The Darkest Touch

By: Gena Showalter



Monster! With another roar, he punched the wall, enjoying the unrelenting throb of pain as skin split and bones fractured. He punched again and again, cracks appearing in the stone, dust pluming around him.

If he had just stopped to question why a girl like Mari would be so starved for companionship she would agree to be with him she would still be alive.

He pressed his forehead against the battered wall. I’m keeper of the demon of Disease. When will I accept the fact that I’m meant to fly solo?

To be forever denied what I crave most.

“Mari, darling,” a slightly accented voice rang out. Female...delicious—even soaked in panic and pain as it was. “The bond is broken. Why is it broken?”

The blood in Torin’s veins turned into fuel, igniting as if a blazing match had just been thrown inside him. He became increasingly aware of his own heartbeat, speeding up, the need to stalk to the cell’s door and rip away every metal bar consuming him; anything to erase the distance between him and the speaker.

An extreme reaction. He knew that. Just as he knew such excruciating awareness of another person was unusual for him. It was also uncontrollable and unstoppable, his entire world centering around this one woman.

And this wasn’t the first time it had happened. Anytime she’d spoken, no matter the words she’d uttered, the huskiness of her tone had always carried a promise of absolute pleasure. As if there were nothing she wanted more than to kiss, lick and suck on him.

Masculine instincts he’d spent countless years denying shouted, Come, little moth. Come closer to my flame.

Or I’ll come to you....

He strode to the bars and, like a thousand times before, willed the shadows between their cells to part. But it did no good. Her appearance remained a mystery.

Somehow his sick obsession with her only intensified...and he thought that, for just five minutes of that kissing, licking and sucking, he would have happily risked a worldwide plague.

Hate myself. Someone should string him up by the collarbone and cane him. Again.

“Mari!” his obsession said. “Please.”

Disease whipped into a frenzy, banging against Torin’s skull, suddenly desperate to escape.

Escape her? Another unusual reaction. Usually the demon adored such close proximity with a potential victim.

How the fiend had laughed at Mari....

Hate him, too.

“Mari can’t talk right now,” Torin said. Or ever.

The admission...like pouring salt over my wounds.

Bars rattled. “What did you do to her?”

Nothing...everything.

“Tell me!” the female shouted.

“I shook her hand.” The words exploded from him, bitter and cutting. “That’s it.” But he’d done far more than that, hadn’t he.

He’d put a lot of time and effort into charming her. Feeding her. Talking and laughing with her. Eventually she’d felt comfortable enough to remove one of his gloves and intertwine their fingers. On purpose.

Nothing bad will happen, she had said. Or maybe her gaze had said it. The details were hazed by the fog of his eagerness. You’ll see.

 He’d believed her. Because he’d wanted to believe her more than he’d wanted to take his next breath. He’d held on to her so tightly, a thirsty man who’d just discovered the last glass of water in a world burning to ash, nearly brought to his knees by the force of his physical response. Sensation after sensation had overwhelmed him. Feminine softness so near his masculine hardness. A floral scent in his nose. The ends of her silky hair tickling his wrist. Her warmth blending with his own. Her breath intersecting with his.

I experienced an instant connection, immediate bliss, and very nearly creamed my damn jeans. From a handshake.

She’d died from it.

With him, it never mattered if the touch was accidental or intentional, or if the victim was human or animal, young or old, male or female...good or evil; any living creature sickened soon after contact with him. Even immortals like himself. Difference was, immortals sometimes survived, becoming carriers of whatever illness they’d contracted from him, capable of spreading it to others. As a human, Mari had never even stood a chance.

“Tell me the truth,” his obsession demanded. “Every detail.”

He didn’t know her name or if she was human or immortal. He only knew Mari had made a deal with the devil to save her.

The two women had been imprisoned here for centuries—wherever “here” was—for no real crime Torin could perceive. Cronus, the prison’s owner, had never really needed a reason to ruin someone’s life.

He’d certainly helped ruin Torin’s.

He had owed Torin a favor, and Torin, being Torin, had chosen to overlook the male’s shady reputation and ask for a woman who wouldn’t sicken at his touch. Cronus, being Cronus, hadn’t bothered to search for a suitable candidate and had simply recruited one of his prisoners—sweet, innocent Mari.

“Cronus made a deal with the girl,” Torin said.

“I know that.” His obsession huffed and puffed, a veritable big, bad wolf. “Mari was cursed to flash to your bedroom one hour a day for nearly a month, all in the hopes of convincing you to touch her.”

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