Dark Side of the Moon (Page 27)

Dark Side of the Moon (Dark-Hunter #10)(27)
Author: Sherrilyn Kenyon

He didn’t react, but still she knew the agony Stryker harbored. To prove his devotion to Apollymi, he’d cut his son’s throat and made Urian a bitter enemy.

Urian had been the only thing Stryker had ever loved. And that included her. He kept her around only because he didn’t like to be totally alone, but at the end of the day, she didn’t have any delusions about where she fell in his affections. If she died this instant, he would shrug it off and move on.

Urian, on the other hand, was a constantly festering wound that ate at him.

"Do you have a point?" Stryker asked from between clenched teeth.

She nodded as a new idea formed. "There are still ways to damage Acheron here and now."

"Such as?"

"Oh, Stryker," she said in a pitying voice. "Of all men, you should know exactly how to cripple someone. What hurts more than having someone you trust beyond measure turn on you?"

His face hardened and she knew he was thinking of the day he’d learned Urian had been lying to him while protecting the family Stryker was sworn to kill.

"Yes," she whispered in his ear. "Now imagine turning one of Acheron’s men to our side without his knowing it? We can do to him exactly what he did to you…"

Suspicion darkened his eyes. "How?"

She laughed low and evil. "What has always been the downfall of man, my brother?"

He didn’t hesitate with his answer. "Pride."

"Hardly." She held her hand up to her face and blew a deep breath across her nails before she pinned him with an evil stare. "Love, my brother. It is the one thing that men will kill to possess. The one thing that will make them do things that they would never normally do. Things they can’t even conceive of. And it will be the one thing that will ultimately bring Acheron to his knees. His Dark-Hunters are the one weakness that we can reach and exploit. We haven’t lost Seattle yet. There are still ways to claim the city and drive a spike straight through Acheron’s heart."

"And if you’re wrong?"

"What have we got to lose? Honestly?" Satara stood on her tiptoes so that their gazes were locked and level. She offered him a tiny hint of a hopeful smile even though his face was still hard and unforgiving. "But if I’m right?"

He blinked and looked away as if considering her words. When his gaze came back to hers, it was filled with all the raw, aching need he had to win this war against Acheron and Apollymi. "If you’re right, Satara, I’ll deliver the Atlantean up to you on a silver platter and hand you the dagger you need to cleave his heart out of his chest."

"That’s not what I want, Stryker. That’s your dream."

His eyes flashed in greedy expectation. "Fine then. You get this for me and I’ll give you the secret to kill Artemis and free you from her service forever."

Satara closed her eyes as she tried to imagine it. If she never saw that bitch another day in her life, it would be too soon.

Freedom…

It was too good to be true. Her heart racing at the prospect, she held her hand up to Stryker. "Have we a deal then, Brother?"

He took her hand in his and held it over his heart. "Yes, we do."

CHAPTER ELEVEN

Susan woke up suddenly. At first she couldn’t tell what had disturbed her. But as she remembered where she was, she realized that Ravyn was twitching while he slept. She started to shrug it off and go back to sleep, but something in the way he moved reminded her of someone caught in a nightmare they couldn’t wake up from.

"Ravyn?" She gently shook him.

Before she could blink, he seized her in a fierce grip and whipped her over him, onto her back. His breathing was ragged as he growled a sound so feral that she half-expected him to rip out her throat.

"Ravyn!" she shouted, afraid he might hurt her before he came to his full senses.

He froze for a full ten seconds before his touch gentled. He dipped his head down to inhale deeply by her hair as if savoring her scent. "Susan?"

"Yes."

He pulled back and ran his hands over her as if assuring himself that he hadn’t broken anything. "I didn’t hurt you, did I?"

"No," she whispered, trying to ignore just how good his hands felt roaming her body. "Are you okay?"

"Yeah." He got up from the mattress and moved toward the door. She couldn’t really see him until he opened it and the light from outside illuminated his tough stance. He’d removed his shirt and wore nothing but the black jeans as he stepped across the hall to the bathroom.

Susan didn’t move while she waited for his return. When he came back to bed, his hair was damp as if he’d washed his face and then raked his hands through it. He wiped the back of his hand over his face before he shut the door and rejoined her on the bed.

He turned his back to her as if nothing had happened. But even so she could sense his unrest. There was an aura of deep sadness and something else she couldn’t quite place. His actions reminded her of a tough kid who glared at the world through angry eyes. One who wanted nothing more than kindness and yet any time someone tried to offer it, he rebuffed them rather than take a chance on being hurt again.

There in the darkness, Ravyn’s pain reached out to her and it made her want to soothe him.

"You want to talk about it?"

Ravyn lay there with visions of his nightmare still tormenting him. He really hated to sleep. It was the only time he was truly vulnerable. Awake, he could control his thoughts and emotions. Then as soon as he slept, all the things he wanted to forget came back with a vicious clarity. If he could, he’d purge those memories from him entirely.

But they were his memories and his feelings. Two things he didn’t like to share with anyone else.

"Not really."

He could sense Susan’s disappointment. But what confused him was her gentle kindness that was all but unknown to him. He didn’t understand why it was important to her that she try to soothe his unrest.

She rolled over on the mattress so that she was facing his back. When she spoke, her tone was low and comforting. "You know, when I was a little girl, I used to have these awful dreams about…" She hesitated as if considering whether she should continue. With a soft laugh, she admitted her nightmare. "Well, okay, my mother’s dolls coming alive while I slept. It was kind of stupid, but it used to scare me to death. "

Ravyn let out a tired breath even though he appreciated what she was trying to do. "I assure you, I’m not dreaming about dolls, Susan."

"I know. But whenever I woke up from my nightmare, my mother would always make me tell her what I’d been dreaming- no matter how stupid it seemed. She said that when you talk about it, you get it out of your mind so that you can dream about good things instead."

"I don’t want to talk about it."

But then he felt her hand in his hair, gently stroking his scalp. "Okay."

Ravyn closed his eyes as a foreign emotion went through him. He couldn’t remember the last time someone had offered him comfort. The last time a woman had touched him like this. She moved her hand lower, over his shoulder to his arm, where she gently rubbed his biceps. Her touch… no, her kindness singed him with heat.

Susan didn’t say a word as she rubbed his back. She merely lay there, comforting him, gliding her hand along his flesh. Reminding him that he wasn’t alone in the darkness. Reminding him that it was okay to be human. He didn’t sense her judging him. She didn’t think him weak or ineffectual.

And before he realized what he was doing, he was speaking to her about his nightmare. "It’s always the same memory…" he whispered. "I’m meeting Isabeau by the lake where I first saw her. She was a merchant’s daughter in the town that wasn’t far from our village. She and a small group of her friends had been picnicking when my brothers and I were passing through. They’d waved to us, and Dorian had headed for them. "

Ravyn could still see that day so clearly in his mind. It’d been an absolutely perfect warm spring day. The three of them had ridden to town for supplies and were on their way home. He and Dorian were on horseback while Phoenix drove the cart.

The women had been laughing and drinking wine… a lot of wine. Before Ravyn and his brothers had ridden by, the women had been bathing in the lake. Then they’d climbed out to sun themselves on the banks. Half-dressed in soggy chemises that kept falling off their bare shoulders to expose their better assets and giddy from their play, the women had actually catcalled to him and his brothers.

But he left those details out of his story as he told it to Susan. "Since Phoenix was mated, he’d gone on ahead while Dorian and I joined the women. They offered us food and wine." And other things best left unsaid. "I don’t know why, but I was instantly attracted to Isabeau. There was something about her that seemed more vivacious than the rest of her companions."

Susan felt an inexplicable stab of jealousy at his words. She didn’t like the idea of him cavorting with another woman. But she didn’t say anything while he continued to talk.

"After it started getting late, the women packed up to return home. So Isabeau and I made plans to meet again in a few days. Alone."

"You were on the make."

"Yeah, and she wasn’t a virgin." He gave a short, bitter laugh. "She was a woman with a hefty appetite and I didn’t mind being her main course."

Susan had to force herself not to yank a hank of his hair at that. Bastard.

But then he’d paid dearly for his dalliance with the little tart. It was something Susan wouldn’t wish on her worst enemy.

Ravyn took a deep breath before he continued. "One thing led to another and the next thing I knew, we’d set up our meetings fairly regularly."

She frowned at his words. "Weren’t you afraid of making her pregnant?"

"No. Weres can’t have children with anyone but their mates. Since we weren’t mated, there was no chance of that. "

Susan would give him that, but pregnancy wasn’t the only thing to be concerned about. "Not to be rude, but what about STDs? Given how quickly she threw herself at you, weren’t you afraid she’d give you a gift that kept on giving?"

He snorted. "No. Again, my people can’t get those diseases. Our magick keeps us immune from the rest. The only human diseases we share are cancer and common colds."

Lucky you. Susan had to bite back the sarcasm. She didn’t want him to pull away while he was telling her his story. "So how long did the two of you keep meeting?"

"About four months. And after a while, I was really infatuated with her. She kept asking me to marry her and I kept putting her off."

"Because she wasn’t your mate?"

"Exactly. There was no point in bringing her into my world when she couldn’t really be a part of it. And I didn’t want to tie myself to someone who wasn’t my mate. I used to have this stupid idea that one day I’d have a mate and kids and live happily ever after."

Susan’s heart jerked at the hurt that underlined those words. "It’s not such a stupid idea, Ravyn. You know a lot of people have the same exact thought. "

"Yeah," he said in a tone that told her he thought those people were fools. "Anyway, when the mark finally appeared on our hands, I thought it was too good to be true. She’d been telling me for months that she loved me. I wasn’t sure if I loved her or not, but I enjoyed her company so I proposed as soon as I saw the marking. Isabeau was scared, of course. She thought it was the mark of the devil and I tried to tell her not to worry, but she ran off before I could explain it. "

"You went after her?"

"No," he said to her surprise. "Something in my gut told me to leave her alone… she’d been really hysterical before she took off. So I went home and that night my mother saw the mark on my palm and asked me about it. I told her the truth and tried to make her understand just how distraught Isabeau had been. She assured me that Isabeau was just taken by surprise. And that I owed it to both her and myself to tell her the truth about who and what we were. She was sure that a woman who loved me would accept the truth of it and join us."

He rolled over onto his back to stare up at the ceiling. She could feel the guilt and anger inside him, reaching out to touch her heart. "You have no idea how much I wish I could go back in time and change that night. It’s probably why Artemis stripped the ability to time travel from me. God knows, it eats at me constantly and I’m sure if I could, I’d go back and do something stupid."

Susan rubbed his arm soothingly. "Is that what you dream of?"

He turned his head to meet her gaze. "In part. I always see my mother as she urged me to go to Isabeau and bring her back to our village, and then it shifts to the night I became a Dark-Hunter. I keep seeing Isabeau’s terrified face in my mind as I killed her father while she screamed and cowered in a corner. "

She hesitated to ask the next question, but she wanted to know the answer. "Did you kill Isabeau, too?"

"Yes."

Susan pulled back at that as her heart hammered. She’d seen Ravyn in action, but even so she hadn’t thought that he could be that cold.

He winced as if he could still see the past. "While her father died, Isabeau found some courage. She grabbed a short sword from the wall and ran at me with it. I wasn’t armed so I tried to dodge her swing, but she caught me across the arm with the blade. Acting on instinct, I knocked her away from me and cupped my arm. She stumbled back into the hearth and dropped the sword as the tail of her dress went into the fire. I reached for her to help her, but she bit me and went running for the open door as the fire spread up the back of her gown. As I ran after her, more of the men came between us and attacked me. By the time I’d killed them, it was too late for Isabeau. I found her lying in a heap not far from her cottage. As I rolled her over, I realized she was still alive. Her eyes flared as she saw me, then she spat in my face and died in my arms. I can’t get the sight of her burned face out of my dreams. The hatred in her eyes as she spat on me. I keep thinking that I should have somehow known how it would all play out. That I could have done something to save all of them."