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“We’ll have to wait for the fog to disperse, Donny.” The second voice was uneasy. “We get these unusual fog patterns often up here, and it isn’t a good idea to be out in them.”

“What’s my surprise? Can’t you tell me? You told Mom I’d have a birthday surprise I would never forget. I heard you talking.”

Aidan could see them now. The driver was a man nearing thirty, the boy, no more than fifteen. Aidan watched them, the urge to kill running in his veins, surging through his body. He felt power, in every nerve ending, reminding him he truly was alive.

The man was very nervous, peering into the fog on all sides of the truck, although he couldn’t see through the thick veil of white mist. For a moment he thought he saw eyes, hungry and glowing, almost gold. They were animal eyes—the eyes of a wolf—watching them from out of the night. It made his heart pound and his mouth go dry. He pulled the boy closer to him protectively. “Your Uncle James is keeping it for you.” He had to clear his throat twice before the words would come out. He knew they were in great danger, knew a predator was waiting to tear out their throats.

“Let’s just walk up to the hunting lodge, Uncle Gene. I can’t wait to try out my new rifle. Come on, it’s not that far,” the boy wheedled.

“Not in this fog, Donny. There are wolves in these woods. Other things. It’s best to wait until we can see clearly,” the man said firmly.

“We have guns,” the boy said sulkily. “Isn’t that why we brought them?”

“I said no. Guns don’t always make you safe, boy.”

Aidan crushed down the wild urges. The boy had not yet seen manhood. Whoever these mortals were, he would not kill unless his life or that of one of the others of his kind was threatened. He would not become a vampire, a betrayer of his people. It was becoming too easy to kill. A kind of seduction of power. The wind whipped up around him, swirled in a circle of leaves and twigs. Gregori settled beside him, Mikhail, pale and lifeless, cradled in his arms. “Let us leave this place, Aidan.”

“I could not kill them,” Aidan said quietly, no apology in his voice.

“If the older one is Eugene Slovensky, he will have much to occupy him this night. His brother lies dead beneath a pile of rocks, an exchange for Mikhail’s priest.”

“I did not dare kill them,” Aidan repeated, making it an admission.

“If it is Slovensky, he deserves to die, but I am grateful that you resisted the urge, knowing the danger to yourself. You have traveled far to hunt the undead for our people. It shows in the darkness of your soul.”

“I walk very close to the edge,” Aidan said quietly, without apology. “When Mikhail’s woman was injured so gravely, Mikhail’s fury was felt by every Carpathian in every land. The disturbance was unique, and I felt it was deserving of investigation. I returned to make certain his wisdom continues to benefit our people. It is my belief his woman is the hope for our future.”

“It is my belief also. Perhaps a new country would bring you relief. We have need of an experienced hunter in the United States.”

With the fog still thick, preventing penetration by the humans, Aidan turned his attention to the carefully constructed prison. With a lift of his hand, the earth shuddered and shook. The building was leveled, leaving only the stones marking the fresh grave.

Into the fog, Gregori rose with his burden, Aidan at his side. They raced across the dark sky to the caves, where the other Carpathian males arrived, one after another to aid in the healing of their prince.

Chapter Fifteen

The night air rushed over her body as Raven was carried through the sky toward some unknown destination. She was dizzy and weak, her mind finding it difficult to concentrate on any one thing. At first she made herself try to focus on whatever might be a landmark, so she could convey it back to Gregori. After a while she couldn’t remember why or even what she was doing. On some level, Raven knew it was the drug making her disoriented and sick. It seemed too much trouble to wonder where the vampire was taking her or what he would do to her when they arrived.

The moon was radiant, spilling silver light across the tree-tops, turning everything into a surreal dream. Things slipped in and out of her mind. Soft whispered words, a constant murmuring she couldn’t quite grasp. It seemed important, but Raven was too tired to unravel it all. Had her mind fragmented from chasing the last serial killer? She couldn’t remember what had happened to her. The wind felt good blowing over her body, cleansing her. She was cold, yet it didn’t seem to matter. Lights danced, colors swirled, the sky sparkled brilliantly above her head. Beneath them a large pool of water shone like crystal. It was all so beautiful, and yet her head ached abominably.

“I’m tired.” She found her voice, wanted to hear if she could speak. Perhaps she could wake herself up if she was in the midst of a dream.

The arms tightened fractionally. “I know. You will be home soon.”

She didn’t recognize the voice. Something in her rose up to rebel at the closeness. Her body didn’t like the feel of his against hers. Did she know him? It didn’t feel as if she did, yet he held her as if he had a right to her. There was something slipping in and out of her memory that she couldn’t quite catch. Every time she thought the pieces of the puzzle began to fit themselves together, pain sliced through her head so violently, she couldn’t hold the thought.

They were suddenly walking together, out under the stars, the trees swaying and dipping gently, his arm around her waist. Raven blinked in confusion. Had they always been walking? No one could fly; that was absurd. She was suddenly afraid. Had she lost her mind? She glanced up at the man walking beside her. Physically he was beyond merely handsome, his pale face sensually beautiful. But when he smiled down at her, his eyes were flat and cold, his teeth a flash of menace in his scarlet mouth that struck fear in her heart. Who was he? Why was she with him?

Raven shivered and tried to draw away from the man with a slight, subtle movement. She was weak, and without his support, she might have fallen. “You are cold, my dear. We will be home soon.”

His voice sent a ripple of terror through her; distaste was rolling in her stomach. There was a gloating taunt in his voice. For all his seeming solicitousness, Raven felt as if a giant snake was coiled around her, its cold, reptilian body and hypnotic eyes mesmerizing her. Her mind reached out, struggled to connect. He would come. Mikhail.She screamed in agony and fell to her knees, pressing her hands to her head, terrified to move, to think.

Cold hands grasped her arms, dragged her to her feet. “What is it, Raven? Come, tell me, so that I may help you.”

She despised his voice. It grated on her, sent shivers over her skin. There was power there, and a depraved, secret amusement, as if he knew exactly what was happening to her and enjoyed her suffering, her ignorance. As much as she loathed his touch, she could not stand on her own two feet and had to lean against his strong body.

“You need to feed,” he remarked almost casually, but she sensed a hidden excitement in that statement. Raven pressed a hand to her stomach. “I’m feeling sick.”

“That is because you hunger. I have prepared a special surprise for you, my dear. A banquet in your honor. The guests have been waiting impatiently for our return.”

Raven stopped walking and stared up at his cold, mocking eyes. “I don’t want to go with you.”

The eyes flattened, hardened. His smile was a parody, a soulless flash of fangs. She could see his receding gums, the lengthening incisors. He was not beautifully handsome, as she had first imagined, but foul and cruel-looking. “Raven, you have no other place to go.” Again he sounded slightly mocking, sickly solicitous.