Dark Skye Read online

Page 6

Chapter 5

  Numbed to the drizzle and cold, Lanthe was lulled into a kind of exhausted stupor as the flight went on and on and on. When they’d crossed over an expansive forest, the noises of the battles grew dimmer. She dared a glance back, could still see bursts of spectral light. Soon that melee would spread outward all over the entire island. Thronos had to know that. His face was tensely set—as if he were concentrating on blocking out his pain. There’d be no talking. Think about something else, Lanthe. Anything else. Yet now that she was his captive (temporarily), she found her mind mired in thoughts of him. A memory arose of their first day together, when he’d tried to feed her—his idea of courting. Unfortunately, he hadn’t known she was a vegetarian. “For you. ” Thronos proudly dropped a carcass of bloody meat at her feet. She burst into tears. “Why do you cry?” Despite all his confidence, he looked confounded—and pained, as if her tears tormented him. “You don’t like my gift?” “Th-that was my bunny!” One of the woodland creatures that she called friend. “It’s decent meat. And you’re starving. ” Her face heated. “I am not!” “Are too. You were scrounging for twigs, lamb. ” “They’re b-berries! I like to eat berries. ” The next morning, when curiosity had driven her back to the meadow, she’d found it littered with piles of berries. Thronos had been standing among them, with his fingers stained, his chin up, and that cocky look back on his face. Delighted, she’d leaned up and pecked his lips. His wings had snapped open, a reaction that had seemed to embarrass him. After that rocky start, they’d grown to be best friends, just as he’d promised. Later on, he’d asked her why her parents didn’t buy food. She couldn’t make him understand that her mother and father worshipped gold more than anything it could purchase. Not to mention that they’d deemed Lanthe old enough to begin stealing her own way through life— Thronos’s grip was loosening in midair! “Wait!” she cried. But he’d only repositioned her in the cradle of his arms. Apparently he was adjusting her for the duration—and wasn’t about to dump her like an armful of firewood. After a moment she relaxed slightly. Though she had recurring nightmares about Vrekeners sweeping down on her, she was now trapped directly under a pair of wings. Talk about immersion therapy. She stared up at them, spread in flight, wind whistling through his healing sword wound. As a girl, she’d been obsessed with his wings, touching them all the time. She’d been fascinated to discover the backs were covered with scales like those of a dragon. As if in a mosaic, Thronos’s black and silver scales had made slashing designs that resembled sharp feathers. During the day, the undersides were dark gray. At night, they turned black, stark against the electrical pathways that forked out along the bones. Each of those pulselines shone as bright as phosphorescence. One night when they’d secretly met, he’d spread his wings, showing her how the pulselines moved. It’d looked like he’d been surrounded by lightning wings. He’d demonstrated how he could use tricks of light to camouflage his wings so they’d be invisible in the dark. When he’d grown embarrassed by her wide-eyed stare, those pulselines had quickened, like a blush. “I never knew these were scales instead of feathers,” she told him. “I guess none of my kind have gotten a good look at the backs of Vrekener wings. ” He appeared troubled. “That’s because no Vrekeners ever retreat from Sorceri. ” Now Thronos’s wings were contorted in places. She’d always imagined the bones had been set badly, but up close, she could see that they’d mended true, in strong straight lines. Maybe the muscles had bunched, growing off-kilter? Biting her bottom lip, she dared to reach up and touch a pulseline. Its beat accelerated, and his grip tightened on her. The first time she’d ever voluntarily touched him as an adult. When he cast her a killing glance, he again resembled a reaper, every inch a “righteous reckoning. ” His silvered talons glinted, as ominous as a sword blade. “Why did you do that?” he demanded. “You used to like me to touch them. ” Voice brusque, he said, “You assume I remember that far back?” What if he didn’t? His mind might have been injured. For some reason, the idea of that made her chest ache. She remembered every second of those four months. Regardless of their history, she found herself thinking of them—of him—far too often. As they gained altitude to crest another mountain, her ears popped. Rain fell even harder, drops pelting her, winds buffeting them. She heard crashing waves. They’d reached the far coastline? She blinked against the rain, saw he was following the shore north. Or south. Who knew with her wretched directional skills? He looked as if he were trying to scent something. He flew them to a point, hovered, then returned down the coast, flying farther in the opposite direction. Again he repeated his pattern, clearly growing more frustrated. “Even if your senses are as keen as a Lykae’s, you can’t scent through pouring rain. ” “Silence. ” He dove to circle a tree at the very edge of the storm-tossed peak. The tree swayed in the winds, the top like the deck of a pitching ship. Yet the bastard tossed her onto a thrashing limb! She clawed her gauntlets across the wood, scrabbling for a hold. If she fell, she’d tumble down the mountain, her body dashed to pieces. Apparently he’d forgotten how susceptible to injury Sorceri were! Or maybe he hadn’t forgotten. Once she’d steadied herself, she eased around to crawl along the limb, the wood slick beneath her hands and knees. Kneeling before the trunk, she stabbed her gauntlet claws into it, then peered up, blinking against the downpour. No leaves screened her from the gale. Above, bare limbs spread out like veins, as if they were stretching for the sky’s arteries of lightning. Thronos stood at the very top, easily balanced, rising to his full height to ride the movement. A hand shielded his gaze from the horizontal rain. As she put out a prayer to the gods that he got struck up there, her teeth began chattering. She soon shook until her head bobbed, and not just because of her fear of heights. She hadn’t had more than an hour or two of sleep at a time for three weeks, and had rarely eaten the gruel they’d been served. Right now, she should be tucked in bed in her warm tower at Tornin, watching DVDs on her solar-powered TV and enjoying sumptuous foods and sweet Sorceri wine—while waited on hand and foot. Instead, she was trapped with her worst nightmare, strangling with the need to kill him. A burst of hysterical laughter left her lips. Lanthe and Thronos, sitting in a tree, k-i-l-l-i-n-g. . . . Damn it, why the hell hadn’t Sabine found her? Maybe the double-dealing Nïx had steered her wrong—while giving Thronos detailed directions to find Lanthe. If Sabine found out he had her sister, she would unleash hell. That night so long ago, when Thronos had led others to the abbey, Sabine had noted the way he’d stared at Lanthe: “The young Vrekener looked at you with absolute yearning. His people must have somehow discovered you are his fated mate. They attacked our family to secure you for the hawkling’s future, to groom you. To break you. As they do with so many other Sorceri children. ” Which Lanthe had supposed was true. But she’d remained silent, and to this day, Sabine had no idea of her sister’s connection to Thronos. What was he planning for Lanthe once he’d gotten her off the island? Did he expect to have sex with her? She recalled the way he’d kissed her in the mine. Oh, yeah. He expected it. She heard a swoop of wings as he returned to stand behind her. She chanced a look over her shoulder, hating how he was totally in his element. As the tempest raged all around them, flashes of lightning illuminated his horns, wings, and fangs. A true demon. She remembered calling him one when they were young. He’d been horror-struck, hadn’t come back to the meadow for three days. Later she’d realized he’d flown home with the question: “Mom, Dad, am I a demon?” When he’d finally returned to Lanthe, he’d been quick to present all the information he’d gathered about how Vrekeners were completely, utterly, without a doubt different from savage demons. Vrekeners couldn’t teleport like demons, their eyes didn’t grow black with emotion, and males didn’t mark their females upon claiming. While demon horns had a function in that species’ mating rituals (Thronos had blushed at that), Vrekener horns were only for menacing show, to terrify wrongdoers. Their wings were for swift capt