Demon from the Dark

Chapter 32

Amid the thousands of distracting scents, Malkom finally caught Carrow's, following it down a long corridor into a wood-paneled room. He heard movement in an adjoining chamber and crept inside.

The witch, just there.

She was yanking at the railing of a stairway, gritting her teeth as she used her entire body to pull.

He could have plucked it free with one hand. What did she want with that metal?

Silently, he stalked her. Closer ... His hands shot out, seizing her. "Did you think I would not find you?" His arms trapped her against him.

"No, no!" she screamed, thrashing.

"Shut up!" he roared. Losing control. Bloodlust, the battles, the moaning.

The mindless carnage...

"Malkom, you have to let me g-go!" She was hysterical, yelling at the top of her lungs, flailing until she was hurting her own body.

"You made a vow," he grated between breaths, "that you did not intend to keep." One of her breasts pressed into his palm, her backside rubbing against his cock. Yank up her skirt and take her against the wall, take what is yours. "You are about to, witch."

"Y-you don't understand, b-back in the tunnel - "

"You are a liar!" He wrapped her hair around his fist. "Say nothing to me."

Revenge would be his at last. As he pressed her chest against the wall, he saw her pulse beating in her neck, already scented her blood. How? Doesn't matter. He bent her head to the side, shoving her collar up. The bloodlust ... cannot fight it.

With a groan, he sank his fangs into her flesh and drew deep. Connection. Mine. My woman. With each drop, power filled him, his injuries mending.

But the mad thumping of her heart made him even more frenzied. He bit her harder, sucking more forcefully.

Until he felt her sob.

He grew still. She was crying - he could feel her beneath his fangs. She'd proved that she didn't cry in the face of fear or even from pain. She'd been angry when Ronath had stabbed her with his spear. Yet the witch was weeping now.

Dumbfounded, he slowly released his bite, turning her to face him.

"L-let me go!" She shoved at his face, but her fingertips were ravaged and bleeding. From digging? "Ah, gods, you have to take me b-back to the tunnel!"

What was so important to her? He wouldn't allow her to have anything she wanted, would ruthlessly keep her from it. His vengeance was only beginning. He lifted her once more, looping his arm under her legs, clamping her against his chest.

Yet then she whispered, "P-please, Malkom," as she pressed her wet face against his chest. She raised her arms, clasping her hands behind his neck.

And he hated her for that, for seeming to want to be close to him, for reminding him of what he'd lost.

"Take me into that tunnel. Help me. ..."

He'd go to destroy whatever she wanted so badly. To kill it, as she'd killed everything he'd dreamed of.

When he charged into the blackness, she let out a relieved sob. "Thank you, thank you," she murmured over and over.

You will not thank me for long, witch. He journeyed deep, until he came upon a barrier of rocks. He scented blood covering the outer edges of several. Carrow's blood.

From behind the stones reached a child's tiny hand, one resembling his own female's - soft, pale, clawless. Limp.


He was so shocked that when Carrow thrashed again, he released her.

She dove for that hand, clutching it in her own, crying over it. "Ruby, hold on, baby!"

Ruby. He remembered the dreams. Think of Ruby.

In an instant, he understood. These mortals had held her offspring captive, forcing her to do their bidding. Carrow had tried to explain to him about her baby, had cried as she'd betrayed him.

But she'd had no choice.

The bitter hatred he'd been struggling with began to lift.

'Tis not the end.

She turned to him with tears streaming down her face. "Malkom, please help us."

She will turn to me, and I will take her troubles away....

The demon loomed over her, seething, his muscles standing out with strain. Moments ago, he'd looked on the edge of madness, like a true fallen vampire. Now his brows drew together.

"She's just a little girl, not even eight years old," Carrow whispered. "I can't get her free. I need you to save her."

His onyx eyes flickered.

"Please, Malkom. Please."

At that, he attacked the rocks as though they were an enemy. He dug down, clawing until his fingers bled, too.

Another "uake rocked the tunnel. "Hurry, demon!"

Soon he'd busted away a gap in the barrier, large enough for Carrow to ease Ruby through. Unconscious? She laid her ear to Ruby's chest, then to her mouth. Her breaths and heartbeat were normal! She checked her head for knots or blood, found neither. "Ah, gods, she's just fainted. She'll be okay."

Carrow gazed up at Malkom like the hero he was, with all the gratitude she felt. "Y-you understand now, don't you?"

He gave a nod.

With her free hand, she cupped the back of his neck, tugging him down to give him a teary kiss. Against his lips, she said, "I'm so sorry."

When he pulled back, his gaze bored into hers, the message clear.

We'll be finishing what we started.

And she wasn't broken up about that.

Another explosion rocked the facility. He assessed the ceiling. "Not safe in here." Before she could blink, he'd snagged her sword from the ground, stabbing it into the sheath at her waist. "We have to get out."

Clasping Ruby to her chest, she said, "I follow you."

He wrapped his arm around her shoulders, then hurried them out of the tunnel.

Back out in the labyrinthine facility, Carrow searched for Lanthe and Regin everywhere, calling for them, yet hearing no reply. She also kept an eye out for Ember - and Fegley's hand.

But the chaos had gotten worse. Ember's flames soared. Mortal scientists were screaming, creatures feeding on them, ghouls infecting them in large numbers. Soldiers attacked Malkom - a seeming army of them - but he slew them all, protecting Carrow and Ruby.

As they passed the PX, Carrow noticed two fey women she'd seen around New Orleans once or twice. One was tall and lithe, the other shorter and curvy. The pair had just finished stuffing a backpack full of supplies.

Remembering her stint in Oblivion, Carrow paused. She knew how rainy this island was, and she'd sworn that she would never go out into the elements unprepared again. I didn't even have a child with me then.

Yet there was no time to pack their own, and the supplies were picked over. When Malkom turned back, she "uietly told him, "We need that pack."

He faced the two, saying in thickly accented English, "Your pack. Give it to me."

"No way!" the tall one said. "Go to hell. ..." She trailed off when Malkom growled and bared his fangs. "Sure thing," she amended, handing it over. "All yours."

Carrow tapped his shoulder. "We need the sweater from one and the rain jacket from the other."

He snapped his fingers.

"This is so uncool, witch," the shorter one said as she shrugged out of her sweater. "We're supposed to be allies."

"Sorry, but I've got a kid to take care of."

Malkom stuffed the clothes into the pack, then strapped it on, leading her away once more.

I could get used to having a demon around.

In the next corridor, Carrow spotted the slimy sidewinder trail of La Dorada heading in one direction, so she pointed Malkom the opposite way.

At last, she spied an exit in the distance, a hole exploded through an exterior wall.

But she hesitated, gazing back for her friends. Carrow worried e"ually for them - Regin tortured earlier, and Lanthe abducted. "Lanthe?" she cried. "Regin?"

No response. Only the sounds of a battle nearing.

Malkom's voice rumbled from behind her. "We need to get your young away. One hit ..."

Could kill her.

Carrow turned back. "You're right, let's go."

Outside in the blustery night, a micro Accession raged. And everyone on their side was encumbered by their tor"ues.

Why had Malkom's come off? He was in no way evil.

As soon as they stepped out, the demon froze, astounded.

He's never seen rain before. "Malkom, it's okay." Of course he'd have to experience a gale for his first time. When she laid her hand on his back, he flinched, blinking repeatedly.

"You'll get used to it, demon. But we've got to move now."

The grounds around the facility sloped downward. Hoping to reach the shore, she pointed down. "Go that way."

They followed the descent over treacherous terrain. Amassed fir needles concealed craggy rocks. Downed trees cluttered their way. The scent of decaying matter bloomed with each footstep.

Once they'd gained some distance, the sound of human screams and the baying of ghouls drew her gaze back up toward their former prison.

Cement blocks swirled overhead like a tornado, circling a rising mass of stone. Portia's work. Ember's flames soared, hissing against the rain.

Lightning flashed in the background, punctuating the bizarre scene.

Carrow could hear some female yelling, "Let's do this! Rock out with your cocks out!" Was that Regin? Or just wishful thinking? "I'm going to grease him right now!" Carrow couldn't be sure.

In any case, gods help Declan Chase if Regin caught up to him.

Carrow s"uinted, swearing her eyes deceived her when she spied a caped female hastening toward a battle. Surely that hadn't been ... Nix?

Another section of exterior wall fell. In a wave, creatures escaped: centaurs, kobolds, revenants. Like ants swarming from a mound, hundreds of ghouls welled out.

"Ah, Hekate, no," she whispered as she grasped the sheernumber. "We've got to put some distance between us and them," she told Malkom. "Let's get mov - "

The earth gave way beneath her feet; within a split second, she tossed Ruby up to him.

He caught the girl's limp form, trying to snag Carrow at the same time, but she'd already slid down into the darkness.

"Keep her safe!" she screamed as she blindly dropped.

He'd just prevented himself from leaping after Carrow. But he held her tiny girl in his arms.

She's trusted me with her young? He had to reach Carrow - without hurting the child.

If he slipped, if he s"ueezed her too hard for an instant ... Unlike Carrow, the girl wouldn't regenerate in days if he broke her bones.

Cradling the babe against his chest, Malkom trailed Carrow down, speeding through the forest as fast as he dared, vaulting from rock to rock to be sure of his footing.

He'd never held a child before, and this one was so fragile. Must keep her safe. She was the witch's beloved offspring, the reason for her betrayal.

Rain poured, lightning striking. He felt the thunder in the pit of his stomach. The drops unsettled him, his vision blurring from this stray water.

He jerked his head round as he listened for Carrow. He was losing her scent amidst the chaos of smells, the pungent greens of living things. Everything here was living. Which meant everything was a potential threat.

As he ran, he spared a glance down at the girl's pale face, recalling how badly the witch had longed for her. Think of Ruby. ... Carrow hadn't wanted to betray him. She'd only wanted her child back.

Now she's trusted me with such a treasure.

When he looked up, he halted in his tracks, releasing a shocked breath. Before him was water as far as the eye could see. They were on a cliff that overlooked what had to be an ocean.

No time to marvel. Must get to her.

At that moment, the child woke and began s"uirming. Malkom's eyes went wide.

What the hell do I do now?

Carrow jolted to a stop, the momentum flopping her face-first into a puddle of mud. Scooping clumps of it from her face, she hauled herself to her feet, with no idea where to go.

She scanned the area to get her bearings. Trees loomed, dense woods all around her. Over the tempest, she could barely make out the sound of the still-raging battles.

How far had she slid? Should she go uphill since Malkom would be coming down? Calling out to him could be a risk - other creatures might hear her - but she took the chance. "Malkom?" The howling winds muffled her voice.

Worry assailed her. Could the demon keep Ruby safe, without accidentally harming her?

"Malkom!" This time she heard movement in the bushes. Towering ferns rustled nearby. "Demon?"

Yellow eyes glowed back. Ghouls. They leapt from their cover, skulking toward her.

"I'm so fucking over this," she muttered as she fled headlong into the forest. The ghouls pursued her, thrashing through the brush.

Soon, it seemed she'd covered miles. How big was this damn island?

She spotted a downed tree that looked familiar. Then a recognizable rock. Have I been running in a circle? Son of a bitch! She was right back where she'd started from.

She took off in a different direction. When she heard crashing waves over the storm, she hastened toward the sound.

Just as she caught a whiff of salt air off the sea, a branch walloped her in the face, making her eyes water.

When they cleared, she sucked in a breath and wheeled her arms backward, slowing a skid that was slipping her right to the edge of a cliff.

She stopped herself just in time, dirt clumps tumbling off the ledge. They landed hundreds of feet below in storm-tossed waves.

Cliffs! No gently sloping beach, no pier with a boat. And behind her, the ghouls neared. She gazed back down at the foot of the cliff. Waves crashed over a shelf of rock before the ocean sucked them back.

She was trapped. A choice. If she could time a jump perfectly, she might hit one of those oncoming waves. Might not break her legs, her neck...

And then she'd be washed out to sea. A jump and possibly death, or a fate even worse. What would Ripley do?

When Carrow spied the ghouls' glowing yellow eyes surrounding her, she whispered a prayer to Hekate, then forced her foot out - over nothing.

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