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Darkest Flame Part IV
By Donna Grant
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2014 Donna Grant
All rights reserved.
Kellan couldn't give Denae the promise she wanted, because he would do anything in order to keep her out of the Dark Fae's clutches.
The certainty, the irrefutable reality was that Denae was his. He should be surprised, but he wasn't. She had proven herself time and again. Yet, it was more than that.
There was a part of him that had recognized Denae as his the moment he opened his eyes and saw her in his cave. It was his hatred of humans that had kept him from acknowledging the truth as long as he had.
"Give me the promise," Denae urged again.
Kellan shook his head and tugged on her long, coppery brown hair. "I can no'."
"I'm just a human, remember?" she argued, her brow furrowed with frustration and a hint of worry. "I mean nothing."
He put his finger over her lips to silence her. "Doona ever say such things again. I can no' give you the promise you ask because you are yet unsafe. We might be out of those damn tunnels, but the Dark are about to attack. Anything can happen."
She gently moved his finger from her lips. "That's right. Anything can happen."
He looked for anything to change the subject and turn her mind away from the promise she sought. That's when he spotted the blood on the grass at her feet. "Are you injured?"
"It's just a cut on the bottom of my foot."
Fear, an emotion he hadn't experienced since he saw his Bronzes killed, swarmed him. A cut could kill a human. With the foul odors inside the tunnels, there was no telling what she had stepped on.
There was nothing he could do. For the first time he wished he had Con's power.
"It's just a cut," she said again. "I'm fine."
But the worry had already settled around him like a thick mist. He had just admitted to himself what she meant to him. To think that he might lose her ... He couldn't even finish the thought.
As if sensing his worry, Denae said, "I've had worse, Kellan. Go kick some Dark Fae ass, then you can help me tend to my very minor wound."
Her saucy attitude made him smile. At least she had forgotten about the promise. He was still unsure about how minor the wound was, but she was a warrior. With a sigh, he relented. "With pleasure."
"What do I do?"
"Remain here. Phelan will be close, and hopefully Rhi as well. Tristan and I will keep the Dark occupied until Rhys and Kiril arrive."
She visibly swallowed and handed him the manacle they had taken from their prison. "I thought I had seen evil before, but I was wrong. The Dark Fae embodies evil in a way I didn't know existed."
"I'll wipe them from your mind." Kellan was already planning months alone with Denae, making love to her and learning everything there was about her.
Denae smiled then. "Go, since you won't give me my promise," she said and gave him a wink. "The others are waiting for you."
"They can bugger off," he said and jerked her against him for a quick, hard kiss.
As soon as she melted against him, Kellan was tempted to get her away and leave the others to the fight. Then he recalled how Taraeth had touched Denae.
His woman. Violated, tortured, all because the Dark searched for the one thing they couldn't have.
Kellan ended the kiss as his mind focused on killing one Dark Fae in particular.
"Good luck," Denae said before he turned on his heel and strode away.
Kellan stood beside Tristan as they opened their minds and called to any Dragon King nearby. If the Dark Fae wanted a war, they were going to get one.
Tristan jerked off his shirt and kicked off his boots. There was a smile of anticipation on his lips that Kellan understood all too well.
"You crave battle," he said.
Tristan chuckled. "In a way most wouldna understand."
"You just came to us, so doona get caught by those arses. I'd rather no' have Con in my face because you didna return to Dreagan."
"Ditto. Except it would be Denae in my face. Personally, I'd rather deal with Con than her."
Kellan grinned as he glanced at his woman. She was a force to be reckoned with. He took in a deep breath and felt the dragon within him stir, rouse.
He couldn't wait to feel the wind beneath him, to stretch his wings and soar upon the clouds. It had been so long. He wouldn't fly for pleasure, but a purpose a long time coming.
The Dark Fae had been a scourge upon the realms that had dared to travel to Earth. The mistake had been trusting that the Light Fae could keep the Dark in check and push them out of the realm of Earth.
With the Kings being intent to remain secret, the Light had stopped fighting the Dark.
And the Dark ... they had grown into a powerful group.
Tristan glanced at him before he jerked off his jeans and leapt into the air, shifting into the form of an amber dragon as he did.
Kellan watched as Tristan's wings spread and caught on a current that propelled him up. There were few clouds to hide in, but then again, Kellan didn't plan on doing any hiding today.
He shifted his gaze to find Phelan concealed near Denae, his gaze focused on the doorway.
Denae had her whisky-colored eyes trained on him as he put the manacle over his wrist so it appeared as if it was still locked. The need to protect, to defend and secure what was his swallowed him like a tidal wave.
He didn't fight against the tide. He simply let it take him, accepting that somehow, someway a human had opened his eyes.
And taken his heart.
His gaze jerked to the doorway as Taraeth stepped through with his red eyes blazing.
"I figured you would've run," Taraeth said when he spotted Kellan in the field. "Do you miss your room already? Are you waiting for me to bring you back, perhaps?"
"I'm here to kill you," Kellan said.
"Kill?" Taraeth laughed as he looked around at his fellow Dark Fae that were steadily filling out around him. "You can try, but we all know our chains prevent a Dragon King from shifting. You're nothing but an immortal who can die over and over again at our leisure. Just as the last two Kings we had."
The Dark Ones laughed at Taraeth's words.
A pleased, confident look stole over Taraeth's face. "I'll have you back in your prison with more chains added. Then, I'll find that pretty human of yours and take her repeatedly in front of you until she no longer remembers your name."
"You can try, but you willna succeed."
"And why is that?"
Kellan smiled just before he shifted.
He stood in the open field and roared his fury. His wings opened and flapped as a dozen Dark rushed him. The force of the air from his wings sent them tumbling back.
Just as they got to their feet Tristan suddenly appeared out of the sky and clamped his huge jaws around half of them. The other half tried to rush back to their comrades, but one swipe of Tristan's tail cut them in two.
"Kill them!" Taraeth bellowed.
Kellan kept his eyes on Taraeth even as he worried about Denae. The Dark Ones were too intent on him and Tristan. And Kellan was going to make sure they remained that way.
Kellan waited until the Dark were close before he jumped into the air only to swoop back down, his claws tearing through the Dark like a hot knife through butter.
He tucked his wings and spun before shooting up to the sky. As he did, he felt a blast of magic narrowly miss him.
It only made him angrier.
* * *
Rhi jumped to the field to discover a battle. She was glad she had remained veiled, especially with the Dark all around her.
She easily meandered through the thick throng of Dark Ones until she spotted Phelan in a grove of trees, his face a mask of fury for being kept out of the battle.
But that was because he was the last line of defense for Deane.
Rhi used her magic and appeared next to Phelan, dropping her veil as she did.
He glanced at her, his face still grim. "About bloody time. Where have you been?"
"Learning more than I wanted to."
His gaze jerked to her as he frowned. "Are you all right?"
"Yep." She plastered a bright smile on her face. "Remember, stud, I'm Fae."
"I'm just glad you're here. I was about to go back in that awful place to look for you."
She took in a deep breath. "Don't do anything stupid, stud. Aisley will skin you alive if you get yourself in trouble. How's Denae holding up?" she asked to change the subject.
"Pretty good. I heard her gasp when Kellan shifted, but she's not uttered a sound since then."
Rhi patted his shoulder before she turned and walked the short distance to where Denae stood against a forked tree with a base as wide as a small car.
"How ya holdin' up?" Rhi asked, using the best Southern accent she could muster.
Denae smiled as she glanced at her. "Close. You're too Southern and not enough Texas. I'll get you there though."
Rhi actually laughed. "I bet you will." She looked over to see the shape of a bronze dragon diving and soaring all around the Dark Ones. "Does he frighten you?"
"Yes. And exhilarates me. He twists me inside out, makes me forget my name, and turns my knees weak. He's simply ... wonderful."
"Ugh," Rhi said and rolled her eyes. "Don't tell him that. Kellan is already conceited enough without him knowing you think of him as a god or something."
"I'm not stupid. I know I don't belong in his world."
Rhi couldn't look at her, because Denae spoke the truth. A few of the Kings might have found mates, but that was just a handful of them over thousands of millennia.
"Thanks for not trying to lie to me," Denae said.
Rhi looked down to find she had chipped another nail. She thought of Balladyn and the grief that had consumed her when she thought him killed.
The world as she'd known it for so long was already changing. There was a battle going on between the Dark Fae and Dragon Kings that hadn't happened in over fifty thousand years.
"You're part of this world now," Rhi said to Denae. "Whether you want it or not, you are. You've seen things, heard things, experienced things that no amount of time will erase. Do you think you can walk away and forget?"
Denae's eyes followed Kellan for several seconds before she looked at Rhi. "No. Never. I'll always remember."
"I don't know what the Dark have planned, but whatever it is isn't good. There has always been a line drawn between our world and yours. That line is fading fast."
"Can't you and the Light Fae do something?"
Rhi shrugged helplessly. "I'm not sure anymore. We've always had a difficult time battling the Dark, but they are different now. More powerful, almost."
"Has that happened before?"
"No. I don't believe in coincidences, and there've been too many recently. The Dark Ones' power growing, MI5's association with them, and someone trying to expose the Dragon Kings."
"I agree," Denae said and took a deep breath. "I suspect if we dug deep enough we would find one source connecting all three."
"It sounds like you want that job."
"I do have a history with MI5. With Henry helping me and getting me back inside headquarters, there's no end to what I might find."
"And the rest?" Rhi prompted.
"You mean the Dark Fae and the unknown person?"
Rhi nodded, her eyes tracking the Dark who were focused on the Dragon Kings. "Con suspects the unknown person trying to expose them is Ulrik."
"Kellan told me of him. He certainly has motive to want to harm Con, but the rest?" Denae asked, her lips twisted. "I don't know enough about him."
"I don't think Ulrik would. He vowed revenge on Con, but only Con. It's been thousands upon thousands of years though. Ulrik's rage might have turned him insane."
"Then I'll look into him as well," Denae stated. "As for the Dark Fae, I figure I've got an ally who can help me there."
"Who?" Rhi asked with a frown.
Rhi slowly smiled. "Oh, you're good. It's no wonder Kellan fancies you."
"Get ready," Phelan said, growling low in his throat as two Dark Fae approached the grove.
Rhi walked past him. "Oh, let me," she told him.
She sent a blast of magic that beheaded one Dark Fae as she spun out of the trees and whipped out a long blade that pierced the heart of the second, ending his life instantly.
"I want one of those," Deane said in awe.CHAPTER 2
Rhi wiped off the blade and held it by her side. "Kellan might not like it, but I think you're going to need a weapon."
Denae couldn't wait to get her hands on such a weapon. It wasn't in her to stand on the sidelines and watch. She had extensive training, and though she might not be immortal or able to do magic, she could take off a Dark Fae's head or pierce their heart.
The more she thought about leaving this new world she'd found, the more she knew she didn't want to. She might not be able to have Kellan, but she wouldn't walk away from the war that was obviously already here.
Denae would do her part and learn who was after the Dragon Kings. She would find why MI5 aligned themselves with the Dark. She would ferret out anyone and everyone who posed a threat to the Kings.
And she would stop them.
She now had a mission, something to fill her life, and she couldn't wait to get started.
"Kellan will never allow her to have such a weapon," Phelan said to Rhi.
Denae narrowed her eyes at the Warrior. "I make my own decisions, thank you very much."
"Good luck with that," he said with a snort. Then his gaze looked past them and grew hard.
Denae saw the Dark Ones getting closer and closer to the trees again. The two dead Fae had caught their attention.
Phelan didn't say a word as he shoved Rhi aside and used his incredible speed to kill four more Dark Fae.
Rhi let out a string of curses. She tossed her sword at Denae before she grabbed the two dead Dark by their hair and disappeared, them along with her.
Denae swung the sword around her, getting used to the weight of it. With her training and the sword, she could hold her own against the Dark.
A moment later Rhi reappeared and smiled as she saw Denae ready to fight. "Yep. Just what you needed," the Fae said with a wink as she caught hold of two more Dark and vanished again.
Denae was surprised at the lightness of the sword. The blade was narrow as it curved ever so slightly toward the end. The pommel was made of a dark wood with gold knot work etched into it. The blade itself had ... a dragon.
Denae's heart missed a beat. A dragon that stood on its hind legs, wings outstretched with its head thrown back in a roar. Was it coincidence that Rhi had had a Dragon King lover and also had a dragon on her sword? It was an effective weapon, and one she would master.
In no time Rhi had removed the dead Fae and Phelan was once more within the copse of trees with them. It was obvious he wanted to be in the thick of things. She hated that he was there because of her.
"Go," she urged him. "Rhi is here, and I've got the sword."
Phelan grunted. "I gave Kellan my word, and I doona break my word. I'd kill anyone who vowed to protect my woman then left her undefended."
"I'm not unde—" she started, but Rhi stopped her with a hand on her arm. Denae rolled her eyes. She wasn't helpless. She wasn't.
Well, not entirely, not now that she had Rhi's sword.
Phelan raised a dark brow at her. "You know he's doing all this for you, do you no'?"
Denae looked through the thick tree limbs to the sky in search of Kellan, but he was impossible to see. "You're wrong. He's doing this because they took him prisoner."
"I hate to say it," Rhi said with a sigh, "but Phelan's right. Kellan could've taken you away as soon as you came through the doorway. The Kings would've returned en masse and decimated the Dark Ones."
"Instead, he remains. I gather something bad happened while you both were held," Phelan asked, his gaze never leaving the battle as he squatted in front of them.
Denae licked her lips and shifted from one foot to the other as she tried not to recall what Taraeth had done. "It could've been worse."
"The fact something happened at all is the point," Phelan continued. "No one touches my woman and gets away with it."
Denae opened her mouth to talk when she caught sight of the long bronze body of Kellan as he flew down the middle of the Dark Fae, scattering and killing as many as he could. Right behind him was Tristan who killed more. All the while both dodging magic thrown from the Dark.
Suddenly there were two other roars, distinctly dragons. Denae craned her head to see a yellow dragon and a burnt orange dragon.
"They're beautiful, aren't they?" Rhi asked.
Denae looked at her as she heard the longing in Rhi's voice. "Who was he?"
Rhi cut her eyes to her and replied innocently, "I don't know what you're talking about."
Denae let her lie. It was Rhi's right to keep that part of herself secret and hidden. She nodded to the Light Fae. "They are beautiful and deadly and breathtaking."
"Yes. They most certainly are."
Denae glanced down at Phelan to find him watching Rhi intently before his gaze turned to her. There was a bond between the Warrior and Rhi, one of a brother and sister, which made Denae miss her own sister even more.
She put her hand on a tree, the bark biting into her palm, as Taraeth threw a bubble of magic at Kellan. He was as agile as a hawk in the way he avoided the first and second shots. The third hit him in one of his wings.
Excerpted from Darkest Flame Part IV by Donna Grant. Copyright © 2014 Donna Grant. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
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