Authors: Christine Feehan
Tags: #Fiction, #Paranormal, #Horror, #Vampires, #Love Stories, #Occult & Supernatural, #Occult fiction, #Fantasy, #Romance
He smiled at her. "
Te avio päläfertiilam. Éntölam kuulua, avio päläfertiilam
His voice was low, a dark seduction that slid over her senses, like velvet playing over her skin, arousing her. Lara had heard those words before, long ago when the aunts sang her to sleep. They sang of a great love story. A man—as dark as sin. A woman—bright as light. Only that woman could save him from the worst suffering of honorable death, or the worst fate of becoming the vampire. She had the power to restore his lost emotions, to restore bright, beautiful colors to the world. The love story had been the one beautiful thing in her life as a child and she had clung to it, needing something to hang on to.
Te avio päläfertiilam. Éntölam kuulua, avio päläfertiilam
. You are my lifemate. I claim you as my lifemate. The words were so beautiful, so connecting, she could feel them echo in her heart and mind. They had been the words in her story and she dreamt of them, thought them romantic. But the man hadn't been so seductively beautiful and so utterly dangerous. And he certainly hadn't taken his lady's blood without permission. It was wrong. A violation she would
Ted kuuluak, kacad, kojed
. I belong to you.
É lidamet andam
. I offer my life for you. As he spoke the words in that perfectly calm, soft voice, he gripped the handle of the knife and yanked it from his body. Blood gushed down his side. He held out the weapon to her, handle first.
Lara swallowed hard, raising her gaze from the wound to his face. There was no anger. No expression at all. Just a strange serenity that shook her. She moistened her suddenly dry lips and reached out to take the knife. Her fingertips brushed his. Electricity sizzled up her arm. He merely opened his arms wide, presenting his heart as a target.
Pesämet andam. Uskolfertiilamet andam. Sívamet andam. Sielamet andam. Ainamet andam
. His teeth flashed very white in the darkness. "I give you my protection. I give you my allegiance. I give you my heart. I give you my soul. I give you my body."
She realized he wasn't talking figuratively, but literally. He was offering to stand there while she drove a knife into his heart and took his life. This was no vampire. She had no real idea of what he was, but the words he was uttering were in the Carpathian language, a language as ancient as her aunts had been. And the words were a ritual that bound two halves of the same soul together. She had never believed in that love story, not truly, even though she knew the kinds of things that could be wrought with elements and energy and magic. But as he spoke each word in that soft, seductive tone, his black eyes glittering with possession and absolute determination, she could feel the ties forging like steel between them.
"Are you crazy? You have to be out of your mind. Don't stand there like an idiot. You need to stop the bleeding."
His eyes never left her face.
Sívamet kuuluak kaik että a ted. Ainaak olenszal sívambin
. "I take into my keeping the same that is yours. Your life will be cherished by me for all my time."
She flung her head up, her red braid whipping across her shoulder, glacier blue eyes crackling and glittering with anger. "Really? Is this what you call cherishing me?" She pressed a hand to her neck where the thin trickle of blood continued. "You
from me without permission. Without asking. Without one thought for how I might feel."
All the while she reprimanded him, her gaze kept dropping to the blood pooling at his side. He had to stop it. If he was Carpathian—and he had to be—he could close the wound on his own and keep his life's essence from flowing away.
Te élidet ainaak pide minan
. "Your life will be placed above my own for all time." His expression didn't change. He kept his arms outstretched, presenting her with a kill target. His black gaze never left her face. His expression was utter, absolute serenity, although his eyes blazed with a dark possession.
Fury shook her. "You won't have a life if you don't heal yourself."
Te avio päläfertiilam. Ainaak sívamet jutta oleny. Ainaak terád vigyázak
. "You are my lifemate. You are bound to me for all eternity. You are always in my care."
She hissed out her breath, teeth snapping together. "You don't just get to claim me and think it's all going to work out. Not when you've taken my blood without my consent." Her heart was pounding as she watched his life ebbing away with the flow of blood. "Do something."
"It is not my choice. Life or death is the choice of my lifemate. If you reject my claim, then you are condemning me and I willingly die by your hand."
Her blue eyes were twin chips of burning ice. "Don't you dare blame your death on me." But she was already springing toward him, unable to stop herself. Her throat nearly closed with fear as she clamped both hands over the wound in his side. She wanted to shake him. Literally just grab him and shake him until he saw how utterly ridiculous he was being.
So much for her romantic love story. "You might be the hottest man in the village, but your brain is about the size of a pea," she muttered under her breath. "Close the wound. I don't have that kind of ability."
"Then it is life you choose for me."
His voice was enough to make a woman want to strip and jump him and the effect he had on her annoyed her more than anything else.
"You deserve to die just for being stupid," she snapped, but she didn't let go of his side, pressing tightly, making certain to clamp down and prevent further bleeding. "Now heal yourself."
He gave a slight, old world bow. "As you wish."
That voice was seduction itself. Her body tingled, her breasts heavy and aching. She didn't want him touching her, or brushing her face or body with his black gaze. She could hear his heart matching the rhythm of hers. Air flowed in and out of his lungs in tune with hers, a soft sighing so that their breath mingled together. Everything feminine in her, everything she was, Carpathian, mage and human, rose up to meet the male in him.
"I wish for you to get yourself some psychological help. You can't seem to make up your mind whether you're a vampire or a hunter." She deliberately injected scorn into her voice.
His expression didn't change. He didn't even blink, but she'd scored a hit. They were connected now, all those unbreakable threads she felt between them allowed her to read his emotions and gave her an insight to the predator she was prodding. Her heart stuttered and her stomach did a funny little flip.
He didn't move, yet he was closer, much closer, his body pressing against the small palms of her hands where they were buried into his side. "Have no fears,
, I have made up my mind."
She didn't like the sound of that—the soft purring in his voice that sounded more like a threat than a reassurance. She felt the heat suddenly bursting from his body, saw the flash of white light glowing around her hands. His flesh grew hot, although it didn't burn her, merely cleansed the blood from her skin. She dropped her hands abruptly and stepped away from him, looking up the long length of his body to his incredible face.
His body up close was too masculine, too strong, too everything. Wide shoulders, solid—he looked invincible—even though she'd managed to get a knife into him. She swallowed fear and took another step back.
"I have to go."
"We go together. You cannot pretend I have not claimed you and that you did not reject my claim. You chose life for me. Our souls are one."
Lara frowned. She had a vague idea of the ritual binding words from the story her aunts told her. The words were imprinted on the male before birth. Once uttered, they bound two souls together so one could not survive without the other once the ritual was actually complete. She didn't know what the rest of the ritual was, but if it involved sex with this man, she really wasn't up to the task.
She tilted her head and looked at him with a cool steady gaze. She didn't feel cool or steady, but she wanted him to understand her—to know that if she'd ever been serious about anything in her life, she was serious about this. "I know very little about your traditions or culture. Just stories my aunts told me when I was a child, but no matter what you've done to tie us together, know this: I don't know you. I don't love you. I don't care anything at all about you. I spent the first years of my life a prisoner and I will never—
—allow anyone to imprison me again. If you try to take anything from me by force, if you try to break my will or manipulate my mind, I will fight you with the last breath in my body. So you make up
mind—choose life or death for us."
His eyes darkened to obsidian, glittering with a sensual lust that burned through her body. He cupped her chin with gentle fingers and bent his head slowly. Mesmerized, she couldn't pull herself away. She could see the long length of his lashes, the tiny crinkled lines around his eyes, the straight nose of the aristocrat, the mouth sinfully carnal, but stamped with the mark of a man who could be cruel.
Her breath caught as his hair brushed her face. She felt his mouth on her neck. Hot. Burning. Velvet soft. His tongue rasped over the twin pinpricks at her frantically beating pulse, stopping the tempting trickle of her blood.
I choose life for us.
The words slid into her mind like a caress. She moistened her lips as he straightened to his full height. "Fine then. We understand each other." She turned to go back to the inn—to safety, because no matter what this man agreed to, she knew she wasn't safe with him and it wasn't entirely his fault.
Once more his fingers settled around her wrist like a bracelet. Warm.
He stroked the pads of his fingers against the bare skin of her inner wrist, halting her. "I do not think you quite understand me and I would not want you later to say you were not in possession of all the facts."
Lara turned back reluctantly. "I'm listening."
"You are the one woman—the only woman—
woman. This is something I take very seriously. Your health. Your safety and your happiness. I will see to these things, but I will not share you. I will not allow others to interfere in our relationship.
. Man or woman. If you have a problem with something, you tell me. If you are afraid of something, you tell me."
"I don't know you. And I don't trust that easily."
"I did not say it would be easy. I just want you to understand who I am."
She couldn't push down the rising panic. She saw him exactly for what he was. A predator. A hunter. A man who made decisions and expected those around him to follow his lead. Already the ritual words had bound them together. She could feel the pull of him on her mind—even on her body.
Lara let her breath out slowly. "I don't share my blood."
His lips curved into a small smile. She caught a brief glimpse of his white teeth and then that predatory smile was gone and he once again wore a face carved of stone. "I noticed."
Color rose in her cheeks. "I have to
back inside. I have a friend who is hurt. Maybe you can help him. You obviously know healing."
All warmth leeched from his eyes. "Your friend is male?"
She shivered, suddenly cold. "Yes. I came with two colleagues. We're doing research nearby and we're staying here."
"What kind of research?" There was a bite to his voice, a note of suggestion.
Now her entire body was blushing. She was annoyed with herself for the fluttery nerves in the pit of her stomach. She was trying to establish herself as someone to take seriously, yet each time she looked closely as him something inside her seemed to melt.
He scared the hell out of her. She had faced monsters, yet she hadn't been as afraid as she was at this moment. This man had changed her life for all time. He stood calm and resolute, implacable even, looking at her with possession in his eyes and a mouth that was so fascinating, she could barely tear her gaze away, yet she knew he was one of the most dangerous creatures living on the earth.
"Well, it's hard to explain. Mostly we do sexual research together. You know, sex in every culture down through time."
"You deserved it. You had that tone."
"I had a tone?"
She swept her green gaze over him and began walking back toward the inn, very aware of him pacing beside her with the silent stride of a jungle cat. "Actually, I explore caves and I've been researching life forms in ice caves." There was an edge of haughtiness in her voice. "So answer my question: Do you know much about healing? Or do you know someone who does? We were attacked by a hybrid—part plant, part snake—and very venomous."
He caught her elbow and brought her to a halt. "Did it bite you?" He was already running his hands up and down her arms, tilting her head this way and that. And then she felt the thrust of his mind against hers.
It was such a shock, the sheer intimacy of his mind merging with hers. There was nothing at all soft about him. He could erupt into violence with swift efficiency. When she had thought him one of the most dangerous creatures on earth, she hadn't even come close to understanding the killing machine that he was, yet he hid nothing from her. He didn't attempt to pretend to be different than he was, and she saw that he could. He could have appeared gentle and sweet, but he gave her the respect of showing her exactly who and what she was dealing with.