Dark Enemy Taken
"Nice driving," Amanda said as Dalhu slammed on the brakes and took a sharp turn. The car swerved, skidding on the loose gravel then finally coming to a full stop just inches away from a rusted metal gate.
After driving for hours through the dark forest, the Doomer had apparently reached his final destination—this private dirt road must've led to the mountain cabin he was planning to hide in.
Dear fates, how could her life had taken such a sharp turn into the twilight zone in the span of just a few hours? In her craziest dreams, or rather worst nightmares, Amanda could have not foreseen being captured by a Doomer. No other female of their clan had ever fallen into the hands of their vicious enemy—the minions-of-all-that-is-evil—the Brotherhood of the Devout Order Of Mortdh—Doomers.
But why had the vengeful fates doomed her to be the first? What had she done to earn their wrath? What wrong could she’ve possibly committed to deserve such punishment?
Everything had been going so well…
Maybe too well… enjoying too much success or too much happiness without giving the fates credit for the good fortune they bestowed was never wise…
Amanda had been basking in the success of her research. She'd finally been able to identify two excellent potential Dormants and even managed to convince Kian, her stubborn and skeptic brother, to allow the process of their activation to begin. Amanda had high hopes for both. Syssi, her adorable lab assistant, was an exceptional seer, and Michael, a student, was an excellent receiving telepath. And what's more, Kian had fallen head over heels for Syssi, just as Amanda had known he would, and he was attempting the girl's activation himself.
Am I a fabulous matchmaker or what?
But the fates were capricious, and must've been angered by her vanity. She should've thanked them for their help… should've given them credit for her success…
Please forgive me? I want my old life back.
Only this morning, she'd taken Syssi on a fun day of beauty salons and shopping after which they'd met with Andrew, Syssi's wickedly attractive brother, for lunch.
She should've stayed with them; she should've gone home with Syssi.
But Amanda had wanted to do something nice for Syssi.
She sighed; no good deed goes unpunished.
She'd wanted to commission a duplicate of the pendant Syssi had given her. The lovely diamond-encrusted heart was Andrew's gift to Syssi for her sixteenth birthday, and Amanda wanted to prevent any unpleasantries between Andrew and Syssi if he ever discovered that his sister had given away his gift. So she'd said goodbye, leaving them behind in the restaurant, and headed out on her own to the jewelry store, back to Rodeo Drive.
It had happened there.
She had been kidnaped. By a Doomer. In broad daylight. From the Beverly Hills jewelry store.
How is that for drama?
Though, unfortunately, not of her own making—for a change.
Dear Fates, Syssi and Kian must be going out of their minds with worry.
Or maybe not.
They're most likely busy declaring their love for each other over that romantic dinner Kian promised Syssi, or maybe they're already back at Kian's penthouse—making love…
Not that Amanda wasn't ecstatic for them. After all, it had been her brilliant matchmaking that had brought Syssi and Kian together.
She couldn't help worrying, though. Their happily-ever-after was far from guaranteed. If Syssi didn’t turn immortal, their fairytale love story would end in tragedy.
Because letting Syssi go would destroy Kian.
Unfortunately, he'd be forced to do it. As much as Amanda would've wished for a different solution, she had to accept that there was no other way. Even if they made an exception for Syssi, allowing her to keep knowledge of their existence, the sad fact was that her human lifespan was a blink of an eye compared to Kian's near immortal one. Kian would have no choice but to send her away and erase her memory—of him and everything else to do with the existence of immortals.
Though, in truth, what purpose could it serve for Syssi to retain her memories? Memories that would remind her of the great love she'd found and lost?
Erasing them would be a mercy. There was no reason for Syssi to suffer along with Kian. Pity that there was no way to erase an immortal's memory—it could have saved him the anguish.
Perhaps it was possible their mother could do it for him. As the only surviving pure-blooded goddess, Annani had the power to manipulate immortal minds—just as immortals had the power to manipulate those of humans. Maybe she'd be able to help him.
Except, Kian would most likely refuse. Knowing her brother, Amanda suspected that he would welcome the torment. The poor guy would believe that he deserved the punishment.
Though, if he wanted to assign blame, he should pick her.
Kian would've never attempted Syssi's activation if not for Amanda's insistence. Initially, he'd refused. Not that she could fault his reasoning, to the contrary. While Amanda was willing to bend clan law and her sense of honor for the greater good, Kian held himself to much higher standards. The act of seducing a potential Dormant female and injecting her with venom to facilitate the activation of her dormant genes was morally iffy. Especially since, out of necessity, the attempted activation had to be done without her consent—her memory of it erased. Not to mention that the probability of it working was extremely low. Nonexistent—in Kian's opinion.
Eventually, though, Kian's attraction to Syssi had overpowered his good conscience and honorable intentions and he'd seduced the girl. But somewhere along the line he'd fallen in love with her and had told her the truth. About everything.
Yeah, if Syssi didn't turn, Kian would blame himself for lacking the willpower to stay away from her.
Dear fates, please, let Syssi turn…
And please, help me get away from this crazy Doomer… Crazy, but, sigh, so incredibly handsome…
As Dalhu bent over the padlock, working to open it and remove the chain that held the gate fastened to the fence, his muscular arms flexed and his T-shirt clung to his strong back. Amanda just couldn't help but admire what he was putting on display.
He must be at least six-seven or eight… Very appealing for a tall female like me…
Bad Amanda! Stop ogling the evil Doomer!
She averted her gaze when Dalhu returned and folded his huge frame inside. He drove the car a few feet past the gate, then stopped and got out to re-lock it behind them.
It was a little past midnight when he parked the car at the end of the long, private driveway—in front of the isolated mountain cabin.
Observing the so-called cabin, Amanda grimaced. Dalhu had obviously chosen the place based on how well hidden it was. Style, or even comfort, hadn't been factored.
The place was dreadful. Calling it a cabin was a joke. She'd stayed at mountain cabins before, and this dingy shack didn't deserve the appellation. And what's worse, it was completely and utterly isolated. The last time she'd spotted signs of habitation, including power poles and power lines, had been over an hour ago. And it wasn't as if the electric cables were buried in the ground. At some point, the power lines had just veered away from the road and into the mountains, disappearing from view.
What had the Doomer been thinking? That she would gather wood and schlep water from a well?
Can you say delusional? Amanda humphed and crossed her arms over her chest.
Dalhu shot her an amused glance. "Come on, Professor, let's see what we got here."
She hated when he called her Professor in that mocking tone of his—as if she was delusional despite being well educated. "I asked you not to call me that…"
"Sorry, I just love saying it, Professor…"
He got out and walked up to the front porch—looking annoyingly cheerful. Evidently, the Doomer deemed this rundown shack to be just great. In his defense, though, she had no doubt this was a step up from what he'd been used to.
Whatever, she'd better take a good look around and check for anything that might give her some advantage—a way out. Trouble was, she had no idea what to look for.
Should've watched some adventure movies… about escape from captivity… Oh, well, should've and could've are not going to help me now.
Stepping out of the car, Amanda followed Dalhu—taking tiny, slow steps. It was dark. There was no artificial lighting coming out from the cabin, and the moon was obscured by heavy, dark clouds. Still, as an immortal, her night vision was excellent, and the little light filtering through the cover of clouds was enough. To her great relief, she saw that there would be no need for her to schlep wood or water to the cabin. Power was provided by a solar panel array that covered one side of the steep roof and a wind turbine that towered over the main building. There was another small structure a few feet away, probably storage, and what looked like a water well next to it. The contraption on top of the well must've been an electrical pump. At least she hoped it was electrical…Amanda still remembered times when most people had to do with manual pumps—not that she'd ever done any pumping, that was what servants were for.
Oh, fates, I miss Onidu.
Onidu, her loyal butler, who was always there for her, taking care of her and doing all of the boring housework tasks. Right now, if he were here, she would've hugged him and wouldn't let go—and it didn't matter at all that Onidu wasn't a real person, only a brilliant technological construct. Fully aware that he had no real feelings, she loved him anyway. How could she not? Even though it was his programming that was responsible for all that he had done for her since she was little… keep her company, take care of her, protect her…
Get a grip, Amanda! she commanded herself, fighting the tears that were stinging the back of her eyes. She had mere seconds to finish assessing her environment before Dalhu finished his breaking and entering and hauled her inside.
It seemed that, unfortunately, the cabin was self-sufficient and off the grid. The chances of anyone being able to follow her trail to this remote and isolated place were slim to none, and so were her opportunities to run or get help.
It took Dalhu no more than a few seconds to manipulate the lock and open the door. By the time she climbed the two steps leading up to the porch, he was already inside, flipping the light switch on.
The downstairs was only one room with an ugly L-shaped kitchen and a narrow wooden staircase leading up to an open loft-style bedroom. Both were sparsely furnished with old, worn out furniture that was covered with a thick layer of dust and decorated with an appalling number of spider webs.
Ugh, so disgusting.
Standing by the entry, she clutched her twenty-thousand-plus-dollar purse close to her body, keeping it away from the grime, and glanced around in search of the bathroom. There was only one door in the whole place that looked like it could lead to another room, and it was upstairs in the loft bedroom.
She imagined the bathroom was just as dirty and disgusting as the rest of the place, but nature was calling, and crouching behind some bush in the middle of the night was not happening. "I'm going to pee and take a shower. In the meantime, you'd better start cleaning. The place is filthy." Amanda took the stairs up to the loft and strode into the bathroom.
She made sure to lock the door behind her.
Not that she had any illusions that it could keep Dalhu out if he decided he wanted in. But she hoped he would have the decency to get a clue and stay out. Until now, the Doomer had proven to be surprisingly courteous and civil, for a kidnaper, that is, and a Doomer. She was expecting him to behave like a gentleman. Which probably meant that Dalhu wasn't the only one who was delusional here.
‘Doomer’ and ‘gentleman’ just didn't belong in the same sentence.
"Pampered brat…" she heard him mumble under his nose as she wiped the dusty toilet seat with tissue paper. Thank heavens she'd found some leftover by the previous occupant because she hadn't thought to bring it up from the car.
"I heard that!" she said, flushing it down.
The gall of the man, calling her a pampered brat. Not that he was wrong, necessarily—she was pampered… and a brat… but as her kidnaper, he had no right to expect her to be considerate.
Amanda slid a disgusted glance over the dirty tub and sighed. She would have to clean the thing herself. But how? She had never cleaned anything before.
Maybe filling it with water and then draining it would do the trick.
The rusty, old faucet made an ominous screeching sound when she forced it to turn, and waiting to see what would come out of it Amanda held her breath. As she'd expected, the water was brown with rust from the old pipes and whatever other nasties. But when after a few seconds it ran clean, Amanda breathed out.
She flicked the toilet lid closed and sat down. Waiting for the tub to fill, she let her head drop back.
Oh, dear fates, what am I going to do?
With her gone, there would be no one to continue her research.
All her hard work, the long years she'd spent studying and working toward earning her Ph.D. in neuroscience and then carving a position for herself at the university—gone—because of one fateful coincidence. Why were the fates so cruel to her? Just as she had finally found what she'd been searching for, they had taken it away from her.
The university would probably replace her with another professor who would continue her lab's formal research. But there would be no one to conduct her unofficial experiments on mortals with paranormal abilities; no one to search for possible Dormant carriers of her people's immortal genes. Amanda had been so close to finding a solution to her clan members’ lonely existence. The matriarch of their clan, Annani, was the only known surviving full-blooded goddess, but that didn't mean that some of the immortal female descendants of other goddesses hadn't survived the cataclysm.
As long as Amanda was Dalhu's captive, she wouldn't know if Syssi and Michael did indeed descend from other goddesses. But if they'd transitioned, at least two members of her clan would gain lifelong partners.
Amanda sighed. What if she’d been wrong?
Perhaps she’d been deluding herself.
Syssi most likely wasn't a Dormant and neither was Michael. What if Amanda had given Kian false hope, condemning both her brother and Syssi to terrible heartache? Or worse?
Because if Syssi didn't turn, Kian would be devastated.
He would blame Amanda.
And he'd be right.
Long-term relationships between mortals and immortals weren't possible not only due to the disparity in lifespans, but also because of the risk of exposure. No one in the mortal world was allowed to know about the existence of immortals, no exceptions. It was an existential necessity.
Syssi, thank the merciful fates, would be spared the pain because she wouldn't remember falling in love with Kian. But losing Syssi would destroy Kian.
At best, Kian and Syssi could have a couple of months together. Any longer and Syssi might suffer an irreversible brain damage from having too many memories suppressed. And even if she was to escape neurological damage, she might be driven insane by the large chunk of time missing from her life and the inevitable surfacing of bits and pieces of confusing memories.
This time, Amanda wasn't wrong. She could feel it in her gut. Syssi would turn, and so would Michael. And if she'd managed to find two potential Dormants just by conducting a few small-scale experiments in her university lab, then there must be many more out there.
At last she could ensure a better future for her clan and put an end to the lonely existence they had been forced to endure for centuries.
That's right, she would earn the respect of her family, transcending the image of a spoiled princess. Amanda's mood improved considerably. There was just one small obstacle she still had to overcome.
She had to escape.
ENEMY TAKEN IS AVAILABLE ON AMAZON