Night Pleasures (Page 31)

Night Pleasures (Dark-Hunter #2)(31)
Author: Sherrilyn Kenyon

As they rounded a large hedge, he caught sight of Desiderius waiting. His smile evil, the Daimon held a panic-stricken pregnant woman in his arms with a knife at her throat.

"Welcome, Dark-Hunter," he said, his free hand stroking the woman’s distended belly. "Can you believe what I was lucky enough to find? Two life forces for the price of one." He bent his head and rubbed his nose against the woman’s neck. "Mmm, just smell the strength."

"Please," the woman begged, her voice hysterical. "Please help me. Don’t let him hurt my baby."

Kyrian took a deep breath as he fought the fury inside him that demanded Desiderius’s blood on his hands. "Let me guess, you’ll trade her life for mine?"

"Exactly."

Trying to rattle his opponent, Kyrian let out a tired breath as he surveyed the six Daimons and two human criminals around him. If not for the woman, he could have taken them easily. But one move against any of them and he had no doubt Desiderius would cut her throat. Indeed, Daimons valued very little more than taking the soul of a pregnant woman.

"Couldn’t you think up something a little more original than this?" Kyrian taunted him, knowing Desiderius was pompous enough to take insult. "I mean, push your limits. You’re supposed to be a crazed mastermind and this is all you have to offer?"

"Well, since you’re unimpressed, let me kill her." He pressed the knife against her throat.

The woman screamed.

"Wait!" Kyrian snapped before the Daimon could draw blood. "You know I’m not going to let you hurt her."

Desiderius smiled. "Then drop your srads and move to stand against the fence."

How did he know about those?

"Okay," Kyrian said slowly. "And why?"

"Because I said so!"

Trying to figure out his reasoning, Kyrian pulled Talon’s weapons out from under his coat and moved slowly toward the fence. Once he stood in front of it, the two human men grabbed his wrists and placed ropes around them.

Suddenly, he was pulled backward, his arms spread out against the fence. Kyrian fought wildly. His heart pounding, he jerked at the ropes holding him pinned. All his calm, cool Dark-Hunter rationale evaporated, leaving him in the throes of panic. He fought his restraints like a wild animal caught in a trap.

He had to get out of this. He would not be tied helpless. Not like this. Not ever again.

He fought against the ropes, tearing the flesh around his wrists. He didn’t care. All he wanted was his freedom.

"I told you I knew your weaknesses," Desiderius said. "Right down to the fact you would never let me hurt a pregnant human." He leaned down and kissed the girl on her cheek. "Melissa, be a good girl and thank the Dark-Hunter for his sacrifice."

Kyrian froze as she left Desiderius’s embrace and moved to stand by the oldest human male.

She’d been in on it all along.

Son of a bitch, when would he learn?

"Are you ready to die?" Desiderius asked.

Kyrian bared his fangs at him. "I wouldn’t be so cocky. You haven’t killed me yet."

"True, but the night is still young, isn’t it? I have plenty of time to play with Artemis’s errand boy."

Kyrian gripped the ropes and pulled with all his strength as another wave of panic threatened to consume him. He had to calm down. He knew it, and yet those old, haunting memories of his torture in Rome tormented him.

"What’s the matter?" Desiderius asked, stepping forward. "You look a bit pale, Commander. Are you remembering the humiliation of your defeat? The touch of the Roman executioners as they prepared you?"

"Go to hell!" Kyrian toed the release for his boot and kicked out at Desiderius.

Desiderius jumped back out of range. "Oh yes, I forgot about those boots. After you, I shall have to go find good old Kell as my next Dark-Hunter target. With him out of the way, what would all of you do without your weapons expert?" He inclined his head to the girl. "Melissa, be a dear and rid the commander of his boots."

Kyrian ground his teeth as the girl came forward. Dark-Hunter law allowed him to protect himself against humans who sought to do him harm, but he couldn’t bring himself to hurt her, especially while she was pregnant. Though she didn’t know it, she was still a little girl. "Why would you mess up your life with him?" he asked her as she pulled his boots off.

"Once my baby comes, he’s going to make me immortal."

"He doesn’t have that power."

"You’re lying. Everyone knows vampires can take or give life. I want to be one of you."

So that was how Desiderius was enlisting his human helpers. "You could never be one of us. He’ll kill you once he’s finished."

She laughed at him.

Desiderius clucked his tongue. "Still trying to protect her even while she prepares you for your slaughter. How sweet. Tell me, were you so considerate of your Roman brothers?"

Kyrian threw his body toward Desiderius.

A Daimon came out of the shadows with a large hammer. Kyrian froze the instant he recognized it. He hadn’t seen one in over two thousand years.

"Yes," Desiderius said as he moved closer to Kyrian. "You know what this is, don’t you? Tell me, do you remember the way it felt when Valerius used it to break your legs?" Desiderius cocked his head. "No? Then let me refresh your memory."

Kyrian clenched his teeth as Desiderius brought the hammer down across his left knee, instantly splintering the bones. Once he had delivered a like blow to his right leg, the Daimon dared to stand before him.

Kyrian held himself up with his hands. He tried to put weight on his legs, but the pain made it impossible.

Desiderius smiled at him as he handed the hammer back to the Daimon. Then he pulled something out of his pocket.

Rage filled Kyrian as he recognized the ancient Roman spikes they had used for crucifixion.

"Tell me, Dark-Hunter," Desiderius said with a smile, "would you like me to put you up for the night?"

CHAPTER 12

Amanda came awake with a start. It took a full minute to realize she had fallen asleep in Tabitha’s hospital room, lying against Nick. Her mother was asleep on the cot they had rolled in a short time ago, and she and Nick had taken the two uncomfortable chairs by the door.

Tabitha was still asleep on the bed where the doctors wanted to monitor her until morning. A Daimon had viciously cut a line down her sister’s cheek that would leave an ugly scar. Bruises and cuts lined her body, but the doctor had assured them that Tabitha would heal.

Their sisters had gone home at their mother’s urging, but Amanda had stayed just in case either of them needed anything. Her heart pounding, she looked up as her father returned to the room with two cups of coffee in his hands. He handed one to Nick. "You want mine, kitten?" he asked Amanda, holding his cup out to her.

Amanda smiled at her father’s kindness until she remembered her vision.

"You okay?" her father asked.

She looked at Nick, her heart pounding. "Kyrian’s in trouble."

Nick laughed before taking a drink of coffee. "You were dreaming."

"No, Nick. He’s in trouble. I saw him."

"Just relax, Amanda, you’ve had a really bad day and you’re worried about Tabitha. It’s understandable, but Kyrian never gets in over his head. He’s fine. Trust me."

"No," she insisted, "listen to me. I’m the first to admit I hate my powers, but I know they’re not lying to me. I can feel his panic and pain. We have to find him."

"You can’t go out there," her father said. "What if this Desiderius is waiting for you? What if he sends someone to hurt you like he did Tabby?"

She met her father’s pale blue eyes and offered him a small smile. "Daddy, I have to go. I can’t let him die."

Nick sighed. "Amanda, come on. He’s not going to die."

She dug at his coat pocket. "Then give me the keys to your car and I’ll go myself."

Nick playfully captured his keys from her hand. "Kyrian would have my head."

"He can’t have your head if they kill him."

She saw the indecision on his face. Nick set his coffee on the floor, then picked up his cell phone and dialed it.

"See," she said. "He’s not answering."

"That doesn’t mean anything this time of night. He could be in the middle of a fight."

"Or he could be seriously hurt."

Nick pulled his PDA out of its cradle on his belt and turned it on. After a few seconds, his face paled.

"What is it?"

"His tracer’s off."

"Meaning?"

"I can’t track him. No Dark-Hunter turns their tracer off. It’s their lifeline if they get into trouble." Nick shot to his feet and shrugged his coat on. "Okay, let’s go."

Her father stepped between them and the door. He stood even in height to Nick and had his entire body braced for a fight. "You’re not taking my baby out there to get hurt. I’ll kill you first."

Amanda stepped around Nick and kissed her father on his cheek. "It’s okay, Daddy. I know what I’m doing."

By the light in his eyes, she knew he doubted her.

"Let her go, Tom," her mother said from her cot. "There’s no danger to her tonight. Her aura is pure."

"Are you sure?" he asked her mother.

She nodded.

Her father sighed, but still he looked doubtful. He glared at Nick. "Don’t you let her get hurt."

"Believe me," Nick said, "I won’t. I answer to a much scarier person than you for her welfare."

Reluctantly her father let them leave.

Amanda rushed through the hospital, to the parking lot, then ran over to Nick’s Jag.

Once they were in Nick’s car, Amanda did her best to remember where she had seen Kyrian in her vision. "It was a small, dark courtyard."

Nick snorted. "This is New Orleans, chere. That doesn’t tell me anything."

"I know. I think it was in the Quarter. But I don’t know. Dammit, I just don’t know." She scanned the dark streets as they passed them. "Is there a Dark-Hunter we could call who might be able to help find him? Maybe we should get Talon back?"

"No, Talon is hunting his own target." He handed her his cell phone. "Push redial and keep trying to call Kyrian."

She did, repeatedly, but there was still no answer.

As dawn approached, Amanda became desperate. If they didn’t find him soon, he’d be dead.

Terrified, she did what she had never dared before. She leaned her head back on the seat and purposefully reached down deep inside herself to touch the full strength of her untested powers. A terrifying surge went through her, making her warm and throbbing.

Images swam in her head, some old, some undefinable.

Just as she was sure her powers would tell her nothing, a clear image came to her. "St. Philip Street," she whispered. "We’ll find him there."

They parked on St. Philip and got out of the car.

Amanda didn’t know how, but she guided Nick down the alleys, straight to a dark courtyard. They rounded the buildings and saw nothing.

"Dammit, Amanda, he’s not here."

She barely heard him. Following her instincts, she rounded a tall hedge, then stopped dead in her tracks.

Kyrian hung against a fence, his entire body slumped.

"Oh, my God," she breathed as she ran to him.

Gently, she lifted his head and gasped as she saw his bloodied face. They had beaten him so severely that he could barely open his eyes.

"Amanda?" he whispered. "Is it really you, or am I dreaming?"

Tears filled her eyes. "Yes, Kyrian. It’s me."

Nick cursed as he stopped beside her and reached to touch one of the nails in Kyrian’s arm. He drew his hand back sharply before it made contact and hurt Kyrian more. She saw the rage in Nick’s eyes as he cursed again. "My God, they nailed him to a board."

Amanda wanted to throw up at the thought. She could tell by the wounds exactly what Desiderius had done. He had re-enacted Kyrian’s execution.

"We’ve got to get you out of here," she said.

Kyrian choked, then coughed up blood. "There’s not enough time."

"He’s right," Nick concurred. "It’ll be dawn in five, maybe ten minutes. We’ll never get him home before the sun rises."

"Then call Tate."

"He couldn’t get here in time." A tic appeared in Nick’s jaw as he touched Kyrian’s hand where someone had embedded a nail into the center of it. "I’m not sure how we could get him loose even if Tate did make it in time."

"It’s all right," Kyrian said, his voice strained. He swallowed and met Nick’s tormented gaze. "Take Amanda to Talon and have him protect her and Tabitha."

Nick took off running.

Ignoring Nick, Amanda focused on Kyrian. "I’m not going to let you die," she insisted, her tone high-pitched and sharp.

"Damn it, Kyrian, you can’t die like this and become a Shade. I won’t let you."

The tender look in his eyes stole her breath. "I’m only sorry I failed you. I wish I could have been the hero you deserved."

Amanda took his face in her hands and made him look at her. Her hands shook as she wiped the blood away from his lips and nose. "Don’t you dare give up. Do you hear me? If you die, who’s to say Desiderius won’t get Talon, too? Fight for me, Kyrian. Please!"