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Authors: Sharie Kohler

Darkest Temptation

BOOK: Darkest Temptation
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Darkest Temptation
Sharie Kohler

Pocket Star Books
New York   London   Toronto   Sydney   New Delhi

Contents

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

‘Soul So Wicked’ Excerpt

Chapter One

The car rolled to a hard stop beside the house’s perimeter wall. Lily’s head bounced against the headrest, her seat belt biting into her chest. The moon-soaked night throbbed around her.
Alive
. As palpable as heavy fog.

This was it. Where
he
lived. She knew it. Felt it in the tightening of her scalp. The tingling of her flesh. The dull, nagging throb at the core of her. Already, she felt the change. The difference,
her humanity fading
.

Fighting back a swell of nausea, she rotated her still tender arm, gently fingering the deep wound there, cringing at the sticky warmth of her blood.

The man beside her spoke, his voice as rough and gritty as the asphalt burns on her hands and knees. “Remember what I said. If you lose the
gun, use the knife. Lose both, and you’re dead. Nothing else will work on him. Got it?”

She turned to stare at the hunter.
Curtis
. Moonlight streamed through the dirty windshield, limning his narrow features a pearly gray. He reminded her of a rat with his straggly hair and hooked nose. His small, dark eyes darted anxiously around them, as if he expected an attack. “I’ve been hunting this bastard a long time. Fail me and you die.”

She nodded once, wishing he would stop talking and let her get it over with so she could put this nightmare behind her. She recalled his brutality. He had cut down those…
things
without a blink. She was nothing to him. A means to an end. Expendable. She knew what needed to be done.

“Fuck him if you have to, just kill the bastard.”

She flinched at his harsh words despite all she’d been through. All she had seen tonight. All she still felt…

Bile rose in her throat and she shivered. She’d only ever been with one guy—her high school boyfriend. Before he’d graduated and left for Berkeley. Before Mom had gotten sick and Lily’s life had become about working two jobs, paying
bills, playing nurse. About making it through the day, the week, the year. About giving up on her dreams in order to survive.

He chuckled and closed a hand over her bare thigh, sliding moist fingertips beneath the edge of her skirt. “You’re a nice enough piece. You got that going for you. Use it.”

She pried his hand from her thigh, gritting the words, “I’ll do whatever it takes.” And she would. She always had. For her life. For Mom.

He grunted and motioned for her to get out of the car. “I’ll be around. Don’t screw up.”

She stepped from the vehicle, eyeing the stretch of white stucco wall that guarded what lay within from the outside world. A shiver chased down her spine.
You know what lies within. You came face-to-face with it over an hour ago. Watched as it made a meal out of Maureen
.

Gleaming silver eyes, swiping claws, and gore-stained teeth flashed in her mind. She shoved the images back with a ragged breath. Maureen’s short-lived scream echoed in her head. Lily closed her eyes against the stinging memory and sucked in a deep breath.

Clasping a hand over the nasty bite on her arm, she assessed the wall, the headlights of Curtis’s
car warm on her back. Gnats and mosquitoes danced around her, attracted to the light and the aroma of spilled blood—hers and Maureen’s.

Craning her neck, Lily tried to imagine a way over the ten-foot wall and not think about what waited on the other side. The gun tucked in her jacket bumped her hip, offering solace as she walked. Curtis’s eyes burned into her from where he sat in his car.

She could do this. She had to. She couldn’t fail. Couldn’t vanish and leave Mom alone. Not now, so near the end.

Fueled with determination, she climbed up a large oak tree beside the wall, biting her lip against the pain in her arm. Blood ran over her teeth, warm and sweet, but still she climbed. She worked her arms and legs, fingers digging fiercely into rough bark. Fresh blood rose on her scraped palms, making her grip slippery as she dragged herself onto a branch. Inch by slow inch, she progressed further, holding her breath, praying the branch did not snap beneath her weight. Finally, as far out on the bowing limb as she dared, joints stretched and screaming in protest, she jumped.

With a muffled shout, she caught the wall. Grunting, she clung, slippery hands curling around the
edge. She hauled herself up, dragging her body. Chest heaving, shoulder screaming in protest, she collapsed atop the wall. She had done it.

Curtis reversed and turned his car around, the lights swinging wide. She watched the taillights disappear down the hill, the purr of the engine fading as he vanished into the night.

She had made it over the wall. Now she was on her own.

*   *   *

For several moments, she fought for breath, the coolness of the stucco seeping through her, chilling her legs, penetrating through her jacket and silk halter top. The halter top Maureen had loaned Lily when she’d shown up at Maureen’s house wearing a “
boring blouse
”—Maureen’s words. Fresh-hot pain rolled over her.
Maureen
. Dead. Mauled and rotting behind that nightclub. The image flared, a burning imprint in her mind. She jammed her eyes in a tight blink, but the horrible image clung, scraping behind her eyelids.

Opening her eyes, she stared at the moon burning brightly through the night’s clouds, seeing it with fresh eyes. The eyes of someone who knew its curse, understood its power. It would be the end
of her if she let it. Its intense force seemed to flow to her even now, reaching for her,
into
her. The wound on her arm tingled in response.

“The hell with you,” she growled. “You’re not going to get me.” Sucking in a breath, she surveyed the drop down from the wall.

Turning on her stomach, she slid her legs over the edge. Feet dangling, she lowered herself until she hung by her fingers. Arms burning, muscles stinging from the strain, she dropped…

And landed hard, toppling and rolling to her back in a winded pile.

She rose slowly, assessing the grounds around her. Well-tended lawn cushioned her feet. The perimeter lights of a large house with a surfeit of windows winked at her through the wind-brushed trees. The windows gleamed like dark sheets of ice in the night. It was beautiful, a showpiece. But oddly soulless.

She stepped forward, every muscle tense, ready. Do-or-die time. She couldn’t leave Mom. Not now. Not after sticking with her through all these years.

Body taut as a bowstring, she advanced through the trees, hoping they would shield her, offer some cover until the last possible moment.

Fuck him if you have to, just kill the bastard.”
She ground her teeth to block the thick rise of bile in her mouth. She would do whatever it took to win back her life…
to keep her soul and not turn into a monster with a taste for human flesh
.

To be there with Mom at the end.

She thought of tonight again, of Maureen’s screams, of the white-hot pain as teeth ripped into her. That wasn’t going to happen again. Now that she knew monsters were more than make-believe,
more
than the stuff of nightmares, she was ready. Her hand slid inside her jacket’s pocket.

I’m the hunter now
.

*   *   *

Luc crouched high in a tree, more shadow than man, watching the interloper through narrowed eyes. He had felt her the moment she’d stood outside his gates.
Smelled
her. The female heat of her. The freshly spilled blood she wore like perfume. The fear.

Inhaling her scent, faint and earthy beneath the taint of blood, his throat thickened. The old dark hunger rose in him as he observed her weave through the trees.

Silent as the wind, he jumped to another tree, loosely climbing the trunk and perching on another branch with the agility of a jungle cat. He flicked an angry glance at the moon. Bad timing for her. Its lure thrummed through him. The heavy pull alive and strong in his muscles and bones. He would be hard-pressed to control himself tonight. She was a fool to come during moonrise. When he felt so little restraint. When hunger rushed him. His heart raced with predatory speed in his chest.

She was not the first. Others had come. Mortals and lycans alike. Although never alone. Hunters came in groups. Lycans in packs. They hunted him for one reason only. To kill him.

As he watched her, he knew the same purpose filled her, saw it in her deft, determined strides. Felt it in the vibrating tread of her feet over the ground. And he knew he would do what he had done to the others. Destroy her. Leave no trace behind. Those who intruded on his life never lived to carry tales or spread word of his existence. They thought him something else. Another lycan. Only too late did they learn he was more.
More
dangerous.
More
of a threat.

He would destroy her and then move on. Continue.
Cursed and alone. Existing. But not living. Never living.

He had carved for himself the closest thing to peace he had ever known here. Far from his cousin and the army of evil he’d built. Brethren whose taste for blood was not limited to moonrise. Nothing save total dominion over the world would satisfy Ivo. Luc wanted no part of the mad schemes, wanted only to escape from the corruption.

He glanced a final time through the branches at the moon that called, beckoned, tugging him down dark paths. The same moon that had conquered Ivo.
And Danae
.

Luc looked down, cocking his head and watching the female as she moved. He inhaled through flaring nostrils. Hunters always carried a certain stink to them, righteous zeal combined with the odor of stale blood from countless kills. He had never come across a female hunter. Not in Europe. Not in the States. He did not think they existed. He frowned, shaking his head.

Moonlight sifted through the latticework of branches. Her hair, glossy dark under the kiss of pearl beams, fluttered through the wind as she moved. His body leaned forward, eyes following
the path she cut. He inhaled her scent again, her woman’s heat filling him. Earthy, musky dark and ready to mate. His cock grew heavy. Need pulled at the back of his skull.

He growled low in his throat. Time to finish this.
Her
. Before he surrendered to those urgent needs and fell victim to the curse he had spent lifetime after lifetime avoiding. Somehow, he’d clung to his soul through all these years. One tasty female would not break him now.

BOOK: Darkest Temptation
9.15Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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