Dark Peril



I was half-alive for a thousand years. I'd given up hope that we'd meet in this time. Too many the centuries. All disappears as time and the darkness steal color and rhyme.


Carpathian males without a lifemate didn't dream. They didn't see in color and they certainly didn't feel emotion. Pain, yes, but not emotion. So why had he been reaching for a dream for the past few years? He was an ancient, an experienced warrior. He had no time for fantasy, or for imagination. His world was stark and barren, a necessity for battling an enemy who, inevitably, had been a friend or family member.

Over the first hundred or so years after losing his emotions, he had held out hope. As centuries passed, the hope of finding his lifemate had faded. He had accepted he would find her in the next life and he was carrying out his resolve to do his last duty to his people. Yet here he was, an ancient of great experience, Dominic of the Dragonseeker line, a lineage as old as time itself, a man of wisdom, a warrior renowned and feared-- lying awake beneath the rich soil, dreaming.

Dreams should have felt insubstantial--and at first his had been. A woman. Just a vague idea of her appearance. So young in comparison to him, but a warrior in her own right. She hadn't been his concept of the woman who would partner him, yet as she grew in substance over the years, he realized how perfect she was for him. He had fought far too long to ever lay down his sword. He knew no other way of life. Duty and sacrifice were bred into his very bones and he needed a woman who could understand him.

Perhaps that was what dreams were. He'd never dreamt until a few years ago. Never. Dreams were emotions, and he'd long ago lost those. Dreams were color, although not his. But they felt like color as the years shaped the woman. She was a mystery, sheer confidence when she fought. She often had fresh bruises and wounds that left scars on her soft skin. He'd taken to examining her carefully each time they met--healing her had become a traditional greeting. He found himself smiling inside, thinking how she was entirely the opposite of confident when it came to viewing herself as a woman. For a few moments he contemplated why he should be smiling inside. Smiling was equated with happiness, and he had no emotions to feel such things, but his memories of emotions were sharpening as he moved toward the end of his life, instead of dimming as he had expected. Because when he summoned the dream, he felt a sense of comfort, of well-being and happiness.

Over the years she had become clearer to him. A jaguar-woman. A fierce warrior with exactly the same values he held on loyalty and family and duty. He would never forget the night, only a week ago, when he saw her eyes in color. For a moment he couldn't breathe, looking at her in wonder, shocked that he could remember colors so vividly that he could attribute an actual color to her cat's eyes.

Her eyes were beautiful, glowing green with faint hints of gold and amber that darkened when he managed to elicit a laugh from her. She didn't laugh often or easily, and when she did, he felt it was more of a victory than any of the battles he'd won.

As dreams went--and they only occurred when he was awake--they always seemed a bit out of focus. But he looked forward to seeing her. He felt protective toward her, as if his allegiance had already swung toward his dream woman. He wrote to her, songs of love, saying all the things he wished to tell his lifemate. And when she refused to rest, he'd lay her down, her head in his lap, stroking her thick mane of hair and singing to her in his language. He'd never felt more content--or more complete.

He stirred, disturbing the rich soil surrounding him. The moment he moved, the pain took him, thousands of knives ripping from the inside out. The tainted vampire blood he'd deliberately swallowed had been thick with parasites, and they moved in him, replicating, seeking to take over his body, to invade every cell, every organ. And as often as he purged some to keep the numbers down, they seemed to work harder to multiply.

Dominic hissed out his breath between his