Deeper than midnight, p.10
Larger Font   Reset Font Size   Smaller Font       Night Mode Off   Night Mode

       Deeper Than Midnight, p.10
 

         Part #9 of Midnight Breed series by Lara Adrian
Page 10

 

  "It was. " Sorrowful eyes met her gaze as she withdrew from her mother's embrace. "Until you've lost a child - and until tonight, I'd thought I'd lost two - no one can imagine what it's like to feel such hollowness inside. "

  Corinne said nothing, unsure how to respond. She bore her own emptiness, endured her own loss, even now. It was that loss that had brought her home, even more so than her own selfish needs for comfort and the sheltering arms of her family.

  "You must recognize this room, don't you?" her mother asked abruptly, wiping at the corners of her eyes.

  Halfheartedly but glad for the momentary distraction, Corinne took in her surroundings. Her glance traveled over the elegant dark cherry sleigh bed and the antique chest and dresser that still looked so familiar to her, despite all these years. The linens and window treatments were different. So were the walls, no longer swathed in yards of shimmering peach silk but painted a soothing matte shade of dove gray. "This used to be my bedroom. "

  "It still is," Regina replied, a forced brightness in her voice. "We'll put it back exactly as it was before, if that's what you'd like. We can start tomorrow, darling. I'll take you shopping for a new wardrobe in the morning, and we can make an appointment with my decorator to refurnish the whole room, top to bottom. We'll set everything back to rights and it will seem as though you've never been gone a day. Everything can be made exactly the same as it was before, Corinne. You'll see. "

  Corinne was hardly aware she was shaking her head until she noticed her mother's crestfallen expression. "Nothing can ever be the same. It's all changed now. "

  "We'll fix it, darling. " Her mother nodded as if her certainty alone would make it so.

  "You're home now, and that's the most important thing. None of the rest matters. "

  "Yes," Corinne murmured. "It does matter. Things happened to me while I was gone. Terrible things that I need to tell you about. You and Daddy both . . . "

  She hadn't meant to blurt it out like this. Her intent had been to sit both her parents down together and gently walk them through the circumstances of her captivity as best she could. Now she knew there would be no graceful way to convey the truth, as she watched dread creep into Regina Bishop's pretty face.

  The two of them could have passed as sisters in public, both of them youthful looking, the process of aging halted near thirty years old. It was the same for all Breedmates, due to their genetic anomalies and the life-giving power found in a Breed male's blood. Corinne was gone seventy-plus years, but she'd hardly aged. She'd been kept alive, deliberately kept young and viable because that's where her value had been to her captor.

  Regina Bishop saw this truth now; Corinne watched the realization dawn, as though her mother hadn't really looked at her closely until that very moment. "Tell me," she whispered.

  "Tell me what happened to you, Corinne. Why would anyone want to hurt you?"

  Corinne gave a slow shake of her head. "Why would anyone want to hurt any of the young Breedmates who were captured along with me? Insanity, maybe. Evil, certainly. That's the only way to explain the things he did. The torture and experimentation . . . "

  "Oh, darling," Regina cried, the words lost within a choked intake of breath. "All this time? All these years, you've been made to suffer such things? To what end?"

  "We were used for a very specific purpose," Corinne replied, her voice sounding wooden even to her own ears. "The one who took us - the one who locked us in a lightless prison and treated us no better than cattle - needed our bodies to help him grow his own army. We weren't his only captives. He also had another, a creature I'd only heard about in stories Sebastian used to tell Lottie and me to frighten us. "

  Her mother's face drained of all its color. "What are you saying?"

  "There was an Ancient imprisoned in the labs too," she said, speaking past Regina Bishop's recoiled gasp. "Our captor used him for experimentations as well. And he used him for breeding, to father Gen One vampires who'd be raised in service - enslavement, more like it - to the madman who'd controlled all of us. "

  For a long moment, her mother simply stared, mute and pale. A tear rolled down her cheek as the understanding settled on her fully. "Oh, my dear child . . . "

  Corinne cleared her throat. She'd gone this far now; she needed to speak the rest. "I fought every chance I got, but in the end they were stronger. It took a long time, but eventually -

  thirteen years ago, as best I've been able to guess - they got what they wanted from me. " She had to draw a deep breath in order to continue. "While I was in those awful laboratory cells, I gave birth to a son. I have a child out there somewhere. He was stolen from me just hours after he was born. Now that I'm free, I intend to get him back. "

  Something wasn't right.

  As Hunter parked the car in the Order's private hangar at the airport, he kept thinking back to Corinne's reunion with her Darkhaven family. He kept wondering why his predator's instincts were circling back around to Victor Bishop like a hound on a trail that had nearly gone cold.

  Nearly, but not quite.

  Something about Bishop's reaction toward Corinne's reappearance didn't ring true. The Breed male had seemed shocked, certainly, and obviously moved to see the young woman who'd been dead to all of her kin for such a long time.

  As any Darkhaven leader would be, Bishop had been notably concerned about the immediate security of his home and its inhabitants. He'd been cautious and protective, all things to be expected. Yet Hunter had detected something more in Bishop, something that seemed to run deeper than his outward expression of astonishment and relief at Corinne's unexpected homecoming.

  There had been a remoteness to Victor Bishop's gaze as he looked at his daughter. There had been a hesitancy to the man, a hint of distraction in his demeanor, even as he'd embraced her and told her what a relief it was to see her again. Victor Bishop was hiding something. He was holding back somehow with Corinne; Hunter was sure of it.

  Then again, who was he to judge when it came to any demonstration of emotion?

  He had been raised to deal in logic and facts, not feelings. His instincts were honed toward stealth and combat, toward the pursuit and destruction of any given target. In those things, he was expert. And it was those very things that awaited him in Boston - both the pursuit of the Enforcement Agent who'd fled the club in Chinatown and the rooting out and destruction of Dragos and his untold number of homegrown assassins.

  But still . . .

  Suspicion nagged Hunter as he got out of the vehicle and strode toward the corporate jet inside the private hangar. Ahead of him, at the lowered steps of the Cessna, one of the pilots came out and greeted him with a polite smile.

  "Mr. Smith," murmured the human. He and his copilot were part of a discreet charter service kept on permanent retainer by the Order. Hunter knew little about the arrangement, other than that the humans who operated the private jets exclusively for the Order were top of their class and paid a good sum to ask no questions of their typically late-night clientele. "We are cleared for taxi and takeoff as soon as you are ready, Mr. Smith. "

  Hunter gave a faint nod of acknowledgment, his instincts still prickling as he put his foot on the first step. It was then that the realization hit him.

  Something Victor Bishop had said.

  What of your abductor? he'd demanded of Corinne.

  Good God, please tell me the bastard who stole you from us is dead. Although neither Corinne nor Hunter had mentioned any details about where she'd been or who had held her, Victor Bishop spoke as if he knew the blame for her capture rested on a single individual.

  An individual who had the Darkhaven leader visibly anxious. "Paranoid" was the word that sprang to Hunter's mind when he recalled the hurried orders that sent Bishop's guards in a scramble to batten down the hatches of the estate and to hustle Bishop's mate and Corinne into the mansion. Now that Hunter thought about it, Victor Bishop had been acting l
ike a man on the verge of a coming siege.

  The question was, why?

  "Is anything wrong, Mr. Smith?"

  Hunter didn't answer. He pivoted off the plane's staircase and stalked across the concrete floor of the airport hangar, his boots thumping hard with every long stride. He got back into the car and turned on the engine.

  The black sedan roared to life, tires screaming as he punched the gas pedal and headed back to confront Victor Bishop and whatever secret he was hiding.

  Chapter Eight

  Corinne sat with her mother at the dining room table, watching in a state of quiet distraction as Tilda brought out the last of the serving platters from the Darkhaven's kitchen. The food looked wonderful, smelled even better, but she had no appetite. Her gaze kept straying toward the adjacent foyer just outside the formal dining room, to the closed doors of her father's study.

  "I'm sure he'll be finished any moment, darling. " Regina smiled at her from the seat at her right. "He wouldn't want us to wait for him and let Tilda's delicious meal go cold. "

  At the head of the table, her father's chair sat empty. A place had been set for him, but the china and crystal were there only out of tradition; none of the Breed consumed human food or drink. Corinne made no move to begin eating. She stared at the vacant mahogany chair, trying to will Victor Bishop away from his business and out to his place as the provider - the protector - of his family.

  "How about we start with some soup," Regina said, lifting the cover from the large silver tureen that sat on the table between them. Aromatic steam wafted up from the deep bowl. She dipped a ladle in, then served the soup to Corinne. "Doesn't it smell delicious? It's a very delicate beef consomme with shallots and wild mushrooms. "

  Corinne knew her mother was only trying to take care of her, trying to bring some sense of normalcy to a situation that was anything but normal. She watched her bone china bowl fill with savory soup and vegetables and she wanted to scream.

  She couldn't eat right now. She couldn't do anything until she'd spoken with her father and heard him assure her that no one - not even a sadistic monster like Dragos - could keep her away from her child. Until she heard those words and was able to believe it was possible to find her son and bring him back, nothing else mattered.

  "Maybe I should go talk to him in his study," she said, already scooting her chair out from the table and standing up.

  Her mother put her spoon down, fine brows furrowing. "Darling, what's wrong - "

  Corinne walked out of the dining room and across the foyer, hands fidgeting anxiously at her sides with each step.

  As she neared the closed doors of Victor Bishop's private office, a sharp crash of breaking glass sounded from inside.

  "Daddy?" Worry pierced her center. Corinne flattened her palm against the polished wood panels and gave a few raps on the door. They were panicky, hesitant smacks of her hand, a sudden dark fear washing over her. More sounds of struggle emanated from within - a rustle of falling papers, a muffled grunt. "Daddy, is everything okay?"

  She tried the latch. Unlocked, thankfully. Her mother and a pair of her father's Darkhaven guards, Mason and another Breed male, were right behind her as she pushed open the door and stepped inside.

  To her shock - to her utter confusion and disbelief - Victor Bishop had been tossed supine across the surface of his desk, now choking for breath beneath the crushing grip of the large hand clamped down like a vise on his throat. The person assaulting her father was the very last person Corinne had expected to see ever again.

  "Hunter," she whispered, incredulous, terrified.

  Her mother shrieked Victor's name, then broke down into a gusting sob. Behind Corinne, Mason and the other guard shifted warily. She felt their tension, sensed the two Breed males gauging their chances of drawing their weapons and disabling this unforeseen threat. They would never succeed.

  Corinne saw the truth of it in Hunter's emotionless face. The look in his golden eyes was a chilling, lethal calm. Corinne saw in an instant that taking a life was something that gave this warrior no pause whatsoever. He had only to tighten his grip, just a cool flex of his strong fingers and he would crush the life from her father in a second's time.

  Corinne's worry stabbed her, and in that instant of fright and concern, she felt a current of power stir deep inside her. It was her talent rising quietly, the low hum of sonokinetic energy that would permit her to grasp any sound and manipulate it to deafening heights. It prickled in her now, standing at the ready. But she couldn't risk it. Not with her father's throat caught fast in Hunter's grip.

  When Mason inched slightly forward, more willing than she to test Hunter's intent, Corinne held him back with a faint shake of her head.

  She was stunned, confused. What was Hunter doing back here at the Darkhaven? She didn't need to wonder how he got inside. The heavy drapery on the French doors of the study riffled in the wintry breeze coming in from outside. He had entered stealthily, an intruder with a single purpose - a single target - in mind.

  "Why?" she murmured. "Hunter, what's this about?"

  "Tell her. " He turned that merciless gaze back onto her father. Victor Bishop sputtered, tried to claw at the unyielding grasp at his throat, but it was useless. His muscles slumped and his head fell back onto the desk with a spittle-laced, hopeless-sounding moan. Hunter barely blinked.

  "Speak the truth, or I will kill you right here and now. "

  Corinne's pulse was ticking in her temples, fear twisting her insides. She didn't know what sparked the greater worry - the lethal threat to the Breed male who'd raised her, or the dread that was gnawing at the edges of her mind as she looked at Hunter and recognized that he was not a male to act rashly.
Turn Navi Off
Turn Navi On
Scroll Up
Scroll