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Darkest Flame Part III
By Donna Grant
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2014 Donna Grant
All rights reserved.
Kellan let Denae drift off to sleep without moving her. All too soon hell would descend upon them.
The light that eased her fears and allowed her to see into the darkest corners would disappear.
The illusion of safety she felt while in his arms would be shattered.
The compassion, the gentleness he'd dared to show her now would cease.
The Dark Ones would torment her endlessly while he watched.
No matter what the Fae wanted, he wouldn't give it to them, not as long as it involved information on Dreagan or anyone there.
Kellan woke from his thirteen hundred years of sleep with hatred for humans still churning within him. But one courageous, beautiful woman had beguiled him, captivated him.
Utterly charmed him.
While changing his mind about her, and perhaps about a few other mortals in the process.
He didn't regret their night together. Quite the opposite. He wished he had more time with her, but even if both of them got out alive, she would be forever changed.
The purity she had somehow kept despite working as a spy would be gone, wiped away as if it had never existed.
The protection he'd promised her was worthless while they were in the hands of the Dark. Especially with him chained. He was powerful, immortal, and lethal, and yet he was helpless to do anything but hold the woman he couldn't get enough of.
Kellan lifted a lock of her coppery hair in his hand and ran his fingers along the cool, silky strands. He let her believe the Dark Ones could be watching at all times, because he never wanted her to let her guard down.
Which is exactly what she was doing by sleeping in his arms. She expected him to watch over her. And she wasn't wrong. She needed the rest, but it was the last time he would allow her to have it.
For both their sakes, he couldn't be found holding her.
Kellan had no idea if—or when—his brethren would find him. He wasn't counting on them. He would break free. Somehow. Doing it before they took Denae's soul would be the tricky part.
Getting away before they could get to him as they had the two other Kings also weighed heavily on his mind. Kings by nature were the strongest of the strong, the deadliest of the deadly.
To know that two of his brethren had been broken was more than troubling. It was distressing. He looked down at Denae and knew that when the Dark came, they wouldn't hold back any punches to either of them.
There was no way Kellan was going to be able to watch as the Dark touched her, and yet he would have to. It was the only chance she had—and it was a slim one at that.
He liked holding her, liked that she trusted him enough to sleep in such a place. Even if he hadn't given her the promise to keep her alive, he wouldn't leave her.
There was something altogether different about Denae that he'd never encountered in a mortal before. Kellan couldn't pinpoint exactly what it was, but it held him attuned to her in ways that kept him spinning, disoriented.
And reaching for her.
Already he'd held her too long. Thinking of pushing her away was becoming more and more difficult, until his body was demanding he claim her again—for all to see. To let the Dark know that they might try to take her, but she would be forever his, just as he would forever be imprinted upon her.
The impulse to brand her as his so no one would dare to touch her, much less look at her, was so strong that his hand was beneath her shirt before he realized it.
Kellan paused and clenched his teeth. If the Fae knew how much he wanted her, they would stop at nothing to destroy her.
And that could very well break him as nothing ever had.
Not seeing his Bronzes dead.
Not watching the dragons leave the realm.
Kellan closed his eyes and savored the feel of her in his arms. It was the last he would give himself and her, because he had to be cold and calculating to save her. He had to dredge up the loathing that had been his constant companion for centuries, even though he felt nothing close to hate for the beautiful, amazing woman beside him.
He pulled his hand away and allowed himself a quick brush of his lips over hers. Then he gave her a little shake. "Denae. Time to wake up."
* * *
Denae was instantly awake, though she remained still, her gaze on Kellan as she swore he had just kissed her. But there was no passion shining in his celadon gaze. Only the same coldness she had seen when she first met him.
"Are they back?" she whispered.
"No' yet. You need to get on the other side of the room. They doona have to be in front of you to get inside your head, so be ready."
She sat up, grateful for the rest she had been given, but already missing his warmth and his arms. "Anything else I should be prepared for?"
"They can use illusions."
"Great," she mumbled as she climbed to her feet and walked to her side of the room. "Talk about an unfair advantage over someone who has no magic. Tell me again why everyone falls at their feet? They're freaking monsters, is what they are."
As she expected, there was no response from Kellan. Denae remained standing, stretching out her arms and back. She might not be in a physical fight with the Dark Fae, but it was going to take more than just her mind to keep her one step ahead of the assholes.
Plus she couldn't sit still and not look at Kellan.
"Few call them monsters. Only the Kings dare that," Kellan said. "And a few Light."
Denae rolled her eyes. "Speaking of the Light, where are they? Shouldn't they be here rescuing us?"
There was a loud snort from Kellan. "As if the Light would demean themselves to help a mortal."
"Or a Dragon King," she surmised. "I'm right, aren't I?"
"No one knows where we are." The full comprehension of their predicament settled on her like a ton of bricks. The betrayal made her feel like she had been run over by a semi. This was a whole new level of hell she could do without. "It might have been better if MI5 had me instead of these brutes."
"Brutes?" came a voice into the room as the sound of a latch being lifted shattered the quiet.
The door swung open and in walked two Dark Fae. Denae immediately recognized Emil. The bastard was once more eyeing her like a starving man being offered a four-course meal.
"I think brute is a bit harsh," replied the other Dark One.
Denae shifted her gaze to the one speaking. His hair was more liberally streaked with silver so that barely any black could be seen, and it hung midway down his back. The strands were pulled away from his face to fall in a braid down his back, giving her an ample view of the vicious scar that ran vertically from his forehead over his left eyebrow to the top of his cheek.
Somehow, whatever had cut him had grazed his eyelid as well. But it was the scar itself, something none of the other Dark Fae sported that held her attention.
"Ah," the Dark One said with a small grin as he fingered the scar. "You're wondering how I came to have this."
"Not really. I'm just wondering why it's visible. None of the others have such a scar."
His smile tightened, his red eyes narrowing slightly. "True, but then I was fighting a Dragon King."
"Tell her all of it, Taraeth," Kellan demanded.
Taraeth cut a glance to Kellan. "You see none of the others with such a scar, little human, because the others who dared to take on the Kings were killed."
"You ran," Denae surmised easily enough.
He chuckled and walked around her. "I'm leader here. None of the others dare say that."
Denae found it difficult to remain still. If she thought Emil was exasperating with his obvious seduction, he was no match for Taraeth.
Waves of lust rolled off him. She felt them, and yet, oddly enough, her body didn't respond as she had been led to believe. She felt ... nothing for either of the Dark.
The Dark leader halted when he faced her once more. "Tell me, little human. What are you doing with a Dragon King?"
"I trespassed on his property, and they took me prisoner."
Taraeth barked in laughter. "Oh, how wonderful. Did you trade the use of your body with this one," he pointed to Kellan, "in exchange for your freedom?"
"No. I was attracted to him."
Taraeth's red eyes raked her from head to foot and back again with blatant sexuality. "Wait until you have me between those long legs. You'll forget all about your dragon."
Denae couldn't hold back her grin. "Does this normally work on us?"
Taraeth's eyes narrowed into dangerous slits, his smile disappearing as anger took hold. He jerked his head to Emil who merely shrugged.
"I told you, sire."
Taraeth turned back to her. He loomed over her, his body brushing hers. The way he stared at her seemed as if he were trying to push his will onto her.
More of the sexual waves—as she began to think of them—came at her. She felt them, knew what it was, but there wasn't an ounce of stirring.
Denae moved her head to the side and sighed loudly. "Do you know the definition of personal space? Because you've invaded mine."
"You should be stripping your clothes off by now," Taraeth said in dismay as he leaned back.
Denae shrugged. "Nope. Not feeling it."
"I will have you," he vowed in a low voice. "I'll take you as many times as I want, all while Kellan watches."
"Are you so hard up for sex that you would force me when other humans fall at your feet?" Denae rolled her eyes. "I don't see the point. As for Kellan? We had one quick roll in the hay. A one-night stand, if you will. Y'all are making more of our involvement than it is."
Taraeth stepped back and looked at Kellan. Denae glanced at him to see Kellan casually sitting against the wall just as she had left him moments ago, both forearms resting on his bent knees. And he wasn't even looking at her.
"You really think you hold no meaning to him?" Taraeth asked.
Denae swallowed, more hurt than she liked that he hadn't even cared enough to be watching her. She'd expected to meet his celadon gaze and gain courage. "I know I don't. He loathes humans. I woke him after centuries of sleep, and he was horny."
Emil started toward her. "You'll fall into bed with a dragon, but not us?"
Taraeth didn't utter a word, just held out his hand for Emil to stop, which the Dark did instantly. Taraeth turned his head first one way and then the other as he regarded her solemnly.
"You intrigue me, little human. I'm not convinced you hold no emotion for the dragon, but I'll keep you for my pleasure."
The word sprang from Denae, and once released, it bounced off the walls like a shot.
One of Taraeth's black brows lifted. "No?"
"No. I don't want you. I don't want any of you. Find another human who does."
Taraeth's smile was cunning as he said, "That's just it, little human. You pose a challenge. One I'm most eager to overcome."
Denae wanted to scream her aggravation. She had thought to use her nonchalance to their seduction as a means of getting free. Instead, she'd sealed her own doom.
With a smile still on his face, he turned to Kellan and sent three volleys of magic, pummeling him in the head until Kellan was knocked flat.
Denae remained still, fighting the urge to run to Kellan and help. Then she remembered he was immortal, a Dragon King as old as time itself. He wasn't the one she needed to be worried about. It was herself.
Still, it was difficult to watch him being tortured. But it was just the beginning for the both of them.
Kellan sat up, his light green eyes glaring daggers of hate at Taraeth. Kellan climbed to his feet and jerked on the chain that held him.
"I see you're still afraid to fight a Dragon King. How do the others follow such a coward?" Kellan asked coolly, his voice belying the rage shooting from his eyes.
Taraeth slowly walked to him. "Because I hold the most power. Isn't that why Constantine is King of Kings, ruling all of you, while your precious dragons are gone?"
"Con doesna rule me."
"Where were the dragons sent?" Taraeth demanded.
"Somewhere you'll never find them."
In response, Taraeth's hands erupted in fire and he placed them on Kellan's shoulders. Denae bit the inside of her mouth while Kellan growled through clenched teeth as his skin burned.
The smell was awful, and she knew Kellan had to be in pain. But he never showed it.
Finally, Taraeth extinguished the flames on his hands, but let Kellan's skin smolder. Without a pause, a long curving blade was suddenly in Taraeth's hand. He plunged it into Kellan's gut and twisted it.
Kellan bent over, blood gushing from the wound and dripping from the corner of his mouth.
"The first King of Kings hid something because he feared it. You're Keeper of the History. You know what it is I seek. Tell me where it's hidden," Taraeth demanded.
Kellan lifted his head and smiled. "Fuck you."
Taraeth plunged a second sword he plucked out of thin air into Kellan. Again and again Taraeth stabbed Kellan with blades until Denae only saw blood and Kellan was on his knees, still defiant.
The questions continued, each time Taraeth asking where the secret item was hidden, and each time Kellan's response only infuriated Taraeth.
But if Denae thought she was only going to watch the torture, she was wrong. Emil came up behind her and grasped her arms in a tight, biting hold.
"Taraeth won't be the only one you feel inside you."CHAPTER 2
Rhys kept a lookout while Kiril easily broke the doorknob off the back door of a shop in the heart of Cork. They slipped soundlessly inside and headed straight for the clothes. They couldn't just take anything.
They were going to have to infiltrate the Dark Fae in Cork, which meant dressing to impress.
"We'll find Kellan and Denae," Kiril whispered as he buttoned a pair of ripped designer jeans.
Rhys didn't bother answering. He pulled a pale blue shirt off the mannequin and quickly put it on. Next, he chose a pair of dark denim.
He glanced out the store window and shook his head. "This place is infested with Dark."
"I know," Kiril said as he looked over his shoulder from inspecting a rack of shirts. "It makes me ill. If something isna done, this is what could become of this realm."
Rhys couldn't stop thinking about why the Dark would want a Dragon King. It had to involve the dragons. That was the only explanation.
He was still mulling over that fact when he found the shoes and chose a pair of leather boots in his size. After he put them on, he straightened to find Kiril waiting for him.
Rhys looked over Kiril's burgundy shirt with a design of an eagle with its wings spread wide on the back in black velvet.
Kiril smiled. "I was trying to find one with a dragon."
"You could always just wear a sign."
"I already thought of that," he teased. The smile dropped. "Ready?"
Rhys cracked his knuckles. "Oh, aye. Let's find us some Dark Fae scum."
* * *
Rhi stayed as long as she could with Denae and Kellan. Only a handful of Fae could remain invisible for an extended period of time, and when they did, they became incredibly weak.
If they appeared in the midst of an enemy, they could be cut down like a piece of grass.
Rhi didn't want to go to Dreagan in the state she was in, but she had no other choice. They needed to know what was going on. Anytime she faced the Kings, she liked to be at her best. Right now, she was at her absolute worst.
Then she thought of Phelan and searched him out. The fact that the Warrior, an immortal Highlander who had a primeval god inside him, was half Fae helped her pinpoint him easily enough.
It wasn't until right before she materialized that she took notice of the surroundings and found herself at ... Dreagan.
She was too weak to remain incorporeal any longer. Though, she did manage to make sure she was alone in the kitchen when she dropped the veil.
Her legs began to buckle as soon as she materialized. Rhi reached for the chair to hold herself up, but she only accomplished in knocking it over as she fell to the floor in a tangled heap.
Rhi lay on the cool tiles and closed her eyes. She had never used so much of her magic at one time before, and she was paying the price for it now.
"You must be the Fae everyone is talking about."
Rhi stiffened at the deep voice and turned her head to find deep brown eyes looking at her. His long, golden-streaked brown hair was pulled back in a queue and he wore jeans and a tight-fitting black shirt.
"And you're Tristan." She tried to smile, but wasn't sure she succeeded.
He squatted beside her, his head cocked to the side as he looked anxiously at her. "You look a bit green. Should I be worried?"
"I just need a minute." She really needed about ten years to sleep, but that wasn't going to happen.
The sound of footsteps approaching couldn't even get her up. She remained on her side, her cheek pressed into the tile.
She cringed at the sound of worry in Aisley's voice. Did she look that bad? Before she could answer, Phelan's wife was beside her.
"Rhi? What's wrong?" Aisley asked as she smoothed aside Rhi's hair from her face. "Phelan!"
Instantly, the sound of heavy footsteps approached. They stopped, pausing at the doorway, and Rhi knew Phelan was looking at Tristan.
Well, it was bound to happen soon enough. Con could only interfere with the Warriors and Tristan for so long. If only she felt good enough to rub it in Con's face, but even that was too much effort.
Excerpted from Darkest Flame Part III by Donna Grant. Copyright © 2014 Donna Grant. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
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