Dark Hunger

Page 23

Will came around to watch her face. “What is Sylas doing, Rebecca?”

“Walking among them.” She smiled a little. “They do not know. They cannot see.”

“Can you make yourself known to him? Can you tell him we’re here?”

“He knows.” Her voice grew dreamy. “He is waiting for the guard to change. When they do, he will give the order.” Her eyes, closed until now, flew open. “Reese?”

Reese came to stand beside the chatelaine and put an arm around her. “I’m here, Rebecca.”

Rebecca began shaking her head. “You’re wrong. It cannot be. No priest would…” She stared down at Reese in horror. “Reese?”

“It’s me,” she said, and staggered as Rebecca fell against her. “Will, help me with her.”

Will lifted Rebecca into his arms and peered at her face. “She’s unconscious.”

“The strain must have been too much.” When he moved as if to carry her to the tents, Reese added, “You should put her back in the camper. Do you have any chains?”

“I am not putting my friend’s wife in manacles,” he snapped, turning away.

“Do you know what her talent is?” she countered.

Surprised, he stopped. “No. She never uses it or speaks of it to anyone.”

“She makes the living bleed.” Reese lifted her hair and showed him the thin trail of dried blood on her neck. “Anyone who comes near her. Mortal or Darkyn. Animals. Anything alive. She doesn’t have to touch them, either.”

Will swore softly. “That is why she never hunts. But how she can live if she does not feed?”

“Sylas has been feeding her from his own veins. She said that her talent doesn’t affect him. Sometimes she uses bagged blood.” She opened the door to the camper. “I’ll stay with her while you go get the chains and some guards.”

“I cannot leave you alone with her,” Will said after he put Rebecca back in the camper. “She might harm you.”

“I think she’ll be out for a while, but if she wakes up I’ll make a run for the tents.” She put her hand to his cheek. “Hurry back.”

Reese watched Will go before she climbed into the camper. Quickly she discarded the empty pressure dart she had tucked in her sleeve before she went to the unconscious woman.

“I’m sorry I had to do that,” she told her, smoothing some of the disheveled hair back from the chatelaine’s face. “But I can’t fail now, not when I’m this close.”

She covered Rebecca with the quilt at the end of the tiny bed before she left the camper. She would have to walk out of camp and find a lone guard on patrol. After she used him for what she needed, she’d simply walk back and retrieve the book from Will’s tent.

Reese glanced back at the camper before she started down the hill. The pines here had thin, almost fragile-looking trunks, but they had been planted so close together they formed a natural barrier to anything except a person on foot. She was glad she’d taken the time to walk several times through the woods along the outside of the property; otherwise she might have lost her way. She didn’t remember smelling jasmine before, though.

Just as she started after a guard who had walked passed her, a glaring beam of white light found her face, blinding her for a moment.

“Now, why,” a lazy voice asked, “would Will Scarlet’s little mortal lover be skulking about the woods in the midst of a siege?”

She shaded her eyes with her hand. “I had to relieve myself, my lord.”

The light beam moved away from her face. “I daresay there are far more adequate facilities for that sort of thing in the back of that monstrosity you just drove into camp.” Suzerain Lucan’s gray eyes took on a metallic gleam. “Do try again.”

She had no choice but to lie. “I don’t understand.”

“Neither do I,” he told her as he took hold of her wrist in a velvet-gloved vise of a hand. “But I expect we’ll sort it out.” He caught her other arm before she could punch him in the face. “Darling, please don’t wave your delicious-smelling flesh under my nose. I’m in a very bad mood, and I’ve had nothing to eat all day.”

He brought her wrists behind her back, pinned them there with one hand, and clamped his other hand on her shoulder before he marched her out of the woods.

Reese saw Will by the camper and panicked.

Always try to talk your way out, Father’s voice said, ringing in her ears. Do what you must only as a last resort. Remember your vow.

“I have something that belongs to you,” the Kyn male holding her said to Will. “Or, at least, I thought she did.”


“I didn’t want to wake Rebecca by using the bathroom in the camper,” she said, keeping her tone slightly exasperated. “The suzerain seems to think I was up to no good.”

“Please release her, my lord.”

“As you wish,” Lucan said, releasing her wrists. “Do you always require an audience when you pee?” He looked at Will. “I caught her sneaking up on one of the patrols.”

“If you haven’t noticed, it’s pretty dark out here, and my night vision is lousy.” She forced out a small laugh. “I can’t believe you’re making such a big deal out of this. I just needed to—” She broke off and brought up her hand to grab Lucan’s wrist as he attacked her.

He held the dagger an inch from her left eye. “Your night vision may be poor, darling, but your reflexes are magnificent.” He tugged his hand free and tossed the dagger to Will. “Whoever sent her trained her well.”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” she snapped. “Tresori begin training as soon as they can walk.”

“True.” Lucan strolled around her. “But a real tresora would also know that her scent changes when she lies. Can you smell it now, Will?”

“Aye,” Will said, his expression stony. “I did before, but I thought her afraid of Rebecca.”

“She is afraid.” Lucan loomed over her, his gaze searching her face. “Terribly afraid. But not of Sylas’s lady. Or of us.”

Reese whirled and tried to run, but a heavy body slammed into hers, knocking her to the ground. Will flipped her over and put a hand to her throat as a hot sweetness flooded her head.

Before Reese could draw another breath, she fell into darkness.

Sylas followed the mortal from the basement level to the first floor of the house, where the dark man waited and listened before making a hand signal to move forward. They crept down one passage until they heard footsteps, and then Sylas stepped into the shadows.

“Remember,” he murmured to the mortal. “Addled.”

The dark man hunched over and began to walk in a haphazard fashion, his arms swinging wildly. When two cavalieri came into view, they rushed forward, hands on their sword hilts.

“Hold,” one of them shouted.

“Somebody hit me over the head,” Hutchins complained, slurring the words. “Is this my mama’s house?”

Sylas passed from one shadow to another, gathering them with his talent until they writhed in a silent, snarling mass. He sent the emptiness out, casting it over one of the guards, whose cry was swallowed along with his flesh. As his clothes and weapon dropped to the floor, the other guard drew his blade.

“Come out, demon,” he demanded, his voice shaking.

“Oh, shut up.” Hutchins shot him with a dart.

Sylas emerged from the shadows and recovered their weapons. “You did well.”

“You did better.” Hutchins looked around. “Where’s the other one, and how did you get him out of his clothes?”

“The shadows took him.” Sylas handed him an ammunition belt loaded with the drug cartridges. “They will take you as well if you step out of the light.”

“Excuse me.” The mortal laughed. “You got the bogeyman working for you?”

Sylas never shared his talent with mortals; it frightened them too much. His men knew—they had fought too many battles with him not to know—but talent was not something Kyn discussed. “I said I would explain later. Come.”

“That thing brushed against me.” Hutchins pulled his sleeve back to reveal a bloody patch on his dark skin. “It burned like fire, but it was so cold. Now I don’t feel anything.” He touched the wound. “That’s why you’ve been telling me to stay in the light.”

“Here.” Sylas ran a dagger across his palm, then placed his hand over Hutchins’s wound, using his blood to heal it.

The man jerked, wincing, and then frowned. “You’d better not have AIDS, my man.”

“I have no diseases.” Sylas lifted his hand. “’Tis healed.”

“Damn straight, ’tis healed.” The mortal touched the dark flesh of his arm. “How the hell did you…I know: You’ll explain it later.”

“My men will reach the bathhouse soon,” Sylas said. “We must go quickly now.”

They reached the cache of weapons on the second floor without any further confrontations, thanks to a sudden change of the guard.

“Sweet baby Jesus.” Hutchins turned around, staring at the hundreds of swords hanging from the racks. “How are we are going to carry these out of here?”

“We’ll use this.” Sylas went to the wall and pressed a button on a panel beside a tall steel door, which slid open to reveal a large dumbwaiter. “Help me load them in.”

With the mortal’s help Sylas loaded as many blades, daggers, and maces as he could fit into the lift, then used the panel to send it to the first floor. “This goes directly to the bathhouse. The men will unload it and send it back up for more.”

Hutchins asked, “You normally wash your swords in the bath?”

“We never use that room for bathing. We only make it appear that we do.” Sylas saw the mortal’s drowsy eyes, and realized he was shedding too much scent in the small room. “Step outside for a moment, Hutch. Until your head clears.”

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