Dark Realm 4: Darkness Captured
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Format: Trade Paperback
On Sale: September 21, 2010
In Darkness Captured, the extraordinary Delilah Devlin combines two blistering hot genres—women’s erotic fiction and paranormal romance—and the result is a masterwork of vampire erotica that’s almost too torrid to handle! The decidedly adult adventure of a passionate werewolf who’s willing to storm the gates of hell to rescue a princess from the clutches of a demon, Devlin’s Darkness Captured is dark, sexy, and absolutely sizzling. Shapeshifter love has never been hotter!
Driven by insatiable desire, a werewolf will enter hell to rescue a princess captured by the Master of Demons…
Headstrong and proud—a royal creature of sinuous grace, all primal instinct and lethal beauty—the shapeshifter Gabriella has agreed to serve as emissary to the vampires who rule in the shadows of the New Orleans night. But she cannot resist the pull of the demon she glimpses on the other side of a mirror, and she is drawn to him hungrily, through a magical portal into the Land of the Dead. Now an eternal nightmare awaits Gabriella at the hands of a mesmerizing dark lord who satisfies her every erotic need…while slowly devouring her soul.
The powerful warrior wolf Guntram Brandt is responsible for the safety of the vanished princess he swore allegiance to years before. Yet it is more than a soldier’s loyalty that pulls Guntram down into the depths of nightmare—for Gabriella ignites within him a burning animal passion that must be satisfied.
But when offered an escape, will she follow her rescuer to safety—torn between her lustful obsession with the dark lord who has enslaved her and her fierce sensual attraction to the only wolf who could ever master her?
Note for Readers: You must be of legal age in your country of origin to read this excerpt.
Moonlight filtered through the dense canopy of the oaks surrounding the estate, offering a camouflage of light and shadow to break up the silhouettes of the silent predators creeping through the darkness.
Already in position, Guntram Brandt had a few moments to reassess his plans, reconnoiter the landscape—and time to think about the South-Central clan’s dilemma. Not his clan, however, for his loyalty lay with only one person, bought and paid for long ago, reinforced through blood and sacrifice, and cemented by a stifling yearning that threatened to overpower his stoic resolve.
Fear was a luxury Guntram couldn’t afford. Not now. Not while the stakes for the battle he was set to wage loomed so high.
Still, fear’s bitter taste burned his tongue and the back of his throat. Because he’d rarely allowed himself to indulge in the powerful emotion, he swallowed it down, letting it bathe his stomach in scalding acid. Almost as curious as the taste, his body felt gripped in a vice, held immobile for long, precious seconds while his frozen mind completed endless, pointless loops of indecision. He had only moments to linger in the chill, allowing the hairs on the back of his neck to prickle and lift.
Fear was rare for him, something that gave him pause and dulled his razor focus. Not something he should indulge, especially now that he needed all of his senses, even the intuitive ones he often ridiculed because they weren’t visceral, weren’t concrete. He didn’t like acting on instinct or gut. He acted on threats he could see, hear, feel, and smell. Scent being the most important and dominant sense for his kind.
The faint rustling sounds around him stilled, pulling him back. He breathed deeply through his nose, inhaling the air, calming his racing heart and setting his face into a grim mask—at last suppressing the anxiety that had built steadily over the past few hours while he’d waited for word.
Impatient with the other emotions roiling inside him—fury laced with bloodlust—he forced himself to grow as still inside as the woods around him.
Disquiet, as dense and cloying as the humid night, pressed around him. The thick, dank atmosphere, with earthy undertones made more pungent by the dew that had softened his footsteps, held scents longer than the crisp, dry mountain air of his own home. Good for surveillance, but just another reminder of how far outside their own territory they’d roamed. And for what? To give aid to the enemy?
Guntram curled his fists at his sides. He and the warriors he led despised them all. So, a daywalker was rumored to exist in New Orleans, and a malicious demon targeted the cloistered coven they surrounded. Let them both feast. What did it matter to their kind?
He hated being here, hated sneaking around like a thief, but he’d promised to watch from a distance and not interfere. His contingent was meant only as a weapon of last resort should anything happen to their emissary. A weapon he was very near to unleashing because they hadn’t seen or heard from her in too long.
While his men quietly surrounded the pristine estate with its thick carpet of freshly mowed grass, beds of roses and creeping honeysuckle, he didn’t miss the significance of the tall brick and iron gated walls, high-state security system, and vigilant soldiers. Appearances mattered to the bitch who ruled Ardeal, but the beautiful, civilized estate was only a façade. She prized power most of all. Strength gloved in gentility. He hoped their emissary hadn’t been gulled by the opulence of the old Victorian mansion into believing anything else.
The fact he couldn’t simply rush the compound to find her rankled.
He was a simple man with a straightforward agenda—his true nature as unlike the manipulative, parasitic creatures he stalked now as a dog and rats. He’d earned his name, Guntram, War Raven, for his skill in battle centuries ago. He’d rather test muscle and steel against them than wits. He’d rather fight like a wolf.
The plan they’d laid out when the invitation came had been just as simple. Enter a hunt for both of the foul creatures in return for a relaxation of relations between their nations. Now he wondered if the clan had entered a trap.
The ancient one who ruled the vampires in the compound was a wily, secretive foe. Inanna had held the reins through cruel and unscrupulous acts, waging a war of attrition against his kind since they’d all arrived in this hemisphere. In recent decades, the friction that burned between them had cooled. The wolves had grown complacent, trusting the treaties carving up the territory into a patchwork of alliances that served their mutual needs to consolidate power and prosper.
Guntram had sensed the change in the air. Had quietly warned of the dangers of trusting their enemy. But the opportunity to gain access to sea ports to further their own enterprises had been too attractive to ignore.
Still, the clan listened enough to ignore the stipulation that only one could enter their territory. A small, skilled, and experienced team infiltrated the region surrounding the meeting place in the bucolic countryside north of New Orleans, surreptitiously gathering on-the-ground intelligence about the strength of their adversaries, looking for weaknesses to exploit should things turn sour.
And they had—as sour as the bile boiling in his belly.
From where he stood just inside the tree line, he could make out the dark figures patrolling the lawn inside the compound. Being the predator he was, he lifted his nose and scented the air, waiting for the wafting breeze to bring him the intelligence he sought.
Undead Revenants circled the mansion, their sweet almond odor wrinkling his nose and cramping his stomach with disgust. Vampires. And she was inside their fortress.
Gabriella. Princess, he sternly reminded himself. Even if their titles weren’t spoken in this New World, the caste that separated them made her forbidden fruit. And because he had to fight his attraction with ruthless diligence, he never let her forget their differing statures.
As her sergeant-at-arms, an archaic title she’d jokingly conferred long ago, he’d sworn allegiance to her above all others. He’d protected her, watched over her even when she grew restless and slipped away from the pack to wallow with humans.
He didn’t judge her. Didn’t question why she sought release for her deep passions in dark, sordid corners with men who thought they tamed her when she could so easily slash them to death with teeth and claws. Didn’t wonder why she’d never surrendered her mantle as alpha to her own pack when she could have shifted the burden to a stronger mate.
Aside from the wealth that came with leadership, she was beautiful, sexually voracious—and any were-creature would happily accept the burden of leadership for the privilege of covering her every night of his existence and breeding fierce cubs to replenish their dwindling numbers.
His body tightened at the thought, remembering the many times he’d stood outside a window or sex club door, watching over her as she’d succumbed to needs so inexplicable to him he’d sometimes cringed and ached for her. Despite the perverse nature of her desires, he’d been tempted more times than he was comfortable admitting to disguise himself and enter that dark world to deliver the punishment her sexuality craved so that he could stroke her soft skin, inhale the fragrance of her lush desire, and sink deep inside her womanly body.
He breathed deeply, forcing down his arousal with an admonishment. He’d never acted on the impulse because he was a stern master of his own desires. Instead, he’d continued to give Gabriella the only things she wanted—obedience and protection.
A hand landed on his shoulder. “The men are all in place,” Udo whispered. “No one’s spotted her. The vampire called Nicolas, their head of security, set a fresh shift to guard the grounds. Stefan says he overheard that the visitors are imprisoned in their rooms.”
Which didn’t speak well of Gabriella’s fate if they’d taken their own leadership hostage. “Do we know if it’s Inanna, their queen bitch, who’s responsible?”
“I’m sorry. That’s all we know. What next, Raven? Do we wait for daylight when they are all sleeping like bats in a cave?”
Guntram shook his head. “Gabriella’s scent is dissipating. Something’s wrong. We act now.”
Udo’s teeth flashed white in the darkness. He was as frustrated with their vigilance and as eager for action as he was.
“Capture one of them,” Guntram bit out. “We need to know what’s happened.”
Fear was washed away by a wave of exultant rage. He’d offer them a taste of their own treachery. He’d strike hard and at the very heart of them—just as they’d struck the very heart of him.
Gabriella landed on her knees in the middle of the Persian carpet. Once again facing the crudely carved stone walls of Alex Broussard’s magical bolt-hole. “Alex, you lousy bastard, you can’t do this to me—”
Her shout was cut short when the object of her bitter tirade grabbed the hand of the pregnant woman who’d been resting on a deep sofa inside the cavern when they’d flashed inside. He cast Gabriella an apologetic smile, palmed the crystal key to the room, and they both blinked out in a narrow flash of white light.
“Sonofabitch,” she muttered, reaching up to grab the silver-linked choker from her neck that he’d used to subdue her and ripping it off. How could he do this, leave her in his bolt-hole, after everything she’d done to help him in his quest to usurp command of the vampires?
While he’d disappeared for hours, clutching the phoenix-creature he appeared to love against his chest, she’d helped round up the sabat, nipping at the council-members’ heels to herd them toward their rooms where Nicolas posted guards to keep them in lock-down.
Malcolm, Nicolas’s next-in-command, had led away Inanna’s private security force to the barracks for “debriefing” and posted their own men around the compound to keep things quiet while Alex’s closest advisors sorted through the chaos that was the aftermath of Inanna’s expulsion into Hell.
When Alex had at last returned, looking like he’d just had the sweetest sex of his life, Gabriella shook her fur, pulling on her human skin, ready to remind Alex about their agreement when his gaze fled up the staircase, again.
The look on his face, one filled with a mixture of impatience and tenderness, had made her heart sink. When she’d cleared her throat to remind him she was still standing there, another look crossed his face—one that had her backing up a step and stammering.
The collar had been a real kick in the ass. He’d pulled it from his pocket and apologized, all the while grappling her to the ground to loop the damn thing around her neck. “I swear. It’s just for now,” he’d ground out as she wriggled beneath him. “Just until I get everything sorted out.”
If he thought she’d be in any mood to talk to him, to negotiate a transaction to ensure the peace between their nations remained in place—well, he’d have to do a whole lot of begging, preferably on his knees and naked, before she agreed.
The thought of Alex, nude and serving her up a dish of submission, soothed her dented pride for all of a second. Her shoulders slumped, and she released a dejected sigh.
Gabriella never lied. Not even to herself. Alex was lost to her, for good. Once long ago, she’d hired an assassin to kill him, and she’d grieved for centuries, believing she’d killed him in a fit of jealous rage and lost the only lover who’d ever completely fulfilled her dark, sensual fantasies. The past few days, fighting and loving with him had been a bitter reminder of what she’d missed most—but he’d only been playing her, using her to get what he needed from her. When his other lover had “died,” it took only one glance at the desperation tightening his face and the tears filling his eyes to know she’d never hold his heart.
She shook out her hair and glanced toward the bureau standing against the far wall of the cave. With time to kill, she could at least empty his liquor cabinet.
With a glide, she pushed off the floor and strode to the cabinet, lifting one bottle and another until she found a cognac to her taste. Pouring a beaker full of the warm amber liquor, she glanced at herself in the mirror and lifted her glass to toast her reflection.
Noting the red ring around her neck, she wrinkled her nose. Wasn’t the first time she’d accepted a noose. Maybe the Dom in Atlanta would be amenable to a little retraining. Her nipples prickled and extended, spiking at the thought of the nasty things she’d beg him to do. As soon as she settled her business with Alex, she’d give him a call.
Her features tightened and the corners of her lips curved downward. She shut her eyes and downed the contents of her glass. When she opened them again, she stared at the mirror and set down her drink.
How many times had Alex stared into the glass, looking into that dreadful room—the hall where the demons and the dead feasted on each other in Hell. Remembering Alex’s warning about the mirror, she reached up and gingerly touched only the frame.
The hall shimmered into sight. The same scene replayed—people in glittering, bejeweled costumes sitting at long benches in a Medieval-style hall. She shifted to the side to catch a glimpse of The Master’s entrance—the handsome creature whose black aura resembled a dragon’s. With Alex behind her, she’d watched The Master stride into the room, felt a tingle of awareness for his masculine beauty, and shuddered for the power he wielded over the orgiastic bloodletting that had followed. She wouldn’t deny the man fascinated her.
The hellhounds once again stood like sentries at either side of the plank door. She waited for a long while, watched the couple nearest the mirror savage each other on the floor, but still he didn’t appear.
Just when she’d decided to drop her hand, a figure stepped in front of the glass.
Her eyes widened as she found herself staring directly into The Master’s golden eyes. The narrow, slitted pupils slowly expanded, engulfing the irises entirely in black.
Gabriella told herself he couldn’t see her. Perhaps he looked at his own reflection in a matching mirror. Gathering calm around her, she stared back, noting the thick black hair that fell to the tops of his broad shoulders, the neatly trimmed beard and moustache that framed his chin and mouth, drawing her gaze to his lips—full for a man, sensual, and beginning to smile.
A chill gnawed at her spine, causing her to quake.
As though she stared into a cobra’s mesmerizing stare, she couldn’t break with his gaze as he slowly raised his hand and pressed it to the glass, his long fingers splayed.
Gabriella felt as though she stood outside herself, watching as she reached up, spreading her own fingers to match his, and pressed her hand against the glass.
The glass began to warm, and then dissolved between them. Their fingers met. Before she could jerk her hand away, his fingers slipped to her wrist and tightened there. Triumph glittered in his dark eyes, and he reached up with his free hand to grasp the edge of the mirror and pull. It stretched downward, the bureau in front of her melting away, and he jerked her forward—into the blood-soaked hall.
Gabriella stumbled, falling, her knees slamming into stone tiles. When she shook back her hair, she noted the faces of the demons and the dead swinging toward her and the silence that closed around her. Her heart hammering against her chest, she drew back her arm, trying to free herself from his grip. She scooted on the floor, her naked bottom sliding across the tiles, but her back met a hard wall. Stunned, she looked behind her and saw that the mirror on this side was small and high up the wall. The portal had closed and she was trapped. What have I done?
Low growls penetrated her terror. The hellhounds closed in on either side of her captor, and then the murmurs began, a slithering, raspy noise that grew into a roar as the creatures inside the room left their seats and surrounded them.
She curled her legs toward her torso, and tucked her arm over her breasts, trying to hide herself from dozens of ravenous gazes.
Her glance swung back to the demon that still held her in his grasp, rising slowly to meet his frightening eyes. His lips twisted. His arm swung out forcing her to unfold her legs and raising her onto her knees, exposing her body fully.
Her breaths shortened, rasping loudly as panic gripped her as tightly as he did. Would they fall on her, make a meal of her body? Or would they rape her? God, no, she’d sooner be eaten. The shame of her defeat, of her helplessness against greater strength and numbers, would live forever.
The beast holding her shot a glance over his shoulder, and the crowd backed up.
Would he take her first then give her over to the others? His lust was palpable, pounding, ticking at the side of one of his black eyes. His nostrils flared, and his head waved as though sucking in more of her scent. A bulge formed at the front of the black breeches he wore, thickening along the inside of one massive thigh.
She couldn’t help staring at it, knowing her eyes widened with fear. But his sex was long and thick, more than an average woman could take. But she wasn’t average. At six feet, her body was proportionately large and powerful, her hips wide, her woman’s channel deep and able to stretch to fit the circumference and length of a very large man.
Unbidden, her body reacted, spilling fluid to dampen her labia. She sucked in a deep breath, closed her eyes and tried to will away her attraction. How could she be growing aroused?
Was he causing it? Did he have that kind of power over a woman’s desire? Her nipples tightened, beading hard, and again she tried to shield them from his gaze, but he already knew.
She saw it in the fierce light glittering in his eyes.
Another tug of his hand and she was rising, teetering on weakened limbs. He ducked and pulled her over his shoulder.
As the world tilted, she flailed against him, clawing at his back through his clothing, but he turned on his heels and drove through the crowd. And because she was afraid, she didn’t lift her face to meet their gazes. She tucked her head against his back and closed her eyes. Wherever he was going—out of the room, or simply to one of the emptied tables to lower her and take her—she didn’t want to know.
Her only thoughts were of Alex and whether he’d care enough to search for her when he discovered she was gone—and of Guntram, her protector, whose loyalty she never questioned. Alex might mount a rescue due to the complications her disappearance might cause their nations’ uneasy alliance, but Guntram would follow her for reasons all his own.
Reasons she’d never had the courage to explore because she thought she might already know, and the last thing she’d ever wanted was the love of a wolf.