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Born of Night
By Sherrilyn Kenyon
St. Martin's Press Copyright © 2009 Sherrilyn Kenyon
All rights reserved.
Nine years later
She'd been kidnapped!
Kiara Zamir came awake with indignant anger riding her hard.
Even now, she could feel the cold, rough grip on her arms and mouth, feel the bite of the injector as the drug sped through her bloodstream and quickly rendered her unconscious. Her abductors had moved so fast, she'd had no chance to call for help.
Or better yet, fight.
Crippin' cowards! She hated people who attacked like that. At least be a man and face her. But no ... they'd resorted to the lowest means of capture. Sneaking around in the dark to take her while she slept.
There was nothing in the world she hated more than those who hid in the shadows, waiting to prey on people. Assassins, kidnappers, muggers, rapists, etcetera, they were all worthless, soulless scum who deserved nothing but pain and death.
Now, her head ached terribly as the last remnants of the drug wore off. An acrid smell filled her senses, choking her with its stench. Her throat was so dry, she could barely swallow as she tried to lick her dry lips to keep them from cracking.
She tried not to breathe deeply as she opened her eyes to confront who or whatever held her prisoner.
To her relief, she was still dressed in her pink nightgown, lying face down on a rotting mattress.
Ew, nasty ...
There was no one else in the room and no sound warning her there was anyone nearby. Thank God for small favors. It would give her time to plot an escape or at the very least a counterattack.
With a grimace of distaste, she pushed herself up and nearly fell as a wave of nausea and dizziness buzzed through her head. She caught herself against the wall next to her, a roughened spot of rust scraping the palm of her hand.
"Great," she mumbled. "So much for equilibrium. Bloody bastards." At least they hadn't bothered to bind her hands or feet. No doubt they assumed she'd be like other women of her station, too terrified and docile to fight them.
But if they thought she was going to blithely wait around for them to return to kill her at their leisure, they were sorely mistaken. She may have been born a princess, but docility wasn't in her blood and neither was patience. Not to mention, she'd learned many tricks over the years while living with her overprotective military father, including the ability to pick a good lock.
As well as how to beat an attacker into the ground.
A determined grimace settled over her face as she headed toward the door on unsteady feet. True, it'd been years since she'd bypassed the intense security and picked the locks on her house to sneak outside and meet her friends after curfew, but she was sure she would remember how.
She had to.
Besides, the chance that this rusted-out junker had the latest in security was slim to none. If they couldn't afford a clean mattress and repairs, they surely couldn't pay the exorbitant fees a security company charged to update their systems.
Reaching the door, Kiara ran her hand over the smooth keypad. Very old indeed. How quaint. It reminded her of the locks on her grandfather's house from twenty years ago.
She looked around for anything that might give her a clue about the key code, but there were no numbers listed anywhere. Nothing personal about her attackers other than what they ate and how filthy they were.
Ugh! There was no use in simply guessing random number sequences since that could very well lock her out completely and trap her here. It might even gas her back into unconsciousness.
One could never be too sure what tricks a lowlife might use.
"I'll have to rewire you." If she could find a means of unbolting the lock from the wall ...
With a sigh, Kiara glanced about the room, noting the inordinate amount of garbage strewn across the floor. She wrinkled her nose in distaste of the disgusting odor. The thick, steel walls were covered by huge spots of rust and corrosion. How in the universe had this craft ever passed space inspection? It wasn't fit to carry the stinking garbage offending her, let alone human occupants.
They must have greased a major palm.
"Suck it up, baby," she said under her breath. "You have to find something for that lock and get out of here." Surely there was an escape shuttle or pod she could find and launch.
Heck, at this point, she'd be willing to eject herself into space and float home — at least if she could find a suit that would protect her from the vacuum of space.
She curled her lip at the nastiness as she kicked at a pile near her, looking for something she could use on the door. I'd rather be eaten alive than call this place home ...
There was a pile of half-gnawed food under a small towel. "Ah, gross."
One would think the sheer disgustingness of this mess would kill them. Where were flesh-eating parasites when she needed them?
Suddenly she heard footsteps approaching in the corridor outside. Even more determined than before, she cast her gaze around, searching for a weapon.
Nothing but the wilted garbage met her sight.
Kiara growled deep in her throat. The only help the garbage offered was the possibility her kidnappers might faint from the stench.
If only she were so lucky. They probably smelled worse than the garbage did.
Clenching her teeth, she pressed herself against the wall by the door and waited to attack them when they entered.
"I can't wait to get some pleasure out of this," a man said, his voice slowly drawing near her room. "Did you see her? That tight body is the stuff of legends."
Kiara narrowed her gaze as rage and fear consumed her. No one would ever make her feel powerless again.
"I don't know, Chenz," another man spoke. "I think we oughta wait till we get further out. I keep thinking about Poll's message that Nemesis is after us. We need to take that seriously. Don't get me wrong, I want a piece of her too, but I'd rather wait until we're safe."
Her vision dimmed with fury. They might kill her, but she intended to take a large piece of them with her on her way out the door.
Chenz's laugh echoed in the hallway. The arrogant sound sent a shiver down her spine. "Nemesis ain't nothing to fear. We done been paid, I say we ought to enjoy every minute of this."
The gears hummed in the door as it slowly slid upward.
Kiara tensed, waiting to pounce.
Two of the nastiest beings she'd ever seen walked inside. Yeah, their stench beat out the garbage and then some. Why did she have to be right on that point? It was enough to make her gag. Had they never taken a bath in their putrid lives?
She conceded they were human, though neither did honor to her race.
Kiara curled her lip at the shorter one, wondering how he could stand to look at his ugly, warted face long enough to shave. But then, by the amount of stubble on his pudgy jowls, she could tell he didn't look too often.
The man at his side was only a few inches taller. His long, sharp, angular features reminded her of one of the beasties her nurse used to frighten her with when she was a child.
Their eyes mirrored a coldness in their souls that chilled her own.
"Well, where is she?" It was Chenz's voice. He was the shorter one.
Before they could react, she launched herself at them. She caught Chenz with a hard kick that knocked him into his accomplice and then ran for the door.
Before she could reach it, someone tripped her. A trained dancer by trade, she was able to flip over and keep going. At least until something solid hit her back and sent her slamming to the floor.
Cursing, she realized it was Chenz's overweight frame holding her down. He turned her over quickly and struck her a vicious blow across the face. Kiara reeled as pain exploded through her cheek and eye and she tasted blood. For a moment, she was completely senseless.
Only the sound of her nightgown ripping brought her back to the present and her mind away from the pain. With a curse born of desperation she sent her fist into Chenz's flabby belly. Releasing her, he doubled over in pain, allowing her to roll out from under him.
The other man came at her the instant she was back on her feet.
Kiara scissor-kicked him, catching him in the center of his chest. Her nightgown tore more as she scrambled from them. There was no way they would have her.
Better they kill her first.
She would never submit quietly to an attacker again.
At least that was her thought until something coiled around her throat and lifted her off her feet. She landed on her back, against the floor, so hard it knocked the breath out of her.
"You'll pay for that, bitch," Chenz said through clenched, rotting teeth, coiling the metallic rope even tighter around her neck.
Kiara gasped for air as the rope bit into her flesh, choking it from her. Desperately, she tried to pry or claw the rope free. She kicked her feet and attempted to scream.
Not even a whisper left her bruised lips.
She was dead, she knew it.
"Kill her, Chenz!" The taller man rubbed his chest where she'd kicked him, his eyes burning with smug satisfaction.
The rope tightened even more.
Kiara's sight dimmed as she struggled to stay alive. I will not die like this. I won't! The words rolled around her head, becoming her mantra as she fought with everything she had.
She pulled at the rope.
Just as she thought Chenz would finish her off, the noose loosened. Kiara gulped air into her burning lungs as she coughed and sputtered. Her vision dim, her head buzzed loudly. She rubbed her neck, feeling the welts left by the rough texture.
Chenz wrapped his hands in her long, dark reddish brown hair and reeled her to him. "Your life's nothing to us, girly. But how you treat us in the next few minutes will decide if we kill you quick or make it real painful."
She choked at the stench of his breath falling against her cheek.
Before she could think of a retort, his wet, scarred lips covered hers.
"Why you ..." He drew back to hit her again.
A sharp lurch in the ship sent them tumbling.
An instant later, a loud warning siren blared.
"We're being attacked." The tall man ran out of the room at a deadly pace.
Before Kiara could move, Chenz grabbed her by the arm and hauled her to a rusted steel beam in the wall. Still coughing, she tried to fight him as he handcuffed her there, but she was too weak from her beating and from her near strangulation to do the damage to him she wanted to.
"You worthless bastard!" she snarled, an instant before she tried to bite him.
He grabbed her jaw and shoved her back against the wall so, hard, it blinded her for a moment. "I'll finish with you when this is over," he promised, his fingers biting fiercely into her face as he twisted her mouth with his hand. Giving her a lecherous sneer, he released her and ran to join his partner.
The door slammed down, jarring the room.
Kiara let out a loud, frustrated scream as she jerked so hard against the steel cuffs that it cut through her skin. Insane with her fear, anger, and determination, she yanked, not caring if she lost a hand in the process. All that mattered was getting free.
"I will not die here!" she shouted as her childhood nightmare tried to weaken her.
Do as they say, Kiara. Don't fight them. Her mother's voice whispered to her from the distant past. It'll be okay, precious, I promise.
But it hadn't been. All their compliance had gotten them was a brutal execution. Her mother had died before her eyes — a single shot to her head and Kiara had been shot three times by her father's political enemies before they'd left her for dead, too.
Only eight years old ...
Her trusting innocence had been shattered that day. And when she'd finally recovered from her physical wounds, she'd made a solemn vow to herself that no one would ever again control her.
She would never obey anyone except herself and she would never again be a victim.
Yet the cuffs remained. No matter how hard she fought, no matter how hard she tried, they weren't budging.
Unable to deal with it, she slid slowly to the floor and banged her head against the wall so that the pain would override her hysteria.
"Don't you dare cry," she growled at herself. "Don't you dare."
Boo-hoo-hoo, their leader had maliciously mocked her while they held her and her mother captive. Cry all you want to, little girl. Daddy's not coming to save you. I love nothing more than the sound of someone's fear. The sound of someone begging me for their life. Life is pain, bitch. Too bad you won't live long enough to get used to it.
Never since the day of her mother's funeral had she shed even a single tear. And she wasn't about to let the worthless scum who had her now break her.
She was stronger than that.
The lights dimmed and the ship tumbled hard to the left as a shot broke through whatever force field they had.
For the briefest moment, she thought it might be her father with a rescue party. But she knew better. He was still at the consulate meeting and thought her safely guarded in the dance company's hotel rooms.
Just like that fateful day when she and her mother had been taken out of the winter palace, her father had no idea she was under attack. He wouldn't know until he was notified of her death.
You can't protect yourself. No matter how safe you think you are. No matter how much precaution you take, the rodents always find a way in ... She'd written those words in her own diary when she'd been sixteen and an assassin had taken a shot at her while she was eating dinner with friends in a restaurant. Even surrounded by guards and with her father beside her, she'd almost died that night, too.
Her life was nothing but a paycheck to the scum of the universe and they intended to cash it out fully.
Unshed tears choked her as she realized the hopelessness of her situation. She would die out here in space, raped and tortured. Alone. The only hope she had was that whoever was attacking them, destroyed them.
Please let it be painless ...
Unlike her mother's death.
That had been as slow and painful as the mercenaries could make it. They had tortured her for days before they finally ended her life — and those screams for mercy for her and her daughter had been forever seared into Kiara's mind.
The things they'd done to her mother.
The things they'd done to her ...
Her throat tightened even more as she listened to the sounds of battle. The old walls of the shuttle creaked ominously. Blast after blast struck the craft and kept it rocking beneath her. This rusted-out ship wouldn't be able to sustain much more damage. It was a miracle it'd taken as much as it had.
Closing her eyes, she prayed for a quick death.
But that relief didn't come either.
Instead, she heard the popping of damaged electrical circuits in the hallway. By now, all the power to the doors had been drained and transferred to the ship's weapons and shields.
The lights went out.
Kiara sat in total darkness as she mentally prepared herself for the inevitable. There were no more sounds of lasers being shot from this ship.
The end was near now.
God, how she was going to miss her father and her dancing. Miss the sensation of the first warm spring breeze on her skin while she sat reading in her garden.
Drawing a deep breath, she took control of her fear. She was a commander's child. Her father had been born in poverty and had climbed by his wits and skills through the ranks of the military to end up as president of their planet. While many might not like him, they all agreed on one thing. Her father was fearless and he'd given that courage to his only child. She would meet death calmly, with dignity. Whatever it took, she would not beg or plead.
"I will do my parents proud."
Suddenly everything was completely still and silent. The odor of burning wires and smoke filtered into her room. Kiara coughed from the smoke until her throat burned again.
Outside there was the sound of approaching feet and then blast shots. She tensed, but whoever it was quickly ran past her room.
She continued to try and work her bloodied hands out of the cuffs. (Continues...)
Excerpted from Born of Night by Sherrilyn Kenyon. Copyright © 2009 Sherrilyn Kenyon. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
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