Dark Possession

By: Christine Feehan

He had many sins to answer for, many dark deeds staining his soul, but not this. Not what these sensual women with their greedy mouths, were accusing him of. He snarled at them, raised his head with pride and met their cold eyes straight on. His honor was intact. Many things could be said of him. They could judge him in a thousand other ways and find fault, but he had never touched an innocent. He had never allowed a woman to think he might fall in love with her. He had waited faithfully for his lifemate, even knowing the odds that he would ever find her were very small. There had been no other women, despite what the world thought. And there never would be. No matter what his other faults, he would not betray his woman. Not by word, not by deed, not even by thought.

Not even when he doubted she would ever be born.

“Get away from me. You came to me wanting power and money. There was no love on your side, no real interest other than to acquire the things you wanted. I left you with memories, false though they were, in exchange for life. You were not harmed, in fact you were under my protection. I owe you nothing, least of all my soul. Nor will I allow myself to be judged by creatures such as you.”

The women screamed, the shadows lengthening, casting dark bands across their bodies, like ribbons of chains. Their arms stretched toward him, talons growing on their fingernails, smoke swirling around their writhing forms.

Manolito shook his head, adamant in his denial of wrongdoing. He was Carpathian and he needed blood to survive—it was that simple. He had followed the dictates of his prince and had protected other species. While it was true that he had killed, and that he often felt superior with his skills and intelligence, he had kept that place that was for his lifemate, the one spark of humanity, alive, just in case.

He would not be judged by these women with their sly smiles and ripe bodies, offered only to capture the wealthy male, not for love, but for greed—yet grief was pushing at his emotions. Cruel, overwhelming grief, coming at him and stealing into his soul, so that he felt weary and lost and wanting the sweet oblivion of the earth.

Around him, the wailing grew louder, but the shadows began to leach form and color from the faces. Several women pushed at their clothing and murmured invitations to him. Manolito scowled at them. “I have no need nor want of your charms.”

Feel. Feel. Touch me and you will feel again. My skin is soft. lean bring you all the way to heaven. You have only to give me your body one time and I will give you the blood you crave.

Shadows moved all around him and the women came out of the vines and leaves, burst through the earth itself and reached for him, smiling seductively. He...feltrevulsion and bared his teeth, shaking his head. “I would never betray her.” He said it aloud. “I would rather die of slow starvation.” He said it in a low snarl, a growl of warning rumbling in his throat. Meaning it.

“That death will take centuries.” The voices weren’t so seductive now, more desperate and whining, more frantic than accusing.

“So be it. I will not betray her.”

“You have already betrayed her,” one cried. “You stole a piece of her soul. Youstole it and you cannot give it back.”

He searched his broken memory. For a moment he smelled a wisp of fragrance, a scent of something clean and fresh in the midst of the decaying rot surrounding him. The taste of her was in his mouth. His heart beat strong and steady. Everything in him settled. She was real.

He took a breath, let it out, breathing away the shadows around him, yet more grief poured in. “If I have committed such a crime against her, then I will do whatever she wishes.” Had he committed so great a sin that she had left him? Was that why the unfamiliar grief turned his heart to such a heavy stone?

Around him, the faces slowly dissolved as the forms blurred even more, until they were only wailing shadows and the sick feeling in the pit of his stomach eased, even as his hunger grew beyond craving.

He had a lifemate.He clung to that truth. Beautiful. Perfect. A woman born to be his mate. Born for him.His. Predatory instincts rose sharp and fast. A growl rumbled in his chest, and the ever-present hunger raked deeper into his gut, clawing and biting with relentless demand. He had been without color for hundreds of years, a long, emotionless time that stretched on and on until the demon had risen and he no longer had the strength or desire to fight against it. He had been so close. Kills had run together and feeding had become difficult. Each time he had sunk his teeth into living flesh, felt and heard the ebb and flow of life in veins, he had wondered if that would be the moment his soul would be lost.

Manolito shuddered as voices in his head once again grew louder, drowning out the sounds of the jungle. Little flashes of pain grew behind his eyes, burning and burning until he felt his eyes boiling. Was it the color?She, his lifemate, had restored color to him. Where was she? Had she deserted him? The questions crowded in fast and loud, mixing with the voices until he wanted to hit his head against the nearest tree trunk. The inside of his brain seemed on fire, as did every organ in his body.

Vampire blood? It burned like acid. He knew because he’d hunted and killed hundreds, or perhaps thousands. Some had been friends in his younger years, and he could hear them now, screaming in his head. Chained. Burned. Eaten by endless despair. His heart nearly burst in his chest, and he sank down into the fertile soil where he’d lain, trying to sort out what was real and what was hallucination. When he closed his eyes, he was in a pit, shadows surrounded him and red eyes stared hungrily.