Read Dying Wish: A Novel of the Sentinel Wars Online

Authors: Shannon K. Butcher

Tags: #Romance, #Fantasy, #General, #Paranormal, #Fiction

Dying Wish: A Novel of the Sentinel Wars (28 page)

BOOK: Dying Wish: A Novel of the Sentinel Wars
2.83Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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But what about Jackie and her feelings? She wouldn’t want what his monster had to offer. It would be hard, fast, and brutal—likely exactly the kind of thing she’d been forced to witness while held by the Synestryn.

“Iain?” Her voice was worried now, tinged with growing concern and fear.

He couldn’t let this happen, no matter how easy it
would be to simply let go. He had his honor, as dented and tarnished as it was. It was all he had left, and he wasn’t going to shatter it by letting some fucking monster win.

With an audible snarl, he forced the beast deep inside of himself, burying it under the rubble of his soul. The monster howled and fought, but in the end, it was locked away, trapped. At least for now.

“I’m okay,” he said, taking several steps away from her. He didn’t trust himself to look at her again so soon. His cock was still hard, and his blood was still pounding with the need to take her. The adrenaline rush of battle wasn’t helping matters, either. He needed a minute to gather his tattered control and mend it.

“We need to move. Help me up?” she asked.

He couldn’t touch her now. Not yet.

“In a minute.”

“I don’t know how much longer I can hold them off. We need to move now.”

Without looking at her, he asked, “Hold them off?”

“I put up a wall between us and the cave. It’s keeping them away, but it’s really hard to do, and I’m so tired.” She was panting. He could hear that now, along with the strain in her voice.

He had no choice. They had to move now, before it was too late. His tattered control was going to have to be good enough.

Iain pulled her to her feet and stepped back. She wobbled unsteadily, threatening to fall over into the bloody grass.

With a curse under his breath, he hauled her up against his side, draping her slender arm over his shoulders. He wrapped his arm around her waist and took some of her weight off her feet.

“This way,” he said. “I saw lights over there.”

She nodded and did her best to keep up with the pace he set. Her body shivered along his side, reminding him just how vulnerable she was.

“Are you cold?”

“I’ll be fine.”

Which wasn’t a no.

They hiked for about half a mile when he felt Jackie stiffen in his hold, and the constant tug on his power suddenly vanished.

“I’m sorry,” she said. “I couldn’t keep it up any longer. They’re coming.”

“If you can, try to keep your wound sealed. Maybe they won’t be able to smell us.” He wasn’t counting on it, but it could buy them some time.

They came to a house with the lights on inside. He could see the colorful flashes of what he guessed was a TV screen, and saw a shadow moving around on the far side of the blinds. There was a beat-up car parked on the gravel driveway. Its paint had long ago lost its shine, and there was more rust than metal left, but when he looked inside, the keys were in the ignition.

He helped Jackie into the front seat, and put the car in neutral, pushing it toward what passed for a road out here. As soon as he was far enough away he didn’t think they’d get shot if the owner caught them stealing his beater, he started it up and drove away as quietly as he could, keeping the lights off.

Jackie fumbled with the heater controls. “So cold.”

“I know. Just give the engine a minute to warm up.”

Worry nagged the back of his mind. It wasn’t that cold, even for humans. Chilly, but not dangerously so, which made him wonder if she wasn’t suffering from something else—maybe some kind of poison.

“Did you get hurt?” he asked, glancing her way.

Her eyes were closed and her head was lolled back against the seat. “My head.”

“Anywhere else?”

She said nothing, so he reached out into her thoughts, despite her very explicitly stated instructions for him to stay out of her mind.

She was freezing, not just cold. Her muscles were tight, spasming in a futile attempt to create heat. Weariness weighed her body down, pinning it in place. Even speaking was difficult.

He didn’t sense any pain besides that in her head, and some discomfort where his shoulder had dug into her stomach.

A glowing band of power streamed between them, much wider than he would have guessed. She was still using it to seal her head wound, despite how much effort it took for her to retain that level of concentration.

Iain turned up the fan all the way, which made a horrible whining noise before coming to a clunking stop. Smoke drifted out from the vents, smelling like burning rubber.

“Shit,” he spat, then regulated his tone so it was more gentle. “We’re not far from a safe place. Just hang in there and I’ll get you warm soon.”

She said nothing, so he stayed in her mind, gauging her well-being as he sped over the gravel roads.

She was struggling to maintain even the small flow of power needed to shield her wound. If he didn’t do something, that was going to go down, too, and they’d be right back where they started, surrounded by demons hunting her blood.

“I want you to lay your head down in my lap, okay?”

“Why?” she mumbled.

“Just do it, please?”

She kind of toppled over, and he had to keep her from hitting the steering wheel, but he managed to get her safely settled, and wrapped his hand around her throat. The two parts of the luceria connected, locking together. He felt the flow of power ease, and heard Jackie let out an audible sigh of relief.

Her body shook violently, and he wished for a way to warm her up. They were less than an hour away from a
Gerai house, but he couldn’t stand to think of her suffering for that long.

He pulled the car over long enough to strip out of his coat and drape it over her. The second he broke the luceria’s connection, he felt her struggling to keep up the shield, so he hurried and settled her back where he could touch her again.

The miles seemed to drag by, no matter how hard he pushed the accelerator. Without thinking about it, he began to stroke her neck, reveling in the feel of her smooth skin under his fingers.

His body temperature kicked up, and he wished he could somehow channel that to her.

She was still shivering as he pulled into the driveway of the Gerai house. The porch light was on, and there were three other houses’ lights visible in the distance. This area was heavily farmed, and the homes were spread out, leaving plenty of room for crops and grazing cattle.

Iain killed the wheezing engine, and lifted Jackie out of the car. The fact that she didn’t tell him to put her down spoke volumes about how bad off she really was.

He lowered her feet to the porch, and found the key taped to the underside of the porch light.

The heat inside was on, but set low in the absence of people. He laid Jackie on the couch and turned the thermostat up.

There was no fireplace here—no way to get her warm fast enough to suit him. Except for the shower.

He went into the hall bathroom and started the water running. He made quick work of stripping off her coat and shoes, toeing off his own before he picked her up and carried her right into the tub, under the spray of hot water.

Jackie gasped and sputtered, clinging to him in shock. A moment later, she moaned in pleasure and leaned toward him, going limp against his chest.

A deep sense of satisfaction filled him, making him
feel stronger and more like the man he hadn’t been in a long, long time. It was the same kind of feeling he’d had when she’d first taken his luceria—a kind of rightness, as if the universal order was all set straight.

It was only a trick of the mind, or of his biology. He knew that. There was no happily ever after for a man with no soul. It was best if he accepted his fate and simply enjoyed each moment for what it offered, rather than thinking of the future.

That was a bleak place for him, and one he was going to be visiting sooner than he wanted.

Jackie’s fingers shifted along his skin. “Thank you.”

“Better?” he asked.

He felt her nod. “Still cold, but I don’t feel frozen solid anymore.”

“Can you stand?”

“I think so.”

He set her feet down, keeping a firm hold on her in case she was weaker than she thought. The water hit her head, cascading down over her body more fully now. Her dark hair went nearly black, and a pink flush began to replace the waxen paleness she’d had only moments ago. She turned inside his grip, facing away from him. He wrapped his arms around her, gripping her waist, enjoying the feel of her against his palms. Her head fell back on his chest, and as the water drops hit, he could see faint blue flickers of the shield over her wound.

“We can wash away the blood now. Turn around, and I’ll tell you when to drop the shield.”

She did as he asked, looking up at him, waiting for him to tell her when to act. Her gray eyes were so pretty up close. He could see pale silvery chips surrounding her pupils, which disappeared as her eyes dilated.

“Now?” she asked.

Iain forced himself to pay attention to where the water sprayed, guiding her head so that all the blood would be washed away as fast as possible. “Now.”

She winced as the hot water hit her head. Most of the blood had dried, closing the wound, but some of it had worked its way into her hair.

“We should wash it, just to be sure.”

She sagged at the idea, but leaned over to reach for a bottle of shampoo. Iain snatched it from her hands. “You stay under the water and get warm. I can do this.”

The truth was he wanted to. He had no idea why, but the thought of tending her like this gave him a deep sense of satisfaction. He liked taking care of her.

It had been so long since he’d really cared one way or another about much of anything, finding enjoyment was as peculiar as it was welcome. He wasn’t sure what it was about being connected to Jackie that had restored some of the man he used to be, but he was glad to be along for the ride, for however long it lasted.

He lathered her hair, being careful of her wound, while taking his time, stroking her scalp and down the tight cords at the back of her neck. The collar of her shirt irritated him, so he loosened a button and tugged it down in back so he could better feel her skin.

His fingers slid over her, lingering about the task, as he watched the minute changes in her expression to tell him what she liked most. The little frown at her mouth said he was hitting a tender spot, while the lifting of her brows and fluttering of her eyelids said he was doing it just right.

He rinsed the suds away, making sure they were all gone so none would get in her eyes. She looked up at him, opening her mouth to say something. The words seemed to die on her lips as she continued to stare. Her eyelashes were wet and spiky. Her hands were flat against his chest to hold herself steady. They began to creep up over his shoulders and around his neck. Her breasts rubbed along his chest, making his muscles clench with the need to shove her back against the shower wall and hold her there while his hands roamed her body. He
could just imagine the feel of her hard little nipples beading up against his palm, or, better yet, his tongue.

He didn’t know what she was doing, but with her body pressed flush against him, he knew she had to feel the stiff length of his erection against her stomach.

Honor dictated that he step back and flee this situation before he forgot himself.

Iain commanded his muscles to move, but they all stayed locked in place, rigid and unyielding. The monster inside of him salivated, dying for a chance to get loose and take what Iain’s honor dictated did not belong to him.

Jackie would choose another man soon, and as much as he hated the idea, as much as it made his monster scream in rage, he knew she’d be grateful to him later for not giving in to his baser urges. She could go to her real mate—the one she should have been with now—with no guilt or regrets.

Before he had time to find the strength to take that long step back, she went up on tiptoe, and kissed him.

Iain’s breath left his body in a surprised rush. Of all the things she could have said or done, that was not something he’d expected. Still, his reaction was visceral, swift, and uncontrollable. Everything inside of him, both man and monster, stood up and cheered as he gave in to her kiss. His hands slid around her, cupping her ass and pulling her up closer to his mouth. He flicked his tongue across her lips, begging to be let inside. She opened for him easily, as if eager for his taste.

Her sweet sigh of pleasure filled his mouth. He tilted her head back, taking as much from her kiss as she let him. The taste of her went to his head, casting out thoughts and concerns. All that mattered now was the feel of her in his arms and the scent of her skin, hot from the shower.

For the first time he could remember, both parts of him were in complete accord, working together toward a common goal.

Her fingers snaked beneath the soggy hem of his shirt. They were shaking, but whether from cold, fatigue, or something else, he couldn’t tell. He knew he should stop and ask, stop and make sure she was well, but he couldn’t seem to find the strength to pull away from her soft, sweet mouth.

She tugged on his shirt, making a faint noise of irritation. It took him a minute to figure out that she was trying to pull it off, but he wasn’t cooperating, and the fabric was clinging to his skin, making the task impossible for her.

Iain stripped it off and went right back to kissing her. His earlier connection to her mind flared to life again, burning bright in his thoughts. He could feel her frenetic need, feel the empty ache low in her belly, and the swollen heat of her breasts. There was a franticness within her that went beyond lust. It was deeper than that, more desperate. She was barely holding on to her control, on the verge of collapsing into an emotional heap of despair and self-doubt. She’d been through too much, was holding too much emotion in. She’d decided to let it out, and he was going to help her.

If that’s what she needed, he was powerless to stop himself from giving it to her.

In a heartbeat, he shifted gears, discarding his good intentions for better ones. He was going to give her everything she wanted, and then some. The fact that it was exactly what he wanted only made the task that much sweeter.

BOOK: Dying Wish: A Novel of the Sentinel Wars
2.83Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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