- The Darkest Secret
Right here, right now.
He would have to stop her, couldn’t let her—she rubbed his cock through his pants, and his lips parted on a silent groan. He couldn’t stop her, would let her—
“I’ve thought about this, too,” she said huskily.
He licked his lips. You have?
“Oh, yes. You are a beautiful man, and just looking at you arouses me. You’re al I think about anymore.
Al I crave.”
Oh, gods. He was going to spil . She’d done nothing but stroke him, and he was going to spil . Haidee, I—
One moment they were surrounded by the rocky wal s of the cave, hearing the drip, drip of water, the harsh rasp of their breathing, and the next they were encompassed by absolute darkness and utter silence, by sensory deprivation.
“Amun?” Her voice was shaky and soft, but there. Thank the gods, he could stil hear her voice. “What just happened?”
They’d entered the Realm of Shadows, he realized, dread joining ranks with his lingering desire. Final y.
Damn the timing, though.
Amun stopped abruptly. Haidee stumbled into him, but his body absorbed the impact. So good, even then. More than hearing her, he could feel her. They weren’t so deprived, after al . He reached back to steady her, careful not to let his blade touch her.
“What’s going on?” she whispered.
He moved his grip to her wrist and drew her hand to his mouth, pressing a quick kiss into the wild flutter of her pulse. Do you remember what the scrol said?
The scrol from the backpack. She’d asked for instructions on how to successful y navigate the next realm, and the backpack had provided them. Only, the instructions had been convoluted and asinine.
You must see
See through the shadows? Sure. His pleasure. He’d taken the scrol from her as he’d wondered how. A flashlight?
Shockingly, the moment the question had formed in his mind, ink had begun dripping over the paper, new words forming.
All of you
Another convoluted answer. Stil . He’d demanded the backpack provide him with a light source that would push through the darkness, but nothing had fil ed the pack. Which had to mean a flashlight wouldn’t work. Which also had to mean the pack could not provide “al of you.” And that had to mean he already had “al of you,” whatever it was, because the pack was here to help them and wouldn’t leave them in the lurch.
He’d then returned his attention to the scrol and demanded to know what awaited them in the shadows if they failed to find the mysterious, al of you light. Once again, ink had dripped down the tattered, yel ow page.
Then he’d demanded to know what “al of you” meant.
All of you
Funny. Al of him—his body, perhaps?
“We must see. We must use al of you, or us,” Haidee said, words trembling from her and bringing him back to the present. “I stil don’t know what that means.”
Him either, but he didn’t tel her that. Keep your fingers hooked on my belt loop. Whatever happens, we can’t be separated.
“Al —al right.”
When she complied, removing her free hand from his stil burning erection, he released her other one and gingerly started forward. He kept his arms outstretched, hoping to feel his way.
Soon he noticed that as quickly as the darkness had arrived, it was dissipating in spots, leaving little pockets of light. Would have been wonderful, except shadows danced around the light—and those shadows had fangs.
Something sharp sliced into his arm, and he mental y cursed. He shoved Haidee into one of those golden beams, but the beam moved several inches away, returning her to the dark. Something else sliced into his arm. The fangs, he was sure. They must have gotten Haidee, too, because she stiffened, moaned.
What should I do? he demanded of his demon, abandoning thoughts about “al of you.” They’d gotten him nowhere. As Strider would say, the backpack and scrol could suck it.
At first, Secrets remained silent, stil . Sleeping? Now? Or was Amun’s other half stil beaten to the back of his mind with the others? But the demon must have been searching for answers because suddenly Amun knew to fol ow the light. The shadows weren’t al owed to touch—or bite—
anything in the center of those glowing pools.
He watched the macabre dance of light and dark for a moment, enduring several more nibbles, until Secrets locked on a pattern.
Move with me, Haidee. Now! Amun leapt forward, straight into the center of one of those beams.
Haidee remained directly behind him. One second, two, he waited. Again!
They leapt once more, fol owing the light to its next destination. On and on they continued, jumping, pausing, jumping again. For hours. He knew Haidee was tiring, could feel the tremble in her slight form.
You’re doing great, sweetheart, he praised her.
Before she could reply, a thick, cloying darkness once again enveloped them. No longer were there any pockets of light. No more fangs, either. Thank the gods. He stil ed, Haidee pressing into his back. They could rest for a moment, decide what to do.
Secrets prowled through his mind, agitated, and suddenly Amun knew. More shadow-dwel ers were coming. Close…
Be ready, he told Haidee.
Something worse. He didn’t yet know what a shadow-dwel er was, but he knew that much. At least with the total cessation of sight his other senses kicked into hyperdrive.
His ears picked up the whistling sound of wind. Or was he hearing…screams? His nose scented sulfur, and his mouth tasted copper. His palms tingled, sensing a spike of aggression in the air.
Demons, he said. Shadow-dwel ers were demons.
Minions, like the ones he’d absorbed. They approached, and dread detonated inside him. Would he absorb them?
Haidee first, his sanity second, he decided, switching direction. Rather than moving forward, he inched to the side until he encountered the solid length of the wal . He placed himself in front of her, offering what shelter he could.
“What are you doing?”
He wouldn’t lie to her. She needed to know the danger they were in. I told you. Demons approach. I won’t let them reach you.
“I can help you fight,” she replied, far from scared.
I won’t risk you.
A growl of menace sounded beside him, fol owed by another. And another. Haidee stiffened. So did he.
A jumble of thoughts suddenly slammed into his head, each revolving around the taste of his organs. The demons had spotted him, were utterly starved and looked forward to eating every part of him.
And then, suddenly, they were there, attacking from every angle. Amun swiped out with his arms and knew he’d made contact with several of the creatures. Maybe he’d delivered kil ing blows, maybe not, but it didn’t matter how many he fel ed. There were so many, they converged on him en masse.
He threw off as many as he could, continual y slashing, kicking his legs to dislodge those who were chewing through his pants. Like the shadows, they had fangs. Only theirs were a lot sharper. And they had claws, such diamond-hard claws. But at least their evil remained with them, rather than being sucked into him, becoming a part of him.
Despite the rapid movement of his arms, several managed to attach themselves to his biceps. He felt what seemed to be a thousand prickly stings, not just in his biceps, but al over his body.
Warm blood leaked from him, and the scent of it tossed the creatures into a feeding frenzy. They snapped, growled and ripped out hunks of muscle. That quickly, he was losing the battle, weakening, and shit! He didn’t know what to do.
Didn’t know where to find the light, or even how to use al of himself. Unless “al ” meant offering his entire body up as a smorgasbord.
When Haidee screamed, the creatures working their way behind him to take little nibbles out of her, he stopped caring about the light and concentrated on kil ing—however necessary. No one hurt his woman.
No one. And those who tried would suffer.
As rage suffused him, total y, completely, Amun bit back, clamping as many of the creatures as possible between his teeth and shaking like a shark that had final y snatched its prey. They were smal , he realized, and easily breakable, those he held quickly going limp. He spit them out and snapped for more.
Secrets continued to prowl through his head like a caged lion, wanting to hurt, to destroy, and wipe al conscious thought from the primitive minds around them. Amun held tight to his other half, afraid the beast would hurt Haidee in the process. But when she released another scream, this one slightly weaker than the other, proving she was losing blood and deteriorating, Amun’s guard dropped. The agitated demon roared, wrenching control from him and overtaking Amun completely. No longer were they man and beast. They were simply beast.
Some of those minds were indeed wiped, thoughts and hungers slinking into Amun. Absorbed, as he’d feared. His mouth watered as he imagined tasting blood. Drinking…
drowning in the flooding life-force…
The images and urges didn’t last long. They quickly joined the muted chorus in the back of his consciousness.
More, he needed more. As his demon’s hold on him strengthened, red flicked to life in his eyes, glowing, lighting up the cavern and il uminating hundreds of tiny, piranha-like creatures. They had white, hairless skin and pink-tinted gazes that looked as if they’d never glimpsed a single ray of light.
When they encountered the wash of red, they shrank back with a shriek, trying to escape it. Why would—
Al of him, he thought then, understanding. Al of himself, and al of his demon. So simple, so easy. He was ashamed he hadn’t realized it sooner and saved Haidee from her newest injuries.
Another sin to place at his door.
Secrets continued to roar, out loud this time, frightening the creatures into backing farther away, and with the sound, Amun began to talk, unable to halt the words. Only he didn’t reveal devastating truths and vile crimes, the things that had constantly swirled inside his head until Haidee entered his life. He spoke of something sweet and tender.
“I have to tel you something, sweet child.” Ancient Greek, a language he’d only recently heard when inside Haidee’s mind.