Dark Possession

By: Christine Feehan

“MaryAnn,” Juliette spoke gently. “I know you’re puzzled by the things that you’re feeling, but we think we have an explanation. We think that Manolito bound you to him in the way of our people. Riordan has reached out to him on their shared path and yet Manolito resists him, fearing him to be vampire, just as you are afraid of us. He claims he has a lifemate, and here you are, in despair, grieving for a man you say you’ve never met. Does that make sense to you? Something is happening here, and for both of your sakes we need to figure out what it is.”

Riordan rubbed his temples as if they ached. There was worry in his eyes. “I fear for my brother’s safety as well as his life. He seems confused, and one cannot be confused in the rain forest. We have powerful enemies. He is in terrible danger. He trusts no one but his lifemate. If you are that woman, you are the only one who can save him.”

He stared at her with the unblinking eyes of a wild animal, shrewd and cunning and terrifying. MaryAnn shuddered and backed up until she was against the windowsill. A part of her thought they were crazy, deliberately trying to baffle her, but the counselor in her was always seeking information and adding it all up. She knew enough about lifemates from Destiny. She’d been around the Carpathian people for a while, and although she didn’t understand the bond, she knew it was strong and unbreakable.

Juliette held out her hand. “Come back into the other room and let’s try to sort this out. You don’t remember at all being alone with Manolito?”

She would remember, wouldn’t she? She’d dreamt of him coming to her. A daydream once—only a dream. He’d pulled her into his strong arms and his mouth had slid over her skin down to the swell of her breast. The spot throbbed and burned. Without thinking, she put her palm over the pulsing strawberry that wouldn’t quite heal and held the warmth to her.

She shook her head. “It wasn’t real. He was across the room at the Inn in the Carpathian Mountains, but I didn’t ever really talk to him.” He had looked at her. She’d expected his eyes to be flat and cold and empty like so many of the hunters’, but he looked... dangerous, as if he might be hunting her. Instead of being frightened as she was now, she had been secretly thrilled, because, after all, it was a fantasy.

MaryAnn followed Juliette out of the room, aware of Riordan prowling behind her like a great jungle cat. He moved in silence, as his brother had moved. She needed air; the room seemed so hot and oppressive, much like the rain forest. That didn’t make sense either. The house was well insulated and air-conditioned to comfortable coolness.

“I don’t see how I could be his lifemate. I didn’t even meet him. Wouldn’t I know? Wouldn’t he know?”

“He would know,” Riordan said. “He would be drawn to his lifemate, and if you were the one, the moment you spoke, he would see in colors and his emotions would have been restored. He would not have been able to get very far from you.” He frowned. “But he would have told us. You would have to be placed immediately under the protection of our family.”

“She was already under the protection of Gregori as well as Nicolae and Destiny,” Juliette reminded him. “He might not have thought it necessary.”

He would have thought it imperative... unless...Riordan broke off his thought and studied MaryAnn’s face. “You said it wasn’t real. What did you mean by that?”

Color slid under her flawless skin. “I dreamt of him.”

Juliette took a deep breath. “Oh, Riordan. What’s happening? Something terrible is going on or he would be here.”

Riordan immediately was at her side, gliding so fast he was a blur, his arm slipping around her waist as he pressed kisses to her temple. “MaryAnn is here. The three of us can figure this out and we’ll find him.”

For some reason, the fact that Riordan had included her, as if she could help find a solution, eased some of the tension in MaryAnn. She blinked several times, breathing deeply to try to see past the strange image of the vampire superimposed over the couple. The incisors receded a little, leaving them with normal white teeth.

“Is he really alive?” she asked, not daring to believe.

Riordan nodded, “We all tried to hold him to us, but he was dead, by our measures as well as human, his soul already leaving his body. No one believed we could bring him back, even with the healer and the rich soil and everyone working to keep him in this world, when suddenly he was back with us. If you are his lifemate, you could be the explanation. You may have kept a piece of his soul safe with you unknowingly.”

MaryAnn opened her mouth to protest and then closed it abruptly. She knew the Carpathians weren’t human. The same rules didn’t apply to their species. She had seen things she would have thought impossible only a few short weeks ago. “But why wouldn’t I know if I was his lifemate?”

“It is our men who are imprinted with the ritual binding words,” Juliette explained. “As a precaution for the species to continue.”

“You mean so the woman can’t refuse him.”

“It is the same thing,” Riordan said. “And I doubt if he has bound you to him with the ritual words. It is more likely he has tied you together through a blood exchange.”