Upon The Midnight Clear

Dark-Hunter Novels (Volume 13)

Sherrilyn Kenyon

St. Martin's Paperbacks

Chapter 1

Leta was completely baffled by the human world as she stared into the mirrors around her that showed the daily events taking place in the realm of man. Her gaze chased from mirror to mirror as she tried to make sense of the flickering images of people from all over the world. She was beginning to suspect that she’d made a horrible mistake by putting herself in stasis while waiting for Dolor to stir. Everything had changed.

Everything.

There were complicated contraptions—machines—that she couldn’t even begin to fathom. And the languages had changed so much . . . She had to focus to understand the rapidly spoken words, which were riddled with colloquialisms and slang that flew past her understanding. Her head ached from the strain of it all.

“Give yourself time.”

She turned to find her older brother M’Adoc behind her. For a creature whose emotions had been brutally taken from her, she felt her heart stirring at his approach. It was a muted joy that only reminded her of what real happiness had felt like. But phantom emotions were better than no emotions at all.

Tall and lithe like her, M’Adoc had black, wavy hair and eyes so pale a blue they were almost luminescent.

She held her hand out to him. “It’s good to see you again, brother.”

There was the subtlest of softening in his gaze as he took her hand and brought it to his lips.

Leta flinched as an unbidden and unexpected image of his being tortured went through her. Even after thousands of years, she could still hear his screams.

And her own.

As if he knew her thoughts, M’Adoc gathered her into his arms. He cupped her head in his hand and held her face against his shoulder. Leta gasped as he passed onto her the knowledge of the changed world and how it worked.

“You have set yourself a herculean task, little sister,” he breathed against her hair. “You should have stayed with the rest of us and not isolated yourself.”

“I couldn’t.” It had been too painful to see them all emotionless when she remembered the way they’d been before Zeus had punished them. The only emotion Zeus had left them with was pain, so that he could control and punish the gods of sleep, and that never-ending pain had eaten a hole inside her.

It was a cold world she’d been forced to live in and that as much as anything else was why she’d been just as content to sleep through eternity.

She stepped back from M’Adoc so that she could meet his gaze. “I have to stop him.”

“He’s not the only god of pain. Pain permeates everything in our world and that of man.”

“I know. But he is ultimate suffering. It’s not enough to make his victims cry. He destroys them, mind, body, and soul. You weren’t there, brother . . . you didn’t see.”

Still, he flinched as if he could in fact see her memories. “Everyone does what they feel they have to do. I respect you for your choices. Doesn’t mean I agree with them.” His gaze sharpened before he spoke again. “Dolor will kill you if he gets the chance.”

She let one side of her mouth curl up into the semblance of a bitter smile. “Good. I relish the fight just as I will relish the feel of his heart in my fist as I crush the life out of him.”

M’Adoc inclined his head to her. “Then I leave you to your plans for revenge . . . except for one thing.”

“That is?”

His eyes were haunting. “It’s not the pain that’s inflicted on us by others that destroys us. It’s the pain we let inside our hearts that does that. Don’t let the human’s anger become yours. It can drive you mad if you do.” And with those sage words spoken, he vanished.

Leta drew a deep breath as she considered what he’d said. She knew he was right. But knowing something and doing it were often two entirely different things. She needed Aidan’s anger. She wanted it.

Closing her eyes, she focused on the target.

Aidan.

He was asleep in his bed, dreaming that he was lost in a thundering storm. The rain slashed painfully against his skin as he trudged along. His breathing was ragged, his handsome face contorted by rage.

Leta was baffled by his actions. By his will to carry on even as lightning struck the ground, barely missing him. The static from the blasts caused his hair to rise and fan out around his steely features. It was a feral determination that carried him onward. And before she even realized what she’d done, she’d stepped through the portal and entered the dream beside him.

He froze in place as he became aware of her. The cold rain pelted her flesh, plastering her hair against her body as she watched him curiously. In this state, all of his emotions were laid bare to her. She could feel every ounce of his rage, his betrayal.

His unsated need for revenge.

It was so close to her own feelings that it fed her powers and brought her emotions back with a clarity so crisp, it stung.

He uncoiled his arms from around his chest as he stared at her with those icy, probing eyes. “Who are you?”

“A friend,” she whispered, catching a chill from the wind that started blowing against them.

He laughed bitterly. “I have no friends. I don’t want any.”

“Then I’m here to help you.”

He snorted in derision. “Help me do what? Freeze? Or is your plan to hold me still in this storm to make sure the lightning kills me?”

Leta snapped her fingers and the rain instantly stopped. The clouds roiled above as they parted to show the sun. The rays illuminated the bleak landscape and painted it in bright greens and yellows.

Aidan wasn’t fazed. “Neat trick.”

He was a hard man to impress and his jaded causticity made her wonder what had happened to him to cause it. She dried their clothes and hair. “Why did you summon the rain?”

“I didn’t summon shit,” he growled. “I was minding my own business when it came down on me. All I was trying to do was get through it.”

“And now that it’s gone?”

He looked up at the clear blue sky above them. “It’ll be back. It always comes back and it hits you when you least expect it.”

She knew he wasn’t just talking about the weather. “You should find shelter.”

He scoffed at her. “There isn’t any. The storm tears it down and leaves you naked in the hurricane, so why bother?”

And she’d stupidly thought she was bitter. Then again, outside the dream world, she could only feel a twinge of what she felt now. Even so hers was nothing in comparison to his. His bitterness ran so deep, it scalded her tongue with the taste of it.

But beneath that hostility she sensed a raw vulnerability in him. Something about him that had been crushed and yet was still struggling to survive even though he didn’t want it to. It reached out to her own grieving heart and made her want to touch him.

Without a second thought, she took a step forward to lay her hand to his cheek.

He hissed at her like a cat before he moved away. “Don’t touch me.”

“Why not?”

“I don’t want your lying kindness. Sure, you’ll smile and be so sweet to me that I’ll trust you, but the minute I don’t give you everything you want the instant you demand it, you’ll turn on me and try to crush me. You’re just like everyone else in the world. No one matters but you.”

And with that, he turned and walked away.

Leta crossed her arms over her chest as she watched him put distance between them.

Oh yeah, she had enough bitter emotions here to more than defeat Dolor. Little did the god know that his current victim was going to be his downfall. Aidan might seem insignificant to the god, but his determination and spirit would be the fuel she needed to avenge them both.

And just like Dolor, she wouldn’t show any clemency or weakness. Nothing was going to stop her from destroying him. For once Dolor was going to know exactly what it was like to have someone come for him and leave him quivering on the ground, begging for a mercy that would never come.

She couldn’t wait . . .
 

Copyright © 2007 by Sherrilyn Kenyon. All rights reserved.