Chapter Fourteen


Walking around the French Quarter in the night air helped to clear Savannah's head of the presence of evil. Whatever or whoever it was didn't follow them out of the restaurant. Within a few minutes, she felt better. Gregori kept her under the shelter of his shoulder. He remained silent, but his mind was merged fully with hers, observing the darkness rapidly dispelling.

Gregori guided them without saying a word toward the hotel where Gary was staying. He wanted the list of names, wanted to be able to see how far the society's rot had spread. Gary believed most members of the society were others like him, hoping it might be true that vampires lived and that they were the romantic characters depicted in recent movies and books.

But Gregori had seen what the depraved human mind could do. He had seen the work of the society time and time again. Women butchered and murdered, innocents, children. He laced his fingers through Savannah's, finding a measure of peace and solace in her closeness. The wind blew the dark, ugly memories into the night.

Savannah's fingers tightened around his. "Did you know what it was?"

"No, but it was real, ch§ڲie.

I was in your head. You did not imagine it." They walked along, the silence comfortable between them.

A block from his hotel, Gary cleared his throat. "I thought you said going back to my room might be dangerous."

"Life is dangerous, Gary," Gregori said softly. "You are Rambo, remember?"

Savannah's laughter rang out, rivaling the jazz quartet playing on the corner. Heads turned to listen to her, men to watch her, stealing away the attention of the audience gathered in a loose semi-circle around the quartet. She moved in the human world, completely comfortable in it, a part of it. Gregori had walked unseen, and that was how he preferred it. She was dragging him into her world. He could hardly believe he was walking down a crowded street with a mortal with half the block staring openly at them.

"I didn't know you knew who Rambo was," Savannah said, trying not to giggle. She couldn't imagine Gregori in a theater watching a Rambo movie.

"You saw a Rambo flick?" Gary was incredulous.

Gregori made a sound somewhere between contempt and derision. "I read Gary's memories on the subject. Interesting. Silly, but interesting." He glanced at Gary. "This is your hero?"

Gary's grin was as mischievous as Savannah's. "Until I met you, Gregori."

Gregori growled, a low rumble of menace. His two companions just laughed disrespectfully, not in the least intimidated.

"I'll bet he's a secret Rambo fan," Savannah whispered confidentially.

Gary nodded. "He probably sneaks into movie theaters for every old showing."

Savannah was really laughing now, the soft notes dancing in the air, contagious, infectious, beckoning all within hearing to join in.

Gregori shook his head, pretending to ignore the two of them and their shenanigans. But he couldn't help himself; he felt his heart lighten even as he scanned the hotel from the courtyard and knew they would soon be in another confrontation with dark, compulsion-driven members of the society. He stopped them abruptly, drawing them into the shadows of the building. "Someone is in your room waiting, Gary."

"You don't even know which is my room," Gary protested. "There's a lot of people staying here. Let's not make a mistake."

"I do not make mistakes," Gregori said softly, his black-velvet voice very much in evidence. "Would you care to go up alone?"

That was unnecessary, lifemate, Savannah reprimanded.

And beneath you. You like this mortal, and it bothers you that he may be in danger. Perhaps it is your easy way with him that bothers me, he suggested silkily. His hand wrapped a length of braid around his fist and gave a tug.

You'd like me to think that, but I am in your head, reading your growing affection for this man.

Gregori didn't want to admit she was right. Savannah was bringing him so far into her world, she was making him feel things uncomfortable for him. Mikhail had had a friendship with a human. Gregori had known he felt great affection for the man, yet Gregori had never understood it. Respected it, perhaps, but he did not understand it. Savannah had genuinely cared for Peter. Gregori didn't dwell on that issue too much, but again, he found it hard to comprehend. Yet now, with Gary, in spite of himself, Gregori actually admired the mortal and didn't want anything to happen to him.

"Tell me what you want me to do," Gary said almost eagerly. He was sick of bullies pushing him around.

"You are going to walk in by yourself and fish for as much information as you can get before they try to kill you," Gregori answered."Try. I hope that's the operative word," Gary said nervously. "Try to kill me."

"You will not have to worry about yourself," Gregori informed him, his voice utterly confident. "But it is necessary that the police do not come looking for you. That means no dead bodies in your room."

"Right, messy. If I have vampires and nut cases from the society hunting me, we don't need the cops, too," Gary admitted. He was sweating now, his palms so wet he kept rubbing them on his jeans.

"Do not worry so much." Gregori flashed a smile meant to reassure, the one that left vivid images of open graves. "I will be with you every step of the way. You might even have fun playing Rambo."

"He had a big gun," Gary pointed out. "I'm going up there with my bare hands. I think it might be pertinent to say I've never won a single fistfight. I've been put in trash cans and toilets and had my face rubbed in the dirt. I'm no good in a fight."

"I am," Gregori said softly, his hand suddenly on Gary's shoulder. It was the first time Gary could remember the Carpathian voluntarily touching him out of camaraderie. "Gary is saying all these things, ch§ڲie, yet he intended to go up against a man brandishing a knife with only his lab jacket for protection."

Gary blushed a fiery red. "You know why I was in the lab," he reminded Gregori, ashamed. "I made a tranquilizer that works on your blood, and they turned it into a poison of some kind. We've got to do something about that. If something goes wrong tonight, and they get me, all my notes on the formula are in my laptop, too."

"This is beginning more and more to sound like a bad movie." Gregori sighed. "Come on, you two amateurs." He was impassive on the outside, but he couldn't help laughing on the inside. "Do not worry about the formula. I allowed one of the members to inject me with it, so we know its components and are working on an antidote now."

"It didn't work?" Gary was appalled. He had spent a tremendous amount of time on that formula. Although Morrison and his crew had perverted it, he was still disappointed.

"You cannot have it both ways, Gary." Exasperated, Gregori gave him a little shove toward the entrance to the hotel. "You should not want the damn thing to work."

"Hey, my reputation is on the line."

"So was mine. I neutralized the poison." Gregori nudged him again. "Get moving."

Gary concentrated on remembering the code to the door of the small hotel, which was locked when no desk clerk was about. When the lock slid open, he turned around to grin in triumph, but the two Carpathians were gone, dissolved into thin air. He stood a moment, his heart beating fast, half in and half out of the entryway, hoping he hadn't been deserted. Rambo.

The name swirled in his head like a talisman. Determined, he marched down the hall to his room and inserted the key into the lock.

As Gary pushed open the door, he felt a reassuring brush of something cold along his skin. It had to be Gregori pushing past so that his body was protecting the mortal's - at least, Gary hoped that was what it was. In any case, it gave him added courage.

Two men whirled to face him. The room was a mess. Drawers upended, his clothes scattered, even his books shredded. Gary stopped just inside the doorway. One of the men produced a gun. "Come on in. Shut the door," he ordered tersely.

After facing Gregori, no one could look menacing. Gary found he wasn't nearly as afraid as he would normally have been. He closed the door carefully and faced the two strangers. They exchanged a quick look between them, clearly uneasy that Gary wasn't visibly upset. They had been led to believe this would be an easy job.

"Are you Gary Jansen?" the one with the gun asked.

"This is my room. Perhaps you should introduce yourselves." Gary glanced around at the mess. "Are you thieves, or were you looking for something in particular?"

"We're here to ask the questions. You called Morrison's private number, said something was going on at the warehouse. When we got there, the place was going up in flames, and two of our people were dead. A vampiress was gone, taken to the hospital."

"Then you realize she was not really a vampiress. She was one of those poor kids who come out at night and play vampire because they like gothic stuff. It's just a game to these kids. An attention-getter. It isn't the real thing. You should know the difference between a kid playing games and the real thing," Gary scolded.

"Do you know the difference?" the one with the gun asked, sudden insight making him suspicious.

Gary looked around and lowered his voice in a conspirator's whisper. "Tell me who you are first."

"I'm Evans, Derek Evans. I know you've heard of me. I work for Morrison. And this is Dan Martin. He's the one you talked to on the phone the other day."

"You should have listened to me," Gary reprimanded Martin. He pushed a hand through his hair and sank into a chair. "That girl was no vampire, and those two idiots had gone crazy. They weren't serious about finding the real thing. They wouldn't know the real thing if it bit them in the neck."

"But you would, wouldn't you," Martin said. "You've seen one." In spite of himself, there was awe in his voice.

"I tried to tell you, but you wouldn't listen," Gary said, shaking his head. "I told you to bring Morrison down to the warehouse. Where is he?"

"He sent us to find you, Gary. He thought you had betrayed us." Evans lowered the gun. "What happened in that warehouse?"

"Before I tell you, I have to know whether Morrison and the society sanctioned killing that poor girl," Gary said, keeping his tone very low.

Martin risked a quick look at Evans. "Of course not, Gary. Morrison would never want an innocent hurt."

"And what of my formula? I developed a tranquilizer to aid our society members so that we could subdue a vampire, capture him, and study him, not cut one up into pieces. When I was approached about this, I was told that was the society's ultimate objective. But my formula was tainted with poison. Morrison must have ordered it."

"Morrison is the vampire expert. He realized the tranquilizer would never hold anything that strong," Martin supplied quickly.

"It wasn't just any poison," Gary bit out. "It was designed to be painful. Morrison wants to kill the vampires, not study them. The poison is fast-acting, extremely virulent, and agonizing."

"He wants to talk to you. Come with us, Gary. Let him explain all this to you." Martin added, "He sent us here to protect you. He was very worried after what happened in that warehouse."

"Is that why you trashed my room?" Gary asked.

"You didn't come home last night. We waited all day before we decided to look for clues to your disappearance," Evans said reasonably.

"And the gun?" Gary pushed.

"We were worried for our own safety. Morrison thinks maybe a real vampire went to the warehouse. He was afraid maybe the vampire turned you, that's why you weren't around during the day. We couldn't take any chances."

"Have you ever seen Morrison during the day?" Gary asked suddenly.

There was a shocked silence. "Well, sure, yeah," Evans stuttered, frowning, trying to remember. Shards of glass seemed to pierce his skull. He rubbed at his pounding temples. "You have, haven't you, Martin?"

Martin snarled, his face twisted and evil. "Of course. All the time. So have you, Evans. You remember."

He is lying, Gregori said softly in Savannah's head.

He is a servant of the master vampire. He intends to bring Gary somewhere out in the bayou. Can you stop him without bringing the police down on Gary? We must pursue Morrison. He is the one behind the hunt for the proof of the existence of our people. He is using the society in an attempt to destroy our race. We can do no other than stop him.

Gregori laid a hand gently on Gary's shoulder and was pleased when the mortal didn't give himself away by jumping.

Go with them. Allow them to lead us to the one who rules them.

It was a little disconcerting to have Gregori's voice swirling imperiously around in his head, but Gary nodded slowly. "I didn't think Morrison would have anything to do with those idiots at the warehouse. That's why I called him. I thought maybe he could control the situation. Sure, let's go see him. I've got some wild tales to tell. Hell, no one's going to believe what I saw." With studied, casual grace, Gary reached into the mess of papers on the floor and snagged his laptop. Between the two men, he marched confidently out of his room, down the hall, and out into the night.

What are you going to do?

Savannah was anxious on Gary's behalf. He had to live in the human world. That meant no suspicion could fall on him if the two men in his company were found dead.

No one will see Gary with the two puppets, Gregori said softly.

I have been at this for a thousand years, ch§ڲie. This is the world I live in. I know it well. We will probably not be so lucky this night as to trap our prey, but it is worth the try. They plan to kill Gary.

Savannah was as adept as Gregori at reading the thoughts of those around her, and she could feel the malevolence seething just beneath the surface of the two men, particularly the one called Martin. He had been close to the vampire for some time, and the stench of evil was strong in him.

They are hoping for more information. Morrison wants to extract it himself, probably because he trusts no one. And he likes to see things in pain and terror.

The thought came unbidden before he could censor it.

Go home now. Savannah. Don't send me home yet. You might need me to get Gary out. I won't wilt at the first sign of danger, I promise.

The two men were leading Gary toward the river. A boat was waiting, and Gary got in without hesitation. The water was choppy, the wind blowing hard. Gregori moved just above Gary to ensure that the dark compulsion of the kill did not overtake either man until they arrived at their destination. The ride seemed to take forever, and Gary was looking so pale, he was almost green. The ride had made him seasick. As he stepped off the boat into a little inlet in the bayou, he staggered.

Gregori steadied him, his arm slipping around his shoulders for a brief moment to reassure him. It was evident Gary was aware there was something wrong with the two men. He felt the mortal take a deep breath and let it out slowly. Gary was going to be all right He trusted Gregori.

Gary noticed immediately that Evans and Martin boxed him in as he walked along the marshy shore. Cypress trees rose out of the water, and a network of roots formed a macabre prison of stakes and weeping limbs. In the darkness they looked sinister. Tendrils of fog began to float toward them off the surface of the water, wisps of white that shrouded the bogs in an eerie iridescence.

There was a peculiar stench that rose off the embankment, a foul odor that permeated the air. Night insects seemed to be in great abundance, stinging bugs that dived and darted. Gary found himself slapping at the annoying things, trying not to hold his nose. The odor was putrefying, disgusting, like decayed meat rotting in the sun. His shoes were sinking into the bog, and he hesitated. Somewhere he had heard a man could sink under the marsh and be lost in the reeds and mud, deep within a sinkhole. Gary coughed and gagged, his body rebelling. Almost at once he could smell a fragrance, a hint of fresh air, a suggestion of wild flowers and forest. He almost believed he could hear the sound of water running over rocks.

Savannah.

He knew it was her touch, aiding him to get through the rotten stench.

The air was suddenly thick, hard to breathe. The wind ceased to blow, and for a moment there was total silence. Even the bugs stopped their incessant noise. The two men escorting Gary stopped, turned their faces toward the bog, and waited. Out in the darkness something moved. Something evil and cunning. A shadow spread over them, engulfed them. Again there was a sudden stillness, as if the shadow had hesitated before moving out into the open. A roar of rage and defiance filled the vacuum of silence with the thunder of a freight train.

Somewhere in the distance, snakes fell with a series of splashes into the water. Alligators slithered in the mud, the sound loud in the silence before they slid into water and disappeared beneath the murky depths. Martin shoved Gary unexpectedly from behind, sending him sprawling into the mud. His knees sank deep, almost to the thigh. Gary swallowed his fear and stood up slowly, facing the two murderous men.

"What is this? I thought I was meeting Morrison." He spoke calmly. "Morrison decided he didn't need to talk to you," Martin said.

Morrison senses your presence, Gregori said to Savannah.

He is close. I can feel him, but I cannot pinpoint his exact location. This one is powerful; he has learned much in the centuries of his existence. He warned his servants,

she said, afraid for Gary. Already she was positioning her body in front of the mortal.

He gave the order to kill Gary. You chase the vampire. I'll protect Gary.

Gregori yanked her to the side, reinforcing the silent command with a hard push at her mind. He was taking no chances with her safety.

It is not going to happen, Savannah, Gregori snarled, his fangs already exploding in his mouth.

The killing rage was on Martin, the darkness spreading like a stain through the night. He pointed the ugly little revolver at Gary's heart. "Wade out into the river. I'm sure the alligators are hungry tonight."

Gary shook his head sadly. "I feel sorry for you, Martin. You're the pawn the king has sacrificed while he escapes. You never even knew that all this time you were hunting the vampire, he was the one directing every move you ever made."

"I think I'll kill you slowly, Jansen. I don't like you," Martin said.

"Don't you see how he's twisted you? You've become the very thing you despise. Six months ago, would you have even contemplated killing someone? Morrison's done that to you," Gary persisted, trying to save the man's life.

Martin extended his arm, looking down the sights of the gun. Suddenly his expression changed to shock. The evil mask disappeared completely as he stared in horror at his own hand. The gun was swinging around to point at nun. He fought the thing, tried to drop it, but it stuck in his palm. "Evans! Help me!" Martin screamed, the sound echoing across the waters.

Gary stepped back, trying to tear his mesmerized gaze from the man who only moments earlier had tried to kill him. Martin's arm was rising slowly toward his own head. "Evans!" He was shrieking it.

Evans lunged at Gary, tackled him, shoving him down into the mud and oozing muck. Pushing Gary's face hard into the mire, Evans tried to suffocate him, scooping filth into the gasping mouth. The sound of the gun was loud in the night, traveling across the bayou and startling wildlife for miles. Evans didn't look up to see the results, determined to kill Gary Jansen and leave his body to the alligators.

Gary thrashed violently, nearly dislodging him, but Evans hung on grimly, his hands finding and clamping around the exposed throat. A low growl warned him. He turned his head to see two red, fiery eyes staring unblinkingly only inches from his face. Startled, Evans released Gary and sank back onto his heels. At once he could make out the huge head of a wolf. Glossy black fur, sinewy muscles. The muzzle. White fangs. He screamed and threw himself backward toward the river, crawling to put distance between himself and the beast.

Gary was gasping for breath, muck in his eyes and mouth, unable to see anything. He could hear the hideous, repetitious screaming, the unearthly growls that raised the hair on the back of his neck, but he was blind, the black goo sealing his eyelids closed. Something huge brushed past him, something muscular, with fur. It smelled wild and dangerous. There was a tremendous splash in the water. The screaming escalated, then was cut off abruptly in mid-cry.

Savannah's arm crept around his shoulders, and she was wiping at the mud with a soft cloth, trying to clear his vision while he used his finger to scoop the stuff from his mouth. "That was too close," she whispered. "I'm sorry. Gregori wouldn't allow me to help."

Gary spat more muck from his mouth. "I'm not surprised." The words were muffled by the goo, but she understood them all the same.

Savannah couldn't look around her and see the death everywhere. Gregori's world was bleak and ugly, filled with violence and destruction. She ached for him, ached for the terrible emptiness that would always have to be a part of his life. She knew that his keeping her away from it was more than a matter of her safety. Gregori might say that to her, even to himself, but deep inside, where it counted, in his heart, in his soul, he didn't want the violence to touch her, to change who she was. It mattered to him that he protect her from such a fate. He was determined that she never would have the death of another on her hands.

Gary managed to pry his eyes open. Savannah was inspecting him anxiously, dabbing at the mud on his face. He glanced over to where Martin had stood and saw the man's body on the ground, the water from the marsh oozing up around him. The gun was still clutched in his hand, and blood was spreading out from the pool under his head, leeching into the waters of the marsh. Already insects were swarming around the feast. Gary looked away quickly, his stomach lurching. He wasn't cut out to be Rambo.

"Where's Gregori?" he asked, biting the words out between clenched teeth.

Savannah wiped more mud from his mouth. "Leave him alone for a few minutes," she advised softly.

"Where's Evans?" Gary suddenly pushed her aside to look anxiously this way and that, worried that he couldn't protect Savannah.

"He's dead," she said bluntly. "Gregori killed him to save your life." She stood up and wiped ineffectually at her mud-spattered jeans. "I hate this place. I wish we'd never come here."

"Savannah." Gary moved up beside her. There was a catch in her voice he had never heard before. Savannah, always filled with life and laughter, seemed so sad all of a sudden, so lost. "Are you okay? Gregori's right. You shouldn't be here."

She shook her head, fighting down sudden anger. "What neither of you seems to understand is that I am here. Whether I'm here physically or not, I'm with him. I feel what he feels, exactly what he feels. It isn't protecting me to wrap me in cotton wool and put me on a shelf." She jerked away from him and walked toward the river.

Gregori materialized behind her, his large, stocky frame dwarfing her smaller one. He bent protectively over her, one hand on her shoulder. Gary watched as she shook it off, not in the least intimidated by his size or power.

"Do not be angry, mon amour, I truly sought only to protect you. Had Martin fired the gun, the bullet would have hit you. I could not allow such a thing," Gregori said gently. He could feel the raging conflict in her. She had never been so close to death and violence until Gregori had chosen to force his claim on her. From their first day together as lifemates, she had known nothing else.

"There was no chance that you would have let him shoot me. Instead, because you locked me up with some ancient command, Gary was almost murdered in front of my eyes." Savannah's fists were clenched tightly. She wanted to hit something, and Gregori seemed a solid enough target.

"I will not take chances with your life, ma petite"

he emphasized, his arms circling her waist from behind. When she would have stepped away from him, he tightened his hold on her. "I will not, Savannah. You should never have been here."

"You lost your chance at the vampire because of me, didn't you?" she demanded, tears in her voice, shimmering in her eyes. "He couldn't sense your presence - you're able to do something to mask it - but he knew I was there, even though I was invisible."

It was the truth. He didn't want it to be, especially with her so confused and upset. Gregori couldn't bear it when she was unhappy. But there was no way to lie, and he wouldn't have done so even if he could have. He remained silent, allowing her to read the answer in his mind.

Savannah shook her head and banged it against the heavy muscles of his chest. "I hate this, Gregori. I feel so useless. I feel like I'm endangering you. We are lifemates. I asked you to meet me halfway in my world, and you've done it. You've done everything I've asked of you. What have I done to live in your world with you?"

Gregori bent his dark head to the slim white column of her neck. "You are my world, ma petite, my very existence. You are what makes living bearable. You are my light, the very air I breathe." His mouth brushed her pulse, her earlobe. "You are not meant to walk in death. You never were."

She swung around, her blue eyes darkening to deep violet. "If you walk in death, Gregori, then that is where you will find me. Right beside you. I belong where you are. I am your lifemate.

There is no other. I am your lifemate." She held up a hand, furious at the situation. "There will be no more discussion on this. You can do no other than to see to my happiness, and the only way I will be happy will be to learn to cloak my presence from vampire, humans, and Carpathians alike."

Savannah stalked away from him, leaving him standing on the water's edge as she went back to Gary. "Come on, let's get out of here."

"What happens when the bodies are found? The cops are going to come looking for the last person seen alive with them," Gary said, reluctantly stepping back into the boat. He was still digging muck out of his nose and mouth.

"No one saw you with them," Gregori answered quietly. "They saw only two men leaving the hotel, two men walking through the Quarter, and two men getting into the boat. That's why we cannot take the boat back."

Gary blinked. "How do you propose we get back? Fly?" he asked sarcastically.

"Exactly," Gregori answered complacently.

Gary shook his head. "This is getting too bizarre for me."

"Do you wish me to blank out your mind from experiencing this?" Gregori asked politely, his thoughts clearly on Savannah.

"No," Gary said decisively. He caught up the laptop from the seat of the boat. "But why don't you take me to another hotel? You and Savannah could use some time alone. And to be honest with you, I wouldn't mind thinking things over a bit. There's a lot to take in."

Gregori found himself liking the mortal even more. He had no idea a human might be so sensitive to another's feelings. Raven, Savannah's mother, had been like that, but she was a special case, a true psychic. His experience with mortals had always been with those hunting him, butchering and murdering his people. He preferred to stay at a distance from mortals. He was not prepared to like Gary Jansen.

Savannah was already dissolving, mist streaming through the tendrils of fog, moving across the water. Gregori caught Gary up and launched himself skyward, streaking after her. Gary squealed, a high-pitched sound suspiciously like that of a piglet. He couldn't help himself as he clutched at Gregori's broad shoulders, his fingers clenching the shirt hard. The wind was whistling past his body so fast, he had to squeeze his eyes closed tight, unable to look down.

Wait for me, Savannah, Gregori ordered, his black-velvet voice edged with iron.

She didn't even hesitate. She continued moving quickly across the river toward the French Quarter.

Savannah!

He was imperious now, a flat order delivered in his mesmerizing voice.

You will do what I say. No, I won't.

There was defiance in her voice, a mixture of belligerence and sorrow. He could feel the tears burning in her throat, in her chest. She was running as much from herself as she was from him.

Gregori swore softly in several languages.

Do not make me force you into obedience, ch§ڲie.

It is not safe for you. Maybe I don't want to be safe, she hissed at him, forging ahead into the night.

Maybe I want to do something crazy for a change. I hate this, Gregori. I hate it.

Mon amour, do not run from what we have together. I know our life has not started out in paradise, that the world we must inhabit is ugly and dangerous, but we do it together. You hunt.

She was crying; he could feel it.

I endanger you.

Gregori sent her waves of comfort but knew it wasn't enough. The mortal clutching at his shirt stirred. "Um, Gregori?" The wind snatched the words from his mouth and blew them across the water.

Gregori's reply was more of a growl. His body was above the mist now, a protective blanket. "Say what you have to say."

"I think Savannah is upset."

There was no answer. Gregori continued to follow Savannah.

"If you don't mind my saying so, sometimes women just need to cry it out," Gary ventured.

Savannah went straight to their house. Once she was within the safety of the four walls, Gregori broke off to take Gary to a new rooming house. "You know that you cannot leave until we come for you tomorrow," he advised. He was a shadow in Savannah's mind. He could see her clearly, running through the front room to the spiral staircase, toward the precious treasure Julian had left for them.

Savannah tore open the door to the basement, then waved her hand across the hidden door to the chamber. She crawled into the healing soil and sank deep, then curled up and cried as though her heart was breaking. So many deaths. Peter. And what if they had lost Gary tonight? They could have lost him, and she would have been helpless to aid him, because Gregori would not allow it.

After leaving Gary, Gregori came to her in gentleness, with tenderness. His hands were caressing as he undressed her unresisting body. He made no attempt to arouse her, to persuade her to join with him. Instead he crushed herbs, soothing, healing herbs that carried the scents of their homeland to them. He joined her in the sleeping chamber, burrowing deep into the rich soil, taking her slender body into his arms, pulling her close.

Savannah pillowed her head on his broad shoulder, her eyes closed tightly. Her clenched fist was at her mouth, and he could feel the sobs wracking her frame. Gregori murmured to her in French and stroked her hair, his arms protective as he waited for her to cry out the storm of sorrow.

He knew how to hunt and kill the most vicious and cunning of all creatures, the vampire. He could create storms and bring lightning from the sky. He could make the earth move. He had absolutely no idea how to stop a flood of tears. He held her in his arms, and when he could no longer stand it, he issued a sharp command and sent them both to sleep.

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