Nightshade | Chapter 31 of 37

Author: Michelle Rowen | Submitted by: Maria Garcia | 2590 Views | Add a Review

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DECLAN BLINKED AGAINST THE BRIGHT LIGHT FLOODING into the dark room. Then his good eye began to grow wider at the sight of me.
“Jill ... my God, it’s you.”
I was so stunned that for a moment I couldn’t think or act. But then I quickly entered the room until I stood in front of him. His face was bloody, but there were no cuts as far as I could see. Whatever may have been there had already healed and scarred. He wasn’t wearing a shirt and there was also blood on his chest, evidence of healed damage there as well.
However, he was alive.
“Declan.” I reached up and touched his face very gently with a trembling hand. Relief that he was still alive flooded over me. Then I shot an angry look over my shoulder at Matthias. “What the hell have you done to him?”
“Normal procedure for an enemy. He was detained for questioning. Although, I’m told he refused to talk.”
“You told me he was dead.”
“Karen told you that.”
“You confirmed it.”
His expression didn’t change. “I needed your full attention, Jillian. Knowing your lover was still alive would have been more distracting for you than thinking he was dead.”
“Release him.”
“Not yet.”
I looked at Declan again. They’d chained him up like an animal. And all this time I thought he’d been killed in the car accident and I’d been trying desperately to come to terms with that.
“He suffered for nearly twelve hours calling for you, but you never came to him.” Karen must have been laughing at me, knowing the truth the whole time.
I didn’t think of myself as a vengeful person, but I was glad the bitch was gone.
“They told me you were dead as well,” Declan said and pain slid through his gaze. “The accident. I woke up here and you were gone. They said you went through the windshield and you died instantly.”
“They’re liars.”
“I know that now.”
I finished inspecting him for injuries and was relieved when I found nothing that looked major. I took a moment to gently touch his face. More confirmation he was alive and right in front of me. His eye patch had shifted since he’d been chained up so I put it back in place.
“Thank you,” Declan said, then looked past me to glare fiercely at Matthias. “Who the fuck are you?”
“I’m surprised you don’t already know the answer to that.” Matthias entered the room to come and stand in front of Declan next to me. He studied the dhampyr’s scarred face. “I am Matthias.”
Declan’s chains rattled as he strained against them, fury radiating through his expression. “I’m going to kill you!”
Matthias rubbed his hand over his mouth, pondering the dhampyr in front of him. “Let me guess why. Because I raped your mother?”
“You disgusting bloodsucking bastard, I’ll tear your throat out.”
“No, you won’t. You’re chained and at my mercy right now.”
“It’s okay,” I said, my hand on Declan’s chest as if shielding him from the vampire king.
Declan looked at me with confusion. “What the fuck is going on, Jill? What has he forced you to do?”
“Interesting question,” Matthias said. “But there’s no time for games. You need to listen to me, dhampyr, and listen well.”
“Jill,” Declan rasped. “You need to get out of here. Go now.”
“Not yet.” I glanced nervously at the open door, expecting a dozen angry vampires to arrive at any moment. “Matthias, please hurry up.”
Matthias moved me out of the way and grabbed Declan’s face, forcing him to look the vampire king in the eye. “What you were told about me is a lie. I didn’t rape your mother. You are not my son. I may be many things, but I am not a rapist.”
“You’re lying.” Declan tried to wrench his head away, but Matthias held him firm.
“I’m not lying. Your mother must have been taken by Monica Gray so a child dhampyr could be harvested to aid her research program.”
“Dr. Gray didn’t raise me.”
“But she gave you to someone who could, didn’t she? Someone close to her whom she trusted to keep a secret? And she’s continued to experiment in vampire/human hybrids at the cost of several human lives since then.”
“Women who’ve come to her for help.”
“And she helped them by allowing them to come to term only so the dhampyr could claw its way out of its mother’s fragile body. Monica would have clearly seen that it was a monster dhampyr by a simple ultrasound. She could have ended these pregnancies while there was still time to save the mother’s life, but she didn’t.”
Declan’s face remained stony. “It doesn’t change who you are.”
“I’m not your father.”
“I know what I was told.”
“You were told a lie in an attempt to make you hate me. Monica Gray has conspired to destroy me for nearly thirty years. The development of Nightshade is only her latest attempt.”
“She wants to destroy all vampires, not just you.”
“So she might have you believe.” Matthias paced the small dark room. “But I’m not entirely convinced that’s true.”
“She’s a good woman,” Declan insisted.
“Not sure about that.” I let the doubt I’d been feeling up till now show. “She’s the one who gave me the fusing potion rather than the blood cleanser, remember? She didn’t care if I lived or died. You knew that, too, or you never would have tried to take me out of there.”
Doubt crossed Declan’s expression at this reminder.
“You’re the only dhampyr of your age I’m aware of,” Matthias continued. “But there’s another one who’s just been born. A girl. My ... daughter.” He hesitated after using that word. “Monica also has her. A female dhampyr child’s blood is thought by some very powerful and greedy vampires to imbue true immortality. If my daughter’s existence is discovered, she’ll be taken and sacrificed so these vampires can drink her blood.”
Declan shook his head. “You’re wrong.”
“I’m not wrong.”
Declan’s brow was deeply furrowed. What Matthias was saying was getting through to him. Maybe not entirely, but some of it was filtering in. His eye flicked to me, his expression now filled with doubt.
“I believe him,” I said. “I didn’t at first, but it makes sense. I feel like it’s the truth and now we have to do something about it.”
His gaze flashed at me and there was pain there. “He had me chained and tortured for more than a day, while letting me believe you were dead.”
“You’re my enemy,” Matthias explained. “An enemy is rarely greeted in my kingdom with open arms. You’ve killed many of my people, led only by your prejudice against vampires, which has been instilled in you since birth. Your name is well known. However, I had no idea you were a dhampyr.” He shook his head. “Your scars ...”
“What about them?” Declan growled.
“If I didn’t heal as I do, I would look very similar to you from all I’ve been through.”
“Lucky for you, you don’t heal like me. Wouldn’t want to jeopardize that kingly face of yours.” Declan glowered at him. “I don’t know what I believe.”
“It doesn’t matter if you believe everything I’ve told you. The only thing that matters is my daughter. I need to get to her and her mother as soon as I can. Before it’s too late.”
“Carson wouldn’t be a part of something like this,” Declan reasoned.
“Maybe he doesn’t know,” I said, although I didn’t entirely believe that statement.
Matthias reached up to Declan’s shackles and unlocked them, using one of the keys he’d taken from the dead vampire guard. Declan’s arms fell down to his sides and he slumped against me. His body felt knotted with tension and barely restrained violence.
“Are you going to be okay?” I asked, stroking his face again.
He looked at me fiercely. “They told me you were dead. I believed them.”
“I know. But I’m not.”
“Your blood—”
“Still deadly to vampires,” Matthias said. “Everyone here insisted I kill her, but I didn’t. Consider that another mark of good faith between us, since it seems to have triggered a very inconvenient rebellion against me.”
“Can you walk?” I asked.
Declan nodded. “Yes.”
“So you see, Jillian?” Matthias said. “I help you rescue your dhampyr, and you help me rescue mine. A fair trade?”
He sounded so calm, but I could tell he wasn’t. A responsibility he’d never thought he’d have, coupled with being ousted as king by the subjects he’d ruled for three decades—well, that had to be wearing heavily on him.
That he’d tried to make me admit that I wanted him just before revealing that Declan was still alive hadn’t gone unnoticed by me. It amused him to play with my emotions.
Matthias wasn’t a nice guy who’d just helped me rescue Declan out of the goodness of his heart. It was at his command that Declan was chained and tortured in the first place. He was an opportunist and a manipulator. Even still, I didn’t doubt his sincerity at wanting to rescue his daughter before something truly horrible happened to her.
Once Declan grew steadier on his feet after being chained up for so long, he approached Matthias and grabbed the front of his shirt, bringing their faces close together.
“If I learn you’ve lied to me about any of this, I will personally rip off your head with my bare hands.”
“Fair enough,” Matthias replied calmly.
Declan let him go, then turned and searched my expression, carefully touching my neck, which showed the signs of two vampire bites as well as Karen’s attempt to strangle me. It still surprised me that someone who looked as dangerous as Declan could be so gentle.
“Did he hurt you?”
“No,” I replied, my throat tight. “He actually saved my life.”
“And you believe what he’s said.”
I nodded. “I do.”
“We have to leave immediately, before we’re discovered,” Matthias said, an unpleasant edge to his voice. “Some of my people will need time to sort out their issues before I can return. There are places I can go aboveground where they won’t find me.”
“Because if they find you—” Declan began.
“They’ll kill me. Or, at least, they’ll try to.”
“You don’t seem too concerned.”
“I prefer to think about one problem at a time. And the problem at hand is getting to my daughter.” His smile faded and a shadow of desperation slid behind his gaze. “Will you help me?”
Declan considered the vampire who stood before him. Comparing the two men, it looked as if the more muscular Declan would have no problem in a fight to the death with Matthias. However, I wouldn’t want to put money on it. Matthias was lethal and ancient, and I’d seen him kill without any remorse. Both were very different, but very dangerous men.
“I need answers, too,” Declan said. “So, yes, I’ll help you.”
“Then come with me.” Matthias turned and left the room, walking briskly down the hallway. “It’s nearly three in the morning. There isn’t a great deal of time before dawn. This must be finished by then.”
I remembered what Declan told me about vampires and sunlight. The myth was that sunlight would kill a vampire, but in reality, the sunlight caused them to go blind. There was no sunlight underground. It would have made this real estate very desirable. Other than that, from what I’d seen of Matthias’s kingdom, he’d spent a lot of money on making it extremely livable.
We reached a large silver door with a keypad next to it. Matthias punched in a series of numbers and the doors opened.
“This elevator will take us to the surface,” he said. “All other exits will be guarded right now to prevent me from leaving. I’m a very firm believer in having alternate escape routes for just such an occasion.”
Declan was silent, warily watching the man he had believed all his life to be his father. I had no idea what he was thinking right now. But then his gaze turned to me and his expression relaxed a little.
My eyes stung with tears. “I’m so glad you’re not dead.”
His grip on me tightened. “The feeling’s mutual.”
“How adorable,” Matthias said dryly, watching us as he leaned against the back of the elevator as it began to rise. “You know, the three of us could have a great deal of fun together if this all works out.”
I glared at him, but stayed silent.
The way Matthias looked at me was unnerving. Like he knew what I was thinking. Like he assumed I wouldn’t be able to put the moments we’d spent together out of my mind. He was convinced I wanted him. But he’d made me feel that way. It hadn’t been real.
I was the first to look away.
“I don’t understand how you can be near her,” Declan said, choosing to ignore the generous offer of a three-some. “Doesn’t Jill’s blood affect you?”
“Yes, of course. But I already knew about her before she arrived. I was ready to withstand her many ... charms.”
Declan frowned. “How did you know?”
“Noah,” I said, the taste of his name like bile on my tongue. “He’s been Matthias’s informant all this time. He’s the one who gave word that we left Silver Ridge the other night.”
Declan’s eye widened and fury flashed across his expression. “That’s impossible.”
“Don’t blame Noah,” Matthias said. “I had him captured shortly after he began working for Carson Reyes and let him know in no uncertain terms that I would expect answers from him about the research they did there. I never trusted him entirely—which is why I felt the need to test the formula before I believed the claims about it. However, Noah was very helpful when it came to information about Jillian since she arrived in your little town earlier this week. He disagreed with much of what the research program stands for.”
Declan looked stunned. “I can’t believe this.”
“And Karen, the blood servant who hurt you at the gas station the other day,” I said. “She’s the one who was the original Nightshade agent. But she switched sides. She tried to kill me.”
Declan’s eye narrowed. “Where is she now?”
“Dead,” I said. “Matthias ... he saved me from her.”
Declan took a moment to let this sink in. “You’d save a woman who could mean your ultimate destruction?”
Matthias smiled. “I guess I’m simply drawn to blackhaired human beauties who’ve gotten themselves in way over their heads. It’s my weakness.”
The elevator jerked to a halt as we reached our destination. The doors opened into what looked like a cave. The temperature was hot, much hotter than underground, which was well air-conditioned. Karen hadn’t called it a gilded cage without reason. It might not have been fresh air down there, but it was the next best thing.
Without waiting for us, Matthias began walking out of the cave and into the desert. The night sky overhead was a canvas of black velvet studded with stars and a crescent moon.
A couple hundred yards away, there were two cars hidden by beige tarps. Matthias pulled the protective layer off one of them to reveal an SUV.
“Do you know how to jump-start a car?” he asked. “Didn’t have much of a chance to grab the keys before leaving.”
“I’ll handle it.” Declan set to work.
I felt Matthias’s gaze heavily on me again and it made me uncomfortable. He wasn’t close. He was currently twelve feet away from my scent, but it felt as if he was standing only inches from me.
The car roared to life a few moments later, thanks to Declan fiddling with some wires under the dashboard. He was a pro at grand-theft auto.
Matthias approached and opened the passenger-side door. “After you, Jillian.”
As I was about to get in, his hand curled around my waist and he pulled me against him so he could whisper in my ear.
“Just remember my promise,” he said. “This changes nothing.”
I pushed away from him and got into the car. He closed the door behind me.
His promise. I wanted to pretend I didn’t know what he was talking about, but I did. It was the only promise he’d made to me since we’d met.
“One day soon you will come to me again and I won’t have to use my control in order to make you beg me to fuck you.”
The memory was now a distraction I didn’t want or need.
My priorities had shifted. Before I was all about myself—finding a solution to the poison in my veins. As far as I knew, it still could kill me. I hadn’t been stricken by any debilitating pain since nearly dying from the fusing potion. My blood had changed. I didn’t know if there was anything I could do about this or if it was too late for me and this was how I’d be until the day I died.
For all I knew, that day was today. I felt like I’d been on the verge of death since leaving the office on Tuesday—my temp job answering phones seemed like it belonged to someone else’s life now—and my fateful meeting with both Carl Anderson, the parachemist, and Declan Reyes, the dhampyr assassin. It was the moment my life changed forever, and I’d been worried about my own life, my future, ever since then.
But now I was worried about someone I’d never even known about before today. A baby who’d allegedly just been born, whose chance at life was truly in jeopardy.
As Declan drove through the desert, finally bringing the car onto a paved road headed toward Silver Ridge, I knew then that despite who her father was and what might stand in our way in order to get to her, I’d be willing to give my life in order to save that baby’s.
It was kind of funny, actually. I’d never really been the maternal type.

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Great book, nicely written and thank you BooksVooks for uploading

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