Dark Skye Read online

Page 16


Chapter 15

  Lanthe woke, going from deep sleep to instant awareness. How long had she been out? She tested her tongue . . . almost healed. Even as weary as she’d been, she was surprised she’d slept. The siren call of gold still plagued her. Not to mention that a Vrekener hovered nearby. He was presently limping/pacing. Had he rested at all? Feigning sleep, she cracked her lids like the sneaky sorceress that she was. His gaze was distant, eyes flickering silver. What was he thinking about? Perhaps he had lowered some of his blocks, and she could probe his thoughts. Delving, delving— In. His blocks were down! Thronos was recollecting some distant memory from when he was a teenager. He’d been walking with another Vrekener, one around the same age who resembled him somewhat. Oh, yes, she’d seen that male before, had a long and storied history with him. She swallowed, spying as Thronos’s memory played on. . . . Anticipation burned inside him. After years of searching, he’d scented his mate the minute he and Aristo had arrived in this valley. Hastening down a winding lane, he glanced up at every window. “I still don’t understand your eagerness to reunite with her,” Aristo said, following him. “Every limping step I took and every league flown in agony would fill me with rage. How can you forgive her?” Because Thronos had put himself in her shoes to understand that night. “She was only a little girl. Her parents had just been decapitated, her beloved sister killed. ” “As they should have been. The parents threatened Lore secrecy with their palpable sorcery outlays, and the sister murdered our father the king!” Aristo thinks exactly like him. “Why do you believe your mate will forgive you?” “If I tell her how Father truly found out about the abbey, she’ll know I was blameless. ” When they passed a tavern with a large window, Thronos spied his reflection, scowling at the scars. Aristo caught his reaction. “She’d promised to be a little beauty, hadn’t she?” “Yes. So?” Thronos knew she would be the most comely female he’d ever seen. She had already been. He’d spent endless hours imagining what she would look like now. “Sorceri are fickle creatures, brother. In addition to all the pain between you, it might be that she forsakes you for your looks. Have you thought of that?” Of course. Every time he saw his reflection. “She’s my mate; we’re fated, and she felt it too. ” That last day, when she’d turned to him so sweetly and sighed— “Mayhap you merely need to copulate?” He did. With Melanthe. Gods, how he did! But Thronos had waited this long; somehow he’d wait the two more years until she turned eighteen and could be claimed. Twenty-four more months by Vrekener law. It seemed like an eternity, especially with the way his curiosity and lusts had been building. He wondered if any other eighteen-year-old male could possibly think about intercourse as much as he did. “I fear you set yourself up for disappointment,” Aristo said. “So you think I should give her up, without even trying? Just forget it. You wouldn’t understand. ” His brother hadn’t found his mate, and likely wouldn’t for decades, if not centuries. Thronos had been an anomaly to find his so young. “Then explain it to me. ” “Melanthe is”—everything missing from my life—“my ideal female. ” She wasn’t thus because she was faultless, but because he adored even her faults. He didn’t just want her; he needed her. They were each halves of a greater whole. Why was that so difficult for others to understand? “She’s mine,” he said simply. “We’re at war with them,” Aristo couldn’t resist pointing out. “Then mayhap we shouldn’t be. . . . ” He trailed off, homing in on her. “The building at the end of the lane,” he said over his shoulder, already hurrying forward. “There’s a dwelling above. ” Heartbeat pounding, he alighted on the windowsill. Melanthe! She was in a bed asleep. Holding his breath, he crept inside. A sharp exhalation left him. Melanthe was a woman now. He greedily took in every new detail. He’d known she would grow to be lovely, but she was beyond his wildest fantasies. Her lashes were thick against her pale face, her black hair a silken cloud around her head. The sheet gathered at her waist, allowing him to see the swells of her breasts beneath her filmy nightgown. The generous swells. Her nipples strained against the thin material. To see her like this made his heart twist in his chest—and blood pool in his groin. He no longer felt his old injuries. To see her like this, he could forgive her anything. How am I to wait two years? He’d had no idea what to say or do once he finally found her. Now the answer was startlingly clear: sit beside her on the bed, wake her with a caress, and explain the truth of that night to her. He hated the pain he was about to bring her, knew she would feel guilt for her actions. But he had to clear the air between them— An older vampire traced into the room, carrying bottles of wine. Thronos tensed to attack, to protect his mate. “Lanthe, I’m back,” the male said, unaware of him, gone motionless in the shadows. She sat up, rubbing her eyes with a smile. “Marco. ” The vampire Marco smelled of her. And she . . . of him. Thronos was frozen, unable to comprehend what he was seeing. Melanthe was too young to be bedding anyone! His senses were mistaken. The vampire caught sight of him then, eyes going wide. Both males leapt for her, but the leech traced, reaching her first. He teleported Melanthe across the room. She blinked in astonishment. “You?” “Who the hell is this?” the vampire demanded. Thronos found his voice. “Melanthe, I need to speak—” “He’s an enemy,” she interrupted. “One I’d hoped never to see again. ” “As you wish, sweet. ” The vampire traced them away. “Nooo!” Thronos bellowed. To be this close! Frenzied, he scanned the room for some clue to where she might have been taken. He would find her again! He frowned at the bed—at the blood on the sheets. Her virgin’s blood? The room seemed to spin. Can’t . . . this cannot be . . . But it was. She’d given that male her virtue on this very night. Despite belonging to me! Clawing at his chest, he threw back his head and roared like an animal. All the physical pain in his body flared, nearly putting him to his knees. Aristo yelled for him, arriving seconds later. His narrowed gaze took in the scene. “Another male?” He didn’t sound surprised. The vampire’s skin had been unmarked and smooth. Blood on the sheets. He claimed my Melanthe. Thronos turned away and vomited. Aristo snapped, “Will you forgive her now?” Dazed, he let his brother lead him away. Before long, he was swilling the spirits Aristo offered. Not long after that, Aristo suggested they enter a forbidden house of flesh. Thronos deemed this an excellent idea. Offendments be damned; he was determined to drink his sorrows away—and to bury himself in another woman. But he couldn’t. Any other female’s scent was repellent to him. He knew of no Vrekener who could stray from a mate. Thronos would claim Melanthe. Or none at all. As the months passed, he’d convinced himself that she had to have been pressured by the older vampire to surrender her virtue. Once he found her again, Thronos would take her away, tearing her from the male’s influence. He’d been convinced—until he’d seen her the next year with a tall fey male. Laughing, the two had run through a portal rift. When the pair had kissed as they’d crossed, Melanthe had wounded Thronos far more than her command to jump ever had. . . . Lanthe struggled to regulate her breathing after what she’d just witnessed: his memory of their first meeting after his fall. She’d felt his devastation at finding her in Marco’s bed. She’d experienced firsthand the sickness that had taken hold in him, the disbelief. She’d been scalded by his violent jealousy and rocked from the agony of his injuries. He hadn’t thought he could wait two years to claim her; he’d waited centuries. Somehow she kept her lids half-closed, her breaths deep and even. The identity of his companion had shocked her as much as anything else she’d learned. The male with the pitchfork, the one who’d dropped her sister upon cobblestones was . . . Aristo. King of the Vrekeners. Thronos’s older brother. Obviously, Aristo hadn’t given a damn that Lanthe was Thronos’s mate. The king had wanted her and Sabine dead. If Thronos forced Lanthe to Skye Hall, would Aristo finish her once and for all? How the hell was she going to convince Thronos of this? Well, Vrekener, I was scratching around inside your brain, and oops, I witnessed