Dark Hunger


Page 22



Tio, his dark hair matted with sweat, answered. “We were searching for the prisoners as you commanded, and…”


“And what?”


“I don’t know what the hell happened. One minute we were near the highway, and the next thing I knew we were here.”


“Did Giuliani call you?”


“I don’t think so.” The cur shook his head in confusion. “He was busy fighting with another Were.”


“Harley?”


“No. Some pureblood with red eyes,” Frankie said. “Christ, he gave me the willies.”


Briggs. Caine clenched his hands at his sides. Damn the Were. He’d gone to great lengths to keep his pack from coming in contact with the magic-wielding pureblood. Caine might be able to convince the curs he’d been granted a mystical vision of the future; after all, they wanted to believe he possessed the power to offer them the chance to become purebloods. But they’d be far less eager to follow him if they suspected his vision had forced him into a partnership with a traitorous Were who had sold his soul for power.


Even curs had standards.


“What happened to him?”


“Harley snuck up behind him and shot him in the head.” Drew said.


“Stupid woman,” Caine muttered, his heart freezing at the danger the female had put herself in. Dammit, he needed her. Or at least, he needed her blood. “Is she trying to get herself killed?”


“Didn’t matter,” Frankie said. “Giuliani shifted and attacked the other Were like a madman. I thought for sure he’d kill him, but then the stranger just disappeared.”


“Freakiest thing I ever saw.” Tio’s eyes were wide. “And that’s saying something.”


“Did Giuliani manage to injure the Were before he disappeared?”


“Mauled the hell out of him,” Drew said.


A chill bloomed in Caine’s heart. Briggs had always been smugly confident that his power was greater than the King of Weres. Christ, he boasted of it with nauseating frequency.


What if he was wrong?


“Damn.”


With a frown of suspicion, Frankie moved forward. “You don’t seem surprised that there’s a Were out there who can simply disappear.”


With a vicious backhand, Caine sent the cur flying backwards, blood dripping from his mouth.


“Maybe you should concentrate on finding the prisoners you allowed to escape before I have your pelt made into seat covers.”


Effectively reminded of who was boss, the three curs scrambled to obey his command.


“Yes, master.”


Waiting until the curs had disappeared through the trees, Caine turned his attention to the blond-haired woman with plump cheeks and a lush body.


“Vikki.”


Dressed in tight denim shorts and a tiny tank top that barely covered her generous breasts, she sashayed across the uneven ground to press against him.


“You need me, lover?”


“You can sense them?”


She closed her eyes to concentrate on the spell she’d cast before leaving his lair.


“Distantly.” She pointed her hand toward the river. “That way.”


“Go with the curs and keep me informed of their location.”


Opening her eyes, she pouted at his sharp command. “I want to stay with you.”


He yanked from her clinging touch. “I’m not in the mood for games.”


Fury raced through her pale eyes as she gave a toss of her curly hair and turned to join the curs.


“Fine.”


“Don’t try to capture them. I just want to know where they are.”


Without turning, she lifted her hand to flip him off. “Whatever.”


There was a faint rustle of brush before Andre appeared at Caine’s side. The muscular cur with long brown hair and black eyes was Caine’s second in command, and one of the few people that Caine actually trusted.


“How do you intend to overpower two full-blooded Weres who will be expecting you to attack?” Andre asked.


“A worry for later.”


Caine bent down, studying the damage caused by the fierce battle between the two powerful Weres. Claw marks gouged the ground, splashes of blood and chunks of fur spread over the broken branches. He touched a tuft of pale fur, knowing it didn’t belong to Giuliani.


“What is it?”


“A warning.”

“I don’t understand.”


Caine straightened, his jaw clenched. “A soldier only becomes a hero if he picks the winning side.”


Salvatore had always been a predator. Wherever he went, whatever he did, he was the biggest, baddest creature around. And that’s exactly how he liked it.


Suddenly becoming the prey…


It sucked.


Silently cursing Briggs and Caine and the persistent curs who he could sense in the distance, Salvatore angled toward the Illinois side of the river.


Sitting with white-knuckled tension at his side, Harley shot him a wary frown.


“What is it? Is there something wrong with the boat?”


He slowed as they neared the bank, grimacing at the thick tangle of mud and weeds that lined the river. Thank God his Armanis were safely tucked in his St. Louis lair.


“We’re not going to sink, cara.”


“Then why are you stopping?”


“The curs are back on our trail.”


She shrugged, obviously having sensed already that they were being hunted.


“They’re still miles behind us.”


“As they have been for the last two hours.”


“So…” The magnificent hazel eyes widened. “Oh.”


“Exactly.” Salvatore allowed the boat to idle as they drifted into the muddy shallows at the edge of the river. “They’ve found a means to track us.”


Harley considered a long moment. “It has to be the witch who made the amulets.” She at last concluded. “She’s the only one who could cast a spell to discover our location.”


Salvatore reached to grasp a low-hanging branch, bringing the boat to a halt. Actually, the witch was preferable to the thought that Briggs had recovered swiftly enough to send the curs after them. His own body had healed, but his strength was ebbing toward low.


He was hoping to put off round two until he could recharge his mojo.


“All the witch can sense is the amulets?” he asked, a plan already forming in his mind.


“Yes.”


“Does Caine have any hunters?”


“Only Duncan.”


Salvatore’s lips twisted. It was Duncan he’d been scheduled to meet in Hannibal. The same cur he’d found murdered on the floor of the cabin just minutes before Caine had attacked him.


“Then Caine was an idiot to kill him.”


She narrowed her eyes. “So you say.”


“Harley…” He swallowed his protest. Only time would ease the suspicions that had been drilled into her. “Someday you’ll trust me.”


“I don’t trust anyone.”


He held out his hand. “Give me your amulet.”


She readily untied the amulet and placed it in his outstretched palm. Salvatore hid a satisfied smile as he yanked his own amulet from his neck. Harley might not realize it, but on some level she did trust him.


“What are you doing?” she demanded as he threw both amulets on the floor of the boat and then vaulted over the side to land in the waist-deep water.


“If the witch wants to chase the amulets, the least we can do is keep her entertained.”


“Why don’t we just toss the amulets overboard and keep going?”


“They realize by now we’re following the river north,” he said, waiting for her to clamor out of the boat and stand at his side. Reaching forward, he thrust the throttle in gear, shoving the boat away from the bank and toward the middle of the river. “If they have any intelligence at all they’ll have sent a few curs ahead to ambush us.”


Harley watched the boat zip away, her color slowly returning. Obviously the muddy water and slimy moss that slithered around her body was preferable to continuing their boat ride.


“They’ll eventually stumble across our scent,” she pointed out.


Salvatore’s expression hardened. He would do whatever necessary to protect Harley, but this division between Weres and curs had to end.


Damn Caine.


Briggs was deliberately using him to weaken Salvatore’s power base.


“Let’s hope for their sake that they don’t.”


Chapter Ten


Harley climbed the bank, relieved to discover that the Illinois side of the Mississippi River was a flat expanse of recently plowed fields, rather than the rolling bluffs she was accustomed to. She wasn’t a wuss. She could run for hours without breaking a sweat. Hell, she could do it carrying a few hundred pounds on her back.


But at the moment her cheap canvas shoes were covered in slimy mud and her wet underwear was crawling into places it shouldn’t be. The last thing she wanted was to slog up and down endless hills.


Besides, she didn’t have to be a psychic to sense that Salvatore wasn’t running on a full tank.



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