Passion Untamed

Page 11


"Interesting eyes," she murmured. "Are those copper rings what make them Mage eyes?" She turned and looked up at her husband.
"They are, but some Mage can hide the copper. This one did when she trapped Paenther." The raw disgust in his voice flayed her.
Finally, after so many years, she was among others with souls. Others capable of honor and self-sacrifice. Of love and kindness. But none of that kindness would be turned toward her. Because she was a Mage. The enemy. And the Feral Warriors were well-known to be merciless to their enemies.
Paenther ushered her through the front door and into the warm interior of an extraordinary house. There were luxuriously appointed apartments within the caverns where she'd lived all these years, the apartments of Birik and his sorcerers, but she rarely visited them and never willingly. She'd preferred her own rustic cell, or the woods, where she'd been left alone.
But her gaze focused on the grandeur before her with wonder. The foyer glowed brilliantly with light, nearly blinding her as her gaze took in the beauty of the high, three-story room. Stairs curved upward from either side, while high above them hung a huge crystal chandelier the likes of which she'd never seen. The walls were covered in richly decorated papers, gilt-framed paintings of flowers and animals positioned elegantly upon them. The largest of the paintings was on the floor beneath her feet, a portrayal of a forest filled with naked men and women and all manner of creatures that no longer existed, if they ever had.
Skye jerked at the sound of footsteps and looked up to find three people rushing into the foyer - two more large Ferals striding purposefully, towering over the blond female between them.
"Paenther!" the woman cried, smiling with such relief, Skye wondered if this were Paenther's mate. "We were so worried." But as she started forward, the largest of the men, a man with a commanding face and thick waves of golden hair, held her back.
"Lyon..." the blond complained.
"Easy, Kara. He's caught a witch."
Kara's blue eyes swung to her, flaring with wariness and no small amount of hostility. The female pressed herself back against the big man as his arm went around her protectively.
This man was clearly the woman's mate. Strangely, foolishly, Skye was glad.
The woman's wary gaze returned to Paenther. "I'm glad you're okay."
"Thank you, Radiant."
Holding the woman against him, Lyon reached for Paenther and clasped arms with him, his expression deep and warm and moving. "I'm glad to have you back, B.P."
The man beside him greeted Paenther in the same way. He said nothing, but the relief in his pale eyes was clear. When he released Paenther, he looked at her, his eyes going cold as a snowy day as he plucked at his goatee.
"She's tugging at my animal."
"And mine," Lyon said, pinning her with a look sharp enough to cut before lifting his gaze to Paenther. "The Shaman's on his way. I want her locked up until he gets here."
"Evangeline and Genovia are on their way as well. I want everyone in that car cleared immediately." Lyon's gaze swung to Tighe. "You and Delaney can clear one another."
Tighe grinned as he pulled the dark-haired woman against him, the dimpled smile turning his hard face rakish as he visibly inhaled the scent of her hair. "If I have to."
The woman elbowed him gently, making him laugh.
Lyon's gaze swung to the man with the cold eyes. "Kougar, you and Jag keep an eye on Paenther until we know whether he's still enthralled." His gaze came back to Paenther. "Get rid of her cantric, if you haven't already."
Skye blanched. All Mage were implanted with the braided copper circle upon maturity. The cantric acted as a magic focuser and accelerator. Usually it was implanted deep in the flesh of the buttocks, where it wouldn't be seen except by another Mage. But hers wasn't in her buttocks.
"You can't," she said quietly.
"The hell we can't." Lyon turned on her with eyes filled with such venom she reared back, right into Paenther. His arm went around her middle, pulling her tight against his chest.
A deep, lion's growl erupted from Lyon's throat. "You're ours now, witch, and we'll do whatever we damn please. The death of one Mage won't upset the balance of the natural world." Lyon lifted that hard gaze to Paenther. "Lock her up. I'll call you and Jag when the women get here. As soon as you're cleared, we'll meet in the war room."
Paenther released her, took her arm again, and pulled her down the hall to a doorway, then down a long, long flight of stairs.
"Paenther." She swallowed hard. "I'm not your enemy. If I were, I wouldn't have helped you escape."
His hand tightened around her upper arm. "I don't want to hear it." His voice was like ice.
"I hate Birik as much as you do. More! I hate him more."
He jerked her, making her lose her balance, but his too-tight grip kept her from falling. "Silence."
With a mounting feeling of dread, she did as he commanded. Reaching the bottom of the stairs, he led her down a long passage lit by electric sconces hung on the walls. They walked past a dark room before Paenther led her into a large, well-lit room with ultramodern workout equipment at one end.
She wondered if they'd rigged up the exercise machinery to turn this into some kind of torture chamber, but Paenther never slowed as he pulled her through the large room until he reached a glass wall at the far end. Set into the glass was a door.
Paenther pushed her through into a long, narrow passage that appeared to have been cut out of the rock. The stone was cold beneath her feet. Finally, the passage opened to a wide, rustic prison block, each cell separated from the next by thick stone walls.
Her stomach cramped at the realization that this was to be her fate. For how long? Would she ever again see the light of day?
So many times, Birik had imprisoned her. But she'd always known all she had to do to be set free was cooperate. The power to free herself had always, ultimately, been in her hands.
This time, nothing was in her hands. Her breath caught on a hard lump of fear. Revenge, he'd said. She was used to pain. But taking the abuse from this man, who she knew possessed kindness, threatened to break her. Her body began to tremble.
Paenther pulled her to a halt in front of one of the cells and opened it. "Leave us," he said to the two men who'd followed them down.
"No can do, Hiawatha," Jag drawled.
Paenther glared at him. When he spoke, his voice was hard. "Go back to the gym and shut the door. Both of you. The witch and I are going to have a...discussion. And I won't have an audience."
If his words hadn't told her he meant to hurt her, the tightening of his grip on her arm did. Her mouth went dry, and it was suddenly all she could do not to try to fight her way loose from his hold.
But she'd never get loose, never get away. And the punishment would only be worse if she tried. That was the way it had always been with Birik.
The air didn't seem to want to go into her lungs.
The pale-eyed man slapped Jag on the back. "Come." To Paenther he said, "Don't kill her. Yet."
As the two huge males walked away, Skye fought the tears that tried to clog her throat. It was so much harder taking cruelty from a man who'd once been kind. Lucian's betrayal had broken her as Birik's attacks never had.
Paenther released her arm and pushed her into the cell.
Skye whirled to face him, desperate to try to make him understand. "Please, Paenther. Nothing I did was because I wanted to. Except free you."
"Shut up, Skye."
"He controls me. I don't have a choice. I never have a choice!"
He grabbed her and pushed her around, pressing her face-first into the rock wall until the cold stone bit into her cheek.
"Shut up!"
She felt his hand tugging at the hem of her dress and closed her eyes against the burn of tears. He grabbed her buttocks, his fingers digging into her painfully, over and over, first one side then the other.
"Where is it? Where's your cantric?" His hands began to grip her thighs, bruising her.
"It was embedded in my heart when I was eight."
His hand stopped abruptly. "That's impossible."
She swallowed hard, remembering the words of his chief. Get rid of her cantric.
"Paenther, please."
He tugged and pulled at her wrists, and suddenly her arms were free of the binding. Gripping her shoulders, he turned her around roughly, his eyes hard as flint.
"Take off your dress."
She stared at him. He wasn't going to kill her. Not yet. Of course not, she thought bitterly. He'd yet to take his revenge.
With shaking hands, she reached for the hem, pulling the fabric up and over her head in a single tug. Nudity didn't bother her. She was far too used to it. Instead of tossing the dress to the floor, she pulled it against her chest like a shield. No, nudity didn't bother her. It was why he wanted her naked that terrified her. What punishment did he intend to visit on her body?
Her heart began to pound in hard, erratic thuds. Trembling, she met his hard gaze.
Fire burned in his eyes. And the promise of pain.
As many times as Birik had hurt her, she knew this would be worse. Because Birik was without a soul. He got no more pleasure from hurting her than he did anyone else. In a strange way, it wasn't personal. And because of that, the pain he inflicted never touched her mind or her heart.
But Paenther wasn't like Birik. She knew he had kindness in him. She'd felt it. Been warmed by it.
Whatever punishment Paenther chose to mete out would be very, very personal.
When he hurt her, she was going to bleed all the way to her soul.
Chapter Eight
"It's payback time," Paenther snarled. Leaving Skye in the cage, pressed against the wall with her dress clutched to her chest, he grabbed a small coil of rope off the wall. He was so damned mad at her. He knew what she was! Yet she simpered and pleaded and tugged at his sympathies. Playing him. She was still playing him! "It's time I rode you as you rode me, witch. But you like it bloody, don't you? I wonder how you'll like it when the blood's your own."
With the knife he'd taken from the farmhouse, he started cutting lengths of rope and tying them to the eyebolts fastened at the base of the walls at regular intervals for just this purpose. When he'd tied the last length, he rose and stared down at her as she stood covering herself in a pretense of modesty, trembling.
Creamy shoulders sloped from a long, graceful neck. A swell of bare hip peeked out from behind the dress, heating his blood.
"Quit pretending, Skye. I know what you are. Lie down. It's time you felt what it's like to be the one staked, your legs spread for another's pleasure."
Goddess, the thought of parting those silken legs, of finally, finally, being able to touch her fully, sent blood throbbing deep and low.
"I know what it feels like." Her voice vibrated with fear and echoed with hollowness. "Those chains weren't put on that rock for you."
His gaze snapped to hers as her words registered. That rock where he'd lain, strapped for six days. Her dresses hanging on the wall as if that miserable bit of rock were her cell and not his.
Shit. He would not feel sorry for her! It was what she wanted. Just an act.
But as he stared at her, at those copper-and-blue eyes, he'd be damned if he could see any cunning. She had to be enchanting him, because all he saw in her was a terrible bleakness. And it chilled him to the bone.
What if I'm wrong about her?
As she watched him, a sheen of tears began to glisten in her eyes. Tears just like the ones that had streaked Ancreta's cheeks as she'd run to him that day, her gown torn, her heavy breasts on full view. She'd kept her eyes downcast so he wouldn't see the Mage copper in them, but those tears on her cheeks had slain him. And gotten him captured.
Tears. Just like Ancreta, Skye was playing on his sympathies.
"Lie down!"
Her jaw clenched, her head jerking in a tiny, defiant movement.
He closed the distance between them, pressing his hands on the wall on either side of her head. Her chest heaved, her body shook, but she didn't plead, she didn't cower. Instead, she closed her eyes on a hopeless sweep of dark lashes. "I'm not what you think."
Her scent enveloped him, stirring his blood. He wanted her beneath him, yet everything inside him demanded revenge on her for enthralling him, for leading him into that hellhole. For making him feel sorry for her so that he'd help her...use him.
A single tear broke free from the cage of her lashes, and she quickly brushed it away with her bare shoulder. The light caught the teardrop. Somehow that single, glistening drop on her perfect shoulder damned him.
He fought the tug of pity, that misguided need to protect her all over again.
It was a lie!
He grabbed her face, making her look at him. "Open your eyes, witch. I bought this act once before. The poor little victim. I know better. Open your eyes!"
To his surprise, her lashes flew up, temper heating the tears. "I don't know what you want from me! How could my fear of you possibly be an act? Even if I were as soulless as you think I am, I'd be afraid right now. Any woman would. I can't fight you."
"Yet you defy me when you refuse to lie down."
She looked away, then back, glaring at him even as her bottom lip began to quiver. "I won't help you rape me."
His stomach cramped. Never, in more than four hundred years, had he taken a woman against her will. He'd killed others for doing just that.
Dammit. She was a witch! Just like Ancreta.