Home > Dark Champion (Flirting with Monsters #4)

Dark Champion (Flirting with Monsters #4)
Author: Eva Chase








You wouldn’t think anything could be worse than the most ancient supernatural beings in existence wanting to murder you before you ended the world. Tough luck—it could.

For starters, you could wake up in a room so dark you couldn’t determine a hint of what it held other than dank, stuffy air and a lumpy mattress that was poking your backside, with no idea where you were or how you’d gotten there. Or how many people might be lurking in that darkness preparing to murder you at this very moment. Then you could sit up and discover one of your wrists was chained with a heavy metal cuff to some fixture that refused to budge, making the possibility of lurking murderers even more likely.

And to be clear, by “you,” I mean me.

The frame that held the mattress squeaked with my movement. I tested the cuff with a jerk of my arm. The chain clinked, holding firm—and light washed through the space. A fairly dim light, really, cast by an electric lantern, but the darkness before had been so complete I was left blinking the glare from my eyes.

The room around me appeared to be some kind of underground bunker. Rough rock walls, floor, and ceiling surrounded me. The metal cot had a dappling of rust on the frame and squatted next to a matching metal cabinet that I guessed held some kind of supplies. The whole space couldn’t have been more than ten feet both long and wide, and standing in the middle of that space, gripping the lantern, was the most powerful supernatural being I’d had the irritation—and, okay, sometimes enjoyment—of actually meeting.

The wan artificial light turned the angles of Omen’s narrow face sharper. His icy blue gaze fixed on me, as piercing as ever. His tawny hair lay flat, slicked back over his head, which meant he had his temper in check for now. I supposed I should be glad his hellhound fangs and claws weren’t out.

He didn’t look like he was planning on murdering me quite yet.

I couldn’t take a whole lot of comfort from that fact, though, or even from knowing that up until now this monstrous man had been fighting whole-heartedly on the same side as me. Wherever this room was and however we’d reached it, this dude had dragged me here. The last thing I remembered was him clocking me hard enough to knock me right out.

My temple ached dully where his fist had rammed into it. No doubt I was sporting a pretty spectacular bruise. Thank furtive fiddlesticks I didn’t feel any signs of a full-out concussion.

Hey, might as well count my blessings, meager though they were.

Omen hadn’t turned me straight over to the Highest, at least. If he had, I’d probably already be dead. As long as I was still alive, I had a slim chance of staying that way.

Why the hell had he brought me to this wretched place?

My mouth, as it so often did, started moving without consulting the rest of me. “What a coincidence, running into you. Come here often?”

Omen’s voice came out as little more than a growl. “Sorsha…”

I raised my cuffed wrist, which I could now see was attached to one of the legs of the cot—which was in turn bolted to the stone floor; fat chance of wrenching that up by hand. The metal chain clinked again as I waggled it. “You wanted to dive right in with the kinky stuff, huh? Next time, you could just ask.”

We had actually hooked up once before, chains not included but with plenty of fire. The hellhound shifter didn’t appear to appreciate the reminder. A few tufts of his hair rippled upward. He bared his teeth, which were already looking pointier than they had a moment ago. “Do you ever stop joking?”

I leaned back on my hands and gave him a tight smile. “Nope. It’s called a coping mechanism. Look it up, dog-breath.”

All right, so insulting one’s captor, especially when that captor is a highly dangerous shadowkind, was probably in the What NOT To Do column of advice for kidnapping victims. I couldn’t claim to be a paragon of wisdom.

But despite my attempt at keeping my spirits up, when Omen took another step toward me, both fear and anger jittered through my nerves. The jolt of adrenaline set off a flare of heat in my chest that tingled all the way up to my skin—and sent fire licking across both the collar of Omen’s shirt and my bare forearms.

As Omen slapped at his shirt, I smacked my arms against my sides as quickly as I could to snuff out the flames. They vanished, but they left my skin pink and prickling with a fresher pain.

Omen took one last swipe at the singed fabric around his neck and held the lantern out—to check my arms, I realized. To see how much damage I’d done to myself. He wouldn’t have bothered with that if he was sure I’d be kaput within the next few hours anyway, right?

“Look,” he said, his tone oddly less growly than before I’d set him on fire, “I’m not happy about this either. But you’ve just proven exactly why I can’t completely ignore the Highest’s warnings.”

“So you decided to haul me off to some desolate cave?”

“I need time to think and decide what to do without your fan club interfering.”

He meant the trio of shadowkind men he’d brought into this realm to help with his mission, who’d ended up more entwined in my life than I’d expected to let anyone get these days, let alone a bunch of monsters. But sweet Snap with his eerie demonic powers, sly Ruse with his incubus passion, and stoic Thorn with the haunted weight of his warrior angel past had made me feel like I was getting the better end of the bargain.

What did they make of all this? We’d barely had time to process Omen’s announcement that I was the supposedly fearsome being named Ruby that the Highest had spent decades searching for—and that it’d been their shadowkind lackeys and not vengeful mortal hunters who’d killed my parents and sent my fae guardian on the run with me—before Omen had grabbed me.

My trio had been obsessive about ensuring my safety even when I wasn’t doing anything riskier than walking down a street. Left without any idea where their boss had taken me or what might be happening to me there, they’d be frantic.

Unless they decided that if the Highest of the shadowkind were terrified of me, they were better off free of me too.

I wet my lips, my fingers curling into the coarse sheet that covered the mattress. My first urge was to keep snarking at the hellhound shifter, but that hadn’t been what had gotten through to him before. The time he’d let down his guard the most—the time he’d let himself indulge in that act of searing intimacy with me after swearing it would never happen—it’d been after I let go of the fight and simply been open and honest with him.

Back then, I’d told him I wasn’t scared of him. I’d told him I knew he cared about me. Maybe we knew things now we hadn’t back then, but I could summon some of that faith again.

Inhaling slowly, I forced my own temper to settle. “Do you really think I’m some huge threat to all existence?” I asked, holding Omen’s gaze. “That I’d destroy all the beings I’ve been risking my neck trying to save? That I could cause mass destruction on the scale the Highest are talking about?”

“I don’t know.” He considered me. “You warned me before. The fire inside you frightened you. Are you sure you couldn’t burn the realms down?”

At that question, I couldn’t help thinking back to the moments when we’d squabbled and the raging inferno had surged in my chest. Just remembering it called up a waft of that blaze. I didn’t like being trapped here—I didn’t like being betrayed by someone I’d been starting to care about. Somewhere in the depths of my being, a little prickling voice whispered, Burn. Burn it all. Burn the fuckers to the ground.

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