The warlord wants foreve.., p.10
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       The Warlord Wants Forever, p.10

         Part #1 of Immortals After Dark series by Kresley Cole
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Chapter Ten

 

  Wroth shot up in bed, feeling nauseated, physically ill from his nightmares.

  He'd been lashed by the usual dreams of her gloating at a gravesite, then the Roman stroking himself as she slowly dragged her skirt up her thighs. "I'll possess Myst the Coveted. . . "

  But details of the memories became more evident each time. This time he'd heard Myst's amused thoughts at his words - No one possesses me, but in their fantasies. I'll kill you as easily as kiss you. . . "And I'll be yours, only yours," she purred, though she detested him.

  Now he'd seen something new. A different, more recent memory. Myst was smoothing on hose, her foot daintily placed on his bed, as she made a decision to. . . trick him? To act as though she'd capitulated easily in order to get her chain back.

  Play at love and act at surrender.

  He gripped his forehead in his hand. Irrationally, he waited for the soft touch of her hand on his back. She was his Bride, his wife, and she offered him no comfort.

  Even had she truly had that urge, she couldn't, since he was still secretly commanding her to sleep throughout the day. So she wouldn't run away from him and leave him in torment again.

  Kill you as easily as kiss you. . .

  He'd thought they'd had a place to start from, to move forward from, but he'd been fooled by her beauty and abandon. She'd seduced him, made sure he "caught" her working her body that same night, knowing he would lose his mind at the sight.

  He was as much a fool as the Roman, besotted with a fantasy that didn't exist. At least that long-dead Roman had suffered no delusions that she could care for him. He'd known that she was incapable of feeling and had wanted possession only.

  Wroth had been falling for a fantasy, one that easily manipulated him.

  She desired her freedom and she would use whatever means she had available to get it, leaving him as soon as she'd succeeded.

  Fool.

  When Myst woke, she burrowed down into the covers, feeling relaxed and content to her toes.

  Today was D-day - delivery day for the chain - the end of the demo that she realized had resulted in a sale.

  She snuggled into his pillow, loving his scent, and considered her new feelings. She'd feared her life as she'd known it had ended the minute he'd vowed to give her the chain back. It was a leap of faith on his part and she'd responded to it. Responded in kind. It was a bit ironic that she'd smugly planned to punk him only to get snared in her own machinations. She'd lasted only a few days playing easy till she went easy, her femme fatale plans culminating in the oh-sonefarious leap into his arms.

  She grinned into the pillow. She'd take back her chain, but only because it looked so damned sassy on her.

  When she rose and stretched, she found him watching her. Her grin widened, but he didn't return her smile, just glanced at her bare breasts and snapped, "Put on some clothes. "

  She drew her head back, frowning. "Are you angry with me?" He was usually brusque when they woke, but she could tell this was much worse. She was baffled by what could have happened since she'd gone to sleep, tucked against his chest, secure under his heavy arm. His eyes were somehow crazed and bleak at the same time, his face exhausted. Alarm began to build inside her.

  "We have a lot to discuss tonight. " He tossed her a robe. "Put it on and sit here. "

  She had no choice but to comply. He traced away and was back seconds later, holding the chain fisted in his whitened grip. "Tonight we're going to make some adjustments between us - or more accurately, in you. "

  Her eyes widened. "Wroth, what are you doing?" she asked slowly. "You vowed to give it back today. "

  "A woman like you should understand broken vows. "

  "What are you talking about? How can you do this to me now?" The evening she'd decided to stay.

  His face was crueler than she'd ever seen it. "You mean after the last two weeks? Just because you wanted to be fucked and I complied doesn't mean I won't treat you as you deserve. "

  She put the back of her hand to her face as if she'd been struck. He didn't say "treat you as a whore," didn't call her that, but somehow he made her feel it. "As I deserve," she repeated dumbly.

  He grasped her arm, squeezing it hard. "I can't live like this, Myst. With this. " At her confused expression, he said, "I've seen your past. I know what you were, what you are. "

  "What I was?" Her frown deepened. She hadn't lived her life perfectly - there'd been missteps and misjudgments - but she'd done little to be ashamed of. Was the killing too much for him to handle? He'd been a freaking warlord! "If you find me lacking, know that I regret very few of my actions over my long life. "

  That seemed to enrage him. "No? What about playing at love and acting at surrender?"

  "Wroth, that was - "

  "Silence. " He kissed her roughly, harshly, though she struggled against him before he pulled back. "I've realized you are heartless. " His eyes appeared tortured, his entire body tight with tension. "But what if I just ordered you to be kinder, then made you forget all the men that came before me? Made you forget all that, forget your vicious sisters who kill without remorse?"

  She gasped, eyes watering, but she couldn't speak after his command. Her hands clenched. She'd never wanted to scream more in her life, and yet her lips parted silently in shock when he said, "I believe I'll just order you to want me so fiercely that you can't think of anything or anyone else - "

  A voice interrupted from downstairs. "General Wroth, you're needed at Oblak immediately. "

  "What?" he bellowed. She felt his eyes on her as she staggered to the window seat, tears beginning to fall. She curled up, leaning her forehead against the glass.

  "Your brother's been badly injured. "

  He pointed at her. "Stay here," he bit out, then disappeared. She heard him downstairs, locking away her freedom again, then he was gone once more. Stay here? In the room or the manor? He'd been so thrown by the news that he hadn't elaborated.

  So stumbling, clutching at the wall as energy funneled out of her, she finally made her way to his study. She pulled aside the cabinet, finding the safe behind it. When she reached for the lock, her hand veered off course as though pushed by an unseen force. She bit her lip and tried again, fighting to simply brush the metal.

  Commanded not to touch it. Just like he would command her to forget who she was, that she even had a family. Lightning cracked outside in time with a sob. He'd been about to do it.

  It was true then. Vampires couldn't be trusted - he'd seemed out of his mind with rage. Why had she gone against all she'd ever learned to be with him?

  The years had been weighing on her and she'd been overwhelmed by the yearning to simply lean on someone, just for a while, to have a partner to watch her back and hold her when she needed it. Surely she'd convinced herself to accept him because he was strong and she had grown so weak. No longer.

  There were ways she could get around his orders - nimble thinking, creative reasoning. As tears poured from her eyes and the lightning grew to constant furious bolts, she tore at the wall, at the very stone that housed it.

  So he would use her? Like a toy. A mindless slave. Adjustments?

  Toy, bait, whore. . . Just because you wanted to be fucked, he'd sneered.

  Two millennia of people thinking they could use her. Always using her.

  She'd take this safe with her teeth if she had to.

  "You should see the other guy," Murdoch grated from his bed when Wroth traced into his room.

  Wroth shuddered to see his brother's face torn and limbs broken like this even while knowing he couldn't die from anything short of a beheading or sunlight. He shook himself. "What has happened to you?" he asked, his voice a rasp.

  "About to ask you the same. My God, Nikolai, you look worse than I do. "

  He thought about how he'd left Myst at the window, crying, staring out at the lightning storm that came from within her. It pained him so much to think of her hurting alone. . .
"We'll talk of my problems later. Who has done this to you?"

  "Ivo has demons. Demons turned vampires. They are strong - you can't imagine it. He is looking for someone, but I don't think it's your Bride - they mentioned something about a 'halfling'. "

  "How many?"

  "There were three in his party - other vampires as well. We took down two of the demons but one remains. " He glanced behind him. "Where's your Bride?"

  After a hesitation, he explained everything, seeking the same unburdening he felt when he spoke with Myst. His brother's expression grew stark.

  Long moments of silence passed before he said incredulously, "Wroth, you took away the free will of a creature that has had it for two thousand years. A good wager says she's going to want it back. "

  "No, you don't understand. She's callous. Incapable of love. It eats at me, her deception, because it's the only thing that makes sense. " More to himself, he muttered, "Why else would she want me?"

  Murdoch weakly grabbed Wroth's wrist. "For all these years I've seen you continually choose the best, most rational course, even if it's the most difficult. I've been proud to follow your leadership because you've acted with courage and always - always - with rationality. I never thought I would have to inform you that your reason and judgment have failed you, Nikolai. If she's as bad as you say then you have to. . . I don't know, just help her change, but you can't order this. Get back to her. Explain your fears to her. "

  "I don't think I can. You saw her, Murdoch. Why would she so quickly acquiesce?"

  "Why don't you just ask her?"

  Because I don't want to show her again how craven I've become with wanting her.

  "And about the other men - this isn't the sixteen hundreds anymore," Murdoch said. "This isn't even the same plane. She's immortal, not an eighteen-year-old blushing bride straight from a convent. She can't change these things, so if you want her, you have to adjust. "

  Wroth ran a hand over his face and snapped, "When did you get so bloody understanding?"

  Murdoch shrugged. "I had someone explain a few rules of the Lore to me and learned we can't apply our human expectations to the beings within it. "

  "Who told you this?" When he didn't answer, Wroth didn't press, not with all the secrets he'd been keeping. "Will you be all right?" he asked.

  "That's the thing about being immortal. It'll always look worse than it is. "

  Wroth attempted a grin and failed.

  "Good luck, Nikolai. "

  Outside of the room, he spoke with those watching over Murdoch and emphasized what would happen to them should his brother worsen, then contemplated tracing back. He was almost glad when Kristoff called a meeting about this newest threat, grateful for the time to cool off before he faced Myst again.

  Kristoff didn't hesitate to ask, "Why didn't your wife tell you about the turned demons?"

  "I don't know. I will ask her when I return. " He wondered as well. Had she known? No, she'd been teaching him everything she knew - teaching him constantly.

  Why would she do that if she only planned to leave him?

  When he cringed, he realized Kristoff was still studying him.

  "Something to add?"

  He owed Kristoff his life and the life of his brothers. Three brothers and for Myst herself, he owed his king. He would withhold information on Myst's kind but relate the rest. "I've learned a good deal about the Lore from her and want to discuss it with you, but I left my wife feeling poorly. I'd like to get back to her. "

  "By all means," Kristoff said, his face unreadable. "But tomorrow we'll talk of this. "

  Wroth nodded, then traced back to Myst, frowning as a hazy idea surfaced in the turmoil of his mind. Had his brother's heart been beating earlier? But before he could contemplate this further, Wroth's attention was distracted by Myst's sleeping form. He gazed down at her, chest aching as usual. Sometimes he damned his beating heart because of the pain that seemed to follow it.

  Murdoch was right. She couldn't change what she was, and he'd wronged her today. If only he could think more clearly where she was concerned instead of reacting viscerally. Primitively. Before, he'd never understood when men talked of madness and love in the same breath. Now he understood.

  He only hoped that when he asked her to forgive him his weakness, she could.

  After undressing, he climbed into bed with her. He pulled her close to him, running his hand down her arm, burying his face in her hair and smelling her soft, sweet scent. Finally at dawn, he passed out with exhaustion. When he dreamed, he opened his mind to her memories, to what had become his nightmares. They superseded all his other visions of battle and famine because these hurt him the most. See her in a sordid light. Punish yourself.

  See them all.
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