Dark skye, p.2
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       Dark Skye, p.2
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         Part #15 of Immortals After Dark series by Kresley Cole
Chapter 1

  An island, somewhere in the Pacific Ocean MODERN TIMES As Lanthe sprinted down a shaking, smoky tunnel, she focused on her friends ahead: Carrow, a witch, and Carrow’s newly adopted daughter, Ruby. The witch was holding the seven-year-old girl in her arms as she ran headlong for an exit out of this godsforsaken maze. Lanthe followed, gripping her sword with a gauntleted hand, her metal claws digging into the handle. She tried to smile for Ruby, who was frowning back at her. Carrow—or Crow, as Ruby called her—and Lanthe had attempted to turn their dire escape into a fun-filled adventure for her. Snarky and adorable Ruby clearly wasn’t sold. Charging into the tunnels had seemed like such a good idea at the time, a way out of the Order prison they’d all been jailed in—and an escape from other immortals. After tonight’s cataclysmic overthrow, Loreans stalked the fiery halls, hunting for prey. Carrow’s estranged husband, who might or might not be evil, hunted for her. Another quake rocked the tunnel, grit raining down over Lanthe’s black braids. Unfortunately, Lanthe had her own stalker—Thronos, a crazed, winged warlord who’d been obsessed with capturing her for the last five hundred years. But Vrekeners feared enclosed spaces; anything underground was a forbidding landscape, much less a failing tunnel. He’d never follow her into this subterranean maze. Explosions sounded somewhere in the distance, and the tunnel rumbled. Seemed like such a good idea. She gazed up, saw the immense ceiling supports bowed from strain. No wonder. New mountains were sprouting from the earth all over this prison island, courtesy of Lanthe’s fellow Sorceri. A boulder dropped in her path, slowing her progress. Rock dust wafted over her like a grainy curtain, spattering her face and Sorceri mask. Carrow and Ruby grew indistinct in the haze. The two turned a corner, out of sight. As Lanthe increased her speed, she gave a frustrated yank on her torque, a treat from the humans for all their immortal captives. The indestructible collar prevented them from using their innate abilities, neutralizing strength, endurance, and healing. Some of the prisoners—all of the most evil ones—had had theirs removed this night. Lanthe still wore one, which wasn’t fair, since few would consider her “good. ” Without that torque, she would have been able to command stronger beings to protect her and her friends. She would have been able to read an opponent’s mind, run with supernatural speed, or create a portal to step through—away from this island nightmare forever. Away from Thronos. Lanthe hiked up her metal breastplate—not ideal for running for one’s life. Nor were her metal mesh skirt and thigh-high stiletto boots. Still she sped forward, wishing her thoughts would stop returning to her age-old foe. During their captivity, she’d had the shock of her life when guards had dragged Thronos by their cell. He’d let himself be seized by the Order and taken to her prison—Lanthe knew it. With malice in his eyes, he’d grated to her, “Soon. ” When Carrow had asked about that, Lanthe had been sparing of the details: “Would you believe that Thronos and I were childhood friends?” Later, Carrow had pressed, so Lanthe had admitted, “He’s broken because of me. I ‘persuaded’ him to dive from a great height. And not to use his wings. ” Most of his skin had been slashed and scarred, the bones of his wings and limbs fractured—before his immortality had taken hold, before he could regenerate. What more could Lanthe say? How to explain the bond she and Thronos had shared? Until he’d betrayed her fragile trust . . . Well, Carrow, Thronos led his clan to my family’s secret lair one night. His father killed my parents, lopped their heads right off with a Vrekener fire scythe. My fierce sister Sabine retaliated, taking the father’s life. When she was nearly murdered, I gave Thronos wounds that would last an eternal lifetime, then left him to die. Alas, since then, things have gone downhill. “Air’s getting fresher!” Carrow called from somewhere ahead. “Almost there!” At last, the smoke was clearing. Which meant Lanthe needed to catch up. Who knew what could be awaiting them out in the night? Thousands of immortals had escaped. Had this many enemies ever been so concentrated in one inescapable place? She readied her sword. A vague memory arose of holding her first one. Mother had absently handed each of her daughters a golden sword, telling them, “Never depend solely on your powers. If you and your sister want to survive to adulthood, you’d best get handy with one of these. . . . ” Now Lanthe kept her weapon poised for— Pain on her ankle? Body reeling forward? One second Lanthe had been sprinting; the next she was on her face, sword tumbling in front of her. Something had her! Claws sank into her ankle, piercing the leather of her boot. She screamed and thrashed, but it hauled her back. Ghoul? Demon? Wendigo? She stabbed her metal claws into the ground, scrabbling for purchase, looking over her shoulder. Her own nightmare. Thronos. His scarred face was bloodied, his towering body tensed. A maniacal glint shone in his gray eyes as his wings unfurled—they seemed to flicker in the dim tunnel. A trick of light. The bastard had actually braved an underground shaft. Vrekeners never abandon their hunt. “Release me, you dick!” She kicked out with more force, but she was no match for his strength. Wait, why didn’t he have a collar? Thronos was akin to an angel, a warrior for right. She knew he’d become a warlord. Had he turned evil over these centuries? “Let her go, Thronos!” Carrow yelled, charging. She’d parked Ruby somewhere, returning to take on a Vrekener. For Lanthe. I knew I liked that witch. Before she could reach Lanthe, Thronos had used one of his wings to send Carrow sprawling. The witch scrambled up again, drawing her own sword. Lanthe continued to thrash, filled with dread. Thronos was too strong; like Lanthe, Carrow still had her collar. When the witch charged again, a wing flashed out once more, but Carrow anticipated the move, hunching down to slide under it. She shoved her sword up, piercing the wing, leaving her weapon to hang like a giant splinter. He gave a yell, releasing Lanthe to pluck the sword free. Blood poured from him, pooling in the gravel. Carrow lunged for Lanthe, snaring her hand. Before she could get Lanthe up and running, Thronos seized Lanthe’s leg again, wrenching her back—but Carrow and Lanthe kept their hands locked. It was a losing proposition. Ruby was vulnerable without Carrow. And for all the grief, heartache, and pain Thronos and his kind had dished out to Lanthe over the years, she didn’t believe he could murder her in cold blood. She chanced another look back. No matter how much he’d looked like he was about to. His blood-splattered face was as grim as a reaper’s, his lips thinned, his scars whitening. The age-old question arose: did he want to abduct her or kill her? Or abduct her to torture then kill? No, no, he couldn’t hurt her; Lanthe was his fated mate. Hurting her would hurt him. The tunnel quaked again. In the distance, Ruby called, “Crow!” “Save Ruby!” Lanthe cried. Smoke thickened, rubble building around them. Carrow shook her head, digging in determinedly. “I’ll save you both. ” In a deafening rush, rocks began to tumble down from the ceiling, filling the space between Carrow and Ruby. Ruby screamed, “Crow! Where are you?” Carrow screamed back, “I’m coming!” “Save your girl!” Lanthe yanked her hand free, allowing Thronos to haul her away. “I’ll be okay!” Carrow’s stricken face disappeared as he dragged Lanthe into the smoke. After three weeks of imprisonment at the hands of vile humans, Lanthe had been caught again—by something she hated even more than mortals who enjoyed vivisecting their captives. “Let me go, Thronos!” Her body lurched with each of his limping steps. Almost at once, he veered into a smaller off-shoot tunnel that she hadn’t seen when speeding past it. “You’re going the wrong way!” She dug her metal claws in, raking furrows into the ground. When a cloud of gravel erupted in front of her face, she coughed up grit. “Damn it, Thronos, turn back!” Blood continued to pour from his wing, leaving a trail beside Lanthe’s furrows. “We were almost at an exit before!” She and Carrow had been hoping to reach the shore. Now he seemed to be ascending. Leave it to a Vrekener to make for the high ground. “Centuries I’ve waited for this,” he grated, never loosening his viselike grip around her ankle. Another quake rocked the tunnel. When a boulder crashed down beside her, she stopped clawing with her gauntlets, instead cr
ying, “Faster, idiot!” As if she weighed nothing, he yanked her up from the ground and into his arms in one fluid move. He’d grown taller than any Vrekener she’d ever seen. He must be nearing seven feet in height, looming over her five and a half feet. With his gaze boring into hers, he squeezed her against his chest. His hair—too light to be black, too dark to be brown—was streaked with ash, the matte gray matching his eyes. But as he beheld her, his irises turned to that brilliant silver—like lightning. Like his ghostly wings. “Let me go!” she yelled, slashing at him with her claws. He dropped her to her feet—just to shove her against the wall. With his rigid body pressed against her, he leaned in, tilting his head creepily. Was he going to kiss her? “Don’t you dare!” She moved to strike him again, but he pinned her wrists above her head. A heartbeat later, he took her mouth, dumbfounding her. He slanted his lips more aggressively, burning away her shock. She bit his bottom lip. He kept going. She bit harder. He squeezed her wrists until she thought he would snap her bones. She released him, and he finally drew back, smirking with bloody fangs. “Now it begins. ” With his free hand, he swiped his fingers over his bloody mouth, then reached to smear her lips with crimson. She jerked her head away. Dear gods, he’s been maddened. Another quake; more rocks joined that huge boulder, blocking the way they’d come. “Just brilliant!” She was trapped with Thronos, her survival tied to his. She gazed back at those rocks. Had her friends made it out alive? Reading her worry, he sneered, “I’d be more concerned about your fate. ” She faced her enemy with dread. “Which has at last been sealed. . . . ”
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