Sorry for the delay, I've been on vacation spending time with the family. Hope everyone enjoys the chapter. bambers;)
Eyes gleaming feral red, Rafe stalked his prey with deadly stealth. Three humans, two men and a woman, sat around a small campfire laughing and joking as if they hadn't a care in the world. He moved swiftly and silently through the trees. Not a crack of a twig or rustle of a leaves to give away his location. His incisors lengthened as he came to stand behind them.
Staring at the woman with long dark hair, he paused briefly in his approach. The golden glow of the fire lit up her delicate features, and for a moment he could've sworn she was Genevieve. The light flickered, casting her face into shadows, and with it he recalled how he had drained her of her blood and left her for dead. Genevieve. His lifemate. He'd brutally killed her and his brother as well. He'd sworn to greet the dawn before turning vampire, but in a moment of pure madness, he'd turned and now there was no going back. He was vampire.
He would save the woman for last – she would watch the other two die before her, and he would see the fear in her eyes. Genevieve had cheated him of that. She hadn't feared him – her last parting words were a cruel taunt, reminding him of his own failings and how he had chosen to satisfy his own blood rage instead of claiming her as his own. The choice was never his own. From the moment he'd met her, he was destine to turn vampire. His brother knew as did his cousins, but she held out to the bitter end, making him almost believe he could overcome the beast gnawing inside of him, raging to get out.
For her this girl would suffer, and he couldn't bring himself to pity her. He took the first man with brutal ease, burying his fangs deep into his throat while holding the other two in his thrall, making it impossible for them to escape. Yet in those last few moments, those precious seconds between life and death, he stopped himself from killing the man, licked the wound on his throat, sealing it, and tossed him to the ground. The beast reared up within him, vowing the second man would not be so lucky, but again he couldn't bring himself to make the kill.
With a roar of rage, he grabbed for the girl, and a mirthless smile spread across his lips seeing the fear so clearly evident in her blue-gray eyes. "Will you cry for me, csitri?" he murmured, using his thrall to force the tears to her eyes. "I have waited centuries for this one single moment," he brushed away her tears with the pad of his thumb, "to feel the pure intoxicating pleasure of taking from you what is yours – your life . . . your blood. Would you deny me that?" he asked, and once again sent a sharp mental command for her answer as he wished.
"N-no," she stammered, and against her will, she shook her head.
His fingers trailed her cheek and down her throat. He'd been denied Genevieve, Riordyn had marked her as his own, a claim on her that should've been his alone. She'd been in his bed, giving him pleasures she denied him. "Would you deny me your body, little one?" he said, the timbre of his voice turned low and husky, meant to beguile.
"No," she whispered breathlessly, holding his mesmerizing gaze. "I would deny you nothing."
Eyeing the golden wedding band around her ring finger, he roughly pulled her into his embrace, and kissed her hard on the mouth. With a soft moan, her lips parted, and he delved deeper into the sweetness of her mouth. He whispered his desires into her mind, and in response her hands slid beneath his shirt. Her nails scratched deep into his flesh, drawing blood. Groaning in pleasure, he clasped hold of her hand, and slowly licked the blood from each finger.
His hand spanning the nape of her neck, he pulled her closer to him. Her skin was so silky soft, and he didn't shudder when he touched her like he did when he tried to hold Genevieve. First I will have your blood, then your body, and finally – your life. Lips brushing lightly against her throat, his incisors scraped her throat. His tongue licked back and forth over her pulse, and then he sunk his teeth into her flesh.
Her blood rushed into his mouth, coated his throat. He drank in more deeply, an unquenchable hunger igniting within him. Yet even as his hunger increased his incisors receded. Over and over again inside his head, he heard Genevieve's condemning voice calling him a vampire. But even as she called him vampire she wouldn't allow him to take another life. Growling in frustration, he released her. He sent all three strong mental images of getting so drunk they passed out, and once he was certain they wouldn't remember what really happened he stormed away.
It's her fault, he fumed, cursing Genevieve. The next one will look nothing like her, he vowed, silently stalking through the wooded campground in search of different prey. However every time he spotted potential prey, Genevieve's voice grew louder in his mind and then was joined by Riordyn's. Their combined voices grew so loud and painful in his ears he stumbled and hit his head on a jagged rock. Blood seeped down into his eyes, a red haze coating his pupils. Angrily, he ground the heels of his palms into his eyelids.
"I finished off your prey," came a cold masculine voice, and as Rafe's vision cleared he saw Bernard standing amongst the shadows of the trees. "As you are a fledgling, you will be forgiven your mistake this once, but do not let it happen again."
Bernard stepped out of the darkness, and straightened to his full height to tower over Rafe by several inches. His jagged teeth, stained with the blood of all his victims, gnashed together in a growl of warning. His pale skin was pulled so taut across his face and body he appeared skeletal in the moonlight and he reeked of the pungent stench of death. At one time his black hair was thick and lustrous, but now it hung in sparse stringy clumps on his bony head. This was Rafe's fate – this is what he allowed himself to become in the taking of Genevieve and Riordyn's lives.
"You may have won to a certain extent, Bernard, but I will never willingly do as you command," Rafe hissed, fingernails lengthening into sharpened claws at the sound of his maniacal laughter.
"You are wrong, Rafe, you have already done as I commanded," he taunted, "I ordered you to kill your brother and lifemate, and you most willingly obeyed."
Visions of Genevieve crumbling lifelessly to the ground filled his mind. "It was your voice I heard in my head." With an insidious grin, Bernard nodded. Swallowing hard, Rafe tried unsuccessfully to push the image from his mind. "You've won. I am vampire," he breathed, lowering his head. "But I will not follow or serve you if that is what you are thinking."
"I wasn't thinking anything of the kind." Slowly he circled Rafe and came to stand directly behind him. Drawing in a deep breath of air through his nostrils, he leaned in closer to Rafe. Not the least bit intimidated, Rafe remained perfectly still. "I've been wondering for the longest time," he murmured, his tone suddenly taking on a strange almost feminine quality. "Did you ever tell your brother how you defiled my sister Shayla? Or did you wipe it clear from your memory as if it didn't happen on more than one occasion?"
"I can assure you whatever happened between your sister and I was completely consensual on both our parts." He could've added how Shayla had sought him out numerous times before he finally succumbed to her blatant sexual overtures, but thought better of it. "Is that why you murdered her? Did you think her death would hurt me in the same way the taking of my family's lives did?" He laughed cruelly. "It didn't – she meant nothing to me."
"She was your lifemate!"
"Genevieve was my lifemate," he replied in bitter contempt, incisors lengthening as he envisioned her slipping lifelessly from his arms. "Do not pretend as if you cared about your sister. You raped and brutally murdered her!"
"That is where you are wrong, Rafe," he chuckled softly, ominously. "You and I both know to kill a vampire you must destroy the heart – and I am mostly definitely vampire . . . or should I say vampiress."
Slowly, cursing under his breath, he pivoted on his heel to face Shayla. Never before had he encountered a Carpathian woman turned vampire. The women of his race were always considered the embodiment of goodness and grace. Yet he couldn't deny she was indeed vampire.
She was still as majestically beautiful as he remembered her. Her long ebony hair was pulled up to the crown of her head in a ponytail, encircled with braids around the base. Her delicate porcelain skin stood in sharp contrast to her gleaming liquid gold eyes and painted black lips. He hastily averted his gaze from her face. To look directly into her eyes was to become mesmerized, and whether he was a vampire or not, if he stared too long at her he would be lost.
Her movements were lithe with catlike grace, almost like a beautiful dance as she slowly sashayed around him. She trailed her fingertips along his shoulder blades, down his back then trailed around to his stomach.
"How is it possible?" was all he could think to say when she came to face him again.
"Are you asking how a woman such as I turned vampiress, my love?" When he nodded, her smile widened exposing her sharpened fangs. Instead of answering his question immediately, she pressed her body to his and brushed her lips against his mouth. "Why is it that male Carpathians such as yourself think they have the right to choose a woman to be their lifemate, and the woman should have no say so in the matter?" she murmured against his ear. "You used me knowing full well I claimed you as my own, and then you so carelessly cast me aside."
"My brother saw you die – your brother Bernard raped and murdered you in front of him."
"Your brother was weak and easily mesmerized into thinking the worst," she countered, trailing her tongue down to the pulse in his throat. "Then after my death was mourned by all Carpathians, and put to rest in the ground, Bernard came back for me."
Rafe swallowed down his revulsion at how easily she spoke of what they had done to Riordyn, and said, "Both Gregori and our Prince agreed you had been raped before you were supposedly murdered. Are you trying to tell me you are so depraved you slept with your own brother to get revenge for whatever wrong I may have done to you?"
"Why would I need my brother to do such a thing when your brother was under my thrall?" She laughed. "Of course it took some doing with him being so broken and injured, but I didn't mind a bit as he looked exactly like you."
Another wave of revulsion swept over Rafe with tidal force, and it took every last ounce of sheer willpower he possessed not to plunge his fist into her chest and rip out her heart. "Does my brother know what you did to him?" he snarled, clenching his fists to keep himself from strangling her.
"I'm certain he has a vague memory of it buried in the back of his mind, but I can honestly reassure you it wasn't the worst thing we did to him." Tilting her head to the side, she cast a glance into the forest, and as if they were waiting for that signal several vampires emerged from the shadows. Bernard came to stand beside his sister. "Maybe when you were Carpathian we couldn't be lifemates," she said softly, her melodic tone meant to entrance and beguile him, "but you are one of us now. Your gift to me was the taking of your lifemate and brother's lives, and with them out of the way we can now spend the rest of eternity together."
"What if I choose to greet the sun instead of spending one more moment with you?"
From all around him the vampires laughed, and continued to do so until Shayla raised a hand to stop them. "Unlike the male dominated world of the Carpathians, where your word might have been law to the lesser females of our breed, I am the law here and you will obey me."
Now it was his turn to laugh. "You have poisoned my blood, made me kill those who are dearest to me, and you still have the nerve to think I would obey you? You have left me with no reason to want to live – I will never be your lifemate!"
"Then you will suffer until you change your mind," she replied, and as the last words left her blackened lips, the vampires converged on him.
Teeth tore into his flesh, but he refused to budge or fight back. His hands fell limply to his sides. Gritting his teeth, he silently allowed the vampires to feed upon him, hoping that in some way it would help him forget what he had done to Genevieve and his brother. Yet even as his vision began to blur and his mind fogged over, he still could hear Genevieve's gentle voice telling him he had ruined everything they could've had together.
They abruptly released him, and he dropped to his knees. Shayla gripped hold of his hair and yanked his head backward. His eyelids fluttered open and closed as he tried to focus on her face. Biting into her own flesh, she shoved her bloody wrist into his mouth.
"You could never hope to win against me, Rafe," she taunted, intently watching her blood slip down the corners of his mouth. "I have been in your blood since the first moment you bit into your lifemate's throat." Her molten golden eyes narrowed on him. "I am not some stupid Carpathian male who is willing to wait a hundred life times to get what he wants – I want you and I am more than willing to bleed you to the brink of death over and over again to make you into what I want you to be."
"Do whatever you wish to me," he rasped, struggling to catch his breath, "it is no more than I deserve for what I have done. But I will never be your lifemate."