The Darkest Craving (Page 14)

The Darkest Craving (Lords of the Underworld #10)(14)
Author: Gena Showalter

A Fae army was here, determined to escort her home.

The Phoenix was here, determined to enslave her.

Kane was here, determined to…finally do as he’d promised? Or did he plan to hand her over to her family and collect a reward?

Probably the reward. Some of the Lords were wily like that.

What had she done wrong? How had she been spotted? She’d been so careful, sneaking here, hiding there. Only twice had she spoken to a human, and only to ask the males to run her over with their cars.

Both men had looked at her as if she were insane.

Maybe she was.

All she knew was that death—any death—was preferable to life with her family. The pain and suffering that came with Synda’s punishments was bad, but the agony of not knowing what the next punishment would be was far, far worse.

Her own father hated her, and rejected her at every turn. For centuries, she’d just wanted someone to love her. To see value in her.

Of course, then there was Leopold. Her own half brother wanted her in his bed, and wouldn’t stop pressing until he got her there.

Every day was a new stress. Josephina would wake up feeling as if she were standing on top of a mountain, screaming for help, but no one cared enough to listen. Tension never left her. And by the end of each day, her nerves were so frayed she feared she would have a nervous breakdown.

It was too much. She was tired, so very tired. She craved an end. Needed an end. Finally.

Sadly, she couldn’t kill herself—and how morbid was a thought like that? Other Fae could end their own lives, but not her. To purposely injure herself was to suffer with that injury, no matter how severe, for weeks, sometimes months. Eventually, she would heal. Even from a beheading. Yes, her body would grow back. Her father had made sure of it, using an ability she would love to steal, but couldn’t. The guards protected him too diligently.

Something hard slammed into her back, tossing her down. She hit the dirt and twig-laden ground with a loud crash, her lungs momentarily deflating. As she struggled to breathe, she was flipped over. Panic overwhelmed her, heating and freezing her at the same time. Tiny black dots winked through her vision, yet she managed to make out the shape of a man looming over her.

“Josephina,” he gritted out.

Kane. She recognized the low, gruff quality of his voice, and the panic receded. “Jerk! Just because you’re a star doesn’t mean you can act that way. A simple ‘stop’ would have sufficed.”

“I did say stop. You ignored me.” The weight of him lifted from her, allowing her to pull herself into a sitting position. She drank in as much oxygen as possible, and her eyesight finally cleared.

The warrior crouched in front of her, slivers of moonlight dancing over him. His hair was disheveled, but that hardly mattered. The strands of flax glowed as if they’d been sprinkled with stardust, reminding her of gorgeous ribbons of gold only the Opulens—the Fae upper class—could afford. The darker strands blended into the night. Red eyes watched her intently, angrily…with the barest glimpse of sizzle?

“Your eyes,” she said, unsure whether she shivered or shuddered. She recognized that bloodlike color, had seen it glowing from Synda’s gaze too many times to count. But the princess had never caused her every pulse point to flutter wildly.

He looked away, as though shamed. “They’re red. I know.”

Poor Kane. “What happened?” What had caused the demon to become so strong?

Without thought, she reached out to brush her gloved fingers against the skin underneath. He caught the motion and stiffened, reminding her of his dislike of contact; his air of anger intensified. But he didn’t flinch, as he’d done with Sabin.

“Is this okay?” she whispered.

He gave a stiff nod.

Gulping, she continued reaching.

At contact, his pupils expanded, gobbling up every bit of color. Even the red. His breathing changed, from slow and even to deep and shallow. The very air around them seemed to charge with electrical impulses, little sparks dancing over every inch of her.

I…like him?

No. Surely not. She’d had crushes before, but this was something else entirely. More intense. Almost overwhelming.

“That’s enough.” He grabbed her by the wrist, moving with lightning-fast reflexes, and she realized he was trembling. “Forget my eyes,” he bit out, setting her hand away from him. “Every time I’m near you, I hurt. Why?”

Deep down, part of her mourned the separation with him. The other part of her wanted to cry over this brand-new rejection.

You’re angry with him. This is silly.

“How should I know? You’re the first person ever to complain.”

“You’re not doing anything to me?”

“Of course not. Now, how did you find me? How do you know my name?”

“The answers don’t matter. I came to help you.”

“Help me?” Hope opened as sweetly as a rose in sunlight, bright and beautiful. “Really?”

He nodded.

“Oh, Kane. Thank you!” He planned to kill her, the darling man. No longer would fear be her constant companion. No longer would she have to endure her half sister’s punishments. No longer would she have to avoid Leopold’s advances. “How do you want to do it? A dagger? Your bare hands? Poison? My vote is quick and painless, but I’ll be satisfied with whatever you choose. Really. You won’t hear a single complaint out of me.”

Kane flashed his perfect white teeth in a scowl. “I’m not going to kill you, Tinker Bell.”

Wait. What? “But you just said you’d help me.” And had he really just called her freaking Tinker Bell? I’m not a thumb-sized sprite, dang it!

“I will. I’ll take care of your problems. That way, you’ll want to live.”

Every ounce of the hope withered. He had no idea what he was saying, or how impossible such a task would be.

“Where have you been?” she asked, ignoring his offer. Had he gone home to a girlfriend? The last story she’d read about him had claimed he was single, but a year had passed since then. Or, in her case, a thousand and one years. Had he pampered this nameless, faceless female?

I’m the one who saved him. I deserve to be pampered.

“Respond to my promise,” he growled.

She sighed. “Why do you want to help me, Kane?” Beautiful Kane, with his rainbow of colors.

“I can’t not help you.”

“But…why?”

“You’re min—” A muscle ticked below his eye. “I owe you.”