Possessed by a writing demon over the weekend, I wrote a very long chapter. Thinking perhaps the length might be a bit much for a serial installment, I tried to find a good dividing point to break things up. It wasn't easy and I can only hope I haven't just ruined the flow of the story. I'll post the other half shortly--if I can resist a rewrite and the characters don't butt in with dumbass opinions.
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Daniel’s mind churned with the thoughts and images brought to life by Dominic Cantrell’s words. Discovering who his parents were, moments later hearing the nightmare of their murder, then finding out his only living kin was a man he hated—had almost been more than he could take in. Waves of loss and pain had swept over him, settling into a stomach-clenching despair as Dom told his story, though it didn’t take long before those emotions were incinerated in the raw power of his fury, resolve and retribution rising from the ashes.
“Do you think he’s telling the truth?” Daniel muttered to Mickey, watching Katy move toward the living room. Before Mickey could respond, Daniel stared in disbelief as Dom surged to his feet and raced out of the kitchen, his face harsh with dawning horror.
Then they all froze at the unmistakable sound of Katy’s scream. Taurin and Mickey exchanged a look as Mickey snarled, “The bloody Hound is here. I can smell it.”
Frowning, Daniel wasn’t sure what that meant exactly, but when Lily tried to race past him, he grabbed her arm and spun her into Mickey’s grasp. Running after Dom, he snapped over his shoulder, “Stay out of sight, Lily, until we know what’s happening.”
Ignoring him, Lily pushed away from her grandfather. “Lass, you must listen! Stop!” And with his forbidding words, Mickey shoved her at Taurin, who promptly pushed her onto the bench and held her in place. When she tried to stand, he said sharply, “You are in grave peril and must be protected until we understand what Razeph wants with you and your book—” Abruptly Taurin straightened. “The book!”
As soon as he'd dashed out of the room, Lily leaped to her feet. Anger flared, heating her face, seething through her blood. Did they seriously think she would cower like a helpless twit while her best friend was in danger? Wrenching open one of the drawers, she snatched up her favorite chef’s knife, hefting the familiar weight of the long, lethal blade before tearing out of the kitchen.
Within an instant Dom took in the sight of Katy struggling against the Hound’s chest in a tight choke hold, his father across the room casually pouring himself a drink, and the disturbance at his back alerting him that the occupants of the kitchen were now ranged behind him. He knew from long experience not to give anything away to his father, though his control was slipping as the urge to tear the fiend limb from limb grew stronger the more Katy writhed in its grasp. He narrowed his eyes, searching beyond the terror on her face to the...wrongness in the creature. It appeared the beast had already been torn to pieces not long ago and hadn’t had time to reform itself. Hairy and ape-like, with a smattering of canine features, it truly resembled the abomination he had first seen long ago in the dungeons as a boy.
The creature risked a quick look, and without conscious thought Dom's eyes flashed with fiery, deadly promise. He had a moment of satisfaction at the Hound's recoil, but when he saw Katy’s eyes widen with fear and panic, the moment evaporated. Clenching his teeth, he fought the red haze until his vision cleared, and with a deep, penetrating look—no doubt the last one he would have before she too cringed at the sight of him—Dom absorbed the beauty of her elfin face, the joy and wonder of her body, the exuberant passion in her spirit. He was well aware the true pain would be in never again feeling the peaceful, soothing calm while stroking the long silken rope of her chestnut braid as she curled in his lap.
Dom watched one last miracle as her eyes softened under his scrutiny, her warmth reaching across the ten feet that separated them. He turned away before he did something foolish to jeopardize her, hoping she would understand someday, would forgive him for what he was about to do.
Jamieson Cantrell turned from the liquor cabinet and casually sauntered across the room to stand in front of the fireplace. Smiling, he took a sip of his drink, then gestured, as if he owned the place, for everyone to sit down. At the sputter of outrage behind the broad backs of the three men in front of him, Cantrell laughed softly. “Come, come, gentlemen, let the lady through.” He paused for a moment, then said in a cold, sibilant voice, “I’ve been so very eager to meet the instrument of my liberation.”
“Tell your Hound to release the girl, Razeph, and mayhap we’ll talk before ending your fun and games,” Taurin said tersely.
Cantrell cocked his head at the Warden. “I don’t believe we’ve been introduced.”
“Cut the crap,” Daniel barked. “Tell your foul, mangy Fido to let her go, or else.”
“Or else what?” Cantrell laughed.
Suddenly, with no warning, Lily dodged around Taurin and slashed at the arm that held her best friend imprisoned. When the creature made an unearthly howl of pain, loosening his grip, she yanked Katy forward so hard, they both fell to the floor. Taurin immediately grabbed them up, pushed them toward the kitchen and went for the Hound.
Watching the unexpected attack with interest, Cantrell stood quietly until the unknown Warden seemed too close to capturing his spawn. He uttered a strange, guttural exclamation that sizzled around the room like ball lightning, impelling the fiend to twist and gyrate, evading every move Taurin made before bolting out the door and down the staircase, leaving the disturbing amalgam of slapping flesh and scratching claws to echo up the stairs.
“I do so appreciate obedient pets,” Cantrell murmured, “and such brave women, don’t you agree, my son?” His eyes shifted over Dom’s shoulder, grazed over Lily, then settled on Katy, staring gravely back at him from the kitchen threshold. When he licked his lips, his gaze all but devouring her, Dom had to fight the overwhelming urge to rip off his father’s head and drop-kick it across the carpet. But, portraying nothing more than his usual relaxed nonchalance, his well-practiced and jaded indifference, he smiled instead. “I find obedience overrated, and much too boring. Really, where's the fun in it?”
Cantrell stared at Dom for a long moment, assessing his words, then he scoffed, a hint of amusement in his voice. “Since you rarely obey anyone, including me, I can only surmise that you are never bored.” Pausing, he speared Dom with a piercing look. “Has London been relocated to the Pacific Northwest? Did I miss the memo?”
Dom laughed with a casualness he didn't feel, “Surely you can understand the concept of a grown man's privacy. I shouldn't have to use subterfuge to enjoy myself.” He didn't flinch or lower his eyes from his father's burning glare, instead, irritated now, he said curtly, “And speaking of lying and misdirection, I think it's well beyond time to hear some truths from you, old man.”