Epilogue

"Rafael! Colby!" Ginny called, waving wildly. "Come see this."

Rafael swept his arm around Colby, pulling her beneath his shoulder, close to the warmth of his body, as they walked through the indoor arena to Ginny. She sat astride a dark mare, her face glowing with happiness over her latest accomplishment. "I can finally jump the way Julio wants me to. Look at me." It had taken Ginny several weeks to adjust to riding an English saddle, but she had practiced until she was very competent and her uncles had pronounced her ready to jump.

"She's beaming," Colby whispered to Rafael. "Look at her, she's blossomed here with all this family around her."

"She actually gets to spend more time with you," Paul said, coming up behind them. "Before, you worked so much we rarely had a chance to really talk to you, but now, we have you every morning and almost as soon as we come back from school."

"You seem to really enjoy Julio and Juan," Colby said. "You spend a lot of time with them." They reminded her so much of Armando she ached sometimes looking at them. She studied her brother, who looked so much like his father and uncles. He seemed older and more sober since his ordeal with the vampire.

"I'm learning a lot from them," Paul admitted. He waved at Ginny as horse and rider cantered around the arena. "They know so much about horses and they tell us stories about Dad when he was younger."

"Have we heard from Sean? Are things going well on the ranch?" Colby asked.

Paul nodded. "He called last night. He's got two couples working the ranch. Ben's doing fine. Apparently he had a long talk with Tony Harris and Tony admitted to causing most of accidents on the ranch, but he denies starting the fire."

"Clinton Daniels's man, Ernie Carter, was the vampire's puppet," Rafael said. "He started the fire."

Paul glanced up at Rafael and then his gaze shifted hastily away. "I suppose he did."

Through her link with Rafael, Colby felt the wince of shame in her brother. She frowned and put a comforting hand on his arm, but Rafael spoke before she could.

"I never had a chance to thank you for saving your sister's life." Rafael said it in his usual low voice, a whisper of power in every word he spoke. "The vampire would have killed her had you not been so strong."

Paul sucked in his breath, turning his head away, but not before Colby caught the struggle of emotions on his face. "I did terrible things. Nicolas offered to remove my memories, but I don't want that. He said I would sometimes feel the way I was feeling now, but not know why." He hung his head. "I'd rather know there was a good reason for it."

"You have nothing to be ashamed of, Paul," Rafael said. "You are entirely human with no psychic ability, yet you fought a monster who was so strong that not even our most powerful hunters could have defeated him alone. Even with the help of another hunter, I nearly died fighting him. But you, Paul, stayed strong. You delayed him, hindered his plans more than once, and in the end, you managed to warn us that he was going after your sister. You should be proud of yourself."

Paul nodded, but swallowed hard, his eyes still reflecting misery. He turned to meet Colby's gaze squarely. "Ginny saw me cut my wrist. I tried to send her from the room. I couldn't stop myself. I'll never forget her expression." He glanced at his younger sister as she rode around the arena, practicing posting.

Colby swallowed the sudden lump in her throat. "Ginny isn't a baby anymore, Paulo. And Nicolas took the memory from her mind. You did your best and that's all anyone could ever ask of you."

"I had my heart ripped out by the vampire," Rafael admitted. "You knew that, you felt it, but what you didn't know was I had already bound Colby to me. If I had died, she would have eventually followed me. If there is shame, it is mine, not yours. We couldn't be prouder of you."

"Is that why Nicolas allowed me to know about the Carpathian people?"

Rafael nodded. "And we hope Ginny will someday understand what her sister is. We hope the two of you will stay close to us, here in this country among your family."

A small grin lit Paul's eyes. "Are you planning on providing me with a niece or nephew to make it worth my while?"

Colby smacked him. "Very funny. I'm just getting used to the idea of all of this."

"Ginny wants you to have a wedding with a long white gown and all the trimmings," Paul pointed out.

Nicolas came up behind them. "All women seem to want those ceremonies. Why is that? Juliette, Riordan's lifemate, has brought this up many times and it makes no sense to me at all."

Paul laughed. "It wouldn't make sense to you, Nicolas." His banter with Nicolas surprised her, and more to Colby's astonishment, Nicolas punched her brother in the arm. Paul just grinned at him and attempted to look superior. "Women like to dress up."

"Not me," Colby denied firmly. "No one is getting me up in front of the world vowing I'll obey Rafael."

Rafael raised his eyebrow. "There is the promise of obedience in this marriage ceremony? Paul, we have to talk."

"That's never going to happen," Colby said.

"Paul." Juan waved at the boy to come to him. Paul immediately responded, running over to his uncle to listen to his advice on jumping.

Colby could hardly take her eyes off her brother and sister. "Have either of you heard from Vikirnoff? Where is he? Where'd he go? He didn't even give me a chance to say good-bye after he helped so much with Rafael."

"He is searching for the woman," Nicolas answered. "I believe he is on his way to the Carpathian Mountains."

"Do you ever think of going there?" she asked curiously.

"Someday, we will go back to visit," Rafael said. "But this is our home now."

Colby listened to the sound of Paul's laughter as he answered his uncle's teasing. It had become all too rare in their life. She watched Juan throw an arm around her brother's shoulder in a casual display of affection. Julio was applauding and shouting encouragement to Ginny. Both children looked far more relaxed than she'd ever seen them. She turned to find Rafael watching her with his dark, mesmerizing eyes.

"Is it good?" he asked.

"It's very good," she answered.

Christine King Feehan

Christine King was born in California, USA. She grew up with 10 sisters and 3 brothers. She spent a lot of time getting in trouble at school for writing instead of doing the things she was supposed to do. Later she forced her ten sisters to read every word. She said: "I've been a writer all of my life ┬ĘC it is who I am. I write for myself and always have. The ability to create pictures and emotions with words is such a miracle to me. I read everything. I mean everything. All kinds of books, even encyclopedias. I am fascinated by the written word and I love storytellers. It is a great privilege to be counted one myself."

Living in the beautiful mountains of Lake County, she always loved hiking, camping, rafting and being outdoors. She has also been involved in the martial arts for years- she hold a third-degree black belt, instruct in a Korean karate system and has taught self defense.

She published her first novel "Dark Prince" in 1999, starting a paranormal saga. Her debut novel won 3 of the 9 Paranormal Excellence Awards in Romantic Literature for 1999. She also has earned 7 more PEARL awards. She has received numerous honors throughout her career including being a nominee for the RWA's RITA and receiving a Career Achievement Award from the Romantic Times.

Christine is married to Richard Feehan with whom she has 11 children. Today, her daughters read and help her edit her manuscripts.