Dark skye, p.3
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       Dark Skye, p.3
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         Part #15 of Immortals After Dark series by Kresley Cole
Chapter 2

  I have her. Thronos just stopped himself from roaring with triumph. I bloody have her. With her wrists still pinned, he ripped her mask away, his gaze taking in her face. Her wide blue eyes were stark against her soot-marked skin. Dust coated the wild, raven braids that tangled about her cheeks and neck. His blood painted her plump lips. Even in this state, she was still the most alluring creature he’d ever seen. And the most treacherous. He tore his gaze away, focusing on their survival. This ungodsly tunnel would fail soon. Out in the night, dangers would lurk in every shadow. Most species on this island hated his kind. He released Melanthe’s hands, just to yank her back into his arms. “Hey! Where are you taking me?” Earlier, Thronos had scented saltwater and rain-steeped air—must be an exit from this maze. With her trembling body squeezed against his chest, he began running/limping in that direction, blocking out the grueling pain in his lower right leg. Pain from just one of the injuries she’d given him. Get her to safety; refrain from murdering her. In a short while, the smoke started to thin. Fewer rocks fell. Melanthe peered around her. “It’s clearing! Faster, Thronos!” Instead he stopped dead in his tracks, kicking up gravel. He’d caught a scent. Can’t be right. When he set her to her feet, she demanded, “What is wrong with you? The way back is blocked; we’re almost out!” But the threat was already in. “Is something coming? Tell me!” Her sense of smell wasn’t nearly as keen as his. An eerie howl echoed down the tunnel. Others joined it. “Are those ghouls?” she asked, a quaver in her voice. Even immortals beware their bite. The mindless beasts grew their numbers by contagion. A single bite or scratch . . . The ground vibrated from their approaching footfalls. Must be hundreds of them. He would have to fight a swarm of ghouls—underground. Did Lanthe comprehend the danger they faced? Had he captured his prize only to lose it? Never. He shoved her behind him, flaring his wings. “You brought me this way! You’ve doomed us. ” Oh, yes, she understood the danger. To herself, she muttered, “I was so close to escape. As usual, Thronos ruins my plans. My life. ” She snapped at him, “My EVERYTHING!” He swung his head around, baring his fangs. “Silence, creature!” His old familiar wrath blistered him inside—the wrath that sometimes made him wonder if he mightn’t just kill her and spare himself this misery. Melanthe is misery. He knew this well. “All my life, I’ve just wanted to be left alone,” she continued. “But you keep hunting me . . . ” She trailed off when an eerie green light began to illuminate the shaft. The glow of the ghouls’ skin as they neared. From behind him, she said, “I wish to the gods that I’d never met you. ” With all his heart, he told her, “Mutual. ” There was no way she and Thronos could get past this throng without a single contagious injury. Though he was now a battle-tested warlord, attacking hotbeds of Pravus in between his searches for her, he was weaponless, about to fight in his least advantageous surroundings. Lanthe’s powers were neutralized; she didn’t even have her sword. She splayed her fingers out of habit—to wield sorcery she couldn’t tap—and awaited an unstoppable attack. In these seconds, she swept her gaze over Thronos, as she hadn’t been able to do for years. He had on dark boots and broken-in black leather pants that molded to his muscular legs. His white linen shirt had cutouts in the back—they buttoned above and below the roots of his wings. The humans must have taken his customary trench coat. She glanced up at his silvery horns. Though many demons had two, Vrekeners usually sported four. But two of Thronos’s had been removed—probably because of how damaged they’d been in his “fall. ” The remaining pair were larger than normal, curving around the sides of his head like those of a Volar demon. He lowered his hands, his black claws curling past his fingertips. As all the muscles in his body tensed for combat, he brought his wings close to his sides. The top joints were so gnarled, she could almost hear their movements catching and grinding. When he was young, he’d been able to pin his wings down along his back, until they were undetectable under a coat. Now, because of his injuries, those flares jutted by his sides. His formerly black wing talons had been “silvered” once he’d become a knight—honed, smoothed, and sharpened until they’d turned color. Few of her kind ever got close enough to a Vrekener to know what those wings truly looked like; well, at least not the Sorceri who’d lived to tell about it. She remembered how startled she’d been to discover what covered the backs— One bloodcurdling howl sounded from ahead. A ghoul battle charge? A tidal wave of contagious, vicious killers flooded toward them, their watery yellow eyes burning with rage. They climbed the walls, scrabbling over each other to reach their prey. The ghouls were fifty feet away. Forty. Thronos’s wings rippled, as if with eagerness. Lanthe’s last sight on earth might be a Vrekener’s wings. Not a big surprise. Thirty feet away. Twenty . . . then . . . striking distance. One of his wings flashed out, then the other. Beheaded ghouls dropped in place. More than a dozen gaping necks pumped their blood, a syrupy green goo. Her lips parted. “What the hell?” The silver talons of Thronos’s wings dripped green; they’d sliced through throats like a razor blade. Like his father’s fire scythe. Eyes wide, she sidled along the wall to get a better look at him. She hadn’t known Thronos was that fast—or that his wings were so deadly. The scent of ghoul blood fouled the air and made the next line of them hesitate. Never ceasing their wails, they stared down at the twitching bodies of their kind, then up at Thronos, confusion on their faces. When another wave decided to shoot forward, he used his wings again. Goo splashed the walls, striping the fallen bodies. A pool of green seeped toward her and Thronos. His wings moved so fast she could barely see them, could only feel their backdrafts over her face. Headless bodies piled up, and Lanthe felt . . . hope. Back when she’d allied with the Pravus Army, Lanthe had observed soldiers sparring—vampires, centaurs, fire demons, and more. They’d always grunted and yelled when they struck. Thronos was eerily silent. One male against a horde of baying monsters. Gods, he was strong. Technically he was a demon angel—though Vrekeners vehemently denied any demon blood in their line. Right now, he looked seriously demonic. Watching him like this, she realized that in their confrontations over the last few centuries, Thronos had been pulling his punches. He might not have wanted to kill his mate, but he could’ve taken out Lanthe’s protector, her sister Sabine. Yet he hadn’t. Earlier, Thronos could’ve killed Carrow without a thought. Instead, he’d spared her life. Why? As the bodies accumulated and poisonous blood crept toward her boots, Lanthe grew queasy. A quake sent her stumbling against the rock wall. The force shuffled the mound of ghouls, sifting corpses. The sheer number of slain was mind-boggling. When his next strike felled yet another line of them, no more advanced around the corner. They sounded as if they lay in wait outside the tunnel. Thronos turned to her, broad chest heaving, his grave face covered in grit and sweat. His collar-length hair was damp, whipping over his cheeks. She grudgingly admitted that he looked . . . magnificent. For so long, she’d focused on his scars, his weaknesses. She’d underestimated this male. He grated one word: “Come. ” One of Lanthe’s favorite mottos was the simplest—when in trouble, leave. Seeing no other choice, she crossed to him. He lifted her into his arms, one looping around her waist, the other coiling around her neck. Unbidden, memories of her childhood arose, when his expressions had been open, his words kind to her. When he’d nicknamed her and taught her to swim. He’d been a fascinating mix of cocky and vulnerable; one minute he’d be flashing a teasing grin, the next his cheeks would heat with a blush. . . . “Hold on to me, Melanthe. ” She could only nod and comply. He booted bodies away, then took off in a limping sprint. She knew what he planned. To evade the ghouls just outside the mine, Thronos would run to the very edge, then leap into flight. He’d taken her into the sky before—when she’d been a girl who’d trusted him utterly. Years later, she’d witnessed a Vrekener fly Sabine to a great height, just for the pleasure of dropping her to a cobblestone street below. Sabine’s head had cracked
open like an egg, but somehow Lanthe’s sorcery had wrenched her from the jaws of death. Ever since then, Lanthe had had nightmares about flying. Could Thronos even carry her? According to rumor, he suffered inconceivable pain whenever he flew, his twisted wings not working right on the best of days; surely they were exhausted from beheading scores of foes. The left one still bled from Carrow’s sword. Tightening her arms around him, her metal claws digging into his skin, Lanthe squeezed her eyes shut—which only increased her awareness of him. His heartbeat thundering as he ran. The rippling of his surprisingly large muscles. His breaths in her ear as he clutched her close, like a coveted treasure. She had no warning before he shoved his legs down, swooping his great wings. Her stomach dropped when they shot into the sky. As raindrops hit her uncovered skin like bullets, she peeked down; ghouls leapt for them, but Thronos had flown too high to be reached. So high. The ground grew smaller . . . smaller . . . “Ah, gods. ” I’m going to vomit.
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