Night Embrace (Page 15)

Night Embrace (Dark-Hunter #3)(15)
Author: Sherrilyn Kenyon

Talon paused at the words, wondering how Zarek knew that, but his anger overrode it as he thought about Zarek judging him. "At least I don’t wallow in it."

Zarek laughed at that. "Do I look like I’m wallowing? I was having fun with her until you showed up." He licked his lips again as if resavoring the feeding.

"You should try it sometime, Celt. There’s nothing like tasting human blood. Haven’t you ever wondered why the Daimons feed before they take human souls? Why they don’t just kill the human quick? It’s because it’s better than sex. Did you know you can see straight into their minds when you do it? Feel their emotions? For one instant, you actually bond with their life force. It’s one hell of a high."

Talon glared at him. "Nick’s right, you are psychotic."

"The correct term is sociopathic and yes, I am. But at least I have no delusions about myself."

"Meaning?"

He shrugged. "Take your meaning wherever you can find it."

The man was disgusting. Insufferable. "Why do you have to make everyone hate you?"

Zarek snorted at that. "What? You want to be my friend now, Celt? If I clean up my act, will you be my buddy?"

"You’re such an ass**le."

"Yeah, but at least I know what I am. I have no pretensions. You don’t know if you’re a Druid, a Dark-Hunter, or a playboy. You lost yourself a long time ago in the dark hole where you buried the parts of you that once made you human."

Talon was aghast at such a low, self-serving life-form trying to play sage with him. "You are lecturing me on humanity?"

"Ironic as hell, isn’t it?"

Talon’s jaw ticced. "You don’t know anything about me."

With his silver claws flashing, Zarek slowly pulled a cigarette out of his jacket pocket and lit it with an old-fashioned gold lighter.

Putting the lighter back in his pocket, he took a long drag on the cigarette, exhaled the smoke, then cast Talon a sardonic, lopsided sneer. "Ditto."

With one last, parting grimace, Zarek walked slowly away from him, out of the alley and back toward the street.

"Lay off the feeding, Zarek, or I will kill you myself. I swear it."

Zarek raised his clawed hand and flipped him off without breaking stride or looking back.

Talon growled low in his throat as Zarek vanished into the night. How could Acheron stand dealing with him? That man could try the patience of a tree.

One day, Artemis was going to have to put Zarek down. In truth, Talon was astounded the order for Zarek’s execution hadn’t already been handed out. But then maybe that was why Artemis had sent him here. In Alaska, Zarek was on his home turf where he knew the terrain better than anyone and he would be able to avoid an executioner.

Down here, Zarek was at the mercy of Acheron, who knew these streets like the back of his hand. If the order came down, Zarek would have nowhere to hide.

It was definitely a thought.

Talon shook his head to clear it of Zarek. The ex-slave was the last person he wanted on his mind tonight.

His cell phone rang. Talon answered it to find Acheron’s thick Atlantean accent.

"Hey, I’m down on Commerce Street in the Warehouse District. There’s a murder scene here that I would like to confer with you about."

"I’m on my way." Talon hung up and headed to where he’d left his motorcycle.

It didn’t take long to grab his bike and make his way over to the scene. Cops were everywhere, questioning witnesses, marking off the area, and taking notes and pictures.

A large crowd of locals and tourists had gathered to watch the spectacle.

His eyes aching from all the bright police lights, Talon parked his bike and made his way over to Acheron, whose hair was now blond.

Jeez, the man changed hair colors more often than most people changed socks.

"What’s up, T-Rex?"

Acheron grimaced at the nickname, but didn’t comment. He inclined his head toward the body that had been draped with a body bag, but not yet sealed up. "That woman died barely an hour ago. Tell me what you feel."

"Nothing." As soon as the word left his lips, Talon understood. Whenever someone died, their soul lingered for a brief time before it moved on. There was only one exception to that-when the soul was captured and trapped by someone else. "It was a Daimon kill?"

Acheron shook his head no.

"Is she a new Dark-Hunter?"

Again the no shake. "Someone fed on her until they drained the life out of her and could steal her departing soul. Then they ripped her apart with something like a claw. The police are trying to convince themselves that it’s an animal, but the depth and precision of her wounds are too precise."

Talon went cold. "Claws like the ones Zarek wears?"

Acheron turned his head to stare straight at him. All Talon could see was himself in the dark lenses. "What do you think?"

Talon ran his hand along the edge of his jaw as he watched the police work over the area. This was disturbing.

"Look, T-Rex, I know you have a soft spot for Zarek, but I have to tell you that I found him having lunch a few minutes ago outside of a club. It looked like he was enjoying himself a little too much, if you know what I mean."

"So you think he killed this woman?"

Talon hesitated as he remembered what Zarek had said when he had caught him with the woman in the alley. I didn’t hurt her. Was that an admission he had hurt someone else or was it a statement that he never hurt the women he fed on?

"I don’t know," Talon answered honestly. "If you’re asking me if he’s capable, I’d definitely say yes. But I sure would hate to consign a man to Shadedom without more evidence."

Shadedom was the hellish existence that came to any Dark-Hunter who died without a soul. Since they no longer had a real body or a soul, their essence suffered eternity trapped between this plane of existence and the next. It was said to be the most grueling torture imaginable.

"So what do you think?" Talon asked. "Do you believe he did it?"

A slow smile slid across Acheron’s face, but he didn’t answer the question. The hair on the back of Talon’s neck rose. Something about all this just didn’t seem right.

For that matter, something about Acheron didn’t seem quite right either.

Acheron took a step away from him. "I’ll go talk to my good buddy Zarek, and see what he says."

Talon frowned. This definitely wasn’t right. Acheron never referred to anyone as his "buddy."

"By the way," Acheron said. "How are you doing? You seem tense. Uneasy."

He was. It was like someone had opened a floodgate on his hormones and emotions, and he wasn’t sure how to close it again.

But he didn’t intend to burden Acheron with that. He could control himself.

"I’m fine."

Talon glanced away from Acheron for a second to watch the arrival of the coroner. "By the way, T-Rex, what happened to your nose stud and…" His voice trailed off as he turned back and saw nothing but empty space.

Talon looked about.

Acheron was gone. The only trace of his presence was two bloody shoe prints that marked the concrete where he’d stood a second ago.

What the hell?

Acheron had never done that before. Man, this night was getting stranger by the hour.

"… there’s a disturbance on Canal Street. At Club Running wolf’s…"

Talon’s heart stopped at the words he overheard from a police scanner.

Sunshine.

Every instinct he possessed told him it involved her. He ran for his bike and quickly headed back toward the club.

Chapter 6

By the time Talon reached Sunshine’s club again, it was complete chaos on the street outside the club’s entrance and in the alley behind it.

A large crowd of people stood around outside where two ambulances were parked while medics tended three wounded officers. Someone had beaten them to a pulp.

He paused near one ambulance as he heard the officer giving his report to a detective.

"He was at least six feet six. Lean, muscular build. Caucasian male dressed in black, with long black hair and a goatee. Mid- to late twenties with this huge silver claw thing on his hand. He looked like the devil himself when we came up on him. Man, he tore through us like we was nothing. I got at least two bullets into him and he didn’t even flinch when I shot him. He just kept on coming at us. He must be on PCP or something."

Talon froze.

Zarek. There was no one else who could fit that description.

Damn. He shouldn’t have left the area while Zarek was here. Zarek must have attacked them just a few minutes after he left.

"So what happened?" the detective asked.

"Me and Gabe had a disturbance call about a fight in the alley. We got here in time to see the claw guy fighting two men. We yelled for them to stop, but the guy ignored us. He ripped their hearts right out of them. Right in front of us."

Talon groaned. They had seen Zarek take out a pair of Daimons. Great. Just great. He closed his eyes and cursed. This night was starting to rate right up there with abscessed teeth.

"Johnny got here right as I pulled my weapon and ordered the claw guy to stop. He turned on us like a wild beast. Next thing I know, I’m on the ground bleeding, you guys are here, and he’s gone."

"And the bodies?"

"He must have taken them with him while we were trying to get to the cars for safety. I’m telling you, Bob, the man was insane."

Talon raked his hands through his hair. Not even in town one night and now Zarek had the entire police force looking for him.

How had the man managed to last so long?

His phone rang again, but the caller ID didn’t display the caller’s identity. Expecting it to be Acheron since Acheron’s phone almost never registered a number, he was surprised to hear Zarek’s thick Greek accent on the other end. "The Daimons wanted to party with your girlfriend, Celt. Don’t leave her unprotected."

The phone went dead.

An eerie chill went up Talon’s spine. How could Zarek have known about him and Sunshine?

The man’s powers were rating right up there with Acheron’s.

His instincts on alert, Talon looked up to the roof above his head-to the old abandoned drugstore next door to the club. Silhouetted against the dark sky was a figure. To a human’s eyes, the man standing on the rooftop would be invisible, but Talon’s honed Dark-Hunter vision saw him clearly.

It was Zarek.

Zarek inclined his head to him, put the phone in his pocket, then stepped back and vanished into the darkness.

Talon frowned. Psycho Zarek had been watching over Sunshine all this time? Even while the cops were looking for him?

How unlike Zarek was that?

Talon immediately hit the automatic call-back feature on his phone.

"What?" Zarek asked, his voice surly. "Can’t you see I’m trying to get out of here before the cops find me?"

"What were you doing at Runningwolf’s?"

"Picking my nose, Celt. What do you think? I saw the Daimons on the street and I tracked them inside."

That explained that, but Talon had a bigger concern. "How did you know about me and Sunshine?"

"I overheard the Daimons talking about the two of you. You should be more careful, Celt. A mistake like that one could be costly."

"Costly how, Zarek? I’ve just seen the body of a woman who’d been drained of her blood and her soul."

"Ooo," Zarek breathed. "Here’s a news flash. It was a Daimon attack. Ever notice that tends to be their MO?"

"Yeah, but I’ve never known a Daimon to claw a woman up while killing her. Have you?"

There was a brief pause. "What are you saying?"

"I think you know, Zarek."

"Yeah, and you can kiss my ass, Celt. Maybe I should have left your bitch to them after all."

The phone went dead again.

Talon ground his teeth, torn between the deep need to find Zarek, beat the crap out of him, and wash his mouth out, and a deeper need to make sure Sunshine was okay.

Putting his phone in his pocket, he decided to leave Zarek to Acheron, who’d already said he was going to talk to him. Acheron was much better at handling Zarek anyway.

At least Ash could kill the bastard and not die in the process.

Talon expelled a long breath as he thought over Zarek’s warning that the Daimons were after Sunshine. It didn’t make a bit of sense.

Why would the Daimons be after her? And how could the Daimons know about the two of them?

This made the second attack on her in as many nights. Daimons took their victims where they found them. They didn’t stalk someone who got away. They just moved on to the next handy meal.

He didn’t know what they wanted with her, but until he found out, he wasn’t going to leave her in danger.

Scanning the crowd, Talon found Sunshine standing just under a light outside the club, next to a large, muscular man with black hair who was speaking to a uniformed police officer. She wore only her thin black sweater without the fuchsia one she’d had on earlier. Her arms were crossed over her chest as if she were cold.

Talon made his way through the crowd to her side.

Her face lit up the moment she saw him. "Talon? What are you doing here?"

He was more relieved than he would have thought possible. Just seeing her here, unharmed, and hearing his name on her lips…