Dark Hunger


Page 37



“Salvatore’s going to skin you alive and feed your entrails to the vultures,” the tall, bald-headed cur growled as he stumbled behind Caine.


“That’s the fourth time you’ve used that same threat, moron,” Salvatore snapped. “If you can’t think of a new one, then keep your trap shut.”


“It’s not a threat, it’s a promise.”


Caine tightened his grip on the gun, sick to death of Salvatore Giuliani.


“Are you so certain?” he sneered. “It seems to me that your precious king saved his own hide and left you swinging in the breeze.”


“You know nothing.”


“I know Salvatore had plenty of time and opportunity to warn you that he’d escaped and was having a fine time with his current bitch.”


The blond-haired cur who Caine suspected had a smidgen more intelligence than the others, snapped his teeth in fury.


“You’re wasting your time, traitor. Our loyalty to the king will never waver.”


Caine snorted. Okay, the cur was just as brainless as the others.


“Depressingly predictable,” he muttered. “I’m sick of curs who are content to be the butt-monkeys of the Weres. Just because you were made, and not born a werewolf, doesn’t make you any less worthy. It’s your precious Salvatore that has weakened and controlled you to make sure he always has a ready supply of willing slaves. Christ, he’s brought us to the point of extinction to keep control. Don’t you care that your brothers are dying?”


The bald-headed cur clenched his beefy hands, but the silver poisoning his body made it impossible for him to do more than glare at Caine.


“That recruitment shit didn’t work on me when the Civil War broke out, and it sure as hell isn’t going to work now.”


“But all Salvatore has to do is arrive in America and snap his fingers, and you go running like an eager puppy?”


“He’s my king.”


“Big yip.” Caine resisted the urge to knock the idiot upside the head. “And what does he do for you beyond keeping you on his leash? If you had any pride you would be seeking a means of throwing off the yoke of tyranny. The curs are destined to regain the powers that have been denied them for too long.”


The heat of the angry curs blasted through the narrow tunnel, searing away the tainted chill.


“A revolution you intend to lead?” the blond cur mocked.


Caine shrugged. “Someone had to be the Chosen One. It’s my fate.”


“So you want me to trade being a servant to the true King of Weres to become a slave for a batshit crazy cur?” the larger servant rasped. “No thanks.”


Caine considered the pleasure of popping a few silver bullets in the cur’s ass, but the sudden stench of rotting flesh was an unpleasant distraction.


It wasn’t that he hadn’t known Briggs would be waiting for him.


It was the one thing he’d been absolutely certain of.


But that didn’t keep his heart from dropping to the region of his shriveled gonads.


As if to mock his sense of impending doom, they stepped out of the tunnel into a large cavern that held three giant cages around a jagged pit in the center of the stone floor. Three torches were set in brackets on the wall, flooding the space with an eerie flicker of orange light, and revealing an even eerier sight of Briggs standing across the chamber.


“Salvatore’s pets were always annoyingly faithful,” he drawled as his crimson gaze flicked over the shackled curs. “Which, of course, makes them such a joy to kill.”


Caine reluctantly shoved his gun in the waistband of his jeans, able to taste the potent fear of his prisoners. He didn’t blame them. The sight and smell of Briggs was enough to send the bravest cur screaming in horror.


“Master.” Caine bowed, shivering as the icy power curled around him. “I have brought the curs as you requested.”


Wrapped in his clichéd black cloak and looking like he’d just crawled from his grave, Briggs waved a dismissive hand toward the nearest cage.


“Yes, I’m capable of seeing what you have done. Lock them away.”


Taking more time than necessary, Caine wrestled the weakened curs into one of the cages and slammed shut the door, hearing the lock slide closed. Then with a sick sensation in the pit of his stomach, he fell to his knees in a gesture of humility the pureblood demanded.


“What else would you have of me, master?”


“You have performed your last duty, Caine. Rise to your feet.”

Slowly straightening, Caine stiffened as the power in the cavern thickened, the prickling ice biting into his skin with cruel force.


“What’s going on?”


Briggs laughed. “It’s time for your reward.”


“Here?” A flare of panic threatened to shut down what little brain function was still chugging away. With a grim effort, Caine squashed his fear and forced his leaden feet to inch away from the silver cages toward the opening of the tunnel. “I don’t understand.”


“No, you don’t. And you never have,” Briggs taunted, flowing to block Caine’s exit. The crimson eyes shimmered with malevolent light, the gaunt face twisted with perverted amusement. “What a gullible fool you’ve been. I didn’t have to do anything more than mutter a bunch of gibberish and call it a prophecy for you to sacrifice everything and everyone for a chance at glory.”


“The vision.” Caine shook his head, refusing to believe it had all been a lie. It wasn’t possible. Not when he had physically felt his blood being altered as it spilled out of his body. He had even smelled his scent changing, becoming Were. It had been a tangible glimpse into the future. “It’s my destiny. That can’t be a lie.”


“Poor Caine.” Briggs raised his hand, lashing Caine with his frigid power. “What a disappointment this must be. To have believed that you were the great cur Messiah, and now to discover you are nothing more than a pawn in a Were power struggle.”


Caine stumbled to the side, distantly aware of the edge of the gaping pit that loomed dangerously close to his feet.


“Damn you.”


A sneer curled Briggs’s lips. “At least you can take comfort in knowing that your efforts have led Salvatore straight to his death. Doesn’t that warm your heart? I know it makes me all giddy.”


“You sick bastard.” Caine fell to his knees, his lungs barely capable of drawing in air as the agonizing pain seared through his body, turning his blood to ice. Somewhere deep in his heart, the hope that his growing suspicions about Briggs were wrong died a slow, relentless death. He’d been played like a violin by the pureblood. And now he was going to pay the ultimate price for his stupidity. How fitting. “I hope Salvatore sends you straight back to the hell you climbed out of.”


Infuriated by the mere mention of the King of Weres, Briggs sent another bolt of power that slammed into Caine with the force of a speeding semi-truck.


“The only thing Salvatore’s going to do is die,” he rasped. “Just like you.”


The torturous pain dug deeper, shredding through him with unnerving ease. Instinctively, Caine tried to shift, but Briggs’s power had taken command of him, refusing to allow his wolf to answer his call.


Laying his hands flat against the stone floor, Caine lowered his head and sucked in short, agonizing gasps of air. So this was it. He’d bet it all and lost.


Pathetic.


But a part of his pride wasn’t completely defeated.


He might never become the pureblooded Were he’d been promised, but he’d be damned if he was going to let the bastard have the satisfaction of killing him.


He’d do the nasty deed himself.


“Screw off, you Salvatore wannabe.”


With the last of his strength, Caine shoved against the stone floor, pushing himself to the side until he reached the edge of the pit.


Belatedly realizing his prey was attempting to elude his punishment, Briggs flowed forward, his hands outstretched.


“No.”


Caine managed a ragged smile. “See you in hell.”


One more shove and he was toppling over the edge and into the waiting abyss, the weightless sense of falling not nearly as terrifying as it should have been.


“Stupid prick,” Briggs shouted from above him, his face twisted with fury. “There’s nowhere you can hide from me.”


The threat would have been a whole lot scarier if Caine hadn’t been plunging through the darkness at a speed that threatened a crushing, if not outright lethal, landing. Always supposing the pit ever came to an end.


Perhaps Briggs had a straight connection to hell.


It would explain so much.


Expecting flames and brimstone and imps with pitchforks, Caine plummeted for what seemed to be an eternity. But it wasn’t the devil who met him at the bottom of the pit.


Instead it was stark, unyielding stone.


A blinding agony blasted through his body as his bones snapped and his insides turned to jelly. For a split second he had time to actually look death in the face, then a blessed darkness rose up to consume him.


Thank the gods.


The formal salon of Styx’s mansion was just as flamboyantly beautiful as the upper rooms.



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