge to roll into a tight ball of fear and sat up instead. The concrete scraped harshly across her buttocks. Only then did she realize that she was as na**d as he.

"When the form is as beautiful as ours, why cover it?" To emphasize his point, he struck a pose, showing the muscular splendor of his body. Mad ... He has to be mad . She wrapped her arms around her knees, drawing them close to her chest. “What do you want with me?"

"Many things.” The amusement fled his features. “Mostly, I want you to help me kill the man who murdered my brother."

"Never."

He laughed softly. “Oh, you will help me, pretty one." She didn't bother refuting the statement. He smiled and walked to the far corner of the room, his movements grace itself. Nikki blinked, suddenly realizing she could see. The night had begun to lift, and dawn seeped through the boarded up window to her right. Freedom. Yet she didn't dare move. She had no doubt he would kill her if she so much as blinked the wrong way right now... He turned, holding a syringe in one hand. Relief surged. That was why her head felt so fuzzy. He was drugging her.

"This won't put you out.” His smile made her edge back slightly. “Only stop you moving and cloud your gifts. I have no wish for you to call your lover so soon." Fear held her immobile. He knelt and slid the needle into her thigh. His hand caressed her skin, his touch hot, possessive. She closed her eyes and held her breath.

Jasper laughed and rose. Her eyes jerked open, and she watched him move to the bed. He played with her, she realized grimly. Tasted her fear, fueling its flames. Savoring it. She knew then that he wouldn't physically touch her. Not for a while, anyway. This man enjoyed violation of another kind more—the heart, the soul and the mind. Like a cat playing with its prey, he would toy with her until she broke.

Then he would use her to trap and kill Michael.

She had to escape this mad man's grasp.

Footsteps whispered through the silence. Laughter surrounded her, provocative yet chilling. Not Jasper's. Monica's.

She closed her eyes, refusing to acknowledge the teenager's presence. Bedsprings squeaked as Monica joined her lover on the bed. After several more minutes came soft moans and the rustle of sheets. All she could do was ignore the noise of their lovemaking and try to rest. Like Jasper's word games, she knew this was meant to be some perverted form of torture. But if they hoped to shock her, hoped to encourage the first tiny cracks in her sanity, they were in for a surprise. She'd seen and heard a lot worse during her years on the streets.

Yet she couldn't help the tiny hope that daylight would quickly drive them into oblivion. Or better yet, to hell.

* * * *

Pain woke her. Her heart pounded, racing uncomfortably in her chest. She opened her eyes. Jasper knelt beside her, warm breath kissing her skin, his gaze burning with desire as he watched ... And sucked blood from her wrist.

Nikki screamed and tried to jerk her arm away. He held her still, his grip bruising as he drained her life away. There was nothing she could do to stop him.

As the realization of death hit her, he pulled away.

His razor-sharp teeth left her skin, and the hot ached eased. Smiling, still watching her every movement, he licked the remaining droplets away. His tongue danced sensually across her wrist, and the two small holes healed.

The horror of it filled every corner of her mind. It felt as if his depravity had somehow invaded her soul and left it stained. He laughed, white teeth gleaming, canines still tarnished by her blood. She closed her eyes, desperate to control the rising tide of hysteria. That's what he intended, what he wanted. It was just part of his tricks, part of his attempt to break her will.

She couldn't let him succeed. Not when Michael's life was at stake. Jasper moved back to the bed. His bright gaze watched her steadily. There was no life, no emotion, in his eyes. It was almost as if becoming a vampire had robbed him of all humanity. And yet, she had an odd feeling that even when he had been alive, the look in his eyes would have been much the same. She shifted uncomfortably on the cold floor, but her muscles were stiff and unresponsive. She still clasped her knees close to her chest, though the muscles along her thighs had long ago gone numb. While the protection it offered was only illusory, she didn't want her body exposed to this man.

"You have been missing for more than twenty-four hours. Do you think your lover is frantic yet?"

"He's not...” She stopped. What was the use? He'd never believe Michael and she were barely even friends, let alone lovers. Madness had control of his brain, and he refused to hear anything beyond the boundaries of what he believed to be true.

Jasper rested his forearms against his knees, face somehow more intense as he leaned forward. “He will suffer, as I suffered. And he will feel you die, as I felt my brother die." His voice was flat, chilling in its lack of emotion. Yet his statement confused her. Why, if he was so desperate for psychic power, did he keep her alive? “I thought you wanted to get your hands on my abilities?"

Perhaps it wasn't the wisest move, asking a madman a question like that, but it was one she needed an answer to.

"I kill you now, and your lover will merely return you to death. There would be nothing to savor in such a situation."

Suddenly she understood. He thought them lovers, and wanted Michael to suffer the agony of the situation, of knowing she was a captive and yet not knowing what was being done to her. A good plan, had it not been for the fact she and Michael were little more than strangers. Hell, Michael was probably sitting back right now wondering how to turn the situation to his advantage. She doubted if she'd waste more than a second or two in his thoughts. Though he'd promised to keep her safe, and she had no doubt he would try and keep that promise.

"Why haven't you tried to hypnotize me again, then?” she asked after a moment. He'd come so close the first time.

"At the time, you were unaware and ripe for attack. Were it not for your lover, I would have had you. Right now, you would not be so easy a target, even with your mind so clouded. I have no wish to deplete my own reserves when fear and drugs can more easily break a spirit." And the pain involved would give him more pleasure, she thought. He smiled, and fear curled in her stomach. There were a few too many teeth involved in that smile. She had to keep him talking. It was her only hope. Every second she could delay whatever plans he had for her was another second Michael had to find her.

"Was your brother a vampire, too?"

His gaze narrowed slightly. He knew what she was up to, yet she sensed he was prepared to play along. At least for a while.

"He was my twin. He was never strong, never certain about this gift of afterlife. He was an easy target. I've spent a long time tracking down his killer."

And probably a long time planning Michael's death. She moved her leg slightly, trying to ease the ache, but stopped when a hungry look flickered across his face. Holding still, she cleared her throat, trying to draw his attention away from her na**d body. “Michael doesn't even know your name." If he tasted her lie, he gave no sign of it.

"Then he will, before this is finished. And he will curse it long before he dies.” He rose and picked up the syringe. “I must go out. Your blood, intoxicating as it was, will not contain my needs." He slid the needle into her thigh, and she bit back a yelp of pain. White fire flashed through her veins, and her pulse began to skip. Sweat broke out across her skin, though she felt chilled to the bone. The darkness began to move, began to moan and whisper ... And dancing images of every nightmare she'd ever suffered came to life in the night before her.

She closed her eyes, battling for sanity. It was only the drug. It wasn't real. Jasper's hand caressed her arm, his touch hot with desire. She shuddered, but didn't move. Didn't dare. "Have fun, beautiful one."

His laughter rolled through the thickening night, stirring it into a passionate dance of madness.

* * * *

"My name is Jasper Harding."

His voice broke the numbness. She flinched, holding her knees tighter, not moving. Sweat ran in rivulets down her body, despite the dense chill gripping the room. Every heartbeat was a shudder of fear. The darkness writhed and danced with horrors unimaginable. They filled her with their madness, twisted her soul with their evil. She'd long ago given up telling herself it was only the drug. It was more than that now. He was back.

"Repeat it. Say my name."

She bit her tongue and ignored the urge to do as he asked. The darkness ran across her skin as lightly as a spider, scalding her.

"Repeat it, and the fear will go. Everything will go."

"NO!” She dropped her head to her knees and tried to deny the growing need to do as he asked. She'd rather face insanity.

Pain flared in her thigh. More drugs. She moaned and held her trembling legs tightly. She wouldn't give in. She wouldn't...

* * * *

Her parents’ death replayed itself, over and over and over in the darkness. The look on their faces as they'd waved good-bye to her. The scream of metal as a runaway truck crushed them. Images of the twisted remains of the car entwined with blood and mangled body parts, none really distinguishable from the other.

Again and again she felt the caress of her mother's soul, her kiss of love, as she passed on. She screamed and cried and denied the night's insistence they died because of her. Begged and pleaded for forgiveness, only to be mocked with vicious laughter.

And still the nightmare danced on.

* * * *

Over and over she watched Tommy being beaten, her gaze hazy with the blood from a wound on her forehead. Unable to help him, her gifts useless with the pain pounding through her brain, she could only watch the three kids kick him.

Words mocked her. Her words, spoken the night before his death. A wish for his soul to be sent to hell. She cried a denial to the darkness. The words had been spoken in anger and fear, and never meant. The night would not listen, and the madness danced on.

She heard the distant wail of the approaching police siren that frightened the thugs away. Suffered again the agonizing crawl towards Tommy. Felt the moment of his death as she held his bloody body in her arms, the touch of his soul as it passed on its journey towards eternal darkness. Her curse, her fault. Over and over and over...

* * * *

"Say my name."

The chant sang through her brain. She shook her head, the movement feeble. Everything ached—her head, her muscles, her heart. The night went on forever, and time became a frozen wasteland of madness.

Resist, resist. The weak litany overran his chant, helping her ignore it. Fire touched her leg, burned through her bloodstream.

The drug. Her heart shook with fear as the craziness danced in fevered delight.

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