Home > Dark Legacy (Dark #27)(5)

Dark Legacy (Dark #27)(5)
Author: Christine Feehan

He picked up Bella next and placed her on the red dragon. Like Lourdes, she stroked and caressed the stone scales and spikes. Danny wrapped his arm around her waist and whispered in her ear. She nodded several times.

Emeline frowned. Something about his posture, the way his dark jeans looked leaning against the crimson red of the dragon, moved through her mind slowly. Something was there just out of reach, something she needed to catch hold of, but her mind refused to cooperate. The more she tried to grasp the memory, the more it eluded her.

The wind rushed through the compound, stirring the leaves on the ground so once again they rose, this time swirling around the dragons and children. Danny leapt on the back of the brown dragon and Amelia the orange one. They mounted them as if they’d been riding dragons for a hundred years. Emeline couldn’t help but admire the way they moved so easily and smoothly, but now that memory was right there, right on the outer periphery of her mind. So close. A nightmare…

Liv approached the green dragon, talking softly. Emeline couldn’t hear what she said, but the green dragon’s spiked tail twitched. The big creature lowered its neck toward the little girl and she petted the wedged head before moving around to climb up the tail. Once seated, she turned her face toward the sky. Clouds drifted overhead. They were gray and massive, stretching out above the compound like a blanket.

Emeline studied those clouds with a little frown. She didn’t like the way they blocked out what was left of the sun, and she’d seen them before. The children laughed and called to one another in excitement, the sound of their mischievous voices coming at her as if in a dream, far away, but she was so tired she couldn’t rouse herself, even to see what the children were up to.

Her eyelids were so heavy she couldn’t lift them beyond mere slits. The sun hadn’t set, but she knew it was close. She always went back inside her house at sunset. If she didn’t… Well, that didn’t bear thinking about. Still, there was something elusive in her mind, drifting through like a jarring note in a symphony, something she couldn’t quite grasp but knew was important.

Gripping the green dragon with her knees, Liv lifted her hands and began weaving a complicated pattern in the air. Dreamily, Emeline watched the patterns, Liv’s hands swaying gracefully in the air. Her murmurs were soft but they carried, as if she uttered commands. Thunder rolled. Dry lightning cracked. The leaves rose like geysers, forming towers high into the air all around the stone dragons. Nightmare. Her nightmares.

Alarm rang like a bell through Emeline’s mind. Harsh. Jangling. A shadow moved in there. Dark. Twisted. Gleeful. A whisper. Deep inside her, she heard screaming. Something hard kicked her stomach, raked at her insides. “No.” She whispered it, watching in horror as across the play yard, Genevieve’s book fell to the ground as she slumped over, asleep.

“No,” she whispered again, forcing her mind to work through the terror of that dark force creeping in through the slit that lightning had made between two clouds. The mass above the compound churned and roiled, looking suspiciously like a witches’ brew.

The sun sank as the dragons spread their wings and leapt, taking to the air, circling higher and higher until they were reaching for those dark, ugly clouds. “No,” Emeline said again and stood. On shaky legs, she ran off her porch. “Liv. Come back. You don’t know what you’re doing. He’s waiting. He’s out there waiting.”

The clouds glowed orange and red all through the seams of rolling black. Fireballs erupted, spewing like well-thrown grenades at the dragons in the air while others rained down on the compound. Liv had effectively destroyed the safeguards so carefully woven each dawn by the Carpathians. She’d watched and remembered the pattern and had removed them, allowing the monsters access to their home.

The children screamed as the dragons took them higher to get away from the attack, but the fireballs followed, shooting at them, striking the large bodies and knocking the orange and brown dragons out of the sky. They fell, rolling, badly wounded, Amelia and Danny clinging to their respective dragons’ necks as they tumbled toward the ground.

Emeline rushed toward Genevieve. She was still out – clearly Liv had cast a sleeping spell – and she was totally vulnerable. She hadn’t taken more than three steps when the ground opened up in front of her. On either side of her. Behind her. She halted, terrified. Before her stood Vadim Malinov.

He looked beautiful – handsome, young. He was the epitome of handsome by modern standards, a man who could grace the cover of any magazine. He smiled at her and bowed a low, courtly bow. When he smiled, his teeth were perfect, so straight and white that he probably dazzled the ones he bestowed his smiles on – but not her. She knew better. Her heart pounded and she stood frozen, unable to scream or run. Unable to get away.

“At last, my dear. You should have come to me when I called you. Now you’ve left me no choice but to punish you.”

The smile was gone and he took one step and caught her by the hair, bunching the long tangles in his fist and jerking her head close to his. “You will pay for your disobedience. Every one of those children will die.”

2

Awhisper of unease ran through the soil deep beneath the earth. That small shudder awakened Dragomir Kozel as he lay in the loam, the rich minerals providing his body with healing and peace. The tendril of evil was barely felt, a slight shifting slithering through the layers of dirt, reaching down, reaching up, spreading like a virus.

Evil had a feel to it. Despite it being such a thin thread, Dragomir recognized that ancient spell for what it was. He doubted if any other Carpathian could feel it. One or two perhaps, but like him, they would be locked beneath the earth until the sun set. In the meantime, that insidious evil worked its malevolent magic, opening pathways beneath Tariq and Charlotte Asenguard’s compound. Safeguards were in place, above, below and surrounding, so there shouldn’t have been a way in, yet there was no denying that the ground shuddered and flinched away from that snake slithering through the layers of soil.

There had to be a traitor staying within the compound, one weaving spells to weaken the safeguards. Tariq collected humans, children and adults alike, opening his fortress to those in need, and that put him – and everyone else – at risk. Dragomir was patient; there was little he could do until the sun sank from the sky, but he tried to figure out which of the humans worked with the vampires to bring down the Carpathians. Tariq employed a human security force. Perhaps one of them?

Although Dragomir had never been interested in humans, because Tariq surrounded himself with so many, he’d made an effort to be introduced to the members of the security force. In his exceedingly long lifetime, he’d never considered the concept of humans protecting Carpathians. It had always been the other way around. What humans could stand up to a vampire?

Matt Bennett, head of Tariq’s human security force, guarded the compound during the day. He had served in the military as a Navy SEAL. Matt had gathered a group of elite soldiers together. Every member of the security force had served their country with distinction. Tariq had trained them to fight vampires. They knew how to kill the undead and were aware that the penalty for disclosing the fact that vampires and Carpathians even existed was death. These were men used to keeping secrets – just about every mission they’d run had been classified.

Tariq had, of course, taken their blood, but Dragomir had done so as well, just to ensure everyone was safe. He was surprised that Bennett stood so stoically, not so much as flinching as the ancient took his blood and examined his memories. Like Tariq, he gave the man a small amount of his blood on the pretense of communicating with him should there be need, but in reality, for Dragomir, it was another precaution. He would always know where the man was and what he was doing. He touched the man’s mind. He was using high-powered binoculars to watch the children from his position at the far end of the compound and he didn’t like what they were doing at all.

Dragomir made everyone – including Matt Bennett – uneasy for a good reason. He was dangerous. He knew that. He looked at everyone as enemy or prey. Still, there was no excuse that he hadn’t gone near the women or children. It was a mistake on his part to dismiss them. He should have carefully vetted them. Someone had weakened the defenses of the compound, and the master vampire, Vadim Malinov, always waiting to strike, had taken advantage.

   
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