Dark Skye Read online
Naturally, Lanthe had spat in the face of the one person who could save her from being serpent chow. The rain was still washing red streams off his chiseled cheeks. Of all her fears, being food was up there, just under Vrekener attack. Time to make nice with her hated tormentor. Choking back the pain in her mouth, she faked a flirtatious demeanor. —I seem to have gotten my blood on your face. Bad Lanthe! Hey, I have an idea. Let’s team up!— He scowled at her as he tested his wings, the lines of his face growing tight with pain. The damaged wing was nowhere near ready to fly. He was like a plane that had lost one engine. When the water lapped at their feet, he said, “It’ll have to be enough to get us to the coast I spied. ” She turned, seeing nothing through the gloom. But the mercury water and rainbow serpents were giving her an idea of where they might be. If she was correct, then danger loomed everywhere. If they encountered rivers of fire and a perpetual demonic war, she’d know. . . . Lanthe needed the Vrekener’s help to survive this place—and she needed him bullish, convinced he could save her! How to get his adrenaline pumping? She gazed at his chest. His shirt hung wide, revealing his scarred skin. His muscles were hard and generous. Attractive. No wonder Ember had desired him. Reaching forward, Lanthe laid a shaking palm over his heart. He tensed, and at once its beat began to thunder. The second time she’d voluntarily touched him as an adult. She cleared her throat, then remembered she couldn’t talk. —Thronos, if you can get us out of this situation . . . — The water swept closer, the serpents growing bolder. —I’ll let you touch me. — He narrowed his eyes down at her. “What you don’t understand is that I’ll be doing whatever I please to you. ” Well. When had he gotten so cocky? Then she recalled that he had been as a boy as well. He yanked her up into his brawny arms, against that unyielding chest. “You belong to me. By right of pain, I’ve earned you!” Lightning struck, punctuating his statement. Like she’d belonged to Omort? She’d just been freed of that freak a year ago! “But it doesn’t surprise me that you’d bargain your body for safety,” Thronos added. “Now, shut up, and put your legs around my waist. ” When in trouble, leave. Seeing no other option, she did as he told her. With her short skirt riding up, he cupped her bare ass, holding her body high on his torso. His hands were rough and hot, like five-fingered brands on her damp skin. Electricity seemed to pass between them. By the look on his face, she wasn’t the only one who’d felt it. How in the hell was he supposed to concentrate on getting her to safety when his palms were molded to her lush curves? His only hope of protecting her was using the islands to reach the coast. He’d just been focusing his mind on the herculean task ahead when the sorceress started talking about him touching her! He’d shot hard for her, diverting blood from his healing wing and, more importantly, his brain. He hadn’t wanted her to know how easily she affected him, so he’d furtively adjusted his aching shaft. How many other males had fallen for this enticing creature? For her lies? His old friend wrath erupted inside him. He would use it to fuel his escape from this swamp. “I suggest you hold on. ” She laid her face against his chest, clutching him tighter. With a yell, he leapt for the nearest island, working his good wing for loft as much as he could. He fell short, landing in the water up to his knees. He lunged to the center of the island just as teeth snapped closed behind them. When an angry hiss sounded, he felt the fetid air from the beast’s mouth. —Too close, Thronos!— He focused his gaze on the next island, one even farther away than this one had been. He had his mate at last; all he had to do was keep her safe from dozens of giant swamp serpents. Setting his jaw, he tensed, then lunged. Midleap he knew they would fall short of the island. A serpent surfaced beneath him; at the last instant, he alighted on its back, using it to vault to his target. They landed safely. —Serpents are not stepping stones!— He could do without her critiques. “You have no tongue, yet you won’t shut up. ” He locked his gaze on his destination. As he’d spied before, there were two mountains bordering a plateau atop an enormous shelf of land. It ended in a sheer cliff face, as if a giant had cleaved its edges, halving the mountains in the process. Lava oozed down their sides, like glowing orange waterfalls. The plateau was hundreds of feet above the swamp. If he missed, there’d be nothing to stop them from plunging into serpent-infested waters. The storm was worsening. Wind gusted with the pounding rain. But this pile of rock had a little more room, so he could at least get a running start. Though the winds carried ill-omened scents from that plateau, he had no choice but to continue. A horn rang out, echoing from one mountain to the other. A battle call? Bloodthirsty yells sounded, metal clanging against metal. Moments later, the night sky lit up, Lorean powers blasting. He saw fire grenades, ice bombs, and swirling battle magics. Had to be demons. But how many factions of them could there be? “Well done, Melanthe. You took us from one war to another. ” —I think I know where we are. Supposed to be a myth. The source of all demons. — The source? Realization. “You brought us to bloody Pandemonia?” Plural of pandemonium. Because it was the fabled home plane of hundreds of demon species. Another hiss sounded behind him. The water continued rising at an alarming rate. No other option but forward. He had to hope that they could skirt the edges of the conflict. As he backed to the far end of the island, she wrapped her arms tighter around him, digging her gauntlets into his skin. He took off in a sprint, waiting till the last second . . . With a bellow, he lunged for his target. Airborne. Three heartbeats later, he knew he wouldn’t make it in this headwind. Too short, too short. —We’re going into the drink, Vrekener!— When the green serpent crested, Thronos worked his wing as hard as he could to reach its back. Ha! Heading for a perfect serpent touchdown; he was getting handy at this. He landed just as the beast thrashed. The momentum sent them hurtling toward one of those mountains as if they’d hit a thirty-ton springboard. Thronos heaved his wing, fighting to right himself. The mountainside loomed, rushing at them. He thought he spied a small cave opening between two lava flows. Could he hit that tiny target? Such a risk! He steered with his wing, down and left. Down and left, down and left . . . Left, left! They bulleted through the opening. He dropped his legs, reversing his wing, touching his feet down. The momentum had him barreling toward the back wall; he twisted to his side, leaning away, feet sliding sideways in the dust. They stopped inches from the wall.