Dark Hunger


Page 16



“I wasn’t followed.”


Prowling forward, Salvatore stripped off his tattered jacket and shirt, tossing them on the floor.


Harley instinctively stepped back, although she couldn’t hide the manner in which her gaze lingered on his bare chest.


“What are you doing?”


“I need you to dig out the silver in my shoulder.”


“With what?” She shook her head as Salvatore reached down to pull the dagger from the sheath at his ankle. “No. No way.”


Salvatore plucked the gun from her hand, tossing it on the bed before pressing the hilt of the dagger into her unwilling fingers.


“It has to be done, Harley. I can’t reach them.”


She clenched her jaw, trapped between her desire to condemn him to hell and the knowledge that his injuries wouldn’t heal until the silver was gone.


“Damn.” She pointed toward the chair by the small table. “Sit down.”


Taking his seat, Salvatore waited until Harley was standing rigidly behind him, reaching over his shoulder to grasp her hand and press it to his lips.


“Just the silver, cara.”


She predictably yanked her hand from his touch, but Salvatore didn’t miss the care she took not to jostle his shoulder.


“If I decide to kill you, it won’t be with a knife in the back,” she muttered. “Hold still.”


Bracing his hands against his knees, Salvatore closed his eyes and concentrated on his breathing. Unlike vamps, he didn’t have the ability to go into a healing trance to avoid his injuries. Until he could shift, he had to grin and bear it.


Well, not grin.


It was more of a groan-really-loud and bear it.


Bowing his head, Salvatore clenched his teeth, trying to remember he was a macho king, while Harley sliced through his flesh, searching for the silver shards that had burrowed deep beneath the skin.


Harley cursed beneath her breath as she struggled with a particularly defiant shard.


“Am I hurting you?” she rasped.


“Harley, you’re cutting into my shoulder with a rather large knife,” he pointed out softly.


There was another searing jolt of pain, then blessed relief as the last of the debilitating silver was removed and his natural powers kicked into gear.


“I think that’s it,” she muttered, giving a tiny squeak of alarm as Salvatore surged from the chair and with a burst of energy, shifted into his wolf form.


At any other time, Salvatore would have taken smug pleasure in Harley’s gaze that clung to his large body with unconscious appreciation, perhaps even have done a bit of showing off to prove the strength of his body and the beauty of his thick raven fur.


Now, he sprawled on the carpet and shuddered as he struggled to heal his wounds, feeling as weak as a pup despite the mystical forces that flowed through his blood.


Any preening would have to wait.


A damned shame.


It was one of his finer talents.


His shoulder cramped as the torn muscles and punctured skin knit back together, the burned flesh being restored, although it remained tender. Tired, hungry, and weakened by the mating bond, it would take some time for him to fully recover.


Allowing himself only a brief moment to savor the primitive pleasure of embracing his wolf, Salvatore grudgingly shifted back to human, indifferent to his lack of clothing as he shakily rose to his feet.


A Were was rarely modest.


He did pause to scoop the amulet off the carpet. He didn’t know enough about magic to know how close he had to keep the thing to hide his scent, but he wasn’t willing to take any chances.


“Cristo. I need a shower,” he muttered, crossing toward the bathroom. “There’s food and clothes for you in the bags.”


“Are you going to be okay?”


“You’re not getting rid of me that easy.” He glanced over his shoulder and pointed toward the bags on the bed. “Eat.”


She stuck out her tongue. “Yes, sire. At once, sire.”


“And behave yourself.”


Leaving the door to the bathroom open, Salvatore stepped into the shower, sighing in relief as the hot water poured over his body. He was less pleased by the cheap motel soap and shampoo, but at least it managed to scrub away the grime, and wrapping a towel around his waist, he ripped a strip off a washcloth to tie the amulet around his neck.


He shoved the wet hair from his face and returned to the main room, a small smile curving his lips as he discovered Harley had pulled on the flannel nightgown that fell past her knees.


No doubt she assumed the repulsive garment would stifle his rampant desire. Instead, Salvatore found himself pondering the various methods of stripping it off.

He could do it slow, tugging the ugly fabric upward to reveal the body beneath, inch by glorious inch. He could do it quick, ripping open the gown with a sharp jerk. He could do it using nothing more than his teeth.


Pacing the floor with short, jerky steps, Harley watched as he moved toward the bed, her expression oddly wary.


“Now what?” she demanded.


“Now I eat and we get some rest,” Salvatore said, casually tugging off the towel and reaching in one of the bags for a pair of black satin boxers.


With a choked sound, Harley turned abruptly to stare at the wall, her back rigid.


“Can’t you call someone to come and pick us up?” she gritted. “This isn’t the most secure location.”


Pulling on the boxers, Salvatore settled on the bed, leaning against the headboard as he took three of the roast beef sandwiches and wolfed them down.


Literally.


“I intend to be on the move before anyone could reach us. Is there a problem?”


“Do you want a list?” There was a pause, then squaring her shoulders, Harley turned to scowl at him. “Tell me why you don’t want to call your pack. The truth.”


Salvatore stiffened in surprise. He hadn’t expected her to be able to read him with such ease.


It was…unnerving.


He wiped his hands and piled the empty wrappers on the nightstand.


“I have no proof, but I suspect that Briggs is capable of controlling the minds of both Weres and curs, if only for a short amount of time,” he confessed.


Her brows lifted. “Did he control your mind?”


“No, but before I battled him, I was attacked by Weres who had always been unquestionably loyal to me.” His hands clenched in ancient anger. “I was forced to kill more than one of them.”


“Maybe they just weren’t as loyal as you thought they were.”


Salvatore shrugged. He wished she was right. It was easier to accept he’d killed traitors rather than faithful companions who’d been under the compulsion of Briggs.


Unfortunately, he knew his servants too well.


They would carve out their own hearts before betraying him.


“I’m not going to take any chances.”


“But you are taking a chance,” she pointed out. “For all you know, my mind might be under the control of Briggs.”


Salvatore snorted. “You’re too bloody stubborn to be controlled by anyone. Besides, I’ve been with you for hours. I doubt Briggs’s power lasts more than a few minutes.”


She considered his words, absently nibbling on her thumbnail.


“I suppose it would explain Caine’s ridiculous belief he had some sort of vision,” she conceded.


“I’d say his outsized ego has as much to do with his visions as Briggs’s,” he muttered.


She ignored his sour opinion of the cur. “It seems risky to expose vampires to a magic-mad Were.”


“The vamps are impervious to mind control. Unfortunately, it’s too close to dawn for them to travel. We’ll have to wait until tomorrow night to meet up with them.” He patted the mattress. “For now we rest.”


She licked her lips, abruptly appearing more disturbed by joining him on the bed than his confession that Briggs could control minds.


“Fine. You rest and I’ll keep watch,” she croaked.


“I already did a sweep. No one knows that we’re here.”


“You can’t be sure…” She sucked in a startled breath as Salvatore slid off the bed, and with fluid speed, had moved to snatch her off her feet. “Dammit, put me down.”


“With pleasure.”


With two long strides he was tossing her onto the bed and swiftly covering her with his body. A violent pleasure surged through him at the feel of her slender curves that fit perfectly against him.


Dio.


He didn’t know if it was the mating bond that made him react with such raw, biting hunger to this particular female, or if it was simply a normal reaction between a man and woman, and in truth, he didn’t care.


He wanted her.


Now.


Salvatore watched the hazel eyes darken as Harley reacted to the prickling heat that filled the air, able to hear the sudden leap of her heart.


“Get off me,” she gritted, clearly not as pleased as Salvatore by their explosive response to one another.


“We’re staying in this bed, Harley,” he warned. “It’s up to you whether we sleep, or enjoy a more pleasurable pastime.”



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