Dark Bites (Page 22)

Dark Bites (Dream-Hunter #1)(22)
Author: Sherrilyn Kenyon

He wanted to, but he couldn’t. He’d lied so many times that it shouldn’t have mattered to him. Yet it did.

“I’m a Skotos, Erin.”

Her eyes filled with tears. “It was you! You who made me so terrified I couldn’t sleep? You who chased me and… and…” She couldn’t even begin to recount the torture he had put her through during those first few weeks. She had thought she was losing her mind. “Why did you trick me into thinking you were Oneroi? Was it just so you could feed from me?”

“At first, I only wanted to get you away from Krysti’Ana. I knew you wouldn’t go with the dragon, so I appeared to you as a man. And then later…” His voice trailed off as his eyes went dead.

“You lied to me.”

“I know.”

She backed away from him. The agony in her eyes sliced him.

V’Aidan clenched his teeth as grief washed over him. “I needed you, Erin. And I didn’t know how else to keep you with me.” He reached for her.

She cringed and the gesture tore through him. She no longer wanted his touch.

Like all the others, she, too, rejected him.

The hurt betrayal on her face made him feel lower than any of the insults the others had ever dealt him.

“I should have known,” she whispered, “someone like you pretended to be could never really want someone like me.”

V’Aidan winced at the pain in her voice. “Erin, don’t say that. You are the most wonderful person who has ever been born.”

“Is that another of your lies?”

V’Aidan closed his eyes. There was nothing he could say to make this right. He’d been wrong from the very beginning.

All he could do now was make sure no other of his kind hurt her.

“M’Ordant!” he called, summoning his brother to him.

The Oneroi appeared between Krysti’Ana and Rec’Sord.

V’Aidan took a deep breath. “I will go with them peacefully if you will keep them from her.”

“It is my job, is it not?”

V’Aidan nodded. It was the job of the Oneroi to help. It was the job of a Skotos to use and destroy.

He turned to look at Erin, but she refused to meet his gaze. Judging by the tears she fought, he would say he’d done his job very well this time.

His last view of her was when M’Ordant wrapped his arm around her the way he yearned to.

Krysti’Ana and Rec’Sord grabbed him to take him home.

“I’m sorry, Erin,” V’Aidan whispered as they shimmered from her realm into his. “I’m so very sorry.”

Erin didn’t move. She knew V’Aidan was gone. She’d heard the sincerity of his apology as he vanished. But inside she was all raw emotions. Raw betrayal. She kept seeing the horrible dragon in the cave. Feeling the scaly talons on her.

How could that be the same man who had made love to her? The same man who had made her love him?

The betrayal of it lacerated her heart. Why? Why had he made her believe in him?

“I don’t understand any of this,” she said to M’Ordant.

“Sh,” he said, brushing her hair back from her face. “Krysti’Ana and Rec’Sord wanted you for their own, but V’Aidan got to you first. When she found out he’d beat her to you, she was livid.”

“But how did he find me?”

“Something in your subconscious called out to him. He was only supposed to give you a single nightmare and move on, but he didn’t.”

“And Chrissy?”

“When she couldn’t take you from him, she called in her mate, Rec’Sord. I was alerted shortly thereafter to protect you. I told V’Aidan to leave you. He refused.”

Her head swam from M’Ordant’s information and from the pain and hurt inside her. “Why did he refuse to leave me?”

“I don’t know. I guess it’s just what he is. The Skoti suck the hopes and dreams out of others. I suppose he got a kick out of playing the hero with you. Building you up so he could hurt you more.”

Erin felt so foolish. So betrayed. How could she have been so blind?

The eyes, she thought with a start. She should have realized the eyes were the same color.

Was she really that desperate for a hero that she would accept a demon in disguise?

Suddenly, she felt ill.

Heartbroken, she headed home, wanting to forget she had ever heard of V’Aidan.

Erin sat alone for the rest of the day, thinking, remembering.

“You should be a writer.” V’Aidan’s kind voice echoed through her head.

It wasn’t the demon she remembered as she sat on her couch, clutching a pillow to her middle. It was the man. And as she sat alone in her apartment, she realized she would never again see him.

Never be able to share her day or her thoughts.

Most of all, she couldn’t tell him her dreams. V’Aidan might have started off by feeding from her, but in the end he had given her so much more.

He had been her friend as much as he had been her lover.

The loss tore through her.

But what could she do? He was back in his world and she was in hers. It was over.

There was nothing left.

In the end, the Skotos had won after all. V’Aidan had drained all her happiness, all her hopes, all her dreams. What was left was an aching, empty shell that wanted nothing more of this world or the other.

As the days went by, the pain of betrayal began to lessen and Erin remembered more of her dreams.

The more she remembered, the more she wanted to see V’Aidan one last time. Could she have been so stupid as to let him completely fool her?

She didn’t think so.

V’Aidan wasn’t that cruel. She’d seen things in him that defied what she knew him to be. His words came back to her. Words of protection. He had taught her to release her creativity to keep the Skoti away.

And there at the end…

“I will go with them peacefully if you will keep them from her.”

No, those weren’t the words of a monster. Those were the words of a man who cared more for her safety than for his own. Such a man, regardless of what M’Ordant had told her, was not all evil.

Desperate, Erin went to sleep, trying to find V’Aidan again. It didn’t work.

Erin woke up in the middle of the night, terrified. Where was V’Aidan and why wouldn’t he come to her?

For more than a week she tried everything she could think of to reach V’Aidan. Nothing worked. And as every day passed, she hurt more.

There had to be some way to contact him.

Discouraged and heartbroken, Erin sat at her desk, dazed. She’d barely slept in days and she was so weary.

“V’Aidan,” she whispered. “Why won’t you talk to me?”

“Erin,” John said from his doorway. “In my office. Now.”

By the tone of his voice she figured she was in serious trouble. No doubt he was going to fire her for missing so much work.

What did she care anyway? At this point, she was only going through the motions of life. Nothing was important to her now. She’d lost the only thing that gave her life meaning. The only one who had ever believed in her.

Soul-sick, she got up and walked the short distance to John’s office.

“Close the door. Sit down.”

She did as he commanded.

He sat there for several minutes, sipping his coffee, reading his E-mail.

She wondered if he had forgotten her. Then he turned, pulled his glasses down the bridge of his nose, and stared at her. “It’s awful, isn’t it?”

“What?”

“Loving an immortal.”

Erin had a sudden urge to clean out her ear. “Excuse me?”

“Oh, come on, don’t play innocent with me. Why do you think Chrissy was working here?” He pointed to the dolphin tattoo on his left forearm. “I’m an oracle for the Greek gods. Which is why I’m so damned tired and cranky all the time. They have the most annoying habit of bursting in when you least expect it.” He sighed disgustedly. “The least they could do is pay me, but oh no, I was lucky enough to be born into this. And benefits…” He snorted. “No sleep, no pay, no peace. Got to love it.”

She disregarded his tirade. “So, you’re like the Oracle of Delphi? I thought they were all women.”

“Those particular oracles are, but not all of us are female. Obviously. We are merely human channels to the various gods.”

Totally baffled, she stared at him, wondering if maybe this was a dream, too, or if the Big Guy had lost his mind. Something wasn’t right, at any rate.

“Okay, so you’re an oracle. Want to tell me why you hired Chrissy if you knew she was a dream-sucking monster?”

He shrugged. “She is a god and I have no choice except to serve her. She wanted a chance to scope out human targets. I merely provided her a safe cover.”

“You sold me out?”

“No,” he said, his stern look turning gentle. “They weren’t supposed to drain you the way V’Aidan did. Trust me. What he did was wrong. And you can rest assured he is being adequately punished for it.”

Her heart stopped at the forbidding note in his voice. “Punished how?”

“What do you care?” he asked, pushing the glasses back up on his nose. “You’re rid of him. Right? No more Skoti in your dreams. You have your life back to yourself.”

“I want to know.” No, she needed to know what had happened to him.

John took a drink of coffee. “Why they sent him to Tartarus, of course.”

Erin didn’t understand the term, and at the moment she wished she’d paid more attention in school. “Is that like jail?”

“Oh, no, hon. It’s hell. They killed him the minute they took him back to his realm.”

Erin couldn’t breathe as tears welled up in her eyes. The weight in her chest was excruciating. It wasn’t true. It couldn’t be true. “They killed him?”

“Didn’t you know?” he asked simply. “Didn’t he tell you what they were going to do to him? V’Aidan was never one who played by the rules. He’d already been banned centuries ago from taking human form and banished from this realm.”

“Why?”

“Because he would pretend to be human. Skoti are not supposed to have any creativity of their own. They’re not supposed to want love. Not supposed to want anything except a single night of dream surfing, hopping from one person to the next. He’d behaved for centuries, until he found you. Even after they stripped all his skin from his immortal body, he couldn’t stay away from you.”

John sighed. “Hypnos had already banned his transformation powers, so he decided there was nothing more to be done with him. Since V’Aidan wouldn’t obey him, they sent him to Tartarus for the rest of eternity.”

“But he didn’t hurt me. Not really.”

“Didn’t he? You look awful from here. Like you’ve been crying for months. And I swear you’ve lost at least ten pounds since all this started.”

“That’s not his fault.”

“No?”

“No. I don’t want him to suffer because of me.”

His gaze searching hers, John pulled an envelope out of his desk drawer and handed it to her.

“What’s this?”

“Open it.”

Frowning, Erin did as he said and saw the three pictures of her and V’Aidan at the carnival. Her hand shook as grief and agony swirled in her heart. “Where did you get these?”

“M’Ordant sent them to you. He thought you might like them as a souvenir.”

She stared at V’Aidan’s handsome face. At the love in his eyes.

“I have to see him,” she insisted.

John shook his head and sighed again. “Well, I’m afraid it’s too late now.”

“It can’t be. Please. I need to see him again. Please, tell me there’s some way I can reach him.

John narrowed an intense gaze on her. “That depends on whether or not you really love him.”

Erin still couldn’t believe what she was doing. She’d allowed John to teleport her into the Underworld, where he’d told her M’Ordant would be waiting to guide her to V’Aidan.

Not that she really believed in the Underworld, but at this point…

M’Ordant materialized in front of her. “Are you sure about this?”

“Yes.”

Nodding, he led her through a deep, dark cavern that reminded her much of the one V’Aidan had used to torment her. They walked for what seemed like miles before they came to a small cave.

A light was shining inside and she could hear a man’s voice speaking. “You’re thinking of her again, aren’t you?”

She looked inside and saw the once-proud dragon lying weakly on the floor with his back to her. Someone had chained his neck to a large boulder. His shoulders were slumped, his wings lying broken and useless on the earthen floor. His reddish skin had an ashen, dehydrated look and every inch of his body was covered with bleeding welts.