The Darkest Surrender(4)

By: Gena Showalter


“And what exactly do you plan to do with me, Kaia the Strongest?”

“I’m going to force you to meet all my needs, of course.”

He arched a brow. “Such as?”

“Doing my chores. All of my chores. And if you don’t do them, I’ll punish you. With my dagger.” She wiggled the weapon in question, the silver blade glinting lethally in the sunlight. “I’m quite cruel, you know. I’ve killed humans dead before. Really dead. So dead they even hurt afterward.”

He didn’t flinch at the weapon or at her implied threat, and she fought a wave of frustration. Then she consoled herself with the knowledge that most humans had no true concept of a Harpy’s skills. Clearly, he was one of the uninformed. Because he himself couldn’t lift a thousand-pound boulder, he probably couldn’t fathom anyone else doing so.

“When shall I begin these new duties?” he asked.

“Now.”

“Very well, then.” She had expected an argument, but he unfolded his big body from the stump. Gods, he was tall, forcing her to look up…up…up.

She wasn’t intimidated, though. While training, she’d fought beings a lot taller than him and won. Well, maybe they’d only been a little bit taller. Fine, they’d all been shorter. She wasn’t sure anyone was as tall as this man. No wonder Juliette had claimed him.

Kaia grinned. Her first solo raid, in broad daylight no less, and she would be leaving with a prize among prizes. She’d chosen well. Her mother would find no fault with the man, and might even want him for herself. Maybe after Kaia finished with him, she would gift him to Tabitha.

Tabitha would smile at her, thank her and tell her what a wonderful daughter she was. Finally. Kaia’s heart skipped a beat.

“Don’t just stand there.” Before the male had time to reply, she rushed behind him, wings flapping frantically, and pushed him. “Move.”

He stumbled forward, but quickly managed to catch himself. With his head held high, he marched the distance. Just before he reached the edge of the enclosure, however, he stopped abruptly.

“Move,” she repeated, giving him another push.

He remained in place, not even twisting to face her. “I can’t. This clearing has been encircled with Harpy blood, and the chains prevent me from leaving without suffering severe pain.”

Her gaze narrowed on the muscled width of his tanned back. “I’m not a fool. I won’t remove your chains.” Plus, she wanted him docile while she paraded him through camp, not vying for freedom. When Juliette discovered what she’d done, a challenge would be issued. Kaia would need her attention focused, not divided.

“Removing my chains isn’t necessary.” Not by tone or deed did he reveal a hint of his emotions. “Simply add your blood to the circle already there, then smear a drop on the chains, and you can lead me across without any problems.”

Ah, yes. She’d heard of blood-chains before. They trapped the wearer within the confines of the circle, however wide or small that circle was, and only a Harpy’s blood could negate the restriction. Any Harpy’s. “Good idea. I’m glad I thought of it.”

She surveyed the Harpy camp. No one had noticed her, but Bianka was nervously shifting from one foot to the other, looking from Kaia to the camp, the camp to Kaia, her gaze pleading.

With swift precision, Kaia used her dagger to slice her palm. The sharp sting barely registered. After adding her blood to the crimson ring on the ground, she smoothed her weeping flesh over the cool links of metal between the man’s wrists. That done, she raced behind him a second time and pushed.

He stumbled past the circle, paused to shake his head, stretch his spine, flex his shoulders. No matter how hard she pushed this time, she couldn’t budge him. Then he turned back and grinned at her. Before she could reason out what was happening, he had his hands wrapped around her neck, her feet lifted off the ground.

Her eyes widened as he choked the life out of her with a power no human should have possessed.

Despite her lack of air, fogging brain and burning throat, realization struck. He wasn’t human.

Hatred suddenly poured from him, his dark eyes swirling hypnotically. “Foolish Harpy. I might not be able to break these chains, but that circle was the only thing preventing me from rampaging through the camp. Now, all of you will die for the insult delivered to me.”