He closed his eyes, was able to calm the raging demons knifing pain through his body. Sleep, little one; no one will harm you tonight.He broke contact and found his body hard, heavy, bathed in perspiration. It was far too late to stop the beast in him from breaking free. He was burning with hunger, consumed with it, jackhammers beating at his skull, flames licking along his skin and nerve endings. The beast was unleashed, deadly, hungry. He had been more than gentle. She had inadvertently released the monster. He hoped she was as strong as he believed her to be.
Mikhail closed his eyes against his self-loathing. He had learned centuries ago that there was little point. And this time he didn’t want to fight it. This was not simply a strong sexual attraction he felt; it was far more than that. It was something primal. Something deep within him calling to something deep within her. Perhaps she craved the wildness in him as he craved the laughter and compassion in her. Did it matter? There would be no escape for either of them.
He touched her mind gently before closing his eyes and allowing his breath to cease. She was weeping silently, her body still in need from the effects of his mind touch. There was hurt and confusion in her, and her head was aching. Without thought, without reason, he enveloped her in the strength of his arms, stroked her silky hair and sent warmth and comfort to surround her. I am sorry I frightened you little one; it was wrong of me. Go to sleep now and be safe.He murmured the words against her temple, his lips brushing her forehead in gentleness, brushing her mind with tenderness.
He could feel the curious fragmentation in her mind, as if she had been using her mental capabilities to follow some sick and twisted path. It was as if she had raw, gaping wounds in her mind that needed to heal. She was too worn out from their previous mental battle to fight him. He breathed with her, for her, slow and even, matching her heartbeats until she relaxed, drowsy and worn. He sent her to sleep, a whispered command, and her lashes drifted down. They fell asleep together, yet apart, she in her room, Mikhail in his sleeping chamber.
The pounding on her door penetrated the deep layers of sleep. Raven Whitney fought the thick fog forcing her eyes closed, making her body heavy. Alarm spread. It was as if she had been drugged. Her gaze found the small alarm clock on the bedside table. Seven o’clock in the evening. She had slept the day away. She sat up slowly, feeling as if she was wading through quicksand. The pounding on her door began again.
The sound echoed in her head, thundered at her temples. “What’?” She forced her voice to be calm, although her heart was slamming against her chest. She was in trouble. She needed to pack quickly, run. She knew how futile it could be. Wasn’t she the one who had tracked four serial killers following the mental path of their thoughts’? And this man was a thousand times more powerful than she. The truth was, she was intrigued that another person had psychic abilities. She had never met anyone like herself before. She wanted to stay and learn from him, but he was far too dangerous in his casual use of power. She would have to put distance, perhaps an ocean, between them to be truly safe.
“Raven, are you all right’?” The male voice was filled with concern.
Jacob. She had met Jacob and Shelly Evans, a brother and sister, last night in the dining room when they had first come in off the train. They were traveling with a tour group of about eight people. She had been tired and the conversation was a blur.
Raven had come to the Carpathian Mountains to be alone, to recover from her last ordeal of following the twisted mind of a depraved serial killer. She had not wanted the company of the tour group, yet Jacob and Shelly had sought her out. They had been wiped from her thoughts very efficiently. “I’m fine, Jacob, just a touch of the flu, I think,” she assured him, feeling far from fine. She shoved a shaky hand through her hair. “I’m just so tired. I came here to rest.”
“Aren’t we having dinner’?” He sounded plaintive, and that annoyed her. She didn’t want any demands on her, and the last thing she needed was to be in a crowded dining room surrounded by a lot of people.
“I’m sorry. Another time, maybe.” She didn’t have time to be polite. How could she have made such a mistake as she had last night’? She was always so cautious, avoiding all contact, never touching another human being, never getting close. It was just that the stranger had been broadcasting so much pain, so much loneliness. She had known instinctively that he had telepathic powers, that his isolation far exceeded hers, that his pain was so great, he was considering ending his life. She knew what isolation was. How it felt to be different. She had been unable to keep her mouth shut; she had to help him if she could. Raven rubbed her temples in an attempt to relieve the pain pounding in her head. It always hurt after using her telepathic powers.
Pushing herself up, she moved slowly to the bathroom. He was controlling her without contact. The thought terrified her. No one should be that powerful. She turned the shower on full force, wanting the steady stream of water to clear the cobwebs.
She had come here for rest, to clear the stench of evil from her mind, to feel clean and whole again. Her psychic gift was draining to use, and physically she was worn. Raven lifted her chin. This new adversary would not frighten her. She had control and discipline. And this time she could walk away. No innocent lives were at stake.
She pulled on faded jeans and a crocheted sweater in defiance. She had sensed he was Old World and would frown on her American clothes. She packed quickly, haphazardly, tossing clothes and makeup as fast as she could into the battered suitcase.
She read the train schedule in dismay. There was no service for two more days. She could use charm to beg a ride from someone, but that meant being in the small confines of a car for an extended period of time. It probably was the lesser of two evils.
She heard male laughter, low, amused, mocking. You would try to run from me, little one.
Raven sank down onto the bed, her heart beginning to pound. His voice was black velvet, a weapon in itself. Don ‘t flatter yourself, hotshot. I’m a tourist; I tour.She forced her mind to be calm even as she felt the brush of his fingers on her face. How did he do that? It was the lightest caress, but she felt it down to her toes.
And where were you thinking of touring?He was stretching lazily, his body refreshed from his sleep, his mind once more alive with feeling. He was enjoying sparring with her.
Away from you and your bizarre games. Maybe Hungary. I’ve always wanted to go to Budapest. Little liar. You think to run back to your United States. Do you play chess?
She blinked at the strange question. Chess? she echoed.
Male amusement could be very annoying. Chess.
Yes. Do you?
Play with me.
Now?She began to braid her heavy mass of hair. There was something captivating in his voice, mesmerizing. It tugged at her heartstrings, put terror in her mind.
I must feed first. And you are hungry. I can feel your headache. Go down to dinner and we will meet at eleven tonight.
No way. I won’t meet with you.
You are afraid.It was a clear taunt.
She laughed at him, the sound wrapping his body in flames. I may do foolish things occasionally, but I am never a fool.
Tell me your name.It was a command, and Raven felt compelled to obey it.