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Last Updated: March 06, 2015 11:14:48

Dark Guardian by Christine Feehan
Jaxon Montgomery snapped the clip into her handgun and glared at her partner. "This is a setup, Barry, I can smell it. It's amazing to me that you don't have a clue. Where's your sixth sense? I thought men were supposed to have some kind of instinct for self-preservation."

Barry Radcliff snorted derisively. "You're the one leading the party, honey, and we're all following you."

"My point, partner, you have no sense of self-preservation," Jaxx threw him a teasing grin over her shoulder. "The entire lot of you are worthless."

"True, but we have good taste. You look good from behind. We're men, honey, we can't help the hormones."

"Is that your excuse? Hormones running amok? I thought you liked living on the edge, you gung ho kamikaze types. Daredevils."

"That's you, we just go along to pull your cute little butt out of all the trouble you get into," Barry returned. He glanced at his watch. "You've got to decide, Jaxx, do we try it or call it off?"
Jaxx closed off her mind to everything, the darkness of the night, the biting cold, the adrenaline surging in her blood needing action. The warehouse was too easily accessible, there was no way to search the upper lofts without exposing themselves. She had never been all that happy with the informant. Everything in her screamed it was a set-up and they were walking into an ambush.

Without hesitation she moved her mouth over the tiny radio. "Abort, guys, I want all of you to pull back and out. Signal when clear. Barry and I will cover until we hear from you. Go now."

"That strong?" She could hear the grin in Barry's voice. "Wonder woman."

"Oh, shut up," she replied rudely, her voice mild but edged with worry. Her eyes were restless, constantly moving, sweeping the entire area around them. The feeling of danger was intensifying.

The tiny receiver in her ear crackled. "Are you going to let a woman losing her nerve lose us the biggest bust in history?" That was new guy. The one that had been placed on her team against her will. The one who had some kind of political pull in the department and was on his way up. Benton. Craig Benton.

"Stand down, Benton, that's an order, we can argue over it later," Jaxx commanded, but she knew, with a sinking heart, he was the cause of the warning systems shrieking at her. Benton wanted to be a hero. There was no room for heroes in her line of work.

Barry was swearing beside her, his body already rigid. He knew it as well as she did. Barry had been her partner long enough to know when Jaxx said there was trouble, there was hell out there. "He's going in, he's going in, I see him at the side door."

"Fall back, Barry," Jaxx snapped, already moving forward. "I'll try to pull him out, you get the rest of the world down here because there's going to be a war. Keep our guys out of there until we have help. It's an ambush."

She was so small and slender, dressed in her dark clothes and cap, Barry could barely make her out in the darkness of the night. She never made a sound when she moved. It was eerie. He found himself continually glancing at her to assure himself she was with him. Now, he moved too. There was no way his partner was going into that building without him. He issued the orders, called in the backup, but he followed her. He told himself it had nothing to do with Jaxx Montgomery and everything to do with partnership. It had nothing to do with love, and everything to do with the job.

"You should see this place," the radio crackled in their ears. "Get in here, it's loaded with enough chemicals to blow up half the city."

"You idiot, it's loaded with enough chemicals to blow up the building with you in it, now get the hell out of there." It was Jaxx at her best. Her voice was soft and cutting, a whip of pure contempt. Anyone hearing that voice became a believer.

Craig Benton glanced uneasily to his right and then his left. The place suddenly gave him the creeps. He began a slow retreat, backing toward the door. At once something bit at his leg, high and ugly, knocking him backwards and down. He found himself on cold cement floor staring up at the loft. The place remained silent. He put his hand down to touch his leg and found a mush of raw hamburger. He screamed. "I'm hit, I'm hit. Oh, God, I'm hit."

Jaxon would have gone through the door first, but Barry slammed his shoulder into her, knocking her slight figure to the side. He dove into the warehouse, rolling to his right looking for cover of any kind. He heard the whine of the bullets as they zipped past him and embedded into the crate behind him. He thought he got off a warning to Jaxx, but he couldn't be sure as he crawled toward Benton. Things were happening too fast and his vision had narrowed toward his purpose, pulling out the stupid kid and getting the hell out of there.

He made it to the kid. "Shut up," he snapped rudely. Did the rookie have to be as big as a linebacker? Dragging him out of there was going to be difficult and if Craig kept screaming he was going to shoot the rookie himself. "Let's go." He caught Benton under the arms, tried to stay low and behind cover and began to make his way back toward the door. It was a long way. They were spraying the area now, and deliberately sweeping the chemicals so explosions were going off all over the place. Fires broke out. He felt the sting of the first hit on his scalp, the second was well placed. His left arm went numb and he dropped Benton and found himself on the floor.

Jaxx was there. Jaxon Montgomery, his partner. Jaxon never stopped until it was over and she never left her partner in trouble. Jaxon was going to die in that warehouse right beside of him. She was providing covering fire, running toward them. "Get up, you lazy ass, you're not that hurt. Haul your butt out of here."

Yeah, that was his Jaxx, always sympathetic to his problems. Benton, damn him, was dragging his body toward the door, trying to save himself. Barry tried. He was very disoriented and the smoke and heat didn't help. Something was wrong with his head, so that it pounded and throbbed and everything seemed hazy and far away. Jaxx's small frame landed beside him, her beautiful eyes enormous with worry. "You landed us in a hell of a mess, my friend," she said softly. "Get moving." She gave him that quick once over, assessing the damage and dismissing it for more important things. "I mean it, Barry, move your butt out of here now!" It was a clear command.

Jaxx slammed another clip into her gun and rolled away from him to draw fire away from her partner, coming up on her knees firing up towards the loft. As he dragged his leaden body toward the entrance, Radcliff caught a glimpse of a man falling. Satisfaction was instant. Jaxx was an expert marksperson. What she shot at, went down. Even if they died here, they took at least one of them with them. Something made him turn his head just as the bullets struck Jaxx, taking her small body and flinging it across the warehouse backward several feet. She fell like a rag doll onto the floor, a dark stain spreading out around her.

Furious, enraged, Barry tried to bring his gun up, but his arm refused to respond. The only thing he could do was crawl forward, or crawl back. He crawled back, dragging his body across the distance to hers. She was just lying there. She turned her head slightly to get a look at him.

"Don't, Jaxx, don't you do this to me."

"Get out of here."

"I mean it, damn it, don't you do this." He was desperate to reach her, motivate her to move. She had to move. Had to get out with him.

"I'm tired, Barry. I've been tired for a very long time. Someone else can save everybody now." She murmured the words very low. He almost didn't hear them.

"Jaxx!" Barry tried to gather her in his arms but his arms wouldn't work.

To his left, the small door suddenly slammed shut, trapping them inside. Benton was right, there were enough chemicals in there to blow them all over the city. He waited, expecting death at any moment.

He heard screams then, horrible, gut-wrenching screams of fear. He saw bodies falling through the smoke and the glow of flames. He saw things that couldn't be. A wolf, huge and savage, leaping at a fleeing man, powerful jaws boring through the chest to tear it open to get at the heart. The wolf seemed to be everywhere, bringing down man after man, ripping through tissue and flesh, cracking bones with its jaws. He saw that same wolf contort, shift shape so that it was a huge owl with talons and a beak that dove at another man, plucking the eyes right out of the head. It was an unbelievable nightmare of blood and death and retribution.

Barry had no idea he had such violence inside of him to picture such terrible images. Barry knew at least two bullets had hit him, he could feel the blood trickling down his face as well as his arm. Obviously he was hallucinating. That was why he didn't attempt to shoot when the wolf finally made its way to their corner of the warehouse. He watched it approach, admiring the way it moved, its muscles rippling, the way it leapt so easily over anything in its path. It came straight to him, drawn no doubt by the smell of blood, or Barry thought, his own vivid imagination running wild.

The wolf looked at him a long time, looked into his eyes. The eyes of the wolf were very strange, almost black, completely black. Intelligent eyes. Those eyes were empty of any emotion. Barry felt no threat, but more as if the wolf was staring into his very soul, perhaps judging him. He lay there still, feeling only a willingness to do whatever the creature wanted him to do. He felt very sleepy, his eyelids far too heavy to keep up. As he was drifting off, he could have sworn the wolf contorted once more and began to take on the shape of a man.

Jaxon Montgomery woke to the sound of a heart beating. It was beating fast and hard, frightened, and very, very loud. She felt automatically for her gun. She was never without a weapon, yet she found nothing under her pillow or beside her body. The heart pounded even harder and she tasted the coppery flavor of fear in her mouth. Dragging in a lung-full of air, she forced herself to open her eyes. She could only stare in astonishment at the room she was in. It was no hospital, and certainly not the bedroom in her tiny apartment. This room was beautiful. The walls were a soft mauve, so light it was impossible to tell if the color was really there or merely her imagination. The carpet was thick and a deeper mauve, picking up the colors in the stained glass that etched the room, high up on three walls. The pattern was soothing and intricate. It gave Jaxx the illusion of being safe, something she knew was impossible. Just to make certain she was really awake, she dug her fingernails into her palm.

She turned her head to examine the contents of the room. The furniture was antique and heavy, the bed a four poster that was more comfortable than anything she had ever slept on in her life. The dresser was large and held a few feminine articles on it. A brush, a small music box and a candle. They were beautiful and looked antique. There were several candles in the room, all lit so that the room itself seemed to bask in the soft light. She had often dreamed of a room like this, so beautiful and elegant, with stained glass windows. It occurred to her again that she might not be awake.

The sound of the heart pounding so loud convinced her she was wide awake and there must be others taking care of her. Others who had no way of knowing the danger she brought with her. She would have to find a way to protect them. Jaxx looked around frantically for her gun. She had definitely suffered an injury. It dawned on her then, she couldn't move very well. She took an inventory, carefully trying to move her arms and then her legs. Her body did not want to respond. She could move if she concentrated every bit of her determination, but it was hardly worth the effort. She was very tired and her head was aching. The relentless beating of that heart was driving her crazy.

A shadow fell across the bed and her heart slammed hard enough to cause her pain and she realized the sound had come from her own chest. Jaxon slowly turned her head. A man was standing over her. Very tall, powerful. A predator. She saw that instantly. She had seen many predators, but this one was the ultimate. There was something in his complete stillness. A waiting. A confidence. It was in the very stillness itself. A power. A danger. He was dangerous. More dangerous than anyone she had encountered so far. She didn't know how she knew these things, but she did. He believed himself invincible and she had a sneaking suspicion that he just might be. He was neither old nor young. It was impossible to tell his true age. His eyes were old. Black and emotionless. Empty eyes. His mouth was very sensual, erotic really, his teeth very white. He was handsome and sexy. More than sexy. Completely hot.

Jaxx sighed and tried not to panic. Tried not to allow her thoughts to show on her face. His shoulders were very wide. He definitely didn't look like a doctor. He did not look like someone she could take down easily in hand to hand combat. He smiled then, amusement touching his eyes for just one moment. It made him look completely different. Warm. Sexy. Even more sexy. She had a feeling he was reading her thoughts and laughing at her. Her hand was moving restlessly beneath the covers, forever seeking the gun.

"You are in distress," he made it a statement. His voice was beautiful. Smooth like velvet, almost seductive. He had a strange accent she couldn't place and a way of turning his words that sounded very Old World, almost alluring.

Jaxon blinked rapidly in an attempt to cover her confusion, surprised by the direction her thoughts were taking. She never thought in terms of sex. She had no idea why she was equating this stranger with erotic descriptions. To her shock, she had to reach for her voice. "I need my gun." It was a dare of sorts, a test of his reactions.

Those black eyes studied her face intently. His scrutiny made her feel uncomfortable. Those eyes saw too much and Jaxon had a great deal to hide. His face was expressionless, giving absolutely nothing away and Jaxx was very good at reading people. "Are you planning on shooting me?" He asked it with that same gentle voice only this time there was a hint of amusement in it.

She was very tired. It was becoming a struggle to keep her eyelashes from drifting down. She noticed a peculiar phenomenon. Her heart had slowed to match the exact rhythm of his. Exactly. The two hearts were beating simultaneously. She could hear their hearts. His voice was very familiar to her yet he was a total stranger. No one could ever meet such a man and forget him. She could not possibly know this man.

She moistened her lips. She was incredibly thirsty. "I need my gun."

He moved to the dresser. Not walked. Glided. She could watch him move like that for all time. His body was like that of an animal, a wolf or a leopard, something cat-like and powerful. Fluid. Totally silent. He flowed, yet when movement ceased, he was completely still again. He handed her the gun.

It felt familiar in her hand, an extension of herself. Almost at once some of the fear faded away. "What happened to me?" Automatically she tried to check the clip, but her arms felt like lead and she couldn't raise the gun enough to do the job.

He took the gun back, his fingers brushing her skin. The flood of warmth was so unexpected she jerked away from him. He didn't react, but gently pried her fingers loose and showed her the full clip with a round in the chamber before returning the gun to her palm. "You were shot several times, Jaxon. You are still very ill."

"This isn't a hospital." She was always suspicious, it was what kept her alive. She didn't want to be alive anymore. She wasn't supposed to be alive. "You're in great danger. You can't stay here with me." She tried to warn him, but her words were too low, her voice fading.

"Sleep, honey. Just go back to sleep." He said it softly, yet his velvet tone seeped into her body and mind, as powerful as any drug.

He touched her then, stroking back her hair. His touch was familiar, and slightly possessive. He touched her as if he had a right to touch her. It was more of a caress than anything else. Jaxon was very confused. She knew him. He was a part of her. She knew him intimately, yet he was a total stranger. She sighed, unable to prevent her lashes from drifting down and giving in to the powerful demand that she sleep.

Lucian sat on the edge of the bed and simply watched her sleeping. She was the most unexpected thing he had experienced in all of his many centuries of living. He had waited for this being nearly two thousand years and she was nothing at all like he envisioned. The women of his race were tall and elegant with an abundance of dark hair and eyes. They were creatures of power and skill. He was well aware that his species was on the edge of extinction and their women were guarded as the treasures they were, but still, they were powerful, not fragile and vulnerable like this young woman.

He touched her pale skin. Sleeping, she looked almost like a pixie, a fairy out of the legends. She was so small and slight she seemed all eyes. Beautiful eyes. The kind of eyes a man could drown in. Her hair was several shades of blonde, thick and soft, but short and shaggy as if she carelessly took the scissors to it whenever it got into her way. He had assumed she would have long hair, not this thick mop. He found himself constantly touching her hair. Soft like strands of silk. It was untamed and went whatever direction it chose, but he found himself partial to her wild hair.

She lived in fear. It was her world. It had been her world from the time she was a small child. Lucian had no idea he had such a protective streak in him. For so many centuries he had no feelings, now in the presence of this human woman, he had far too many. Those who had tried to harm her had paid dearly for their crimes in the warehouse. Lucian had sent her into a deep sleep, slowing her heart and lungs while he carried her away from that place of death and madness. He had saved her partner, implanting the memory of an ambulance carrying her off. Lucian managed to save her, giving her his ancient, powerful blood. He had entered her body in the way of his people and began the healing from the inside out. Her wounds were great, her blood loss massive. Using his blood was the only way to save her life, but it was dangerous to both of them. Discovery of the existence of his species by any of her kind would be a death sentence. His first priority was her protection, the second was to the continuation of his race. His job had always been the protection of both species.

He had ensured himself time by covering his tracks at the hospital where she would have been taken. He implanted memories of calling in Lifeflight, sending her to a trauma unit. The paper work seemed to be lost and the computers went down. No one had figured out exactly what happened.

Lucian found himself tangling his fingers in her hair once more. She didn't even have a decent name. What kind of a name was Jaxon for a woman? He shook his head. He had been watching her for some time, figuring the best way to approach her. If she had been a woman of his race, he simply would have claimed her as his own, bound them together and allowed nature to take its course. This woman was so fragile. He had touched her mind many times over the last few weeks while he had established his home, He found she had many secrets. Gabriel's lifemate had told him he would find this woman somewhere in the world and she was in great need. Francesca had been right. Jaxon's life had not been an easy one. She had no childhood to speak of, only memories of death and violence. Jaxon believed she was responsible for keeping those around her safe. She lived her entire young life that way. Taking responsibility for others. No one had ever really taken care of her. He intended to remedy that situation. He had a feeling she would have no idea how to take his interference.

Her first thought had been the protection of others. That intrigued him. It warmed him that she had tried to warn him of the possible danger to him. She had known he was a predator, that he could be dangerous, yet it mattered to her to protect him. She fascinated him. There was something about her that turned his heart over and made him want to smile at the mere sight of her. That was all it took. Looking at her and he was happy. He had never experienced the emotions he was feeling and he took them out to examine them.

With the first sound of her voice, he had seen colors. Vivid, brilliant colors. In his black and white world of so many centuries, Lucian was almost blinded by them. Blues and reds, oranges and greens, every hue and shade everywhere he looked. He rubbed strands of her hair between his thumb and forefinger, unknowingly tender. The feelings he was experiencing were very intense.

Hunger was slowly creeping into his thoughts. He had expended tremendous energy healing her and his blood needed to be replenished. He sent another strong push to her mind to ensure she remained asleep while he hunted. The city was filled with prey just waiting for him. He went to the balcony, shape-shifted, choosing the form of an owl. Powerful wings swept him over the city. The sharp eyes were made for seeing in the dark, his acute hearing picked up every sound beneath him. He could hear the hearts beating, the murmur of voices, the sound of life being lived. Traffic and city sounds were beckoning, the sound of blood pumping through veins bursting with life.

He found his way to the park, the perfect hunting ground. The owl landed in the top of a tree and folded its wings carefully. It inspected the surrounding area. Off to his right he could hear the rough voices of two men. At once he shape-shifted into his normal form, floating to ground as he did so. He sent out a silent mental call, demanding his prey come to him. He had spent so many centuries delivering murderers into the hands of death, it had taken a great deal of discipline to retrain himself simply to feed.

Two men answered his call, both healthy and stocky, runners, catching up after a late night meeting. Neither smelled of alcohol or drugs. He fed quickly needing to return to Jaxon. She had been unconscious for longer than he would have liked, but now that she was sleeping Lucian realized she never really allowed herself to enter into the normal human sleep pattern that was so necessary to their bodies. The moment she actually went to sleep without the aid of his command, she was restless and in distress. Lucian was well aware Jaxon spent the majority of nights either working at her job or physically driving herself to the point of exhaustion. Her dreams were merciless, Lucian had shared a few of them with her, merging his mind with hers so that he knew her demons intimately. She had far too many demons and he intended to exorcise every one of them.

Mostly, Lucian didn't want to be separated from her any longer than strictly necessary. He couldn't be separated from her. He found he needed to be with her when he had never needed anyone. He needed to touch her, to know she was all right. Now that she was truly in his care, he intended to bind her to him so that humans or Carpathians could not possibly take her from him. Jaxon would not escape him. He had given her his blood, had taken hers, although he had taken only a minute amount, just enough to be able to merge minds at will.

He returned to her, once again at full strength, and his strength was enormous. He would have to be gentle with her. If there was any gentleness left in him, if there had ever been gentleness in him he intended to utilize it for Jaxon. If anyone deserved it, she did. He sat down on the edge of her bed and removed the command to stay asleep. He gathered her gently into his arms. "I am your lifemate, young one. You have no idea what that means, and you are not Carpathian so I expect a certain amount of resistance from you." Lucian rubbed his chin over the top of her silky head. "I promise you I will be as gentle and as patient as I am able, but I am not going to wait long for you. The emotions I am feeling do not help tame the wild beast."

Jaxon's eyelashes fluttered open. She felt very confused, hazy even, as if she were in a dream. The soothing voice was so beautiful and familiar. It kept the demons at bay and allowed her to feel a measure of safety. "Who are you? I know you, don't I?"

"Your mind knows me, your heart and soul recognizes me." His thumb caressed the perfect line of her cheekbone tenderly just because he loved the feel of her skin beneath his. "I must bind us together, Jaxon, I have no other choice. It would be dangerous to wait. I am sorry that I cannot give you more time."

"I don't understand," she looked up into his black eyes and should have felt fear at what she saw there. He was looking at her possessively, something no man had ever done. Jaxon didn't encourage possessive feelings in men. For some strange reason this dangerous stranger made her feel cared for. Wanted.

"I know you do not understand at this moment, Jaxon, but you will in time." Lucian caught her chin in firm fingers so that his dark eyes captured her gaze.

It was like falling into a black pool without a bottom. Endless. Timeless. Lucian murmured her name softly and bent to bury his head in the softness of her throat. He inhaled her scent. There was nowhere she could go that he could not find her. His arms tightened possessively until he reminded himself she was very fragile. She felt incredibly small and light in his arms, but warm and enticing. She was stirring things best left alone in his body. The sudden urgent demands were shocking to him. She was young and vulnerable and at that moment, he wanted only to protect her.

His mouth touched her skin gently, tenderly, a small caress. At once need slammed into him hard and imperative. He could hear her heart beating the same rhythm as his. Her blood ran in her veins, an enticing heat that beckoned to him, that triggered a tremendous physical hunger for her body. Closing his eyes, he savored his ability to feel, no matter that it was terribly uncomfortable and his body was screaming at him for relief. His tongue found her pulse, bathed the area once, twice. His teeth scraped gently over her vein. He sank his teeth deep.

At once her body moved restlessly in his arms and she moaned, a soft whisper of intimacy that tightened his body even more. She was sweet and spicy, a taste indescribable and one he had never before encountered. She was addicting. He would never get enough of her as if she had been designed just to please every aspect of his needs. Discipline overcame his hunger for her taste, for the ecstasy her body promised. He closed the tiny pinpricks with a sweep of his tongue, ensuring there was no sign for a doctor to discover.

Careful to keep her deep within his enthrallment, Lucian's hand opened his shirt and he shifted her in his arms so that he could hold her head in the palm of his hand. Now his body was raging with need and her natural sensuality was coming out under his sorcerer's black velvet enthrallment. One fingernail grew into a razor-sharp talon. He traced a line over his heart and pressed her mouth to his chest that he might continue with the ritual of binding her to him. At the first touch of her lips fire raged through him, a need so intense, so deep, Lucian, who was noted for his rigid control, nearly gave in to the temptation to take what was rightfully his. He found he was trembling, his body covered with a fine sheen of sweat. Bending close to her ear, he breathed the words into the night, into her mind, that no one could ever separate them again, so that she could not be apart from him for more than a few scant hours. "I claim you as my lifemate. I belong to you, I offer my life for you. I give you my protection, my allegiance, my heart, my soul, and my body. I take into my keeping the same that is yours. Your life, happiness and welfare will be cherished and placed above my own for all time. You are my lifemate, bound to me for all eternity and always in my care."

The relief to him was tremendous and occurred despite the fact that his body had not merged with hers. His heart and hers were one, bound together, two halves of the same whole. Their souls merged so that her light shone brightly within him, alleviating the terrible darkness that had threatened him for centuries. At that moment he realized that when one had lived in darkness all of their lives, in a bleak ugly hell of an existence, finding their lifemate was beyond any imaginary dream they could fantasize over. Jaxon Montgomery was literally his heart and soul. Without her there was no existence, no reason to continue. He could never go back to the emptiness and darkness he had lived in for so long. The ritual words bound them together so that neither could ever escape the other. Lucian didn't fool himself. He needed her far more than she could ever need him and from his point of view, she needed him a great deal. He had to stop and think before he pushed his claim any farther. Very gently he stopped her feeding, closing the wound himself. His blood tied them together and aided her healing. It also worked on her body to convert her to his race. Conversion was risky. It was hard on the body and mind. Once done, there was no going back. Jaxon would be like he was, needing blood to survive, seeking relief from the sun in the welcoming arms of the earth. If she was not a true psychic, it would push her over the edge into madness and Jaxon would have to be destroyed. Lucian sat back, released her from his dark spell.

Her eyelashes fluttered as he slipped her back onto the pillows. Lucian knew few humans could be converted successfully. He also believed she had to be one that belonged within their ranks, as she was his true lifemate. Her heart matched his. He knew that. When he uttered the ritual words he felt the threads binding them back together. Even so, knowing something intellectually didn't make his heart believe it. He wanted no chances with her safety. It took three exchanges of blood for complete conversion to take place. Already her hearing and eyesight were more acute. She would have trouble with any meat products and most foods. She would need him near. He had changed her life as much as he dared to at this time.

"I still don't know who you are." Beneath the covers of the bed, Jaxon's fingers wrapped securely around the butt of the gun. She was very drowsy and the stranger was far too familiar. She didn't like puzzles. She had no idea where she was, only that she was very ill and had strange dreams of a dark prince taking her blood and tying her to him for all time. There was something exotic and different about the stranger she found hovering over her beside her bed. Something elegant and courtly, yet wild and untamed. It was a dangerous combination Jaxon found sensual and difficult to resist.

Lucian smiled at her, a flash of even white teeth that softened the hard lines of his shadowed features. "I am Lucian Daratrazanoff. A very old and respected name but difficult in this country to pronounce correctly. Lucian is fine."

"Do I know you?" Jaxon wished she wasn't so weak. She wished she hadn't had such erotic and peculiar dreams about this man. It made her feel strange to be in his presence, especially when nothing was making sense to her. "Why am I here instead of a regular hospital?"

"You needed extraordinary care," he answered truthfully. "You came very close to dying, Jaxon, and I could not afford to take any chances with your life."

"My partner, Barry Radcliff, was shot. I remember, he came back for me." Everything was a blur to her. She had no idea how she had gotten out of the warehouse, Barry had not been in any shape to cart her out.

"He is in the hospital and doing better than was expected. He is a tough man and very courageous." Lucian gave her partner his just due, although he didn't add the man was in love with her.

"I thought I was going to die. I should have died." She murmured the words softly almost to herself.

She had wanted to die. The terrible responsibility that weighed on her slender shoulders was far more of a burden than she wanted to carry for all time. She forced her lashes open so that she could look at him. "You're in terrible danger. You can't be with me. Wherever we are, it isn't safe. You're not safe."

Lucian smiled and reached down to brush at the hair tumbling down around her face. His touch was incredibly tender and gave her that strange false sense of security. His voice was so beautiful and pure she wanted him to go on talking forever. His accent was sexy, sending a wave of longing through her she hardly recognized for what it was. "Do not worry about me, young one. I am able to protect both of us. I know of the man you fear and as long as you are in this house you are safe. He is well-trained, but it would be impossible for him to enter the grounds undetected."

"You don't know him. He will kill anyone without remorse or thought. Even though you're just helping me, he'll interpret it as a threat to him." She was becoming agitated, her eyes enormous with concern for him.

"If you believe nothing else of me, Jaxon, believe this. There is no other in this world as dangerous as the man in this room with you. Tyler Drake cannot reach you. He can no longer dictate your life to you as you are under my protection." He sounded matter-of-fact, not arrogant, not a braggart.

She was falling into his dark eyes again. He had beautiful eyes, very unusual. Jaxon felt a little lost when she looked into his eyes. She blinked rapidly to break away from his mesmerizing spell. "I know you think that. My father was a Navy Seal, so was my foster father, Russell Andrews. Tyler Drake murdered both of them. You can't think you're safe as long as you're alone with me, that will get you killed for sure." Her lashes were far too heavy to keep up. They drifted down in spite of her intention to convince him. She didn't have the strength to guard him. That frightened her and her heart slammed painfully against her chest.

"Be calm, Jaxon, take a breath and relax. I am the one taking care of you, not the other way around, although I greatly appreciate that you would want to protect me. In any case, no one knows where you are. I have kept you entirely secure. Just sleep, honey, and heal."

His voice was so soothing and persuasive she found her breathing regulated itself exactly to his. Why she wanted to do as he commanded, she didn't know, but the urge to obey was far too strong to ignore. She allowed her eyes to close. "I hope you're as good as you think you are. It would be safer for you if you called my boss and had him station a couple of the guys to watch over you." Her voice was trailing off to a soft slur. "Better yet, it would be safer if you just walked away and never looked back."

Once more Lucian's fingers tangled in her soft hair. "You think I would be much safer, do you?" There was a tinge of amusement in his voice. For some reason it made Jaxon's heart turn over. He was so familiar, like she knew him intimately when she didn't recognize him at all. His touch. She knew his touch. The sound of his voice, she knew his voice. Really knew his voice. The accent, the velvet seduction of it, way he turned his phrases. The way it belonged in her head. The really crazy part was, Jaxon was beginning to believe in him.

Lucian watched her go under without so much as a fight. She hadn't wanted her life to be saved, but she had picked up the torch of a being his guardian, worried for his safety. She was ready to protect him without even knowing who he was. He had spent a good deal of time with his mind merged firmly within hers. It had been necessary at first just to keep her alive. Later it was because he wanted to know her, her memories, how she thought, what she dreamed of, the things that were important to her. She had far more compassion in her than was good for her. She needed him to balance her out.

He was amazed just how powerful the sexual urges he was experiencing for her were. It had never happened to him before. He had never looked at a woman for other than satisfying hunger. Now his hunger was completely different and far stronger than anything he had ever imagined. Often, for the sake of knowledge, Lucian had shared the minds of humans to see what sex felt like. This urgent demand raging throughout his body was completely different from even that. It seemed to take over his mind, driving out every other sane thought.

Protective. Lucian knew every Carpathian male was born with the tremendous duty of protecting the women and children of their race. This was also different. Lucian had dedicated his life to protecting humans and Carpathians alike, yet again, the intensity of his emotions toward Jaxon were so much stronger. He was unprepared for how strong his attachment to her would really be. He had lived his life in darkness and shadow, was comfortable and familiar with violence. He was wholly dark and dangerous. Now he wanted to know tenderness, gentleness. He knew himself as most men never could. He knew he was powerful and dangerous, accepted it in himself and now, with Jaxon lying so vulnerable and fragile in his bed, he was even more so.

With a sigh he sank down on the bed beside her. While she remained human and above ground, he would be unable to fully protect her during the day. It posed a problem for both of them.

She could not be separated from him for that many hours without suffering tremendously. He stretched out on the bed beside her. He would command her to sleep until the next sunset. Meanwhile, his safeguards and the wolves he would release would keep them safe from any creatures, human or otherwise that might seek to harm them. He gathered her small body into the protection of his larger frame and buried his face in the silky fragrance of her hair.


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My latest release is titled Judgment Road. Look for it in stores now or order it online. To read the first chapter click here.

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My latest release is a paperback reissue of Dark Magic. Look for it in stores now or order it online. To read the first chapter click here.

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Another recent release is a paperback reissue of A Very Gothic Christmas. Look for it in stores or order it online. To read the first chapter click here.

A Very Gothic Christmas

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