Dark Skye Read online

Page 7

Chapter 6

  Lanthe woke to the feel of her stomach lurching as her body tumbled from the tree. She unleashed a scream, fumbling to latch onto a limb; her arms wouldn’t respond, filled with pins and needles. Falling! The drizzly fog was so dense she couldn’t see what was below her— She landed with an oomph. Thronos had caught her in his arms. Breathless, she stared up at him as his wings held them aloft. After the freezing night she’d just spent in the tree, his body was a hot haven. Warmth from his damp chest seeped into her, dulling some of her alarm. Yesterday she would’ve sworn she could never sleep with a Vrekener nearby. But apparently, she’d been out. As rain softly fell, his gaze roamed over her, and when his eyes began to glow with something other than rage, she swallowed. Though she was loath to admit it, chemistry sparked between them. She might be the bitterest necessity, but his instincts were doubtless screaming inside him, commanding him on a loop: MATE FEMALE! Which was never going to happen. A: She didn’t do males she hated. Just a rule she had. And B? She was in the fertile time of her infrequent Sorceri cycle, could all but look at seed and get knocked up. She had to trust that he wouldn’t force her. She wished she could probe his thoughts, reading his mind, but her collar prevented it. He’d probably developed mental blocks anyway. . . . Her gaze was drawn behind him, and her lips parted. While she’d dozed, he’d clawed slashes into the tree. The marks were all around the same size, lined up and patterned along the trunk. She’d bet there were roughly five hundred slashes, one for every year he’d gone without his mate. “You’re insane,” she whispered. She’d been around enough crazed males to last an immortal lifetime. She gazed up at this one with wary eyes. She recalled the things she’d told him last night—I’d do it again! Maybe she oughtn’t to poke the bear so much. Yet even as he drew his lips back from his fangs, he seemed less frenzied today; still simmering, but perhaps the night had been cathartic for him. “You’re one to speak of insanity, when your line is tainted with it. ” Had he found out about her mother, Elisabet? Or just assumed this because Omort came from Lanthe’s family? She averted her gaze. “I don’t know what you’re talking about. ” “Untruth,” he grated. “Tell me another, and I’ll throttle you. ” He shot into the sky. “Where are you taking me?” He headed north away from the coast back toward the island’s interior. Or maybe he headed south. East? He didn’t answer her question, asking one of his own: “If you believed yourself to be targeted by Vrekeners, why not communicate with me in our few encounters?” He sounded almost normal. “You always looked murderous. I couldn’t be sure that you weren’t on board with their plan to out and out kill me. ” “On board to murder my fated mate?” he said, as if she’d spoken nonsense. “So you’re saying you had no idea that we were targeted?” “I know what you’re trying to do, and your divisive tactics won’t work. I sought—and received—the sacred word of Vrekener knights that they would visit no harm upon you or your sister. I will always believe that over the accusations of someone like you. ” “You made them vow that?” “I knew well that Sabine’s death would destroy you. I wanted revenge against you, not against a broken shell of a mate. ” Though this was surprising to Lanthe, it didn’t change their situation today. “It happened, Thronos. Whether you want to believe me or not. ” “You sound like you believe what you’re saying. No doubt, typical Sorceri paranoia. Your kind are notorious for it. You probably mistook a Volar demon for a Vrekener. ” “That’s the other reason I never tried to communicate with you—I knew you’d never believe me. ” On edge, Thronos didn’t reply. He just scented other immortals. They must have overrun even this farthest edge of the island. Earlier, when he’d finally picked up the vessel’s scent, he’d begun cutting across a forest to reach it, which was proving to be more of a risk than he’d expected. He needed to concentrate on their escape, but now that he was thinking more clearly, he couldn’t stop replaying Melanthe’s words from the night before. Why would he be her nightmare all these years? Why would she fear when a cloud crossed the sun? Unless she’d actually been attacked. “Why did you say that about my line?” she asked. “Being tainted?” Melanthe didn’t know this, but Thronos had briefly met her mother when he was eleven. And it had scared the hell out of him. “I’ll answer as soon as you admit it’s true. ” She didn’t bite, instead saying, “Speaking of communication, did you ever think about contacting me when I was in Rothkalina?” “You know that demon realm is out of my reach. The portals have been guarded by armies for the last two reigns. ” “You could’ve sent a message to a letter station at one of the portal gates. ” “What should I have written? Dear Harlot, rumor has it that you are very happy with your new life in Rothkalina with your beloved brother Omort. I hear that you have all the gold you could ever want, and I know how much you always enjoyed a good blood orgy. Well done, Melanthe! By the way, would you like to meet for a rational discussion about our future?” “Well. I did have a lot of gold. ” Do not strangle her! In a matter-of-fact tone, she said, “I’m just pointing out the sole true detail about your pretend letter. Oh, and you should know . . . if you keep calling me harlot, sooner or later I’m going to have a rage blackout, and then I’ll wake up to find you—awfully sadly—dead. ” “You threaten me? A powerless, physically weak sorceress?” he sneered. “I must amend my treatment of you forthwith. ” “You’ve turned into a sarcastic, unbalanced, judgmental dick. ” To herself, she muttered, “Man, can I pick ’em. ” “If you take issue with the term harlot, then perhaps you shouldn’t have slept with half the Lore. ” “Half?” she scoffed. “Three-quarters for the win!” How could she sound so bloody uncaring, when he was insulting her character? “Besides, I don’t take issue with the term as much as the fact that you feel you can judge me. I despise judgmental people. ” “As do most creatures who deserve to be judged. ” “You got me. I’m a ho fo sho. ” What did that mean? “You speak like a human. ” She nodded, as if that hadn’t been an insult as well. “I watch a lot of TV. ” Yet another thing they didn’t have in common. “Naturally, you choose pointless pastimes. ” “I did so much reading in my first couple of centuries—when I was in hiding from Vrekeners—that I figure I can skate a little now. ” “I marvel that you had time for anything other than your conquests. ” “So I’m a TV-watching harlot who deserves to be judged?” She gave a disheartened sigh. “Thronos, you have to know that I’ll never be what you need me to be. ” He scanned the ground for movement within the stands of trees. “I was told this long ago. I also heard that I’d never survive the injuries I sustained. Then they said I’d never fly again. Yet I did, and I do. Once I get you to my home, you will become what I need. ” “I like myself!” she cried. “Did you never consider becoming what I need, Thronos?” “I’m confused about your preferences. Should I emulate a drunken fey? Or a slick-tongued sorcerer who beds anything that moves?” Or maybe she preferred them like her first: a leech. Don’t think of that memory. . . . “In the Skye, I will make you understand the value of loyalty, honesty, and fidelity to a single male. ” “You just confirmed what we’ve always heard: that Vrekeners kidnap and brainwash bold, independent Sorceri females, turning them into blank-eyed slaves to their men. ” “It isn’t like that! Sorceri young are happy among us, accepted as our own. ” As soon as they were disempowered. “Uh-huh,” she said. He was beginning to recognize that was her way of indicating untruth. “They’re trapped in a dismal floating realm filled with grim, self-righteous killjoys. They are in our version of hell. ” “Since you’ll soon see the truth of my words for yourself, there’s no sense in arguing about it. ” “Because you’re taking me to Skye Hell? You think I’ll be happy among you? Accepted as your own?” “I said other Sorceri were,” he pointed out. “Not you. You don’t deserve happiness. You deserve the full force of my revenge. ” “Revenge? After that night in the abbey, I never tried to hurt you, Thronos. I’ve just lived my life. I wish to all the gods t