Home > The Bitten (Vampire Huntress Legend #4)(19)

The Bitten (Vampire Huntress Legend #4)(19)
Author: L.A. Banks

If he would just come to her, and break her free of this prison, get her away from the people she loved before she did something she'd never be able to live with, or die with, whatever her fate at this point. Prayers gave her a headache, but she tried anyway. It was hard to breathe. The air in the room was stifling, but as she looked at the clock, fear coursed through her. Near dawn. She immediately knew that she couldn't breathe because the damnable light was taking up precious oxygen, burning it away, like it might now torch her flesh.

Damali pulled herself into a tight ball on the bed, and closed her eyes. She was supposed to be the Neteru, the one to battle demons and vampires and ugly things of the night. A single tear rolled down the bridge of her nose and plopped on her lemon-yellow duvet. They'd even taken Madame Isis from her, along with every other weapon she'd owned. She'd failed. She wasn't worthy to have the blade of the huntress. She couldn't be trusted - couldn't even trust herself. Now, she was just a common creature of the night.

He sat in the dark in his Beverly Hills lair, sated from the newly refreshed blood tanks, but nothing close to fulfilled. The hunger was gone, but the ache in his soul would never be healed. She'd turned. His precious baby had turned, and from his bite. There was no one else to blame but himself. No matter what else was going on, no matter what supernatural forces had been tampered with, Damali wouldn't have turned if she hadn't been bitten.

If he found the key or the seal, he had to turn it over to the council. There would be no acceptable excuse this time if he didn't satisfy their demand. There was no back-door option, no game he could run. Even the Covenant and the Guardians had shunned him and rightfully so. He just hoped that if she'd died, it was with a prayer in her heart - the only thing that had halfway saved him. If her soul got lost in the realms, he'd turn over every stone and root out every snake until he found hers.

But if she'd died the way he was pretty sure she might have, a salvation prayer was probably the last thing on her mind. Bitter, perverse, cosmic injustice... she'd told him to pray on his dying breath, and he had. She knew to call for help and to seek redemption at the final moment. But when she'd slipped to the other side, she was probably calling his name with her last breath - the last entity that could save her. Too f**ked up a situation.

He winced and closed his eyes in the darkness, then shifted his body to lie down. Suddenly the hidden, all-black marble subbasement beneath the Beverly Hills mansion felt like a cell. No amount of fine accoutrements, top-of-the-line electronic gadgets, solid gold fixtures, or expensive plush furnishings could make it be anything but what it was. This was no different than the monk's barren quarters - it was empty existence. At least there, he had someone he trusted to talk to. But now sprawled out in the center of a custom-made king-sized bed, the black satin sheets made him feel like he was drowning in a dark sea.

Damali's frustrated mental call to him was so piteous that even by day, rest would be impossible. He knew the suffering well, had lived it. Answering her by thought would only make her initial hours into the turn worse. He remembered riding it out in the safe house, like teetering on the edge of an orgasm for days... weeks... months, unable to hurl himself over the edge. Oblivion was always beyond reach. No peace, just unrelenting pent-up desire that broke your ass down for just one more time and stole your pride. You'd do anything or anyone just to get out and into the night... and into your lover's arms. It was a physical want so intense that there was only one answer for it - and without the bite, there was no way to quench it alone. Yeah, he remembered all too well.

Then a hunger came that literally ate your insides out. That he'd visited this horror upon her was beyond forgiveness... and that she couldn't even pray for assistance was thoroughly messed up. Her options were worse than his had ever been. At least he'd been a criminal, knew it, and there was a bounty on the recovery of his soul. Who came to look for willingly turned Neterus, he wondered? The answer was basic: he would.

If Marlene couldn't come up with a quick cure, Damali was a sitting duck in the Guardian compound. Her seven teammates, along with the Covenant brethren, would surely plant Damali's own Isis in her chest to save her soul - just like he'd been forced to plant a stake in Alejandro's to save his brother's.

Even if he got her out of there, once the Vampire Council found out that she had fully turned and could no longer produce a day-walker line, if he didn't deliver the seal or the key, they'd hunt her down - just to punish him. Whether the sick old bastards harvested her lost soul and tortured it in order to slowly rip his heart out, or passed her around to every topside male while he was held prisoner and unable to help her - either situation was unthinkable. And, despite knowing that, he wouldn't have it in him to dust her. Besides, without his protection, if there was a chance that she was still fertile, and ripening, her compound would be the epicenter of a major vampire invasion by every topside male on the planet now that borders were shaky, chaos was in full effect, and everyone was vying for world dominance. But if he got to her, he'd also start her worst nightmare... making her the mother of something unspeakable. Then, again, did any of that matter? If he didn't find the seal, it was all over anyway.

Carlos willed the tears in his eyes to dry. He was supposed to be her protector, from the very beginning, and had f**ked this whole thing up big time. Her life was ruined, all because he couldn't keep his hands off of her. That was pathetic. No sense of control, no discipline when it came to her.

By rights, Damali should have been out there hunting down the bastard who stole the sacred key. That was her job as a Neteru. But because they'd both been off the job, and his love bites had turned into more than they'd both bargained for, he'd put his baby in a position where the clerical forces might have to smoke her. Now he understood everything Father Pat had been trying to tell him. They should have left him to die in the desert.

He sat up as her calls intensified and leaned his head against one of the cool black marble bedposts. He could feel the ache on the entire surface of her skin, even past the near sunlight, even past Marlene's new ring of prayers. If she would only just take in a slow breath through her mouth and let it out through her nose to summon control. She had to regulate her breathing, slow her heart rate.

The more she fought it, got hyped, the more her heart raced, the hotter the burn... A master burn was no joke, but he couldn't afford to reach out to her in a mind lock to explain all that. Whenever they connected telepathically it was too volatile. But not watching her struggle was impossible. Just seeing her so aroused was messing him up. It was lowering his defenses, turning him on, jacking up his control, and when she cupped her br**sts he tried to pull out of the vision.

   
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