Women are very wise, Zacarias. You should listen to them more often.

He gave a derisive snort and felt her laughter pour into his mind. She flooded him with happiness. She tightened her fingers around his wrist, her body vibrating with excitement as the birds fluttered wings and, almost as one body, took to the air. Beams of light spilled through the trees, hitting the vibrant colors on the shimmering, iridescent feathers. The colors nearly blinded him, so vivid and intense, making him a little dizzy. He had seen the sight before, but not in living color. Not like this. And not with her.

Marguarita. He breathed her name, a soft whisper on the wind, carrying through the rain forest to the macaws.

The large birds wheeled in the air, a graceful display of living fireworks, a spectacular demonstration of nature at her most beautiful.

Zacarias could barely breathe with the emotions rising like a tidal wave. For her. For Marguarita. He had brought her to this special place to share this very moment. A gift for her, yet in the end, the gift had been from her. The colors. The intensity. The sheer feeling.

I need to be inside of you. Right now. Like this.

In the air, in the rain forest, out in the open where he belonged - just at that moment where night turned into day and his heart beat in both places.

Now I know why you forgot my underwear.

She stroked him with love, deep inside his mind, soft caresses that burned through skin and bone, branded him somewhere he thought long gone. She broke him open and poured herself inside of him, filling him up with her light.

She turned, there in his arms, and he stripped them both of clothes, so that it was her skin sliding against his, all warm and soft and lush, her body already ripe for him. He bent his head to find her mouth while she wound one leg around his waist, pressing her inviting entrance tight against him. She tasted of innocence and sin. He bunched her hair in his hand and pulled her head back so he could kiss her again and again, his tongue exploring all that sexy heat.

Her hips rocked invitingly against his. He marveled that she didn't hesitate, didn't deny him anything, not even when she was poised thirty feet in the air with a carpet of macaws spread below them and the branches around them filling with monkeys. She kissed him back, seemingly oblivious to anything but him. Trusting him, giving herself to him without reservation.

He had to let go of her hair to lift her other leg around him. She levered herself up, using her hands on his shoulders, sliding her scorching hot body over his belly to position herself right over the smooth head of his cock. He closed his eyes, savoring the exquisite feeling as she slowly impaled herself, sliding down in an excruciatingly gradual motion, taking his breath with her little circles and the way her tight body reluctantly gave way, stretching around the thick length of him.

She threw her head back and began a slow ride designed to drive him insane. Her muscles gripped and stroked, the friction building like a slow fire when the fierce heat was already surrounding him. She felt velvet soft, moist and tight. Too tight. Strangling him. Sending bolts of lightning streaking through his body. His every nerve ending felt even the tiniest movement she made as she rose up, her body sliding over his, fitting like a glove, a second skin, and then sinking back over him, taking him deep inside her.

Her hair blew around them, cloaking them one moment and sliding away the next to reveal their bodies intertwined. He let her set the pace, watching every expression on her face, her eyes, the happiness, the pleasure, the lust, but mostly, he found himself looking for the love. It was there in her melting eyes. In the way she touched him. In the way she moved, that slow, spiraling lazy ride, as if she wanted to enjoy every last moment with him, wring it out to forever. She savored him.

He realized she had opened the dam of his emotions, and for her, every feeling was more intense, more everything . His world centered around her. This world. The one with color. With emotion. With love.

With me. This is the real world, Zacarias. When you're with me. Live here with me. When you go to the other one, you're just hunting in it. But live here with me.

Her hands smoothed his skin, her lips suddenly brushed his shoulder and retreated again as she let her head fall back and her eyes meet his.

Always, avio p?l?fertiilam - my lifemate. I will always live with you. There is no other way. He took the control back, surging into her over and over, each stroke deep and long and each one telling her what she was to him. He drove her up high and as he tipped her over the edge, she took him with her. They soared across the sky, a dizzying ride, locked together, racing the sun as they made their way home.

he thudding was persistent, a drumming annoyance that intruded on her dreams. No matter how many times Marguarita dragged the pillow over her head, pressing it to her ears, the pounding not only continued, but became louder and much more demanding. She wanted desperately to sleep. She was so tired she couldn't find the energy to move. Her arms and legs felt like lead. Even her eyelids didn't want to cooperate.

She lay for a long moment, listening to her heartbeat. The sound was loud, echoing through her head. She could hear the rush of the blood in her veins, and the sounds of insects outside the house in the fields. Through it all was the persistent knocking. Whoever it was at her front door was not going away anytime soon - unless she was having a bizarre nightmare.

The thought of a nightmare didn't alarm her, but the idea that the noises she was hearing so easily were outside the walls of the house did. Zacarias had explained, but if she listened, she could hear the murmur of the cattle and they were more than a mile from the house. Coming from the stable was the stamp of horses and even the conversation of two of the men working there. One was very concerned about Ricco.

A strange yelp and more banging on the door convinced her she needed to get up. Experimenting, she tried to lift one arm. She managed about an inch before, sighing, she let it fall onto the mattress. It took some effort, but she rolled over to stare at her ceiling fan slowly turning over her head. More banging on the door and her sluggish mind began to function faster. What if something had happened to Ricco? Maybe that was the reason the workers were discussing him. She should have eavesdropped instead of retreating like a scared baby.

What have you done to me?

Zacarias was deep in the ground far beyond the everyday running of a ranch, while she was at everyone's beck and call. It was well and good to give orders, to demand she stay indoors, try to force her to sleep during the day, but there was work to be done and the ranch was used to her taking part - a big part.

Determined now, Marguarita forced her reluctant body into a sitting position. Light spilled through the small crack in the drapes at her window hitting across her face like a slap. Her eyes burned, an instant painful searing that made her stomach churn ominously and brought tears streaming down her face.

Throwing up her arm to protect her eyes, she slipped from the bed, her legs and body trembling with the effort to find her bones. She wanted to slide to the ground. It took more effort to throw cold water on her face and neck, rinsing her eyes, but she felt much better afterward. Still sluggish, her brain and body tuned to another world, but at least she could drag on her clothes without falling on her face.

Her hair was a wild mess and she did her best to tame it as she hurried through the house on bare feet to get to the front door. The problem with Zacarias's precise instructions regarding the safeguards on the house was, as she had no voice, she couldn't call out to ask who was outside, therefore she had to open the door to see who was there. She tried to peek through the window, but the sun nearly blinded her.

Sun scorch you right back, man of mine, she declared vehemently in her head, a kind of sick amusement creeping in. Where was the man when she was left to deal with the problems he created? She was going to ask him that as soon as sleeping beauty woke up.

Cautiously she cracked the door open. Lea stood outside, her face swollen, one eye closed, the other drooping, her lip cracked and bloody. Tears streamed down her face. She shook her head when Marguarita yanked the door open and reached for her. Pressing her hands to her mouth, she sobbed.

Marguarita caught her arm. The light was so blinding, her sensitive eyes going as red as Lea's, burning and tearing the moment the sun hit them. Even her skin prickled, as if shrinking away from the light. She stepped back instinctively, drawing Lea with her. Lea made a sound, halfway between a groan and a sobbing scream. Behind her, a man loomed, his face a triumphant sneer, and he slammed his hand hard into Lea's back, forcing her forward into the house, propelling her into Marguarita. The two women tumbled to the ground, a tangle of arms and legs, Lea pinning Marguarita to the floor.

The stranger leaped through the door. "Hurry, hurry," he called to Esteban. His face was twisted into a demonic mask, eyes darting around him in a kind of rolling terror even as he leaped over the two women on the floor and whirled around in an effort to see the entire interior at once. Esteban rushed through after him, slamming the door closed and locking it.

A foul odor permeated the air the moment the two men entered. A mixture of heavy garlic, fear and drugs oozed from their pores, nearly gagging Marguarita.

The stranger reached down and caught Lea by her blond hair and yanked. Lea grabbed his wrists in an effort to relieve the pressure on her scalp, struggling to stand, glaring at her brother, anger mixed with fear.

"Get up, bitch," the stranger snapped.

Marguarita assumed she was the bitch, considering Lea was already on her feet. Calm settled over her. There could be only one reason these men were here. Esteban carried a satchel, and it was heavy. Charlie Diaz, in his drunken state, had betrayed the De La Cruz family, and by the silly necklace of garlic hanging around Esteban's neck and the foul garlicky odor pouring off of the stranger, they were planning to kill Zacarias. It was up to her to prevent these men from getting to his resting place.

She took her time, feigning pain as she struggled to her feet. There was a panic button a few feet from her, positioned near the door. If she hit that, her men would come running, armed to the teeth, but they couldn't get in if she didn't open the door to them. Swallowing hard - and it wasn't that difficult to look frightened - she stood, swaying a little, one hand going to her scarred throat, the other searching for the wall as if to hold her up.

Zacarias. Can you hear me? We're in trouble. You have to wake up and hear me.

The panic button was several feet from her, but at least she had her hand on the wall and they were all buying her fear. Now that they were in the house, they were a little less agitated and a little more cocky.

DS threw Lea against the wall beside Marguarita and swaggered over to stand in front of them, so close his garlicky breath blasted their faces in hot, foul puffs as he spoke. He deliberately invaded their space as a terror tactic. Marguarita found, after facing a vampire and Zacarias, DS just didn't scare her as much as she thought he might. The realization that these men couldn't hold a candle to the dangerous beings she had dealt with took her fear down another notch, allowing her to keep her breathing even and steady. Her heart stopped pounding and her mind settled into a quiet, logical machine, working on finding a

solution and a backup plan to her present predicament.

Zacarias. She tried again, this time allowing that part of her that sent her spirit soaring free to find him. He came into her fast, a melding of their spirits, strength and courage and total reassurance. There was no panic in him, no thought but destroying the danger to her. He had no thought of himself - only her.

Marguarita hugged that knowledge to herself and it bolstered her courage even more. She wasn't alone trying to control an impossible situation.

I need you to get rid of the safeguards at the doors or windows so Cesaro and the others can come inside. Is that possible?

She tried not to overreact as she shoved her hand into her pocket and pulled out her notepad and pen. Hastily, and in what she hoped was a trembling hand, she scribbled her question.

"You know," DS snapped. "You're hiding him. We know he's here."

Lea moistened her swollen lips. "DS thinks Zacarias is a vampire. He plans to kill him."

Marguarita frowned, her eyebrows drawing together in puzzlement. She scribbled more on the notepad, taking her time, letting Zacarias assess his enemies through her.

DS slapped her hard, so hard the back of her head connected with the wall. The speed was so shocking and the strike so unexpected, Marguarita found herself disoriented for a moment. Beneath her feet, a wave raised the floor. The walls trembled.

"Don't you lie to me, you bitch. You're his guardian. I know he's here and you'll lead us to his resting place."

Call to Julio, Zacarias, and allow the men entry. Marguarita did her best to get the entreaty across to him. She was shaken at the savagery of DS's reaction and his apparent fanaticism.

Esteban giggled, a high-pitched, almost hysterical sound. He didn't necessarily believe in vampires, that much was apparent to her, but DS provided his drugs and an unusual, adrenaline-filled lifestyle. He craved the power DS had, and needed the association, feeling like he was in the inner circle. Marguarita wasn't entirely certain the assessment was hers or Zacarias's.

I am very weak, sivamet . I will strike when I can kill them. I could alert Julio and Cesaro, but they will have to unravel the safeguards and it is very dangerous. If I aid them, I may not have the strength to strike when needed. I am very close to the darkness, more so than most of my kind and the sun takes a toll on me that is not the same as others.