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Into the night there came a cry of pure terror, evil laughter, a gloating triumph. Every Carpathian, so tuned to the land, felt the vibration of violence, the disturbance of power, the cycle of life and death. Raven, as psychically sensitive as she was, instantly found her mind drawn to the scene of violence.

Break off Raven.Mikhail commanded it.

She pressed her hands to her temples. Andre was laughing, flinging himself from the branch of a tree atop a woman attempting to crawl away from him. A smaller body lay crumpled at the foot of the tree, pale and lifeless where he had dropped it. The woman moaned, pleaded for her life. The vampire laughed horribly again, then kicked her away from him, onily to force her to crawl back to him, begging to serve hñu “Andre! No, you cannot!” Raven yelled it aloud, dragging herself up to stumble to the door. She ran into the night, spun in a circle to catch the direction. Weakness overcame her and she fell heavily to lie immobile in the grass.

Monique followed her, dropping to her knees beside her. “What is it? I know you are not what my husband thinks. I know you are trying to save us.”

Team were running down Raven’s face. “He killed a child; he is taunting the mother. He will kill her also. I can’t save her.” Raven took what comfort she could as the woman cradled Raven’s head in her lap.

Monique touched the dark bruises at Raven’s throat. “I am sorry for what Alexander did to you. He is mad with anger and fear for us. You took a terrible risk. That monster might have killed you.”

Raven closed her eyes tiredly. “He still might. We can’t get away from him.”

The night around them carried disturbing vibrations. Somewhere deep inside the forest, an animal missed its prey and screamed its rage. An owl hissed; a wolf snarled.

Raven clutched Monique’s hand, was relieved when she could move her legs. “Come on. We have to get inside. Stay quiet and out of sight if you can. When he returns, he will be high as a kite and unpredictable.”

Monique helped Raven to her feet, slipping her arm around the smaller woman’s waist. “What did you do to Alexander when he hurt you?”

Raven walked reluctantly back to the stone house. “I did nothing to him.” She touched the bruises on her throat. Alexander had complicated things. Andre could not fail to notice the marks on her.

“You feel things we know nothing of,” Monique guessed uneasily.

“It is not a comfortable gift. He killed tonight. A woman, a child. I sent him out and traded our lives for theirs.”

“No!” Monique denied that. “You have nothing to do with what he chooses to do, any more than my husband is responsible for what that monster did to me. Alexander believes he should have found a way to protect me. He will not forgive himself. Don’t be like him, Raven.”

Raven stood on the stone steps and faced the moon-bathed land. The wind stirred and the glowing silver light darkened ominously. Monique gasped, clutched at Raven, tried to draw her into the comparative safety of the house. A red stain grew, spread, completely consumed the moon. A low moan rode on the wind, growing louder until it became a howl. A wolf lifted its muzzle to the bloodstained moon and howled in warning. A second joined in. The entire mountain rumbled ominously.

Monique whirled around and ran to her husband. “Pray with me, pray with me.”

Raven shut the door and leaned against it. “Don’t panic on me, Monique. We have a chance if we can stall him.”

Alexander glared at her, his arm protectively around his wife, his hand already swollen and sore-looking. “Don’t listen to her, Monique. She almost strangled me; she threw me against the wall with unbelievable strength. She is unclean.”

Raven rolled her eyes in exasperation. “I’m beginning to wish I did have all that power you think I have. I’d find a way to keep you from talking.”

“He is afraid for us.” Monique spoke in a conciliatory tone. “Can’t we take off his chains?”

“He would try to attack Andre the moment he returned.” Raven made a face at Alexander, completely exasperated with him. “That would get him killed fast.” She shivered, turning stricken eyes on Monique. “He comes. Stay very quiet, no matter what happens. Don’t draw attention to yourself.”

The wind outside howled, an eerie, lonely sound that faded away, leaving in its wake an unnatural silence. Raven heard her own heart beat in the void. She stepped backward just as the door splintered and cracked. The candle flames leapt, threw shadows on the wall, grotesque, macabre; then the lights were snuffed out.

“Come, Raven. We must leave now.” Andre snapped his fingers, holding out his hand. The vampire’s face was flushed with fresh blood. The glow of evil was in his eyes; his mouth was twisted with cruelty.

Raven regarded Andre with large, accusing eyes. “Why do you come to me like this? Tell me what is going on.”

He moved with blurring speed, and at the last moment, Raven remembered she, too, was capable of such feats. She felt his hot, foul breath, smelled death on him. His razor-sharp nails raked her arm as she ducked away. She pressed her small body into the corner. “Don’t try to force my compliance when a simple explanation will do.”

“You will regret this defiance,” he snarled, and hurled the church bench out of his path so hard that it crashed and splintered against the wall only inches from the shivering human couple.

A small moan of terror escaped Monique, and instantly the vampire whirled around, his eyes red and glazed with power. “You will crawl to me like the dog you are.” His voice was low, hypnotic, his eyes mesmerizing.

Alexander lunged to the end of his chains, trying to stop Monique, who went to the floor in obedience, her manner sensual and fawning. Raven walked calmly across the room to kneel down in Monique’s path. “Hear me, Monique. Don’t do this thing.” Her blue-violet eyes stared directly into the older woman’s. Raven’s voice was beautiful, purity itself, low and entrancing. It made the vampire’s voice appear foul and disgusting. A look of confusion, bewilderment, and shame crossed Monique’s blank face.

The vampire exploded into action, leaping the distance to Raven’s side, seizing her by the hair, yanking her backwards, nearly off her feet.

The world erupted around them. The night itself seemed to rage, the wind screaming and howling, gusting across the wide open space to beat at the windows. A dark funnel cloud boiled down from the seething sky and tore the roof from the structure; the whirling mass lifted furniture and scattered treasures collected over the years, Monique wailed loudly and dragged herself to Alexander, where they clung together. Voices hissed and whispered, low murmurs of fury, of accusation, of condemnation. The mountain rumbled ominously, and the furthermost wall burst outward, spewing rocks and mortar as if dynamited.

Mikhail stood in the center of the ferocious storm, his black eyes as cold as death. He stood tall and elegant despite the scarlet stain spreading across his silk shirt. His body was relaxed, unmoving in the midst of chaos. He lifted a hand, and the roaring of the wind died down. Mikhail regarded Andre for a long moment. “Release her.” His voice was very soft, but it struck utter terror in the hearts of all who heard him.

Andre’s fingers tightened convulsively in Raven’s silky hair.

Mikhail’s answering smile was cruel. “Do you wish me to force your compliance, so you come crawling to your death as you forced your victims?”

Andre’s fingers spasmed and his arm jerked like a puppet’s. He stared in horror at Mikhail, never conceiving of such power. Such mind control did not work easily, on Carpathians.

Come to me, Raven.Mikhail did not take his eyes from the vampire, holding him helpless with his mind alone. So great was his fury, he hardly required Gregori’s mind merge to assist him.