The Darkest Touch

By: Gena Showalter



What a freaking prize I am.

Who would ever want him? Single immortal male looking for someone to love—and murder.

He couldn’t even comfort himself with memories of past lovers. When he’d lived in the skies, he’d concerned himself with his war duties and very little else, women nothing more than an afterthought...until his body demanded attention. But every time he’d chosen a lover, his warrior instincts to dominate and subdue had overtaken him, and his unintentional roughness had made the females cry before their clothes had ever come off. Which meant their clothes had never come off.

Perhaps he could have coaxed the females to continue, but his disgust with himself had been too great. He excelled on the battlefield but couldn’t master the mechanics of sex?

Humiliating.

Now he would trade what little remained of his integrity for skin-to-skin anything, desperate to have what he’d once disdained, unable to fight his enemies in the down-and-dirty way he’d once—still—loved.

“Torin,” Keeley said, and despite the strain he heard, he still reacted with the same raw hunger as before. “You realize you killed an innocent girl, yes?”

He settled in the hole he’d dug, pulled on his gloves and rested his head against his upraised palms. “Yes.” His gaze flicked to Mari. She might have known about his condition, but some part of her must have trusted him to keep her safe.

Now look at her.

“Torin,” Keeley said again. “Have you also realized I will punish you for your crime?”

“You can’t hurt me any more than I’m hurting right now.”

“Not true. I have heard of you and your friends, you know.”

What did that have to do with anything? “Explain where you’re going with this, and I might decide to invest in the rest of the conversation.” Otherwise, it was time to find his way free.

“You may have the world’s worst SSTD,” she said, “but I throw the world’s worst temper tantrum.”

Interesting, but not applicable. “Are you chastising me or applying to be my sidekick?”

“Silence!”

Disease recoiled like the coward he was.

“I’m sure you’ve heard of Atlantis,” she continued easily. “What you probably do not know is that I ensured the island was swallowed by the sea simply because I was a wee bit annoyed with its ruler.”

Truth? Or exaggeration?

Either way...it excited him with the same fervency as her voice. At last. The opponent of my dreams.

“You have garnered more than my annoyance, warrior. I had one friend here. Only one. She is—was—my family.” A pause as Keeley sniffled. “Not by blood, but something far greater. I was once a creature of hate, but she taught me to love. And you took her away from me.”

Her pain sliced at him.

“Torin,” she said, and he knew instinctively this was the final calm before a great and terrible storm.

“Yes, Keeley.” If she asked for his heart—a life for a life—he would give it to her.

The storm broke, revealing the temper she’d lauded.

“I’m going to kill you,” she screamed. “Kill you so dead.” The bars of her cage rattled with increasing fervor. “You’ll experience agony in ways you’ve never dreamed possible, for I will do to you what I’ve done to so many others. I will skin you with a cheese grater and stuff your organs into a blender to make a smoothie. I will donkey punch your skull so hard your brain will ooze out of your eye sockets.”

“I...don’t know how to respond to that.”

“Don’t worry. Soon I’ll cut out your tongue and use it as a cleaning rag—you’ll never have to respond to anyone ever again!” A rock skidded into his cell...the first of an avalanche, rage and grief giving her the strength that centuries of imprisonment had surely stolen.

I’m wrecked. He’d robbed this woman of her best and only friend, leaving her with nothing but pain and misery.

Story of my life.

He wished his next deed would kill him but knew it would only make him wish he’d died. Any wound he received damaged his resistance to the demon and thereby his own immunity, allowing Disease to rise up and infect him. At least for a little while. Still. Torin did as he’d imagined. He clawed his way into his chest, scooped out his heart...and rolled it into Keeley’s cell.





CHAPTER TWO

KEELEY WASN’T SURE how many days or weeks had passed since the warrior had offered his still-beating heart as a macabre gift the darkest parts of her had actually appreciated. All she knew was that he’d spent the next however long moaning in agony and, if she had to guess, coughing up pieces of his lungs.

Sickened by his own demon? Deserved.

And while his suffering had dulled the sharpest edges of her rage, she still planned to kill him. I won’t forget. I won’t, I won’t, I won’t.

“It’s the right thing to do. Don’t you agree, Wilson?” she asked the rock that liked to watch her every move.

He remained silent, always silent. Cold-shoulder treatment was his specialty.

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