Read Dark Desire Online

Authors: Lauren Dawes

Dark Desire

BOOK: Dark Desire
4.93Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads
About
Dark Desire: 

The time of Odin is over. The Aesir gods now live among the humans in their bustling modern cities. Their brutal dominion over the other gods and their eradication of the entire dark elf race may have ended, but their actions have not been forgotten.

 

With the death of her brother Adrian still haunting her, Taer dreams of getting revenge on the dark elf responsible for her brother’s murder. But when the one person she’s depending on to train her in the art of weaponry refuses to help, she has no other choice but to get instruction from the most unlikely of people. Driven by an undeniable desire, Taer finds herself learning more than just how to fight.

 

Eir, the goddess of healing, has had her spirit destroyed with the death of her twin at the hands of a deranged god. Still struggling with her loss, she is merely surviving each day. That is until a chance encounter with a human shows her that her broken heart can be mended in the simplest of ways.

To Phil; for all the usual reasons, and to Evie; for waiting that little bit longer.

Prologue

The concrete walls seemed to shudder with the motion of a subway train rolling past in a neighboring tunnel, shaking some of the dust and grit from its resting place. Loki watched from his dark, dank corner of the room, whiskers twitching as his beady eyes followed the body of the demigod he had used to carry out his plans falling to the cold, hard ground. The movement stirred some of the bloody feathers littered around the room, small eddies sending them skittering across the concrete floor. All around Loki was his destruction of their perfect world—the bodies of the Valkyries he had killed still stacked up in one corner.

Loki’s timing had been perfect: he’d escaped the body at exactly the right moment. If he had left a microsecond later, his spirit would have been trapped, and he would have perished—just as the demigod had—fatally wounded by Bryn’s sword.

He had brought down a reign of terror fit for any Edda, and he would have continued and had his revenge on the god Odin, had it not been for the Mare, Korvain, who was staring down at an unconscious Bryn as she clutched her golden blade to her chest, her knuckles stark white.

Korvain had been the one to discover Loki’s hiding place, his place of torture. He had been the one to bring Loki’s plot for revenge to an end. But Loki would not stop here. He had not suffered in that cave for longer than he could remember simply to walk away from his prize … and now he had two targets.

The clang of the metal brought Loki’s attention back to where it should have always been. Loki watched as Korvain eyed the blade in Bryn’s hand warily before whispering gently in her ear, trying to wake her. Loki could practically taste the metallic hum of blood on the back of his tongue. Bryn had lost a lot of that vital fluid, but she was still immortal. She would recover.

The Valkyrie’s eyes peeled open sluggishly, and she sucked in a sharp breath. Blinking rapidly, she looked up into Korvain’s eyes for a moment before glancing down. Her fingers tightened around the hilt of her sword.

“Korvain,” she croaked. “I need you to get my Valkyries out of here.” She raised a shaking hand to her neck, brushing her fingers against her tattoo. Loki looked on as the sword in her hand seemed to shiver and disappear. “Take Eir out first,” Bryn added, cautiously sitting up.

The cuffs and collar Loki had placed on the Valkyrie to keep her from fading fell to the floor with a sharp
clang
that made him cringe, his hypersensitive rodent ears ringing with the sound.

“I won’t leave you here,” the Mare snarled in reply, his expression darkening, and if Loki weren’t mistaken, there was also something else there, hiding behind his dark, shadow-filled eyes.

Bryn shook her head. “I’m not going anywhere. But Eir doesn’t need to see her sister like that for any longer than she already has. Take her away from here.” When the Mare hesitated, Bryn added, “Please.”

Loki looked over at the only other surviving Valkyrie—Eir, the goddess of healing—and he would have smiled if his temporary rodent body had the lips to do it. Eir was still clutching the body of her dead sister to her chest, still rocking the corpse back and forth, back and forth, as if that would bring her back from Hel’s frozen doorstep.

Korvain’s growl drew Loki’s wandering eyes. He was bending down to pick Bryn up, cradling her close to his chest.

“Put me down, please. I need to get to Eir,” Bryn said, squirming weakly in the Mare’s arms. After a seemingly long internal debate, Korvain begrudgingly did as she asked and placed her gently on the floor. Bryn collapsed at Eir’s feet, crawling towards the woman. Loki scurried out of his hiding spot for a moment to get a better vantage point. Bryn looked up at Korvain, and without a word he gently took Eir’s sister from her hands. The Valkyrie didn’t even fight him.

“Eir, we need to get out of here,” Bryn murmured soothingly, rubbing the other woman’s arms. When Eir nodded, Bryn stiffly got to her feet with Korvain’s help. Hooking her hand under Eir’s arm, Bryn said, “I need you to stand up for me, okay … That’s it … Good, now lean on me for support.”

“What about Kristy?” the woman asked with a cracked voice, slouching against Bryn.

“We’ll come back for her. We’ll come back for all of them. But right now, we have to get out of here. Come on,” she urged, directing Eir towards the metal door. Korvain stalked behind them, his malice polluting the air.

When his rat senses couldn’t pick up any other hints of their presence, Loki reverted to his true form. At seven feet, his heritage as a Jotunn could be seen by anyone bothering to look, but it was his pale hair and green eyes that had helped him to assimilate into Aesirean society so easily.

Popping the vertebrae in his neck, Loki took one final look at the scene of the first battle in the war against Odin.

“Soon, blood brother. Soon,” he whispered into the cool air. Closing his eyes, Loki faded from the tunnel, his new plan already developing.

Chapter 1

One month later …

Taer didn’t want to open her eyes.

She knew what she would find if she did, and she wasn’t ready to experience it again. A deep, disembodied gasp finally forced open her eyes. All she could see was red. It was everywhere, pooling on the floor beside her head, splattered on the walls. Tacky, warm blood covered her face and neck.

The desperate sound of gasping made bile—hot and vitriolic—creep up the back of her throat, burning the delicate skin. Swallowing it back, Taer rolled her eyes around, trying to make sense of the scene she once again found herself in.

The gasping became louder then, and she recognized it for what it was …

Hopelessness.

Suffering.

Death.

Focusing all her energy on her heavy limbs, Taer willed her fingers to move. She could feel a fine sheen of sweat on her forehead, but her hands remained motionless, and the gurgling breaths grew louder—sharper. Taer let her eyes roll in their sockets, hoping to catch a glimpse of whoever was responsible for the desperate noise.

The sound ripped through her once more, tearing her heart into shreds with every beat that it took, because she now knew who was making those fraught sounds.

Adrian.

Taer wanted to scream out to her brother, but her body betrayed her and her tongue lay useless in her mouth.

Adrian.

He was in agony.

He was dying.

“Adrian.” His name was barely a whispered croak from deep down in Taer’s throat, but she cringed away from the sound.

She was to blame for his death. The crushing despair she felt overwhelmed her, threatening to suffocate her. How could she have let it happen? Tears leaked from the corners of her eyes and the back of her throat burned.

How could she have killed her brother?

“Taer, wake up.”

Taer woke with a loud gasp. Blinking rapidly, she looked around the darkened room.

“Are you okay?” a woman asked. Still struggling to breathe, Taer managed to focus on the blonde-haired, blue-eyed Valkyrie sitting beside her on the bed. She knew this room—she had woken up in it for the first time more than a month ago, on the day her life had changed forever. She knew the Valkyrie, too—it was Eir.

Eir brought her hands to Taer’s chest, her palms beginning to glow slightly. With a relieved groan, Taer slumped back into the pillows, feeling the tightness in her chest loosen.

After what felt like forever, Taer’s breathing eased.

“You were having another nightmare,” Eir said, repositioning her hands over Taer’s throat. The near constant pain that lingered there eased just as the pain in Taer’s chest had. Despite Eir doing her best to heal the muscular and arterial damage to her throat, Taer still suffered from pain. She didn’t know how much longer her body would need to heal the slash to her throat that she’d received from her brother’s former guild master, and in a way she never wanted it to go away.

“Do you want to talk about it?” the Valkyrie asked, flexing her hands into small fists a few times before placing them in her lap.

“No,” Taer replied sharply. As she tried to sit up the sheet fell from her body, and looking down she noticed her tank top was soaked with sweat. Her nightmares were getting worse.

She knew what the Valkyrie was trying to get her to do, but she wasn’t ready for that yet. If she spoke about Adrian, she would break down and there was no way in hell she was going to cry over the death of her brother.

“I’ll be fine,” she said defensively when Eir looked at her with concern.

Eir nodded and returned to the bed on the other side of the room. She was one of Bryn’s Valkyries, and also the goddess of healing. Taer had been sharing her room since Korvain had brought her to the Valkyries to be healed. And with her house now nothing but a charred ruin thanks to the same guild master who had murdered her brother in cold blood, there was nowhere else she could go. She had no home. No brother. Nothing …

Taer had her tank top over her head when Eir spoke again. “I understand, you know.” Her words were barely audible, and in the cocoon of cotton surrounding Taer’s head, she couldn’t be absolutely sure that she’d heard her right.

Taer bit her tongue. She had to remember that Eir had lost someone too. Her twin, Kristy, had been killed in front of her by the god Loki. Although she must have been suffering just as much as Taer was, Taer couldn’t find it in herself to give a fuck right now.

Pulling another tee over her head, Taer’s eyes flickered over to the Valkyrie as she sat with her knees pulled up to her chest. Her loose blonde hair curtained the side of her face, making it difficult for Taer to see her expression and gauge her emotions.

Taer knew she should have said something comforting, but she had nothing but rage and sadness in her. She didn’t even think it was possible to comfort someone else when she was still so messed up inside. Turning her back on the Valkyrie, Taer stripped the sweat-soaked bottom sheet from the bed and went to get another.

After making up her bed, Taer settled back on the mattress, letting the pillow cushion her head. She was afraid to close her eyes, afraid to dream of her brother again. Although she hadn’t actually seen his death, Korvain had told her that he had died lying sprawled across her chest. Sometimes, she thought she could feel his blood soaking into her skin—and not always when she was dreaming.

*

“Taer!” Korvain barked. “Are you even listening to me?” Taer withdrew from her dark thoughts and tried to focus on her brother’s best friend. The glowing ember of her anger flared at his provocative tone.

“Yeah, I’m listening,” she replied defensively, keeping her eyes on his face.

The Mare folded his arms over his muscular chest, stretching his shirt across his wide shoulders and firm pecs. She had no fucking idea what he’d been saying. Her thoughts had been consumed with finding ways to get to Darrion. It had been a month since Adrian’s death, and she still hadn’t been able to find out where the bastard was holed up.

“All right, what did I just say?” Korvain asked. When all Taer did was stare impassively, his lips turned up into a smug smile, the tips of his enormous fangs peeking out. He moved towards her without warning, sweeping her legs out from beneath her.

She landed heavily on her tailbone, the thin blue mats covering the bare polished concrete floor of
the Eye
doing nothing to cushion the impact. Taer pressed her lips together to muffle the small grunt from escaping her throat. “Sonofa—” she started to growl under her breath as she moved to get up, but when the air shifted around her, she looked up and the words turned to ash on her tongue.

A shiver ran down her spine like a knife being wielded by an expert hunter skinning his latest kill. Korvain towered over her, and his violent eyes were all she could see. A vicious, raw sound came from his throat, setting the hairs at the back of her neck on end. Her instinct to get away from him was warring with her angry desire to stand and face him.

“Pay attention, Taer! I was teaching you how to avoid getting caught with a leg sweep. And if you’d been listening,” he hissed, “you would have known how to evade that last attack.”

She stood back up, maintaining eye contact with the male. She had to crane her head back a little for that, but she wasn’t going to give him the satisfaction of winning this argument.

There was a time—not too long ago—when she would have been embarrassed to look at him, especially after she’d practically thrown herself at him and told him that she loved him … but things were different now. Adrian was dead, and she was going to kill the bastard that had put her brother in the ground.

Korvain must have seen the renewed determination in her eyes, because his thickly muscled arms wrapped around her back, dragging her against his hard chest. Taer could feel her eyes beginning to burn, could feel those traitorous tears threatening to spill over. Biting the inside of her cheek, she held them back. She would
not
cry. She would not cry in front of Korvain.

“We’ll get him.” He pulled away, forcing her to meet his eyes. “I swear on your brother’s life that we will, Little—” Korvain shook his head. “
Taer
,” he corrected.
His eyes churned with pity. “You’ve been forced to grow up, Tay.”

Taer felt his words hit her, rippling through her blood as their meaning struck home. She would never be his “Little Fox” again.

She had lost her innocence. She’d had her baptism in blood. She had crossed over to the other side and returned—bloodied and bruised—looking at the world in a whole new way.

He let her go and turned around. When he spoke again, his voice was painfully soft. “I lost my best friend when your brother died. He made me promise I’d look after you if anything happened to him, and dammit, Tay, I won’t lose you to your anger and grief.”

He turned towards her again, clutching her tightly by the upper arms, forcing her to look into his bottomless black eyes. “Your training is my top priority right now.”

She wanted to scream that her top priority was killing Darrion, but she didn’t need to say a word. Korvain could read the determination flowing off her body.

“The reason we’re training is so that when the time comes, you’ll be able to finish that mother-fucker off by yourself.”

Korvain released her arms, running both of his hands through his short hair. “We should stop for today,” he muttered. “You’re upset, and I’ve probably pushed you too far.”

“No!” she replied, her voice hoarse. “I need to keep going,” she explained when Korvain raised a dark eyebrow at her.

“We’ve been training for hours, Tay. You need to get some fuel into your body and you need to rest.”

“I don’t need food. Or sleep. What I
need
is to learn how to kill Darrion.”

He turned his stormy eyes to her. “I know you’ve been having nightmares, Taer, and believe me I see the fucking irony in that.” Taer started at his words, but she chose not to acknowledge his assumption. The last thing she needed was to have him worrying about her even more than he already was. “If your body isn’t working at one hundred percent, then neither is your brain. I need you sharp, so when I say we’re done, guess what? We’re fucking done.”

“Fine,” Taer conceded. “Give me an hour to get my head on straight. I’ll eat. I’ll rest, too, if that’s what you want, but after that we train until the club opens. Deal?”

Korvain’s shadowed eyes narrowed on her face. “If I see you eat and rest in that hour, I’ll continue to train you,” he bargained.

Taer swallowed her irritation, but from between her clenched teeth, she said, “Deal.” Like hell she was going to close her eyes, though. She followed him up in the lift to the apartment they now shared.

“Sit. I’ll make you something to eat,” Korvain commanded, pulling things from the fridge and setting them out on the bench. Taer bit her tongue and did as she was told. A minute later, a haphazardly slapped together turkey on rye was placed in front of her. Taer forced herself to eat it while Korvain watched on.

Seemingly satisfied, Korvain walked away, stripping the shirt over his head as he did. Taer caught the flash of black ink running the width of his shoulders. It was his contract with Darrion, inked with blood, and she wondered whether it was still active considering Darrion was currently off the grid.

“I’m going to take a shower,” he called over his shoulder. “And Tay?” he added. She turned to look at him. “Get some sleep. You look like shit.”

*

Eir’s eyes opened, her body waking slowly from the small nap she’d taken before having to go work her shift at the hospital. Although she didn’t feel like it, she knew she had to go. She had to maintain some sort of semblance of her life before her twin sister had been ripped from her by a deranged god.

The door to her room was slightly ajar, allowing Bryn and Korvain’s faint whispers to filter through.

“How’s Taer doing?” Bryn asked, her voice gentle. The leader of their dwindling little group had taken the young Mare into her care almost immediately when Korvain had brought her to be healed after Darrion’s attack.

“She’s doing all right,” the Korvain replied, sighing. “I just wish she’d talk to me about it.”

There was a long pause.

“Do you want me to talk to her? Or maybe Eir could? She lost her sister, so maybe they could help each other.”

Eir squeezed her eyes shut, but a solitary tear slid free. Kristy. Gods, she felt so hollow inside with her twin gone. Watching the light fade from her sister’s eyes had killed something inside of her.

They’d given Kristy and the other Valkyries the funerals they’d deserved the day after Korvain had rescued her and Bryn from Loki, but it would take a long time before Eir could forget. Grief didn’t abide by time. She could only imagine the pain Taer must have been going through, too.

Korvain’s coarse, rumbling voice drifted back into her bedroom. “I’ll ask her.”

Eir pushed the light blanket from her body and sat up. Picking up the small, silver fob watch from her bedside table, she noted the time. She had about an hour and a half before her shift at the hospital started.

Kicking her legs off the side of the bed, Eir sat on the edge of the mattress and finger-combed her blonde hair. Braiding it with practiced fingers, she secured the end and got up, stretching out her back until her muscles felt loose.

Eir crept to the door, listening carefully to hear where Korvain and Bryn were. Eir liked Korvain—now she’d got over the initial shock that he was actually a Shadow Walker. And Bryn seemed happy for the first time since she’d left Odin’s service.

When the apartment door opened then closed, Eir padded out into the hallway. A touch to her shoulder from behind stopped her, spinning her around.

“Eir,” Korvain said, taking back his hand and folding his arms across his chest. Eir took a small step back, that old fear rearing its ugly head. Korvain noticed the subtle shift in her behavior and loosened his arms, letting them drop to his side. He made a show of displaying empty hands.

“Sorry,” she replied, taking a deep breath and shrugging. “Old habits.”

BOOK: Dark Desire
4.93Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

Carola Dunn by Mayhemand Miranda
Blackout (Darkness Trilogy) by Madeleine Henry
Fading by Blair, E. K.
Believing Again by Peggy Bird
Ghouls Gone Wild by Victoria Laurie
The Devil's Gold by Steve Berry