Night Pleasures (Page 38)

Night Pleasures (Dark-Hunter #2)(38)
Author: Sherrilyn Kenyon

Acheron released her hand, then returned the medallion to the box. "Then he will die anyway when he faces Desiderius."

"There has to be another way," she whispered.

"There isn’t."

Her chest tight, she tried to imagine draining Kyrian’s powers and leaving him vulnerable. Could she do that to him?

Acheron moved to return the box to his backpack.

"Wait," she said, stopping him. "You said the medallion must be placed exactly where the soul was captured."

"Yes."

"How would I find that?"

He gestured to the bow mark on his hip. "The brand will always show you where Artemis was touching us when she captured our souls."

Amanda opened her mouth to speak, but a booming voice silenced her.

"What are you doing here?"

Amanda whirled to find Kyrian behind her.

He looked to Acheron. "Why did you let her in?"

Acheron passed a warning look to her. Say nothing, his voice whispered through her mind. "It suited me to," he said aloud.

Kyrian’s face hardened. "I told you not to."

Acheron smiled, his fangs flashing for an instant. "And I listen to you since when?"

Kyrian glared.

Amanda’s gaze drifted down Kyrian’s body and she noted he was dressed again in his black jeans, shirt, and boots. "You’re not going after him tonight, are you?"

"I have no choice."

She looked over her shoulder at his boss. "Acheron…"

Acheron shrugged nonchalantly. "It’s his decision."

"He’s wounded," she insisted.

"He’s a Dark-Hunter. He knows his strength and weaknesses. It’s for him to decide."

Frustration welled up inside her and she wanted to kill them both. "You would let him die?"

"This has nothing to do with Acheron," Kyrian said, cutting her off. "As he said, it’s for me to judge."

"Yeah, well, your judgment sucks."

"Yeah, well, Tabitha says the same about yours."

She glared at him.

He glared back until she broke eye contact with him. Then he glanced to Acheron. "Watch over her for me."

"Is that an order?" Acheron asked in disbelief.

"Don’t be an ass."

He cocked a taunting brow. "I’m an Ash, not an ass."

A tic appeared in Kyrian’s jaw. "And I have an appointment to keep. Later." He turned around and stalked out of the room.

Amanda stood frozen in the living room.

And her heart shattered at the sound of the garage door opening and Kyrian’s car starting. The man was so damned stubborn!

"He was wrong, Acheron. You’re not the ass, he is."

Acheron laughed.

Amanda rubbed her hands over her eyes as she tried to think of what she should do. But in her heart she knew. Kyrian was going to die one way or another.

At least if she killed him, he stood a chance. "Give me the medallion."

Acheron handed her the box. "Are you sure?"

"Absolutely not."

She tried to take the box, but he held on to it. "Whatever you do, don’t change your mind after you take this into your hand. It would be the cruelest thing you could do to him. I would rather he die fighting Desiderius than die by the hand of the woman he loves. Again."

Her hand trembled under his. "I would never hurt him."

"No offense, but the last time I heard that, the woman dropped the medallion ten seconds after she picked it up. Don’t make me wrong again."

"I won’t."

He nodded grimly and released the medallion to her. "Remember, you have to take it into your hand the moment he’s staked. Hold it until he’s dead, then place the medallion over the bow mark."

"How will I know when it’s done?"

"Trust me, you’ll know."

Amanda placed the medallion in her backpack purse next to the box with the Barbie doll Liza had given her. She’d started carrying the doll the night Tabitha had been attacked. It was probably stupid, but knowing the doll was there just in case comforted her. Besides, it was better than carrying a gun, and even with the spikes in the legs, she was sure it was safer.

As she closed her purse, her cell phone started ringing. Digging it out of the side pouch, she answered it.

"Mandy, is that you?"

She wrinkled her nose when she heard Cliff’s nasal voice. "I thought-"

"Listen," he said, interrupting her. "Something terrible has happened…"

He sounded as if he’d been crying. Even though they were over romantically, she couldn’t help feeling concern for him. He might be a jerk, but up until a couple of weeks ago, she had intended to marry him. "What?"

"It’s my mother," he said, choking on a sob. "Look, I know we’re not on the best of terms, but I have no one else to call. Could you please come over here? I don’t want to be alone."

She hesitated. A strange, sick feeling clenched her stomach. Attributing it to the fact she couldn’t stand the thought of seeing Cliff again, she realized just how selfish denying him would be. He needed her. She would go for a few minutes, then return here to wait for Kyrian. "All right, I’m on my way."

"Thank you."

Acheron cocked a brow at her. "Something wrong?"

"A friend in need."

He nodded. "You go and I’ll find your sister and watch over her." Acheron pulled on a black T-shirt. "By the way, be careful."

"Of?"

"It’s nighttime and evil things are roaming out there."

Another ripple of fear went through her. "Should I be afraid?"

"Follow your gut, little girl. Do what you have to do."

She hated the way he referred to her as "little girl" all the time, and yet she couldn’t seem to get ticked off about it. "You like being vague, don’t you?"

"It was a choice of being a Dark-Hunter or a prophet. Personally I like the slash-and-kill stuff much more than prayers and the lotus position."

Acheron Parthenopaeus was a very odd individual.

Amanda fished her keys out and made her way back to her car. As she drove out of the driveway, toward the expressway, it dawned on her how strange that Acheron would send her out alone…

Why would he do that when Kyrian had asked him to watch over her?

Because Tabitha is far more likely to get into trouble walking the streets than you are going to Cliff’s.

Oh yeah. That explained it. The only danger at Cliff’s would be him boring her to death.

It didn’t take her long to get there.

Amanda walked up to Cliff’s first-floor apartment, then knocked on the door and waited for him to answer.

He opened the door. He was wearing a pair of Levi’s and a yellow button-down shirt. "What?" he asked, looking over her shoulder. "No friend driving you this time?"

She glared at the jealousy she heard in his voice. How dare he! "What’s that supposed to mean?"

He shrugged and opened the door wider. "Nothing. I’m just upset tonight. Thanks for coming on such short notice."

Again she heard that voice in her head telling her to leave. Like a fool, she ignored it and stepped inside.

He shut and locked the door behind her.

"Well, well," a familiar voice said from the kitchen. "What have we here?"

Amanda froze as Desiderius stepped out of the shadows.

CHAPTER 16

"You!" Amanda screamed and started for the door.

Cliff caught her. "Not so fast."

"How could you?" she asked Cliff. Then she turned to glare at Desiderius. "I don’t understand why you’re here. How?"

Desiderius sighed. "Please don’t make this any more cliche than it has to be. It’s bad enough that I had to stoop to such a primitive ploy to trap Kyrian. Now you expect me to dump my entire plan on you so you can escape and kill me?" He shook his head. "You know, I watch bad movies, too."

Suddenly, she felt Desiderius in her thoughts. Felt him goading and prying into her memories. Her head ached and swam as bizarre images played through her mind. Images of Desiderius embracing and caressing her. Of his breath on her neck.

Worse, Amanda felt the barriers of her mind collapsing under the pressure of his fierce mental onslaught.

"She is as you promised, Cliff." His voice came at such a faint distance. Like a vague whisper on the wind. "Her powers are pure, virtually untouched."

"I know. It’s what drew me to her the first time I met her." Cliff smiled. "And with the information we gathered on how Kyrian fights from that night in the alley, we should have no trouble defeating him."

Desiderius paused as he looked upon the lesser beast. He considered humans to be the lowest of low. They were, after all, only food for the gods.

The only thing below them were mongrels such as Cliff. Half Apollite, half human, the sniveling coward had served his uses.

All in all, he should be grateful that Cliff’s Apollite father had died before he could impart the real truth of the boy’s heritage to him.

As for Cliff’s human mother…

Well, she had been a tasty morsel.

Desiderius had always known having a mongrel for a pet would one day pay off. All the years of having to rear the vile creature didn’t seem so repulsive now.

And when Cliff had found this little sorceress in his own office, Desiderius had bided his time waiting for Cliff to expose and develop her psychic powers before Desiderius took her soul and her powers along with it.

But she had been resistant.

Who could have guessed the outcome of all this? After Cliff had panicked and broken up with Amanda over her sister’s behavior, Desiderius had known he would have to act quickly to claim the sorceress before she escaped their clutches.

As soon as Cliff told him how close the twins were and how often Cliff had been inside Tabitha’s home, Desiderius’s plan had formed.

When he had handcuffed Amanda to the Dark-Hunter, he had pretended to confuse her with her sister, hoping Amanda would panic and use her powers to kill the Dark-Hunter to protect Tabitha. He’d never dreamed she would reach into her powers to protect the Dark-Hunter.

Not that it mattered.

Now with the channel open, she was ripe for the plucking.

"You will bring me over now?" Cliff asked. "Make me immortal, too?"

"Absolutely."

Amanda barely registered the sight of Desiderius walking over to Cliff and taking him into his arms. She saw his fangs flash an instant before Desiderius sank them into Cliff’s willing neck.

Her head swimming even more, she felt herself floating toward the floor. Too late, she realized her thoughts were no longer her own.

Kyrian paused in the heart of the French Quarter looking around as his long black leather coat billowed around his legs. Tourists lined Bourbon Street, walking around, oblivious to the danger. Some of them paused as they caught sight of him dressed in black, wearing his sunglasses because the garish lights hurt his eyes.

He could hear the cacophony of jazz, rock, and laughter mixing in the cool winter winds.

Numbing his mind to the distractions, he reached out with both his powers and his technology and still he had no sign of Desiderius.

"Dammit," he snarled.

He rubbed his aching shoulder where Tabitha had attacked him.

As he massaged the pain, the image of Amanda replaced her sister’s. He saw her laughing face the way she’d been last night draped over him as she made the tenderest of love to him. No one had ever touched him so deeply.

"Because I love you."

Those words seared his heart. More so because he had heard her feelings in her voice. She meant them in a way no woman had ever meant them before.

She loved him.

And he loved her. Loved her so much that inside he wanted to die knowing he couldn’t have her. The Fates were cruel bitches. He’d learned that centuries ago. And yet on this cold night, that one basic fact burned inside him.

Come to me, Amanda, I need you.

He flinched at the thought.

"Don’t think about it," he whispered, knowing it was futile.

If he could have one single wish…

He forced the thought away. He had a mission to accomplish. He must stop Desiderius.

His phone rang. He pulled his cell phone off his belt and answered it.

It was Talon. "Ash wanted me to tell you something weird is going down. The Daimons are attacking in droves tonight. I’ve nailed ten so far and he’s on the tail of four more. He wants you on your toes."

"Tell Gramps not to worry. Everything is quiet in the Quarter."

"All right, just don’t get jacked out there."

"Don’t worry. I can handle myself."

"By the way," Talon said. "Eric is with Tabitha. He said she’s loose in the Quarter, hunting Desiderius, too."

"You’ve got to be kidding me."

"I wish. Ash was tailing her in the Garden District, but had to let her go when he spotted a group of Daimons after tourists."

Kyrian hung up at the same time his tracker hummed. It signaled that there were Daimons nearby. Grabbing his tracker from his coat pocket, he trailed their neural activity to a side alley a block away.

He entered the darkened area to find six Daimons attacking four humans.

"Hey!" Kyrian called, distracting them from their victims. He smoothed back the edge of his coat and pulled out his retractable sword. Pressing the stone on the hilt, he extended it out to its full five-foot length.