Born of Fury (Page 40)

Born of Fury (The League #7)(40)
Author: Sherrilyn Kenyon

“Dancer’s very brave. He started climbing within a year of his fall.”

The fact that he defended his uncle, and was so complimentary, stunned her. It was as if he finally saw the truth of Dancer’s personality, and not the lies his mother had filled him with.

Tying in, Darice paused to look down. His eyes widened as he realized how high above the ground they were.

“You okay?”

For several heartbeats, he didn’t speak.

“Darice? You still with me, hon?”

His eyes filled with tears.

“Darice!”

He blinked twice. “S-s-sorry. I just… I never thought about how far Uncle Dancer fell with my father.” He swallowed hard and licked his lips as he twisted to stare down the sheer drop. “I’ve never been this high before. Mostly we’ve done indoor climbing.”

“Don’t look down, sweetie. And I’ve got you covered. I’m anchoring you in like a beast. I promise you won’t fall far if you slip, and it will hold ten times your plummet weight.”

He nodded as she double-checked his knot and belay. “My mother blames every bit of the fall on Dancer. She said my father was the best climber she’d ever seen.”

Sumi took a quick drink of water before she prepared to climb ahead. “Don’t think about it, Darice.”

But he continued to fret as she moved forward.

All of a sudden, he lost his foothold and slipped. Falling only a few inches, he screamed out until he realized he was safe and firmly anchored.

“It’s all right, sweetie. I told you that I have you.” She paused for him to get his bearings.

Instead of resuming his stance, he clung to the wall in terror.

“Darice? You can do this. I know you can.”

He shook his head forcefully. “No, I can’t! I don’t want to die!”

“You’re not going to die, baby. I won’t let you.”

Tears flowed down his cheeks as he stared up at her. “Aren’t you afraid?”

“I’ve had to scale glass buildings a lot higher than this. As has your uncle. And he’s already fallen without an anchor. If he can manage to continue to climb after the fall he took when he was your age, you can, too.”

Still, he didn’t move. He continued to hug the wall.

“Do you want to go back down?”

His lips quivered before he wiped at his eyes. “You promise I won’t die?”

“On my own life.”

He drew a ragged breath before he returned to his belay position. “Sumi?”

“Yes?”

“Thank you.”

“You’re welcome, baby. Just breathe easy. I promise I won’t let you fall.”

He paused to meet her gaze. “I know why Dancer loves you…” He smiled at her. “I love you, too.”

Her own tears welled as those words touched her heart. “I love you, sweetie.”

With a tenuous smile for her, he fed her slack to climb. Sumi watched as he grew more confident right before her eyes. It was incredible to see the boy taking these first steps into adulthood. No wonder Andarions did this for their young. She totally understood it now.

But it broke her heart that Dancer’s journey had been ruined. That he hadn’t been allowed to grow up slowly. Rather it’d been shoved down his throat.

Like hers.

Not wanting to think about it, she stayed focused on Darice and their climb until they finally reached a small nest. She let Darice take lead for the last forty feet so that he’d reach the nest first.

On top of the small gendarme that was barely large enough for the two of them, he stood, looking out on the world so far below. By the time she joined him there, he was as exuberant as anyone she’d ever seen.

“I am emperor of the climb!” he shouted, his voice echoing off the canyon walls. “Fear me, bitches!”

Sumi laughed. “Remember, we still have to get back down.”

“Oh.” He peered over the edge. When he looked back at her, he stroked his chin and spoke in a faux professor-like tone. “Perhaps I spoke prematurely.”

Still laughing, she hugged him against her. “So where’s this nest?”

He pointed to a small crevice that was thankfully empty, except for the remnants of a nest that contained a handful of white feathers and two small bones.

His expression ebullient, Darice picked them up and tucked them into his pouch. “We did it!”

“Yep. Ready to head down?”

He looked over the edge again and cringed. “I think I liked climbing up better.”

Smiling, she tugged playfully at his ponytail that peeked out from under his helmet. “You’ll be fine. Look how far you’ve come.”

“We did, didn’t we?” He reached into his pouch and pulled a feather out. Then he held it toward her. “This is for you. You’re an Andarion now.”

She touched her hand over her heart and lowered her head to him. “I’m very honored. Thank you, mi tana.” She tucked the feather into her own pouch.

He smiled, until he looked down again. Suddenly, he turned a little green around his gills. “All right. Let’s slowly get this over with.”

Sumi had a bad feeling before they even reached the bottom. Something wasn’t right. She could feel it in her gut. As soon as they were on the ground, she unhooked herself and removed her helmet.

Darice dropped his on the ground and unbuckled his harness. “Where is everyone?”

“Not sure.”

He went running toward base camp to show off his feathers. Sumi had just started packing up their gear when she heard him screaming her name.

Pulling out her small blaster, she ran to him. He was kneeling over Thia.

“Dancer!” she called. “Bastien!”

No one answered.

Her heart pounding, she ran to Thia, who slowly blinked her eyes open.

“Stop yelling, Darice,” Thia snapped as she sat up. “My head’s killing me.”

“What happened?” Sumi asked.

At first, Thia appeared confused. Then she gasped and looked around with wild panic. “We were attacked.”

“Where are the guys?”

Wide-eyed, Thia panted as she tried to calm herself. “Oh my God, they must have been taken!”

Sumi flinched at the last words she wanted to hear. She quickly searched the area and found impressions in the ground where someone had dragged their unconscious bodies away from here to some kind of wheeled transport.

It vanished into the desert.

She heard a faint whine coming from where they’d slept. Hoping against odds it might be Dancer, she ran to find Illyse limping and sniffing at the blanket they’d slept on. Their gear was strewn about and the tracker for the device in Dancer’s back was near the blanket. “Easy, girl,” she said, stroking the lorina’s fur to calm her.

The lorina licked her chin, then nuzzled her.

And with every heartbeat, Sumi became more and more furious. “Dancer!” she screamed out again, knowing it was useless.

Someone had taken him.

Fear, worry, and grief tangled inside her. But instead of reducing her to tears, it stoked a rage the likes of which she’d never felt before.

How dare they!

And with that fury came the training she’d mastered over these last three years. She wasn’t a woman right now.

She was a feral assassin.

“You better not have harmed a single molecule on his body.” If Dancer had so much as shed a single skin cell while in their custody, she was going to take it out of their entrails.

CHAPTER 21

Hauk winced as he woke up to a splitting headache. The light burned his eyes. Frowning, he found himself inside a steel cage with Bastien and two other men. He pressed the heel of his hand against his forehead while he sat up to get his bearings.

“Do you speak Universal?” the guy on his right asked.

Hauk nodded then scowled as he checked Bastien to make sure he was unconscious and not dead. Thankfully, he was still breathing.

“Good. Just do what they say and don’t argue.”

Hauk turned an are-you-serious sneer at the man that caused him to gasp and scamper to the other side of the cage where the other man stared at him as if he terrified him.

“What the hell are you?” the man who’d been talking to him asked.

“Pissed. Off.” Hauk rose slowly into a feral crouch. While the human men could stand inside the cage, he couldn’t.

This was bullshit!

Ready for war, he got up and went to the door to examine the biolock. He kicked it in anger.

A woman gasped then fired a blaster at him. He ducked the charge and hissed, exposing his fangs.

“Pheara! You gotta come see this. Fast!”

He wouldn’t call the woman’s gait hurried as she came around the side of a wheeled transport to eye him. An inch or two shorter than Sumi, she was well muscled with short, dyed red hair and the swagger of a woman used to fighting for what she wanted.

The instant her dark brown eyes focused on him, she froze. “What the hell are you?”

He ran his tongue over his fangs, emphasizing the fact that he wasn’t human. “Let me out of here.”

She shook her head. “I don’t think so.” She pressed a button on the cuff at her wrist. Pain shot through him instantly.

But he wasn’t human. Instead of weakening him, it sent a charge of adrenaline through his body. Furious, he kicked at the door again, hard enough to bend part of it.

Both women backed up.

“What the hell?” Pheara breathed.

“He’s an Andarion.”

Hauk cut his glare to another woman who joined the first two. Tiny and petite, with short blond hair, she was dressed in animal skins.

“I thought he was human when we stunned him. No wonder it took so many darts to take him down.”

“Yeah,” the blond snorted. “You’re lucky you got him down at all. They are a savage breed and don’t react to stimuli the same way we do.” She hit the cage with a prod that sent electricity through it.

The men whined and screamed as they tried to avoid touching the metal. Bastien came awake with a foul curse.

Hauk didn’t flinch as he curled his lip at her and defied her to keep doing it.

“See.” She balanced the pole on her shoulder and swept her gaze over the other two women. “And we have a problem. Andarions eat humans. Raw. Leave him in that cage and he’ll devour the others.”

The men behind him began begging for release while Bastien laughed.

Hauk ignored them. “Let me go and I’ll leave here without any drama.”

The blond tsked at him. “It doesn’t work that way, cutie. You have too big a bounty on your head. Eat the others if you must. You’re worth a lot more than they are.”

Great. They were slavers as well as assassins. Just what he needed.

Hauk glared at the women. “I will get out of here, and when I do —”

“Don’t make me kill you, Andarion. While you have one hell of a bounty on your head, I’m thinking there are a lot of people who’d pay a fortune to have an Andarion slave.” She raked his body with a hungry smirk. “Now be a really good boy and I might send you off with a smile on your face.”

He exposed his fangs to her. “You’re really going to let me eat your heart?”

She scoffed.

Hauk grabbed the bars over his head and used his entire body weight to kick at the door again.

The other two women took three more steps back.

Eyes wide, Pheara gulped. “I don’t think that’s going to hold him, Telise.”

“If he kicks it open, blast the shit out of him. Price-wise, given the scars and wounds already on him, it won’t matter if he’s banged up a bit more.”

Roaring in frustration, Hauk pressed his face between the bars to glare at Telise. “When I get out of here, I’m going to feast on your organs.”

She pressed the prod to his stomach and blasted him.

Hauk growled as a violent shock went through his entire body. But he refused to give her the satisfaction of seeing his pain. He stayed on his feet, glaring at her.

That succeeded in putting fear in the bitch’s eyes.

Unsettled, she stepped back and turned toward her friends. She handed the prod to the smaller of the two. “If he gets out, open fire and call for backup.”

Hauk fanged them again as he cursed himself for allowing the women to get the drop on them. “Hey!” he called to the two who eyed him like the vicious predator he was. “There was a woman with me. Where is she?”

Pheara cleared her throat. “We took her weapons and left her where she fell. Why? Is she yours?”

“My niece, and if any harm comes to her, I swear by every god who protects Andaria that I will rain down a hell on you so severe you will beg me for the mercy of death.” He kicked the door again.

They backed up.

“I’m going for more guards.” Pheara took off running, leaving the other woman to watch him with a bug-eyed stare that would be hysterical if he wasn’t so enraged.