- The Darkest Craving
Kane ground his molars together. Just how many “mines” were they supposed to have?
“Taliyah Skyhawk,” he acknowledged. She was Sabin and Strider’s sister-in-law, as well as a Harpy known for her cold-as-ice demeanor. “You knew I was coming?”
“Torin gave me a heads-up.”
His focus sharpened on her. Well, okay, then. “You got info for me?”
She motioned to the bartender, and waited, silent, for a bottle of vodka to be slid in front of her, as if Kane weren’t suddenly vibrating with impatience. “This belongs to him,” she said, hitching her thumb in his direction.
Knowing Harpies couldn’t eat or drink anything without stealing or earning it, he threw a few bills on the counter without complaint. “Anytime would be great, Tal.”
She drank straight from the bottle, wiped her mouth with the back of her hand and faced him, her expression impassive. “There’s a Phoenix chasing your Fae. Her name’s Petra, and she’s a vicious little troll.”
Not exactly a news flash. “So, how did you know that?”
“You remember when my friend Neeka the Unwanted was given to the Phoenix, even though she’s a Harpy, to save my sister? Well, little Neeka keeps getting stolen from different clans—everyone wants a piece of her, which is so wonderfully ironic, considering her name. She gets bored between travels and spies for me. I knew the stuff about Petra would be important to you because my sisters told me about your encounter with the Fae.”
Sabin and Strider were such pansy blabbermouths.
“Anyway,” Taliyah continued. “The rest of the information is going to cost you.”
He arched a brow, saying, “How much?” Whatever the price, he’d pay it.
“I want the fortress in the Realm of Blood and Shadows.”
A thirty-thousand-square-foot monstrosity for a few words? A fair exchange, in his opinion. He wasn’t sure his friends would agree. “There’s a problem. The place isn’t mine to give.”
Taliyah drained the rest of the bottle with a grace matched by few. “Too bad. It would have been nice doing business with you, Kane. See you.” She walked away from him without another word.
Coldhearted. As always.
Kane leaped into action, dragging her back to the bar—and she let him. She had more at stake than she wanted him to believe, then. “It’s yours,” he said to her. “The fortress is yours. When do you want it?”
Winter-blue eyes sparkled triumphantly. “Three months and two days from now. No sooner, no later.”
“Fine. I’ll kick my friends out myself.”
“Even my sisters?”
“No,” he said, thinking that was what she’d want to hear. “They can—”
“Deal’s off. Sorry.” Once again she walked away, and once again he had to drag her back.
“Fine,” he rushed out. “I’ll kick them out, too.” They’d want to stay with their husbands, anyway.
She nodded, satisfied.
“Why can’t you stay there with everyone else?” he grumbled. She had before.
“You’re not going to tell anyone I’m there. You do, and I’ll hunt you down. Immortal races will be talking about the things I did to your entrails for centuries.”
Harpies, man. They actually had the strength and stomach to back up their threats, and that was a serious downer when the women weren’t on your side. “What do you need the fortress for?”
“None of your business. Now, do you want the information I’ve got or not?”
“Okay, so, apparently, a Sent One—Thane, I think his name is—suddenly appeared in one of the Phoenix camps a few weeks ago. He threw a big fit, and killed lots of the warriors. One of them was the king. The Sent One was eventually subdued, and a new king took the throne. This new king was finally able to claim the woman he’s been craving for centuries—the dead king’s wife.”
“What’s this got to do with anything?”
“I’m getting there. The new king took the widow as his concubine, but only a few days later, this Petra girl killed her. As punishment, she was cast into the Never-ending. And now that Petra’s on the loose, the new king wants her back. Like, bad. The things he’ll do to her when he finds her...it’s going to be legend—wait for it—dary. Oh, and the concubine was Petra’s sister. Meaning, there’s no line this troll won’t cross. If your Fae is on her radar, she’s in trouble.”
He would get to her first.
The glass shattered in his hand, cutting his skin.
He dabbed at the wounds with a napkin.
He waited, but Taliyah said nothing more. “That’s all you have for me?”
“As if Neeka is that poor of a spy. I was just waiting for you to digest. So get this. Petra was seen buying a key to Séduire.”
Séduire. The kingdom of the Fae, though many humans lived there, located in a realm between realms. Some immortals could flash there, moving from one space to another with only a thought. Most could not. Kane was among the could-nots, so, for people like him, a special key was needed to open one of the invisible doorways.
“If this Petra is following Tinker Bell’s scent, and she bought a key, Tinker Bell must have returned to Séduire,” Kane said, thinking out loud. Finally, he had a location.
William scooted into the seat beside him, saving him from having to answer. The warrior was without his usual random woman (or six) and scowling. “What are you doing here, Ice Witch, and how did you find us? We’re on a boys-only vacay.”
Taliyah rolled her eyes. “I just answered those questions for Kane and won’t do it again for the likes of you. And what a way to say hello, Man Whore.”
So. The two hated each other now. Interesting.
William looked at him, and Kane could see the excitement banked in his eyes. “You’re just going to let her talk to me like that? I should pack my bags and leave you.”
“I should be so lucky.” Kane signaled for another whiskey. The glass shattered as he downed the liquid inside it, and he choked on a shard. Coughing blood, he stood. “I’ve got to find a key. Don’t call me if you need me.”
What are you doing? Disaster demanded. Don’t leave the Harpy. She’s mine. I want her.
Taliyah reached out and grabbed his wrist. He...felt no pain, he realized, and no desire, either. Apparently no one’s touch affected him like Tinker Bell’s. “Remember what I told you.”
Yeah. He remembered. No one could know she wanted the fortress.
“What did you tell him?” William demanded. “You might as well confess. I’ll just bug the answer out of him if you don’t.”
Kane rolled his eyes, knowing he’d be dodging William’s annoying prods for weeks, but walked away before the Harpy could respond and never looked back.
* * *
THE MOMENT HE was outside, Kane whipped out his cell phone. Yesterday, he’d taken a snapshot of Danika’s painting and saved the image as wallpaper.
In it, he was on his knees, tears streaming down his face, hands lifted toward the heavens. A blonde female lay in front of him, a hole the size of his fist burned into her chest. Her face was turned away from him, so he had no idea who she was—and wasn’t sure he wanted to know.
The painting was a problem that would have to wait.
He called every black market contact he had, looking to buy a key to Séduire. He would also need a guide, since he had no idea where to find a doorway. But one call after another proved unfruitful. No one was able to help him.
A sense of urgency drove him, and he paced toward the darkened alleys about a mile from the club. There, immortals would be peddling their wares. Drugs. Sex. Anything and everything. Even if he couldn’t find a key, he could find someone who knew someone else with the contacts to help him.
A thick white fog suddenly rolled in, and he paused. Through the density, he could just make out the shape of a...woman? Oh, yes, definitely a woman. She glided toward him, and he could see she was wearing a glowing white dress. Long, dark hair fell over one delicate shoulder, reminding him of...
“Tinker Bell?” he asked, shocked to his core.
Disaster banged against his skull.
Kane raced to her, tried to grab her despite the pain it might cause him, the unwanted desire, and whatever she’d done to him in the forest, but his hands ghosted through her.
Her eyes were as white as the fog and as luminous as the most expensive diamonds. “Would you please stop calling me that?” she said, exasperated. As freaky as she looked, the normalcy of her voice surprised him.
“What’s going on? Are you...dead?” Even uttering the question made him want to kill someone.
“I’m not dead. I’m simply projecting my image into your mind.”
Relief was like a gentle rain, dousing the budding rage—and the overwhelming sorrow he didn’t want to explore. “Exactly how many abilities do you possess, woman? And what exactly did you do to me in that forest?”
“There’s no time for that. I’m weakening, and must hurry.”
Weakening? In a snap, the rage returned. “Why?”
“Doesn’t matter. Listen, Lord Kane. I know I’m not your favorite person right now, and you probably don’t trust me, but please believe me when I say you’re in grave danger.”
Him. Not her. Better. “More danger than usual? And don’t call me Lord Kane. I don’t need a title.” Not from her. “I’m just a man.” Your man.
The thought hit him with the force of a tsunami, and he fisted his hands. His body was suddenly rock-hard, ready to prove the claim, to strip her and take her as he’d longed to do in the forest. A temptation he found as exhilarating as it was frightening.
Can’t touch her.
But if he could...
What would she do? How would she react?