Read Beyond the Shadows Online

Authors: Cassidy Hunter

Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Erotica, #Romantic, #Science Fiction & Fantasy, #Science Fiction, #Dystopian, #Romance, #erotic, #Fantasy

Beyond the Shadows (8 page)

Chapter Seventeen

 

Kai sat on the edge of his desk and motioned the ragged prisoner into a chair. He couldn’t allow himself to think of Sarah right now. He glanced at Erik. “Took you long enough to get him in here.”

Erik flushed, and his gaze wavered. Kai sighed. From Erik’s expression, he’d taken time to kick the skinny boy around before bringing him up. Erik had been as furious as Kai when Constantine had managed his attack, but not from the small wound, which would have healed in a couple of days, had it not decided to get infected.

Erik had been enraged that Con had slipped past his defenses, had actually had a chance to get near Kai with the weapon that had nearly cost him his life.

Had Kai been a different man, he would have killed his attacker himself, but something inside him had softened the slightest bit at the desperation in the incompetent kid’s eyes.

He’d put Con in jail and figured the boy would rot there. But then Sarah had come along, and everything changed. His whole fucking world had shifted.

He crossed his arms and stared down at Constantine, who kept his unwavering stare firmly on Kai’s. They boy had courage; he’d give him that. Or maybe he was just stupid.

“Erik, wait outside,” Kai ordered.

His second in command stared at the boy and said nothing.

“Erik,” Kai said, sharply.

Erik jerked his gaze away from Con, flushing again. “What?”

Kai frowned. “What the hell is wrong with you?”

Erik cleared his throat and practically fell over his own feet in his hurry to reach the door. “I think I’ll wait in the hall. If you need me, give a yell.”

Kai shook his head, then turned his attention to the boy. By the time Constantine left his office, he’d know everything there was to know about the boy and, more importantly, about Sarah. “I want to know everything, boy. Start talking.”

Con didn’t even try to look confused. Maybe he thought he could soften Kai’s heart and make him go easier on his sister. “Sampson wanted Sarah. She was just a girl, and after our father was killed and our mother died, there was no one to look after her. No one but me.”

Kai left his perch on the desk to walk around to his chair, unwilling to let the boy see that already his words had affected him. Something about Con’s hopeless, dead way of speaking tugged at him. Or maybe it was the way his eyes softened when he spoke Sarah’s name. “Continue,” he said, once he was seated.

“Sampson took her.” Con swallowed hard. “He took both of us.” He was silent for a long moment, remembering, and when he looked back up at Kai, his eyes were once again the hard, dark gaze of a man who’d given up. “Sampson is a…bad man.” His throat convulsed as, again, he swallowed. “I would have done anything to get her away from him. He hurt her. Every night he took her. She’d come back crying, at first. But after a while…she came back different. Quiet and bruised and destroyed.

“Sampson swore he’d release her if I’d kill you. He swore. And Sarah… Even without her pleas, I would have done it.” He glared at Kai. “I would do it again, if it would save her.”

Those hopeless fucking eyes. Haunted. Like Sarah’s.

“Anyway,” Constantine continued, “you know the rest. I tried to kill you. I failed, miserably.” He shrugged. “I hadn’t really thought I’d succeed. I hadn’t even thought I’d get as far as I did. But I had to try.” Lifting his chin, he met Kai’s stare. “I had to try to save her.”

Kai remembered how he’d been sitting in this very room when Con had rushed in, looking like a wild, crazed kid. Kai’s second of confusion had allowed Constantine to jump across the desk and strike before Kai had shaken off the remnants of a whiskey daze and reacted to the threat, small though it was. He’d grabbed Con by the throat and held the thrashing boy off. Then Erik had come through the door like an incensed bear, a purple lump the size of an overgrown walnut on his forehead.

He frowned. He’d never gotten Erik to explain, at least not to his satisfaction, how the kid had managed to hit him over the head. “How
did
you get past Erik?” he asked now, curious.

Con smiled. “Erik’s mind was occupied.”

“A woman?”

Con hesitated. “Right.”

Kai let it go. Erik had probably been hiding in a corner somewhere getting his dick sucked when Con had sneaked up and knocked him unconscious. Whatever had happened, it would have been long forgotten if not for Sarah.

Erik stuck his head around the doorway, his gaze homing in on Constantine. He looked worried, and Kai grinned. “Don’t worry, Erik. I’m pretty sure I can handle the boy now.”

“You ready for me to take him back?”

“Almost. But this time, don’t bully the kid. Take him back to his cell, and that’s it. Got it?”

Erik frowned. “What?”

“Don’t hurt the boy,” Kai said, enunciating overly slowly and loudly, as if Erik had suddenly become a six-year-old.

“Oh. No. I won’t.” Erik’s look was mystified, then shocked.

And that was when it hit Kai that he was actually protecting Con. Protecting the very boy who’d tried to end his life. Defending Sarah’s brother, even though he’d punished her for doing the same thing. And the kid was her brother.

“Son of a bitch,” he whispered, horrified. He’d become, as the old saying went, pussy whipped.

He stood so quickly he moved the heavy desk back a couple of inches. “Get him the fuck out of here!”

Erik rushed in. “Whoa, whoa!” Like Kai was a wild horse that needed calming. But he went straight to Con, lifted the boy from his chair, and practically threw him out the door. He shot a hasty glance at Kai over his shoulder, then slammed the door behind him.

Kai wasn’t sure whether to laugh, cry, or break something. He was fucked. Completely, utterly fucked.

He realized what hurt him the most was Sarah choosing another man over him. Brother or not, it mattered little.

She was just like
Jemma
. In the end, weren’t they all just alike? Full of lies and deceit, waiting for the chance to kick a man in the balls and laugh as he writhed on the ground in agony.

He worked himself up into a great rage.

Rage was a whole hell of a lot better than pain.

He stared moodily out the window, waiting for Erik to return. He couldn’t go see Sarah himself. He was too furious. At the same time, he wanted to drag her out of her cell and throw her into his bed. He wanted to get her out of holding, away from the foulness and dirt and men.

The talk he’d had with Constantine should have made him feel better, not worse. So why didn’t it? Would he not have done the same thing
were
he in her position? Anything for family. It was the way he’d been raised, so he could perfectly well understand her desire to save her brother. Maybe what pissed him off the most was that Con hadn’t been able to get her out of Sampson’s clutches. All the worthless boy had done was end up in prison. He’d left Sarah on her own against the fucking commander of
Springland
. And had the brother and sister really thought Sampson would honor his part of the bargain?

“Still angry?”

He started at Erik’s voice, leveling the other man with a frown that should have had him scurrying for cover. Instead, Erik grinned. “You do have it bad for her, don’t you?”

“She’s a fucking witch. I should send her back to
Springland
. And I should have her murderous brother executed.”

Erik’s grin melted away like it’d never been. “You won’t be doing that.” At Kai’s sharp look, he hastily added, “You couldn’t live with yourself.”

Kai turned back to the window, his gaze on the rivulets of rain running down the pane. “Fuck it.”

Erik joined him at the window. “What are you going to do?”

Kai shook his head, slowly. “Don’t know.”

“You could forgive them both. I’d take Constantine and train him. He’d be a great soldier…” Erik averted his eyes.

Something was going on with Erik, something Kai couldn’t quite put his finger on. Why did he care so much about what happened to the brother and sister? “He’s our enemy, Erik, and he tried to kill me. A little fact everyone seems determined to forget.”

“Look. Con isn’t going to make another attempt on you. He was only trying to keep his sister safe. To keep her free of Sampson. Come on, Kai. Would you do anything you could to get her out of Sampson’s hands?” He nodded when Kai flinched. “I know you understand that. If the two of them were under our protection—”

“I can’t let them get away with it. We can’t trust him. And she…” He clenched his fists.

“You know why they did what they did.”

“So? Because I know, I should just forget it? Let them out like nothing ever happened? She was going to just take off. Free him and run.”

“Just like—” But Erik cut his words off at Kai’s sharp glare. “I mean, you think that means she cares nothing for you.”

“How could she?” Kai stood suddenly and swiped at the air like it had done something to displease him. “She couldn’t. She could have at least talked to me. But she goes to betray me and free the man who would have murdered me. She might as well have wielded the knife herself.”

“Your pride is hurt. But the girl was only—”

“No. There is no excuse.” He felt the familiar swell of pain in his chest and stomped to the sideboard to pour a strong drink. He didn’t offer Erik one. “She played me like an old piano.”

“She didn’t—”

He turned on Erik, needing to hurt someone. “The fuck, Erik? Whose side are you on, anyway? You’re so determined to defend them, to have me open my arms to them, I wonder if I can even trust
you
. Are you a traitor as well?”

Erik’s face paled. “No.”

Kai’s laugh was nasty, even though somewhere in the back of his red-hot brain was a voice cautioning him not to go too far. “No? You come from the enemy too. Why should I trust you?”

Erik’s pale face bloomed with color. “After all these years. I saved
your
life once, Kai.” But again, he looked away.

Kai tossed back his drink. “Yeah. And I owe you for that.” He shrugged and threw the empty glass into the fireplace. The sound of shattering glass made him feel marginally better. “Just get out of here and leave me to my thoughts.”

“Kai—”

“I’m surrounded by traitors.”

Erik closed his eyes. “One would do much for family, for love.”

“Love doesn’t exist, buddy. Not really.”

“You love her.”

“I want to fuck her.”

Erik shook his head. “I’m due on the streets. The men are waiting. You should come, work off some of that…anger.”

“Get out of here.”

Erik hesitated, then left without another word. He surely understood it wouldn’t take much to give Kai an excuse to lose control and beat the fuck out of him.

Kai groaned and yanked a fresh glass from the bar. “Why, why did I have to fall for
her
? Of all the fucking females in this house, why
her
?”

And why even now did the thought of her cause his dick to harden and his heart to soften? “Oh shit. Fuck her; fuck every woman on the fucking planet. Fuck.” Feeling no better for his profanity-laced words, he threw the second glass into the fireplace.

He would join Erik and the men after all. Find some heads to break. He’d feel better for it. But even as he strode for the door, he knew he wasn’t going to find Erik.

His feet led him toward the jail, his dick throbbing with every step.

He was going to get Sarah.

Chapter Eighteen

 

Sarah
felt
him coming.

She was reminiscing with Constantine when she got the oddest feeling—not quite fear and not quite joy, but somewhere in between. Her body tingled, her stomach tightened, and she lost the ability to take a single breath. Air thickened and stood in her throat like a block of ice, and no amount of swallowing could dislodge it.

Kai.

“Sarah, are you okay?”

Constantine’s voice came from far away, dim and insubstantial. But Kai’s footsteps sounded to her ears like echoing thumps from a herd of stampeding horses. Stallions. Her stallion had come for her.

And she saw him, walking down the hall as if in slow motion, his eyes searching for, and finding, hers.

She gasped, at last inhaling needed air, her hands clenching at the bars. She hadn’t realized. She hadn’t realized how much—how deep…

“Kai,” she called, his name sweet upon her lips. “Kai.”

But when she saw his eyes clearly, she realized something else. He wanted to hurt her. But only if you loved someone could they have the power to hurt you that deeply.

The place quieted as Kai came on, tense silence that hit her like nails struck by a monstrous hammer.

“Sarah,” Constantine murmured.

She meant to reassure him, she did, but then Kai was there and her jail door was clanging open and he jerked her against his hard, hard body. His scent teased her brain, all fresh and clean, soap and sunshine, smooth flesh and maleness. It chased away the grime and unwashed bodies of the prison, the filth and despair that mingled to create a revolting smell the brain shrank away from. His warmth melted her, and his gaze took her to a place where resistance was as useless as a raindrop in a thirsty man’s mouth.

He tangled his fingers in her hair and tilted her face up to his, his gaze a poisoned arrow piercing her, holding her in place with the sharp spike of rage. “
Fuck
,” he ground out, and with Constantine’s helpless threats a tiny sound in the background, he lifted her and carried her from the jail.

He didn’t talk to her, and she didn’t expect him to. She wanted to explain, wanted to tell him how sorry she was, but now was not the time. Now was the time to let him get that rage out of his system. And if he would allow her to, she’d show him he could trust her. But could he, truly?

There was little time for rumination, for which she was grateful. Kai’s every step was a stomp of anger and self-disgust as he took her from the jail. His arms were tight and hard around her, his face an unforgiving, granite-carved rock, his eyes staring straight ahead. His lips—those glorious, full, sexy lips that could turn from a sensuous, dangerous firmness to a tilting grin—were pressed together in a harsh line.

She wondered if he’d ever been this mad.

Kai
Trinder
wasn’t accustomed to his women going against him. Wasn’t used to the women to whom he gave his protection turning on him, putting someone else before him.

Carefully, she placed a hand against his chest, feeling the warmth through the fabric of his shirt. Cheekbone bouncing off his chest, she snuggled into him, willing him to soften.
Don’t do something that can’t be undone, Kai. Don’t make me hate you. Don’t hurt me.

Because if he did, she wouldn’t lie still for it. She wasn’t that kind of woman, no matter how much she loved him.

She closed her eyes and gulped in the sweet, fresh air. “Oh God, I can
taste
it.” Her voice was only a whisper, but he heard her; when she opened her eyes, his gaze was upon her, something she couldn’t understand lurking in the depths.

“I wasn’t going to hurt you, Kai. I just had to try to save my brother’s life. It’s my fault he’s there.”

He jerked his gaze away from her, the rumblings of a growl deep in his chest. Still, he refused to speak.

“I know I did hurt you,” she said, her voice soft. “But—”

“Shut up!” His voice was pleading and demanding at once, his grip tightening enough to make her whimper in pain.

“Kai—”

At last they were inside his bedroom; he threw her onto the bed and kicked off his boots, then tore off his clothes and flung them to the floor.

Oh shit
. “Kai…can we talk?”

His dark, hooded eyes stared at her, glassy and hard. “Clothes off. Now.”

She’d had enough. She jumped from the bed and stood on the far side, hands on hips. “If you’re looking for a fight, you’re going to get one!” Anger surged into her brain, covering the fear quite nicely. She could fight, but against Kai, she wouldn’t kid herself about the outcome. “I want a shower, a hot meal, and a cold drink. After that, if I’m so inclined, I might—”

He stalked her, a wild beast whose hunger was increased by the chase. With narrowed eyes and parted lips, he tracked her. He meant to have her.

A squeal ripped reluctantly from her throat, and she leaped across the bed, her heart beating like a delicate bird’s wings against the cage of her ribs.

Even in the midst of her fear, of her retreat, she took in his glorious body, his cock like a weapon, erect and ready before him as he padded after her. He had all the time in the world and knew it. In the end, she’d be his.

Eyes deceptively sleepy, he walked around the bed toward her. She ran for the door, blindly, her skin crawling as she waited for him to seize her. Weak, she grabbed for the doorknob, but instinct made her dart to the side instead.

She glanced back; he stood at the door, half smiling, but it wasn’t exactly a friendly smile. This smile sent shivers sliding icily down her spine. It also made her toes curl with desire.

He was enjoying himself a little too much.

The room was large, but there was little to block his advance. Like a wolf with a rabbit, he played with her. And when he caught her…

Light-headed, she ran.

She would leap atop and across the huge bed and make a dash to the bathroom, where she could lock the solid door and calm him down with that slight protection between them. Protection, hell. He’d kick it in.

She leaped, and he caught her in midair. Riding her down, he pushed her into the mattress, his heavy weight draped across her back.

“Did you really think you could get away?”

His low voice was silky chocolate. It slid over her skin like hot sin, waiting to be licked off.

“No,” she whispered. “Not really.”

She pushed her face into the covers, biting her lip. From beneath the fear, desire poked out its head, a stubborn flower pushing its way through frozen earth. His body burned through her clothes, his erection a hard line against her buttocks.

Kai…don’t. Oh God, yes…

He lowered his mouth, his breath a whisper of air against the back of her neck. His lips nipped softly, and he slid his tongue across her sensitive skin. Gentle, so gentle. Deceptive tenderness.

She gave a token resistance, unwilling to give in so easily to his mastery over her body. His low laugh sounded at her struggles, igniting a tiny flame of anger and pride, late in coming, deep inside her heart.

Did he not respect her?

She was about to change his opinion of her.

Ceasing her struggles, she gathered calm like a handful of sand. She pulled it to her and let each grain sift through her fingers. Her breathing quieted; the tightness in her chest eased.

She turned her head to the side and rolled her eyes up at him. “I can’t touch you like this.”

He didn’t move. His weight pressed in on her, heavy, confining. “When I’m ready for you to touch me, I’ll let you know.”

The sneer in his voice was loud, and she welcomed it. If she was going to fight Kai, she’d need every bit of anger she could find. He was hurting her, all right, but she was going to give as good as she got. At least, she was going to give it a fucking good try.

“Please, Kai.”

Maybe the softness of his name upon her lips moved him, for he shifted his weight enough to allow her to move. She turned to her back, still beneath him, and hooked an arm around his neck.

“We need to talk.”

“No. We need to fuck.”

She sighed. “Have it your way.”

He lifted an eyebrow and lowered his mouth to her throat. “I always do.”

“That was before me. Now you’re going to listen to what I have to say, or your dick isn’t getting near me.”

He raised his head, surprised. “The fuck?”

“Last chance.”

“Woman—”

She flipped him from the bed. Satisfaction lit her whole world when he landed with enough force to shake the house. Still, he didn’t stay down. Before she had time to do little more than jump from the bed, he was up.

His face held a comical mix of surprise and anger, and had she been a little more reckless and a little less afraid, she would have grinned.

“Come on,” she said, bringing up her fists.

His mouth fell open. “You think to
fight
me?”

“I think to gain your respect. And we
are
going to have a talk.”

His cock waggled, as though he was unsure whether to be turned on by the wrestling to come or turned off by a woman’s pathetic attempts at taking him on.

“I am a man, Sarah. I will not fight you.” He put his hands on his hips as he stared her down, his cock pointing, proud proof of his manhood. “But I aim to fuck you until you scream for me to stop.”

“Afraid I can’t let you do that. Not until we talk.”

He laughed, and this time it actually reached his eyes. “I’m not asking your permission. Come now. This little show has softened me, and I will see that you enjoy yourself.”

She shuddered. “You’re an asshole. Do you know me at all?”

Impatient, he shrugged. “I know you have a body I long to sink into. Take off your clothes. That’s an order.”

“I refuse.”

“Sarah, I’m your protector. When I accepted you, you agreed to do everything I commanded of you.”

“I lied.”

“Yes,” he said, his eyes suddenly dark, stormy. “You did.”

“And that’s why I want to talk.”

“To tell more lies?”

“To explain.”

“Your brother already explained. It changes nothing.”

Her heart stopped, then sped up with frightening speed. “He explained?”

“He did.”

“Then…can you not forgive me for trying to save my family?”

He put a long finger to his chin, his mockery evident. “Yes, I suppose I can. But what I cannot forgive is your betrayal. And you would free the man who tried to end my life.”

“Oh God, Kai!”

“Obviously I mean nothing to you. I’m your protector, and I will decide later what to do with you.” He walked to the foot of the bed. “And before you get an idea to try to sway me with tears and begging, I should tell you,
you
mean nothing to me. I want your body. Nothing more.”

Well, she’d gotten the talk she wanted. It was a start. “I don’t believe I mean nothing to you.” She backed toward the door. “And surely you know I lo—”

He was on her with lightning speed. “Shut up! Do not say those words to me.”

Her back hit the wall hard enough to empty her lungs of air, and he gave her no time to recover her breath before he bent to lift her into his arms. “Now I’m going to do what I set out to do. The least you can do is lie still for it.” And once again, he carried her toward the bed.

But Sarah just wasn’t quite ready to go there.

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