Home > Dark Legacy (Dark #27)(8)

Dark Legacy (Dark #27)(8)
Author: Christine Feehan

The words were like a dagger piercing right through Dragomir’s soul, slicing it open so all the inky darkness poured out. At the same time, brilliant light rushed in, leaving him shattered. Emotions whirled through his brain, vying to be front and center, a million of them. Shock. Regret. Guilt. Elation. Sorrow. Burning rage.

He couldn’t function like this, sick and disoriented with the nauseating colors and the vivid emotions swamping him. “Stop.” He whispered the word, but it carried on the wind slashing at them. He couldn’t move or think with the terrible burden of color and emotion after centuries of… nothing. It was too much, too soon, too fast. “Stop talking.”

She turned her head toward him. Their eyes met, and he felt the impact all the way to his newly healed soul. He had a few moments to contemplate how ironic it was that he would find her now, in the clutches of a master vampire, when he’d finally made up his mind that he could not be the lifemate needed for a woman of this century and could never claim his lifemate.

The sky above them erupted with four vampires. Three went after the children while one dropped toward the Asenguard property. These were Vadim’s first line of defense, his pawns. For a short while, newly created vampires lost their abilities to fight as they had as hunters. Vadim recruited them when they were at their weakest. They were given young people to drain of blood, to feel the life drain out of them. The rush was like the high one received from the best drug. It took a year or two before the newly made vampire could begin to draw on his centuries of experience fighting a hunter.

Vadim turned his head slowly to look at Dragomir. He spun around to place Emeline between them, one hand at her throat, his fingernail, suddenly long and razor-sharp, pressed against her jugular. “You know me; you know I will kill her.”

He would under normal circumstances, but these weren’t normal. “You know me; you know I do not care what you do or who you kill. I have one purpose, and that is to destroy you.” Dragomir didn’t look at the woman he’d searched for through long, empty centuries. Emeline – his lifemate. She’d kept her voice from him, probably knowing she couldn’t live with an ancient such as him. He kept his heart from pounding in terror that she was in danger. He kept his breathing even, as if the possibility of her death didn’t affect him one way or the other.

“An innocent? You would allow an innocent to die just to get me?” Vadim spat the words at him, but this time, there was a hint of fear in his eyes. “Six innocents? Because they will kill the children. Nothing will stop them. Certainly not you.” The last was said with a sneer.

Emeline had remained silent, no longer fighting the vampire. She chose that moment to stir, to draw his attention. She looked… ravaged. Her body was thin, her skin so pale it was almost gray. Her hair was long and disheveled, hanging in tangles to her waist. It didn’t matter. She looked like the most beautiful woman in the world to him. He realized the power of the call between lifemates. He would be willing to do anything for her.

“Save them,” Emeline whispered. “The children. Please.”

If he engaged with Vadim, the children were dead. He could see Liv, the ten-year-old, urging her dragon between the two youngest and the vampires and fireballs raining from the clouds. The child had guts. He had a split-second decision to make and it was a terrible one. His every instinct, honed by more than a thousand years of hunting the vampire, told him to go after the master vampire. He had at last found his lifemate and his instincts told him to save her.

His gaze returned to Emeline’s face. Her eyes, so beautiful. Haunted. Frightened. Determined. The pleading in her voice, on her face, was all about the children. Human children. He’d never really associated with them until he’d come to Tariq’s aid. Now, it was either his lifemate, or what she wanted most. The seconds were ticking away.

“Live.” He snapped the order and leapt into the sky. Now, Matt. Take Vadim’s head off. It won’t kill him, but keep at it. Just do not hit Emeline. Do whatever it takes to delay him leaving with her, even if only by a few seconds. Buy some time. The others are coming.

Dragomir didn’t look down. He shut off all emotion and tried to force his eyes to see in shades of gray rather than in color. The vivid, bright reds and oranges of the fireballs were distracting, making his stomach churn unexpectedly. He avoided the raining fireballs as best he could as he streaked toward the two younger children. They looked tiny on the backs of the dragons, both sprawled forward, arms around the spiked necks, pale faces buried against the scales.

One of the lesser vampires had one side of his face drooping, as if he couldn’t quite figure out how to put his mask on properly. He dove at the blue dragon, forcing it to swerve, nearly throwing its little passenger off its back. The child gave a cry of terror as the claws just missed grabbing her. Instead, they raked down the blue scales. The dragon took a swipe with his long, spiked tail. It didn’t hit the droopy face, but it solidly hit the second vampire making his way around the dragon to be able to attack the child from the other side.

The vampire shrieked his fury as the spikes opened his flesh and droplets of acid blood leaked out. He lunged toward the child, as if the dragon hitting him was her fault. Vadim had told Emeline he would kill all five children and his servants wouldn’t stop until his order was carried out. Dragomir reached the child just as the two vampires simultaneously attacked her, coming in from either side of the dragon. The big beast swung its neck around, the wedged head rushing straight at the vampire he’d already hit with his tail, mouth open, fire pouring out. The flames engulfed the vampire and the undead screamed and plummeted toward the ground below.

The second vampire reached for the child, fingernails long and curved like the huge talons on a harpy eagle. The little girl screamed and screamed, the sound grating on Dragomir as she threw herself to the opposite side of the blue dragon, away from the vampire. Her hand slipped, and she shrieked again as she dropped into space. Dragomir caught her in his arms. Instantly she began to fight.

He didn’t bother to reassure her; he didn’t have time with two vampires rushing him and the burned vampire streaking toward them. The other two girls were still in danger. He took over her mind, calming her, learning this child was Lourdes and she was three. He forced obedience, shifting her to his neck, so that she hung around him like a necklace, her legs trying to fit around his broad chest. Lourdes clung, a little monkey, but her position allowed his hands and legs freedom to be used as weapons.

He dropped below the two vampires so they smashed together with a wild yell, each swinging viciously at the other as he streaked through the sky toward the second little girl. She looked so scared his heart clenched unexpectedly in his chest. He hadn’t ever held a child, or even been near one, not a live one. This little girl was tiny, clinging to the dragon, who twisted back and forth in an effort to keep his rider from being taken.

In the past, Dragomir had come across a village that had been raided and children’s bodies were scattered everywhere along with their parents’. He hadn’t been able to feel, or remember emotion; now seeing these two little girls and the third one, Liv, the child they’d turned Carpathian, acting so bravely, he felt far too many emotions rushing in, threatening to take over. It could have been overwhelming if he’d let it.

He was ruthless with himself in the same way he was with others. Saving these children and ultimately Emeline was his goal, not figuring out his emotions. Time had slowed down, but he was very aware of the seconds ticking by. Any Carpathian hunter in the vicinity would come. He’d been fighting for two minutes. He only had to hold on for another three to four. But in a battle with a master vampire and his army, that was a lifetime.

Liv, the ten-year-old, turned her dragon to cut off four new vampires who had materialized in the air and were heading for the younger child on the red dragon. Liv’s green dragon spit fire, missed the first two vampires but set the one nearest it on fire. The blaze covered one side of him from his toes to his scalp, forcing him to streak toward the ground to try to put out the fire.

The other vampire, the one that had been burned by the blue dragon, dragged himself toward Danny and Amelia, who, below him on the ground, tried valiantly but futilely to wake Genevieve before the vampire could get to them. Vadim dragged Emeline by her hair away from the center of the play yard and out from under the canopy protecting it from the weather. Danny hesitated, torn between trying to help Emeline and obeying Dragomir’s orders to get Genevieve to safety.

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