The Darkest Surrender(5)

By: Gena Showalter


Die? Hell, no! You have a dagger. Use it! She tried to stab him. Laughing cruelly, he batted her hand away.

In the background, she heard Bianka shriek. Heard footsteps pound as her sister hurriedly closed the distance. No, she tried to shout. Stay back. Then her thoughts fragmented as the man choked harder, tighter.

A black wave swept her into a sea of nothingness.

No, not nothingness. Screams echoed…so many screams… Grunts, groans and growls. The slide of metal against flesh, the pop of breaking bones, the sickening sound of wings being ripped from their slits. The nightmarish symphony lasted hours, perhaps days, before at last quieting.

“Kaia.” Callused hands wrapped around her upper arms and shook her. “Awaken. Now.”

She knew that voice… Kaia fought her way from the sea, her eyelids fluttering open. A moment passed before her mind cleared and the darkened haze faded. Through a sliver of moonlight, she saw a blood-soaked, scowling Tabitha Skyhawk looming over her.

“Look what you’ve done, daughter.” Never had her mother’s timbre lashed so harshly—and that was saying something.

Though she wanted to refuse, she sat up, grimaced as pain lanced through her neck to attack the rest of her, and shifted her gaze, studying the camp. Bile rose. Harpies and…other things floated in rivers of scarlet. Weapons lay on the ground, useless. Strips of cloth from decimated tents had caught on tree branches and now waved in the wind, a sad parody of white flags.

“B-Bianka?” she managed to gasp, her voice raw.

“Your sister is alive. Barely.”

Kaia pushed to shaky legs and met her mother’s amber eyes. “Mother, I—”

“Silence! You were told not to enter this area, and yet you disobeyed. And then, then you tried to steal another woman’s consort without gaining my permission.”

She wanted to lie, to preserve her dream of the coming accolades. She found she could not. Not to her beloved mother. “Yes.” Tears stung her eyes, that dream quickly flaming to ash inside her. “I did.”

“Do you see the destruction behind me?”

“Yes,” she repeated softly.

Tabitha showed her no mercy. “You alone are responsible for the travesty this day.”

“I’m sorry.” Her head fell, chin resting against her sternum. “So sorry.”

“Keep your sorries. They cannot undo the anguish you have caused.”

Oh, gods. There was hatred in her mother’s voice now. True, undiluted hatred.

“You have brought shame to our clan,” Tabitha said, ripping the medallion from Kaia’s neck. “This, you do not deserve. A true warrior saves her sisters. She does not endanger them. And so by this selfish act you have earned your title. From this moment on, you will be known as Kaia the Disappointment.”

With that, Tabitha turned and walked away. Her boots splashed in the blood, the sound echoing crudely in Kaia’s ears.

She fell to her knees and sobbed like a child for the first time in her life.





CHAPTER ONE




Present day



“I WANT HIM.”

“Where have I heard that before? Oh, yeah. The day of the Unfortunate Incident, something you made me swear never to discuss, even upon threat of death. And I won’t discuss it now, so don’t get your panties in a twist. I just thought you were more careful with your affections nowadays.”

Kaia Skyhawk peered over at her twin—Bianka the Heavenly Hills Ho, as Kaia had recently dubbed her. A name her precious sis deserved. Girl had nailed an angel. A freaking angel. ’Course, in return Bianka had dubbed her Kaia: Bed-warmer of the Underworld for getting down and dirty with Paris, the biggest man-whore in existence.

The title didn’t sting nearly as much as her last one. Fine, her current one. Harpies had long memories, and shouts of “Look, everyone, it’s the Disappointment” still happened anytime she ran into another of her race.

Anyway. Bianka was as ravishingly gorgeous as ever, a dark fall of hair cascading down her back, her amber eyes bright. And just then she was flipping through a rack of designer dresses, a mix of determination and concern radiating from her.

“That happened, like, a million years ago,” Kaia said, “and Strider is the first man I’ve…damn it, he’s just the first man I’ve wanted, truly wanted,” she added before her sister could comment on her “boyfriends” throughout the centuries, “since. Or ever.”