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 (7 page)

BOOK: Dying Wish: A Novel of the Sentinel Wars
10.74Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

“I don’t want you to be anything but happy,” said Helen.

Jackie wasn’t setting her sights nearly that high. She’d be satisfied with simply being free.

Tori pulled the hood up over her head, shoved stolen sunglasses on her face, and walked through the halls of Dabyr as if she belonged there. She kept her head down, looking at no one while she made her escape.

She heard voices of children as she passed through the large open dining and recreation area. The smell of coffee—something that reminded her of her dead mother—filled her nose, giving her a pang of grief. Mama had been gone a long time now. The demons had killed and eaten her when
Tori was eight—the night she’d been stolen by monsters and her old life had ended.

Light seeping in under the glasses burned her eyes. Or maybe it was tears. She couldn’t tell. It was too bright there for her. All those years underground had made her eyes sensitive. Sadly, these people were so blind they needed to light this place up like the surface of the sun just to see their own feet.

It didn’t matter. She wouldn’t be there long. She only had to tolerate the light for as long as it took to get to her sister Andra’s car. The sun was setting. It would be dark soon, and the searing behind her eyes would ease.

Zillah—the Synestryn lord who’d caged and tortured her for years—was asleep now, hiding like a coward, but she could still feel him coursing through her veins, laughing at her with every beat of her heart. He was weak now. Nearby. She could find him and capture him before anyone even realized she was gone.

The bag on her shoulder was heavy, slowing her progress toward the garage. Over the last few weeks, she’d collected everything she’d need, gathering up knives, rope, matches, and other tools she could use to turn Zillah’s life into the living hell he’d made of hers. She’d spent a lot of time thinking about just how she was going to torture him before she let him die. Finding him, making him pay, was all that mattered.

Pain was not enough. She had to cause him fear, too. Oceans of it—as much as he had caused her and the others during her childhood. Since her rescue, she’d spent nearly every waking moment thinking up different ways to make him scream. She didn’t just want him to hurt—she wanted him destroyed, broken, and begging for his life. Then and only then, after his last scream’s echo had died out, would she be able to rest. Finally. He’d leave her dreams and never return. She’d truly be free of him.

Capturing Zillah was going to be hard, but she knew he and his guards were weaker during the day—trapped
underground, away from the sun. She could sneak into his caves unnoticed. After all the years of him forcing her to take his blood, shoving it into her veins, making her drink it, she even smelled like one of them. Tynan had said so to Logan when they’d thought she was sleeping.

At first she’d tried to scrub herself clean, but no matter how many times she washed, no matter how many cleaners she used on her skin, the stench was still there, seeping out of her pores.

Now she realized it for the gift it was. Who else could sneak into a Synestryn cave without being detected?

Zillah probably hadn’t realized what he’d done, and now it was going to come back to haunt him.

A slow smile of excitement pulled at her mouth as she hurried her pace. Tynan would come to see her as soon as he woke up, and she had to be long gone before then.

No matter how hard he’d tried, no matter how many times he’d come to her with soft words and kind eyes, all his efforts to clean her blood had failed. She’d left him weak and shaking, his mouth blistered from her blood.

She was one of them—one of the monsters. A Synestryn. Their blood was inside of her, burning her veins and calling her back to them.

Part of her wanted to answer that call.

Tori turned the last corner and nearly ran into one of the Theronai. Fear lurched into her chest, and she started to turn and run, her instincts screaming at her to flee. Before she took even one step, he moved to block her path.

“Whoa,” he said. “Slow down there.”

Words lodged in her throat. Her heart was pounding fast, and she heard herself panting. By now she should have been better at hiding her fear, but he’d surprised her, and she couldn’t seem to keep control of herself since coming there. These people were all too nice. She wasn’t used to it, and it left her confused and suspicious.
At any moment, she knew they’d turn on her, and she was sick of waiting for it to happen.

She looked up and saw scars crisscrossing the man’s face. He was trying to smile at her, but it pulled his skin, twisting his mouth. He had bright blue eyes and hair the same dark blond as Andra’s husband’s.

“Where were you going so fast?” he asked, his voice quiet and gentle as if he was trying not to scare her.

“I was just getting some exercise.”

He pulled a phone out of his pocket and started playing with it, his thick fingers flying fast. He watched her and not what he was doing. “The only thing down this hall is the garage. You wouldn’t be trying to sneak out, would you?”

He’d caught her. She was cornered. Trapped. Panic raked her skin and she realized there was only one thing she could do to escape.

Tori moved fast, giving him no time to react. She pulled a steak knife from her bag and stabbed it into his chest.

Nicholas stared down in disbelief at the knife buried in his chest. Pain radiated out from the wound, but it was nothing compared to the pain he endured every day as his power grew. Nothing compared to the betrayal he felt.

Tori had stabbed him. All he’d wanted to do was stop her from leaving and getting herself hurt or killed. Hell, he hadn’t even touched her, despite his urge to see if she was the one who could save his life.

Jackie sure as hell hadn’t wanted him. Not that he blamed her.

Tori’s small hand was still wrapped around the wooden handle of the knife. When he felt her tug on it, likely to pull it out and stab him again, he covered her hand with both of his, holding the knife in place.

The pain his growing power caused seem to dull. The
edges rounded, and the bulging pressure behind his eyes eased. Everything within him went still and quiet—even his heart stopped for a few, timeless seconds.

Tori was compatible with his power. She could save him.

He hadn’t been this close to her before, but now that he was looking at her, he realized she was just a child. A feral, deranged child.

Her blue eyes went wide with shock, and then a rabid snarl contorted her face and a low growl of warning spilled from her lips.

In that moment, he realized that her compatibility didn’t matter. He couldn’t ask anything of her. He’d been there the night she’d been rescued. He knew what she’d gone through. It wasn’t fair to ask her to do anything more than heal and grow strong.

Nicholas ignored the pointless surge of hope, shoved aside the pain of his wound, and showed no weakness. His tone took on the same disappointed, lecturing quality his father had used on him too many times when he was a child. “What the hell do you think you’re doing? You don’t go around stabbing people like that.”

She tried to pull her hand away, and it wiggled the knife, burning like fire. Her lips pulled back, baring her teeth. “Let me go!”

“Not a chance. You’re staying right here until Andra shows up.”

“She thinks I’m sleeping. I snuck out while she was in bed with Paul.”

“Sorry to break it to you, kiddo, but I texted her. In fact…”

The heavy beat of footsteps came pounding down the hall. Andra raced around the corner, her face pink and her shirt on inside out. Paul was only a couple of steps behind her, and he was shirtless and barefoot.

Tori let out a scream of frustrated outrage.

“Thanks for coming,” said Nicholas. “Now that you’re
here to deal with her, I can have this knife removed. I suggest you figure out something to do with her before she hurts someone for real next time.”

He didn’t wait around to see how Andra dealt with her deranged sister. It was none of his business. As much as he wished otherwise, as much as he would have gladly altered his life to help Tori heal, all he could offer her was the added burden of saving his life.

It was just as well. She was too young for him to think of her as anything but a child, and she was too unstable for any kind of relationship, even if he could overlook her age. It didn’t matter how patient or gentle he would be if he didn’t live long enough to help her. Tori was obviously the kind of girl who would stab a man in his sleep. The Synestryn had turned her into that, robbing her of the life she could have had.

He hoped that Andra figured out something soon. Tori was a danger to herself and others, and unless they wanted people to get hurt, they were going to have to lock her up. She’d spent her childhood imprisoned by Synestryn, being tortured and fed their blood. He didn’t think captivity was going to sit well with her.

Just the thought made him sick.

She could be his. In a few years. When she was older and had healed.

He wasn’t sure he had that much time left. His lifemark was dying. The rate at which his leaves were falling had increased recently. There was no way to know how much time he had left, but he was fairly sure it wouldn’t be enough for Tori to truly heal.

Pain throbbed in Nicholas’s bones. It was worse now than it had been only a few minutes ago. He could barely even feel the knife sticking out of him. Putting one foot in front of another took all his concentration. He wanted to run back to her so she could make the pain stop.

What if he couldn’t control himself as his pain grew? What if he forced her to make it stop?

Nicholas had seen what happened to his brothers as they reached the end of their lives. They became darker, angry and desperate. He’d seen good men do bad things. What if he did the same with Tori?

There was only one thing he could think to do—only one way to keep her safe from himself.

As soon as Tynan was done healing his stab wound, he was going to bargain with the Sanguinar—give him anything he asked for—to have his memory of the last few minutes removed. If he didn’t know Tori could save him, she’d be safe. It was the only way he could be sure.

Chapter 5

here are we really going?” asked Iain once they were in his truck and driving out through Dabyr’s gates.

The sun was still high in the sky, but Jackie could feel its descent, like sharp fingernails raking over her back. “To see Samson. I want to see him one more time before I cut ties with your world.”

“So you lied. I figured as much. Not that it matters. They’ll know where we go. Tracking devices in all the vehicles.”

Of course there were. “Great. Nothing like an electronic leash to make a girl feel free.”

“I don’t get you. If you’d stayed, you could have had anything you wanted. You would have been safe. After two years of being locked up, I’d think safety would be at the top of your list.”

How was she going to explain anything to him? He didn’t live in her world—or at least not in the one she wanted to inhabit. “I didn’t feel safe there. I felt caged. Stagnant.”

He said nothing, his eyes on the road. His hands were fisted around the steering wheel, and she noticed a faint scar on the back of his right hand. It was jagged and pale with age.

“How’d you get that?” she asked, looking for a way to get the conversation off herself.

He stared at his hand for an extended moment, as if he had to think about it to remember. “Six against one. Little vicious raptor demons. One of them flew in from overhead and I didn’t see it until it was too late.”

“What happened?”

“I killed it before the poison in its talons felled me. By then Liam had made it to my side. Saved my life.”

He said it so calmly, as if he were talking about what he’d had for dinner last night.

“When was this?” she asked.

“A couple hundred years ago. Right after the big attack.”

“The big attack?”

“We’d thought the Synestryn were nearly extinct—that we’d wiped them out. We were all feeling pretty proud of ourselves. Overconfident. We spread out and tried to lead normal lives. We let our guard down, which was what they’d been waiting for. They coordinated a massive attack near every homestead and Sentinel compound they could find. All of us rushed to help and save the nearby towns from massacre. The Synestryn had planned on that, too, and were ready. They launched their real attack, which was designed to kill our women. It worked.”

Jackie stared at him, her mouth hanging open in shock. There was no emotion in his voice, no grief, horror, or regret.

“We lost hundreds of women that night, and dozens of men. On top of the killing, they sterilized every male Theronai with some kind of magic—though it took us a while to figure out what they’d done. Without the ability to have children and refill our ranks, we’ve never recovered from that attack. Couple that with the painful deaths of many more men who can no longer house their growing power, and it was likely a killing blow.”

“You think they’ve won?”

Iain shrugged as if it didn’t matter. “I don’t think. I fight. I get up every day and kill as many of them as I can before they kill me.”

“And you’re happy with that?”

He turned his head, gazing at her. His black eyes held only faint confusion. “It’s not my job to be happy. I do what I need to so others can be.”

“But what about what

“It’s irrelevant. I realized it’s easiest not to want things, so I just stopped doing it.”

“Stopped? How do you just…stop?” She would desperately like to learn that skill, because right about now, she’d really love to stop wanting what she was afraid she could never have. Her old life was a dream, a distant memory. As hard as she tried to reclaim it, she feared it would always be out of reach.

That didn’t mean she wasn’t going to keep trying to make it happen. She was way too driven to simply give up.

“This topic is clearly distressing you, and it’s my duty to see to your comfort. Let’s talk about something else. Or better yet, just not talk at all.”

BOOK: Dying Wish: A Novel of the Sentinel Wars
10.74Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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