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By Rene Lyons
Samhain Publishing, Ltd.Copyright © 2007 Rene Lyons
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Chapter OneLike a trapped animal, Lucian crouched against the icy stone wall. His gaze cut through the blanket of darkness as he listened to the soft and steady thrum of a human heart. The music of it sounded as loud as thunder in his mind. He set down the goblet and put his hands over his ears in a futile attempt to block it out. It continued to hammer inside of his head, heightening his need for fresh blood. Her blood.
The sound of her heartbeat brought Lucian back to the nights he'd laid awake on the eve of battle, the cold desert wind blowing over him as anticipation caused his heart to beat a frantic rhythm. All that she was made him remember life.
His body rebelled at the pittance of dead blood slowly making its way through him. If his imprisonment continued on much longer and his body was denied fresh blood ... Lucian didn't dare finish the thought-not when temptation slept only a few feet away.
Not even this hell had robbed Jessica of her extraordinary beauty. Nor had her spirit been broken, a great feat considering the creatures who held them prisoner had devoted their nights to breaking them both.
It had been a stroke of genius on Stephan's part to lock her away in here with him. As each night passed, Jessica's presence was robbing Lucian of reason. Her scent, the rich aroma of woman and life, was slowly driving him mad. Her nearness had him fighting a continuous battle against the raging needs of his deprived body.
The hunger slowly gained strength as each night passed and he was given only enough blood by his captor to tease him-to make him need more.
With a swipe of his hand and a clatter of chains, Lucian slapped away the metal goblet on the floor. It skidded across the stone floor and hit the back wall loudly, causing the bit of pig's blood left in it to spill out.
As he raked his gaze over the small cell, Lucian remembered when he and his two brothers had played here as children-something their parents had been none too pleased to learn about. How different the dungeon had seemed then. He'd had the freedom to retreat back to the great hall when the oppressive darkness and gloom had seeped into his very bones.
He allowed his gaze to settle on his companion. Curled into a tight ball on a pallet on the floor, Jessica was lost in sleep. So weary was she after surviving another round of torture, she hadn't even stirred at the sudden clatter of the goblet and chains. Lucian envied Jessica's sleep, because it allowed her some small reprieve from the hell of this place. He wished he could be so lucky. True, there were days the death-like sleep sent him into oblivion, but it wasn't often enough.
Confronted with the sins of his past and torn apart by guilt, Lucian had relinquished his sword and allowed himself to be taken captive by his brother. And now he was home, the place he'd never thought to see again. A place he'd made sure he stayed away from for centuries.
Lucian was barely able to recall fond memories of his youth, though he'd had plenty growing up here. What he remembered were the horrors he'd committed. They overrode the happiness of his childhood and the recollections of his family.
Pain sliced through him as he remembered the night he'd returned home. They called where he'd been the Holy Land, but to Lucian it had been Purgatory.
He'd come back home seeking a place of belonging. He'd soon learned this was the last place he should have come. He still saw the faces of his family as they'd greeted his return. Their voices still rang in his ears. He saw his father's look of relief-and shock-to have his son home.
The joy had lasted but moments.
It all changed to horror when they realized what Lucian had become.
Not quite dead and far from alive.
Much as it did now, the first hunger came upon him like a lightning strike. The bloodlust was unlike anything he'd ever experienced. The pain was unbearable as his body cried out for what it needed to survive.
Lucian heard activity in the hall above and knew he wasn't the only one awake in the castle. Although, after a full day of sleep, most had already left the castle to hunt the night in search of nourishment. He pitied the prey, knowing the predators were creatures who knew no mercy. They killed without remorse, using humans as nothing more than food-or worse-playthings they tortured before taking from them what they needed to go on another night.
As he tested the chains securing him to the wall, Lucian's frustration knew no bounds. This meaningless ritual was one he performed many times each night in the hope he might eventually snap the metal and break free. Yet all it accomplished, as it always did, was making a racket as the heavy metal links scraped against the icy stone floor. Blood seeped from the already-torn flesh of his wrists. His blood was cold as it trickled down his arms.
Lucian tried not to smell past the rank odors sitting on the stale air to the sweet scent of woman and blood beyond it. He tried not to feel Jessica's presence all around him, an unseen torment teasing his mind and his body as he fought down needs he'd been able to ignore until recently.
Her mind's despair and body's pain seeped into his being, festering in him like a disease. Mingling with his bloodlust, her suffering pushed Lucian to the limits of his sanity. It took the might of ages to hold onto his reason as night after night rolled over him, taking him down a path he had walked once before. Already given a second chance to right his life's wrongs, he knew he'd not be given a third. Lucian imagined Lucifer's cool smile of satisfaction as the devil waited for his due. The soul of a Templar was the ultimate prize in his war against God.
Excerpted from Tempting Darkness by Rene Lyons Copyright © 2007 by Rene Lyons. Excerpted by permission.
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