Home > Dark Legacy (Dark #27)(2)

Dark Legacy (Dark #27)(2)
Author: Christine Feehan

Emeline sighed. She detested disappointing the children, especially Amelia or Liv, the ten-year-old, but she didn’t dare chance leaving the porch.

“I’d love to ride your dragon, Amelia. He’s beautiful, but I’m enjoying just sitting here, drinking tea and watching all of you.” That was strictly the truth. “Come get some cookies. I don’t know if dragons like them, but you can feed him one and tell him it’s from me.”

Amelia giggled and crossed the yard to the house at a much more demure pace than her brother. The Victorian was a smaller replica of the much larger one that was Tariq and Charlotte’s home. That house loomed in the background, just beyond the play yard. Emeline always enjoyed looking at it as well. Tariq’s main home was a sprawling mansion with the classic semicircular arches, corbel gables, rock-faced square towers, archivolt and transom windows in a ribbon pattern, all classic Richardsonian Romanesque.

Water from the lake lapped lazily at the shore. The sun poured down into it, so that droplets disturbed by fish and birds appeared as dazzling diamonds dripping into the water, causing beautiful rings that spread across the surface. Emeline always found peace in the sound of the water moving. Sometimes she wished she was like Blaze or Charlotte, no longer human but Carpathian, the ancient race of people capable of amazing things. With a wave of their hands they could move water, make it dance, keep that soothing sound up so she could concentrate on it rather than the pain racking her body.

Amelia threw herself into the chair across from Emeline’s. She caught up a cookie and leaned forward. “Em, you do know if there’s anything at all I could do for you, I’d do it.”

God. She loved the children. They were all so amazing. Every last one of them. She was grateful she’d made the decision to go into that labyrinth, the chambers of utter horror, to get them out. She refused to regret that decision, no matter the price she had to pay – and she was paying it every single minute of the day. She forced a reassuring smile. “I know I look awful, Amelia, but I’m getting better.” That was a lie. The pain was getting worse. Pain and fear. She kept a close eye on the sky. Sunset was fast approaching and she’d go immediately into the house once the sun dropped out of the sky.

“No, you’re not,” Amelia whispered. “You’re not, Emeline. Please let Tariq or one of the others help you. A couple of the scariest ones are good healers.”

Emeline couldn’t help the automatic withdrawal, the way her body went smaller. She wrapped her arms around herself, as if she could cloak her body, make herself invisible. The ancient race could heal. She’d seen it. She wanted to be able to go to them and ask for help. Anything at all to stop the pain. She shook her head. “I’m fine. I don’t need them.”

“Are you afraid of them? I’d go with you.”

Amelia reached out and touched her wrist and followed the line of bruising up to her elbow. Her touch was light, but it still hurt. Emeline forced herself to remain still. Amelia had been traumatized by the events in the underground city. She didn’t need to worry about Emeline when there was nothing she could do. Emeline wanted her to be a child, although, realistically, she knew there was no going back for Amelia.

“It’s such a beautiful day, isn’t it? I love the rain, but this is gorgeous, everything fresh and shimmering new.” She kept her voice light as she casually reached for her teacup, the action giving her a legitimate reason for moving her arm out of reach. When she settled the teacup back into its saucer, she put her hand in her lap, surreptitiously tugging on the sleeve to cover the bruising.

Amelia opened her mouth as if she might say something, but in the end, she just took a bite of the cookie. “These are still warm.”

“Right? They’re so good. I love them with ice cream.”

Amelia scooped up three more. “My dragon’s going to love these just like they are. Thanks. Any time you want a ride, let me know, and if you need me, Em, I’ll come stay with you.” Her gaze dropped to Emeline’s bruised arm, not that she could see the discoloration, but she knew it was there.

“Thanks, honey,” Emeline said, fighting the burn of tears. “Go have fun with your dragon.”

Amelia hesitated, standing awkwardly in front of her, then she leaned down and brushed a kiss across her forehead. “You’re important, too, Em. To all of us. You know that, don’t you?”

Emeline tightened her arms around her middle, holding it together by a mere thread. She was going to have to risk leaving the compound to ensure Amelia’s – and the other children’s – safety. She knew when she made the decision to leave that she probably wouldn’t survive. “Thank you, Amelia. Sometimes, I guess, we all need a reminder.”

She wasn’t as important as the children. They deserved a life, and they’d never had it. They were street children, living from one garbage can to another, the older ones stealing to provide for the younger ones. Huddling together to keep warm in the worst of winter. Here, in Tariq Asenguard’s compound with the wealthy Carpathian as their guardian, she knew they finally had a home. She couldn’t endanger them by drawing the worst evil imaginable to them.

Amelia jumped off the porch and walked nonchalantly back to her dragon. Emeline caught the impression that she wanted to run to the creature, but was trying to act dignified. That made Emeline want to smile when few things could anymore. Amelia went back and forth between being a young teen and a very old soul.

“Emeline.” Genevieve’s voice floated to her and she realized she was drifting. She did that sometimes, trying to find a place in her head to go where nothing, not even the terrible pain eating away at her insides, could get to her. “Are you certain you don’t mind me joining you?”

Emeline raised her head, and it was an effort. She had thought she was holding her own outside, but suddenly she was desperately tired. Everything seemed to be an effort these days, but watching the children play, seeing little three-year-old Bella laughing as her brother pushed her on the swing, was a balm to her. “Of course I want your company, Genevieve.” She smiled up at the other woman.

“It’s nice to talk to an adult. Charlotte and Blaze sleep all day, and although I love the children, I sometimes think I might pull out all my hair if I don’t hear an adult’s voice.” Genevieve sank gracefully into the chair Amelia had just vacated. “By the time the two of them get up, I’m ready to call it a night.” She yawned and poured herself a cup of tea. “It seems I’m turning into an old lady. I want to go to bed earlier and earlier.”

Her laughter was soft, inviting Emeline to join in at the absurdity of a woman her age going to bed just after sunset. Emeline shifted back in her chair so the shadows could soften her appearance. An observant person would notice she continued to lose weight, and Genevieve was observant.

“I don’t sleep very well,” Emeline admitted. “I play music, but that doesn’t always help.”

“You need to talk to someone,” Genevieve suggested gently.

Emeline nodded, agreeing because it was the truth. She wouldn’t. Couldn’t. But she agreed because she knew Genevieve was right. “Blaze and Charlotte tell me that as well. I don’t want to relive one moment of it, not ever again, not even to talk about it.”

The incident. That’s how she thought of it, trying to minimize those hours in her mind. Make the entire thing just another moment in her history. She pushed at her tangled hair with trembling fingers. For a moment, she couldn’t breathe. The pain in her body increased until she writhed on the chair, a low moan escaping. At once Genevieve leapt to her feet and came around the small table toward her.

Emeline held up her hand, palm out, desperate to stop the other woman. “Please. I can do this. I have to do it my way.”

“Charlotte told me a healer was coming, would be here any day. He’s powerful. Also, Dragomir Kozel is reputed to be a tremendous healer —” Genevieve broke off. “Okay, I can’t recommend him. Everyone seems nervous around him, including Tariq, and he’s the most confident man I’ve ever known.” She subsided, with some reluctance, back into her chair.

   
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