Dark Hunger


Page 4



And, if she kept repeating that, she might even convince herself of it.


Seeing Will tonight had not gone as she had expected it would. Reese tried to think of what had changed since the last time she had seen him. Part of the problem was that he never changed, would never change. Time left its mark on mortals, not the Darkyn. It had been seven hundred years since the poacher of Aubury had escaped a gruesome end and pledged his life and loyalty to Robin of Locksley, who had taken him along on his endless quest to give to the poor by stealing from the rich. By then he had become Darkyn, and that also saved him.


Yet Will Scarlet still had no idea what he had done the day he had escaped the gibbet.


Reese made herself recall Will’s image. He’d recently cut his hair himself, judging by the uneven thatch of white-gold strands above his brow. How she’d longed to weave her fingers through the back of it, to feel again that soft thickness where it met the heavy muscles of his neck. His long lashes, still as white as the twin arches of his brows, had veiled the jeweled brilliance of his eyes. She imagined sitting and simply looking into those beloved eyes and listening to his voice for hours. She’d dreamed of that.


Until he’d taken her beyond the dreams.


You can’t think about him that way, not now.


Reese knew how important the work she had to do was, and yet despite it all she wished she could run down the street to the Armstrong building, find him, and tell him the truth—warn him of what was coming, and why it had to be done. He would understand. As the temptation to do exactly that grew stronger, her phone, set on silent, buzzed in her pocket.


She didn’t want to answer it, even as she did. “You promised that you wouldn’t call.”


“It’s late. I was worried.”


“I’m finished here. I’ve arranged to go in tomorrow night.” How calm she sounded, even to her own ears.


“Does he suspect anything?”


“No, Father.” If seeing Will tonight hadn’t broken her heart, this would. “I deceived him completely. Just as you instructed.”


“You know I would not have asked this of you, my child, but there was no one else up to the task.” His voice gentled. “It will be over soon, and then we can return home to the family. They miss you terribly.”


She hadn’t given her family a single thought since leaving home, but she wouldn’t tell her father that. He could never know her true feelings, or the secret longing she had kept from him. If he had, he would never let her go within one hundred miles of Rosethorn. He would have left her behind.


“I’ll see you soon.” Before he could make any more assurances, Reese ended the call.


She walked to the green Jag she had parked in a shadowy corner. After unlocking the passenger door, she reached in and checked the pulse of the woman she had tied up and gagged.


Dark eyes, as deep and confused as her own, fluttered.


“It’s done,” she told her captive. “I’m taking you to a safe place now. You won’t be harmed.”


The woman moaned something behind the gag in her mouth.


By the time Reese reached the safe house, her passenger was asleep. She directed the security guards to take her inside before she went to the library to make her report. When she found the room empty, she went to stand by the mantel and look down into the flames. It was too warm in this place for a fire, but he still lit one each night. He claimed he enjoyed the scent of it, but she wondered if he didn’t do so for other, less pleasant reasons.


After some time her father came in carrying two glasses of wine.


“The young lady is safely installed in the guesthouse.” He placed one glass on a side table and took his own to his favorite chair by the fire. “Marie will take good care of her, child.”


“I know she will.” It was everything she didn’t know that made her wish she were back in England.


He watched her instead of the fire. “Something happened at the club that you did not mention. I could hear it in your voice.”


The ache between her thighs had disappeared, but she could still taste Will Scarlet on her lips. For a moment she considered telling him about the interlude—they had never kept secrets from each other, no matter how terrible they might be—and then decided against it. What had happened had meant nothing to Will, and could not change anything for her.


“Seeing him—being with him tonight—was more difficult than I had thought it would be,” she said slowly. “I prepared myself for this, I meditated all afternoon before I went there, and I knew how it would be, but…” Her girlish babbling shamed her. “Father, I was not ready for him.”


“You could not help falling in love, my child.” Ennis stared into the fire. “It is a powerful and enduring emotion. Even hatred bends before its will.”


“Will and I can’t be together, not like this,” she said, more to reassure herself than him. “I know that. I do know what I have to do, Father.”

He nodded. “Then why were you not prepared?”


“The mission work troubles me.” That much was true. “There are too many unknowns involved. How can we be certain the suzerain will steal this book? What if he decides against it, or fumbles the job?”


“Robin of Locksley does not hesitate or fumble,” he said mildly. “He has been pursuing the book since it was stolen from his family centuries ago. He covets it more than any other treasure in the world. Now it has been brought into his territory, and will be on open display at a public gallery. How can the most successful thief in history resist helping himself to such a prize?”


She shook her head. “In his eagerness, he could make a mistake.”


Ennis beckoned to her. “Come here to me.”


She went to him and sat on the carpet in front of his chair, curling up against his long calves. She was too old to do such a childish thing, she knew, but it gave her a measure of comfort. She closed her eyes as he stroked his hand over her hair.


“This has been so painful for you,” he said, his voice gentle. “Your loyalty and goodness rebel against what has to be done. But, my dear, our work sometimes demands such things of us.”


“We could go to him,” she whispered, and felt his hand still. “He is still a good man at heart, Father. He always has been. We could tell him of the danger. If he knew—”


“We could confide in him,” Ennis agreed. “You may have forgotten to whom he has made his oath, but I assure you, Will Scarlet has not. He will in turn go to Locksley. Now, what do you think a Darkyn lord would do with the knowledge that he had obtained such power? What did they do when they discovered it the first time?”


Her heart sank. “Locksley would give the book to Richard.” She lifted her face. “But, Father, the high lord has changed. All the reports indicate he is becoming more temperate, more reasonable. More human. He knows too well what could happen, just as we do. What if we used this as an opportunity to forge an alliance with him?”


He sighed. “The Darkyn are not human. They can never be. Even as we speak, Richard has recalled his seigneurs to London. They have suffered great losses over the last three years, and are at this moment deciding whether or not to go to war with the Brethren.”


“They can’t wage war openly,” she protested. “Not without exposing their existence. They have no weapons that can escape mortal detection.”


He looked down at her, his eyes sad. “After tonight they will.”


“Oh, God.” She covered her face with her hands.


“If I could give this task to anyone else, I would,” he assured her. “To spare you the suffering, I would do it myself.”


“No, Father.” She dropped her hands. “They would kill you.”


“One cannot say I deserve any less.” He stood, drawing her to her feet. The misery on his face struck at her heart. “As long as the book remains in the hands of others, the world will be in peril. We must take it back and destroy it before it is too late.” He pressed his dry lips to her brow. “Be brave, child, for just a little longer.”


She nodded.


“Now, at great expense and trouble I have obtained the original building plans for Rosethorn.” He gestured toward several long rolls of paper on his desk. “You will need to go over them tonight. I also have the names and photographs of every human employed by the estate. Those you must memorize, for once you are inside the house, they will be your only allies.”


I have no allies. Her shoulders drooped as she went to the desk.


Her father left her alone, and she spent the next several hours reviewing the blueprints of the estate and the dossiers of the mortals who served Robin of Locksley. It was dreary, mind-numbing work, but that didn’t matter. Nothing mattered but protecting the innocent.


That was what she had been trained to do; that was what sustained her. For their sake, she would lie, steal, and kidnap. For their sake, if she had no other choice, she would kill anyone who tried to stop her.


Even Will Scarlet, the only man she would ever love.


A caress scented with violets roused Rebecca of Daven from her slumber. Waning sunlight inched down the bed and away from her skin, replaced by the soothing touch of large, powerful hands. She should have grown accustomed to this by now, so long had they been together, but no, it seemed she never would. Each time she found herself in his arms seemed as great a miracle as the very first.


When she thought on who they had been, and what had happened to them, perhaps it was.


“At last.” A deep voice stirred her hair. “The lady awakes.”


“You are mistaken.” Rebecca smiled against the fingertip tracing the bow of her lips, but kept her eyes closed. “The lady still dreams.”


“Then she must talk in her sleep.” A lean cheek grazed her chin, and cool breath whispered against her ear. “Does she do anything else, I wonder?”


“Soon she must rise and rouse the other women, break the fast, tend to the animals, begin the washing, clean the south chambers, and finish the carding.” She wrinkled her nose. “Unless my lord gives me yet another long list of impossible tasks he wishes me to see to while he plays at being castellan. He delights in such things, you know.”



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