Dark Stranger – Immortal



Here he goes again. Syssi winced.

In a heartbeat, Kian went from looking wistful to grumpy, his darkening mood casting an unpleasant, oppressive shadow. 

Syssi swallowed past the hard lump in her throat. Was he suddenly reminded of the dismissive way she had treated him before?

Okay… two could play that game. She could be aloof and grumpy as well…

Yeah right…

Holding onto Kian's hand as they headed for the elevator, Syssi struggled just to keep herself from plastering her body against his and rubbing all over him—like a cat on a scratching post.

But a quick glance at his grim, agitated face was enough to kill that impulse.

As they stood side by side, waiting for the elevator, there was an awkward silence between them, and if not for his hand holding onto hers almost crushingly, she would've thought he didn't want to be with her.

As soon as the doors slid shut behind them, the tension got even worse. With the memory of last night's momentous ride slamming down hard, the already small space shrunk around her, constricting her air supply.

“Fuck that!” Was all the warning she got before Kian shoved her against the wall and smashed his lips over hers with a low guttural sound reverberating deep in his throat. He held her in place with his hand on her nape, his tongue invading her welcoming mouth.

She moaned.

Her small needy whimpers must've urged him on, and he bent his knees to align their bodies, gyrating his hips and grinding himself against her. 

Testing, she pushed her tongue past his lips and thrust into his mouth. He let her, groaning as she went on swirling and licking at his fangs’ extended length. 

“More…” Kian growled when she left his mouth to kiss and nip at his throat, pulling her back to his lips, “… my fangs, I never knew it'd feel so damn good…”

Was she the first to give him this pleasure? Floored by his admission, Syssi's heart swelled with satisfaction. Kissing him long and hard, she swirled her tongue round and round his fangs until he groaned with bliss.

Once again, they were on fire, their need for each other insatiable. But unlike last night, acting on it was not an option. As the elevator chime announced that it reached its destination, Kian released her, and a moment later she let go of him as well.

Panting breathlessly as Kian held the door from closing, Syssi took a moment to compose herself before exiting into the wide corridor.

“Hold on!” He grabbed her arm as she stepped out. “I need another moment here.” He leaned his back against the hallway's wall, holding onto her bicep as if afraid she'd bolt. “Between my fangs and what's going on down below, I'll make quite a spectacle of myself if I walk into Bridget's lab like this.” 

“Need me to talk about gross, disgusting stuff? I can help you deflate in no time…” Syssi giggled, not at all sorry for his predicament.

Kian cocked a brow. “What gross stuff?”

“Once, when I was at the mall, I saw this little kid in a stroller eating a hamburger. He choked on a larger piece and puked, but kept eating the puke-covered hamburger as if nothing happened. Meanwhile, his mother was chatting with a friend and pushing the stroller, bewildered by the horror-filled glances of passers-by, oblivious to what was happening, until a saleslady ran out from one of the stores with a roll of paper towels.”

Kian chuckled. “Only you could think of telling a story like that. I was expecting guts and gore, and here you go, talking about little kids and puke.” He caressed her cheek tenderly. “My sweet Syssi.” He bent to kiss the top of her head.

“But it worked, didn't it?” She smirked.

“Yep, only partially, but it will do. Let's go.” He took her hand and led her toward the lab.

Whatever it was that had him all twisted up before seemed to have ebbed, and Kian was once again affectionate and easygoing with her. She wondered if their kiss in the elevator had been responsible for Kian's mood change.

Yeah, that was probably it.

Smiling up at him, she asked, “You know the saying that the way to a man's heart is through his stomach?” 

“What about it?”

She joggled her brows. “In your case, it's not the stomach.” 

“I have a newsflash for you, baby…” Kian snorted. “Unless a guy is gay or impotent or otherwise compromised, I don't care who he is; sex would always trump a full stomach.” Pulling her tightly against his side, he gave a little squeeze.

As they walked into the lab, Bridget was tying a rubber tube around Michael's bicep. Sitting on one of the metal tables, Michael winced and turned his head away. “I hate needles, can you make it quick, Doctor?” 

“Don't be a big baby. You're just like my son. Watching gory horror movies that make me cover my eyes and ears is fine, but a drop of his own blood makes him faint.” Bridget plunged the needle in one swift move.

Syssi sat on the table beside him. “Hi, Michael, how are you feeling?” She took his right hand to distract him from what was going on with his left.

“Nauseous… faint…” he admitted with a grimace.

“I mean, how are you feeling after the match, anything hurt?” She kept talking, drawing his attention to herself and away from the needle and the number of glass vials Bridget was filling with his blood.

“Oh, that? Nah, it's all good. That venom is a miracle drug. Most of the bruises were gone in a couple of hours, and the pains and aches even before that. I wish I had the stuff after football practice or games, or when…”

As he kept talking, Bridget finished filling the vials. “All done, big boy, you can hop down now.” She removed the tourniquet and pressed a gauze square to the crook of his arm, attaching it with an adhesive tape. “Want a lollypop?”

“Sure, I’d love one. What flavors you got?”

“Cherry, apple, and caramel.”

“I'll take the apple. Is it sour?”

“I don't know…” She smiled. “Here you go.” She handed him two apple-flavored lollypops.

“It's your turn, young lady. How is your relationship with needles?” Bridget finished sticking labels on the tubes she had filled with Michael's blood and pulled out a new tourniquet to tie around Syssi's bicep.

“Don't love them, don't hate them… I'm not squeamish.” Syssi held out her arm.

Michael walked over to where Kian was leaning against another lab table and eased back beside him. Sucking on his pop, he offered Kian his spare one. “Want a pop?”

“No, I'm good, kid. Keep it for later.” 

“So, Doctor Bridget, what exactly are you going to do with all that blood?” Michael asked, waving the pop in the direction of the test-tube rack.

“Well, I'm going to run a bunch of tests. Genetic tests mostly. First I'm going to check your mitochondrial DNA to establish your matrilineal descent and make sure you and Syssi are not from the same line, or ours. Then I'm going to be checking for anything and everything that might give me a clue. Unfortunately, the knowledge rescued from the cataclysm did not include medicine or genetics, so we are just as clueless as mortals on those subjects.” She sighed, placing another ampule of Syssi's blood in the rack.

Alarmed by the possibility, Syssi glanced at Kian. By the grim expression on his face, so was he. “Is there a chance we might be of the same line as you guys?” she asked.

“It's a very remote chance. Annani was an only daughter to her mother, who was also an only daughter. The gods started mating with mortals only after Annani's mother came of age and not before. So as far as we know, there weren't any other descendants from that line besides Annani. But we need to make sure. We take the taboos very seriously. In-line mating might have disastrous genetic implications that we couldn't even fathom. As promiscuous as the gods were, there must have been a good reason for such a strong taboo.”

“Well, let's hope for the best. I'm positive you'll find Michael and I are from two completely different lines…” Syssi smiled, trying to reassure Kian, or maybe herself.

“Yes, I certainly hope so.” Bridget finished with the last test tube.

“Hope springs eternal for the young and naive. Personally, I hate the bitch,” Kian spat as he pushed away from the table. “In my experience, hope is often groundless. Fairytales have happy endings—real life seldom does.” He lifted Syssi off the table as if the one-foot jump down could be hazardous to her health, or perhaps just used it as an excuse to hold her tightly for a moment.

Whatever his reasons for the gallant gesture, at the contact, her skin prickled with awareness. And as he held her close, she breathed in his unique musk, getting intoxicated by it. Syssi had to briefly close her eyes. The man smelled absolutely delicious. When he reluctantly released her, she opened her eyes slowly, swaying on her feet a little before turning to Bridget. “When will you have something for us?”

Fidgeting with her equipment, the doctor seemed uneasy with their open display of affection. “The mitochondrial DNA testing will be done probably today. The rest will take as long as it does. I have a slew of tests I'm thinking of, and probably will come up with some more as I go.”

“Don't you need to send it out to a genetics lab?” Syssi didn't know what exactly was required, but the small lab they were in certainly didn't have anything looking even remotely sophisticated.

“Oh, this?” Bridget followed Syssi's appraising eyes. “This is just my examination room. I have all the best equipment available in the lab proper, a level down from here. Besides this room, I also have an operating room and several recovery rooms. I'm a whole hospital and research facility of one.” Her chin went up. “I have everything a girl like me could ever dream of.” She blew a kiss at Kian. “All thanks to our very generous regent.”

“Flattery will get you everywhere.” Kian blew her a kiss back. “You'll let us know as soon as you have the initial results?”

“You'll be the first to know,” Bridget promised.

As they made their way back to the elevator, Michael was a step behind them. “Do you guys really need to keep me locked up? Can't I at least enjoy the freedom of the basement? Syssi gets to, so why can't I?”

Michael seemed to be happy and excited about the opportunity he had been given, and Syssi doubted he would bolt. But apparently, Kian wasn't ready to take the risk.

He glanced back at Michael, appraising him.

“Okay, kid. I'll take you to William and have him encode the elevator with your thumbprint. However, I'll  have you wear a locator cuff. And just to make things clear, the thing is impossible to remove by anyone but William. Not without cutting off your hand. Still want one?”

“Hell, yeah! Sure I want it! It's not like I have any desire to leave or anything. ” Michael shook Kian's hand vigorously. “Thank you. I hate being locked up.”

“You're welcome.”

“How about me? Don't I get a thumbprint pass to the elevator?” Syssi hadn't thought to ask before, but now with Michael getting it, she saw no reason why she shouldn't have access to the elevators as well.

  “You don't have one yet? I thought Amanda took care of it. How did you get around?”

“There was always someone escorting me. I never used the elevator by myself. Frankly, at one point I even considered taking the endless stairs down. I'm getting claustrophobic being cooped up in here.”

“Both of you are coming with me to William right now to take care of this.” Kian led them toward another turn in the endless labyrinth of the underground.

“If I'm to navigate it on my own, I'd need a map of this place. Otherwise, I'd get so lost, it will take you days to find me.” Syssi wasn't joking. Besides the place being huge, there were no distinguishing signs between one corridor and another. They all looked the same; same industrial carpet, same concrete walls, and the same metal doors leading to various rooms. With her nonexistent sense of direction, she would be lost in no time.

A wicked gleam in his eyes, Kian bent to whisper in her ear. “I'll slap a locator cuff on you as well, my sweet.” 

“Aren't you the big bad wolf.” She stretched up on her tiptoes, pretending to go for his lips. But instead of the kiss he'd been expecting, she nipped his nose.

“Oh, I'll get you for that…” Kian growled.

“As I see it, I owed you a bite… or two… you had it coming…” 

“You're lucky we have company…” Kian pinched her butt.

Michael chuckled.

“Shut up, kid. You haven't seen a thing…” He twisted back, pinning Michael with a hard stare.

“I see nothing, hear nothing… I'm not even here…” Michael saluted solemnly, his face pinched in an effort to suppress another chuckle.

“You and I are going to get along just fine, kid…” Kian winked at Michael, then wrapped his arm around Syssi's waist, pulling her closer against his side.