Last Kiss Goodnight (Page 27)

Last Kiss Goodnight (Otherworld Assassin #1)(27)
Author: Gena Showalter

His gazed snagged on a cascade of blond hair, just behind the pair. He focused. Peeking out from behind the far cage, watching him, expression concerned and guilt-ridden, was Vika.

Her lip was split in the center, and there was a fresh bruise on her cheek.

“X,” he snarled. X hadn’t saved her. She had been beaten.

The human male tried to impress the female by stretching out his arm, as if he were brave enough to pet a beast like Solo.

Urges he’d battled since waking up in this cage suddenly overcame him. The urge to hurt those who wanted to hurt him. The urge to repay cruelty with cruelty. And yet, there was a new one. The urge to get to Vika. To protect.

With lightning-fast reflexes, Solo reached out, grabbed the male by the wrist, and twisted. The bones instantly broke.

A howl of pain rang out.

One of the guards surged forward, his gun already drawn.

Solo could handle being shot. Over the years he’d been shot, stabbed, beaten, and anything else the human mind could think up. Still. He shouldn’t have done this, he realized. He should have remained stoic. Even without the human, he couldn’t yet get to Vika.

Now he released the man and held his hands up, palms out, all innocence.

“I demand a refund!” the man shouted as fat tears ran down his cheeks. “Ow, ow, ow, and damages! And all my medical bills paid, ow, ow, ow. I was told I wouldn’t be harmed, but look at this. It’s crushed! Ow, ow, ow. False advertising is a crime.”

Scowling, the guard replaced his gun to examine the human’s injury.

“Uh-oh. You’re in trouble now,” Dr. E said with a laugh. Health and vitality was returning to his cheeks. He was no longer shaky.

“Focus on the light,” X said. He was now pale. He was now shaky.

There was no light in a situation like this.

The guard sent the human on his way, probably to a medic, and approached the cage. “I hope you realize the money he’s now owed is going to be taken out of your hide.” With that, he jabbed the button Vika had once pressed—the button that brought paralysis.

Solo roared as warmth spread from his wrists to the rest of his body, exactly like the times he’d gotten angry, only this warmth was stronger and moved far more quickly. A river that had just broken free of a dam. He fought the sudden surge of weakness . . . fought the incoming vulnerability. . . .

He lost.

The last thing he saw before a heavy weight tugged at his eyelids was Vika, her hair wild, her eyes glittering with a strange sort of madness. She was rushing toward him, determined to get to him—until the second guard grabbed her by the waist and jerked her to a stop.

Solo unleashed another roar, tried to reach for her, and failed.

Eleven

Do not gloat over me, my enemy! Though I have fallen, I will rise.

—MICAH 7:8

AROUND TWO O’CLOCK IN the morning, the moon was a mere hook of gold in the black, star-studded sky. All of the circus patrons had gone home, and now, all of the performers were gathering around a great, blazing bonfire in the center of the imprisoned otherworlders.

Vika shook with the force of her fear. Not for herself, not this time, but for the newcomer.

Blue Eyes, she’d begun to call him. The fifteen-dollar fee her father had lost coupled with the money for “damages” and the irritation of having to deal with an irate human were to be taken out of Blue Eyes’s flesh.

The male had not roused since the drugs had hit his system, but only because he’d been given a fresh dose every hour. Her father had wanted him docile until the right time, which just happened to be when all of his employees and Vika’s charges could witness Blue Eyes’s punishment.

The performers had brought lawn chairs and now placed them in front of the cages. There was Rasa, the elf-size bearded lady with hissing snakes growing from her chin. There was the sword eater, the she-male with four hands, the conjoined gymnasts, and seemingly a thousand others.

Blue Eyes was on his knees, slumped over, his cuffs bound to hooks protruding from a man-made stump. The fire blazed beside him, casting rays of gold over the deeply bronzed skin of his bare back. There was no longer any hint of red. But there would be. All too soon, there would be, and it would be red of a different sort.

Jecis kicked him in the side to wake him, and cheers abounded.

As Blue Eyes lifted his head, he blinked rapidly, perhaps fighting to focus. Jecis walked around him with arms lifted high. In front of the otherworlder, he stopped, turned to face his people.

“This man—this disgusting creature—dared to touch a human without permission,” her father called, riling the crowd. Vika continued to read his lips. “He had every intention of causing irreparable damage—after he had been warned to behave.”

A chorus of “boo” swept through the masses, the vibrations nearly rocking her off her feet. She surveyed the people she’d grown up with, hoping, praying to find one sympathetic face, that someone, anyone, would stand up and shout, “This is wrong. I won’t let you hurt that man.” Someone with the strength to force her father to back down.

Instead, she discovered malicious glee and vicious enjoyment. Expressions all the more maniacal because everyone still wore their performance costumes, having come here directly after the last show. There were sequins, feathers, short fluffy skirts, lace and fishnets, oiled chests and pants practically painted on.

These people were outcasts, accepted only for how they entertained. Now, they wanted to be entertained. Actually, they probably felt as though they deserved a good show. Jecis had charged admission, after all.

The muscles in Blue Eyes’s back knotted and his spine straightened. He scanned the area, suddenly alert. Someone threw a handful of popcorn at him, the fluffy yellow kernels raining over him.

Fury blazed in his eyes . . . a fire far hotter than the flames crackling beside him.

Please, she projected at Jecis. Don’t do this.

“Let this be a lesson to all,” her father continued, turning . . . turning . . . to face everyone in the assembly. He was saying more, but his back was currently to Vika, so she couldn’t read his lips. The crowd liked it, whatever threat or insult he’d issued, because laughter erupted.

Then he was facing her again, and he was saying, “—know that to disobey is to suffer.”

Cheers joined the laughter. Her stomach churned. And as much turmoil as she’d reacted to lately, she felt as if she could have made butter with it.

As her father stretched out his hand, as Matas slammed the handle of a whip against his palm, Vika shrank back into the night’s gloom. Jecis wanted her blood, and if he caught sight of her, she would get a whipping, too.