I wrote this story for my friend Gen's birthday, and figured I might as well post it. Hopefully those who read it will enjoy. Bambers;)
For the first time in almost two years, Genevieve Charbonneau woke up all alone. Usually someone was always waiting for her to wake up so they could prod or poke her like she was some sort of laboratory rat. Rarely had she been allowed outside, and when she was given her freedom to enjoy a few minutes of fresh air, it was well after the sun had set for the night. The rough stone walls surrounding the research center were at least twelve feet high, and across the top they had run razor sharp barbed wire. No one was getting in or out unless they went through the front entrance and only then if they wore a badge.
She had gone to the research center of her own free will to learn how to control her psychic abilities, and had been turned into a prisoner while they studied her unique gifts. They'd called her special. The answer to their prayers. Some even went so far as to say she was their new secret weapon against and age old enemy. At first she'd truly believed they meant some sort of disease like cancer, and happily went along with everything they asked her to do. They'd taken her blood more times than she could recall, and just as many times they'd tested different experimental drugs on her. As far as could tell, every drug had failed.
But then one night she heard terrible screams, rising up from somewhere well below her room. Someone was screaming, begging for help, but no one heard the terrible endless cries but her. She'd pressed her palms into her ears, squeezing hard, but the haunting screams never ceased, only grew louder inside her head. When no one would answer her questions about the person who was in such obvious pain, she told them she wanted to leave. Silently she vowed to herself that she would go to the police station once she was free and then bring them back to the facility to save the person whose screams haunted her nightmares.
She'd honestly believed they'd let her go, they'd even told her to pack her suitcases, but the moment she'd stepped out of her room, someone stuck her with a needle. From that moment on they'd kept her heavily sedated while they continued to study her.
Time lost all meaning while she'd been trapped inside of her own head. Endless days and nights all blurring together until she prayed for death. No longer were they careful with her. She was their science experiment, nothing more, and if she suffered it was of no concern to them. They'd robbed her of the ability to speak, to cry out, to voice her pain just as they had done to those on the lower levels of the facility. But deep inside of herself she was crying, pleading, begging for someone to save her.
And then she woke up alone in a rundown shack. Pale moonlight peaked through the gaps in the rotted wood, bathing the small room in soft light. Outside it began raining, the gentle sound of it easing away her fears even as it seeped through the holes in the ceiling. She couldn't remember how she'd gotten to the shack, but at the moment it didn't matter. She was free. Nothing else mattered but that knowledge.
Genevieve stood on shaky legs, walked the short distance to one of the gaps in the wall, and peered out into the darkness. For as far as the eye I could see, there was nothing but tall overgrown trees. "How did I get here?" She whispered to herself, rubbing gently at her throat, amazed she'd once again found her voice.
Gen ran a hand through her thick dark chestnut hair, working out the tangles and snarls. She needed to figure out where she was, and if it was safe to leave. The fanatics at the research facility wouldn't have just let her go. She must've somehow managed to escape on her own or someone else had brought her to the shack in the middle of nowhere for safekeeping. They would be searching for her. She was their secret weapon.
"I have to get out of here," she muttered under her breath, spun on her heel to head for the door, and out of the corner of her eye spied a note sitting on a rickety old table. In quick strides, she crossed the room, and snatched the paper off the table.
You will never know how truly sorry I am for the cruel things that have been done to you. I can never ask for your forgiveness, but I hope by giving you your freedom, you will know I never intentionally set out to harm you or anyone else for that matter. Don't go back to your home or seek out any of your friends or they will find you. I left you a backpack with food, water, clothing and some money. It's not much, but it was all I could gather together on such short notice. Take care of yourself, and trust no one.
Genevieve stifled a small cry after finishing the letter. Even though she was free, she could never go home again. She could never see her mother, father or sister, Catherine, again or their lives would be at risk. Yet, she knew she had to be strong. She would survive no matter who was chasing after her.
Inside the red backpack she found enough money to last her at least a few months if she watched every penny. Never one to buy things on impulse she figured money would be the least of her worries. At the moment, food was her major concern. Barnard had packed as much as would fit inside the medium sized pack, but with clothing and bottles of water, he only had room for energy bars and a couple of bags of trail mix. In one of the side pockets, she found a knife. Her fingers grazed over the leather hilt of the blade, but she refused to pull it out of the pack. Never in her life had she harmed another living being, and she didn't intend to start now.
Hunger and thirst gnawed away at her insides, but looking once again at the meager rations of food she had, she allowed herself only a few sips of water to ease away the raw ache in her throat.
"Once I find my way out of these woods, I'll get myself something to eat," she promised herself, determined to hold off as long as possible before she gave in to her hunger.
Steeling her resolve, she pushed back her shoulders, and headed out into the rain.
Rafe Raiden flew high above the trees searching for prey. His brethren had always chosen the form of an owl for flight, but he preferred sleek build of the hawk. Although tonight, with the continuous downpour of rain, he'd almost considered taking on the sturdier build of the owl.
His hunger was strong, a driving force, leading him deeper and deeper into the forest in search of blood. Strangely he felt compelled to go deeper into the woods instead of feeding on the campers of a nearby campground. The beast inside of him rage, relentless, wanting to break free, and Rafe was very close to giving in. Only his honor demanded that he remain strong and hold out for his savior – his lifemate. The woman who would allow him to see colors again and to feel emotion.
He waited so long, longer than most, and now with the knowledge that Carpathian men could find their lifemate amongst a small percentage of human women, he was determined to find the woman who would bring light to his darkness. Both Aidan and Julian Savage, his blood relations, had recently found their lifemate, and he met both women while visiting Aidan in New Orleans.
Originally, he had gone to Aidan to tell him he'd been preparing himself to meet the dawn. He also wanted to warn him in case he wasn't strong enough to fight off the desire to kill in an attempt to capture some fleeting high of emotion. Long ago, both brothers had given him blood when he was gravely injured in a battle with an ancient vampire, and both could track him with relative ease, and he counted on them to do what was necessary to ensure he didn't turn vampire and kill anyone.
But then they told him that Mikhail Dubrinsky, the prince of their people, had discover women with psychic abilities could be turned Carpathian whereas normal women went insane, became vampiresses and killed women and children. He knew it was a long shot at best, but he would hold onto his honor and find his lifemate even if it meant he held out another hundred years before she was his.
Rafe had watched both brothers with their beautiful lifemates, and immediately noticed the changes in both men. Although Julian's mate Desari was born Carpathian, sister to Gregori the healer, Alexandria had been human, and she had suffered no ill effects from the transformation. More often than not it appeared to Rafe as if the women were the ones giving orders, and both male Carpathians bent over backwards to do their bidding. Such would not be the case when he found his lifemate. His orders would be obeyed; his woman would do as she was told. He told the brothers this and they both burst out laughing while wishing him the best of luck.
The sight of something vividly red moving far below the trees caught his attention, effectively bringing him out of his musings, and reminding him of his voracious hunger. His need for blood was so dire it took him several long moments to realize he'd seen color, not just shades of gray and black. When realization finally struck, he'd forgotten he was flying, stopped flapping his strong wings, and tumbled through the air, crashing through the thick branches of the tallest of trees.
His prey. His woman. His lifemate immediately stopped moving at the sound of branches and twigs snapping, and looked all around her, peering through the darkness in search for where the noise originated. Her head fell backward to rest on her shoulders, and expressive green eyes darted through the trees.
Concentrating on the clouds, Rafe pushed them away so the moonlight broke through the trees, and shimmered off her pale ivory skin and dark chestnut hair. She was absolutely beautiful; more than he had hoped for as far as looks were concerned, yet for all her apparent beauty, his stomach churned at the sight of her. She was his other half – the light to his darkness, but the thought of being with her made him physically sick.
Yet even though his body violently rejected the idea of her as his lifemate, he couldn't deny the colors of night almost too vivid for him to behold or the stark emotions raging through him. She belonged to him, and he was stuck with her. Maybe this is how it always is at first? he mused, making a mental note to talk to Julian or Aidan about the situation in all due haste. He would have contacted them immediately using their shared mental pathway, but the dark-haired woman chose that moment to set out once again through the forest.
Rafe flew to the earth, and the second his feet touched the ground, he transformed. He shook out his long raven black hair, letting it tumble over his shoulders to hang loose and wild instead of tying it back. His dark fathomless eyes scanned the area for any potential dangers to his lifemate, and immediately caught the scent of a mother bear and cubs in the direction she was traveling. She was heading straight into danger, and his legs refused to budge.
Something's not right. She can't possibly be my lifemate. I feel nothing toward her but a deep sense of loathing. Rafe scanned the area again in hopes of finding another woman who might have brought the colors back into his life, but there was no one.
Fear stark and terrifying crept up within him; so much so, he could taste the bitterness of it on his tongue. He had no choice. She was his, and whether he liked it or not he needed to claim her or face the dawn as soon as possible. Maybe death isn't so bad?
For the first time in his long centuries of living, he felt like a coward. He would rather face the burning sun than this small slip of a woman. She was nothing to him, a means to an end, and if it meant he didn't turn on his people, dishonor himself, was it such a sacrifice to take her as his woman?
A startled cry of alarm filled the air, reaching his ears, and he found himself chuckling in spite of the gravity of the situation. "Guess she stumbled on the bear."
In a shot, he took off across the forest floor, transforming into a wolf as he ran. His movements were stealth, not a broken twig or a rustle of leaves to give away his location. His large paws barely left a single mark in the soft mud as he raced to save his woman. But he was brought up short, sliding through a huge puddle at the sight of her talking gently to the great beast. Mud splattered up into his eyes and nose, covering his black fur in a thick coating of brown slime. Luckily she hadn't noticed him, her focus solely on the bear, and it gave him time to shake off the mud matting his fur.
"That's a good girl," she softly purred, holding the bear's gaze locked on her. "You and I are friends, and you know I would never hurt you or your cubs." Tentatively she reached out her hand, and the massive brown bear moved closer to sniff her before it bowed its head and allowed her to pet it as if it were a dog and her its master. "I'm afraid, I'm terribly lost," she admitted, wrapping her tiny arms around the bear's throat, hugging it briefly before she let go and moved back. "I need to get out of the forest, and I don't know which way to go, could you show me the way?"
To Rafe's utter amazement, the bear actually nodded its shaggy head. Well, at least she has the charms to soothe at least one savage beast, he reluctantly admitted to himself, not wanting to find anything at all pleasing about her.
For as much as he would've liked to put off their first encounter, he needed her. Or at least he needed her blood. He took a silent step forward, dissolved into a fine mist, and snaked his way around her, coming up between her and the bear. He faced the bear, red feral eyes shimmering out of the mist. His mind locked on the bear, and in doing so he felt her gentle touch on the bear's mind as well. She'd been controlling it with her psychic abilities the whole time. He sent the beast a strong mental push, overriding her command to help her find the edge of the forest, and sent it off running through the woods with its cubs close behind.
She belonged to him, and no human, immortal or animal would help her when he was more than capable of doing the job. In the form of the mist, he seeped away from her, moved low along the ground further down the trail before he transformed back into a man.
His hunger demanded he feed, but he feared if he took her blood he might be brutal. With each passing moment his rage grew at the cruel twist of fate he'd been dealt. Julian and Aidan both adored their lifemates. Rafe had witnessed each man's need to have physical contact with his lifemate often as was the way with all Carpathian males, but he held no desire to touch his own lifemate, and dreaded the thought of merging his mind with hers completely. If he did she would know how much he hated the idea of being shackled to her for all eternity. And yet for the sake of his people, whom he might kill if he turned vampire, he would bind himself to her.
He heard her approach, the snapping of twigs underfoot giving away her location to any predator stalking the forest, but at the moment he was far more lethal to her than any wild animal. He'd never harmed any women or children, choosing instead to feed only on human males in case his brutal nature caused them any sort of physical pain. Carpathian males protected and cherished their women above all things, yet he found himself wanting to hurt her.
He caught her scent on the breeze, and breathed in deep. His stomach churned in violent protest, his heart thundering loudly in his ears. She smelled of a perfect blend of honeysuckle, wild roses, and a subtle hint of exotic spice. It was a scent that was purposely made to drive most men wild with the need to possess her beautiful body. Everything about her was alluringly beautiful, and she possessed a gentle nature; he witnessed it when she hugged the bear. She was the light, but maybe he'd strayed too close to the darkness, killed one too many times, enjoyed it just a little too much, and now he would find no redemption with her at his side.
Another crack of a twig announced her arrival. She gasped when she came face to face with him, a cold menacing smile pulling at his lips as she backed into the thick trunk of a tree. His gaze slowly traveled admiringly over every curve of her body. He meant to unnerve and frighten her, and it worked like a charm. She slid around the tree, pivoted on her heel, and set off at a dead run, but she would never escape him.
"Run all you want, beautiful one," he called out to her, "but you'll never escape me. My hell shall be yours as well."