Dark Hunger


Page 55



Perhaps a mile down the road, Salvatore bent and touched the ground, his brows drawn in a frustrated frown.


“They took off in a vehicle,” he muttered.


“Can you follow it?”


He tilted back his head, dragging in a deep breath. “On foot.”


“Then what are we waiting for?”


Straightening, he considered her for a long minute, clearly wanting to demand that she return to the safety of Styx’s mansion. Then, proving he wasn’t completely without a functioning brain, he heaved a deep sigh and pulled his cell phone from the inner pocket of his jacket.


“As amusing as it would be to leave Viper’s car for the nearest chop shop, I might have need of the leeches before this is done,” he said, punching in a series of numbers and holding the phone to his ear.


He exchanged a few abrupt words with Viper and then slipping the phone back in his pocket, he grabbed her arm and urged her into a steady jog down the dark road.


“Do you consider vampires your enemy?” she demanded, slipping the guns back into the holsters that hung at her lower back before easily falling into step beside him.


“I did.”


“And now?”


He didn’t immediately answer, and Harley was startled by the vague sense of foreboding she could sense deep in his heart.


“Now, I’m beginning to suspect that we must negotiate a truce,” he grudgingly admitted. “Times are changing and we must change with them or perish.”


“Do you mean technology?”


“That’s a part of it.” He grimaced. “The humans’ ability to detect our presence increases with every passing year, as does their ability to harm us. It’s foolish to assume our natural superiority will protect us.”


Harley lifted her brows. Few demons were willing to admit that lowly humans might pose a threat, despite growing proof of the danger.


“And the other part?”


“I’m not sure I should share.” He shook his head, his expression hard. “You might think I’ve lost my mind.”


“I assumed that you’d lost your mind the minute you crashed into Caine’s basement,” she assured him.


He chuckled, the golden eyes glowing in the darkness. “Grazie.”


“What’s bothering you, Giuliani?” She held up a warning hand as his lips parted to blather some useless denial. “And don’t tell me it’s nothing. I can sense it.”


His lips twisted. “This mating is going to take some getting used to.”


She snorted. “Ya think?”


His eyes narrowed. “Harley…”


“Just tell me what’s bothering you,” she interrupted.


His jaw tightened, his gaze returning to the road and the faint tire tracks that were still visible.


“The ancient magic is returning. I can feel it flowing through my blood.”


Harley slowly nodded. She’d felt the potent magic stirring since they’d escaped from the caves.


“Yes.”


“And it’s whispering to me of danger.”


A chill inched down her spine. “The demon lord?”


“No.”


She studied his grim expression. What could be worse than a demon lord?


“Salvatore?”


“I don’t know, cara. It’s as if…” He shook his head in frustration. “The world is holding its breath, waiting for something that will change us all.”


“You’re scared?” she breathed.


“Cautious,” he said softly. “It seems wise to consolidate my power base.”


“The vampires?”


“For a start.”


“The Weres and the vamps working together.” Her voice held an edge of teasing. It had never been a secret that the two species had often attempted to exterminate the other. “The demon world is going to think that hell has frozen over.”


“I told you you’d think I’d gone mad.” He glanced in her direction, his brows pulling together as she stumbled to a sudden halt. Turning, he cupped her chin and lifted her face to study her troubled expression in the moonlight. “Harley?”


“I just remembered there was an elderly witch who Caine hired to create hexes of protection for his labs. She spoke of warning signs. At the time…”


“You thought she was nuts?” he asked wryly.


Harley grimaced. “Maybe a little.”


“What did she say?”


Harley had to strain to recall the old woman’s ramblings. She’d always liked Anastasia, but the witch had often creeped her out with her dire omens.


“She claimed that a new Oracle had been discovered.”


“Si. Anna Randal, an Elemental. She’s mated to a vampire.”


“She seemed to think that was some sort of portent of coming upheaval.”


He slowly nodded. “There is an old legend that a new Oracle is only discovered during times when the need is the greatest. Vague mumbo jumbo, like all prophecies.”


“She also said…” Harley’s eyes widened. “Oh.”


“What?”


“She said that the wind spoke of ancient powers returning.”


“The Weres?”


Harley shrugged. “I don’t know.”


He narrowed his gaze. “Do you think she was a seer?”


Harley laughed. She might have been sheltered from the world, but everyone knew that seers were extinct.


Like dragons and leprechauns.


Well, everyone but Caine, who’d been stupid enough to believe in visions.


“No, she didn’t claim to read the future, only the various omens and signs that she could see around her.”


“Did she say anything else?”


Harley searched her mind. “Most of it was gibberish, but I remember she said something about the rise of Gemini.”


“The astrological sign?”


“That’s what I assumed, but she didn’t really make much sense.”


Salvatore lifted his head, his brooding gaze turned toward the moon as he considered her revelation. Watching the spring breeze ruffle the raven hair that framed the proud lines on his face, Harley’s heart forgot to beat.


He was so stunningly beautiful.


So magnificently powerful.


So…


Hers.


Utterly and completely hers.


Harley jerked in surprise at the raw, primitive sense of possession that blasted through her.


Where the hell did that come from?


Thankfully unaware of her cavewoman impulse to drag him off and give him a reason to howl at the moon, Salvatore heaved a resigned sigh and resumed following Briggs’s trail.


“Obviously, the sooner we’re done with Briggs and back to the safety of our lair, the better.”


Disgruntled by her savage awareness of Salvatore, Harley kept a determined space between them as they ran through the darkness.


“Our lair?”


“Do I look like a fool?” He flashed a wry grin. “You would have castrated me if I’d said my lair.”


“Okay,” she grudgingly conceded. “Valid point.”


“I’m learning.”


For a time they moved through the darkness in silence, Harley absently noting that the tidy fields were being left behind and replaced by a tangle of underbrush and trees. Hard to believe that the road could lead to someplace even more isolated than the abandoned church and graveyard.


“I’ve never been to Italy,” she abruptly muttered.


Salvatore’s lips twitched, although he was careful to keep his attention to their surroundings.


“I think you’ll like the palazzo,” he said, his voice carefully bland. “It’s old, but it’s been magnificently restored.”


Palazzo?


As in palace?


Oh, that was just fan-freaking-tastic.


“Is it huge?”


“Fairly huge.”


“With marble?”


“Si, there’s marble.” He sent her an amused glance. “Do you have an irrational dislike of marble?”


“No, but I have a very rational dislike of becoming a joke among the Weres.”


The smile disappeared as his expression hardened with a haughty outrage.


“I assure you, cara, no one will ever dare laugh at you,” he said with the absolute confidence that his word was law.


And why not?


His word was law.


She shook her head, thinking back to her unconventional childhood. Caine had certainly never prepared her to become a sophisticated lady. Hell, she was more comfortable at a firing range than a ballroom.


“Maybe not to my face, but I’m going to look like an idiot in some fancy palace.” She pointed a finger in his direction. “And don’t think for a minute you’re getting me into a slinky dress and high heels.”


His husky chuckle brushed over her skin. “I’d rather get you out of a slinky dress. Although you can leave on the high heels.”


The image of her standing naked in front of Salvatore with a pair of crimson high heels sent a hot flash searing through her body.


Good…God.



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