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 (36 page)

BOOK: Dying Wish: A Novel of the Sentinel Wars
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He smiled again, and this time, she was accustomed to the odd puckering enough that it didn’t startle her. “We don’t have horses. We operate motorized vehicles, and they can go a hundred miles an hour, so until you learn how to drive one, you’d likely kill yourself.”

Surely he was lying about traveling at such speeds.

Then again, he seemed completely genuine. “How long does it take to learn to operate one?”

“Depends on how chicken you are.”

She wasn’t getting anywhere like this. As much as she hated the dent to her pride, she had no choice but to be honest with him. “I can’t stay here. Iain…” She swallowed back her grief, trying to keep her tears in check. “I need to be alone to grieve.”

Mr. Laith’s mouth flattened, but she couldn’t tell if it was in sympathy or irritation. “It’s safe here.”

“I can protect myself. If you give me a sword.”

“This world is different from the one you left. How will you cope?”

“I simply want some solitude. To heal.”

“We have some cabins out back. They’re rustic, but solitary. I’ll have one of them cleaned up and prepared for you.”

It was likely as good as she was going to get for now. “Thank you for your gracious offer,” she told him.

Serena had always learned quickly. She’d set herself to the task of learning how to navigate these strange times, and then, once she’d learned to drive one of their motorized vehicles, she’d set out in search of a new life—one that would distract her from the pain of losing the man she loved.

Chapter 24
 

J
ackie released Drake and Helen from the shield she’d put around them as she sprinted out of what she couldn’t help but think of as a dungeon. She raced up several flights of concrete steps, and ran into Joseph’s hard chest. He grabbed her upper arms and didn’t let go.

“The security camera caught what you did to Helen and Drake. You can’t go using your power irresponsibly like that.”

She looked him right in the eye. “Fuck. Off.”

His expression pinched with anger, but his voice was modulated and even. “You’re suffering. It’s understandable. I’ve already made arrangements for you to fly to Africa to visit Lexi for a few days. She misses you. The distance may help…mute your connection to Iain.”

“While you kill him.”

“We’re only doing what we have to do. One day you’ll see that.”

“Bullshit. And if you think I’m going anywhere, you’re wrong. I’m going to be with Iain through every second of his death. I’m going to soak it all in, memorizing every detail, every ounce of fear, every scrap of suffering. And then, when he’s dead, I’m going to take all of that and find a way to shove it so deep in your brain you’ll never be able to sleep again.”

His eye twitched and his face darkened with rage.
“Do you think I want this? Do you think that if there were any other way of protecting the people who depend on me that I wouldn’t do it?”

“You could…oh, I don’t know…
not kill him
. That would be a good start.”

“You have no idea how much damage he’s capable of doing. He could kill dozens before we were able to stop him. He’s fast, deadly, and without a soul, he must be put down.”

“Then do it yourself. Don’t send him to strangers like a fucking coward.”

“I know you don’t understand our customs, but they’re in place for a reason. This is the way it has to be.”

She used a burst of Iain’s power to jerk from his grasp. “I don’t accept that.”

“You’d better learn how to find some solace fast, then, because this is happening, even if I have to have one of the Sanguinar drug you out of your mind so you’ll behave until it’s over.”

He would, too. She could see it in his eyes. There was no mercy there. Regret, but not a hint of compromise.

Joseph’s phone rang. Jackie pushed past him and started up the next flight of stairs.

“Where is he?” he asked.

Jackie paused. Something about the way he said it told her it was bad news. Big, bad news.

“Tell Ronan to hold off. We’re on the way.”

More steps echoed in the concrete stairwell.

“Iain isn’t fighting this,” said Drake. “I don’t think you’re going to have to worry about him hurting anyone so long as we do it fast. I don’t know how he kept himself under control for so long, but it’s a hell of a thing to see.”

“I wish he’d fight,” said Helen. “It seems so barbaric to kill him when he’s not…rabid.”

“We’ll deal with Iain later,” said Joseph. “Ronan found a human woman in Synestryn hands. You two go help him free her.”

“We’re on it,” said Drake.

“What about Iain?” asked Helen.

Joseph let out a heavy sigh. “Henry Mason called and said they found proof of demons sniffing around his sister’s house last night. He’s bringing his family here as we speak. Finally. As soon as I see Autumn safely settled within our walls, I’ll take Iain to the Slayers. There’s no kindness in prolonging the inevitable. Especially for Jackie.”

“She’ll never forgive you for this,” said Helen.

“I know. She can join the fucking club, because I’m not sure I’m ever going to forgive myself.”

Their steps grew louder. Jackie didn’t want them to know she’d been listening, but if she moved now, they’d hear her.

Knowledge of what to do sprang into her head as another flickering light glowed in the vast black landscape at the back of her mind. She funneled Iain’s power into her and shifted the light around her until she was no longer visible.

She pushed herself flat against the wall and held her breath as the trio passed by her, exiting through the door at the top of the stairwell.

Elation trilled through her as she realized what she’d done. They couldn’t see her. That meant that the security cameras probably couldn’t, either.

Now all she had to do was collect a few things, and she could get out of here. First she’d get some supplies, some weapons and protective clothing. And then she’d get Iain.

There was no way in hell she was going to let his own people murder him. She’d find a way to get him out of here. They’d run and hide, and if anyone came near him with the intent to kill, she’d make sure they regretted it.

Joseph didn’t know how much longer he could hold himself together. He was supposed to be leading these people,
and yet how could he do that when he was beginning to question his own choices?

Executing Chris had nearly killed Joseph, and there had been nothing left of the man he’d grown up with. All that had remained of Chris was a ravening beast posing as a man. He’d beaten and raped a human, nearly killing her.

His death had been justified, and yet it still haunted Joseph. How the hell was he going to kill Iain when there was no outward sign that he’d turned? How was he ever going to come back from that kind of pain and guilt?

Joseph wasn’t fit to lead these people. His term wasn’t yet up, but he needed to leave his office and get out from under the decisions and paperwork and remind himself of the man he was born to be.

But who else would do his job? No one wanted it.

Someone had to do it. Too bad the someone doing it now was slowly having the life sucked out of him.

A tentative knock sounded on his door. He looked up to see Lyka standing in his doorway, all golden and glowing like a ray of sunshine. Seeing her eased the pressure behind his eyes and quieted the pounding in his head.

She was a Slayer. The only one under his roof. She’d come to live here as part of an agreement with her brother, Andreas. He’d left Lyka here and taken Carmen, the young woman Joseph had claimed as his daughter. The exchange encouraged both parties to be civil and respect the agreement, ensuring neither side rushed back into their war hastily.

He’d rarely seen Lyka since she’d arrived. Whenever he went to the dining hall and she was there, she seemed to disappear moments later. He didn’t know if it was coincidence or if she was avoiding him, but her appearance now was a much-needed distraction.

“Come in. Have a seat.”

She hovered by the door, her long, lean body completely
encased in clinging black fabric. Even her hands were curled up and tucked inside her sleeves as if she were cold. A soft hood covered her slightly pointed ears and most of her sunny hair. Her canted golden eyes were veiled by thick lashes, her head angled downward, avoiding his gaze.

Her posture and demeanor now were nothing like the first time he’d met her, angry and hissing at her brother. She’d been all claws and teeth then, but now she seemed quieter, more subdued.

Lyka said nothing, just stood there as if hovering on the edge of a decision.

He could have stared at her for a long time, enjoying the curve of her body and the intriguing tilt of her eyes. Her presence was calming to him, allowing the frustration and anger to slide by, leaving less of a mark on him. But sadly, he couldn’t spend the day staring. He had other, less enjoyable things to do. “I’m pretty busy. Is there something you need?”

“Sorry. I didn’t mean to bother you. I just…I heard someone say one of your men has turned. I’m truly sorry for your loss.”

He wanted to shout at her that Iain wasn’t dead yet, but that seemed pointless. His soul had died a long time ago. The rest was a mere formality. “Thank you.”

She pulled in a deep breath, and he couldn’t help but notice the way it molded her breasts against her shirt.

Joseph felt a stirring of lust he hadn’t had in a long time. His skin warmed, and his blood began to heat. Even his cock seemed to wake up, swelling inside his jeans.

Maybe he just needed to get laid to get out of his funk. Not that he’d ever even consider thinking about thinking about sex with Andreas’s sister. He knew exactly how he’d feel if that fucker looked at Carmen as anything more than a precious treasure under his protection—one who was going to keep her pants all the way on.

Sex with Lyka was not an option, and sex with anyone
wasn’t likely to fix his problems, or do anything more than give him a few fleeting moments of pleasure.

She hadn’t left yet. She stayed hovering in his doorway, watching him with her pretty eyes, wringing her hands.

He ignored his inappropriate feelings for a woman he knew he could not have, and rose from his chair. “Is there something else, Lyka?”

She saw him approach, and he thought she started to back away before catching herself. The movement was so quick, it was hard to tell if it had actually happened. Her gaze darted around warily, as if she expected him to pounce.

He had no idea why she was so skittish, but it pissed him off that she would seem worried he might hurt her. She was under his protection. He’d give his life to keep her safe if necessary, which, given the growing state of anger and unrest inside Dabyr, wasn’t entirely out of the realm of possibility.

When she spoke, her words were breathless and rushed. “I was wondering if whoever you send to take your man to my people might take me with them. So I can see my family again for a visit. I’d come back here afterwards, of course.”

Joseph had been so wrapped up in his own matters, he hadn’t even considered her feelings. She was thrown into a place filled with five hundred strangers—a hostage to guarantee her brother’s good behavior. She hadn’t been allowed contact with her family to prevent any rumors of spying. She hadn’t spoken to them in weeks and was probably homesick.

He took a step closer so he could better see her face. He didn’t sense any signs of deceit, but that didn’t mean he trusted her. “This trip isn’t going to be a happy one. Are you sure you want to go?”

She nodded, scooting back a few inches. “I don’t know how long it will be until I can see my family again.”

Her gaze met his, finally, and he felt it like an electric jolt all the way to his toes. He wanted to get closer, but every time he inched forward, she moved back. She was out in the hall now as it was.

“Do you?” she asked. “Know how long it will be?”

He didn’t, but he didn’t want to tell her that. She already seemed so lonely. He couldn’t bear to tell her it could be years before the Slayers and the Theronai truly trusted each other. Until such a miracle happened, she would be a virtual prisoner, albeit a comfortable one. He would make sure of it.

“I don’t,” he said. “You can come with me.”

She paled and her little pink tongue swept out nervously over her lips. “You? You’re going?”

“I couldn’t ask someone else to sentence one of my men to death. It’s my job. I’ll do it.”

“Oh. I thought you’d send one of the humans.” She swallowed. “Never mind. I’ll wait for another, better time. I’m sorry I bothered you.” She turned to leave.

Something was going on here, and Joseph was going to find out what it was.

He raced out into the hall and caught up with her. He’d almost grabbed her arm when she whirled around, crouching in a fighting stance, baring her teeth.

So, she wasn’t the weak, defenseless kitten she’d pretended to be a moment ago. This was more like the woman he’d first met—the one who’d come to him naked, wrapped in only a sheet, and seething with rage, ready to fight the whole gathering of men for one single swing at the brother who’d pissed her off.

“Do not touch me,” she warned him. “Don’t
ever
touch me.”

The venom in her tone shocked him, but not as much as it confused him. Had someone hurt her? Or was it simply a case of her not wanting one of his kind to touch her? “Why not?”

“I don’t like it. You keep your hands off.”

Joseph shoved his hands into his jeans in the hopes it would appease her. “See. No hands. Now tell me why you suddenly changed your mind when you found out I was going.”

“Maybe I find you abhorrent.”


Maybe
you do, or you do?”

“All of you Theronai think you’re so much better than us. It’s disgusting. I wouldn’t sit in a car with any of you.”

“Not even if you got to visit your family?”

A hint of sadness flashed through her golden eyes before being replaced with anger. “It’s not worth the stench of your kind.”

“Wow. And here I thought you were all about making peace.”

“Andreas wants peace, and he always gets what he wants.”

BOOK: Dying Wish: A Novel of the Sentinel Wars
2.7Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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