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Darkest Flame Part II
By Donna Grant
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2014 Donna Grant
All rights reserved.
Denae reached up without thought and touched Kellan's cheek. The surprise that flared in his eyes caused her body to smolder.
Before she could gather the courage to kiss him, Kellan sat her up and turned his head out his window. When she faced forward, her gaze clashed with Banan's as he looked at her through the rearview mirror.
A glance behind her showed the cluster of rocks that had caused the commotion as they sped across the land.
Denae didn't know what it was about Kellan that triggered her heart to beat faster or why she was drawn to him in ways she couldn't begin to discern. All she knew was that she wanted his arms around her, wanted his lips on hers.
She didn't understand why his appeal robbed her of thought and words, or why the fact his lips didn't curve upward made her want to do crazy things just to see if she could get him to crack a smile.
The ride continued in silence for the next hour as Banan took them over increasingly more dangerous terrain. Every once in a while either Kellan or Banan would look at the skies.
It didn't take her long to realize they were looking for dragons. Denae could only imagine how easily a dragon could take out a chopper or plane with a single swipe of a paw.
"We're almost to the road," Banan said.
Five minutes later he slammed on the breaks when they reached a small grove of trees, causing all of them to fly forward. The seat belt dug into her chest for the second time that day.
"What is it?" Henry asked.
Kellan didn't say a word as he opened his door and stepped out of the vehicle. It was when he closed the door softly behind him that Denae knew he was going after something in the trees.
She reached for her door handle when Banan clicked the locks, preventing her from getting out. "Unlock the door," she said.
"No' going to happen," Banan said.
"Then go help him."
Banan snorted. "If you think he needs help, then I doona think you understand who he is."
"Oh, I understand. What if he ..." Denae trailed off as she recalled how the only way a King could be killed was by another Dragon King.
Banan met her gaze in the mirror again and nodded as realization dawned on her. "Exactly," he said.
"Exactly what?" Henry asked in his British accent. "I'm getting the feeling I'm left out of some important fact."
"Denae just remembered that Kellan can easily take care of himself," Banan said to his friend.
Henry inhaled deeply. "Riiiight."
Denae didn't have to wait long for Kellan to return. He walked back to the Range Rover as if he'd simply gone for a stroll. When he was once more seated beside her, she noticed the few drops of blood on his shirt.
"It's taken care of," he said.
Banan pressed the accelerator to get them moving again. Denae stared at Kellan for three miles until he finally looked at her.
"How did you know?" she asked.
He lifted one shoulder in a shrug. "You're easy to pick out."
She didn't know if the "you" meant MI5 or humans, and either way, it was meant as an insult. Though she couldn't blame him after what he had told her humans did to his dragons. If she were in his place, she would hate humans too.
It wasn't long before they reached a road and they were able to go faster. The scenery sped by as Denae stared out the window. A light smattering of rain fell while pale gray clouds cloaked everything in a somber mood.
They passed few cars on the narrow road, and at the rate of speed they were traveling it was a good thing. The farther away from Dreagan they got, the more worried Denae became.
Kellan might have given her his word, but what did she really know of him? He saw her fight in his cave, and he had taken her to the manor. He told her a bit about his bronze dragons, and even a bit of his past, but she knew nothing of him.
What kind of man was he? What made him laugh, what made him angry? What would spur him to protect someone? And what would make him leave?
He had walked into the trees and killed at least one operative without so much as breaking a sweat. Then again, he admitted to killing a man for raping and killing a girl. Was everything black and white to Kellan?
She glanced his way to find him watching her with his celadon eyes, a hint of anger showing. "Still doubting me?"
"Can you read minds?"
He lifted a brow. "Nay, but I can read you."
She had hurt him with her mistrust. Which was laughable. It wasn't as if he trusted her much. Then again, he was trying to help her. At least she assumed he was. This trust thing was beginning to wear her down. "Where are we going?"
"To the sea."
The fact he answered without hesitation relieved some of her distress. It also helped that Henry was there. He obviously trusted Banan a great deal.
Unless Henry was in on it.
Denae stopped that train of thought. If she let herself, she could come up with hundreds of different scenarios where people betrayed her.
What Matt and her department had done left a mental scar she wasn't sure she could ever overcome. It would be bad enough that she was going to be on the run for her life. How could she ever trust anyone again?
Every meal she ate that she didn't cook herself could be laced with poison. Every person a potential murderer. Every place a possible death trap.
There would be no nights of sleep. She would have to move every few days, making sure wherever she decided to lay her head was protected, as well as setting an alarm of some sort to let her know if someone was trying to get in.
That's not the life she wanted. It wasn't a life she could live.
"Stop," she told Banan. "Just stop and let me out. It might be better if MI5 killed me."
"They won't kill you," Henry said as he turned to look at her. "They'll torture you until they get the information out of you. Then they'll kill you and make it look like someone at Dreagan did it."
Denae closed her eyes and blew out a harsh breath. She knew that's exactly what MI5 would do, but she had never been on the receiving end of their attacks. If she let herself, she would begin to question every operation she went on. "I don't want to be on the run forever. That's not a life. That's merely living. I can never have a family, never trust anyone."
"It'll get easier."
She opened her eyes to glare at Henry. "No, it won't. I'll never be able to go home or even make friends. I'll wonder if everyone I meet is connected to MI5 and a potential enemy."
"It'll keep you on your toes," Banan said.
"It'll be hell."
Kellan asked, "You would rather die?"
She turned her head to him. "Isn't what I'm about to do pretty much what you've been doing? Only you get to stay in one place. What would you rather?"
"Your choice is life or death, Denae," he said. "Death is easy. Life is hard. But you have the ability to choose what kind of life you'll have."
The Range Rover slowed and turned. Denae looked out the window and saw the sea.
"We're here," Banan said.
She remained silent while they navigated through the docks until Banan stopped the SUV and turned off the engine. For a moment, no one moved.
Banan then unbuckled his seat belt and turned around. "Henry and I are going to go look around. Good luck, Denae."
She couldn't return his smile, but she gave him a nod. "Thanks."
Henry held out his hand to her and she saw the dagger encased in black leather. "Take this," he told her. "It's always good to have a hidden weapon."
Denae accepted the gift. "Thank you."
"Kellan is right. You have a choice now. Safe travels."
Her stomach was in knots by the time she and Kellan were left alone in the vehicle. She turned the knife over and over in her hand. "When will you wipe my memories?"
"Before you get on the boat."
"And if we're not alone? It's just the four of us against whoever is out there?"
"Aye," Kellan said. "No' that you need to worry. I'll be surprised if MI5 tracked us here. You'll be on the boat shortly with a new identity and leaving all of this behind."
"You make it sound easy."
"It is. Are you ready?"
Denae answered him by opening her door and stepping out. The smell of salt filled her nose as the wind brushed from the sea and over her. Gulls cried loudly while boats tied to the dock moaned against the waves.
Kellan waited for her at the front of the Range Rover. She walked to him, but she couldn't shake the feeling that something was going to go wrong.
"What is it?" he asked when she kept looking around.
"We got away too easy. Way too easy."
Kellan's brow puckered. "We planned for that."
"You don't understand. They'll have been watching."
"It's sixty thousand acres. They can no' watch it all."
She wanted to believe him, but that nagging feeling had saved her life before. She wasn't going to ignore it now. "When do I leave?"
"We need to meet Con and Rhys for your identity packet. Your boat leaves in half an hour."
She scanned the boats she could see, wondering which of them she would board that would take her far away from Kellan and his mesmerizing green eyes. "Where is it taking me?"
"There are several ports it'll stop at. You get to choose when you want to depart. Come," he said and directed her to a wooden building painted what was supposed to have been a cream, but so much paint had chipped away that it looked gray from the exposed boards.
Inside, it didn't get any better. Denae expected it to fall down around her. She sat on a wooden crate and looked at Kellan. The wind had whipped his long hair about, and the way he ran his fingers through it was one of the sexiest things she had ever seen.
She had never liked long hair on guys. Until she met Kellan. Now, she wanted to tangle her fingers in it and beg him never to cut it.
"How long did you watch me in the cave?"
He jerked his head at her, surprise evident in his gaze. "I saw you come out of the water."
"In other words, you saw it all."
"Are there no humans you like?"
He shrugged, but didn't deny it. "There have been few mortals I encountered that were worthy of living."
"It might have been better if you let me die in your cave. You could've remained, and I wouldn't be in this spot."
"You're no' angry with me?"
Oddly enough, she wasn't. "You had to make a decision based on protecting yourself and the other dragons. Why would I be mad? It's what I did every day for the past seven years."
"You're certainly different, Denae Lacroix."
She smiled then. "My father used to say the same thing."
"Do you want us to get word to your family?"
Denae glanced at her feet. "That won't be necessary. My immediate family is dead. It's just my extended family, and I haven't communicated with them for years. Is there a restroom around?" she asked before he could speak again.
Kellan pointed to a doorway behind her. "Through there and into the next building."
Denae hurried away, hating how memories of her family would hit her when she least expected it. She hadn't meant to bring up her father, but Kellan saying her father's favorite words brought a tide of memories she couldn't hold back.
She followed Kellan's instructions and walked into the next building. The building was full of fishing nets and crates and other things she had no clue about.
After spotting a door up ahead, she walked around a set of crates stacked high and stopped in her tracks when she found four men with assault rifles trained on her. As chilling as that was, it was nothing compared to the four men flanking them.
They had long, black hair streaked silver and red eyes.CHAPTER 2
Kellan stared at the door Denae had disappeared through and paced several lengths of the office before he stopped and stared at the door again.
He blew out a breath. How long did a female need in the restroom? She had been gone several minutes already.
"Kellan," he heard behind him.
He whirled around to find Rhi, her eyes wide and distress tightening her face. He was immediately on guard. "What is it?"
"The Dark are here. And they have Denae."
He was shocked at the fury that rose so swiftly within him. For a human. Yet, he was the one supposed to keep her safe. He had failed, and he didn't like that feeling one bit.
"Where is she?" he demanded.
Rhi's boot heels sounded loud in the building as she hurried to the back windows. "There."
Kellan followed her and let out a sigh of relief when he spotted Denae standing on a pier alone. Then confusion set in. "They didna take her?"
Rhi looked away from the windows. "The Dark Ones aren't alone, Kell. They joined forces with MI5."
Now he was truly flabbergasted. "The Fae and the humans? That can no' be."
"It's not all of MI5, just a few. I was keeping an eye on things when I saw Denae walk into the other building. I followed, keeping veiled, and watched her encounter the small group of Dark and the spies. She's bait again, Kell."
"For me." Of course. Why hadn't he realized that sooner? That's the only reason Denae was still in this realm and alive. The real question was whether Denae was in on the Dark Ones taking him, or if she was a victim.
"The Dark Ones want a Dragon King. MI5 wants Denae."
"Kellan!" Denae called halfheartedly. "Can you come out?"
Kellan looked back at Denae and noticed how her eyes went anywhere but at the building he was in. She was alone, but the Dark Fae and the spies would be hiding close enough to swoop in the moment she tried to run or he appeared.
In dragon form, he could fly down and get her, but it would be a big chance. For though few Kings liked to admit it, the Dark Fae's magic could prevent them from remaining in dragon form, which is when they were their strongest.
The Dark couldn't just prevent it. There were instances when their magic could hinder a King to make him almost as feeble as a human. It was why the Kings rarely fought alone against the Dark.
But Kellan had given his word to Denae. He couldn't remember the last time he had saved a human's life, but that didn't seem to matter as he stared at her standing so stoically.
"No," Rhi said in shock. "You aren't seriously considering going down there. You can't. I heard the Dark. They want you."
Kellan took in the entire scene, determining where his enemies would hide. "I'm going."
"You don't care that they've targeted you specifically?"
He shrugged and picked out the hiding places the mortals would use. "Of course I care. They want something, and I want to know what it is. I willna learn that standing here."
"It's the Dark, Kellan," she stated flatly.
"I know." He turned his head to her. After what had happened with Rhi and her Dragon King lover she could've turned her back on them, but she hadn't. It showed just how deep her love for the King had been. If she only knew the truth ...
"Kellan!" Denae called again.
Rhi blew out a harsh breath. "You're a Dragon King. Do you know what the Dark Ones will do to you?"
The pitch of Rhi's voice went higher. The Dark might not be able to kill a King, but the long-term effects of suffering their torture could do untold damage.
They had managed to capture two Kings during the Fae Wars. Kellan remembered all too well having to kill one King after the Dark released him and he set out to destroy Dreagan.
The other ... the Dark had tried to use during a battle. Seeing a King held by Dark Ones had been horrible, but nothing compared to the King begging his brethren to end his life. It was Con who reached him first and killed him.
"She's right," Con said from the doorway as he and Rhys walked in. "The Dark can no' capture another King."
Rhi backed away when Kellan met her eyes. "I can do this with your help," he told her. "The Dark Ones doona know you're here."
Kellan looked from Con to Rhys and back to Rhi. He couldn't begin to explain his driving need to save Denae, only that he had to. It was an odd feeling after spending so much time hoping for the demise of all mortals. "I took responsibility for her. Because I gave Denae my word that she wouldna die this day. Because ... I have to do this for her."
Suddenly Rhi gave him a wink. "Just what I wanted to hear, stud."
"You can no' be serious," Con said as he stalked angrily to Kellan. "You'll never get free of the Dark Ones."
"Thanks for the confidence," Kellan said sarcastically.
Con closed his eyes and fisted his hands, as if he were searching for patience. When his black eyes opened, he pinned Kellan with a hard look. "I doona want to have to kill another King who has been in the hands of a Dark. I can no'. No' again."
"Kellan! You should see this!" Denae shouted while glaring at a stack of crates.
Kellan itched to answer Denae. He knew exactly how Con felt. It was strange to hear Con talk of saving a King over a human. It wasn't something he had ever done before. Then again, it wasn't every day that a Dark tried to capture a King.
Excerpted from Darkest Flame Part II by Donna Grant. Copyright © 2014 Donna Grant. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
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