Author's notes – praise goes to Christine Feehan for allowing us to play in her world.
Gabrielle stood in front of a huge smart board. The data displayed was a huge family tree with many generations and branches of a number of notable Carpathian families. Each entry or person on the chart carried a number of special markers, codes and notations that provided detailed information
With a glance, someone with knowledge of the key could know the genetic markers that each individual carried, as well as, whether that person had been born Carpathian or had been human. You could identify if a person carried markers that pointed to mage origins or ties to the Jaguar race. With Mary Ann's elusive werewolf traits and the unique contribution of her DNA to the database, several markers were even identified for this fascinating species.
She imagined that most people would view the huge chart as dry and boring but to her it rivaled the greatest masterpieces in the world. When she thought about the number of hours and study that has gone into the creation of the chart, she was in awe.
Gregori, Shea, Jubal, even Mikeal had contributed to the huge tree which held the genetic history of the Carpathian people but it would not have been possible without Gary. Gary, who had taken on these people as his own, had drawn the samples. He had done the bulk of the lab work, especially since Shea's son had been born.
If she was honest with herself, she would admit that her feelings for him ran far deeper than professional admiration. Before that horrible night when she would have died if not converted, she often dreamed of a future with Gary. Tucked in their lab, finding excitement in their discoveries and in each other, it seemed like a wonderful life but now she didn't dare dream.
There were some occasions now that she felt as if she were nothing more than a brood mare. It felt as if all the unattached Carpathian males circled her like sharks. Of all the drastic changes she had encountered since that fateful night, the one that worried her most was the thought of bonding with an ancient Carpathian warrior. She understood the plight of the Carpathian people but she just couldn't imagine herself with anyone but Gary. She agonized about how their relationship could be possible now. She held her breath at the idea of a male suddenly professing that he could see colors after meeting her.
Her sister, Joie, who was already bonded to a Carpathian male, assured her that if and when a male reacted to her then she would also feel the same intense bond. Still, that little voice in the back of her head whispered Gary's name.
Gary paced out on the balcony that circled the upper floor of the research complex. The night was cool and the wind whispered to him. Despite the calmness of the night, he felt as if he was going to jump out of his skin.
The restlessness that he was feeling had increased drastically in recent weeks. He was increasingly irritable with his friends. He couldn't stay still, his focus was shot to hell and he felt as if his skin was clawing half the time. He had done his level best to keep a lid on it but there were cracks in his façade. On more than one occasion, he had turned to find Gregori studying him intently so he imagined his mood was noticeable. Knowing Gregori as he did, he knew that Gregori might have picked up on some physical changes as well.
From comparing all of his own data, he could see that his hormone levels had started to rise very slightly almost immediately upon meeting Gabrielle last year. Another jump occurred when he began having regular contact with Jubal and then again when he began to have more contact with several other members of their extended community with some degree a jaguar blood. He hypothesized that continued exposure – perhaps olfactory, perhaps psychic – perhaps both – to others with a jaguar heritage somehow escalated these changes.
Who was he kidding – trying to be all analytical - emotionally and cognitively, he was a train wreck. Months ago, when he had first suspected that his latent jaguar genes had begun to express themselves, he had begun to run entire batteries of tests on himself practically every daily. Using prior samples as baselines, he could easily chart any number of hormones that were going off the chart plus several that were entirely new to him. His brain activity was spiking at odd intervals especially in his cerebellum and prefrontal lobes.
In his more lucid moments, the researcher in him wanted to test his hypothesis by testing this very specific population to see if any others were experiencing any of the same symptoms. In the wild, unpredictable moments which were coming much more frequently, he could have cared less. He just wanted to run - to go out into the wild and run or even more disturbingly to go to Gabrielle and well, at that point his urges were purely tactile. .
A slight stir in the air caught his attention, he turned around only to find his closest friend in all the world materializing in front of him.
Gregori inclined his head in greeting before looking up and meeting Gary's glaze. "My friend, I believe it is time we talked. I can no longer ignore your growing unrest."
Gregori tilted his head slightly before he continued. "I fear your desire for Gabrielle is reaching – how shall I say it – dangerous proportions."
Flashing on several of his more graphic fantasies, Gary found that it was difficult to meet Gregori's knowing expression. He shrugged his shoulders. "I know. When it started, I thought it was just jealousy. The thought of her having to take sustenance from another in such an intimate way, it eats at me. Whatever is going on with me…" His voice broke before he could continue. "I agree, I am becoming more unpredictable. The more this hormonal cocktail keeps pumping through me, the more dangerous I become. I've been denying it for weeks, for months really."
Tears came in his eyes, "I've never felt this way before – so restless, so angry. God, I've even tried dosing myself with tranquilizers – doses large enough to take down a lion. It hasn't put a dent in it."
Gregori's voice had a calming effect. "I know this to be true. We are bonded. I feel your turmoil. Savannah feels it as well. She fears for you. She fears for Gabrielle. I have waited, hoping that your condition would stabilize on its' own but I am here now to offer my assistance, my friend. "
Gregori held his hand out, palm outstretched in friendship, "I too have struggled with violence with emotions, with my life mate – I will see you through this."
Gary felt his mood swing wildly. How could Gregori stand there so at ease, so all knowing – he had no idea. He proclaimed louder than he has intended, "How? How can you help me? Put me out of my misery like a rabid animal?" Even as the words were out of his mouth, he knew his greatest fear – that the only way out of this hell was death. God forbid, if Gabrielle bonded with another, he would have no choice but to kill himself before he tried to go after her life mate.
Gregori ignored the bulk of Gary's outburst and continued on.
"I have some ideas about what is happening to you. Through our blood bond, I have some sense of what you are experiencing. Your feelings for her increase your instability. I can feel your anger when you see her with other males, even bonded males. Last night, I had to intercede to provide you with additional fortitude before you attacked Darius when he spoke to Gabrielle last night."
As Gary processed Gregori's words the anger poured through him again. He couldn't seem to help himself as he snarled "She's mine. Can't you see it?"
Gary's responses seemed to confirm a portion of Gregori's theories. Gary was experiencing emotions and instincts similar to those of a Carpathian male when first confronted with his life mate. These bonding instincts were complicated by the volatile and possessive emotions of a Jaguar male. If this was the case, Gary presented a threat to Gabrielle, the males around her and himself.
He pushed at Gary's mind, sending messages of peace and fatigue. Gary suddenly felt as if a great weight was pressing him down. He guessed it was Gregori but it actually felt like a reprieve from the chaos around him. He did what he could to suppress his anger and go gently with the compulsion to sleep.
Gregori caught Gary before he could hit the ground. Carrying him like a child, he quickly brought him to a little used cavern fairly close to a deep forest. Torches flamed on the walls as Gregori entered.