Dark Skye Read online

Page 26

Chapter 25

  Oh, look! Pitha fruit. ” Melanthe stretched for a black gourd above her, just out of her reach. She scratched at the bottom of it like a little kitten. He pulled the fruit down for her, scenting it. “This could be poisonous. ” “It grows in Rothkalina. ” He cracked open the gourd for her. The inside was succulent and smelled sweet. When he handed the halves to her, she scooped some into her mouth, then rolled her eyes with delight. “You’re certain of that?” he asked. “Though Sorceri are vulnerable to poisons?” She was already finished with one half. “Poisons and venoms. ” Between chews, she said, “But I’m sure of this. ” “How did you get cured of that morsus anyway?” “When Omort died, his poisoner—a fey female dubbed the Hag in the Basement—delivered the antidotes to us. Otherwise we would’ve died. ” Yet another time Melanthe might’ve perished when she’d been outside his protection. “This hag did so despite the fact that you called her that?” Melanthe shrugged, taking another bite, chewing happily. Dragging his gaze from her, Thronos surveyed their surroundings. Though he’d scented water nearby, he still hadn’t found the source, and it was growing darker. Dusk was abnormally long here—and as the sun had begun its lazy descent, the dragons had retreated from the field, their enormous shadows wavering over the treetops. He and Melanthe had decided to return to the demon valley tonight, but they remained without water. And he hadn’t recuperated whatsoever. Plus, he had plans for them. . . . When a breeze blew, rustling all the flowers, she set down her finished fruit. “It’s beautiful here. ” Her black, black hair matched the petals of those flowers. Gaze still on her, he muttered, “Yes. Beautiful. ” Since Melanthe had described what copulation between them would be like, he’d found it difficult to look at anything except her. When he took her home to his Bed of Troth, would he not want to hear her keen with ecstasy? Would Thronos not want to empty his lungs as he emptied his seed inside her? He’d been vacillating over his decision to claim her tonight—up until the time she’d said those blood-heating words to him. After that, he knew nothing could stop him. All he needed was a secure place to commence his plans. But how to get her naked and in his arms? His skin flushed when he realized that would mean he too would have to be unclothed. Naked. In front of her. He’d figure it out. Finding another pitha, he used his claw to stab a hole in the bottom to drink from. Its juice was sugary, but welcome. He handed her another pierced gourd to drink. When some juice ran down her chin, she grinned mischievously—as she used to do when a girl. That grin affected him differently, yet just as strongly. He wanted the kiss he’d almost taken. Whatever she saw in his expression made her murmur, “Thronos?” Before he could stop himself, he took her face in both of his hands, leaning in closer to her. “Whoa, tiger!” She pushed against him. “You promised me water. Even I can smell some nearby. ” He surprised himself by letting her go. As he bit back his disappointment, he caught movement out of the corner of his eye. A bubble filled with water was floating through the air between them. He and Melanthe silently watched it bobbing along. Without a word, they both hastened in the direction it’d come from. He lunged in front of her. “I lead the way. ” He pushed past some brush into a clearing, bordered by moonraker trees. The massive roots encircled the area like walls, while tightly woven branches made a ceiling above them. Countless water-filled bubbles floated up like helium balloons, bursting against the impenetrable canopy. Drops fell over this glade like a cool summer rain, then rose up to coalesce again. Not a peek of sky could be seen, making this literal rain forest feel like a pocket of muted light and sound. With his and Melanthe’s every step, more drops pattered up from a mat of silver grass. Bubbles were even released by flowers fringing the tree roots. “This is wild!” Melanthe cried. “Like a fairy ring, or an enchanted glade. Let’s name this place . . . Zero-G Glade!” She popped a bubble into her cupped hand to drink. “Let me test the water first. ” When she offered her hand, he leaned down to scent and taste it. “Clean. ” After they’d both had their fill, he pierced a large bubble over his head. Water poured as if a bucket had been tipped over him, a cool splash over his ash-covered skin. He tossed his sopping shirt onto a root, then scrubbed at his face and hair, his chest and arms. Another bubble burst over Melanthe’s shoulder, making her shiver. Thronos watched, riveted, as each drop slowly trailed down her body—only to be sucked back up to fuse again. When she let loose a peal of laughter, he asked, “What?” “It tickles!” Earlier, she’d laughed in the temple. Then he’d made her laugh on their march. The only thing that could make that sensual sound better? Being the cause of it. His brows drew together when he realized she’d already laughed more today than he and all his grim knights had in centuries. “Ah! Drops are going up my skirt!” “Lucky drops. ” Had he said that aloud? Yes, because she faced him with an inquisitive look, as if she were taking his measure. Or making a decision. Go to her, kiss her. Yet when he heard bugle calls in the distance, he was reminded of all the perils of this realm. This strange glade might be the only source of water around, which made it a target. Thronos leapt to a moonraker tree to keep watch. Cold water seeped along Lanthe’s back, wetting her hair and cooling her heated skin. She’d never seen a place like this glade and was determined to relish it—even if Thronos had deserted her. After drinking her fill, she sat on the silver grass, removing her boots. “Just because you don’t have a skirt doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy this. ” He crouched on a limb, scanning the woods, looking both sexy—and demonic. She didn’t know how he could continue to deny his demon blood when evidence kept mounting. Aside from his similarities to those dragons and his seamless adaptation to this place, he could read the demonic writing! Maybe that was due to a genetic memory, passed down through the blood—a memory formed here. By his ancestors. Now that Thronos had returned to his “realm of origin,” his very behavior was changing. There’d been an overall mellowing of rage, and he’d actually cracked jokes. In the last twenty-four hours, he’d probably committed more offendments than in his entire lifetime. She could take some of the blame for those, but not for other changes. His voice, already a baritone rumble, had grown even deeper, raspier. And his language was deteriorating rapidly. Over the day, he’d begun carrying his seven-foot-tall frame differently, with not quite so much tension in his shoulders, not so much stiffness in the spine. Even his horns seemed prouder somehow. He not only sounded like a demon, he looked like one. Which she was discovering she might have a weakness for. Sabine adored having a demon lover. Would Lanthe? Maybe the realm of Feveris was precisely where she and Thronos needed to go. In the Land of Lusts, she’d feel no guilt for bedding an enemy Vrekener. No fear of the future. Wait. What was she thinking? She was a daughter of the Sorceri, a born hedonist. She’d take pleasure where she found it, and laugh in the face of guilt. Well, as long as she didn’t get knocked up. Thronos could be an endless source of pleasure. She’d enjoyed teasing him earlier, wanted to some more. “Come back down here”—she crooked her finger at him—“with all the other offendmenters. ” Though he looked like he wanted nothing more than to join her, he remained where he was. “I’ll keep watch. It’s my job to protect you. ” Because his instinct told him so. She sighed. She appreciated the protection, but she wished he was doing it because he wanted to, not because he was compelled to. For once, she’d love to hear a male say, “I’m going to do you a solid—not because of what you can do for me in return or what you can give me—but simply because I like you. ” Was Thronos so different from Felix? Thronos wanted offspring. Felix had hungered for power. Both of them sought something from her; yet neither truly cared about her. They only saw what she could give them, how they could use her. Which she didn’t care about, because she had a plan to get her back to Rothkalina: beguile Vrekener. Afterward, she’d never have to see Thronos again. “Come on, don’t be a killjoy. You’ll scent anything that comes near. ” When he made no move, she said,