Deeper than midnight, p.13
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       Deeper Than Midnight, p.13
 

         Part #9 of Midnight Breed series by Lara Adrian
Page 13

 

  Unable to deny the truth in that statement, Dante felt his jaw tighten to the point of pain. Chase was fucked up. He knew it as soon as he'd heard what happened in the chapel with Elise. The fact that he had skipped out on the Order was just another nail in a coffin of his own making. But Dante wasn't ready to give up on him.

  He had to believe that Harvard wasn't lost completely. Maybe if he could find him, talk some sense into him. Give him a wake-up call about the shit that had gone down at the compound a few hours ago and let him know that he was needed.

  And if all those options failed, Dante was ready and willing to kick Harvard's selfdestructive ass from now into next week.

  "He went this way," Dante said. "He's got to be back here somewhere. "

  Kade lifted his chin, gesturing toward the open railcar. Dante nodded. It was about the only place Chase could be hiding, although Dante knew as well as anyone else in the Order that if Chase didn't want to be found, his talent for bending shadows would prove effective cover no matter where he'd gone.

  Together, he and Kade approached the car. Dante walked up to the gap of darkness that spilled into the big metal box. The fetid stench of more forsaken humans wafted out at him as he hoisted himself up and took a quick look around the gloom of the place. His vision was flawless in the dark, as with all of his kind. He saw no sign of Chase among the sleeping men and women, nor with the small number that huddled under a shared blanket, staring up at him with vacant looks.

  Chase wasn't there, not even in the deepest reaches of the shadows.

  "Harvard," he said, trying to reach out to him anyway. Maybe if he heard a familiar voice . . .

  Nothing but silence.

  He waited for a moment, a part of him saddened by the wasted lives that littered the dirty interior of the railcar and the ones smoking their wits away over the barrel of burning trash. They were strangers, humans, born to live and die in the span of less than a century. But in their lost, hopeless expressions, he saw his friend Sterling Chase.

  Was this what lay ahead for Harvard if no one stopped his downward spiral? He didn't want to go there, didn't want to imagine that Harvard might be waging a war with demons of his own. He didn't want to believe that Tegan and Lucan could be right - that Chase might be falling into a blood addiction. There was no worse fate for one of the Breed than succumbing to Bloodlust and turning Rogue.

  And once lost, there was hardly any hope of coming back to sanity.

  "Goddamn him," he ground out between gritted teeth.

  He dropped down from the railcar onto the frozen ground near the tracks. As he landed, he felt the knock of his cell phone shifting in his coat pocket.

  He pulled it out and hit the speed dial before he could spit out an explanation to Kade.

  "His cell," he said, hearing the first ring begin on the other end of the line. "If Harvard did run this way, then maybe he's got his cell on - "

  The words cut short as a soft trill sounded from several dozen yards away. Kade's silver eyes glittered under his raised black brows. "Gotcha, Harvard. "

  They set off at a dead run, both of them hoofing it across the rail yard toward the muffled ringing ahead.

  Dante didn't want to hope, a cold edge of dread warning him that even if he did find Harvard, he might not like what waited at the other end of the bleating line. With tempered expectation, he led Kade away from the rails and between a pair of sorry-looking storage buildings. He had to disconnect abruptly, cursing when the phone went into voicemail. He speeddialed again and the ringing sounded even closer. Holy hell, they were practically on top of him now.

  There was no one around. Not a soul, not even the humans.

  He and Kade ran farther, faster, until the bleating of Chase's phone was playing in stereo against his ear and from somewhere very close by.

  "Over here," Kade said, dropping into a squat near a pile of frozen tarps and cast-off plastic sheeting. He dug into the heap, tossing the shit everywhere as he burrowed toward the bottom.

  When he slowed down and issued a curse, Dante knew they'd reached a dead end. Kade held up the cell phone, his face drawn with disappointment but not surprise. "He ditched us, man. He was here, like you said. But he didn't want to be found. "

  "Harvard!" Dante shouted, more pissed off than anything else in that moment. Worry had his gut twisted, his heart hammering in his chest. He sent his rage in all directions around him, pivoting to scan the area, futile or not. "Chase, goddamn it, I know you're here. Say something!"

  Kade clicked off the ringer and slid the phone into his pocket. "Come on, let's get out of here. Harvard's gone. "

  Dante nodded mutely. Last night, Sterling Chase had walked out on the Order after numerous fuck-ups and excuses. Now he'd ditched the closest friend he had among the warriors. He was turning his back on all of his brethren, and based on what happened here tonight, Dante had to admit that Chase was doing so deliberately.

  The Harvard he'd known would never have done that.

  Kade was right.

  Harvard was gone, probably for good.

  Chapter Ten

  Hunter hadn't spoken two words to her in the time between his phone call to the Order and his driving back to the airport outside Detroit. Not that Corinne had been looking for conversation. Her head was still reeling from what had occurred at the Darkhaven, her heart still raw, rent open like a gash in the center of her being.

  She had come home looking for her family and found betrayal instead. Even more painful, her hopes of having Victor Bishop's power and resources rallied toward finding her lost little boy were now completed dashed.

  Who was she supposed to trust now, when the only family she'd ever known had knowingly abandoned her to a monster?

  Despair clogged her throat as she sat in the dark cabin of the vehicle, mindlessly watching the passing, moonlit scenery as Hunter navigated the maze of the airport's private access roads, heading toward a complex of domed hangars adjacent to the public terminal and runways. Corinne couldn't stop thinking about her child, the precious infant Dragos had stolen from out of her arms just moments after she'd given birth. He would be a growing boy now - an adolescent who'd never known his mother.

  Helpless as one of Dragos's prisoners, she'd had no calendars, no clocks, not even the most meager comforts. She had counted her son's years the only way she could: in nine-month increments, marking the passage of time by observing the pregnancies of other captive Breedmates. Thirteen birth cycles from the time she'd held her newborn baby boy and the day of her rescue just last week.

  Despite the circumstances of his horrific conception, Corinne had loved her baby deeply from the instant she saw him. He was hers, a vital part of who she was, no matter how savagely he'd come into this world. She recalled the anguish of missing him. She felt that still, the sorrow of knowing in her bones that he was alive but uncertain where he'd been taken or what had become of him.

  It gnawed at her even now. She weathered the fresh sense of mourning as Hunter parked inside an unmarked hangar where the sleek white private jet waited. He took out his cell phone and made a call. His deep, low voice seemed like nothing more than background noise - a deep, oddly comforting rumble. Just the sound of him speaking, strong and calm, a confident presence, so effortlessly in control of everything around him, somehow made the swelling tides of her memories seem more navigable.

  She let it anchor her as the waves of painful memories - of her failure to hold her baby close and keep him safe - continued to swamp her.

  If her disastrous reunion tonight had given her anything to hold on to, it was the resolve that had become like iron now that she understood how brutal abandonment could feel. She would not forsake her child. She would walk through the fires of hell itself to find him. Not even Dragos and his evil would keep her from reuniting with her son. She would let nothing - and no one - stand in her way.

  Hunter was ending h
is brief phone conversation, she noticed. He disconnected the call, then tucked the tiny device back into his coat pocket.

  She glanced over and their eyes met across the dimly lit interior of the car. "Is everything all right with your friends in Boston?"

  Although he hadn't confided in her about his first call to the Order's compound that night, Corinne had heard enough on his end of the conversation to know that something bad had happened while Hunter had been with her. She'd heard Dragos's name and the mention of a young Darkhaven boy whose family and home had recently been lost to Dragos's violence. From the little bit she'd gathered, and from Hunter's elusive, almost forbidding, expression right now, it seemed pretty clear that Dragos had somehow managed to gain the upper hand.

  "Are they in terrible danger, Hunter?"

  "We are in the midst of war," he answered, his maddeningly calm voice sounding more bleak than apathetic. "Until Dragos is dead, everyone is in terrible danger. "

  He wasn't speaking only about the residents of the Order's compound. Not even the warriors and the Breed nation combined. The war Hunter referred to encompassed something much larger than that. He was speaking of Dragos's threat to the world in total. If anyone else had said such a thing, she might have chalked it up to dramatics. But this was Hunter. Exaggeration wasn't a part of his personal lexicon. He was factual and concise. He was exact with both his words and his deeds, and that only made the weight of his statement settle all the more heavily on her.

  Corinne sat back, unable to hold his piercing golden stare. She swiveled her head and looked out the tinted passenger-side window of the car, watching the side of the small jet open to allow the stairs to fold out and descend to the concrete floor of the hangar.

  "Are you sending me back to Boston?"

  "No. " Hunter turned off the car's engine. "I'm not sending you anywhere. You are to stay with me for the time being. Lucan has charged me with your temporary safekeeping. "

  She glanced away from the waiting aircraft and ventured another look at her remote companion. She wanted to argue that she didn't need anyone's safekeeping, not when she'd just tasted freedom, bitter as that taste had been so far. But his announcement raised a bigger question. "If we're not going to Boston, then where is that plane headed?"

  "New Orleans," he replied. "Gideon has been able to substantiate Regina Bishop's recollection of Henry Vachon. He owns several properties in the New Orleans area and is presumed to reside there. As of this moment, Vachon is our most viable link to Dragos. "

  Corinne's heart thumped hard in her chest. Henry Vachon was the Order's best link to Dragos . . . which meant he was also her best link to Dragos. Perhaps the only link she had to finding out what had happened to her son.

  As much as she wanted to reject the idea of being leashed to Hunter or to anyone else, a larger part of her understood that she had few options and even fewer resources at her disposal. If hitching her wagon to Hunter would bring her closer to Henry Vachon and any information regarding her child, she had to do it. Anything for her child.

  "What will you do," she asked, "if you are able to find Vachon?"

  "My mission is simple: Determine his connection to Dragos and extract any useful intelligence I can. Then neutralize the target to disable any potential future fallout. "

  "You mean you intend to kill him," Corinne said, not a question but a grim understanding. Hunter's stark eyes showed no waver whatsoever. "If I determine that Vachon does in fact have an allegiance to Dragos - past or present - he must be eliminated. "

  She felt herself nodding faintly, but inside she was unsure what to think. She couldn't feel pity for Henry Vachon if he had anything to do with her ordeal, but another part of her wondered how Hunter's brutal occupation must impact the one who dealt so frequently in death.

  "Does it ever bother you, the things you have to do?" She spoke the question before she'd had a chance to decide if it was her place to ask it or not. Before she'd had the time to worry whether or not she wanted to know the answer. "Does life truly mean so little to you?"

  Hunter's harsh, handsome face didn't flinch. The angles of his high cheekbones and square-cut jaw were rigid, as unforgiving as sharp-edged steel. Only his mouth seemed soft, full lips held with neither a scowl nor a smirk, only placid, maddening neutrality. But it was his eyes that held her the most transfixed. Beneath the crown of his closecropped blond hair, his eyes were penetrating, probing. As sharply as they bore into her, however, they seemed even more determined to reveal nothing of themselves no matter how deeply she searched.

  "I deal in death," he answered then, no apology or excuse. "It is a role I was born into, one I was trained to do very well. "

  "And you never doubt?" She couldn't help pressing, needing to know. Wanting to understand this formidable Breed male who seemed so solitary and alone. "You never question what you do - not ever?"

  Something dark flashed across his face in that instant. There was a flicker of evasion in his eyes, she thought. Brief but impossible to miss, and shuttered a second later by the downward sweep of his lashes as he palmed the car keys and dropped them into the center console of the vehicle.

  "No," he answered finally. "I don't question anything my duties require me to do. Not ever. "

  He opened the driver-side door and began to step out of the vehicle. "The plane is ready for us. We must go now, while the night is still on our side. "

  "They're on the way to New Orleans now. "

  Lucan glanced up as Gideon ended his call with Hunter and came back to the tech lab's conference table where Tegan and he stood, poring over a set of unrolled blueprints. "No further issues with Corinne Bishop or her kin in Detroit?"
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