Chapter Five


Savannah's fear was being pushed aside by the heated tenderness of Gregori's mouth, by the gentleness in his caressing hands. He carelessly shoved the sheet down, exposing her bare breasts to his hungry gaze. Hot. He was so hot Savannah could not stand the feel of the thin sheet on her heated hips, twisting around her legs. Her hands were tangled in Gregori's thick hair, crushing it in her fingers like so much silk. His shirt was open to his tapered waist, his hard muscles pressing against her soft breasts. The rough, dark hair on his chest rasped erotically over her nipples.

A wave of heat heralded a storm of fire, through him, through her. Savannah's hands, of their own accord, pushed his shirt from his wide shoulders. She watched with enormous eyes as he slowly shrugged out of it, his silver gaze holding her blue one captive. She was drowning in those pale, mesmerizing eyes. Eyes filled with such intensity, with so much hunger for one woman. Her. Only her.

Afraid of what she was committing herself to, Savannah tentatively, cautiously, touched his mind with hers. She found a hunger so deep, so wild, so urgent, she was instantly lost. How could she deny his fierce need? Even though Gregori knew he was a man without tenderness, that his every instinct was wild and uninhibited, his intent was to be gentle with her, to ensure her pleasure. His every thought was for her, to please her, to worship her body with his.

"I know you are afraid, mon amour," he whispered softly, his hands sliding up her rib cage to her breasts. "But I am no longer a beast. You leashed the demon. There is only me, a man who very much wants to make love to his lifemate." She felt his breath against her nipple. "Let me show you how it is supposed to be. Beautiful. Such pleasure. I can bring you so much pleasure, ma petite.

" His mouth closed over her breast, hot and moist. The sound of his voice was mesmerizing, enticing. She could get caught up forever in the mere sound of it. There was no thought in his mind for his own burning body, his own urgent demands; he wanted to show her the beauty and pleasure of true mating.

Flames raced through her blood and licked down her skin at the intensity of the eroticism, the craving his mouth at her breast created. She moaned, low and soft, the note brushing at his soul like the flutter of butterfly wings. Her hands slid over his back, tracing each defined muscle with her fingertips, committing him to memory. Tears filled her eyes. How could a man be so sensual, so perfect? He was stealing her will as easily as he was stealing her body.

"Want me, Savannah," he whispered softly. "Want me the way I want you." His tongue rasped over her skin, traced the underside of her breast, followed each rib even as his hands explored her hips and thighs. His fingers found their goal, the heated, moist entrance, hot and ready, waiting for his body to merge with hers.

She arched into his palm, her body demanding relief. "I feel like I'm burning up, Gregori!" she gasped, shocked at the intensity of her hunger for him. She needed him.

"I am the one burning up, going up in flames." His fingers pushed deeper, ensuring her readiness, taking pleasure in her reaction. Her hands on his bare skin were driving him wild, but most of all, it was the trust she was giving to him that moved him so deeply.

Gregori could not conceive of such trust from a woman so brutally used, and it humbled him, the way she was so forgiving. She might never be able to love a monster such as he, but with her understanding, her compassion, she was determined to make something of the imposed sentence of their life together.

The clothes confining his body were tight and painful, so he removed them with a mere thought. He heard her gasp as the hot length of him pressed aggressively against her thigh. She had thought herself safe as long as his clothes were on. She had thought she would have the time to make up her mind, to choose for herself, but her body was making the choice for her. And he was losing himself in the molten heat of her, in her shadowed, secret places.

Savannah's body suddenly went rigid. She caught his face in her hands, exerting pressure so that he had to lift his head from his delicious explorations, his silver eyes molten as they touched on her face. She took a deep breath. "What if I can't do this, Gregori?" She sounded close to tears. "What if I can never do this?"

"No one is making you do anything, ma petite, " he replied gently, kissing her stomach. "We are just exploring possibilities."

"But, Gregori," she tried to protest, attempting to bring his head back up so that he could see her very real fear for him, for their life together.

"If I cannot persuade you otherwise, mon amour, I am not much of a lifemate, now am I?" The words were muffled in the tight silky curls, the intriguing little triangle at the apex of her thighs.

"You don't understand, Gregori." Savannah closed her eyes against the waves of fire racing through her. "It's me who is no real lifemate. I don't know how to please you, and I'm so afraid of this."

"Relax, b§ڢ§ٮ" He breathed warm air against her, inhaled her scent. "You please me far more than you will ever know." His teeth nipped her thigh, his tongue caressing her shadows and hollows, following the path his fingers had taken.

She cried out at the feelings sweeping through her, tumultuous, turbulent, wild, and untamed. She was no longer on earth but soaring free, spiraling and spinning out of control.

Gregori's body moved over hers, hard and hot, his strength enormous, but his hands were tender as he cupped her head in one palm. His knee inserted itself very gently between hers to give him access to her. Savannah, still rippling with the aftershocks of her climax, was barely aware of the weight of him pinning her down, once more making her vulnerable and open to him.

Gregori took the advantage while he had it, pressing intimately into her entrance. She was slick with need, hot, tight, and velvet soft. He felt her gasp at his invasion, and he paused to allow her body an opportunity to adjust to his size. She was holding her breath, waiting for the terrible, tearing pain. Her fingernails dug into his back, and she made a small sound of protest against the weight of his chest. But she felt only ripples of fire, a storm of intense pleasure washing over her, consuming her.

"Relax, Savannah. Relax for me. You were meant for me, created for me. And I was created for you." He feathered kisses from her temple to her throat, his hips moving in a gentle, coaxing rhythm.

She could feel the sheen of perspiration on his back, evidence of the tremendous effort he was exerting to hold back. His every touch, every movement, was tender, gentle.

He moved into her with exquisite care, astonished at how perfect she was, tight and fiery hot. His thumb brushed her lower lip, the small bruise discoloring the side of her mouth.

At once her lip tingled with warmth, was soothed as if he had laid a mystical balm over it. Her heart slammed against her ribs. He was doing things to her body not only with his body, not only with his hands, but with his mind.

In spite of every fear, in spite of the memory of his earlier attack, Savannah was caught up in the fire, in the tenderness. Her body slowly relaxed, slowly accepted his. Gregori buried himself deeper, a long, sure stroke that had her gasping, her nails digging into his arms, holding tight to keep from soaring away into the night.

He whispered softly to her, a mixture of French and his ancient tongue. She knew very little of either language, had no idea what he was saying, but the words excited her, comforted her. She felt as if she were important to him. Not her body. Her - Savannah.

"How could you doubt such a thing, ch§ڲie?" he whispered against her breast, his mouth moving back and forth in a subtle rhythm matching the long, slow strokes of his hips.

Her body, of its own accord, followed the tempo of his. They moved together as they were meant to, their hearts beating as one. Gregori's hands gliding over her skin, his soft murmurs of encouragement, added to the beauty of their union. He was incredibly gentle, initiating her as he should have the first time, with care and tenderness.

She wanted to cry. It was unbelievable, the way he made love to her, as if she was the most precious, cherished, beautiful woman in the world. She clutched him, hanging on to the only reality she was certain of as her body tightened, the pressure building and building until she cried out with the need for release. Only then did he allow himself the luxury of burying himself deep and hard, merging himself with her completely. He held them both at the peak, riding the crest until her keening cries and the heated velvet of her body surrounding his drove him over the edge. He took her with him, right over the precipice. Savannah's soft voice was muffled against his chest. She was falling, lights bursting, exploding all around her, but Gregori was there, everywhere, holding her close in strong arms, making certain she was safe.

As they lay locked together, Savannah was unable to take it all in, to believe how he had made her feel. His hands were stroking her hair, his mouth brushing her temple.

Gregori knew he would never get enough of her. Her fingers were twisting absently in his wild mane of hair, and the touch sent a new heat curling through his blood.

Then something invaded the peace and serenity. Suddenly, scenting danger, Gregori lifted his head. On the heels of his own alertness came a warning from the wolves. They called to him, their voices pitched in excited tones. He lowered his head and placed a brief, hard kiss on Savannah's mouth. She looked drowsy, sexy, thoroughly loved.

At that moment the summons came, a soft, muted, but insistent voice, whispering to Savannah.

My darling, I am close. Where are you?

Was it her mother? Savannah attempted to sit up, joy coursing through her. She hadn't seen her mother in five years. Now, when she needed her the most, when she needed guidance and comfort, her mother had unexpectedly appeared.

You will not answer.

It was an imperious command, and Gregori expected to be obeyed. He was already pulling away from her, his face an implacable mask, his eyes slivers of steel.

Savannah was already seeking the familiar mental path to her mother. But at once, before she could actually send a message, her body became like lead, and her mind could not converse. Terror gripped her, and she didn't understand.

Helplessly she glanced at Gregori, and when she saw his mask of granite, she knew he had done something to her. Her eyes were eloquent, pleading with him, frightened by his cool, expressionless features. There was something immovable about him, something harsh and unrelenting. Merciless. Why had she ever thought him gentle, tender? He was as cruel as a vampire.

"You cannot call out to your mother. It is not Raven. You are being hunted, Savannah," he said softly, his beautiful voice without inflection. "You will be able to speak only to me on our exclusive path. I want your assurance that you will do as I say."

Savannah was furious. Hurt. More hurt than furious, and that made her all the more furious that she had allowed herself to care enough to let him hurt her in the first place.

You have no right to do this to me. Release me at once, Gregori! I know my own mother when I hear her.

He stood up and stretched, a lazy ripple of muscles that made her want to claw out his eyes. "It is not your mother. You are mine, Savannah, and it is my duty to protect you in any way I see fit. These vampire friends of Roberto are after something, and I think they are not alone. I believe they have drawn in human butchers. Aidan Savage is here in the city, and he is a good hunter, but I think these renegades are following you." He dressed with fluid efficiency and casual grace. "I am not in the habit of explaining myself. I have made a concession to you in doing so. Choose now how you will proceed."

I refuse your claim on me, she answered in the only way he allowed her to communicate.

I will take my refusal to our people and plead with them for the mercy you evidently don't have in you. I will not be tied to you!

He bent over her, a dark, imposing figure exuding power. His silver eyes glittered at her. "Hear me, Savannah. If you believe nothing else about me, believe this. You belong to me, with me. No one will ever attempt to take you from me and live. No one." His voice was low, beautiful, and all the more deadly for it.

Her violet gaze was held captive by his pale one. She believed him. And not even her father, the Prince of their people, had a chance of destroying him. Her mind shied away from that thought. Destroy Gregori? She didn't want that. He just couldn't have her.

Let me up, Gregori, she demanded. The paralysis was beginning to make her crazy. She felt as if she couldn't breathe. She felt smothered, strangled.

"Say you will obey me." He was dressed now, elegant as always. His mind was no longer completely on her; he was tuned to the vibrations in the air, to each note the wolves sang to him.

Savannah knew she was screaming - her entire body was screaming - but no sound emerged. Her body was no longer hers to command. Her mind was screaming in outrage, but Gregori controlled her ability to send out a cry for help.

Stop fighting me.

His voice was a soft growl in her mind.

Release me.

Her heart was pounding so loud, she was afraid she might explode. This couldn't be happening. Mere moments ago Gregori had been lying with her, holding her in protective arms, gently making love to her. Or so she had thought. But what did she know about making love? Gregori could make anyone feel anything. He didn't need to feel anything for her to make her believe he did. How could he take her body so gently, then turn around like an unfeeling monster and destroy her free will, control her as if she was nothing more than a puppet to him? What kind of person would do such a thing?

Savannah, you will stop fighting me now. We are in danger. You will obey me if you wish to take back control of yourself. I know my own mother. You don't want anyone else around me; that's why you won't allow me to acknowledge her,

she accused him.

So be it. It is your choice.

His voice was as unruffled as always. Nothing seemed to disturb Gregori. Not her hostility, not her confusion and disillusionment.

Her body jerked into a sitting position; then she was standing helplessly beside the bed, naked, totally vulnerable, unable to speak or move. Her head was throbbing as she tried desperately to fight his control of her. She would not submit her mind to his will, not voluntarily. He might have her body, but he could fight her to the death for possession of her mind.

Mocking laughter echoed in her head.

Fight me all you want,

b§ڢ§ٮ

You are only hurting yourself. You will obey me, Savannah.

Despair welled up in her. It was true. She was helpless against his superior power and strength. She hated him for making her so aware of it, for forcing her to see that no matter how much she tried to be herself, to maintain a semblance of pride and dignity, she was stripped to nothing by a mere thought in his head. Shards of glass seemed to be piercing her head. The more she resisted, the worse the pain.

A cotton shirt and jeans suddenly covered her body. Soft leather shoes wrapped themselves around her feet. Gregori braided her hair swiftly, efficiently. She detested the easy, competent way in which he did everything.

One last chance, Savannah. Do you obey me?

He leaned over her, his harsh yet sensual features impassive, an unreadable mask. His pale eyes were ice cold. He meant every word he said, and it was obvious he didn't care which choice she made. There was no give in him, no gentleness, no remorse.

Inwardly, Savannah shuddered. She was locked to this merciless man for all eternity. There had to be some way to undo the ritual. Even death was better than mindless slavery. She swallowed her pride, unable to stand the leaden weight of her body and mind, unable to allow him such complete control.

I'll obey.

She didn't look at him; she couldn't.

He relinquished control slowly, watching her closely, his mind still in hers. Savannah stood before him, trembling with suppressed anger. Trembling with humiliation and lost dreams. She brought up her closed fist until it was level with his chest, then opened her palm to reveal the three teardrop diamonds. Deliberately she turned her hand over, allowing the gems to fall to the floor and scatter. She didn't look at his face or at the diamonds on the floor, now symbolizing her disposal of their relationship. Staring straight ahead, she awaited his instructions.

"Are you able to shape-shift?" His voice was low and smooth and calm. She hated him for that.

"You know I can't."

"You need blood. You will shield your mind at all times. If you feel a compulsion to send out a call, merge your mind with mine. I will carry you away from this place to one more inaccessible and far easier to defend. Do not make the mistake of attempting to defy me in this, Savannah. With your life at risk, I will not tolerate rebellion."

If he expected her to answer him, he could wait for all eternity. This was an order, the dictator commanding her with his hard authority. It didn't require an answer, and she refused to dignify it with one.

His fingers shackled her wrist and pulled her to him. His body was hard, like the trunk of a tree, completely immovable. She could find no softness or gentleness anywhere, not in his body, not in his mind. Had his earlier tenderness all been an illusion, like his trick with the diamonds? She wanted to cry with shame, but she refused to give him the satisfaction of seeing her weakness.

Gregori launched himself into the air, taking her with him, her weight seeming to him no more than that of a feather. They rose from the bedchamber and proceeded up through the house to the higher levels. An order released the wolves onto the grounds, into the immense preserve. They could hunt for themselves, leave if it became necessary. His only obligation, his only concern, was saving Savannah's life. He would send word to Aidan Savage to take proper care of the animals the moment she was safe. The enemy was far stronger, far more organized than Gregori had expected, and Savannah was their target. They had a plan, a scheme they had obviously worked out well in advance of her coming to the city. Gregori would do anything to protect her. Anything.

She lay quietly in his arms, deliberately closing her mind to his. It didn't matter, of course; he had been able to slip in and out of her mind at will since she was an infant. He had always known she could never really love him, would never accept his dominion over her. How could she when she could never really know who he was? He had not expected the terrible wrenching, the knife twisting in his heart, deeper even, right into his soul.

The night was drawing to a close. Two hours, perhaps, before the sun came up. The vampires would need sanctuary, and if they were arrogant enough to think his home would provide it to them, they would be in for a nasty surprise. Gregori snarled silently as he burst into the open sky with Savannah.

Gregori tried to block out the hurt of Savannah's rejection. She needed time to understand him. And they had an eternity. She thought herself sentenced to a lifetime with a demon. He believed she was right. She was weak from refusing to take blood because she had mistakenly believed such deprivation would allow her access to the sun. Her health was of paramount importance.

He sent forth a call. Instantly, two men and a woman from a cabin beside the river moved at his bidding to meet him in the shelter of a grove of pine and oak trees. His feet touched earth, but he carried Savannah to the trio.

"You will feed," he told her silkily, expecting her defiance.

"Am I your puppet, too, Gregori?" she asked softly. "Is this going to be the pattern of our life together? Why do you need me as your lifemate when you can have any human woman do as you wish without a fight?"

The contempt in her voice fanned the pain burning his insides. The emotion was totally unfamiliar to him.

"I have neither the time nor the inclination to spar with you, Savannah. Feed." He set her on her feet.

"Do you think I will do so only under compulsion?" She tilted her chin at him, a clear challenge. "I do not need your help." Without looking at him again, she turned toward the taller of the two males.

Gregori stepped back, wary of her reaction. His silver eyes glittered. She was baiting a tiger.

Savannah moved forward, a sensual curve to her mouth. Her enormous eyes were so dark, they were violet, mysterious, and sexy. Her gaze was on another man. Inviting. Enticing. The human smiled, his entire focus on her as he stepped toward her. She lifted her arms to him, her body moving seductively beneath her clothing.

A low growl of warning rumbled deep in Gregori's throat. Unexpectedly he snarled, his white teeth gleaming dangerously. He was fast, his solid frame inserting itself between his lifemate and her prey. It was instinct, not thought. This man could not touch Savannah, not even to supply her with nourishment.

She raised her beautiful eyes, mesmerizing and taunting, to his pale ones. "Isn't this what you want of me?" Her voice, pitched so low, played over his skin like fingers. "To use my voice and body to draw my prey to me and feed?"

"Do not start something you have no hope of winning, Savannah," Gregori warned with dark menace. He yanked the male to him and bent his head to the exposed neck. Her eyes never wavered from his as he drank his fill. When he lifted his head, he dropped the man on the ground, where he lay sprawled between them. "Come here to me," he ordered her softly.

Unexpectedly her heart somersaulted, and butterfly wings fluttered in her stomach. She never should have taunted him. Why had she been so silly? Gregori didn't even bother to pretend to be civilized. Making him jealous wasn't a smart idea. She held up a placating hand. "Gregori."

"Come here to me, Savannah." His voice was brushed with softness, purity. Impossible to ignore.

Reluctantly, she moved around the man on the ground and put herself into reaching distance. Gregori's hand circled her upper arm and drew her against his hard frame. He bent his dark head to hers, his warm breath stirring tendrils of hair by her ear. "You will take what you need from your lifemate." He whispered the order, but the deceptive softness of his voice only increased its impact.

She attempted to pull away from him, frightened that he was so powerful. His hold on her tightened. She could feel the imprint of his body on hers, hard and aroused. "You will do as I say." His thumb was feathering back and forth across her pulse, wreaking havoc with her senses. As always when he touched her, her body softened, became liquid. She didn't want the heat and excitement of his touch.

Her mouth was pressed against his chest, but he bent closer so that she could nestle her face in his shoulder, his neck. He smelled of wood and spice. His skin was hot, and beneath her moving mouth was his pulse, strong and beckoning. His thumb brushed again, insistently, provocatively. Savannah moaned, her breath coming in a little rush. "Why are you forcing me to do this, Gregori?"

"You need, I provide." His hand cradled the back of her head, holding her against him.

She couldn't help herself, couldn't stop herself from stroking her tongue across his pulse once, twice, in a small caress. It was the way his body was against hers, at once protective and sheltering, yet aggressive and demanding. The combination was exhilarating, temptation itself. How could she resist Gregori? He was so powerful. Savannah sighed and closed her eyes, then pierced his neck.

She felt his jolt of pleasure, of pain, the whip of erotic lightning flashing through his bloodstream. His body moved against hers, hard and urgent, only their clothing separating them. Heat curled and pooled low in her body, and the essence of his life poured into her, filling her, strengthening her as it was meant to.

Gregori's arms tightened around Savannah, and he gritted his teeth. The feel of her silky mouth feeding was so erotic, he could barely contain himself. He wanted to drop her to the earth right there and take what was his. He wanted her so badly, his body was going up in flames. It was heaven and hell holding her against him, so much pleasure and so much pain. And, damn her, she was never going to touch another male as long as either of them lived. Never.

He bent his head and brushed her silky hair with his mouth, savoring the feel of her against his jaw, his skin. She was so small and delicate, so curved and soft. All heated satin and silk. He closed his eyes and pretended she loved him. That she could love him. A monster.

Savannah heard the echo of his thoughts, the taunt of all Carpathian children to their friends. Who would come out of the night and turn them to stone?

The one with the power to heal - or destroy. In that echo she caught from Gregori a deep sorrow, a belief in the tightness of the cruel accusations against him. There was no bitterness, just acceptance.

She felt a stone on her heart, heavy and oppressive.

Very carefully, she closed the pinpricks at his throat and rested her head against his chest. She could hear his heart, strong and steady. Dependable. Mysterious. Sexy. Frightening. That was Gregori.

The hand in her hair closed for a moment, bunching long strands together into his fist; then, abruptly, he let go of her. Without looking at her, Gregori hauled the second of the humans to him, bent his dark head, and fed voraciously. When he had replenished himself, he allowed the man to sit down in the tall grass. He lowered the woman to join her companions.

Savannah stepped back uncertainly. Gregori hunkered down to check each human. He stared into their eyes, his hands gentle as he laid them carefully on the ground to recuperate. "They will be fine," he said, unaware of the husky note in his voice. He straightened, then turned his head slowly to look at her with his glinting silver eyes. "You will not touch another male. Not of any species." Each word was distinct and pronounced in a low growl.

"Don't you think you're overreacting, Gregori?" she ventured.

He stepped close and loomed over her so that the heat of his body enfolded her. "I would be unable to prevent myself from harming them." The admission was made in his usual calm manner.

"I thought your claim on me removed all threats."

"Evidently it brought about new ones. Until I am able to assess and control all that is happening to me, what you are causing me to feel, it is best if you do not defy my will."

Her blue eyes darkened to violet and smoldered as she glared at him. "Your will? I should not defy your will? It isn't like I'm given free will around you, Gregori. Don't you always dictate how I should think and feel? I live only to please you." She curtsied.

A growl rumbled in his throat. He reached for her and brought her up close to his body. "How I wish that were true. I think you live only to drive me crazy."

"That could be arranged," she said sweetly. "I have things I have to take care of, Gregori. They're important to me."

"Such as?" Those pale eyes burned over her upturned face.

"Peter. I have to take care of Peter. I'm his only family. He had no one else. And because of me, he's dead. He was trying to protect me." She crushed down the need to sob, to scream, to pound Gregori into the earth.

He was silent for a moment. "The police will want to speak with you. The story is probably already in the newspapers. Are you ready for the repercussions of that?"

She tilted her chin at him. "I loved Peter like a brother. I owe it to him." Her hand swept through her hair in agitation. "I have to do this. I have to. Please, Gregori. Stand with me on this. I know I can't fight you and win. I need this."

Gregori swore eloquently and repeatedly in four languages. What Savannah needed was to be locked away safely, spirited out of this state - better yet, out of the country. The entire Peter Sanders affair was going to be a media circus. The police would already be scouring the city for her. Damn it to hell.

Without answering her, Gregori wrapped an arm around her waist and scooped her up. He went skyward, his normally tranquil thoughts in chaos, a jumble of unfamiliar emotions and a quicksand of indecision. He was always in total control. With his immense power, he had no other choice. But Savannah was turning him inside out. No, he couldn't allow this. He wouldn't. He didn't care if she cried. If her enormous, magnificent eyes were sad and haunted. If her beautiful, perfect mouth drooped. She was not going to sway him from his path. His way was safe and responsible. Safety was the first issue, not her haunting eyes or her soft, satin mouth. Or her terrible sorrow.

He carried her through the night sky, his thoughts roiling and volcanic, spinning around and around in his head until he thought he might go mad. He knew what he had to do. What was wrong with him that he would allow himself to even consider such foolishness? It was too dangerous, too reckless. If the vampire heading the hunt for her was still persisting in his plan, what better chance to spring a trap than when she returned to deal with Peter's funeral?

Savannah was concentrating on the treetops below them. Nowhere could she detect evidence of a dwelling. She felt empty and cold inside. Gregori was everything he had ever been called. Unfeeling. Hard. Cold. Without emotions. Her life was going to be endless hell. He could not possibly grow to love her. He didn't even really want her. He only wanted someone to control. Someone he could use for sex. She swallowed the bile rising in her throat. She was certainly that person.

Each time he touched her or looked at her with his mesmerizing silver eyes, her body went berserk.

Oh, Peter. She had failed to keep him safe, had led a vampire, the scourge of her kind, directly to him. Now, without Gregori's consent, she could not even provide a decent burial for him. She wanted to feel anger - hatred, even - but all she could manage was emptiness. She had known, all those years ago when she had turned to find Gregori in her bedroom, that she was lost for all eternity.

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