Last Kiss Goodnight (Page 11)

Last Kiss Goodnight (Otherworld Assassin #1)(11)
Author: Gena Showalter

The shackles were thick and bronze with long, sharp needles honed from some kind of alien metal that drilled into each wearer’s bones, dripping a steady and constant supply of a potent inhibitor straight into marrow.

When Vika needed to get inside a cage, either to wash it or its prisoner, she had only to press the remote activator to send a different drug—a sedative—through the otherworlder’s system, knocking him out for at least an hour.

The closer she came to Dots, the more fervently he prowled the length of his cage. Usually, he was the incarnation of composed. He ate when he was supposed to eat. He never spoke without first being spoken to, and he remained seated in the back corner whenever Vika approached.

But he’d been here long enough to learn exactly how her father operated.

The otherworlders were kept in the menagerie as long as they were healthy and humans remained fascinated with them. Eight days ago, the most senior of the slaves had been relocated to games because he’d appeared “feverish.”

He was a Rslado-el, a delicate race, easily breakable. Many times she’d come close to freeing him. Close—but not close enough. Now he was the star of Mole Smack Attack, forced to bob his head in and out of holes, while humans tried to hit him in the face with padded bats.

The past few weeks, Dots had lost a lot of weight. Despite his muscle, he was beginning to appear gaunt. Vika had given him extra portions at every meal, but so far, the food hadn’t helped.

He would be the next one to go to the chopping block.

She wanted to free him before that happened. She did. And if he could just hang on for a while longer, she would. He just had to hang on. But she couldn’t tell him that, could she.

Stomach twisting with a stinging blend of guilt and remorse, Vika jumped up to press the button that would render him unconscious. How she disliked her lack of height! In a blink, the Bree Lian was lunging at her, roaring, “I’ll kill you before I let you move me!” and spraying cookie crumbs all over her face. He managed to reach through the bars and scratch her before he collapsed, already snoring.

There was a throb in her shoulder, and she felt the warm trickle of blood, but such a minor injury was barely a blip on her radar.

She performed a quick spin, making sure the Bree Lian’s roar had not roused the attention of a nearby performer. A minute passed, then two. No one came running. Good, that was good.

But what about your father? she thought, the first spark of panic blooming. You aren’t to come home with a single bruise.

An open wound was worse, wasn’t it. Motions frantic, she tied her shirtsleeve around her shoulder, applying pressure to the claw marks. As soon as the blood stopped flowing, she would properly bandage the thing and change shirts. Something long sleeved, maybe. And if she finally wore one of the necklaces her father had given her, he would be too pleased with her to notice anything else. Surely. Hopefully.

“Anyone else tries that,” she forced herself to say, never meeting anyone’s gaze, “and I’ll forget to feed you tonight.” And oh, how she loathed making threats like that. Threats she wasn’t sure she had the ability to see through. But she couldn’t risk another injury. Her father would kill each and every otherworlder, just to make a point.

Well, that, and a profit. He had paid top dollar for them, and while he made a lot of it back with the menagerie and the games, he received the biggest return to his investment when he sold the bodies—in parts.

Hands trembling, she unlatched Dots’s door and climbed inside. She spent half an hour cleaning his skin and brushing his hair, as gently and noninvasively as possible. All the while, pity welled inside her. His modesty was a thing of the past; common courtesy had been forgotten; and torment was a daily occurrence.

One day, I’ll be able to help him.

Ugh. There were those words again.

She finished with the Bree Lian and locked up. The Targon was next. And though she had no nickname for him, she refused to refer to him as Daddy Spanky.

As always, he stretched across the floor of his cage and smiled at her. He was a beautiful man, with pale skin that glittered as though dusted with diamond powder and hair as black as the night with pinpricks of sapphire. Only one thing had ever bothered him, and that was the appearance of Matas.

The Targon erupted any time he caught sight of her bodyguard.

“I’m very dirty,” he purred. “Make sure you scrub really, really hard.”

She placed her hand on her throat to feel the reverberation of her voice box and better judge her volume. “If only I could scrub your mind.”

“Honey, no matter where you scrub you’re gonna need an industrial-size—”

Rolling her eyes, she jumped up and pressed the button to render him unconscious.

As she sprayed the enzyme mixture that would clean him inside and out, then rubbed away the excess oil, she could feel someone’s gaze boring into her, burning deep and sure. There was no reason to look up. She knew the newcomer was the culprit. Everyone watched her in the beginning, hoping to learn her habits and discover the best way to overpower her and, as Criss had often said, “blow this hellhole.”

But Vika recalled how, at first, this one had looked at her with curiosity, crackling awareness and stunned awe, rather than suspicion. A heady mix that had shocked her. Men simply didn’t regard her that way.

How quickly his countenance had changed, however, when her father announced she was in charge of his care. Awareness and awe had given way to barely suppressed ferocity. And that, she was used to.

If freed, he could crush her in seconds.

Could. She rolled the word through her mind. But would he? Had the awe returned, or was the ferocity tugging at its reins?

Dare she glance up and find out?

Just the thought caused her palms to sweat. As big as this Targon was, the . . . whatever he was would stand many inches taller and be many inches wider. He was the epitome of power, and she was quite certain she’d never seen so brawny a male.

If he threatened her, she’d . . . what? Scream? Hardly. There were only two things that scared her. An angry Jecis—and a happy Jecis. The newcomer wasn’t either of those things. But okay, yes, as hot as his temper had appeared to be, he might just be able to slide into third place without any real effort.

But . . . his eyes. He had such lovely eyes. They were large, and the most glorious shade of baby blue, like the sky on the brightest of mornings, fringed by a thick black fan of lashes. For a moment, she had lost herself in those eyes, and oh, that had been the most amazing feat.