I filled out their questionnaire but I never did their follow-up because my father died and I . . .

Marguarita touched her scarred throat. I lost my voice and how could I explain it anyway? You have to feel the connection. There is no other way.

"We know of the agency," Zacarias said. "Marguarita did initially begin the interview process, but went no further than filling out a questionnaire. What did that matter to your brother?"

Marguarita realized that by Zacarias answering for both of them, he appeared to know all about her, as if she'd shared all the details of her life with him.

Lea looked confused. "I'm not certain exactly, but it is the reason we chose this remote area. Esteban was avoiding the law, but I'd never really heard of this place. I overheard him on the phone talking about Marguarita and this Morrison Agency and he agreed with whoever he was talking to . . ."

"Was it this DS character?" Julio demanded.

She nodded. "I think. They thought it likely that if Marguarita did have a psychic talent then the chances of a De La Cruz showing up was much higher than on any of their other properties. Esteban was to come out first and strike up a friendship with her."

"So you weren't really friends with her." Julio's voice turned hard. He glared at Lea.

Tears immediately sprang to her eyes. "That's not true." Lea reached out for Marguarita imploringly. "I swear to you, the friendship between us is real. I felt at home here. For the first time in a very long while, I was happy."

Marguarita took her hands, her gaze flicking to Zacarias. I don't have my notepad. Please assure her we're good, that I understand and am her friend.

Zacarias smiled at Lea, a mere baring of his teeth that was obviously supposed to serve as a smile. "Marguarita knows your friendship is real. Have no worries." He pushed a small compulsion at the woman.

I don't understand what Esteban would want with me just because I filled out a questionnaire. What does this mean?

I will explain later.

"It sounded so silly to me," Lea continued. "I knew you were good with horses, but really, psychic? I didn't care why we came, just that we had. Even Esteban seemed happy for a while - until DS showed up. It doesn't take long before he ruins everything. Now our house is just plain scary."

"You shouldn't go back to that house," Julio told Lea. He glanced at Marguarita, pointedly prompting her to invite Lea to stay.

"You are welcome to stay, Lea," Zacarias said for both of them, surprising Marguarita. He brought her hand up to his mouth and brushed his lips lightly over her knuckles. She will not stay here. She still believes she can save her brother.

But you don't think she can?

I am sorry, sivamet. He is too far gone.

You don't know that. But he did. Zacarias had been in the world too long. He had seen too many friends, family members, humans fall. She saw it all in his mind. She felt his terrible sorrow like a weight pressing on his chest, on his heart - yet he refused to acknowledge it.

She closed her eyes, allowing herself to take it on, that weight that never left him. What would it be like to spend her days hunting people who had meant something to him at one time? Having to kill the people that had mattered? To know you could never make a friend, trust anyone, love anyone or be loved? She wanted to understand him and it was here, in this sorrow, in the memories he refused to acknowledge she would find her courage to stand with this man.

"Take me home, Julio," Lea said. "It's very late and I need to sleep. I'm glad Ricco is going to be all right."

Marguarita signed thank you and blew her a kiss.

Julio rose with her. "Thank you for the tea, Marguarita."

Zacarias kept his hand on Marguarita's shoulder as he rose, too. "I will see you out." I have to remove her memories of the conversation with us about Diaz. It could put her in danger.

She was surprised that he had added the last after a brief hesitation. In his memories, she had never found an instance where he explained himself to anyone.

I am a fast learner. You need reassurance that your friend will be all right.

She felt as if he'd wrapped her in a protective cloak of warmth - more than warmth - he surrounded her with protection and filled her mind with love. She hugged herself, trying not to smile. She wasn't even certain if he knew what he was feeling toward her, but she knew and, right then, when she felt a little out of her depth, she needed him just the way he was.

Marguarita collected the cups and dessert plates and took them to the sink to wash up. Looking at the crumbs made her think of hunger, but she didn't feel it. The thought of eating anything was disturbing. She drank water, hoping that would assuage her growing thirst. There was a strange

throbbing in her veins, a beat that refused to go away, a soft insistent call that steadily grew stronger. A need. A longing. A hunger.

The entire time she'd spent with Lea and Julio, she'd been uneasy and had convinced herself it was because of Zacarias, afraid of what he might say or do. But here, alone in the kitchen, with no one to witness, she could admit to herself, it was the call of their hearts, the steady ebb and flow of the blood in their veins. She could hear it, and although she'd turned the volume down as Zacarias had helped her learn to do, she found the temptation beating in her own veins - beating in Zacarias's veins, in his mind and heart.

It would never stop, not as long as her mind was immersed in Zacarias - as long as he filled her up in the way she filled him. The hunger didn't stop for Zacarias, not when he could hear the drumming call of a pulse, not when he could smell the rich scent of fresh blood. That was his world and one she had to become accustomed to.

When she was alone, trying to analyze how she felt about taking blood, the human in her was frightened and even utterly repulsed. Strangely, after first being terrified, Zacarias had somehow turned the act of giving or receiving blood into something natural and even beautiful, a sharing of the very essence of life as long as he was with her.

Marguarita knew the exact moment Zacarias entered the room. He moved in utter silence, but she was immediately aware of him, every one of her senses springing to life. Her body sang. Her heart fluttered and a million butterflies took wing in her stomach.

He came up behind her, so close she felt his heat, the warmth of his breath on the back of her neck where he swept her hair out of the way and bent to brush his lips over her skin. A whisper of a caress, and yet she shivered in reaction, her blood turning warm - her body welcoming.

"I know that was difficult for you as well as for your friend, and I am truly sorry."

She turned around. He didn't step back. She was pinned between the sink and his body. Tilting her head, her gaze found his. She smiled at him.

Did you know that when we are alone and you're looking at me like that, your eyes are a deep, dark sapphire, like the blue in the midnight sky?

He kissed the tip of her nose. "If that is true, you are the only one who sees my eyes in color. I have only seen them dark, like the shadow of death."

She circled his neck with her arms, linking her fingers at his nape as she leaned into him. I assure you, they are a beautiful blue when you look at me that way.

"What way is that?"

With caring. She couldn't bring herself to say love, but it felt like love.

He caught her chin so she couldn't look away from him. "Will it feel like love when I take you away from everything you know? Everyone you love?"

It was never your decision, Zacarias. It was mine. I insisted you live. I asked you to stay for me. I chose you. I will always

choose you.

His eyes stared into hers. All midnight blue. So beautiful her heart fluttered.

"You humble me."

Because I am human and female does not make me stupid. I thought this through from every angle. I didn't just jump into it with both feet. I had all night just to think. I know it will be difficult for us to merge our two worlds. I know sometimes it will be wrenching. But Zacarias, you told me you would make me happy. You vowed that you would and I believe you. I absolutely believe you will.

"I will rule you." He said it starkly, shadows sliding into the blue of his eyes.

Hopefully you will choose to do so with love. I can't imagine being happy and feeling cherished if you are not thinking of what pleases me. Life is filled with choices, Zacarias. I choose you and I choose to be happy. When the earth is shaking and I'm terrified, I plan on holding on very tight.

A slow smile softened the hard edge to his mouth. "I will expect you to keep your word. Do not ever keep your fear or your anger from me. I want all of you."

Laughter spilled into his mind. Ask Julio and Cesaro before you ask for that. I have a very bad temper. It doesn't happen often, but I'm not reasonable when someone is silly enough to push me too far over the edge.

Zacarias looked down into those melting-chocolate eyes and knew he was lost. He was not a man who trusted, yet he trusted her word. She would stand with him. He took her hand and tugged, leading her through to the main room of the house.

"I want you to come with me, Marguarita. I want to show you our world."

He smiled down at her, his eyes more blue than ever. "With you, I will be seeing it for the first time."

She sketched a question mark.

"In color. You will provide the colors and emotion. I have never seen the night and the moon and rain forest in vibrant color." It seemed a miracle that she could do that for him. Just being with her gave him a different world altogether.

He'd lived in a kind of void. A hell that was stark and barren and very ugly. The rich colors and even the emotions - both bad and good - made everything a kind of miracle.

She had given him such a gift, allowing him to ride a horse with her, exploring the ranch, flowing over the ground, one with the animal, and he could give her this. He hoped to woo her a little, court her, show her he had something to give as well.

It's close to dawn, Zacarias,she reminded gently.