night was alive with the heartbeat of a thousand people. He
walked among them, unseen, undetected. He moved with the fluid
grace of a jungle predator. Their scents were strong in his
nostrils. Cloying perfume. Sweat. Shampoos. Soaps. Alcohol.
Drugs. Aids. The sweet insidious smell of blood. There were
so many of them in this city. Cattle. Sheep. Prey. The city
was the perfect hunting ground.
He had fed well so, although the blood
whispered to him in temptation with the promise of strength,
power, the seductive rush of excitement, he refrained from indulging
his cravings. After all the centuries of walking the earth,
he knew the whispered promises were empty. He had ultimate power,
enormous strength and he knew the rush, addicting though it
might be, was the same momentary high as the human's drugs.
The stadium was huge, like everything
else in this modern city. Thousands of people were packed inside.
He walked past the guards without hesitation, secure in the
knowledge they could not detect him. The magic show, a blend
of escape, disappearance and mystery, was already three quarters
of the way finished. A hush of breathless anticipation had fallen
over the crowd. On the center stage mist rose eerily from the
platform, clouded, formed tails and hung like a heavy white
veil of fog.
He blended into the shadows, his pale,
silver gaze riveted to the stage. She moved out of the fog and
mist, every man's fantasy, every man's dream. Hot steamy nights.
Satin and silk. Mystical, mysterious, sexy. She moved with the
innocent seduction of an enchantress. Thick masses of blue-black
hair cascaded in waves to her slim hips. A white Victorian lace
gown covered her body, yet cupped high full breasts, molded
her narrow rib cage, her tiny, tucked in waist. Small pearl
buttons up the front of her gown were open to her thigh revealing
enticing glimpses of shapely legs.
Dark glasses were her trademark on stage,
concealing her eyes, but drawing attention to her lush mouth,
perfect teeth and classic cheekbones. Savannah Dubrinsky, considered
one of the world's greatest magicians.
Nearly a thousand years of black emptiness.
No emotion. No joy, no rage, no desire. Nothing but the crouching
beast, hungry, insatiable. Nothing but the growing darkness,
the stain spreading across his lost soul. His pale eyes slid
over her small perfect figure and need slammed into him. Hard.
Ugly. Painful. His body swelled, hardened, every muscle taut,
hot, aching. Fingers curled slowly around the back of a seat,
digging deeply, unnoticed, so that there were depressions, a
man's fingers without prints. The metal glowed a soft red for
just one moment before he removed his hands. Little dots of
perspiration beaded on his forehead. He let the pain wash over
him, through him. Savored it. He
His body didn't just want her. It demanded
her, burned for her. The beast raised its head and eyed her,
marked her, claimed her. Hunger rose sharply, dangerously, ferociously
to match the terrible demands of his body. On stage, two assistants
were chaining her, their hands touching her soft skin, their
bodies brushing hers. A low growl rumbled in his throat, pale
eyes glowed a feral red. In that moment his one thousand years
of control went up in dark, deadly flames, setting a dangerous,
wild predator free. No one was safe, mortal or immortal and
he knew it.
On stage, Savannah's head came up, swung
around as if scenting danger, a small fawn caught in a trap,
run to ground.
His gut clenched hotly. Feelings. Dark
desire. Primitive, raw lust. Possession, stark and relentless.
He closed his eyes, inhaled sharply, smelled her fear, was pleased
by it. He had thought himself lost for all eternity. It didn't
matter that his feelings were intense, bordered on violence,
they were genuine. There was joy in the ability to feel no matter
how dangerous. It didn't matter to him that he had marked her
unfairly, that he had broken the laws of their people in order
to have her. That she did not rightfully belong to him, that
he had stolen her, manipulated the outcome of their union even
before her birth. None of it mattered. Only that she was his
He felt her mind search, it brushed
at him like the wings of a beautiful butterfly, but he was an
ancient, powerful and knowledgeable beyond the boundaries of
earth. He was the one his own kind spoke of in whispers, with
awe, with fear, with dread. She had no hope of finding him,
just the premonition of danger which he fed, he allowed.
His lips drew back in a silent snarl
as the blond assistant bent to trail his hand across Savannah's
face, brushed her forehead with his mouth before locking her,
bound, manacled and chained inside the vault. Fangs exploded
into his mouth and the beast eyed the man with the unblinking
stare of a killer. Deliberately, coldly, he focused on the blond's
throat, let him feel, just for one moment, the agony of strangulation.
The man grabbed at his throat, stumbled, recovered, dragged
air into his lungs. The blond took a quick, nervous look around,
tried in vain to see into the audience. Still breathing hard
in alarm, he turned back to help lower the vault into the chamber
flooded with water.
The unseen predator growled a warning
softly, a deadly, menacing sound, made certain only the blond
could hear. The blond whitened visibly on stage, muttered something
to the other assistant who shook his head quickly with a slight
frown. While the feelings brought indescribable joy to the ancient,
the loss of control was a threat to him. He turned his back
on the performance, left the stadium, every step painful, both
physically and mentally. He accepted the pain, rejoiced in his
ability to feel it. His first hundred years had been a wild
orgy of feeling, senses, power, desires, even goodness. Slowly,
relentlessly, the dark stain had spread across his soul, grown,
claimed him, until he simply existed. He fed, he hunted, he
killed when he deemed it appropriate. He experimented, found
knowledge and power and paid the price for it.
She was innocent. There was laughter
in her, compassion, goodness. She was light to his darkness.
A bitter smile curved his sensual mouth, touched it with cruelty.
He was tall and had bulging, sinewy muscles, unlike most of
his kind. His hair was thick and jet black, fell to his shoulders
when left loose. His face held beauty yet was as harsh and merciless
as he was. His pale silver eyes easily held mortals, drew them,
entranced them. They were the eyes of death, the silver slash
of cold steel.
Thunderous applause shook the ground,
roaring approval signaled her escape. He blended into the night,
a sinister, dark shadow impossible for humans or his kind alike
to detect. His was the patience of the earth itself, his stillness
that of the mountains. He remained without moving through the
insanity of the crowds in the parking lots, the inevitable traffic
jam. He knew where she was every moment, he had made certain
of their link when she had been a small child. Not even death
could break the link he had forged between them. She had put
an ocean between them, running away to her mother's native country,
and in her innocence, had thought herself safe.
The passage of time meant little to
him. Eventually the sounds of cars and people faded away, the
lights blinked out around him, leaving the night to him. He
inhaled deeply, drank in her scent. He stretched, a panther
stalking prey. He could hear her soft laughter, low, musical,
unforgettable. She was talking with the blond assistant, overseeing
her props loaded onto the trucks. Although they were still in
the building and a great distance from him, he could hear their
conversation without effort.
"I am so happy this tour is finally
over." Savannah meandered lazily after the last of the
crew to the loading dock, flung herself on the stairs and watched
as the men lifted a steel vault into the huge truck. "Did
we make all the money you thought we would?" She teased
her assistant gently. Both knew she simply didn't care about
the money and never paid the slightest bit of attention to the
financial side. Without Peter Sanders to see to all the details,
she probably would be flat broke.
"More than I thought. We can call
this one a success." Peter grinned down at her. "San
Francisco is supposed to be a fabulous city. Why don't we vacation
here? We can do the tourist thing tomorrow. Cable cars, the
Golden Gate. We can't pass up this opportunity, we may never
come here again."
"Not me," Savannah declined,
rousing a little as Peter threw himself on the stair beside
her. "I'm catching up on the zzz's. You can tell me all
"Savannah," Peter sighed heavily,
"I'm asking you out."
She sat up straight, removed the dark
glasses and looked directly at him with her enormous, unusual
eyes. Heavily fringed with long lashes, her eyes were deep blue,
almost violet, with strange slivers of silver radiating through
the color like stars. As always, when she looked directly at
him, Peter felt a stranger disorientation, felt as if he were
falling, drowning, lost in the gleaming stars in her eyes.
"Peter," her voice was soft,
musical, mesmerizing. It was one of the things that had brought
her stardom so quickly. She could hold an audience effortlessly
with her voice alone. "All that sex on the show is just
an act. We're friends and we work together, that means everything
to me. The closest thing I ever had to a best friend was a wolf."
She didn't add that she still thought of that wolf everyday.
"I'm not willing to risk a relationship I value by trying
to make something else out of it."
Peter blinked, shook his head to clear
it. She always sounded so incredibly logical. Whenever she looked
at him, it was impossible to disagree with anything she said.
She could steal his will as easily as she stole his breath.
"A wolf? A real one?"
"When I was growing up, we lived
in a very remote part of the mountains in Europe. Very wild.
There were no children to play with. A little wolf cub wandered
out of the woods near our house one day. He would play with
me whenever I was alone." There was a faint ache in her
voice at the thought of her lost animal friend. "He just
seemed to know when I needed him, when I was sad or lonely.
He was always gentle, even when he was teething, he only broke
the skin a few times." She rubbed at her arm in memory,
the touch of her fingertips over the spots marking the bites,
unconsciously like a caress. "As he grew, he became my
constant companion, we were inseparable. I was never afraid
in the woods at night because he was always there to protect
me. He was enormous. Black, glossy fur and very unusual intelligent
gray eyes that could look at me with such understanding. Sometimes
he made me feel as if he carried the weight of the world on
his back. When I made the decision to come to America, it was
devastating to leave my parents, and heart-breaking to leave
my wolf. I cried for three nights straight, my arms around his
neck. He never moved, not once, as if he understood and was
mourning too. If there had been a way, I would have brought
him with me, but he needed to be free."
"You're telling me the truth? A
real wolf? An intelligent wolf?" Peter asked incredulously.
He could believe anything of Savannah. She could easily tame
man or beast. "And I thought wolves were shy, timid creatures.
Not that I've met very many of them, at least not the four-legged
She flashed him a grin, revealed perfect
white teeth, her eyes, a bright, starlit sky. "He was huge
and could be very ferocious but my wolf was anything but shy
with me. He never really was around anyone else, not even my
parents. He would just lope off into the woods if anyone came
near. He would watch to make certain I was safe. I'd see his
eyes shining in the forest, watching and it made me feel safe."
Realizing he had allowed her to distract
him, he deliberately looked away from her, knotted his fist
in determination. "It isn't natural the way you live, Savannah.
You isolate yourself from any close relationships."
"We're close," she pointed
out gently. "I'm very fond of you, Peter, like a brother.
I've always wanted a brother."
"Don't, Savannah. You haven't given
us a chance. Who else do you have? I escort you to parties and
interviews. I oversee the accountant and make the bookings and
make certain the bills are paid. The only thing I don't do is
sleep with you."
A low growl rumbled warningly through
the night, sent a chill spiraling down Peter's spine. Savannah
head went up, she looked cautiously around. Peter stood up,
took two steps toward the trucks but they were pulling away
from the loading dock.
"Did you hear that?" He reached
a hand down to draw Savannah to her feet, his eyes frantically
searching every shadow. "I didn't tell you, but the oddest
thing happened during the show." He was whispering as if
the very night had ears. "After I put you in the vault,
my throat closed off. It was as if someone very strong had their
hands around my throat, a very powerful man threatening me.
I felt oppressive anger, black, murderous even, directed at
me." He pushed a hand through his hair, laughed nervously
without humor. "Silly imagination, I know. And then I heard
this exact same growl, only worse, sort of low and soft, but
in my head. It's insane, Savannah, but it was like I was being
warned off you."
"Why didn't you say anything to
me?" She demanded, a very real fear in her eyes. Savannah
was pushing her body almost protectively against his, he could
feel her trembling. Without warning the lights in the docking
area blacked out, leaving them in total darkness. Involuntarily,
Savannah's fingers tightened in Peter's, linking them together.
Peter had the distinct feeling they were being watched, hunted
even. His car was a distance away, the parking lot very black.
Where were the security guards?
"Peter, we have to get out of here.
If I tell you to run, do it, and don't look back no matter what."
Her voice was low and compelling, enough so that for a moment
he thought he would do anything to please her, but her small
body, so close to his was shaking. Chivalry won.
"Stay behind me, honey, I've got
a bad feeling about this," Peter cautioned. Like all celebrities,
Savannah had her share of threats and stalkers. She was worth
a few million, not to mention she exuded a steamy, sexy image.
Savannah had a strange, mesmerizing effect on men, as if the
memory of her haunted them for eternity.
Savannah cried out in warning a heartbeat
before something hit Peter hard in the chest, driving the air
from his lungs, tearing her hand from his. He grunted, his chest
on fire, feeling like a ton of bricks had crushed him. Peter's
eyes locked with Savannah's, he could see terror there. Something
enormously strong caught at him, jerked him thirty feet backwards,
wrenching his arm from its socket, snapping bones like twigs.
He screamed, felt hot breath on his neck.
Savannah whispered his name, covered
the distance between them in a single leap, flung herself on
his attacker. She was struck a blow across her face so hard
she was flung like a rag doll from the loading dock to the asphalt
parking lot. Although she twisted agilely in mid air and landed
on her feet like a cat, her head was ringing and white dots
danced in front of her eyes. Before she could recover, the beast
sank its fangs into Peter's soft throat, ripped and tore, gulped
at the rich blood spurting from the terrible wound. Peter managed
to turn his head, expected a wolf or at least a huge dog. Red
eyes glowed at him evilly, a white skeleton-like face, the face
of insanity. Peter died in agony and terror, in fear and guilt
for failing to protect Savannah.
With a low, venomous hiss, the creature
carelessly tossed Peter's body from him contemptuously. The
body landed a few feet from Savannah, blood forming a thick
pool, spreading slowly across the asphalt. The beast lifted
its head and turned toward her. He grinned horribly, triumphantly
revealing receding gum-lines and jagged teeth.
She stepped back, her heart pounding
in fear. Grief welled up so sharply for a moment she couldn't
breathe. Peter. She couldn't look at his body, she didn't dare.
The stranger before her looked a few
years older than her own twenty-three years. He was thin, almost
gaunt. Peter's blood smeared his face and teeth. Obscenely his
tongue came out and licked at the red stains on his lips. His
eyes burned at her, taunted her. "I found you first. I
knew I would."
"Why did you kill him?" There
was contempt in her voice.
He laughed, launched himself in the
air, landed a few feet from her. "You should try it sometime,
all that fear floods the bloodstream with adrenaline. There's
nothing like it. I like them looking at me, knowing it's coming."
"What do you want?" She never
took her eyes or her mind from him, her body remained still
and ready, perfectly balanced.
"I will be your husband. Your lifemate."
There was a threat in his voice. "The great Mikhail Dubrinsky
will just have to take back his death sentence. His long arm
of justice doesn't quite reach San Francisco, does it?"
She tilted her chin. "And if I
"Then I take you the hard way.
It might be fun for a change from all those simpering human
women, puppets begging to please me."
The depravity in his mind sickened her.
"They didn't beg you, they despised you. You took their
free will, it was the only way you could have a woman."
She put all the loathing and contempt she was capable of feeling
into her voice.
The ugly smile faded from his hollow
features leaving him a creature from the very bowels of hell,
from the underworld. His breath escaped in a long hiss. "You
will pay for that." Even his youthful looks faded leaving
him an ugly caricature of a man.
A dark shadow moved out of the night,
tall, muscles rippling like steel beneath an elegant silk shirt.
The shadow glided in front of Savannah, its larger body a shield,
forcing her smaller one behind him. Pale, silvery eyes slashed
at the skeleton-like creature. One large hand brushed her face
just once across the bruise where her assailant had struck her.
The touch was brief, yet incredibly tender. The momentary contact
seemed to take the pain with it as the newcomer's fingers slipped
away from her skin.
"Good evening, Roberto. I see you
have dined well." The voice was pleasant, cultured, soothing,
Savannah began to shake, had to choke
back a sob. Instantly she felt a stirring in her mind, a flood
of warmth, the feeling of arms drawing her into their strong
Roberto hissed, his eyes glowing with bloodlust. "I have
heard the whispers of the dangerous Gregori, the bogey man of
Carpathians. I do not fear you." It was bravado and they
all knew it, his mind was racing frantically for an escape.
Gregori smiled, a small, humorless quirk
that brought a distinctively cruel gleam to his mouth. "You
obviously have never learned table manners. In all your long
years, Roberto, what else have you failed to learn?"
Roberto's breath escaped in a long,
slow hiss. His head began to undulate slowly from side to side.
Fingernails lengthened, became razor-sharp claws.
he attacks, Savannah, you will leave this place.' It was an imperious command in her head.
was my friend he killed, me that he threatened.' It was against her principles to allow anyone else to fight
her battle and perhaps be injured or killed in her place. She
did not stop to think why it was so easy and natural to speak
with Gregori, the most feared of the ancients, on a mental path
that was not the standard path of communication for all of their
will do as I tell you, ma petite.' The order was spoken in her mind in the same calm tone. It carried
absolute authority. Savannah caught her breath, afraid of defying
him. Roberto might think he was up to taking on a Carpathian
as powerful as Gregori, but she knew she wasn't.
"You have no right to interfere,"
Roberto snapped, sounding like spoiled, petulant boy. "She
Gregori's pale eyes narrowed to a slash
of cold silver. "She is mine, Roberto, I claimed her many
years ago. She is my lifemate. This is well known to all Carpathians."
Roberto took a cautious step to the
left. "There has been no official acceptance. I will kill
you and she will belong to me."
"What you have done here is a crime
against all humanity. What you would do to my woman is crime
against our people, our women and against me personally. Justice
has followed you to San Francisco and the sentence Mikhail pronounced
over you will be carried out. The blow you struck to my lifemate
alone would earn you your fate." Gregori never raised his
voice, never lost his faint, taunting smile. 'Go,
'I won't allow him to harm you when
it is me he seeks.'
Gregori's soft laughter echoed in her
is no chance of that, ma petite, now do as I say and go.' He wanted her gone before she witnessed the casual destruction
of the abomination who dared to strike a woman. His woman. Savannah
already feared him enough.
"I am going to kill you,"
Roberto said loudly, blustering to pump up his courage.
"Then I can do no other than oblige
you," Gregori replied pleasantly. His voice dropped an
octave lower, became hypnotic. "You are slow, Roberto,
slow and clumsy and far too incompetent to take on someone of
my skill." His smile was that of a tiger's, cruel and slightly
It was impossible to avoid listening
to the sing-song cadence of Gregori's voice. It worked its way
into the brain and clouded the mind. High and powerful from
a fresh kill, filled with lust and the need to conquer, Roberto
launched himself at Gregori.
Gregori simply was no longer there.
He thrust Savannah as far from them as possible and with blurring
speed, he contemptuously marked Roberto's face with four long
deep furrows, marked it in exactly the spot that was bruised
on Savannah's face.
Gregori's soft, taunting laughter sent
chills down Savannah's spine. She could hear the sounds of the
battle, the whimpers of pain as Gregori coolly, relentlessly
and mercilessly slashed Roberto to pieces. Loss of blood weakened
the smaller man. Beside Gregori he was clumsy and slow.
She jammed her fist into her mouth,
backed up another twenty feet. She couldn't tear her eyes away
from Gregori's harsh face. Implacable mask, faint taunting smile,
the pale eyes of death. He never changed expression. It was
the coldest, most merciless thing she had ever witnessed. Every
deliberate slash contributed to Roberto's weakness until he
was literally covered in a thousand cuts. Never once did Roberto
lay a hand or a claw on Gregori. It was apparent almost at once
Roberto had no chance, that Gregori could have delivered the
killing blow at any time.
She looked at Peter's body. He had been
a great friend to her. She loved him like a brother, and now
he lay senselessly dead. Savannah fled to the darkest shadows,
across the parking lot, taking refuge in the carefully planted
trees along the walkway. She sank down onto the pavement, jammed
her fist into her mouth to keep from screaming. Peter. Was this her fault? She had thought she had left that world
behind. She bent her head, horribly sick, her stomach heaving
in protest at the cold brutality. She was not like these creatures.
There were tears tangled in her lashes, running down her face.
Lightning sizzled and danced, a blue-white
whip across the sky. An orange glow accompanied the crackle
of flames. Savannah covered her face with her hands knowing
Gregori was destroying Roberto's body completely. The vampire's
heart and the tainted blood had to be reduced to ashes to insure
the vampire could not possibly rise again. And no Carpathian
could be autopsied by a human medical examiner. She squeezed
her eyes shut tight, tried to shut out the smell of burning
flesh. Peter would have to be cremated also to hide the terrible
gaping wound on his throat.
There was a gentle stirring of air beside
her. Gregori's fingers curled around her arm, drew her to her
feet. Up close he was even more powerful, completely invincible.
His arm curved around her shoulders, dragged her against the
solid wall of his chest. Gregori's thumb touched the tears on
her face, his chin brushed the top of her head.
"I am sorry I was too late to save
your friend. By the time I was aware of Roberto's presence,
he had already struck." He didn't add he had been too busy
discovering emotions and getting them under control to sense
Roberto immediately. It was his first slip in a thousand years
and he wasn't ready to examine the reason too closely. Guilt
perhaps for the manipulated chemistry between them.
Savannah's mind brushed his, found serenity,
calmness, regret for her sorrow. "How did you find me?"
"I always know where you are, every
moment. You needed time and I gave it to you." There was
a gentle finality about his words, an echo of resolve in his
Savannah's heart lurched. Her withdrawal
from him was subtle and feminine. "Don't do this, Gregori.
You know how I feel. I've created a life for myself."
His hand was gentle in her hair, sent
butterflies rising in her stomach. "You cannot change what
you are. You are my lifemate and it is time for you to come
to me." His voice held that velvet soft compulsion when
he whispered 'lifemate' reinforcing his tampering with nature.
The more he said it, the more Savannah would believe it was
true. He saw in color and felt emotion because he had programmed
their chemistry to be compatible before she was born, she had
never had a chance.
Her teeth bit at her full lower lip
in agitation. "You can't take me against my will, Gregori,
it's against our laws."
He bent his dark head, his warm breath
sending a shiver of heat coiling in the pit of her stomach.
"Savannah, you will accompany me now."
She flung her head up, sent the mass
of blue-black hair cascading in all directions. "No. I'm
the closest thing to family Peter had. I will see to the arrangements
for him, then we will discuss it." She was wringing her
hands together, betraying her nervousness of him, unaware that
she did so.
Gregori's larger hand covered hers,
stilled the desperate twisting of her fingers. "You are
not thinking straight, ma
petite, you cannot be found on scene, there is no rational way to explain
what happened here. I have set things up so that when his body
is found and identified, no suspicion can fall upon you or any
of our people."
She took a deep breath, hating that
he was right. No attention could be drawn to her species. She
didn't have to like it. "I won't go with you."
White teeth gleamed at her, a predator's
smile. "You may attempt to defy me in this, Savannah, if
you feel you must."
She touched her mind to his. Male amusement,
implacable resolve, total serenity. Nothing ruffled Gregori.
Not death and certainly not her defiance. "I'm calling
for security," she threatened desperately.
The immaculate white teeth flashed again,
the silver eyes glittered. "Do you wish me to release them
from the orders I gave them before you do so?"
She closed her eyes, found she was trembling
in shock and fear. "No, no, don't do that," she whispered
it in defeat.
Gregori studied the misery so transparent
on her little face. Something tugged at his heart, something
unrecognizable to him, but never-the-less strong. "The
dawn will be upon us in a couple of hours. We need to leave
"I won't go with you," she
"If your pride dictates you must
fight me, you may try to do so." He was gentle.
Her eyes deepened to a dark purple.
"Stop giving me your permission! I am Mikhail and Raven's
daughter, a Carpathian like yourself and not without my own
powers. I have the right to my own choices!"
"If it pleases you to think so."
His fingers curled easily around her slender wrist. His grip
was gentle, but she could feel his enormous strength.
Savannah pulled hard, testing his resolve.
Gregori appeared not to notice her struggles. "Do you wish
me to make this easier on you? You fear needlessly." His
mesmerizing voice was incredibly gentle, almost tender.
"No!" Her heart slammed painfully
in her chest. "Don't control my mind, don't make me a puppet."
She knew he was powerful enough to do so and it terrified her.
Two fingers caught her chin firmly,
tipped it up so her gaze was captured by his silver one. "There
is no danger of such an atrocity. You are my lifemate. I will
protect you with my life, see to your happiness."
She took a deep breath for control,
let it escape slowly. "We are not lifemates. I did not
choose." She held on to that fact, her only hope.
"We can discuss this at a more
She nodded warily. "I'll meet you
His silent laughter filled her mind.
Low. Amused. Frustratingly male. "You will come with me
now." His voice lowered an octave, became warm honey, compelling,
hypnotic, so mesmerizing it was impossible to fight.
Savannah dropped her forehead against
the heavy muscles of his chest. Tears were burning in her eyes
and throat. "I'm afraid of you, Gregori," she admitted
painfully. "I can't live the life of a Carpathian. I'm
like my mother. I'm too independent and I need my own life."
"I know of your fears, ma
petite, I know your every thought. The bond between us is strong enough
to cross oceans. We can deal with your fears together."
"I can't do this, I won't!"
Savannah ducked under his arm, blurred her image and put on
a burst of blinding speed.
No matter which way she twisted or turned,
no matter how fast she ran or dodged, Gregori was with her every
step of the way. When she finally wore herself out and stopped,
she was at the far end of the stadium, tears streaming unchecked
down her face. Gregori was beside her, solid, warm, invincible,
as if he truly knew her every thought, her every move before
she made it.
His arm curved around her small waist,
lifted her completely from her feet, locked her to him. "By
allowing you your freedom, I exposed you to the danger of renegades
like Roberto." For a moment he dropped his head to bury
his face in the thick mass of her silky hair. With no warning
he launched himself into the air, a huge bird of prey with enormous
strength, Savannah's small body pressed tightly to him.
She closed her eyes and relaxed against
him, allowed grief for Peter to consume her, to drive out all
awareness of the creature streaking across the sky with her,
taking her to his lair. Her fists curled around the thick, steel-like
muscles. The wind carried the sound of her sobs up to the stars.
Her tears glittered like jewels in the night.
Gregori could feel her pain as if it
was his own. Her tears moved him where nothing else could. His
mind reached out to the chaos of hers, found overwhelming grief
and a terrible fear of him. Deliberately he surrounded her with
warmth and comfort. It brushed in her mind, soothed her nerves.
Savannah opened her eyes to find herself
out of the city, up in the mountains. Gregori set her gently
on the steps of a huge, rambling house. He reached past her
to open the door, stepped back courteously to allow her entry.
Savannah felt small and lost, knew if
she set one foot in his lair, she would be placing her life
in his hands. Tilting her chin defiantly, her eyes flashed blue-white
fire as if they had caught a night star and trapped it forever
in their depths. She stepped backwards until the railing brought
her up short. "I refuse to enter your home."
His smile came then, low and amused,
maddenly male. "Your body and mine chose for us. There
is no other for you, not now, not ever. I can feel your emotions
when men, human or Carpathian, touch you. You are repulsed,
you cannot bear their touch." His voice dropped lower still,
a black magic caress that seemed to send heat spreading through
her like a molten lava. "It is not so with my touch, ma
petite, we both know that. Do not deny it or I will be forced to prove
"I am a child. I am a mere twenty-three
years old," she pointed out desperately. "You are
centuries old. I have not lived at all."
He shrugged with his casual strength,
muscles rippling suggestively, his silver eyes on her beautiful,
anxious face. "Then you will enjoy the benefits of my experience."
"Gregori, please try to understand.
You don't love me, you don't know me. I am not like Carpathian
women. I don't want to be a brood mare for my race. I can't
be your prisoner, no matter how petted and indulged I am."
laughed softly, waved a hand dismissingly in the space between
them. "You are young, child, if you believe what you are
saying." There was a gentleness in his voice that turned
her heart over in spite of all her fears. "Is your mother
"My parents are different, my father
loves my mother. Even so, he would walk on her if he could.
A gilded cage is still a cage, Gregori."
There was that mocking amusement again
warming the cold steel of his eyes. Savannah felt her temper
rise. She had an almost uncontrollable urge to slap his face.
His grin widened, a subtle challenge. He indicated the open
She fought with her temper and won,
forced a laugh. "We can stay here until dawn, Gregori.
I'm willing, are you?"
He leaned one hip lazily against the
wall. "You think to dare me?"
"You can't force me against my
will without violating our laws."
"In all the centuries I have existed,
do you believe I have never broken our laws?" His soft
laughter was without humor. "I am a monster without equal.
The things I have done render abducting you to the human crime
"Yet you sentenced Roberto to death."
She was trembling visibly. "Don't tell me you did it because
you were bringing him to justice. I happen to know Aidan Savage
resides here. This is his territory to hunt. You killed Roberto
because of me."
"You are my lifemate, the only
thing that stands between me and the destruction of mortals
and immortals alike." He stated it calmly, as an absolute
truth. "No one will touch you or try to come between us
and live. He struck you, Savannah."
He was shaking his head. "Do not
try to bring your father into this, cherie .
It is between the two of us. You do not want a war. He struck
you, that is enough."
She touched his mind again. No anger.
Absolute resolve. He meant what he said. He wasn't bluffing
or trying to frighten her. He wanted truth between them. Savannah
pressed the back of her hand against her mouth. She had always
known this moment would come. "I'm sorry, Gregori,"
she whispered hopelessly. 'I can't be what you want. I choose
to face the dawn."
His fingers brushed her face with incredible
gentleness. "You have no idea what I want from you."
His hands cupped her face, thumbs stroking the satin skin over
her pulse beating so frantically. "You know I cannot allow
you such a choice, ma
petite. We can talk through your fears. Come inside with me." His
mind was invading hers, a warm, sweet seduction. His eyes, so
pale and cold, heated to a flowing mercury that seemed to burn
into her mind, threatening her very will.
Savannah's fingers dug into the railing
as she felt herself drowning in hot liquid. "Stop it, Gregori!"
She cried it sharply, determined to break his mental hold. It
was sweet torment, rushing heat, seduction so dangerous she
flung herself toward the entrance of the house to flee his dark
power over her.
Gregori's arm stopped her headlong flight.
His mouth, real and all the more dangerous, moved against her
ear, his body brushed hers, aggressively male, hard, ferociously
it, Savannah, say the words.' Even the whisper in her mind was black velvet. His mouth, perfect
and sensuous, so hot and moist, wandered down to her throat.
The reality of him was even more erotic than his mental seduction.
His teeth grazed her skin lightly. His body clenched and she
could feel the difference in him immediately. The monster awakened,
hungry, burning with need, no gentle thinking lover, but a fully
aroused Carpathian male.
"I enter of my own free will."
The words strangled in her throat, were so low it was impossible
to tell whether they were said aloud or merely an echo in her
He released her instantly, allowed her
to stumble across the threshold by herself. Behind her, his
large frame filled the doorway. He stood towering over her,
silver eyes radiating heat, power, intense satisfaction. Gregori
closed the door with his foot, reached for her.
Savannah cried out, tried to evade his
touch, but he caught her up with casual strength, cradling her
struggling body against his chest. His chin brushed the top
of her silky head. "Be still, enfant ,
you will only end up bruising yourself. There is no way to fight
me and I cannot permit you to harm yourself."
"I hate you."
"You do not hate me, Savannah.
You fear me, but most of all, you fear what you are," he
replied calmly. He was moving through the house with long strides,
carrying her to the basement level, then lower still to the
chamber hidden so carefully in deep earth.
Her body still burned for his and so
close to his heat, there was no relief. Hunger rose sharply
and something wild in her lifted its head.