We've got work to do," Paul shouted, hitting the flat of his hand on Colby's bedroom door. "Are you going to lie in bed forever? Half the day is gone! Julio drove Ginny to visit the Everetts and Juan's already bringing in the hay. Let's go!"

Colby threw back the covers, her hands shading her eyes. With each passing day her sensitivity to the sunlight seemed to get worse. She showered quickly in cool water, trying to make the terrible heaviness that invaded her body disappear. Three nights had gone by since Rafael had been left to heal in the ground, three days and nights of sheer hell. She tried to sleep during the day, from ten in the morning until about four in the afternoon. It should have been a relief, but she was plagued with endless nightmares. She had even visited the area where she and Juan had buried him, but he was gone, taken somewhere else by his brother to heal.

Colby had dream after dream of Nicolas drawing the vampire's blood from Paul's body. It was a ghoulish nightmare that left her shaky and frightened. The moment she closed her eyes, she could see blood pressing through Paul's pores, and some sort of parasite in his bloodstream, wiggling like worms over his body. When she wasn't dreaming of Paul, she dreamed of Ginny lying in a shallow grave, her eyes wide open and accusing. Sometimes she had dreams of Rafael smiling at her as he ripped her throat open with his teeth. Most of the daylight hours she lay in her bed, waiting for the lethargy to pass, trying not to think of Rafael and how terribly hurt he was. She prayed for undisturbed sleep, her mind always racing to find a way to keep her sister and brother safe.

She often woke up crying, her heart a painful ache in her chest, her mind numb with grief. She was sick to death of grieving and being afraid. And she hated the way everyone watched her, as if she might do herself harm at any moment.

"Come on, Colby, you've got to wake up! You told me to get you up no matter what, so haul it out here." The kitchen door banged hard and Colby winced. With Ginny visiting at the Everett ranch with her new friend, Paul's dishes from breakfast and lunch were in the sink. Just the sight of the partially eaten food as she made her way slowly through the kitchen made her nauseous. Her body hated to work this time of day, no matter how much she willed it to be normal.

Colby could barely cope with the separation from Rafael. Half the time she felt as if she were going crazy. Nicolas reassured her through the long nights, and the Chevez brothers reassured her during the day. She was certain Nicolas was sharing her mind, helping her through the waking hours, and it felt like an invasion whenever she thought about it too much. She silently screamed for Rafael, thought of him, needed him; and having another person know just how obsessed she was with him was humiliating. She could barely function she was so grief-stricken.

Rafael had a lot to answer for. How the hell did he expect her to run a ranch and take care of two children when she was such a mess? She might need to see him, but she dreaded the moment she would have to face up to him and tell him it was over. It had to be over. She couldn't live in his world. It was far too dangerous and violent.

She stumbled across the yard to the corral where Paul held the bridle of a mean-looking bay. She was so sensitive to light now, she wore sunglasses to protect her eyes even in the evening. It took courage to face the light and she found herself wondering how Rafael had managed to stay with her when the stable had burned, and worse, when Ginny had gone missing. He must have been in agony. She was only partway into his world and it felt as if a thousand needles were poised to stab her eyes.

She watched the horse dance nervously, its eyes red-rimmed and suspicious. Paul already had the saddle on him. Colby had always believed in going for the meanest horse first and Paul was obviously following her philosophy to the letter.

"You have him?" Colby looked at the animal, at the way it was throwing its head, the way the eyes were regarding her with wicked intent. She tried a soft whisper, her mind seeking to soothe the animal, but it shook off her usual calming effect.

"I've got him," Paul reassured her.

Taking a deep breath, she swung into the saddle. The moment her weight eased into the leather, the animal exploded wildly, violently, head plunging, rear rising, shrieking angrily. It went stiff-legged, rising high and slamming to the ground with bone-jarring strength, whirling like a demon possessed. Without being fully set, Colby had no chance to keep her seat. She was launched like a missile, her slender body slamming into the hitching post. She crumpled and landed in the dirt facedown.

"Colby, look out!" Paul's hoarse cry sent her instinctively rolling toward the safety of the fence, hands up to protect her head. The ground shook under the pounding hooves as the animal reared and struck at her repeatedly. One slashing hoof struck her right thigh as she made her escape.

Instantly there was the echo of two cries in her mind. Rafael. His voice was a soothing balm and worth any price. He was alive. And Nicolas, reprimanding her yet again.

Her entire leg was numb. She lay still, staring up at the dusky sky, trying to get control of her racing heart and rapid breathing. Although it was late afternoon, she could feel the last of the sun's rays burning on her skin and her body still felt sluggish and drained. She should have waited another half hour or so before attempting her work.

"God, Colby." Actual tears were in Paul's eyes as he flung himself down beside her. "You're bleeding bad-tell me what to do. I don't know what to do."

Colby pushed herself very gingerly up on one elbow to stare at the ugly gash soaking her leg with blood. She swore softly, fighting off nausea. "I'm going to live, Paulo, but it's going to need stitches." She clamped the edges of the wound together, forced herself to press hard. "Go get a couple of towels and a tray of ice. You'll have to drive the truck into town. Call ahead and tell Doc Kennedy to wait in his office-I don't want to go to the hospital and run up another bill." She bit the words out between her teeth. Her leg had gone from numb to a burning torture.

Paul ran for the house. Colby's face was so pale she looked like a ghost. He would never forget, as long as he lived, the sight of her small slender body so fragile in the dust under the huge, maddened animal, the sickening sound of a hoof meeting flesh. He tore open the refrigerator, caught up the towels and the truck keys, made the hurried, breathless call, and was back at Colby's side in minutes.

"Does it hurt much?" he asked anxiously as he watched her apply the ice to the wound. In all her injuries, Paul had never seen so much blood on his sister. It was bright red and Colby was pressing very hard, her teeth biting deep into her lower lip.

She managed a lopsided grin, pushing at the hair tumbling around her dirt-streaked face. The action left a smear of blood on her temple. "You'll need to help me, Paulo, my leg's kind of numb from the shock of the blow." She was gritting her teeth, wishing it had stayed numb, but it was better than telling him she was going to pass out from the pain and blood loss. "Bring the truck close and I'll be able to get in."

Colby. Her name came out of nowhere, soft and beautiful, wrapping her up in safe arms. Tears burned in her eyes at the caress of Rafael's voice in her mind. She ached for him. Missed him so much. Just hearing his voice made her feel complete.

I'm okay. You still sound tired. Are you supposed to be waking yet? Rafael sounded far away and it was an obvious effort to reach her. It made Colby feel treasured that he would try. She knew his wounds weren't fully healed and that his hunger raged in him, but he reached for her anyway. She hated the melting sensation, when she was so angry with him for causing her problems. She didn't want to need to hear his voice or feel his touch. And she didn't want to think of the violence he was capable of.

I cannot come to you for another hour. Show me what you have done. I feel the pain in you. It is severe enough that you woke me from my slumber.

She took a deep breath and made herself look at the horrendous gash in her thigh, lifting her hand and the towel of ice away from her skin. She heard his gasp of alarm and immediately covered the wound. Paul is taking me to the doctor in town. No big deal. A couple of stitches.

I will come to you as soon as I am able.

She lay back because it took too much energy to do anything else, turning her head to observe the horse. He was trembling, pawing the powdery earth, still fighting the saddle, his body dark with sweat. As soon as the truck pulled up next to her and Paul jumped out, Colby indicated the animal. "Look at him, Paul, something's wrong with him. He just isn't acting normal."

"He's a killer," Paul snapped, glaring at the horse, totally out of character for Paul with animals. "Someone ought to put him down."

"He's drugged, Paul. Look at him again; he doesn't know what's going on."

"Who cares, Colby? Forget the damn horse, let's get you to the doctor."

"Not yet. Go call Dr. Wesley, tell him we're leaving and to bring some help with him, he'll need it. I want the horse taken care of."

"You've got to be kidding me. I'm supposed to call the vet while you lie there bleeding all over the place?" Paul protested, concern in his eyes.

"Paul," There was infinite weariness in Colby's voice.

Reluctantly Paul obeyed, relating the details hurriedly to the astonished veterinarian. It seemed an eternity before Paul was able to half-lift Colby into the truck. Shaking and rattling, the old pickup truck sped toward town.

Colby yelped more than once while the doctor cleaned, stitched, and bandaged the gash in her thigh. She endured lectures from her doctor and a nurse wielding a syringe and felt she could recite the dangers of tetanus by the time they were finished. The cut was deep and the wound had swollen considerably; she would be uncomfortable, but she'd had worse injuries.

With Paul's support she limped back to the truck, ruefully looking down at her dirty, bloodstained, and torn jeans. She knew her face was streaked with dirt, her hair falling in a jumbled mess down her back. She glanced at her brother. "Have you ever noticed how wonderful I always manage to look?" she asked him with a poor attempt at a smile. She nodded toward the sleek Porsche parked down the street.

Paul followed her gaze, recognized the woman disappearing into a small, pricey boutique. He looked from the perfection of Louise to his sister, staring for a moment. Beneath the dirt and blood, there was something extraordinary, something he had never really seen before. "You're so much prettier than her, Colby, there's no comparison. Really, there's not."

Colby found herself smiling in spite of the ragged way she was feeling. "You're some brother, you know that? I'm going to lie here and rest while you go get my prescriptions for me and I'll contemplate how perfectly wonderful you are."

"I'll move us a little closer," he said, reaching for the keys.

"You're not moving me anywhere near that shop-the pharmacy is next door to her perfect little Porsche. You could use the exercise."

"The ultimate sacrifice," Paul groaned. "Cowboys aren't supposed to walk anywhere." He pocketed the little slips of paper and helped ease her into a more comfortable position. "You're looking a little green around the gills under all that dirt, Colby. Are you sure you're all right and I can leave you?"

"I'm fine, Paulo," she reassured him. "Just leave the door open so I don't panic and try to climb out the window."

"I'll be right back." Hastily he started down the street.

She watched him go, weariness washing over her, The worst part was that endless work was still waiting for her. With Juan and Julio helping, they were finally beginning to catch up with the work. An injury like this one would interfere with the ability to do the necessary riding and training of horses as well as the day-to-day upkeep on the ranch.

What had been wrong with the bay? Could he have been drugged the way King had been? Ernie was dead. He couldn't have done it. She didn't want to think that Paul might have done it. She tried to remember exactly how the horse had looked before she had climbed into the saddle. It was inexcusable. She hadn't noticed the animal's distress; she'd been too upset over Rafael. It always came back to that. Rafael and his hold on her.

"Hello again." A soft voice pulled her out of her reverie.

Colby looked up to see the woman with startling green eyes who had offered to help her when Rafael had been so possessive. She flashed a quick smile. "I always seem to be in trouble, don't I? I'm Colby Jansen"

"Natalya Shonski." The woman smiled, her face lighting up. She indicated Colby's leg. "Looks painful."

"Trust me, it is. I wanted to thank you for what you did the other night. Most people would have just walked on by."

"You were afraid of him," Natalya said. "I could feel it."

Colby pushed her hair from her eyes and gave the woman a wan smile. "I'm still afraid of him."

Natalya leaned in the door to examine Colby's neck. "He's one of the hunters, isn't he? Do you have any idea how dangerous they are?"

Colby's palm instantly pressed against the bite mark, holding Rafael to her. "How do you know about them?"

Natalya hesitated, choosing her words carefully. "I had the bad luck to run across their counterparts on more than one occasion." Natalya watched her closely to see if Colby understood.

"I just had my first encounter a few nights ago." Colby shuddered. "It's nice to know I'm not losing my mind. I thought maybe I was making the whole thing up." Relief flooded her, an eagerness to talk to this woman who knew what she was going through, who didn't think she needed to be locked up. "How did you find out about them? Half the time I still don't believe the whole thing."

"What does the hunter want with you?"

Colby's fingers pressed deeper against Rafael's mark on her. It was always there, as fresh as the day he made it, never fading and always throbbing as if calling to her. What did he want from her? Sex? If only it was just great sex. She could handle that. She remembered the sound of his laughter moving through her mind. Low. Sensual. A temptation. Her lashes swept down. He ruled her sexually; it was true. She couldn't overcome her need for him. "I'm not completely sure." She tried to be truthful. To her utter surprise Colby found herself blinking hack tears. "I'm a mess, Natalya. He's bound me to him somehow and I can't stand being apart from him. I hate feeling this way."

Natalya glanced around and kept her voice low. "I wish I could help you, Colby. Here's my cell phone number. I'm leaving soon. If you want to come with me, give me a call. I can't stay in one place too long."

"I have a brother and a sister to protect."

"If there's a hunter in the area, there's a vampire close by. You can't protect them from a vampire."

"How did you know Rafael was a hunter?"

Natalya lowered her voice even further. "I have a birth-mark on me, low, right over my ovary on my left side. It looks like a dragon breathing fire, and when a vampire is close, or a hunter, or even one of the human puppets, it burns."

Colby inhaled sharply and touched her left side. "Where did it come from?"

Natalya shrugged. "I was born with it. It's saved my life on many occasions."

Colby rubbed her thigh, just below the laceration, in hopes of easing the pain. "There's a vampire in the area and Rafael says he's different than others, more powerful."

Natalya frowned. "Can they kill him?"

"I don't know. Rafael was injured and the vampire got away. I think Rafael hurt it, though."

Natalya sighed. "I kind of liked it here. I didn't really want to leave yet. I haven't learned to kill a vampire yet. They keep coming back. Watching Dracula movies all the time isn't all that helpful."

"Rafael and his brother, Nicolas, are originally from the Carpathian Mountains. You might find help there," Colby suggested. "Nicolas told me they have to be incinerated. It was pretty gross. He said they rip the heart from the chest and incinerate that as well."

Natalya straightened up slowly. "I wish I hadn't asked."

She looked at Colby. "Are you sure you're all right? Can you handle this? It's been hard for me and I don't want you to feel as alone as I've been."

"I honestly don't know. He talks about conversion."

Natalya scowled. "Bringing you over? Can they do that? I know the vampires usually kill. They often keep women around for a while, enjoying their fear, but they always kill them. I've tried a couple of times to rescue them, but they're insane. They want to bite me and they try to drink blood and I've even seen them try to eat human flesh. I don't know, Colby, it sounds dangerous."

"It feels dangerous. I'm having trouble with the sunlight, and without the Chevez brothers-they came from Brazil with Rafael-I wouldn't be able to keep up with the ranch work. I have to sleep during the day now."

"Do you want to get away from him?" Natalya asked.

Colby sighed, feeling close to tears. "I don't think I can. I don't honestly know what I want. I'm very afraid, but I'm so obsessed with him. If I'm away from him, he's in my mind until I think I'm going insane." She looked at Natalya. "I don't have a craving for any kind of food, let alone human flesh."

"He isn't a vampire," Natalya assured her, "but these hunters are dangerous. He isn't human, Colby, and no matter how much he relates to you as a human, he is still different, with an entirely different set of rules."

"I'm afraid," Colby admitted in a low voice, astonished at just how afraid she really was. Rafael had deliberately seduced her. He had brought her partway into a world she knew nothing about, and he'd taken her partway out of the world she was familiar with. It was terrifying and yet she couldn't imagine her life without him. And that in itself was what was so frightening.

"You can come with me, all of you," Natalya offered. "It isn't much fun running alone. And we might all be safer together."

And I would find you. There is nowhere to go that I cannot find you. There was a bite to Rafael's voice, a warning. Colby felt a shiver run down her spine.

"He can hear me." Natalya pulled away instantly, looking warily around. "I have to go. I don't dare stay here. Good luck." She backed away from the truck.

Colby fought down the urge to grab her hand and keep her there. "Be careful, Natalya," she called, shoving the small piece of paper with Natalya's cell phone number on it into her pocket. She wanted to run away too. There was fear in Natalya's eyes and an absolute resolve to get away. Whatever the vampires wanted from her, she wasn't going to give them. Colby just wished everything would magically return to normal. She closed her eyes again and counted to ten, knowing Paul had run into one of his friends and was talking instead of rushing the pain medication back to her. So much for his concern.

"Don't tell me Annie Oakley fell off of her horse!" Tony Harris leaned into the truck, his handsome features mocking.

"You're just what I needed to make my day complete, Tony," Colby told him tiredly.

"What happened?" He moved closer to stand in the open doorway, his weight across her body as he bent to examine the thick, rather bloody bandage. He was pinning her against the seat, his arm pressed tightly and very deliberately into her waist. He whistled, glancing up at her, his dark gloating eyes revealing his enjoyment of her predicament. "Maybe I should take a look at this; it seems to be bleeding." His hand was on her thigh, fingers pressing into swollen flesh.

"If I scream, Tony, half this town will come running."

"No one can see with me blocking the view," he said. "Scream away, I'll just say your leg hurt and I was trying to help."

"As if they'd believe your word against mine. Go to hell, Tony. And get your hands off me." Colby swung at him, but her movements were hampered by the lack of space.

He dodged the blow and laughed at her. "You leave your rifle at home, Colby? What's wrong, where's all that cold haughty disdain you love to dish out?" His hand was back at the bandage, hovering there while he watched her closely, enjoying her helplessness.

"Shut up, Tony, and get out of here."

His fingers inched closer to the wound on her leg, pressing that little bit harder.

"This isn't funny, Tony." Colby tried to not to look at his hand.

"Oh, yeah, I think it's really funny. You always thought you were better than me, haven't you, Colby? So now you've got your rich man and you think that proves you're too good for someone like me, but you know what I think? I think you're nothing but his paid whore. I'm going to show you what a real man makes you feel like."

Before she could elude him, Tony bent down, clamping his mouth to hers, deliberately grinding her teeth against her soft inner lip. One hand remained on her leg, right beside the swollen laceration in warning.

Colby forgot everything, her weariness, the pain in her leg, the fact that she was parked on the main street of town. It was one thing to put up with Tony's sick innuendos and bullying; it was an altogether different proposition for him to physically touch her. Their feud had started in the schoolyard when Tony, two grades ahead of her, had been unmercifully teasing a boy in her class. She had hit him right in front of everyone. When he had retaliated, Joe Vargas, Ben, and Larry Jeffries had all instantly jumped to her defense. Over the years Harris had threatened and harassed her, but he had never laid a finger on her.

Her right elbow slammed into his solar plexus and her left hand caught the back of his curly black hair in a wicked grip, in an attempt to jerk his head away from her. To her horror he was suddenly catapulted from the truck as if unseen hands had lifted him bodily and thrown him down. Then she was staring into Rafael's black, black eyes. She caught her breath at the stark menace concentrated there. Tiny red flames were glowing, fierce and unnatural. He looked a demon, a predator, vicious, cunning, more animal than man. Nothing in her life had ever frightened her like the grim emptiness revealed in his eyes. She was looking at death. And she knew he could very easily kill Tony Harris.

No! No, Rafael, you can't. Deliberately she used the more intimate means of communication to call the man back into his body, his brain. She was looking at a natural predator. He was already turning away from her, back to Harris, who lay sprawled in the street.

"Rafael, let it go," she called aloud, struggling to slide off the seat, her heart pounding in a kind of terror. She swore softly under her breath as her leg took her weight, jarring her entire body.

Tony leapt up, doubling his fists as he spat in the street.

Rafael coolly and quite brutally slapped Tony Harris open-handed, a hard, powerful blow that staggered the man as he rushed forward. Rafael continued to slap him, delivering blow after powerful blow, walking the cowboy backward down the street. Each blow had Tony stumbling off balance, a jarring, humiliating punishment. Colby had witnessed a thousand brawls, but this was completely different. It was a savage, yet cold-blooded attack, a brutal display of power that held everyone motionless, standing on the sidewalks simply gaping at the drama.

Colby went hobbling after them, anger beginning to smolder as her heart accelerated at the realization that Rafael could have dropped Tony Harris with one blow. This was a public punishment. Rafael would have killed Tony, coolly and without remorse. He preferred to kill him, but refrained because Colby would never have condoned murder.

It didn't help that she was drinking him in, her body flaring to life. She could feel every cell, every fiber of her being reaching for him, needing him, craving him like a drug. She detested the control he had over her body and mind. Did it show? Natalya had looked at her with pity and she felt scorn for herself every time she thought of the way she had been so grief-stricken, almost to the point of harming herself. She had been forced to reach out to Nicolas, someone she didn't altogether trust, in order to get through each night.

"Let them go," Paul yelled, grabbing at her arm, out of breath from his headlong dash through the street. She was limping and didn't seem to notice her teeth were clamped together in pain.

Colby shook off her brother. "Shut up!" she snapped.

Paul halted immediately. Colby's hair was red for a reason. She could go up in flames if someone pushed her too far. He regarded De La Cruz with intense satisfaction. He was about to be publicly put in his place. The crowd was certainly big enough.

Colby caught at Rafael's arm, momentarily taken aback by the sheer hardness of it. It was like clutching a piece of iron.

"Stop it, Rafael, right now!" She attempted to place herself between the two men, but Rafael glided around her easily, keeping his body squarely in between her and Harris. It only made Colby angrier. "I don't want you handling my problems. You understand me, not ever again. This is my business." She understood power, understood, better than most people, the need to stay continually in control, but she was so angry with both men she attempted to drag Rafael away from Tony by his arm without much success.

Harris took the opportunity to stumble away, clutching at his smashed face with both hands. Over the top of Colby's head, Rafael watched him go, red flames still flickering in the depths of his eyes.

"Damn it, Rafael." He was making Colby feel like a fly buzzing around him. She slugged him in the chest, all her pent-up anger behind her well-thrown punch.

He stood towering over her, blinking down at her as if seeing her for the first time. Slowly amusement crept across his sensual features, warmed the bitter ice in his eyes. Did you hit me, querida? His voice was soft, sexy, intimate there in the middle of the street, making her blood heat and body clench, and that made her angry enough to want to strike him again.

"Don't be funny." She would not be charmed by him. She would not feel her body melting and pooling with hot heat. "You stay out of my business. If I don't want Tony Harris mauling me, I'll handle it myself. You've made the situation ten times worse; the entire town knows something happened, thanks to you. In case you've forgotten, you're in the United States, not Brazil, and here we call the sheriff."

He picked her up easily, casually, right there in front of everyone, cradling her against his chest, moving back up the street toward her truck with effortless long strides. "You know I would not stay away when you are injured, Colby." His voice whispered over her, velvet soft, irresistible. Magic. There was possession in his burning gaze, and something else, something wild and primitive, as if he wasn't yet finished with Tony Harris. "And I am not about to allow another man to put his hands on you."

Colby reached up to touch his mouth. Her fingers trailed over the lines etched so deeply, lines of strain and weariness that had not been there before, reminding her he had awakened before Nicolas said he should. There were faint marks on his face, slowly receding but evidence of the claws that tore at him. He had suffered terribly to provide a barrier for her. She smoothed her hand over his heart, wondering if the bite marks were still there. Something softened inside of her when she didn't want it to. "I can handle Tony Harris," she said more gently than she intended. "Our laws don't allow people to just go out and kill someone because you don't like what they do."

"Our laws are very clear." There was no emotion in his voice, just a dead calm and a merciless slash to his mouth.

"Tony's a bully."

"Tony is going to learn a lesson he should have learned a long time ago or he will not be around to bother women anymore."

"Don't, Rafael. I know you could really hurt him, even from a distance, but it isn't right. Just don't." Her temper was rising in direct proportion to the pain in her leg and the implacable set of his jaw.

"If you want me to say I will not touch this man, I cannot lie to you and I refuse to make such a promise. If this man ever attempts to lay his hands on you, he will not get another chance. Ever." He said it with complete finality.

"How very macho. I'm really impressed. So is Louise. For God's sake, put me down, I feel like a fool. I'm quite capable of walking" To her horror tears welled up out of nowhere. Damn the man. The entire town was looking on, smirking at her, right under Louise's gloating gaze.

"Stop struggling, Colby, or I will command you to do so," he bit out. "What did you expect me to do, querida? I could not allow that poor excuse of a man to touch you. You are bleeding and in pain. I am your lifemate and it is my duty and my right to see to your care. I intend to do just that."

She felt it then, deep inside him, the volcanic rage that had not been allowed near the surface when he faced Harris. Barely leashed, barely controlled. Her large eyes were swimming with tears and it added to the fury burning in his gaze as it roamed over her face. "I just want to go home, Rafael." Away from here, away from you. It slipped into her thoughts before she could prevent it.

A muscle jerked in his jaw. I will never, ever, give you up. Not now, not ever. We should be past this. There was a lash to the quiet whip of his voice.

Past this? Are you crazy? I have a few issues, you know. Like you pulling a man's heart right out of his chest. That isn't done, Rafael.

He deposited her very gently on the seat of the pickup truck, ignoring Paul's black scowl. "Move, kid, I'm driving." He said it softly, but there was something in his voice, a warning note that had Paul shrugging helplessly at his sister before jumping into the back of the truck.

Nothing dared defy Rafael's power and the truck started up immediately.

"Do you know how to drive?" Colby asked.

His black eyes flicked over her and then he stared at the road, driving straight through town, narrowly missing Tony Harris as the man stood by his car. "You were thinking of leaving me. And you defend that poor excuse of a man."

"Of course I was thinking of leaving you." She glared at him. "Do you think I'm nuts? And damn Tony Harris. Do you think this is about him? It isn't about Tony, Rafael, it's about you nearly killing me. Do you think I'm going to fall into your arms and trust you not only with my life, but with Paul and Ginny's lives?"

There was a small silence. "I can explain about that, Colby."

For the first time Rafael seemed hesitant. Her eyebrow shot up. "I don't want to take a chance that Paul might hear. Let's wait until we're at the house. But you are going to explain. All I'm thinking about right now is the way my leg is hurting," she added and knocked on the window. Paul slid it aside. "Hand over the pain pills. I'm taking all of them."

Paul put the bottle in her hand and Rafael took it out. "You do not need those."

"How do you know? It hurts like hell." She glared at him. "You're making me crazy. You really are. You did something to tie us together and then you got yourself nearly killed and left me to go sleep in the ground. Give me the pills."

"No. And you do not need to chastise me, I have done so enough for both of us."

"Maybe enough for you, but it will never be enough for me." She let her breath out slowly and lay back against the seat. "My leg really hurts, Rafael."

"I am aware of it. I feel what you feel, remember? It is not good to use such medications; you are partially in my world and your body will reject such things."

"Like the way it's rejecting food?" she asked, glaring at him. He glanced down at the bandage. "The doctor sewed your leg. Very barbaric."

"Should he have packed it with dirt and spit in it? Maybe shoved me in a grave and left me there for a few days?"

"Just be quiet." He knew she had a mad desire to leap out of the truck. She was confused and agitated and the pain was making her feel sick. "I'm pulling over so I can relieve the pain in your leg."

Colby didn't argue. If he could take it away, she'd be more than grateful. He found a small sheltered area on the winding road and pulled off so he could focus his attention completely on Colby. Rafael sent himself seeking outside his body, allowing it to fall away and leave behind a light, pure energy, traveling into her body to heal her from the inside out. He took his time to repair her leg carefully, ensuring the swelling was gone, the ragged edges would become seamless, and the injuries to the muscle and tissue inside were healed.

When he pulled back into his own body he leaned over her, touching her leg with gentle fingers. "Does that feel better?"

Colby could only stare up into his dark eyes, drowning there like an idiot when she wanted to be strong. Her leg felt perfectly fine, but the lines in his face were etched deeper than ever. "You shouldn't have done that."

"I had no choice." He bent to kiss the corner of her mouth, her eyelids, the tip of her nose. "You scared me. Do not ever do that again." He reached for her wrist, the one she had slashed open to save his life. He brought it to his mouth, his tongue moving over the faint scar.

The intimacy of it sent heat curling through her body. "Rafael, you need to heal more yourself." She could feel hunger beating at him, a living, breathing monster that roared for attention. "You should take care of your own needs."

"I am taking care of my needs." His voice was low and husky, a seduction on all of her senses.

The shadow was the only warning, dark and ominous and filled with a black kind of evil as it loomed over the two of them. The door jerked open behind her, nearly spilling Colby out of the truck. She screamed in shock and horror as her brother, his face twisted into a mask of hatred, lunged at her with a knife.