Dark PossessionBy: Christine Feehan
Juliette glided across the room toward the bed, her body compact and graceful, her gaze focused and alert, reminding MaryAnn of her jaguar ancestry. “MaryAnn, you’re not well.”
MaryAnn attempted a smile. “It’s just that I’ve been away from home a long time. I’m more of a city girl and this is all new to me.”
“When we were in the Carpathian Mountains, did you meet my brother Manolito?” Riordan watched MaryAnn with cool, assessing eyes.
MaryAnn felt the push of his questions in her mind.He had given her a mental shove. Her suspicions were well grounded. Something wasn’t right. She felt the blood drain from her face. She had trusted these people, and now she was trapped and vulnerable. They had powers few humans could comprehend. Her mouth went dry and she pressed her lips together, one hand fluttering toward her breast where a spot throbbed and burned, as she remained stubbornly silent.
Juliette cast her lifemate a quelling look. “It’s important, MaryAnn. Manolito is in trouble and we need information fast. Riordan loves his brother and he was using a shortcut that is expedient for our species, but not very respectful. I’m sorry for that.”
MaryAnn blinked up at her, tears swimming again in spite of her resolve. “He’s dead. I saw him die. And I felt it, the poison spreading through him, the last breath he took. I know he’s dead. I heard people talking that even Gregori couldn’t bring him back from the dead. And you brought his body back with us on the plane.” Just saying it aloud was difficult. She couldn’t add,in a coffin. Not with her heart feeling like a heavy stone in her chest.
“We’re Carpathian, MaryAnn, and not so easily killed.”
“I saw him die. Ifelt him die.” She’d screamed. Deep inside, where no one could hear, she had screamed her protest, trying to hold him to earth. She didn’t know why a stranger mattered so much, only that he had been so noble, so completely heroic to insert his body between danger and a pregnant woman. More, she had heard a rumor he had done the same with the prince of the Carpathians. Selfless in his protection, he had sacrificed himself for Mikhail Dubrinsky as well. And none of them seemed to care. They had rushed to the pregnant woman, leaving the fallen warrior down.
Juliette gave her lifemate another long, telling look. “You felt Manolito die?”
“Yes.” Her hand moved up to her throat, and for a moment it was hard to breathe. “His last breath.” It had been in her throat, in her lungs. “And then his heart stopped beating.” Her own heart had stuttered in answer as though it couldn’t beat without the rhythm of his. She moistened her lips with her tongue. “He died and everyone was more alarmed over the pregnant woman. She seemed so important, yet hedied. I don’t understand any of you. Or this place.” She pushed back the wild mass of hair and rocked gently. “I need to go home. I know I said I’d work with your sister, but the heat is making me sick.”
“I don’t think it’s the heat, MaryAnn,” Juliette objected. “I think you’re having a reaction to what happened to Manolito. You’re depressed and grieving, yet you hardly knew him.”
“That doesn’t make sense.”
Juliette sighed. “I know it doesn’t seem to, but were you ever alone with him?”
MaryAnn shook her head. “I saw him a few times in the crowd.” He’d been so good-looking, it had been impossible not to notice him. She considered herself to be a very sensible woman, but the man had stolen her breath away. She had even delivered the verbal smack-down to herself when she realized she was staring at him like a starstruck teenager. She knew Carpathians only had one partner. He might have used her for food, but beyond that, there was no hope for anything else.
In any case, she couldn’t live with a man like Manolito De La Cruz. He was overbearing and arrogant, an ancient Carpathian male influenced in the worst possible Neanderthal ways by centuries of living in South America. She, on the other hand, was a very independent woman raised in an upper-middle-class family in the United States. And she’d seen way too many battered women to ever consider being with a man who had a domineering attitude toward women. But even knowing all that, even knowing Manolito De La Cruz was the last man in the world she could ever have a relationship with, she’d still looked.
“You were never alone with him? Not even for a short period of time?” Juliette questioned, this time looking her in the eye.
MaryAnn could see tiny red flames in the depths of those turquoise eyes. Cat’s eyes. A huntress inside the body of a beautiful woman. Behind Juliette stood her lifemate, and nothing at all could conceal the predator in him.
MaryAnn felt a hard “push,” not from Juliette, but from Riordan, once again pressing to get past her natural barriers to find her memories. “Stop it!” she said, her voice sharp with sudden fury. “I want to go home.” She didn’t trust any of them.
She looked around at the opulent wealth and knew she was in a silken trap. She could barely function with the terror building. “I can’t breathe.” She pushed past Juliette and staggered toward the bathroom. She could see the killer in both of them, monsters lurking beneath the smooth, civilized facade. They had sworn to protect her, but they had brought her to this place of heat and oppression, away from all aid, and now they were stalking her. She needed help and everyone was too far away.