Dark Skye Read online

Page 41

Chapter 40

  Lanthe woke to the resounding silence of the sea. When she opened her eyes, she saw murky ocean pressing down all around her and Thronos. In the dim light, his face was set with pain as he struggled to hold on to her and get them to safety. They’d been freed from that nightmare—only to reach another one. She clasped him tighter, so he could use both arms to swim. The water was lightening. At least there was a surface! They were halfway there when her lungs reached their limit. She clawed him, needing air . . . about to involuntarily breathe water. He swam even faster, his heart pounding against her ear. They breached the surface into a stormy day, sucking in misty breaths as they rolled on giant swells. She blinked against sea spray, trying to get her bearings. “Where are . . . ?” She trailed off when Thronos’s head craned up. She twisted to look over her shoulder, saw water all the way up to the sky. Inconceivably high. About to crash over them. He’d already kicked for propulsion, shooting into flight. But if he couldn’t get high enough . . . Her mind couldn’t accept the size of the wave—like a mountain of liquid toppling over. “Faster, Thronos!” His jaw was clenched, his heart sounding like it’d explode. “Don’t let go of me, Lanthe!” When the swell began to crest over them, he rotated in the air, wrapping his wings tightly around her. The wave collided with them so fast the water became as solid as brick. The momentum hurtled them toward the coast, a jagged stone cliff. When they crashed into it, the rocks tore his wings like a monster with fangs, trying to rip her away from Thronos. They clung to each other. The wave sucked them back out to sea. They clung harder. The force raked them over coral reefs—before catapulting them back against the wall. But when it receded the second time, they . . . remained. Somehow Thronos had clung to the cliff with one quaking hand. Gritting his teeth, he leapt higher, pulling them out of the wave’s reach. The next crest slapped just beneath their feet, foam licking their legs, but it couldn’t catch hold of them. He hauled them up until they’d made the top of the cliff. At the edge, he shoved her ahead of him onto solid ground, then followed. They lay on the stony ground, heaving breaths, coughing seawater. Beneath them, the cliff shook with each crashing wave. “Melanthe, speak to me,” he said between gulps of air. “Are you hurt?” She shook her head. Again, he’d kept her cocooned for the most part. “Just some wounds from . . . from where we were. ” Swatches of her skin had been loosened by the acid, then sucked away. She’d been food. Still would be, if not for Nïx. Except that the Valkyrie had sent them there in the first place! Why, why, why? Most of Lanthe’s breastplate was gone; the scant remains of her skirt clung to her hips. “How long do you think we were in . . . there?” “Could’ve been hours or days,” he answered. “Even weeks. I doubt our conception of time in Feveris corresponded to the actual duration. ” “Right. ” She would never have words to convey to anyone else how horrific it’d been. Only Thronos could understand those tentacles, the pus, the burning. Lanthe shuddered. She simply couldn’t think about that place right now without losing her ever-living shit. When he rolled toward the edge of the cliff, scanning the waves as if searching for something, she noticed that one of his wings looked worse than normal, those scale mosaics even more skewed. “How bad off are you?” Over his shoulder, he said, “I’ve got a forearm and a wing snapped. I might’ve cracked my skull. Nothing major. ” That all? “What are you looking for?” “I think someone—or something—followed us out. It was difficult to see in there, but I believe I spied a being. ” “Anyone who followed is probably dead. No one could break free of that current. ” She frowned. “How did you?” “I’m not as weak as you think me. ” As if to prove his point, he lumbered to his feet. His shirt had been either eaten away or torn free; most of his leather pants had disintegrated from acid. “I’m an immortal male in my prime. ” “And that was the equivalent of an immortal current. Our bodies should have been dashed to pieces. ” “Well, they’re not. ” He reached a hand down, helping her stand. As he steadied her, she asked, “Do you think we had supernatural assistance?” “Is it so difficult to believe I did that on my own?” He stared down into her eyes as he said, “Maybe you make me strong. ” He looked so earnest about this, she decided not to argue the point. “In any case, thanks for getting me to safety. We keep saving each other’s asses, don’t we?” “That’s the way it should be, no?” He seemed to be asking more than just that simple question, so she changed the subject. “Where do you think we are?” “I have no idea. ” She turned her attention to herself. Though her necklace was unharmed, her breastplate was beyond salvage, the irregular edges cutting into her already damaged skin. She unfastened the last stubborn clip, then dumped it. Not that she cared, but her hair was long enough to cover most of her breasts. In the back, her locks had been eaten away, an involuntary bob cut. Her boots looked like acid had been drizzled over them, but at least the soles covered most of her feet. Her skirt had only a few leather strands left. For Thronos’s sake, she shifted the garment to cover her front, which gave her an ass-less skirt. He flicked his gaze over her torso. “You’re burned worse than I thought. You need to rest and regenerate. ” “Where? We have no idea what dangers surround us. ” “Then we need to get to higher ground while my wing heals. ” He surveyed the horizon. She saw only flat terrain, a sheet of slate-gray stone that matched the dismal sky. “If there is higher ground. ” But he could see farther than she could. “Come on. ” He took her hand in his. Though the rock had countless craters—just ideal for her acid-eaten stiletto boots—she said, “I can walk on my own. ” “I know you can. ” He kept her hand. After that Pandemonian hell zone, he seemed to have a constant need to touch her. Still fearing something would take her away from him? Whatever he’d seen had changed this man. So what would happen to him once they ultimately separated . . . ? For now, hand in hand, they set off, wending around larger holes. “What if this is another dream?” she asked. “That hallucination was so realistic. ” You know, Thro, the one where we were having hot interspecies action. He nodded. “I feel as if I’ve known you. Almost. ” “We’re lucky that none of it happened. You didn’t commit any offendments. I didn’t almost get pregnant. ” “If we weren’t bespelled, then why did we feel such frenzy for each other?” She didn’t have to read his mind to know that the guy in Thronos wanted the two orgasms he’d given her to, well, count. “Placebo effect maybe? All I know is that Feveris—or faux Feveris—changes nothing. ” “I think I’m your mate just as much as you are mine. ” Cocky Thronos was back. She repeated her standard reply. “Sorceri don’t have mates. ” When he opened his mouth to argue, she held up her free hand. “I’m too tired for this, Thronos. At least wait until all my skin regenerates before you hassle me. ” With a scowl, he started forward once more, toward a horizon of nothingness. Nïx had told her to set worlds aflame. What could Lanthe possibly affect in a place like this? And she hadn’t exactly been a torch in that belly. Lanthe had thought she could at least learn from this experience, from her travels. All she’d learned from faux Feveris was that Thronos could be sexy as sin, and that he had a very talented—pointed—tongue. Oh, and that being intimate with him had been life altering. For her. When they’d lain in each other’s arms . . . as if nothing had ever torn them apart . . . As the terrain grew even more challenging, he took her arm, helping her along. Gods, her awareness of him had gone through the roof. She could not, could not, could not be falling for Thronos. Doomed did not even begin to describe a future together with him. If she told Sabine, “I want to be with a Vrekener,” her sister would have no doubt that Lanthe had been brainwashed. Which would make Sabine and Rydstrom murderous. How could Lanthe keep them from killing Thronos? Oh, wait—she couldn’t. A briny gust of wind howled over the flats, chilling her bare skin. To escape her current dismal reality, she lost herself in thoughts of her sister and their new extended family, bracing for homesickness. She missed Sabine to the point of pa