The command in his voice nearly brought her to her knees. She loved the way he sounded so male. She loved that husky note that told her he belonged to her in that moment. There was no one else in his world. Everything and everyone else disappeared for her when his voice took on that note. There was only Zacarias and the growing hunger in his gaze. She loved the idea that he could want her after just taking her so thoroughly earlier.

"It pleases me when you are aroused," Zacarias said as she approached him.

His hands went to her breasts, rolling and tugging on her nipples. He leaned down and the mass of his long hair slid over her bare skin, sending electric currents straight to her core. She could feel her body dampen, growing moist for him. She was aroused, just looking at him, thinking of him, hearing his sexy voice. It didn't matter with him that she had no voice, he was in her mind, reading her thoughts, and the intimacy of that communication was every bit as sensual as the way his fingers teased her nipples. The edge of roughness only added to her desire, his hard body such a contrast to her soft one.

Zacarias didn't allow her to hide from him, not in her mind and not sexually. She hadn't known she was capable of such lustful thoughts, but everything she'd ever read, or heard, or imagined, went through her head when she was with him. She wanted his body to belong to her alone, as she knew hers did to him. The idea of another man touching her in the way Zacarias had was repugnant to her.

"I cannot believe these scraps are undergarments, but I will enjoy knowing you wear them for me."

He had definitely picked up on the fact she'd never worn the black lace before.

You want me again. There was an invitation in her mind.

"Yes. I will always want you, Marguarita, but before my needs and wants, I must put your health. You are very sore."

Can't you do something about that? She infused the idea with blatant temptation.

"Until I know more about how your body reacts, I wish to see how you respond naturally. You are very small and tight. I realize it was your first time and there was stretching along with taking your virginity. You bled."

She fought the blush stealing up her body. That's normal when a woman is a virgin . He didn't mind discussing sex with her, or her body's response, which she was grateful for. It allowed open communication, but still, she'd never done that before with anyone, let alone a man she was fast becoming obsessed with. Still, she went warm knowing he would deny himself just to make certain she was fully healed.

"I can ease the soreness if it is too much," he offered.

She shook her head. She liked the feeling of his possession, but wasn't certain how to give him that impression.

He seemed to understand. He touched the dent in her chin with a gentle finger. "Dress in your male clothes and let me see how seductive such clothes can be."

The teasing note in his voice played havoc with her senses. Every nerve ending was already raw and on alert, totally tuned to him, completely aware of him. When she inhaled, she felt as if he was the very air she breathed. How had it happened without her realizing he was slowly creeping into her head - and into her heart? She had been so afraid at first, mixing him up with her memories of the vampire. His behavior hadn't helped - until she'd taken that plunge and allowed her mind to connect fully with his. He'd melt the hardest heart if they could see inside of him. He was noble, loyal, a man of honor. He deserved love.

"Sivamet." He whispered the Carpathian endearment aloud and pushed the word deep into her mind. "You see someone who does not exist. I wish he did. I would give anything to be that man you have given such a gift to. I am a warrior. Nothing more."

Marguarita slipped on the black lace panties, as provocatively as she was capable of being. The protest welling in her mind spilled into his. You are more than worthy - to me you are worth everything.

He shook his head, but clearly the sight of that scrap of lace sliding between her firm, shapely cheeks distracted him. He cleared his throat and she smiled as she reached for a pair of her favorite jeans. They were worn and faded to a vintage light blue, the material soft and distressed on her thighs and over one knee, but they fit like a glove and when she rode, they were the most comfortable pair of jeans she owned.

She felt his reaction more than saw it. His face was as expressionless as ever, although his eyes were alive with heat and desire. Very casually she clipped the bra on, allowing it to cup her breasts. The marks from his mouth and hands were visible through the peekaboo lace. He stepped close to her and bent his head to brush first her left breast and then her right with a soft kiss.

"Did I hurt you?"

You know you didn't. You made everything perfect for me. He had. He had been rough, yes, but he had more than ensured she felt nothing but pleasure.

Marguarita sank down onto the edge of the bed and pulled on thin socks and then her riding boots. She lifted each foot into the air to pull on the tanned leather boots, taking her time, enjoying the hunger in his gaze. Truthfully, the very act of dressing in front of him, having his focus so completely on her, was sexy beyond her imagining.

She smiled up at him, noting his eyes were midnight black. He looked so larger than life, his body hard and scarred, well muscled. He flowed across the room, his shoulders filling the space, his eyes penetrating, his mouth sensual.

I like looking at you. She admitted it shyly. She wanted him to know she was in his world, however he wanted her - that he wasn't alone and that she had chosen of her own free will to be with him.

"That's a good thing, my beautiful lunatic, because you will be doing so for a very long time."

She noticed the indentations around his mouth. At first she thought them lines, but they were far more and she smiled to herself. Her tough man had a softer side after all. She didn't mind being his lunatic. Quite possibly, she was one. She hadn't looked at every aspect of her decision before making it. She'd jumped in with both feet and damned the consequences, but right now, as she pulled a thin tank over her head, her stomach cramped.

She actually bent over to ease the pain. Instantly Zacarias's hand went to the small of her back and she felt him moving through her. He did it so quickly, so easily, Marguarita was a little shocked. She lifted an eyebrow at him in inquiry.

He rubbed her back gently. "We have had two blood exchanges, Marguarita. As a rule, it wouldn't matter how much blood I gave you, such as I gave Ricco, but if we make an exchange, that will begin to work on your organs and the inside of your body, reshaping you in the way of the Carpathian people."

She slowly straightened up and looked him in the eye. You knew this?

He shrugged. "Of course. It is the way of lifemates."

She heard her own heartbeat, its pounding rhythm. The hum of voices outside the house. The stamp of horses and low murmur of the cattle. Insects drowned out everything, the volume of noise horrendous. Marguarita pressed her hands to her ears, her gaze jumping to his for an explanation.

"I have been careful to keep the volume turned down for you, because we were otherwise occupied, but you can do this yourself. Think about it. Think how soft you want the background noises. Humans do this automatically. Your refrigerators run and you no longer hear them, but the noise is present. Your vision and hearing will be far more acute. You have to control it consciously and eventually it will become subconscious."

Marguarita reached behind her to find something to hold on to. It had not occurred to her that her world would change so drastically. She'd given herself into Zacarias's keeping, but her physical body was human.

Zacarias wrapped his arm around her waist. Solid. An anchor. "Breathe, sivamet, as frightening as this all sounds, I am with you always. I will not allow anything to harm you."

She took a deep breath. Tell me what this means to me. She would not regret her decision. She had known all along it would take sacrifices. Physical sacrifices hadn't occurred to her, but she could deal with it.

"You will need to drink water and juice, Marguarita," he instructed.

Her stomach lurched at the idea of putting anything into it. She pushed her hand against her belly and shook her head. I cannot. The thought makes me feel sick.

"Nevertheless, it will be necessary. No meat, of course. The thought of eating meat is repugnant to us."

And yet you own a cattle ranch. She sent him a faint smile, desperately trying to find a balance. She accepted the responsibility of what she'd done,and had known there would be consequences. She could live without meat. Millions of people did so every day, but the thought of taking blood as sustenance was disturbing to her.

"I will help you when you need to eat or drink something."

She couldn't imagine doing either at that moment so she simply nodded her head. She moistened her lips, rubbing her arms a little. What else did having his blood mean to her? She had to be able to go out into the sun, but her skin felt strange at the thought. She was certain it was her imagination, but earlier, with Julio, her skin had been sensitive and her eyes really hurt. With a second blood exchange, would that grow worse? What had he meant when he said she was becoming like him? Panic began to edge her thoughts.

I'm changing inside my body? Becoming like you? She rubbed her hands up and down her arms more vigorously as if she could change her skin's composition. If I am like you, will the sun harm me?

He nodded his head slowly. "The sun will burn you. Not in the way it does me, but you cannot go out in it without great peril. You would blister, and the burn would be severe. It will not kill you as it would me. You will need to cover your skin and eyes all the time."

Her heart nearly stopped beating. She actually felt faint. She loved horses. Loved the Peruvian Paso breed. They'd been her obsession before Zacarias and she couldn't imagine never flying over the ground, jumping fences and feeling one with the horses. She enjoyed their personalities, their quirks and the gentle temperaments. She loved every single thing about them. Just watching them filled her with joy. She couldn't imagine not caring for them, riding them, spending her time with them.

The Paso retained its natural, inherited gait, when so many other breeds had been diluted. It had been kept true to its lineage. In her experience, her horses had passed their gait to one hundred percent of their offspring. The breed's center of gravity remained nearly immobile. Paso Ilano , a broken gait that was a rhythmic and harmonic tapping, was very gentle, pleasing and extremely comfortable. She could ride her horse for hours, moving in harmony across the land never tiring or getting sore.

She hadn't considered that she might become sensitive to the sun. Her breath felt trapped in her lungs. Her throat clogged with tears. Never to ride again. Never to feel that amazing experience, the sharing between horse and rider. The Paso also possessed a unique pace aptly named termino. To Marguarita, nothing was more graceful. The movement was flowing, the forelegs rolling from the shoulder toward the outside as the horse strode forward. She was part of the horses and they were a huge part of her.

Zacarias studied her averted face. Deep inside her mind she'd gone suddenly quiet and then she'd completely withdrawn from him. The world around him instantly dulled to barely-there color, pale and drab. Ice poured into his veins, into his heart. Her sudden exit left him more alone than he'd ever been - ever conceived. She filled his body with warmth and light, with color and emotions and the moment she was gone, so was her radiant heat. Once able to see vivid colors and experience real feelings, the warmth and brightness of her filling every broken, jagged, shadowed , space, thrown back into that ugly, stark, bleak existence, made it utterly unbearable.

He realized what his father had lived with. His mother had filled up those broken spaces with her warmth and bright light. Without her always residing within, the color and emotion within his father had faded just as it had done with Zacarias. The contrast was sharp and ugly and impossible to bear - not after so much joy. He stepped toward her, unable to resist that bright beacon when his world had gone so cold. His soul actually shuddered.

"Do not seek to leave me." He said it sharply, much harsher than he intended. His fingers bit down like a vise on her wrist, shackling her to him. He jerked her body close to his. The scent of a predator prowling for prey permeated the room. She tensed, looking as if he'd struck her.

I don't know why you would doubt me. I am adjusting to the things you're revealing to me and I'll admit they frighten me, but I am a woman of my word. I gave myself to you freely and I meant it. Whatever the future holds for me, I will find a way to deal with it and be happy.

He felt her determination, but still, he was alone. Sun scorch the woman, she didn't get it. He wasn't about to plead with her, or take what she refused him. Would he stoop that low? He jerked her even closer, forcing her chin up so that her eyes met his.

"You will not leave me again." He gave her a little shake. He let her see the killer in him, that dark force that was more of his soul than any other part of him. "Do you understand me?"

Marguarita looked confused. He had to give her credit; she was courageous when most men would have gone to their knees. She met his gaze without flinching. He felt that first, almost tentative reach for him and the relief was overwhelming, almost driving him to his knees. Her warmth slipped into his mind, seeking answers. He felt that hot flow filling him up, bridging those broken circuits, restoring vivid color. Emotions poured in. Fear amounting to terror. Hers? It had to be her fear of him. He didn't know fear.

The taste of terror was in his mouth. The horrifying emotion beat at his heart, and invaded his lungs so that his breath was trapped there.

"You are all right. Take a breath." He could barely get the words out.