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Dayan stared a long time at the man. He could see Lisa in him. The eyes were intelligent, the smile real. He wanted to find something not to like about the man, some hidden demon, but he seemed genuine. Dayan moved out of the room and wandered through the house getting a feel for those who lived there. A large room off the main living area held a gleaming piano and a drum set. He paused for a moment, inhaling Corinne’s scent. This was a part of her domain; he knew she was often at the piano. It was only after he had inspected the area carefully that he allowed himself to enter Corinne’s room. Various antique instruments hung on the wall.

The bedroom was decorated in soft colors, very neat and tidy, the bed with a multitude of throw pillows. Her clothes were neatly folded in the drawers and hung in the closet. Books were everywhere. Books of every kind. There was an entire section devoted to wild cats. Dayan found himself smiling as he picked up a particularly thick one on leopards. The pictures were excellent. His finger touched the snarling face on the cover. Books on weather and the ocean were in a pile on the left side of the bed. Thick volumes dedicated to the history of music were scattered on the floor beside a case holding a state-of-the-art music system.

On the walls were rare signed posters of various artists. A keyboard was set up in a corner of the room. There was an electric guitar leaning up against the wall and a beautifully crafted acoustic instrument lying in a padded case with the lid opened. A CD holder was packed with every type of music imaginable. Tapes were neatly fit into another case and records were in a third. Browsing through the tapes, he was shocked to find several cassettes marked “Dark Troubadours.”

Looking further, he found rare and bootleg recordings of various artists.

On the bed lay a notebook filled with lyrics written in a small, neat script. Her handwriting. He looked at the signature and his eyes widened. A slow smile softened the line of his mouth. C. J. Wentworth. The name was respected in music circles. He’d had no idea C. J. Wentworth was a young woman. His young woman. Corinne. He leafed through the notebook. Her words were beautiful and touched his heart.

All at once Dayan couldn’t wait any longer to get back to her. Her presence was everywhere in this room, her scent enfolding him in its embrace. He inhaled deeply, taking her fragrance deep into his lungs. Dayan caught up a photograph of Lisa and Corinne laughing together, Corinne looking up at Lisa as a spray of water showered down over the two of them. The pad of his thumb caressed her laughing face. The sun had bathed her in a ray of light, a surrounding halo. She was so beautiful she robbed him of the ability to breathe. It hurt to look at her. There were moments when a giant hand seemed to be squeezing his heart. He wondered whether it was because her heart labored so terribly, or because she was so beautiful it hurt to look at her.

His emotions were difficult to sort through. He wanted to be everything to her, the very air she breathed. He was concerned with the logistics of protecting her. If he bound her to him in the ritual manner, as every fiber of his being was demanding he do, they would be locked together for all time. She would not be able to endure separation from him during the daylight hours, and if he remained above ground he would eventually be drained of the great strength needed for her protection. During the day, if he was not safe underground he would be helpless and vulnerable to his enemies.

Dayan sat on the edge of her bed, his palm absently running over the quilt in an uncharacteristic show of tenderness. He sent out a call, seeking information. He was far from his own kind, but Darius was strong and their connection had been powerful almost since the beginning of their time together. Theirs was a blood bond, unbreakable by time or distance. Darius was family and he would answer on their own private path, mind to mind.

Darius. I have need of you.

Dayan had learned patience hundreds of years earlier, the patience of the leopard on the hunt, the patience of the ocean wearing away the rocks. He sat quietly, his mind replaying the events of the day so Darius could read his problem clearly. He could feel the connection between them, Darius’s power filling his mind. Unexpectedly, he felt a rising emotion for this one man who had been so much a part of his life. Dayan had had only the memories of their closeness to sustain him for hundreds of years; he had lost his ability to feel early on, yet he had the music that poured out of his soul, reminding him he still lived. He had been fortunate that he had retained that priceless gift when so many others lost everything.

We are happy for your find, Dayan.

The voice alone comforted and gave Dayan a sense of well-being, a sense of family. Darius had led their small group unerringly through terrible years of war and vampire hunts. He had kept them together, given them purpose, protected them and taught them how to survive in those early years.

Desari and Tempest cannot wait to meet their new sister. I must consult with a healer. The need is great and the situation complicated. She is with child. I will find the best our people have to offer and bring them to you as quickly as possible. We will start out immediately to come to you. We have enemies here. Perhaps the society has found my lifemate, or perhaps we have a new enemy. Someone from the Morrison Center, a psychic research organization, was sent to acquire her. They were using guns and had violence in their minds. Come carefully, Darius, and caution the others to do so also. I have already put out the word to the others. It will take us a few days, Dayan. I thank you for your concern, Darius. I do not yet know if our enemy is her enemy, but I will find a way to keep Corinne safe. Should something happen to me... She will always be under my protection and the protection of your family. You will keep her alive until the healer arrives.

It was a command.

We will not lose either of you, Dayan.

The voice spoke with utmost confidence.

With a small sigh Dayan turned his attention to the problem at hand. He had to remove the bodies of the intruders from Corinne’s home. The leopard had crushed the throats of the two men, strangling them rather than ripping and tearing. There was very little blood where the puncture wounds were. He had been careful to keep the carpets clean. He wanted no signs that the two men had ever been in the house.

Dayan lifted the bodies easily, slung them over his shoulder and stepped out into the backyard. The night was waning, and he had much to do. He launched himself into the air, shape-shifting as he did so, taking the men with him as he winged through the sky, gathering dark clouds together to shield himself from any observers. He was moving fast, a dark shape streaking across the heavens with his burden.

Dayan, like all his kind, was enormously strong, and the dead weight of the two bodies meant nothing to him. He was enjoying the night, the sounds, the songs, the sheer beauty of it all. It surrounded him, enfolded him in its music. The stars glittered like diamonds, a brilliant display, and below him trees dipped and swayed in the wind. In the darkness the leaves appeared a gleaming silver. He flew over a small lake and the surface glistened like glass. The world had never appeared so beautiful to him. Laving so long without colors, Dayan found their return overwhelming. He wanted to take it all in, turning his head this way and that so he could see everything.