Dark Hunger


Page 45



“Si. Together, cara.”


Using a running start, Salvatore rammed into the altar, making it shift another inch. There was a shrill scream of fury that filled the cavern, and the pain in Harley’s brain became crippling.


The demon lord was clearly displeased with their efforts.


Which meant it had to be hurting the bastard.


“More,” she managed to gasp, sensing they had only moments before the demon lord could gather enough strength to crush them like bugs.


Salvatore grunted as he placed his hands against the altar and pushed with all he was worth. Which happened to be a great deal. His muscles bulged and the veins of his neck popped out as he added his strength to hers.


The unnerving screeching continued, and the pain filtered from Harley’s brain down her spine, threatening to drain the last of her strength. But with Salvatore at her side, they managed to keep the pressure on the altar, and with a deafening crack the bottom at last broke free of the stone floor.


Breathing heavily, Harley watched as the massive stone slowly toppled over, breaking into a dozen pieces. For a moment, Salvatore stood at her side, then with a low curse he turned and kicked the brazier.


The flames sputtered, the hot coals spreading across the floor like glowing gems. Immediately the ravaging pain disappeared and with a gasp, Harley sank to her knees.


“Is it gone?”


“I don’t intend to stick around to find out.” Reaching down, Salvatore scooped her off the ground and headed for the entrance to the cavern. “Time to go.”


On the point of commanding that he put her down, Harley stiffened as a deep boom echoed through the air and dust trickled down from the ceiling.


“Why don’t I think that’s a good thing?” she muttered.


“Cristo.” Tucking her against his chest, Salvatore sprinted through the tunnels. “I’m growing tired of having caves falling on my head.”


“No shit,” she muttered, feeling the tremors that preceded a full-scale collapse. “Next time you piss off a demon lord, could you make sure he has a lair on the Riviera?”


His laughter echoed off the crumbling walls of the tunnel. “I’ll see what I can do.”


Chapter Nineteen


Caine didn’t know how much time had passed when he returned to the land of the living.


It had to be long enough for the worst of his injuries to have healed, although he wasn’t ready to do any backflips. He was still weak, and his muscles groaned in protest when he forced himself to his feet.


Glancing up, he studied the tiny opening of the pit far above his head. One thing was for certain. There was no way to get out the way he came in. He was a cur, not a damned bat.


“He’s right about one thing. I am a stupid prick,” he muttered, recalling Briggs’s mocking words as he’d plummeted through the air. “Stupid and oh-so-dead. Why did I ever believe that bastard?” He turned his attention to his stark surroundings. “Because I wanted to believe. I was convinced I was so freaking special. What a joke.”


With a shake of his head, Caine headed toward the nearest tunnel. He could wallow in self-pity and walk at the same time. God only knew how long it was going to take to find a way out of the hellhole.


He traveled through the low tunnels, occasionally slogging through water that tumbled from God only knew where, and more than once he was forced to bend over nearly in half to keep from banging his head.


All and all, a perfectly miserable journey.


Over an hour passed before Caine at last caught the scent of something besides damp rocks. Coming to a halt, he peered through the crack in the tunnel wall that revealed a small cave on the other side.


“Hello? Who’s there?” He sucked in a deep breath, testing the air. There it was again. The faint scent of…Were? “Harley?” There was a rustle of sound and he caught the glimpse of a shadow dart past the narrow crack. “Shit.”


Unable to bust his way through the thick wall, Caine splashed down the tunnel, hoping to find an opening into the cave. The smell wasn’t exactly Harley’s, but it was close enough that the Were had to be her relation.


Why the pureblood would be down here defied his imagination, but the mere hope she might lead him out of the nightmare maze was enough to make him ignore the danger of decapitation from the low ceiling as he dashed recklessly through the dark.


The scent deepened, the hint of lavender tugging at his senses, leading him down a side tunnel. He didn’t have a clue where he was going, but suddenly finding the Were had become the most important task in his life.


His pace instinctively slowed as the tunnel ended at the opening to a large cavern.


Unlike the rest of the lower chambers, he sensed that someone regularly spent time in this area. His gaze scanned the shadows, taking in the shallow stream of water that had cut a groove in the smooth floor, and the stones that had been chiseled to resemble chairs.


No bat did that bit of sculpting.


Caine stepped into the cave, already sensing the Were hidden behind one of the larger stalagmites.


“You might as well come out,” he commanded.


There was a tense pause, then with a slow movement, the diminutive pureblood stepped into view.


The hint of familiarity in her scent had already prepared Caine for the female’s striking resemblance to Harley.


Her hair was a paler shade, closer to silver than blond, and pulled into a braid that fell to her waist. Her skin was a perfect alabaster, smooth and silken. Her eyes were also lighter, green the color of spring grass and flecked with gold.


Her face, however, was shaped exactly like Harley’s, and beneath the frayed jeans and sweatshirt her body was slender, but hard with well-honed muscles.


She had to be one of the four pureblooded females.


The one that Briggs had taken after they were nearly discovered in Chicago.


The Were had told him he’d sent her to a cur pack in Indiana. He should have known it was a lie.


Nothing else that had come out of the bastard’s mouth had been true.


Staring at him with wide eyes, she tilted her head to the side, as if listening to a voice only she could hear.


“You shouldn’t be down here.”


He took a step forward. “Who are you?”


“Nobody.” She warily shifted backwards. “I’m nobody.”


Holding up his hands in a gesture of peace, Caine took another step forward.


“Easy, love,” he soothed. “What’s your name?”


“I don’t have one.”


He frowned. Was she jerking his chain? Or was she just flat-ass crazy?


“Everyone has a name.”


She shrugged at his disbelieving expression. “I’m still waiting to discover what it’s going to be.” She stilled, abruptly glancing toward the ceiling. “I have to go.”


With the quicksilver grace of a fairy, the female spun on her heel and darted toward a narrow opening on the far side of the cavern.


“Hold on.” She ignored his command. Of course. Being stubborn had to be coded into the sisters’ DNA. Without so much as a backwards glance, she disappeared from sight. “Freaking hell.”


Caine was in swift pursuit, ignoring the very real possibility that this was another trap devised by Briggs.


He had to find the female.


He didn’t know why. He only knew that it wasn’t an option to allow her to escape.


Turning sideways to squeeze through the narrow opening, Caine entered the small cave. It was no larger than most bedrooms, with a narrow cot next to one wall and a battered dresser beneath a broken mirror next to another wall.


His brows snapped together at the realization that the stark, desolate cell must be where the beautiful woman was kept. An unexpected and unstoppable fury exploded through him.


Completely irrational considering he had more or less held Harley hostage.


Still, after the past few days, he wasn’t in the mood to be rational.


Intent on the silver-haired Were, it wasn’t until she’d bent to light a candle that he was aware of the odd shimmers in the air.


“What the hell…”


His hair threatened to stand on end as his gaze slid over the foreign glyphs that covered the stone walls. In the flickering candlelight they glowed in a strangely hypnotic manner.


“You can’t be here,” the woman whispered, wrapping her arms around herself as she sank to her knees beside the cot.


“I hate to argue with a beautiful woman, but obviously I can,” he absently muttered, moving toward the nearest wall. “What is this place?”


“It’s a secret.”


He halted just inches from the wall, studying the designs. “Did you do these?”


“Yes.”


A peculiar sensation inched down Caine’s spine as he realized that the glyphs weren’t carved onto the walls as he first assumed, but instead floated just above the rough surface, occasionally shifting and changing color with a dizzying speed.


These weren’t random works of art created by a bored pureblood.


This was…power.


Turning, he moved back to tower over her kneeling form. “What are they?”


“Pain, joy…death.” She shook her head, fear rippling over her delicate face. “You have to go. He’ll be mad if he finds you here.”



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