- The Darkest Craving
“Then your wife is a fool. This man is nothing. A no one. Look at how easily we were able to subdue him.”
Evil Overlord thought he had Kane beat, and that’s what Kane had wanted, but hearing that sneer really irked him. How many times had he been left behind during the war with the Hunters because his friends couldn’t risk the damage Disaster would cause? Countless.
Kane had always felt like the weak link—had always been the weak link—and he was tired of it.
He jumped up, swinging his feet through the circle his arms provided, placing his arms in front of him. The moment he landed, he elbowed the leader in the face, breaking the guy’s nose. He threw the weight of his skull into the Fae next to him, knocking the warrior to the side. He kicked out a leg and nailed the male on his other side. As the soldiers stumbled for purchase, he reached out and grabbed the hair of the male in front of him, jerking backward.
The male hit the ground and Kane stomped on his face to get to the guy in front of the line, wrapping his bound hands around the guy’s neck and choking. Everything had happened so quickly, no one had realized what was going on—until then. The others sprang into action, leaping at Kane, but he kicked out one leg and then the other, sending two warriors rearing backward. He spun the guy in the chokehold, knocking his body into the others and sending them flying backward.
“Pain,” he heard.
Just like that, the sharpest of pains tore through him. From the top of his head to the soles of his feet. His knees buckled, and he hit the ground with a heavy thud.
Tinker Bell’s brother? he wondered, remembering what she’d said.
“That all you got?” he gritted.
That earned him a meet-and-greet with the hilt of Evil Overlord’s dagger.
Two soldiers grabbed him by the armpits and dragged him forward.
“Lord Kane beat me up,” one said with a grin. There was blood on his teeth. “Did you see?”
“Best. Night. Ever.”
Evil Overlord—definitely Tinker Bell’s brother—glared at Kane through eyes a slightly darker shade of blue than his sister’s. “The king will order your death, despite who you are, and I’ll take great pleasure in delivering it.”
“Now why would your king want to kill me, hmm?”
“Because you dared lust after the princess’s blood slave.”
Tinker Bell was a blood slave on top of being a servant? What exactly did that mean?
Kane was hauled up a wide set of ivory steps, the railing shaped like a winged dragon. At the top, the guards passed through open double doors of dark wood and twisted iron. And then, Kane was inside the palace. The spacious foyer had a floor of mosaic tiles and was surrounded by life-size statues. Velvet-lined walls were covered by paintings of elaborately dressed Fae.
There was another staircase, and past it, a long, narrow hallway. Chamber after chamber whizzed by. The guards entered the last—what had to be the throne room.
Other guards milled about, interspersed with young girls and older gentlemen. Every person present had white hair and blue eyes, and every one of those eyes landed on Kane. Jaws dropped. Both men and women gasped with a sound he hadn’t heard since his weeks in hell. Rapture.
A few of the braver ladies approached him. Arms reached out. Fingers brushed against him.
Hands, roaming. Tongues, licking. Teeth, biting.
His stomach lurched, and he barely bit back a grunt of distress.
Mine, the demon said.
Yet another blade fell from his body.
He snapped his teeth in warning at the women, and they twittered with excitement.
“Lord Kane almost bit me!”
“You’re so lucky.”
“He’s even more handsome than the scribes claimed.”
Evil Overlord shoved past anyone foolish enough to get in his way and motioned for his comrades to do the same. They tugged Kane along for the ride, stopping in front of the crowd.
Kane studied the area, taking everything in. There were veins of gold running through the walls, the doors, and on the windows were fabrics that appeared to be woven from rose petals. The ceiling arched in the center, and vines teeming with golden flowers grew from the edges.
Below, there was a tiered dais covered in purple ivy, with the smallest throne situated on the highest level, and the three larger thrones centered on the next one down.
Evil Overlord abandoned his men to pound to the top of that dais. He turned with a graceful flourish and eased into the smallest throne, and it took a moment for Kane to compute the reason why the guy would be allowed to sit there.
He was the prince.
So...he couldn’t be Tinker Bell’s brother. Could he?
Dude. This doesn’t change my feelings for you. Kane flipped him off.
The male displayed a smug smile. He thought he had Kane by the short hairs.
He was wrong.
Kane dismissed him, catching sight of a male and two females sweeping into the room from a side door. They eased into the remaining thrones, and it didn’t take a Jenius to know the king, queen and princess had just arrived.
The king was a brute of a man, and surprisingly young. The queen was small and delicate, but appeared to be a few years older than her husband. The princess had the quintessential Fae hair, all-white, with no hint of color, and those endless eyes of blue. Her small, fragile body was squeezed into a bold red gown. The bodice dipped low enough to reveal the tattoo between her breasts, a—he sucked in a breath.
A butterfly. A match to his.
She was...you’ve got to be kidding me. How?
She was possessed by one of Pandora’s demons. But which one? And how had she come to acquire it?
He had a very bad feeling.
Before his possession, Kane had been a soldier in King Zeus’s army, and he’d locked many of the inmates of Tartarus away; he’d butted heads with the rest. There was no way the princess had been inside the prison when the demons of Pandora’s box had been unleashed, and the leftovers distributed among the inmates. So, how had she come to be possessed? And which demon afflicted her?
The same door the royal family had used was opened again, and this time a dark-haired girl was escorted inside. Part of Kane wanted to continue staring at the princess, trying to unravel the mystery of her, but the scent of rosemary and mint wafted to him and his body reacted as if he’d just been stripped and caressed.
Only one female had that scent—and that effect.
He returned his attention to the newcomer with laser focus. She was dirty, bruised and worn down—and his heart almost stopped. She was Tinker Bell.
The urge to go to her consumed him, and he stepped forward. A guard caught him, stopping him from going any farther. He could have broken free of the hold, but didn’t.
She was here. She was alive. Fighting now, before he’d gathered all the necessary information, could get her hurt far more severely.
He took in the rest of her. Her hair was tangled around her arms, all the way to her waist. Grime streaked her reddened cheeks. An apron hung around her neck, and it was in the same shape as her gown. She kept her eyes downcast, fear radiating from her.
Someone would pay for this.
He had to lock his knees to prevent another surge forward. Had to grip his pants to stop himself from throwing punches.
When the males released her, she tumbled to the ground, unable to sustain her own weight, slight though it was. Her knees hit the floor, and as she whimpered in pain, she braced herself with her hands, causing the fabric of her gown to rise, revealing her wrists. Angry red welts marred her skin. She’d been chained.
Tinker Bell. Chained.
Someone would pay severely.
Forget information. He stepped toward the dais, going for the king. This time, he was whacked in the back of the head.
He heard a muttered, “I’m so sorry, Lord Kane.”
Growling, he spun and slammed his joined hands into the culprit’s jaw. Bone snapped—and not Kane’s.
A yowl of agony split the air.
The rest of the regiment spurred into action. Bring it. He had enough violence pooling in his veins to take down a pack of rabid animals.
“Enough!” a voice thundered.
Everyone stilled and quieted.
“Tell me what’s going on.”
Kane’s gaze landed on the speaker. The king. Anger contorted features that promised to unleash death and destruction.
Whatever. Kane would get his information, after all.
The guard on his left bowed low. “My liege, this is Kane, a Lord of the Underworld, and the host to Disaster. He was the one chasing Servant Josephina.”
Behind him, wild murmurings arose. Tinker Bell’s gaze shot up, and landed on him. Her eyes widened, and she shook her head, mouthing, “Run.”
He popped his jaw. I’m here, honey, and I’m not going anywhere without you. Get used to it.
Excitement danced in the king’s eyes. “How we’ve longed to meet you, Lord Kane.” To the guard, he said, “Release our honored guest. Now.”
The bonds were instantly cut away. Kane rubbed his wrists.
“I must ask what you want with Servant Josephina, Lord Kane,” the king continued more warily. “She is a...special charge of ours.”
“Perhaps I wish to buy her.” If she was a slave, she was for sale, special or not. And if he had to go that route to get her out of here and started on her new life, well, he’d consider it a blessing.
“We will give you anything you desire—except her,” the king said. “I would never sell my own daughter.”
The queen hmphed with disdain. “Only a fool would want such an ugly, wretched female.”
Kane scowled at her.
Disaster was quick with an agreement.
Wait. Back up. Tinker Bell was the king’s daughter? A princess? But why was she dressed like, treated like—
Blood. Slave. The words rolled through his mind, and more pieces of the puzzle finally slid into place, little tidbits of information he’d picked up over the centuries drawing together. Tinker Bell was of royal blood, but only partway. Therefore, she qualified to bear the punishment meted out to those in her family.