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Blue eyes. Blue.She had blue eyes. It was only then that he realized he was seeing in color. Vivid, brilliant colors. He went utterly still. It could not be. Males lost the ability to see anything but drab gray about the same time they lost their emotions. It could not be. Only a lifemate could bring emotions and color back into a male’s life. Carpathian women were the light to the male’s darkness. His other half. Without her, the beast would slowly consume the man until he was complete darkness. There were no Carpathian women left to give birth to lifemates. The few remaining women seemed able to produce only males. It was a seemingly hopeless situation. Human women could not be converted without becoming deranged. It had been tried. This human woman could not possibly be his lifemate.

Mikhail watched as she snapped off her light, lay on the bed. He felt the stirring in his mind, the searching. Are you awake?Her question was tentative.

At first he refused to answer, not liking that he needed this so much. He couldn’t afford to be out of control; he didn’t dare. No one had power over him. Certainly not some slip of an American, a small woman with more strength than good sense.

I know you can hear me. I’m sorry I intruded. It was thoughtless of me; it won’t happen again. But just for the record, don’t try flexing your muscle on me again.

He was glad he was in the form of a creature, so he couldn’t smile. She didn’t know what muscle was. I was not offended.He sent the reassurance in gentle tones. He had to answer; it was nearly a compulsion. He needed the sound of her voice, the soft whisper brushing in his head like fingers on his skin.

She turned over, rearranged her pillow, rubbed at her temple as if she ached. One hand curled over the thin sheet. Mikhail wanted to touch that hand, feel her warm, silky skin under his. Why did you try to control me?It wasn’t purely an intellectual question, as she wanted it to be. He sensed he had hurt her in some way, disappointed her. She moved restlessly, as if waiting for her lover.

The thought of her with another man enraged him. Feelings after hundreds of years. Sharp, clear, in focus. Real feelings. It is my nature to control.He was exhilarated, joyous, yet at the same time all too aware that he was more dangerous than he had ever been. Power always needed control. The less emotion, the easier the restraint.

Don’t try to control me.There was something in her voice, something he sensed more than named, as if she knew he was a threat to her. And he knew he was.

How does one control one’s nature, little one?

He saw her smile even as it filled his emptiness, as it registered in his heart and lungs, sent his blood soaring. Why would you think I was little? I’m as big as a house.

I am to believe this?

The laughter faded from her voice, her thoughts, lingered in his blood. I’m tired, and again, I apologize. I enjoyed talking with you.

But?He prompted gently.


Mikhail took flight, soaring high above the forest. It wasn’t good-bye. He wouldn’t allow it. He couldn’t allow it. His survival depended on her. Something, someonehad aroused his interest, his will to live. She had reminded him that there was such a thing as laughter, that there was more to life than existence.

He soared above the forest, for the first time in centuries marveling at the sights. The canopy of waving branches, the way the rays of the moon spilled over the trees and bathed the streams in silver. It was all so beautiful. He had been given a priceless gift. A human woman had somehow managed to do this for him. And she washuman. He would have known instantly had she been of his race. Could her voice alone do the same for the other males on the edge of despair?

In the protection of his home, he paced with a long-forgotten restless energy. He thought of her soft skin, how it would feel beneath his palm, under his body, how it would taste. The thought of her mass of silky hair brushing his heated body, the line of her vulnerable throat exposed to him, excited him. His body tightened unexpectedly. Not the mild physical attraction he had felt as a fledging, but a savage, demanding, relentless ache. Shocked at the erotic twist his thoughts began to pursue, Mikhail imposed rigid discipline. He could not afford real passion. He was shocked to find he was a possessive man, deadly in his rages and protective beyond measure. This kind of passion could not be shared with a human; it was far too dangerous.

This was a woman of freedom, strong for a mortal, and she would fight his nature at every turn. He was not human. His was a race of beings with animal instincts, imprinted before birth. Better to keep his distance and satisfy his curiosity on an intellectual level. He meticulously locked every door and window, safeguarded every point of entry with impassable spells before descending to his sleeping chamber. The room was protected from even greater threats. If he gave up his existence, it would be of his own choosing. He lay down on the bed. There was no need of healing soil deep within the earth; he could enjoy mortal comforts. He closed his eyes, slowed his breathing.

Mikhail’s body refused to obey. His mind was filled with pictures of her, with erotic, taunting scenes. A vision of her lying on her bed, her body naked beneath white lace, her arms outstretched to greet her lover. He swore softly. Instead of his body taking hers, he pictured another man. A human. Rage shook him, raw and deadly.

Skin like satin, hair like silk. His hand moved. He built the picture with deadly precision and purpose in his mind. He paid every attention to detail, even to the silly polish on her toenails. His strong fingers circled her small ankle, felt the texture of her skin. His breath caught in his throat, his body tightening in anticipation. He slid his palm up her calf, massaging, tantalizing, moved up farther to her knee, her thigh.

Mikhail knew the precise moment she awakened, her body on fire. Her alarm slammed into him, her fear. Deliberately, to show her what she was dealing with, his palm found the inside of her thigh, stroked, caressed.

Stop!Her body ached for his, for his touch, for his possession. He could hear the frantic pounding of her heart, feel the strength of her mental struggle with him.

Has another man touched you like this?He whispered the words in her mind, dark, deadly sensuality.

Damn you, stop!Tears glittered like jewels in her lashes, in her mind. All I wanted to do was help you. I said I was sorry.

His hand moved higher because he had to, found heat and silk, tiny curls guarding treasure. His palm covered the triangle possessively, pushed into the moist heat. You will answer me, little one. There is still time for me to come to you, to put my mark on you, for me to own you,he warned silkily. Answer me.

Why are you doing this?

Do not defy me.His voice was husky now, raw with need. His fingers moved, probed, found her most sensitive spot. I am being exceptionally gentle with you.

You already know the answer is no,she whispered in defeat.