Dark Hunger


Page 28



She rushed toward the door. “I want a drink.”


“Do I get a veto?” Salvatore muttered, then as Harley threw the bolt and yanked open the door, he hurried to her side, taking her arm in a possessive grip. “Damn. Wait for me.”


She shivered as he led her across the lobby, his mesmerizing, musky scent seeping into her skin as if attempting to brand her.


“There’s no need for you to go.”


“Trust me, there’s every need,” he said in dark tones, his brows lifting as she unconsciously rubbed her prickling arms. “Is something wrong?”


“Did you put on cologne?”


An oddly rueful smile curved his lips. “Dolce & Gabbana. Do you like it?”


“It’s…memorable.”


“More like eternal.”


She frowned. “What?”


“This way.” He ignored her question and pointed toward a set of double doors guarded by a matching set of vampires.


And what vampires they were.


Yow.


Chiseled perfection with the polished golden skin of ancient Egyptians, they had ebony hair that hung down their backs in long braids. Their faces were sculpted masterpieces of high cheekbones, hawkish noses, and noble brows. As she neared, she realized that they had a heavy band of kohl tattooed into their skin to emphasize their almond black eyes, and a hint of color on their full lips.


As if their stunning beauty needed any artificial assistance.


They were mouthwatering enough in their teeny tiny loincloths that revealed the sort of bodies that must have made Cleopatra howl in appreciation.


As they neared, the two silently pulled open the heavy doors, their gazes lingering on Harley with silent invitations of sultry pleasure.


Salvatore swept her past the demons as if they were invisible, his profile hard as they started down the wide stone steps that led deep beneath the building.


“You’re sure about this?” he demanded, his hand tightening on her arm as the air thickened with the scent and sounds of the gathered crowd.


“I’ve lived with a pack of curs for thirty years. There’s nothing that can shock me.” Her unfounded bravado lasted until they reached the bottom of the steps and Salvatore shoved open yet another door, this one of steel, and the full force of the gathered demons hit her. “Okay. I might have spoken a little hastily.”


“Do you want to leave?”


Harley barely heard his question, her attention focused on the scene spread below her.


In contrast to the airy elegance above, the vast room was circular and made of black marble that terraced downward. On each tier were a series of steel tables and stools that were bolted to the marble, and a series of staircases that led to the huge metal cage set in the lowest level of the chamber.


Overhead, heavy chandeliers spilled pools of light on the crowd of guests, battling back the shadows that twined along the edges, hiding those guests who preferred to remain concealed.


It looked more like Thunderdome than a nightclub.


Salvatore bent to speak directly in her ear, the clamor of the crowd nearly deafening.


“Do you want to leave?”


Her mouth was dry as her gaze skimmed over the demons of varying species. The only thing they had in common was the tangible sense of violence that crackled around them.


She briefly hesitated, torn between good old-fashioned common sense, and the desire to flirt with danger.


She’d always wanted to discover the world outside Caine’s lair, hadn’t she? Well, here it was. In all its glory.


Or rather, its lack of glory.


“Not on your life,” she said, tilting her chin with a display of courage she was far from feeling.


“It just might be,” Salvatore muttered, glaring at two hulking trolls who were eyeing Harley as if she were a tasty appetizer.


With a lift of his slender hand, a beautiful female imp with pale red hair and ivory curves on full display in a tiny spandex dress rushed to do his bidding. And if her smile was anything to go by, she was hoping his bidding included taking off that scrap of spandex.


Harley gritted her teeth, but Salvatore seemed oblivious to the woman’s blatant invitation.


“A booth,” he commanded. “As far from the arena as possible.”


“Of course.” With a venomous glance toward Harley, the imp wound her way past the tables on the top tier, leading them to a shadowed alcove that held a small booth. Harley slid onto a steel bench seat and Salvatore settled opposite her, his gaze sweeping the crowd rather than focusing on the imp who had practically thrust her breasts beneath his nose. “A drink, lover?”


Harley cleared her throat. “A Bloody Mary,” she ordered, her tone warning that her drink wasn’t going to be the only bloody thing if the bitch didn’t back off.


As if sensing the sudden tension in the air, Salvatore studied her flushed face with a smug smile.

“Hennessy,” he absently ordered.


With a flounce, the imp turned and stormed through the crowed, presumably headed to the bar for their drinks. Avidly aware of Salvatore’s unwavering gaze, Harley settled back in her seat.


“Isn’t Hennessy a little snobbish for a joint like this?”


He reached to stroke his finger over the back of her hand that was lying on the table.


“What can I say? I’m a Were of discerning taste.”


Her clever comeback died on her lips as spotlights abruptly flared across the ceiling and the milling crowd erupted into noisy cheers.


Glancing upward, Harley watched as four small golden cages were lowered from the hidden traps in the ceiling. They halted several feet over the large cage on the floor, dangling in the spotlights.


“Holy crap,” she breathed, allowing her gaze to shift from one cage to another. “Are those imps?”


Salvatore grimaced. “They’re part of the show.”


That wasn’t reassuring considering the four imps, two male and two female, were completely naked except for the heavy steel collars around their necks.


“Just what is this show?”


“The demon version of The Dating Game.”


Harley shook her head. She was addicted to the Game Show Network, and she hadn’t seen any show with naked imps hanging in cages.


“Somehow I don’t think the human version is even in the same universe. I assume there are a few rules?”


“Rudimentary ones. You pay an exorbitant amount of money for the privilege of joining a dozen other demons in the pit.” He pointed toward the huge cage on the floor that could accommodate an indoor soccer league. “The last demon standing is rewarded with a key.”


“Key?”


His hand lifted toward the cages, each with a large lock that held the doors shut.


“Once the winner makes his or her choice, the next batch is herded into the pit for their chance at a key.”


Outrage flowed through Harley like molten lava. For all of Caine’s faults, he’d always made certain that the males in his pack understood the penalty of rape.


Death.


Slow, tortuous, painful death.


“Those are sex slaves?”


“No.” Salvatore squeezed her fingers, anxious to keep her from doing something stupid. “I’ll admit that I wouldn’t shed a tear if someone managed to plant a stake in Viper’s unbeating heart, but he would never allow slaves in his club.”


“How do you know?”


He leaned close and spoke low enough that not even the most talented demon could overhear him.


“Viper was held as a slave for centuries. He would slaughter anyone involved in the trade.”


His reassurances were backed up by the sight of the imps, who happily leaned against the bars of their cages to provoke the crowd below into a near frenzy.


“And you?” she asked.


He chuckled as he lifted her hand to his lips, his tongue tracing the line of her knuckles.


“I don’t need such crude methods. My charm is enough to enslave others.”


She might debate his charm, but his touch was enough to make a woman beg for more.


“And you call Caine delusional,” she said, her words sounding lame as heat curled through the pit of her stomach.


Thankfully the imp chose that moment to return with their drinks, her barely covered boobs distracting Salvatore enough for Harley to jerk her hand free.


Not that it did a damned bit of good.


The excitement bubbled through her blood like the finest champagne, her skin crawling with a prickling awareness. She shifted uneasily in her seat, suddenly damp and aching.


What the hell?


Waving away the persistent imp, Salvatore shot Harley a knowing smile, easily sensing her stirring hunger.


“You should at least enjoy the warm-up act.”


Before she could ask, she caught sight of the naked men covered in nothing more than elaborate tattoos styled into Chinese symbols. They appeared to be human males—except no human was so perfectly ripped no matter how often they worked out, and their skin didn’t glow with an oddly metallic shimmer—as they weaved a sensuous path through the tables.


“Frigging hell.” Harley drained her Bloody Mary as one of the demons halted in front of their table, performing an erotic dance that had to be illegal in some states. Unable to tear her gaze from the alien beauty of the aquiline features and black, slanted eyes, she struggled to breathe. “What are they?”



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