Return to the “steamy and dreamy” (Publishers Weekly) world of Christine Feehan’s New York Times bestselling Carpathian novels as thundering passions signal a dark force on the horizon…
Buried alive for hundreds of years in a volcano in South America, Dax worries that he has become the abomination that every Carpathian male fears, a victim of the insidious evil that has crept relentlessly into his mind and body over the centuries. But Dax isn’t the only one emerging from the darkness…
His name is Mitro, and he once stood by the side of the prince of the Carpathian people. Now he is the epitome of malevolence, and perpetrator of one of the most shocking killing sprees known to man. No one escaped the bloodshed, including his lifemate, Arabejila.
Now, between Dax and Mitro, a violent game has begun—one that has marked Riley Parker, the last descendent of Arabejila, as the reward.
This time when he finished, Dax thanked the two men and then looked at her. Her whole body tingled. Heat washed up her spine and her gaze fixed on his mouth. What is wrong with me? She should be screaming in horror. This was an honest-to-God vampire right in front of her eyes, drinking blood from her friends. And she was just standing there, marveling at him.
She touched her tongue to suddenly dry lips. His gaze jumped instantly to her mouth and those flames in his eyes leapt higher. Her thighs tingled. Her breasts ached. She swallowed hard and instantly his gaze was on her throat. He seemed aware of every move she made, every breath she took.
Beside her, Ben began shaking horribly. “Oh, my god. Oh, my god. He’s going to kill us. He’s going to kill us all.”
Ashamed that she’d forgotten he was even there, she reached over to lay a soothing hand on his shoulder. “Calm down, Ben. If Jubal and Gary say he’s a friend, I think we should believe them.”
Poor Ben didn’t believe them. He must have thought the vampire was going to drink him dry, because his mind completely snapped. With a shriek, he spun around and started racing through the jungle, bouncing off trees in his mad rush to escape.
“Ben!” Riley spun around. “Someone stop him! He’s out of his mind.”
“I can bring him safely back and keep him calm,” Dax said, “but that requires me to control his mind, which you have already told me I must not do.” One dark brow arched. He stood there, waiting for her to make the decision.
She bit her lip. On the one hand, she hated the idea of him controlling Ben’s mind—of him controlling anyone’s mind. On the other hand, in his current state, Ben was going to injure himsstormelf or worse. And if that evil vampire was still roaming around . . .
She glanced again into the forest where Ben continued to shriek and stumble, running into a bush first and then a tree. She winced when he went down and then scrambled back up only to run again.
The hunter reached for her hand and gave it a reassuring squeeze. His expression softened with unexpected gentleness, making him look almost . . . kind. In a rough-edged, dangerous, bloodsucking, gorgeous vampire sort of way, that is.
“It is for the best, päläfertiilam. I will do him no harm, I promise you.” Then he switched his attention to Ben’s fleeing figure, and expression turned to stone. Fixed, focused, unyielding. He spoke in that ancient language of his, and though Riley couldn’t understand the words, there was no mistaking the tone of absolute command.
In the distance, Ben came to an abrupt halt, then turned and calmly made his way back to the group. His expression was serene, as if he were out for a stroll through the park on a balmy summer day. He walked back to Riley’s side and stood there, silent and still.
Even though Riley had given Dax the okay—even though she knew this was for Ben’s own good—watching him obey like a mindless puppet made her stomach churn. It was so wrong. Like slavery, only worse. At least slaves still possessed their own minds.
“As will he, when I release him,” Dax said.
Her eyes flared in alarm. She spun around. “Did you just read my mind? Did you? Did he?” She whirled on Jubal and Gary, looking for answers.
“Riley . . .” Gary held out his hands in a conciliatory gesture.
“I did. Forgive me if I offend, päläfertiilam. Your thoughts are very strong. I—” His voice hitched, and his expression flickered for an instant before he continued, “I must remind myself you are not familiar with Carpathian ways. I did not mean to intrude.”
She frowned. That flicker in his expression had been a wince. He was in pain. Glancing at the still dreadful gaping wound in his chest, concern overrode fear. “Sit down. Sit down and do whatever it is you need to do to heal yourself.”
She laid a hand on his arm, intending to help him down, but the moment her flesh touched hers, agony rocketed up her arm. She gasped and yanked her hand back. The pain vanished instantly.
“Dear God, was that you?” She touched him again, and almost screamed. “It is. My God, it is. How can you bear it? You’re in agony.” She hadn’t thought about what terrible pain he must be in when he first stood up, tall and strong. He was a freaking vampire or hunter or whatever he was. Mythical creatures weren’t supposed to suffer, they weren’t supposed to hurt—but he did, and it was excruciating. She knew it. When she touched him, she could feel it as clearly as if it were happening in her own body.
Unable to help herself, she touched him again. Something inside her demanded that she help him, that she heal him. It was almost a compulsion.
Clearly, Dax wasn’t the one compelling her, because he gently pulled her hand away. “Do not, päläfertiilam. We cannot keep all the pain in check, and I would not have you hurt yourself on my account.”
“We? Who’s we?” She asked in a distracted voice. Her attention was already, inexorably pulled back to Dax’s injuries. Looking at the wound, she could almost feel it herself. As if she were traveling inside his body, touching each raw nerve ending, broken bone and shredded muscle, feeling with gifts that had been passed down from generation to generation. Dax’s pain called to her, tore something deep inside, some barrier she hadn’t realized existed.
Riley lifted her hand again and slowly placed it over the mud-packed hole over Dax’s heart. She pressed her palm against the wound, packing the earth deeper into the wound, completely unaware of what she was doing. Only aware that she needed to continue. There was something wrong inside him, something that seemed intent on consuming him. Sheer force of will held it in check. His will, stronger than the mountains, stronger than the earth itself.
Her hand lifted, leaving a perfect handprint in the mud. She raised the same hand to his face and touched his cheek, wiping the blood and dirt from his cheek and trailing it slowly down his throat back over his heart. Words and patterns blossomed inside her mind. Power rose as Riley looked into Dax’s eyes, iridescent, beautiful eyes and focused on the gleams of scarlet fire that flickered in their depths.
She slid an arm around Dax’s side, placing one hand over his heart and the other in the same spot on his back. Then she unleashed the power that was now a throbbing beat inside her. The raw, earthy force flooded through her hands, and Dax’s body devoured it. The power consumed the earth packed in his wounds and transformed the dense, rich, organic matter into skin, bone and muscle. She had no control over what happened next, no comprehension of how it happened. She only knew that the power in her called to the power in him, using the earth that bound them both together. Bones knit, nerves reformed, tissues and blood vessels regrew with astonishing speed.
When it was done, Riley’s consciousness came rushing back to her body. She sagged against him. Now, it was his arms coming up to steady her. She stared up at him, dazed, still feeling everything he was, as if she were connected to him, as if she were part of him. She knew she had somehow, miraculously, healed him. Healed him completely. Yet, it still felt like she’d missed something. He was still in so much pain, and he shouldn’t be.
Riley’s brow crinkled as she tried to work through the confusion. Her eyelids became very heavy and it was suddenly all she could do to try to keep them open. The effort was too much for her. Exhausted, blackness swallowed her up, and she collapsed in the arms of the hunter.
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