Home > Dark Legacy (Dark #27)(3)

Dark Legacy (Dark #27)(3)
Author: Christine Feehan

At hearing the name of the ancient Carpathian, Emeline pressed her lips together tightly, her heart pounding wildly. She had seen the man striding around the property, his salt-and-pepper hair down to his waist, looking like a warrior out of a movie. His body was roped with obvious muscle, much different from Tariq’s sleek look in his suit. She couldn’t imagine Dragomir in a suit. Of course she’d secretly watched him, what woman wouldn’t? He was rugged, all male, his features grim and scarred, tough, very intriguing.

She’d actually dreamt about him, and that scared her. She didn’t dare dream of anyone. She had an enemy that could look inside of her mind when she wasn’t being vigilant. Just the thought of that made her want to laugh hysterically. If she went to a counselor and tried to tell them he could read her thoughts, she’d be locked up in a padded cell. No one would believe her. She didn’t even have the basic luxury of fantasizing about a man like Dragomir sweeping her off her feet. She knew she would never be able to live with the reality of him, but she wanted to have the fantasy.

Worse, her dreams sometimes came true, the ones that repeated themselves night after night, adding new details with each new dream. She’d continued to have those, even before she’d laid eyes on Dragomir. Always, he died at the end. He saved her, saved the children and died. Because of her. She hid in her house when he was on the grounds because she wasn’t ever going to meet him. Not ever. If she could avoid that introduction, maybe her nightmares wouldn’t become reality.

“You’re blushing.”

“I am?” She touched her throat and ran her fingers down her chest, shocked that she could feel warmth creeping under her skin. Along with nightmares, she had fantasies about the man – fantasies she tried hard to reject, but they slipped into her mind anyway.

“Everyone gets out of his way,” Genevieve reiterated. “Dragomir is dangerous.”

“I can see that,” Emeline admitted. “Anyone can see it. Believe me, when he’s outside, I go into the house.” That much was true. She wouldn’t take a chance with his life. And now… she didn’t take a chance with any of the Carpathian males being around her. Charlotte and Blaze were both Carpathian now. She wouldn’t be able to be around them, either. But Dragomir… any of the ancients really, but Dragomir caught her attention. She couldn’t get near him, not without endangering him, her or everyone.

The wind shifted just a little, kicking up leaves and swirling them in small eddies across the grounds. Shadows lengthened, throwing replicas of the sprawling mansion across the ground. In her imagination, those turrets on the ground grew in darkness, reaching out toward her much smaller Victorian. She shivered and shrank back into the shadows, hiding from those reaching hands.

“Em! Em!” Bella’s voice drew her attention. Danny had pushed her high on the swing, and she was waving with one hand while clutching the chain with the other.

She waved back at the child, her heart in her throat. “Hold on with both hands, Bella!” she called.

“They really respond to you and to each other,” Genevieve observed. “I’m just beginning to break into their circle.”

“I was homeless, too,” Emeline admitted. She rarely talked about her childhood, but Genevieve was becoming a friend. She had precious few of them. It didn’t hurt to explain, especially since Genevieve was so good to the children and sounded just a little hurt. “When the weather was bad, I’d climb up onto the roof of the building where Blaze and her father owned a bar. Their apartment was above it. Blaze would leave her window unlocked, and I’d climb in and sleep there. For a long time, her father pretended he didn’t know.” She smiled at the memory. “He was a good man.”

“So if I didn’t have money… ”

“Or an accent,” Emeline cut in.

Genevieve laughed softly and then sobered. “I grew up in a very wealthy family. That comes with its own set of prejudices.”

Emeline studied her face. Genevieve was truly a beautiful woman. She was always sweet and caring, but at that moment, it was easy to read the sadness in her. She blinked, and Genevieve was smiling again. Hiding. Maybe everyone hid. Emeline didn’t know anymore. The thought made her sad.

“Lourdes is a beautiful little girl,” she said.

“She’s very sweet,” Genevieve said. “I suppose I should get back over there. Danny looks like he’s had enough of pushing the girls on the swing, and they can keep asking for hours.”

“He’s a good boy.” He was. She was very impressed with Danny.

“Thanks for the tea. I’ve only got a little while before Charlotte is up and she takes over. I’ll have my time off.”

Emeline nodded and watched her go back to the play yard. She briefly spoke with Danny, who squinted up at the sun for a couple of seconds and then shook his head. Something about the way he looked up caught Emeline’s attention. She frowned, trying to think what was eluding her. The tilt of his head reminded her of something she’d seen several times. It was important…

“Em!” Liv materialized right in front of her, a mischievous smile on her face. She flung her arms around Emeline. “I missed you.”

Emeline’s breath exploded from her lungs at the sudden sight of the little girl. Liv had endured terrible things in the underground city and that had bonded the two of them. At ten, she was years older than she should have been, her childhood ripped away from her. Emeline closed her eyes for a moment, savoring the feeling of love she had for the little girl. To save her life, the Carpathians had converted her, bringing her wholly into their world, so technically, she shouldn’t spend time with Liv – it was too dangerous.

“I missed you, too,” she murmured. It was true. The child had been healing, put in the ground to allow the rich soil to do its work. Liv looked good, her skin no longer sallow, her eyes no longer haunted. “I thought you were supposed to stay in the ground a few more weeks. And it isn’t sunset yet.”

Liv shrugged and pulled back. “I feel good and Tariq told me that because I am new and so young I can still walk in the late sunlight. I missed my brother and sisters, and you.” She glanced across the yard to where Genevieve was once more settling herself on the bench, book in hand. “They need to see me as much as I need to be with them.”

Emeline nodded. “They were very upset, so yes, I think they need to see you, Liv, but not at a cost to you. If Charlotte or Tariq says you need more healing, you do what they tell you.”

“Like you do?” Liv said slyly.

She sighed. “I forgot what a little smarty you are.”

Liv regarded her with too-old eyes. Emeline blinked back tears. Liv would never have a normal childhood. She’d never be that little girl playing without a care again.

“I’m sorry I couldn’t get to you faster,” she whispered.

Liv caught her hand and held it tight. “You came. I thought those horrible puppets were going to eat me alive, but you came. You and Blaze saved me.”

Emeline wasn’t certain it was just the two of them. It had been a concentrated effort. They’d had help. She forced a smile. “Can you tell if Vadim is still able to whisper to you?”

Liv shook her head. “He’s gone completely.” She tugged on Emeline’s hand as if she could pull her up and lead her along the same path she’d taken. “Have them convert you, Em. He won’t be able to get to you.”

Emeline knew better. She shook her head and looked around, making certain no one else was near. Genevieve was engrossed in her book, looking up only to keep an eye on the two three-year-olds. Danny was pushing the girls so high they were squealing and laughing, calling for more. Amelia watched the little ones with a smile on her face while she petted the stone dragon, occasionally leaning down to whisper in its ear.

“What is it, Em?” Liv lowered her voice, in tune with Emeline, as she always had been.

“I can’t become Carpathian.”

“Of course you can. They can convert you. They made it so it didn’t hurt for me. They can do it for you.”

“I wish it was that simple, but Vadim…”

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