Home > Dark Harmony (The Bargainer #3)(12)

Dark Harmony (The Bargainer #3)(12)
Author: Laura Thalassa

“Believe me, I didn’t want to.” Des takes a deep breath, then tears his gaze away from that hole. A sardonic smile pulls the corner of his mouth up. “After Galleghar died, I left his body out for carrion to eat,” he says, “but no creature would touch it. When that did not work, I set his body to sea—but the waves returned it to me.”

I stare at him as he talks, sensing his restlessness. My own unease is growing.

“I tried burning his body.” He rubs his lower lip. “It was impervious to flame. I tried to vaporize his remains, but they resisted my magic.”

My eyes dip to that hole in the ground, trying not to get spooked by Des’s words.

“There are only three types of souls whose bodies can resist returning to the earth: those that are too powerful for it, those that are too pure for it, and those that are too corrupted for it.”

One guess which category Desmond Flynn’s father falls into.

“Eventually, I brought him here.” The Bargainer’s eyes return to the pit. “It killed me to give him even this—a hole in the ground. He deserved so much worse.”

From the stories I’ve heard—that Galleghar had slaughtered all his heirs in a bid to keep his throne—I can’t help but agree.

Des releases another breath and steps up to the edge of the hole. He kneels, studying its depths. Then, in one smooth motion, he lowers himself into the darkness.

Oh sweet Jesus, we’re going down there.

Of course we are.

Really don’t want to …

Maybe I can just linger topside …

“Don’t tell me you’ve developed a fear of the darkness now, cherub,” Des calls from below, his voice echoing.

Ugh. Fine.

I move up to the hole, sitting down at its edge and letting my feet dangle into it. I squint into the shaft, trying to gage how deep it is.

From the shadows, two hands wrap around my ankles, and with a swift jerk, I’m yanked into the darkness. Before I have a chance to shriek for dear life, Des catches me, and I’m sure he can feel the drum of my heart pounding against his chest.

“Oh my god,” I say, breathless, my skin brightening seconds too late, “why would you do that?”

Des laughs into the darkness. “You are much too tempting to toy with …” his eyes drop to my lips, caught in the glow of my glamour, “and to resist.”

He leans in, but before he can kiss me, I press a hand to his mouth.

“Uh uh,” I chastise him, glamour in my voice. “You don’t get a kiss for that.”

At my words, he pulls away a little, his eyes bright. “What do I get?” he says, the corner of his mouth curving into a mischievous grin.

A spanking, my siren whispers. Let’s make him give himself a spanking. He’s been a bad boy.

I almost laugh at the thought.

“You get the pleasure of avoiding my siren’s wrath. She wants you to spank yourself.”

The appropriate reaction is to be horrified at the thought. Too bad the Bargainer is decidedly inappropriate.

His face fills with gleeful surprise. “Naughty thing,” he chastises. “And right here in my father’s grave too.” Now he does give me a quick kiss. “Maybe later I’ll appease your dirty thoughts.” In the dim light cast by my skin, I see him wink at me.

It’s enough to mollify my siren.

With that, Des releases me. “Watch your step,” he advises. “There’s a tricky staircase you’ll need to maneuver—on second thought, it’d probably be best if I carried you …”

Before I can say or do anything else, his magic curls like smoke low in my belly. I feel the tug of it drawing me close to him.

“This is repayment for the coffee, isn’t it?” I say as the magic courses through me.

That, or Des really likes stirring my siren into action. Because where a second ago she was settling back down, now she’s pressing against the underside of my skin, eager to take over completely.

“I told you repayment would be fun,” Des says, a smirk in his voice.

Ha!

“This is not really what I had in mind when I made that wish …”

“Consider this foreplay, baby siren.”

And still his magic tugs at me, getting more insistent with every passing second.

“Alright, but I want to ride piggyback,” I state.

“I didn’t realize that you called the terms of repayment,” he says smoothly, scooping me up. Now that I’m in his arms, the magic relaxes. “Of course, if you want to ride me from behind—” his tone is undeniably sexual, “I won’t protest too much. Though it’s not my favorite position.”

God, he’s in rare form today.

He moves me to his back, and I wrap my arms around his neck, breathing in his smell as his hair tickles my cheek. His hands hook beneath my legs and he carries me down the winding stairway and deep into the ground.

The air down here is thick like molasses, heavy with protective wards meant to keep intruders out. It’s a shock to feel so much magic concentrated here when the land itself seems parched of it.

Des utters a phrase in Old Fae, and just like snapping one’s fingers, the magic parts, letting us through.

Ahead of us, mounted torches flare to life, illuminating a small chamber; the walls, ceiling and floor of it are nothing more than packed dirt. Right in the middle of the room, sitting on a natural bed of rock, is a roughhewn stone sarcophagus.

Maybe it’s the spells that still thicken the air, or maybe it’s the sight of the stone coffin, or maybe it’s simply the fact that this is the tomb of a man so evil the earth won’t corrupt his body, but a wave of vertigo washes through me. If it weren’t for Des’s hold on me, I would’ve slid off his back.

Gently, Des sets me down so he can lift his hand towards the sarcophagus. His magic briefly thickens the air, then stone grinds against stone as the lid begins to slide off the coffin.

An old, sour-tasting terror I used to feel whenever I thought about my father now rushes back. But it’s not my stepdad who’s frightening to me. It’s the possibility of what’s beneath that stone slab. A body that cannot decay, a man who’s back from the dead.

The lid comes off, hovering in the air before slowly lowering itself to the ground. It lands on the dirt with an echoing thump, dust billowing out around it.

From where I stand, I can’t see into the coffin. I creep forward, Des at my side.

I hear the Bargainer’s swift inhalation of breath, and then my eyes land on the inside of the coffin.

There’s no rotting corpse, nor is there a perfectly preserved body. There’s nothing here at all.

Galleghar Nyx might’ve once rested here, but he does no longer.

The sarcophagus is empty.

Chapter 9

I stare up at the stars, my body stretched out along the thin pallet resting on the dry earth. The night here in the Banished Lands is so clear the heavens sparkle above us.

Next to me, Des leans against a boulder, one of his knees bent in front of him, ruminating. He’s not angry or surprised, just … lost in his own mind.

In front of me, our fire crackles. Its flames flicker from rosy pink to pale green to lilac then buttery yellow, and the smoke that rises into the night sky is cast in dusty pastels. The whole thing is a kaleidoscope of color captured in heat and light, and it’s putting out a shit-ton of magic.

Why it looks like that is a secret Des hasn’t divulged—yet.

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