Home > The Day of the Dead (Cassandra Palmer #3.1)(6)

The Day of the Dead (Cassandra Palmer #3.1)(6)
Author: Karen Chance

Tomas hadn’t realized fully until that moment how certain he’d become that he wouldn’t survive the night. He felt the knowledge settle into him now along with her breath, and instead of sadness or regret, he found himself just overwhelmingly grateful that, if this was the end, at least he wasn’t facing it alone. It was, all things considered, more than he deserved.

And then Sara pulled away, her eyes wide open, shocked and angry, and struck him hard across the mouth. It was enough to rock his head back, to make him taste the rich, metallic tang of his own blood. He wiped a smear off his lip with a thumb as she pushed at him, hard.

“I said hit me! Are you deaf?” She didn’t wait for an answer, but launched herself towards him, fist clenching.

Tomas caught her hands, effortlessly holding her away from him.

“Vampires don’t get in fights with humans unless we intend to kill. You’re too vulnerable, too easily broken.”

Another rock hit the floor, hard enough to send bones and debris flying.

Sara looked around wildly. “If you don’t we’ll both be broken! Nothing else works!”

He grabbed her by the hips, swinging her against the wall, slamming her backwards into it. Startled out of fighting for a moment, she just stood there, panting and staring up at him as he pressed against her.

“If I misjudge, there will be no one to stop this hillside from erupting just as the cemetery did. You’ll be unconscious or worse, and we’ll both die – as will your brother.

His hands were busy as he spoke and, with a sharp tug on the hem of her blouse, he sent buttons flying. By the time he’d pushed the cloth out of the way, getting his fingers on the living warmth beneath, her ni**les had grown tight and pebbly and she was gasping, her hands fisted in his shirt.

But she wasn’t pushing him off. She was kissing him brutally, lips and teeth savage, pressing hard against his body while her hands clawed at his back.

“Are you distracted yet?” he breathed, as she ripped open his shirt, pushing his undershirt up to his neck and biting at a nipple.

“I’ll let you know,” she said roughly, dragging their lips together again.

Her mouth tasted of the sharp sweet tang of mescal, or maybe that was him. Her lips were sweet, but her body was shaking and her eyes were darting everywhere as if certain this wasn’t going to work. And it wasn’t, if he couldn’t get her mind off the room and onto him – and keep it there.

The room was coming down in chunks around them and the only thing that kept running through his mind was that it would be truly typical to come 1,000 miles to die in some deserted ante-room.

He was breathing hard, adrenaline pumping through him as he managed to get a hand between them. He dipped his head for another kiss, hands slipping away from hot, damp skin to tug impatiently at the button on her jeans, to work at the zipper. He pushed the maddeningly tight material down her thighs, his hand clenched on the soft flesh of her hip, rounded and warm for his palm. He pulled her closer, fixed the angle between them and pushed into her.

Her legs wrapped around his thighs, clenching as he began moving.

He’d been careful because he hadn’t prepared her, but she gasped out. “I won’t break,” her voice low and rough, and he began thrusting hard and fast, the way his body craved. His only concession to her comfort was his fingers working between her thighs roughly.

Within moments she was shuddering, her breath fracturing into harsh, quick gasps, panting, “Harder, damn you!”

“Make me,” he growled.

In one quick movement she shoved him back, her foot behind his, tripping him, sending them both falling to the floor and driving herself onto him. Tomas barely noticed the hard floor or the pottery shard that was gouging him in the back or the unstable ceiling hanging above him.

He was too busy watching her face. He kept his hands on her hips. Guiding her, but not giving in to her gasped commands. Instead, he deliberately slowed down, then abruptly stopped, waiting.

“Tomas!”

He ignored her, even though she wouldn’t stop squirming, pushing the jagged pot shard further between his shoulder blades. She shifted, pulling back enough to rip open his shirt, to rain biting kisses all along his neck, to lick the hollow of his collarbone and mouth, his shoulders. Tomas’ hands scrabbled desperately at the rubble beneath him, but he didn’t move. He just lay there and took it, amazed at how much he needed this, until she let out a frustrated scream and raked her nails down his chest. “Move, damn it!”He just stared up at her, at her glittering eyes and sweat-drenched, dusty hair, her blouse open and her jeans around her knees, giving him a view of the dark stain of his hands against the pale skin of her hips. He wondered how he’d ever thought her less than stunning. She glared at him and then pulled further back, letting him almost slide out of her, then suddenly forcing herself back onto him. She did it again and Tomas bit back a groan, but he held himself completely still.

“Some help here!” she demanded, and did something with her h*ps that made his eyes roll back into his head.

He slid his hands down the curve of her back and tightened them on her slim waist. He could feel the tremors in his frame the longer he held on and knew he’d soon have no choice except to move. And she knew it, too – she was laughing when he finally gave in, an exultant sound that ran like fire through his veins. He let her have her moment of triumph, before suddenly stopping once more. It took her a second to notice, then she stared down at him, momentarily speechless.

“That’s inhuman!” she finally hissed.

He grinned. “So am I.”

She wrapped her hands around his tie and jerked him upwards, the new angle forcing a moan out of them both. “Finish this or I swear –”

Tomas was moving before she completed the sentence, ignoring caution this time, fast and furious, glad that he didn’t need to breathe because she hadn’t let go of the tie. And then her h*ps were jerking in a way that was making it hard for him to focus, her gasps loud in his ears, her body’s pleasure doubling his own. He felt her shudder, her release and the clenching of her body triggered his, making them both groan deep in the back of their throats – and a great mess of pebbles and dust poured out of the ceiling.

It took Tomas a few seconds to realize that he wasn’t trapped beneath a ton of dirt and rubble, that this wasn’t a cave-in, just the result of one final tremor. He dug himself out to find Sara staring about the room, which was, surprisingly, mostly still intact. It was also blessedly quiet.

Those hazel eyes came back to rest on him and she smiled a little crookedly, teeth a shock of white in her dirty face. “OK. I guess that method works too.”

Instead of having to fight their way to the centre of the complex as Tomas had expected, their path was unobstructed, the halls echoing, silent and empty except for the carved faces of long-forgotten gods staring down from the walls and lintels. That was more than strange – it was unprecedented. And very bad. Tomas had always known that his only real chance was that he knew this place, and its master, better than anyone. But nothing had gone as planned all night, and he honestly didn’t know what to expect when they finally made it to the huge natural cave that Alejandro used as an audience hall.

He brought them in through a little-known side tunnel that let out onto a set of steps about a storey above the cave floor. There were guards at the entrance, finally, who Tomas dealt with by simply ordering them to sleep. He was a first level master: he hadn’t been worried about them. But the creature sprawled on the throne-like chair at the head of the room was first-level also, and far older than he.

As usual, Alejandro was dressed like a Spanish nobleman of the conquest period, which he’d once been. He didn’t look like a monster, with an attractive florid face and bright, intelligent black eyes. But then, the worst ones never did. Seeing that face again brought a sudden, miserable lurch, a shuddering memory of centuries of heartbreak and horror and nauseating fear. Tomas had to clutch at the door jamb, feeling the rock crumbling beneath his fingers, to keep silent.

Nobody else said anything either. Tomas had warned them that even a whispered word was likely to be overheard, as beyond the excellent acoustics of the room itself was the small factor of vampire hearing. So Sara was quiet as they surveyed the scene spread below, although her face was eloquent.

Tomas now knew why they hadn’t met anyone on the way. The prisoners should have been downstairs, the vampires getting ready to disperse throughout the property for the hunt. Instead, the entire cavernous space was crammed with people, mostly human, but with a ring of vampires circling them. It took Tomas a moment to realize what was happening, because none of this was normal.

A young Mexican man stumbled forwards pushed by one of the guards, to land near a small group of others. There were five bodies lined up in a row at the front of the hall, their throats slashed down to the bone, white gleaming through red flesh in wide, jagged lines. The floor there was not the chipped, angular surface of the outer halls, but worn to a smooth, concave trough by generations of feet. A small stone altar had been found when Alejandro moved in, leading to speculation that this had once been the site of sacred rights. Blood from the corpses had run down the central depression, looking like a long finger pointing the way to the altar and to his throne above it. Standing to the side of the carnage were two men and a woman, each human, with expressions ranging form dazed to disbelieving to horror struck.

Tomas felt a hand grip his arm, and looked down to see Sara clutching it hard enough to bruise had he been human.

“To the right,” she mouthed, and nodded to indicate the tall, lanky young man at the end of the line-up, his face dead white and smeared with blood. He looked like he’d put up a struggle, but there was nothing of that spirit visible now. He was swaying slightly on his feet, mouth slack, and blinking slowly behind his glasses like a sleepy owl. Shock, or close to it, Tomas thought; so much for hoping he could run on cue.

“You want to save the life of this man?” Alejandro asked, addressing the young brunette on the other end of the line. “Because you know what I want.”

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