Kiss of the Night (Page 17)

Kiss of the Night (Dark-Hunter #5)(17)
Author: Sherrilyn Kenyon

He didn’t think he could ever get enough of that smell. Of her body grinding against his.

He wanted her more than he had ever wanted anything.

She pulled away and looked up at him. Her green eyes were bright, her cheeks flushed by her passion. "You’re not the only one who wants something impossible, Wulf. As much as you hate me for what I am, imagine how I feel knowing I’ve dreamt of a man who has slaughtered my people for how many centuries now?"

"Twelve," he said before he could stop himself.

She winced at his words. Her hands dropped away from his face. "How many of us have you killed? Do you even know?"

He shook his head. "They had to die. They were killing innocent people."

Her eyes darkened and turned accusatory. "They were surviving, Wulf. You never had to face the choice of being dead at twenty-seven. When most people’s lives are just beginning, we are looking at a death sentence. Have you any idea what it’s like to know you can never see your children grow up? Never see your own grandchildren? My mother used to say we were spring flowers who are only meant to bloom for one season. We bring our gifts to the world and then recede to dust so that others can come after us."

She held her right hand up so that he could see the five tiny pink teardrops tattooed on her palm in the shape of a flower’s petals. "When our loved ones die, we immortalize them like this. I have one for my mother and the other four are my sisters. No one will ever know the beauty of my sisters’ laughter. No one will remember the kindness of my mother’s smile. In eight months, my father won’t even have enough of me left to bury. I will become scattered dust. And for what? For something my great-great-great-whatever did? I’ve been alone the whole of my life because I dare not let anyone know me. I don’t want to love for fear of leaving someone like my father behind to mourn me.

"I will be a vague dream, and yet here you are, Wulf Tryggvason. Viking cur who once roamed the earth raiding villages. How many people did you kill in your human lifetime while you sought your treasure and fame? Were you any better than the Daimons who kill so that they can live? What makes you better than us?"

"It’s not the same thing."

Disbelief went through her that he couldn’t see what was so obvious. "Isn’t it? You know, I went to your Web site and saw the names listed there. Kyrian of Thrace, Julian of Macedon, Valerius Magnus, Jamie Gallagher, William Jess Brady. I’ve studied history all my life and know each of those names and the terror they wrought in their day. Why is it okay for the Dark-Hunters to have immortality even though most of you were killers as humans, while we are damned at birth for things we never did? Where is the justice in this?"

Wulf didn’t want to hear her words. He’d never given any thought to the Daimons and why they did what they did. He had a job to do and so he killed them. The Dark-Hunters were the ones who were right. They were human protectors. The Daimons were the predators who deserved to be stalked and killed. "The Daimons are evil."

"Am I evil?"

No, she wasn’t. She was…

She was things he dared not name.

"You’re an Apollite," he said forcefully.

"I’m a woman, Wulf," she said simply, her voice filled with emotion. "I cry and I mourn. I laugh and I love. Just like my mother did. I don’t see a difference between me and anyone else on this planet."

He met her gaze and the fire in his eyes scorched her. "I do, Cassandra. I see the difference."

His words cut her to the quick. "Then we have nothing more to talk about. We are enemies. It’s all we can ever be."

Wulf took a deep breath as she spoke a truth that couldn’t be changed. Since the day Apollo had cursed his own children, Dark-Hunters and Apollites had been mortal enemies.

"I know," he said softly, his throat tight with that realization.

He didn’t want to be enemies, not with her.

But how could they ever be anything else?

He hadn’t chosen this life on his own, but he had given his word to live it now.

They were enemies.

And it killed him inside.

"Let me show you where you can sleep." He led her to the wing opposite Chris’s where she could have all the privacy she wanted.

Cassandra didn’t say anything as Wulf turned over a large, comfortable bedroom to her. Her heart was heavy, aching for things that were foolish and stupid. What did she want of him?

There was no way to prevent him from killing her people. It was the way of the world and no amount of argument would change that.

There was no hope of having a relationship with him or any other man. Her life was all but over now. So where did that leave them?

Nowhere.

So she resorted to the humor that had seen her through the tragedies of her life. It was all she had. "Tell me, if I get lost in this place, do you have a search party available to find me again?"

He didn’t laugh. There was a solid wall between them now. He had completely closed himself off from her. It was just as well.

"I’ll go get you something to sleep in." He started away from her.

"You won’t even trust me to see where you sleep, huh?"

His look was piercing. "You’ve already seen where I sleep."

Her face turned red as she remembered the most erotic of her dreams. The one where she had watched his tawny body sliding against hers in the mirrors while he made slow, passionate love to her. "The black iron bed?"

He nodded, then left her.

Alone, Cassandra sat on the mattress and pushed her thoughts away. "What am I doing here?" Part of her said to screw it and just take her chances with Stryker.

But another part of her wanted to go back to her dreams and just pretend this day hadn’t happened.

No, what she wanted was the one thing she knew she could never have…

She wanted a forbidden fantasy-a man of her own to have and to hold. One she could grow old with. One who could hold her hand as she brought his baby into the world.

It was so impossible that she had buried those dreams years and years ago.

Up until now, she’d never met anyone who made her ache for the things that were denied her. Not until she had stared into a pair of black eyes and listened to a Viking warrior talk about keeping a boy safe.,

A man who felt guilt for his past.

She yearned now. And it was an impossible desire.

Wulf could never be hers, and even if he was, she would be dead in a matter of months.

Hanging her head in her hands, she wept.

Chapter 7

"Take me to Cassandra," Kat snarled at the auburn-haired Dark-Huntress in the car beside her. It wasn’t in her nature to let anyone have control of her or her environment. "I’m the only one who can protect her."

"Yeah," Corbin said as she pulled into the driveway of her mansion. "You did a great job protecting her from what… the garbage, was it?"

Kat saw red at that. The urge to blast the Huntress into dust went through her-a byproduct of her mother’s nasty temper that she had inherited. Luckily for Corbin, Kat had more of her father in her and had learned long ago to take deep breaths and not give in to her childish impulses.

Getting angry wouldn’t accomplish anything. She had to find Cassandra, and if she used her powers to do it, Stryker would be able to locate Cass as well. That prick had learned long ago how to follow the subtle nuances of Kat’s powers and use them against her. It was why she hadn’t fought him in the bar. Like it or not, Stryker was more powerful than she was. Mostly because he didn’t care who he hurt to get his way.

Which meant she needed the Huntress to take her to Cass.

Kat had teleported out of their apartment for no more than five minutes so that she could go to the Destroyer and tell her to leave Cassandra alone.

How was she to know the Destroyer would use that distraction to send in Stryker and his men while she was away?

She felt so betrayed she couldn’t breathe. After all these centuries, she had dutifully served both Apollymi and Artemis. Now the two of them were using her against each other and she didn’t like it in the least.

And they both wondered why her father didn’t want to play their reindeer games. He was far wiser than Kat since he had always managed to keep himself out of these situations. Only he seemed to understand both goddesses.

How she wished she could call him. He could probably end this in a matter of seconds. But involving him would only make things worse.

No, she had to handle this on her own.

Besides, she no longer cared what either goddess wanted. She had grown extremely fond of Cassandra these last five years and she didn’t want to see her friend used, let alone hurt.

It was time for all of them to just leave Cassandra alone.

Corbin got out of the car.

Kat followed her into the garage, then stopped as Corbin unlocked the door to her house. "Look, we’re all on the same team."

The Huntress looked at her as if she were insane. "Sure we are, hon. Now come inside so I can keep an eye on you and make sure you don’t do anything like leave Cassandra to her enemies again."

Kat used enough of her powers to hold the door shut. Corbin rattled the knob and smacked the wood with her hand.

"You know," Kat said angrily, "if I wanted Cassandra dead, don’t you think in the last five years I could have killed her? Why would I wait until now?"

Corbin turned away from the door. "How do I know you’ve known her for five years?"

Kat laughed sarcastically at that. "Ask her and you’ll see."

Corbin looked at her thoughtfully. "Then why did you leave her unprotected tonight?"

Kat locked gazes with her so that Corbin could see her sincerity. "I swear to you, had I known those homicidal loons were going to show up, I wouldn’t have stepped one foot out of that apartment."

Still, Corbin’s gaze doubted her. On the one hand, Kat admired the woman’s protectiveness. On the other, she wanted to strangle her.

"I don’t know," Corbin said slowly. "Maybe you’re being honest and maybe you’re full of shit."

"Fine." Kat threw her hands up in frustration. "You want proof?"

"You got any?"

Turning around, Kat lifted the hem of her shirt and showed Corbin the skin just above her left hip where her own double bow-and-arrow mark resided. That brand was the mark of Artemis.

Corbin’s eyes widened. "I know you’re not a Dark-Hunter. What are you?"

"I’m one of Artemis’s handmaidens, and just like you, I’ve been charged with seeing Cassandra safe. Now take me to her."

Wulf knocked briefly, then pushed the door open to find Cassandra wiping her eyes. He froze at the sight. "Are you crying?"

"No," she said, clearing her throat. "I had something in my eye."

He knew she was lying, but he respected her strength. It was nice to find a woman who didn’t use tears to manipulate men.

He entered the room hesitantly. The thought of her crying made his own chest ache. Worse, he felt an insane need to pull her into his arms and comfort her.

He couldn’t. He needed to keep his distance from her.

"I… um… I borrowed these from Chris." He handed her the sweatpants and T-shirt in his hand.

"Thanks."

Wulf couldn’t tear his gaze away from her. Her long strawberry-blond hair was pulled back from her face. Something about her reminded him of a scared little girl and at the same time there was something that was rock-solid and determined.

He cupped her cool cheek in his hand and tilted her head so that she was looking up at him. In his dreams, he would be laying her back on her bed and tasting her lips.

Unbuttoning her shirt…

"Have you been fighting like this all your life?"

She nodded. "Both Daimons and Apollites hunt my family. At one time, there were hundreds of us and now it’s down to me. My mother always told us that we must have more children. That it was up to us to continue the line."

"Why didn’t you?"

She sniffed daintily. "Why should I? If I die, then they will see that there is no truth to the myth that says our death will free them."

"So you’ve never thought of going Daimon then?"

She pulled away from him and he saw the truth in her eyes.

"Could you do it?" he asked her. "Could you kill an innocent person to live?"

"I don’t know," she said, moving away from the bed to place the shirt and pants on the dresser. "They say it gets easier after the first one. And once you have a foreign soul in you, it changes everything about you. You become something else. Something evil and uncaring. My mother had a brother who turned. I was only six when he came to her and tried to make her a Daimon as well. When she refused, he tried to kill her. In the end, her bodyguard killed him while my sisters and I hid in a closet. It was terrifying. Uncle Demos had always been so good to us."

The sadness in her eyes as she spoke wrapped around his heart and squeezed it tightly. He couldn’t imagine how much horror she had seen in her young life.

But then his childhood hadn’t been easy either. The shame, the humiliation. Even after all these centuries, he could still feel the sting of it.

Some pains never eased.

"What about you?" she asked, looking at him over her shoulder since he didn’t cast a reflection in the mirror. "Did you find it was easier to kill a man after you took your first life?"