Home > Dark Legacy (Dark #27)(6)

Dark Legacy (Dark #27)(6)
Author: Christine Feehan

Dragomir was certain that strain of magic belonged to Vadim. He’d come across his trail several times over the centuries, and there was a particular feel to that of each Carpathian, distinguishing them from others. If a Carpathian chose to give up his soul, he still took his singular composition with him. He had no doubt that this was the work of Vadim Malinov.

He welcomed the battle with the master vampire. His time was long past, and trying to live in a world he didn’t understand had driven home the fact that he had been right to secret himself in the monastery, high in the Carpathian Mountains where he couldn’t harm anyone. The only honorable purpose left to him was to hunt down the master vampire and rid the world of such evil. Then he could go back to the monastery and keep walls between him and the outside world for as long as it took for him to die – if he could die. He would welcome death. Living an endless, gray existence had taken its toll on him.

Dragomir had wanted to leave Tariq’s compound, to have as little contact with any others as he could. Carpathians or humans, neither was part of his world anymore. He didn’t belong in this modern world. He’d left the monastery in the Carpathian Mountains for the first time in hundreds of years with one thought – the hope that he could find his lifemate. Now, he knew, even if he found her, his time was already past. He could never live with a modern woman, and she could never live with him. He had stayed too long in a world that had changed beyond every imagining. He had survived countless battles and many mortal wounds, yet in the end, it had been for nothing. Time had been his greatest enemy, and it had defeated him.

He focused on the soil and the way the rich minerals shrank away from the snaking tendril of evil as it made its way through the layers of earth to get to a preordered destination. In his mind, he mapped out the compound, following the shudders and shrinking in an effort to figure out just what Vadim’s plan was. The wisp of evil avoided the main house where Tariq and Charlotte resided, but moved beneath the play yard where the children were. The thin tendril became a vine snaking through the soil, branching out, spreading seedpods beneath the play yard as well as around the woman’s house. Emeline. He knew her name, when he had avoided knowing so many others.

He carefully assessed the situation, building his battle plan. Tariq and Charlotte were away from the compound. They’d gone to San Francisco to spend a little time alone together. Dragomir found it very telling that they were gone and whoever had weakened their defenses had chosen the time of their absence to make their move. He was the only one, as far as he knew, that had chosen to sleep beneath the compound.

Valentin Zhestokly was gone. His lifemate was far too young to make a claim and he was too close to the edge to be around her. He wouldn’t have gone far, but far enough that he might not make it back until the battle was over. Maksim and Blaze, co-owners of the nightclubs and owners of the bordering property, had stayed late overseeing one of the nightclubs and were sleeping beneath it, a good distance away. Who did that leave close?

Afanasiv Balan was a very dangerous Carpathian. Known in their world as Siv, he was extremely dangerous, possibly even more so than Dragomir. He would be a valuable asset, and he’d come at Tariq’s call to aid him in setting up the compound. The nightclub owner and Afanasiv had been friends of sorts for centuries. He might be near.

Nicu Dalca had come at Tariq’s call as well. Nicu was lightning fast. Few could equal his speed, and in a battle he was sheer, brutal poetry. There was no way to know if he was still in the area or if he’d chosen to leave after the last battle. Ancient Carpathian hunters tended to move on very quickly, looking for the next fight.

Tomas, Lojos and Mataias, the triplets, always traveling together, hadn’t been seen for the last two weeks. That meant nothing. They could be close as well. He just couldn’t count on them to get there immediately. So, he had to hold out maybe five to seven minutes. In a battle that was a very long time. Extremely long. Vadim would throw everything he had at them.

Dragomir sighed. He would need the human security force. Right now, he couldn’t move, paralyzed as he was by the time of day, but he could hear the sound of children laughing and the low murmur of conversation – the woman and a child. The woman. Emeline Sanchez. He’d never actually met her, but he realized he should have. He hadn’t eavesdropped on her conversations, either – but again, he should have. Even now, try as he might, he couldn’t quite catch the sound of her voice, as if she had found a way to shield it. She was a huge question mark because she avoided everyone, including her best friend, Blaze, Maksim’s lifemate.

The real reason he’d stayed away, though, was because Dragomir was a little obsessive about her. Not that he’d recognized it until this very moment. He didn’t feel emotions, so it should be impossible to be obsessive, yet he now realized he’d been thinking about the woman far too much – and not thinking clearly enough when he did. Especially considering that he wasn’t the only one obsessed with the human. Vadim Malinov was as well. And that meant this entire attack was almost certainly about Emeline and Vadim’s need to reacquire her.

All during the day the storm had been building. He hadn’t seen it, he’d been deep underground in the sleep of his kind, but he’d felt it. Every Carpathian could feel when the earth was disturbed. Thunder rolled, a deep baritone that rumbled for longer than one expected, hard enough that it sent a vibration through the ground.

Dragomir might know his time was long past. He might want to go back to the monastery, where he knew he wouldn’t harm an innocent, but he also knew he was an ancient hunter and he would never leave when a battle was imminent.

Vadim was a master vampire. Wholly evil. That was part of Dragomir’s world. He understood evil. He had spent several lifetimes battling foul monsters. The monastery had afforded him a kind of peace, if a man like him could ever be at peace. What did Vadim want with Emeline? With the children? He knew Vadim had taken the woman and held her for a short time before the Carpathians had rescued her. She kept to herself in the house across from the main one, sometimes sitting on the porch, but most of the time locked behind the door.

He’d thought about her, wondering if she could be the way to track Vadim. From what Dragomir had learned – and he’d made it his business to study the undead – she was the reason Vadim had chosen to remain in an area thick with hunters… and not just any hunters, but ancients. They were Carpathians skilled so far beyond what the newer generations were capable of, it defied description. Any other vampire – including any master vampire – would have fled. Yet Vadim remained.

The eldest Malinov was reputed to be highly intelligent. He’d embraced modern technology – something Dragomir should have done but hadn’t. Vadim had amassed an army, using human male psychics as well as lesser vampires. Carpathians had neglected to think about what those male psychics might be able to do. Clearly, the master vampire was planning something huge and Emeline figured in those plans.

New laughter joined that of the children, distracting him from his thoughts. The sound was soft. Melodious. Edged with a magic. It was simple magic, childish really. So much so, that the moment the spell drifted on the wind, it caught the attention of the spreading malevolence belowground. At once the earth shuddered again, the tremble the smallest of earthquakes, barely felt, more like a ripple of jubilation that raced toward the surface. The ancient malignant spell bound itself to the childish one, feeding power and the whisper of darkness, slowly and inevitably corrupting what the child was doing.

Dragomir clenched his teeth, the first movement his paralyzed body managed when the sun had not yet set. He concentrated next on moving his hand even as he stirred the earth above him with his mind. He had to go very slowly, so as not to alert the spreading vines of evil lurking beneath the ground. He rose inch by inch, toward the surface. He was a big man and displacing that much soil without warning Vadim’s spy was difficult. But he’d learned many tricks in his extremely long lifetime.

Moving the dirt above him and replacing it below him with equal parts at the exact same moment he drifted up to fill the empty space he’d made was all a matter of exquisite timing and touch. He was a warrior, skilled beyond most in every kind of weapon, hand-to-hand and also mind and magic battles, yet he had perfected the softest touch. He’d learned over centuries that a soft touch could be just as deadly as the strongest and fastest strike.

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