Need crawled through his body and pounded out a rhythm in his mind. Music seethed and roared, filling the large bar, an edgy, compelling melody as dark and driven as he was. The notes were ripped from deep within his soul, moved through his fingers to the guitar cradled in his arms as he might cradle a woman. The music was one of the few things that reminded him he was alive and not one of the undead.
He could feel the stares, although he never looked up. He could hear the breathing of the crowd, the air moving through lungs like the rush of a freight train. He heard blood ebbing, flowing in veins, beckoning, a sweet seductress, teasing his senses until his craving was an obsession as dark and relentless as the shadow across his soul.
They whispered. Hundreds of conversations. Secrets. Pickup lines. The things whispered in bars under the cover of music. He heard every word clearly as he sat on the stage with the young, enthusiastic band he was jamming with. He heard the whispers of women as they discussed him. Dayan. Lead guitarist for the Dark Troubadours. They wanted to bed him for all the wrong reasons, and he wanted them for reasons that would have terrified them.
The song ended, the crowd roared, stomping and clapping and yelling approval. Dayan glanced at the man waiting at the bar. Cullen Tucker raised a glass of water toward him, one eyebrow up.
What are we doing here?
Dayan read the expression clearly, read the man’s mind. What were they doing there? What had compelled him to go into the bar, pick up his guitar and play for the crowd? His performance would only draw unwarranted attention to them. It wasn’t safe. They were hunted, yet Dayan had no choice. He
to be in this bar. He was waiting for something... for someone.
Dayan’s fingers were already picking up another rhythm. Dark. Moody. The melody took hold of him, demanding to be released. His voice stilled the crowd, beckoned, seduced, tempted. He called to her. Commanded her. His lover. His lifemate. His other half. He called to her to complete him. To give him the emotions that had faded from his soul, leaving him an empty shell of growing darkness. A creature living in the shadows, vulnerable to the crouching beast.
Save me. Come to me.
The words took the breath from the listening crowd, brought tears to the eyes of the women.
They pushed closer to the stage, unaware that they did so. Unaware of the power of his voice, his eyes. He mesmerized them. Seduced them. Compelled them. He cast his spell, a dangerous predator among easy prey.
Save me. Please save me.
His voice washed over them, seeped into pores, soaked into brains so that they stared up at him completely enthralled. Hunger rose, a response to his heightening senses. He kept his eyes closed, blocking out the sight of the crowd, losing himself in his song to her. His lifemate. The one woman who could save him. Where was she?
The door opened, allowing the night breeze to rush into the room, dispelling the odor of too many bodies crushed together in too small a space. It was the sound of a heartbeat that made him lift his head. The heart was weak and irregular, beating too fast, laboring too hard. Dayan looked up and literally lost his ability to breathe. There she was. Just like that. His lungs burned for air and his fingers lost their age-old rhythm. His heart began to match the strange rhythm of hers.
Dayan forced a breath into his body. First one, then a second. The band was staring at him uncertainly. His fingers began a melody he had never played before, one that was always there, locked in his heart. Dimly he was aware the band had taken its cue from him, following his lead, but he paid no attention to the others. He couldn’t look away from her, watching as she paused while her light-haired companion spoke with several acquaintances.
What was wrong with her heart?
His black eyes moved over her possessively, marking her, claiming her. She was small, curvy, with lush dark hair and enormous eyes. He watched the way she moved, watched the sway of her hips. To Dayan, she was incredibly beautiful. And she was human. He knew it was possible for one of his kind, a Carpathian, to have a human lifemate, but he had never imagined his other half would be one.
She paused for a moment to stare up at him in shock, her wide gaze colliding with his for the briefest instant. Her perfect mouth formed a round O as she recognized him. She swung her head toward the tall blonde who accompanied her. The other woman laughed and hugged her, led the way through the crowd to a booth in a dark corner of the club. He heard the soft murmur of her voice, and at once his world changed. Where before the club had been visible to him only in shades of gray, it was now brilliantly alive with vivid, dazzling color.
Emotions were crowding in on him fast and hard, so many he couldn’t sort them out. He could only sit very still with his fingers flashing over his beloved guitar. He
that. His guitar. It amazed him so much, he was aware of tears burning behind his eyes. Dayan was almost paralyzed by the different stimuli bombarding him. The music. Hunger. Colors. Lust. It was a volcano, molten hot, adding to his edgy feeling. And there was jealousy. Dark. Dangerous. He realized he didn’t like to see the men crowding around her booth, leaning over to talk to her.
At once that thought triggered the rising of the beast in him and he had to crush it down. He was very dangerous in this state. The music poured out of him, through him; wild emotion almost choked him; he was blinded by a myriad of colors. He took a deep, calming breath, fought for control and won.
What was wrong with her heart?
He kept his head bent over his guitar, but his empty black eyes were fixed on his prey, the only woman who mattered to him. He played to her, poured his heart out to her, allowed the beauty of his music to speak to her. He wanted her to see the poet in him, not the predator. Not the darkness. All the while he played, he listened to the conversation she was having, listened for the sound of her voice.
“I can’t believe it’s really him, Lisa. That’s Dayan, of the Dark Troubadours. He’s practically a god among musicians. I’ve never heard anyone play like him. What in the world is he doing with this band?” That was her voice, soft and feminine. She spoke in a reverent tone.
Her fingers were tapping out a rhythm on the table, following his guitar riff.
Lisa leaned across the booth to be heard over the noise in the bar. “I heard he was vacationing nearby. I guess he’s just jamming here tonight, Corinne. I know how much you love music, and I wanted to give you a surprise.”
That was her name.
Even her name fit the music in Dayan’s mind. He unashamedly eavesdropped to learn what he could. She was listening to his music, her body responding naturally, but she wasn’t staring at him in rapt adoration the way the other women in the bar were staring. The way he would have liked.
“But how did you know? He’s not just anyone, Lisa. He’s a genius when he’s playing. How did you know he’d be here tonight?”
“Bruce — you remember Bruce, Corinne — he works for my photographer. Bruce knows you’re a huge music fan. He stopped in for a drink and called to tell me a member of the Dark Troubadours was jamming here tonight. Bruce said that man at the bar is supposedly a friend of the lead guitarist’s and that he travels with the Dark Troubadours.” Lisa indicated Cullen. “Everyone’s hoping it means the Troubadours are looking for new places to play.”
“Well, they do prefer the smaller, more intimate clubs, but who would have ever thought they would play here?” Corinne said. Her gaze strayed to Dayan, their eyes met, and she hastily looked away.
The impact shook him. His fingers nearly lost their rhythm; his stomach gave a funny lurch and his very breath slammed out of his lungs.