Chapter Six


Savannah never actually saw the outside of the lair. One moment they were soaring through the sky, the next they were plummeting to earth. She closed her eyes as her stomach rolled, and by the time she could pry her lashes up, Gregori was striding into a rock dwelling. The interior walls were thick and cool, smooth to the touch as if they had been polished. The ceiling was high and of the same polished rock as the walls and floor. Gregori had carved the lair from the mountain itself, a miracle of construction. There were three rooms that she could see, and Savannah was certain there was a hidden chamber below the earth, a bolt hole in case they were in deadly peril.

The moment Gregori set her feet on the rock floor, she moved away from him, a quick, feminine retreat. She refused to look at him, keeping her head bent so that she would not have to meet his gaze. She walked slowly through the unusual structure. The furniture looked comfortable, even cozy. "So this is to be my prison?" she said unemotionally.

Gregori didn't answer. There was no expression on his face, although the lines around his eyes and mouth seemed etched a little deeper than usual. His silver eyes were pale, reflecting images around him, not his own inner thoughts. His hand went to the back of his neck to massage aching muscles tiredly. Then he left the sitting room on silent feet. Glided. Like a panther. In spite of her determination not to, Savannah found herself watching him covertly behind her lashes. There was something mesmerizing about the way he moved. Muscles rippling, powerful, sensuous. She couldn't keep her wayward eyes from following his every movement, or her wayward heart from missing a beat when she saw his hand massaging his neck.

Gregori sat on the edge of the bed, certain she was not paying him any attention. She wanted to be as far from him as possible. But even from a great distance, he was a shadow in her mind. He could read her every thought of him. None of it was good, and he couldn't blame her. He dropped his face into his hands. He was the monster she had named him. She feared him. She would always hate her destiny, always wish the fates had been kinder. And who knew? Maybe they would have been. After all, he had manipulated her future from the moment of her conception. She was light to his darkness, compassion to his cruelty. She could never love such a brutal beast as he. He had taken what was not his, had tampered with nature and taken her for his own.

Savannah's heart turned over when she caught sight of him sitting on the edge of the bed, the picture of utter dejection. Gregori. He was confidence itself. Complete authority. An emotionless robot uncaring that he had taken her life from her forever. What she thought or felt didn't matter to him. She had named him monster, heartless. A brutal barbarian. Every name she could think of had danced in her head as they had flown through the air to their destination. She had done it deliberately so that he could read what she thought of him, so that he wouldn't know she craved his touch even as she despised his ways.

But it tore at her, the way he sat so alone. Gregori, who had always been alone. She backed up until the coolness of the rock wall was at her back, her blue eyes thoughtful as she watched him. He was giving her privacy, if it could be called that, even withdrawing from her mind. She bit her lower lip, then winced at the slight discomfort and the memory it brought with it. She realized she was familiar with his touch, so gentle in her mind. First he had come to her as the wolf, and later, in the terrible moments when her loneliness had been too painful to bear, it had been Gregori's touch that had eased her. Strange, she had never considered that, never once thought why she had felt comforted.

Gregori had offered her free exploration of his mind. She knew he was capable of protecting himself, of covering his emotions and memories in layers if he chose, so that she would see only the parts he wished to share with her. She doubted many Carpathians could do such a thing with their lifemate, but Gregori could. Gregori could do anything.

But she was Savannah Dubrinsky. Daughter of Mikhail and Raven. Their blood flowed in her veins, as did Gregori's. She had her own power, didn't she? Up to now she had been a child running from herself, from her life with a man of such power. But if her life was intertwined with Gregori's, she had better grow up fast and find out just what she was up against. Mikhail and Raven had raised her to believe in herself.

She took a deep breath and allowed her mind to merge fully with Gregori's. Her touch was feather-light, delicate, a mere shadow, soft in his mind. Even so, had he not been so preoccupied with his own thoughts, she knew he would have felt her presence. She stayed quiet and simply became a sponge.

He believed himself a demon. He believed his soul was black, beyond real redemption. He was absolute in his belief that he had gotten her through his own manipulations, rather than through true chemistry. He had been so close to turning vampire that he had wagered his very soul on tampering with what was not his to do. He had touched the child in Raven's womb, supplied it with blood, even conversed with it. Savannah had a dim memory of his light reaching her when she was in pain, wanting to let go along with the rush of blood from her mother's body. Gregori had prevented her from doing so.

She saw it clearly. His entire life. Finding his mother and father, stakes driven through their hearts, their heads cut off. The terrible years of the vampire killings in Europe. So many women and children lost to the stakes. Then the hunts. The wars. So many friends turning. Gregori hunting them down to destroy their evil power over humans and Carpathians alike. Century after century. Endless. So much blood, so many dying at his hands. Each death took a part of him until it was impossible to face the other Carpathians, until he dared not befriend any of them. He was sentenced to an eternity of isolation. So alone. Always alone. The bleak and empty world of his existence nearly overwhelmed her with sorrow, bringing tears to her eyes. Who could possibly live year after year in such an empty void and survive with his soul intact? It was impossible.

Knowledge had been his only friend. He had always been a rebel. No authority could hope to hold him, only his loyalty to Mikhail. He had his own rigid code of honor, which he was unswerving in following. Honor was his life. Yet he felt he had compromised even that in the way he had acquired Savannah.

When Savannah had refused to examine his mind so that he could prove to her that she had brought him back from the other side, so that she would be unafraid, know he was incapable of ever harming her again, she had refused out of respect for him. Yet he believed she had been rejecting him. He believed she could never really forgive the things in his life he had been chosen to do. He couldn't forgive himself.

She saw it all. Every dark, dangerous deed. Every dark, ugly kill. Every law he had broken. But most of all she saw his greatness. Time and time again, he had given of himself to heal others, draining his great strength, putting himself in danger over and over that others might live. A lifetime of selfless service to a people who grew to fear the very power they relied on. While none of the ugliness of the hunt, none of the danger, touched the others, he lived in constant readiness. He accepted the necessity of his solitary existence, his strict isolation. He had come to believe the Carpathians were right to fear him. And Savannah saw that they were right. He wielded far too much power for one individual, carried far too much weight on his broad shoulders.

For centuries Gregori had no real anchor in their world, no emotions to keep him from turning. There had been only his strength and determination. His will of iron. His strict code of honor. His loyalty to Mikhail and his belief that their race had a place in the world. His resolve to prevent the children of their race from dying, a way to find true lifemates for the men to keep them from turning vampire. Mikhail's finding Raven had given him a measure of relief in the form of hope. Still, once Savannah had been conceived, the world had turned into a long, endless hell for Gregori. Each minute had turned to an hour, each hour into a day, until he was nearly mad with waiting for her.

Upon Savannah's refusal of their union, he had made a vow to himself to give her five years of freedom. He felt that since she would be tied forever to one who would rule her life absolutely, he owed her at least that small amount of time. To Gregori, every moment was an agony of holding out against the darkness so deeply entrenched in him. He had waited until he knew he would succumb, until he knew he would no longer have the wisdom or desire to choose the dawn - self-destruction, the only honorable option for a Carpathian about to turn vampire. He had fulfilled his vow of freedom for her and in doing so nearly lost his soul. After all those centuries of holding out, he had risked the damnation of his soul for her five years of freedom.

Savannah sat very still, absorbing his memories. The only beauty in his barren, lonely existence had been the years she was growing up, when he was free to share her life as the wolf. She was unafraid of the wolf, giving him total, unconditional love, her every confidence, her unqualified acceptance. He had never had that before. He craved it, needed it, and believed she would never give it to him again.

He accepted the fact that she would never love him, that she would always look at him with fear. It was almost as if he believed he deserved not to be loved because he was certain he had acquired her unfairly. He had not been prepared for the gut-wrenching pain it caused him, or the violent emotions she stirred in him. Savannah stayed very, very still, on the verge of a great discovery.

It wasn't any woman he wanted, as she had believed. And he certainly didn't want a puppet, as she had accused him. He wanted Savannah, with her sense of humor, her pride and compassion, and even her nasty temper. No other woman held the slightest interest for him. No other woman would ever do for him.

He was in pain. Terrible pain. He felt her grief over the loss of Peter. He felt her fear of him. He felt the pain of his own loneliness and eternal isolation. It radiated from his very soul. He was resigned to hold that pain for all time. And he would never show it to her.

Savannah moved out of his mind while she was still undetected. He was terribly lonely, so much so that she wanted to cry for him. And he didn't have the faintest idea how to love someone, laugh with someone, or share his life. He only knew that he had to keep her safe at any cost. She had named him monster, and he believed her to be right.

She stared out the window into the forest. Gregori was many things. He had broken just about every law they had without one iota of remorse. He had killed countless times. He had more power in his little finger than most members of her race combined. But he was not a monster. Never that.

Her foot tapped out a light rhythm on the rock floor. The branches of the trees swayed slightly in syncopation. She did have power, far more than she had ever expected. Gregori wanted her. More than that, he needed her. That particular revelation changed everything. It put control back in her hands, gave her back her life. She squared her shoulders. She was no longer a child running from a nameless fear.

She was his lifemate, chosen by God to walk with a man of power, of honor. A sensual, strong male who needed her more than anyone else on earth ever could.

Savannah took a deep breath and let it out carefully. "Gregori?" She kept her voice low and neutral.

He lifted his head slowly, but she felt his mind brush hers. The invasion didn't inspire fear this time. She accepted his merge without shying away from it. "This is a very beautiful place. It's amazing that you were able to do this." She heard a slight rustle, a movement behind her, but she didn't turn around. "You're quite an artist."

She could smell him, his woodsy, spicy scent. Masculine, warm, exciting. She touched the rock wall and smiled to herself, thinking the feel of the rock was a lot like the way Gregori's hard body felt beneath her fingertips.

"It took a few months, ch§ڲie, the months I spent up here alone, waiting for your show to come to San Francisco."

His voice was so beautiful. She allowed herself to listen to it, to feel the purity of it, to let the black velvet brush her mind. "It is really beautiful, Gregori. We can summer here when we're in this country."

He touched her hair because he couldn't help himself, and he was surprised when she didn't flinch away from him. It pleased him to hear her talk as if she accepted that they would be together in the future. He didn't respond, however, afraid that whatever he said would break their fragile truce.

She reached behind her, found his arm with her palm, and touched him. She felt his pulse jump beneath her fingertips and kept her smile to herself. "So, are you going to explain to me how the vampire was able to use my own mother's voice to draw me out? I am presuming it was a vampire. And how come I felt a compulsion to answer? I am Carpathian; a compulsion shouldn't have worked so quickly or easily on me." She continued to stare out the window.

Flames were licking up the length of his arm from where her hand rested. Savannah had somehow worked out for herself that he believed her safety was in jeopardy. "The vampire is an illusionist, much like yourself. He has practiced mimicking voices for centuries. Now he uses the talent for calling others to him. I recognized the brush of compulsion in the tone, and, of course, your mother would have chosen to use your private channel of communication, not the standard." His voice was emotionless, not in any way condemning her blunder.

She blushed anyway. Why hadn't she caught that? Stupid, stupid mistake. A mistake like that could have gotten her, perhaps both of them, killed. She turned to face him. Gregori's sensual features were carefully impassive. His silver eyes merely reflected back her own image. "I guess I owe you an apology for calling you names. I acted childishly, and I'm sorry."

He blinked. She had surprised him. Savannah felt her heart warm, a funny, melting sensation. "I want you to do something for me. I realize I am not very experienced with vampires, but rather than arbitrarily demanding my obedience, perhaps you could tell me what is going on. I'm going to rely on your judgment, Gregori. I won't try to defy you. I just have this problem with someone telling me what to do. Even as a child I had a hard time with it - don't you remember?" She deliberately referred to her childhood, the one happy bridge they had between them.

His mouth didn't smile, but a hint of warmth crept into the bleakness in his eyes. "I remember. You did your best to do the exact opposite of everything you were told."

Her smile was intriguing. Gregori couldn't stop staring at her mouth.

"You'd think I would have grown out of it by now, but I haven't. Try to work with me on this."

Her enormous blue eyes pleaded with him. He felt as if he was falling into their depths. "Please."

He wrapped a length of her hair around his wrist. "I will try, b§ڢ§٬ but first comes your safety. Always."

She laughed softly. "Gregori, I know you will never let anything happen to me. It isn't something I worry about."

"It is uppermost in my mind." He sounded very stern.

She tilted her chin at him. "Has it occurred to you that I have been all by myself these last five years and that nothing ever happened to me?"

Gregori smiled then, lending a sensuality to the curve of his mouth. "You have never been truly alone, ch§ڲie, never at any time. When it was too dangerous for me to be near you, I made certain others were close."

Her quick temper flashed in spite of her every resolution not to let it. Her blue eyes scattered sparks. "You had someone watching me?"

There was something about the way the color rose in her cheeks, the flash of her eyes, the lift of her breasts when she was angry, that made him want to keep her that way. "I was not the only one, ma petite.

Your father would never have allowed you to be without protection. You should have known that."

"My own father?" How could she not have known? It would be just like Mikhail. Just like Gregori. Here she thought she had acquired such independence, that she had struck a blow for all Carpathian women, and all the time they were having her watched. "I hired a security company to work my tours," she said, wanting him to recognize that she hadn't been careless about her safety.

"Humans." His tone said it all. "You needed one of us."

"Who? Who did you trust enough, Gregori?" she asked, curious. Trust would be alien to his nature. What other male would he have entrusted his lifemate's safety to? It seemed so out of character for him.

Gregori pushed a hand through the shaggy mane of hair falling to his broad shoulders. His neck hurt. Absently, he tried another massage. "Some situations call for extreme measures. I chose the strongest, most powerful man I knew, one with an unwavering code of honor. His name is Julian. Julian Savage."

"Aidan Savage's twin brother. He's here? In the city?" She had never met Aidan Savage, but she had heard of him from her father. He was a vampire hunter for the Carpathian people. Mikhail greatly respected him, and that in itself said a lot for the man. Recently he had found his lifemate. Savannah had hoped to visit them while she was in the city. They were probably as starved for someone from their homeland as she had been. "Did Aidan know his brother was here protecting me?"

"I am certain Aidan would sense his presence in the area. How could he not? They are twins. Whether Julian will choose to see him, I do not know. He is struggling with the darkness."

Savannah turned away from those bleak, glittering eyes. So cold. So alone. So lost.

Her dark one. Her Gregori.

She could hardly bear his pain. It didn't show, not on that expressionless face, the face carved from pure granite, like the rock lair. It wasn't in his pale eyes, so arctic cold they reminded her of death itself. It wasn't in any part of his mind that he was sharing with her. She felt it all the same. His heart, her heart. His soul, her soul. They were one and the same. Two halves of the same whole. He didn't know it yet, didn't really believe it. After all, he thought it wasn't true chemistry, that he had managed to manipulate their joining. She knew better.

She had known it when she shared her life with the wolf. Maybe not in her head, but in her heart and soul. She had known it when she reached into the black void, into the darkness, and pulled him back to her. She had known it when she shared her body with him, as innocent as she was, as inhibited as she had felt. She feared him, but she knew he was the one. Her heart and soul recognized him.

"The dawn approaches, ch§ڲie," he said softly. "It is best if we get some sleep." It would be best for her. His body was raging at him, wanting the feel of her skin next to his. He needed to hold her in his arms and shelter her close to his heart. For one brief moment, he could pretend he would not be forever alone. She would keep the darkness at bay for him long enough to get him through another day.

Her hand slid down the length of his arm to his hand. Her fingertips brushed the contours of his muscles. Just a skimming sensation, but his entire body clenched with hot desire. It poured into him, raged at him, molten lava surging through his blood and filling his body with piercing heat. In her innocence, she didn't notice what she was doing to him. Her fingers laced in his trustingly.

"What about Peter? What do you think we should do to minimize the risk? Because you're right, the press is going to give me a hard time. They follow me all over, those ratty little tabloids." Her enormous eyes were staring straight into his silver ones.

He couldn't look away, couldn't let go of her hand. He couldn't have moved if his life depended on it. He was lost in those blue-violet eyes, somewhere in their mysterious, haunting, sexy depths. What was it he had decided? Decreed? He was not going to allow her anywhere near Peter's funeral. Why was his resolve fading away to nothing? He had reasons, good reasons. He was certain of it. Yet now, drowning in her huge eyes, his thoughts on the length of her lashes, the curve of her cheek, the feel of her skin, he couldn't think of denying her. After all, she hadn't tried to defy him; she didn't know he had made the decision to keep her away from Peter's funeral. She was including him in the plans, as if they were a unit, a team. She was asking his advice. Would it be so terrible to please her over this? It was important to her.

He blinked to keep from falling into her gaze and found himself staring at the perfection of her mouth.

The way her lips parted so expectantly. The way the tip of her tongue darted out to moisten her full lower lip. Almost a caress. He groaned. An invitation. He braced himself to keep from leaning over and tracing the exact path with his own tongue. He was being tortured. Tormented.

Her perfect lips formed a slight frown. He wanted to kiss it right off her mouth. "What is it, Gregori?" She reached up to touch his lips with her fingertip. His heart nearly jumped out of his chest. He caught her wrist and clamped it against his pumping heart.

"Savannah," he whispered. An ache. It came out that way. An ache. He knew it. She knew it. God, he wanted her with every cell in his body. Untamed. Wild. Crazy. He wanted to bury himself so deep inside her that she would never get him out.

Her hand trembled in answer, a slight movement rather like the flutter of butterfly wings. He felt it all the way through his body. "It is all right, mon amour."

he said softly. "I am not asking for anything."

"I know you're not. I'm not denying you anything. I know we need to have time to become friends, but I'm not going to deny what I feel already. When you're close to me, my body temperature jumps about a thousand degrees." Her blue eyes were dark and beckoning, steady on his.

He touched her mind very gently, almost tenderly, slipped past her guard and knew what courage it took for her to make the admission. She was nervous, even afraid, but willing to meet him halfway. The realization nearly brought him to his knees. A muscle jumped in his jaw, and the silver eyes heated to molten mercury, but his face was as impassive as ever.

"I think you are a witch, Savannah, casting a spell over me." His hand cupped her face, his thumb sliding over her delicate cheekbone.

She moved closer, and he felt her need for comfort, for reassurance. Her arms slid tentatively around his waist. Her head rested on his sternum. Gregori held her tightly, simply held her, waiting for her trembling to cease. Waiting for the warmth of his body to seep into hers.

Gregori's hand came up to stroke the thick length of silken, ebony hair, taking pleasure in the simple act. It brought a measure of peace to both of them. He would never have believed what a small thing like holding a woman could do to a man. She was turning his heart inside out; unfamiliar emotions surged wildly through him and wreaked havoc with his well-ordered life. In his arms, next to his hard strength, she felt fragile, delicate, like an exotic flower that could be easily broken.

"Do not worry about Peter, ma petite," he whispered into the silken strands of her hair. "We will see to his resting place tomorrow."

"Thank you, Gregori," Savannah said. "It matters a lot to me."

He lifted her easily into his arms. "I know. It would be simpler if I did not. Come to my bed, ch§ڲie, where you belong."

His arms were strong, and the wildness in him was beckoning her. Her arms crept around his neck. She moved his hair so that she could burrow close to his skin. "And if the vampire comes?" Her lips drifted against his ear, then lower, her tongue caressing an intriguing little dip. "What do you plan to do with me if the renegades should come again?"

Her breath was heated silk, her mouth hot satin. Her teeth nipped gently. There was no thought in his mind, just a roar of hunger for her body. Mindless, scorching hunger. Her teeth nibbled at his collarbone while her hand slid inside his shirt. Her fingers tangled in the spread of dark hairs across his chest, found each defined muscle and traced it. The roar spread throughout his body until he shook with it.

He made it to the bed only because it was so close. She lifted her head when he set her feet on the stone floor, a small smile curving her soft mouth. Mysterious. Sexy. His little innocent was seducing him, and doing a damn good job of it. Every muscle in his body was hard and aching. He was on fire, burning with need. Her smile. Her perfect, perfect mouth.

Gregori bent his head and took possession of that mouth. Her lips were warm and satin-smooth. His tongue explored the sweet curve; his teeth tugged insistently, demanding entrance. She complied with his silent command, her mouth moist, hot silk. The world seemed to fall away. He fed voraciously, long, drugging kisses, devouring her sweetness, feeding on sensuality.

His hands framed her face, held her still for his demanding mouth. Colors burst all around him; lightning sizzled and danced, and the roaring in his mind increased. He found her throat, soft and vulnerable. Hands tore at her clothing, needing to get at her creamy skin, needing to feel it soft and supple beneath his palms. Material floated to the floor in strips all around them, a frenzied shower of cloth.

Savannah's breath caught in her throat. She had unleashed something far beyond her control, and despite her good intentions, it frightened her. Gregori was everywhere, his body hard and unyielding, his arms like iron. His enormous strength was intimidating. But the feel of his mouth, hot and masculine, demanding her compliance, was mesmerizing. Her body, of its own accord, seemed to go liquid with heat.

He stripped her white lace panties from her slender form, exposing bare skin to his hungry gaze. She heard his swift intake of breath. His silver eyes moved over her face, her mouth, the line of her throat. Everywhere his eyes touched, she felt a flame dance, then linger, long after he lifted his head to move on to the next spot. Her body was flawless beneath his hungry gaze. Her skin was creamy smooth, her breasts firm and round, her narrow rib cage emphasizing their perfection. He caught her waist and dragged her to him, bending her backward to bring her breasts to his mouth.

She made a soft little sound, like a kitten, her body moving restlessly against his. Her arms cradled his head, holding him to her. His mouth on her breasts was hot and hungry, insistent. Each strong pull bathed her in liquid, so that she moaned and pressed herself against him, loving the feel of his mouth.

His hands moved down her back, finding her hips to urge her closer. He was hard and thick, full with desperate need of her. When he lifted his head, his molten gaze scorching her with heat, Savannah leaned against him to taste the small bead of perspiration running down the tangle of hair on his chest. She followed it, never quite catching up. When her tongue caressed his flat belly, she felt him shudder with anticipation. The tiny little bead raced lower still. Her arms circled his hips, found the firm muscles of his buttocks, and tugged him even closer. As she bent her head nearer, playing catch-up with the rolling bead, her hair brushed across his raging body. Gregori groaned, the sound torn from his throat, raw and aching. His large hands caught at her hair and bunched it tightly in his fists.

"You are playing with fire, ma petite.

" The words were nearly unable to escape his strangled throat.

She glanced up at him, just once. A quick look from under the crescent of her long lashes. Teasing. Sexy. His innocent erotic. "I thought I was playing with you," she denied, her attention back on his fierce arousal. Her warm breath bathed him in heat, in temptation.

He threw back his head, his hands tightening in her thick mane of hair. His neck was arched, his eyes closed. "I think it is fair to say it is the same thing," he bit out between clenched teeth.

Her tongue trapped the little racing bead as she cupped his heavy fullness in her hand. "You're the one who started this," she murmured absently.

He was hot and hard, iron wrapped in velvet. He braced himself as she urged him closer, her mouth like hot silk. "

Mon Dieu, Savannah," he breathed in a rush of air escaping his lungs. "I might not survive this."

Her tongue swirled, the pressure exquisite, the friction almost more than he could bear. His hips moved, a rhythm he had no control over, holding her to him while the world fell away and there was only intense pleasure and lights exploding in his head. For a few precious moments out of his endless empty existence, he could believe someone cared for him, someone loved him enough to bring him out of the darkness and into the light. Into ecstasy.

He caught at her and drew her up so that he could press her backward onto the bed. She was so small, for a moment he was afraid he might hurt her with his strength, but she was moving restlessly, needing him, the hunger in her mind rising to match his own. He caught her hips and dragged her to the edge of the bed so that he could explore her the way he wanted.

She was his alone. Her body his one solace. He was determined to know every inch of her intimately. He knew it was his strength she feared, not what he was doing to her. She stiffened, her body rigid when he pinned her to the blanket. He bent his dark head, his teeth scraping the inside of her thigh. "You trust me, Savannah. I know you do." His breath was warm as he tasted her. "You are part of me. I cannot hurt you. Touch my mind with yours. I want you more than I have ever wanted anything in my entire existence." His tongue caressed her, teased, stroked intimately.

She jerked beneath him, then exhaled sharply. There were no walls, no ceiling, no floor, nothing but space and Gregori. His hands moved over her body, explored, memorized, possessed, even as his mouth drove her wild, took her over and over the edge until she shattered into a million fragments and he put her back together again just to repeat the process. It was endless, forever; it went on and on until she thought she might explode.

She caught his hair and tugged at him, wanting his body, needing him to fill her, to merge completely with her. Gregori reluctantly complied, covering her slender frame with his husky one. He pressed against her and felt her moist heat, ready, enticing him, needing him. He bent to find her throat. Nuzzled. Nipped. His tongue stroked. His hips moved away from her. He surged forward, burying himself deeply just as his teeth sank into her vulnerable throat.

Savannah thought she might die with pleasure. He stretched her, tight and fiery; the friction, as he forged into her over and over in long, deep strokes, nearly drove her insane. She held on to his shoulders, her nails digging deep, to keep from flying away. She could feel his mouth on her throat devouring her life's essence, his mind thrusting into hers, sharing the pleasure, heightening it. She could feel his body swelling, hardening even more, the roaring firestorm threatening to consume her, to consume him.

He was everywhere she turned, in her mind, her body, her heart, her soul. The fire raged in him, in her. His body took hers with aggression, domination, his mouth frenzied with hunger. He seemed insatiable; so was she. She couldn't tell where she left off and he started. He took her harder and faster until her body rippled with life and convulsed with pleasure. It didn't matter to either of them. It wasn't enough; it would never be enough.

Gregori's tongue swept across her throat, closed the pinpricks, but his mouth deliberately left his brand on her. "Feed, Savannah. Hunger for me." His velvet, mesmerizing voice was husky with need.

He didn't have to ask her. She lusted after him.

Lust was the only word she could think of that came close to describing the intensity of her need. She had to taste him, to have him inside her, not just her body or her heart and mind but her very veins. She craved the taste of him, was addicted to him, hungered for him.

"Do you want me?" he asked, his hips slowing to long, rhythmic strokes.

Savannah smiled against his bare skin. "You know I do. You feel what I feel." Deliberately she bit at his neck, her tongue sweeping the pulse beating so strongly there. "How could I not want you?"

His body clenched in anticipation. Waited. His breath stopped. His heart, too. Deliberately she prolonged the moment, scraping gently over his pulse, closing her eyes while his body reacted, swelling thickly inside her. When her teeth pierced his skin, he nearly lost his control, the pleasure so intense that he could feel his body gathering, gathering, plunging ever deeper to bury himself in her soul. Around him, she tightened, gripping him with fire and velvet, clenching and rippling until he had no choice but to answer her call. They exploded together, a shattering intensity he would never forget. Her complete surrender, her selfless giving of her body and mind.

Gregori laid his head beside hers, squeezing his eyes shut to prevent her from seeing the moisture there. She fed gently, her mouth soft and sensuous at his neck, her body rippling with aftershocks. He held her tightly, determined never to let her go. Determined he would find a way to make her want to stay with him. Find a way to tie her to him so that if his duplicity was ever discovered, she would still never want to leave him.

Savannah closed the two points of entry on his skin and lay quietly beneath him. He was heavy, his body enveloping hers entirely, nearly crushing her into the blankets. His stillness, the hard possession in the strength of his arms, warned her to stay quiet. He was fighting his demons again. "Gregori?" She tasted his shoulder. "I am your true lifemate. There is no other for me. Your fears are groundless."

His arms tightened even more, nearly strangling her. "I am dangerous, Savannah, more dangerous than you could ever know. I do not trust my emotions. They are new to me and intense. I have killed so often, the pieces of my soul were destroyed a long time ago."

Her hands found his hair, stroked and caressed, attempted to soothe him. "My soul is your other half. It fits perfectly, and there are no pieces missing. It only feels that way to you because after so many centuries of nothingness, of emptiness, you can feel again. It's all just overwhelming to you."

He shifted his weight but did not let her go. He couldn't. He had to touch her, remain inside her, his body locked with hers. "I wish it were true, mon amour. I really wish it were so."

"The dawn is here, Gregori," she reminded him softly, all at once aware of their being tangled together, intertwined as one being.

"Are you cold?"

"No." How could she be? His body was hot inside hers, upon hers, his hips moving gently but insistently.

Gregori waved a hand to lock the entrances, placing the safeguards for outside and inside. All the time his attention was centered on his body gliding in and out of hers. The beauty. The mystery. The pleasure. "We will sleep soon, ch§ڲie, I promise. But not now. Not for a little while." He murmured the words against her breast, then settled closer, his mouth feeding gently on her softness. He wanted to stay there, in the sanctuary of her body, for all time.

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