Razvan and Ivory burst through the soil together, coming up out of the earth's arms after weeks of healing underground. The sensation of breathing air again was strange after so long sharing the soil and its healing properties. The moon was a full silver ball in the clear sky, glowing softly and casting light over the snow-covered terrain. Ivory, cautious as always, scanned their surroundings for any hint of danger.

Razvan followed her lead, reveling in his growing Carpathian knowledge. He stretched as he made a full circle, using all of his senses to gather information. He realized he saw and felt differently. He even processed differently. Before, as a Carpathian at full strength, he had been astonished at the flood of information coming to him, but now it was even more intense. It was if the earth spoke to him, whispered her secrets, and ferreted out the smallest detail to share with him. He had changed somehow, beneath the ground. The soil shared something unnamed with him, allowing the trees and plants, the soil itself to pour a wealth of knowledge into him.

He turned his head to look at his lifemate. She was wearing her familiar fighting garb, the double-breasted vest and pants that molded to her long legs. Her hair was in the thick long braid that signaled business. He loved watching her move, all flowing muscle and soft curves.

"What?" She smiled at him with genuine warmth. There was happiness in her eyes, and with a glow of satisfaction, he knew that he had brought it into her life.

"You are beautiful." He bent his head and took a tentative lick along his newly healed arm where the white lines clearly matched hers. "I bet if I were to taste you at this precise moment, you would taste of salt and sin." There was a high concentration of minerals in his skin, and he could discern the complex mineral recipe that had been used to heal both of them. He had been revitalized, with trace minerals flowing through his blood, and all of the elements pressed into his body to allow it to reemerge whole again.

"I want to see your wounds."

Her gaze flicked to his face. "I do not understand."

"I know the vampire injured you, Ivory, and you took care of me rather than heal your wounds. I need to see what is left of the damage."

"Really, scratches. Nothing."

His eyebrow raised. "I recall his shoving an arrow into your breast right over your heart." As he spoke a ripple of pain crossed his face. "When you pulled your hand from his chest it was nearly severed." Razvan swallowed hard, his dark brows coming together in a frown. "He withdrew the arrow from your body, twisting it to do the most damage, and plunged it two inches lower, driving it deep. He was enormously strong and he punched your breast, right over your heart, with tremendous force. I heard your sternum crack."

Had he? She didn't even remember. She remembered Razvan had come to her aid in spite of his condition, sending a fiery blast at Sergey's back, shoving him onto her fist so she could get to the blackened heart. When Sergey had attacked by bringing down the house and forming spears that flew at her from everywhere, Razvan had used his strength to form a barrier around her, taking the brunt of the wooden spears in his own body.

"He broke your wrist."

How had he noticed when he had been so horribly mutilated? Ivory shook her head, unable to speak, not when his gaze moved over her body with brooding allure, touching her in places deep and secret and feminine.

He had to quit reciting the list of her injuries, so pale in comparison to his own. His voice was so gentle, she couldn't get it out of her head. The way he looked at her body when he spoke, as if her injuries were all that mattered to him, the healing of them, the fact that the vampire had hurt her. When she touched his mind, she felt nothing but his need to make certain, to see for himself, that she was wholly healed.

"Mother Earth and the healer aided me, and several Carpathians including the prince gave us blood to speed our healing process. I am fine."


There was a note in his voice that fascinated, thrilled and repelled her all at once. She was unsure how to react to his demand and that confused her.

"What would you have me do?"

He held out his hand to hers. "Let me see."

She moistened her lips, feeling a little shaky, on unfamiliar ground, but she held out her hand to him so he could see the faint lines where the earth had healed the lacerations and knit the bone back together. She was unprepared for the feeling of his gentle fingers stroking over her skin. She felt his touch all the way to her deepest core, and then her heart stood still while his mouth moved over each of the faint white lines and his tongue swirled and stroked a velvet pleasure over her skin.

"You do taste like salt and sin," he said, and his voice roughened with hunger.

She pulled her arm away. "Are you satisfied?"

He shook his head, his gaze locked on hers. "Open your vest."

Her breath actually hitched in her lungs, burned there, raw and hot. Her womb clenched and spasmed, sending ripples of urgent need radiating through her body. His request wasn't sexual. It didn't need to be sexual. Her body didn't have to grow damp and hot with flames licking over her skin and turning her blood into a molten stream that thickened in her veins. She could just be cool about this, one warrior reassuring another. Her hands went to the silver buckles.

"Let me."

His voice was husky, maybe even shook a little, but it made her weak. So much so that she obeyed his silent command when his hands came up and covered hers to halt her unsteady fingers and gently push them aside. The pads of his fingers brushed against the swell of her breast, sending ripples of awareness through her body. His gaze remained locked with hers as he slowly unbuckled the vest and allowed her full breasts to emerge. Only then did he drop his gaze.

She heard him inhale. A sharp, sexy sound that curled her toes. She felt his breath warm her breasts, and her nipples answered by hardening into two tight peaks. She felt exposed, vulnerable, but she couldn't move, mesmerized by the look on his face, the stark, raw desire, the unrelenting hunger and admiration in his eyes. When he stroked his fingertips, feather-light, over the faint lines along the swell of her breast and then again lower, his thumb brushing along her nipple, lightning streaked from breast to belly and then lower, so that her thighs spasmed and her core grew hotter and wetter.

Razvan bent his head toward her. She wanted to stop him. She thought to take a step back, terrified of the feelings coursing through her body and the sudden terrible need that welled up out of nowhere, threatening her hard-won peace of mind. She had chosen him, but she hadn't considered that the physical and emotional pull between them would be so strong. She could barely breathe when he touched her, and she had no control over her body's reaction to him. She held her breath, waiting. Wanting.

His hair touched her first. Soft strands of black and white silk brushing seductively over her skin. Every cell in her body came to life. The breath burned in her lungs. Her fingers curled into fists at her sides as she struggled not to bury them in his hair and cradle his head to her. She was in his mind, and knew this inspection was as necessary to him as breathing. And now it was to her.

At the first gentle touch of his mouth she jumped, and in spite of her every intention, she found her hands buried in that silky fall of hair. His tongue flicked out to swirl over each line and circle, to flick over her nipple, sending darts of fire racing to her belly and spreading even lower. Her hands tugged him closer even as a low moan escaped. His tongue slid along each line, his healing saliva providing a balm to the deep ache that was still there.

When he lifted his head, his eyes were so dark they were almost black, so blue they were like midnight and so hot with desire she thought she might melt. Her hands trembled and she forced her fingers to let go of the silky strands so he could stand tall. She just stood there while he slowly buckled her vest, enclosing her breasts behind the tight leather.

Ivory took a deep breath, shaken, but proud of herself for standing. "Are you satisfied?"

Razvan's eyes lit up with a male amusement and he deliberately shifted to ease the thick bulge in his trousers. "Not hardly, but I have assured myself you are healing well, and that will do for now."

The color crept up her neck. She shook her head. "You are crazy, but in a good way." She looked back toward the rich black soil, desperate to find something to divert her attention-to divert his attention from her. She gestured toward the ground where they could see the traces of excessive salt running like king's gold in deep veins through the darker loam where the wolf pack still lay sleeping.

"Are you ready for this? They have been attended to by others, Vikirnoff and Nicolas, Natalya sometimes, but they will be ravenous for us. Feeding is part of the ritual of sealing the pack together. They're like my children."

Razvan knew she needed the distraction to feel in control again. Emotions were difficult for her. His heart fluttered in his chest and he found himself smiling at her. Happy. Just to be alive. Just to be with her on this crisp, cold evening, with the moon spilling light over her blue-black hair, framing her face so that she looked as angelic as she did sexy.

"I am certain they will be happy to be out of the ground after all these weeks," he agreed. "Let us do this and bring our family back together."

He found he was as anxious as she to see the wolves. They had become family to him. He had spent so long in her mind that her deep affection for the pack members had transferred to him as well. "As children go, they are a fairly wild bunch."

Ivory laughed with him, sharing his humor over the pack. She stretched her arms and called softly to her pack. "Awake brothers and sisters. We will run free this night. Come with me. Join with me."

She sent Razvan another quick smile that managed to raise his temperature and quicken his heartbeat. The soil boiled up into a geyser and one by one the six wolves leapt free, shaking their gorgeous silver coats and rushing to Ivory, nearly knocking her over. She sank to the ground, laughing, her arms surrounding them as they greeted her with more enthusiasm than manners.

Raja and his mate, Ayame, turned to Razvan and he sank down beside Ivory, surprised when the big male leapt at his chest and rubbed his body along Razvan's in greeting. He realized just as he had accepted the pack as family, they had accepted him as Ivory's mate. Joy swept through him. A family. Another gift from Ivory. He sank his fingers into the thick fur and roughhoused a little, ignoring the show of teeth, feeling the wolf's laughing intent.

Each animal took its turn coming to him and greeting him, being welcomed by him and reaffirming its position in the pack. He found he was particularly fond of Blaez, the second-in-command. He was quietly confident and very alert to danger, taking his cues from Raja, yet guarding the pack with a fierceness that told Razvan he would have had a pack of his own had his circumstances been different. He felt that same fierce protec tiveness toward Ivory and the pack, and there was a sense of kinship when he stroked his hand through the thick fur and scratched the alert ears.

The pack was eager to feed, needing the bond, and he waited for Ivory to make the decision on how she wanted them fed.

You feed Raja and Ayame and then I will. Next Blaez and his mate Gynger. Last will be Farkas and his mate, Rikki. If we start off that way, they will accept your leadership faster.

The offer of leadership in the pack was another great gift. He knew, after a century of being led by Ivory, they would always respect her and follow her, and she was now stepping aside in order to get the pack to follow his lead as well.

It is not necessary. I do not mind the present order. I may end up planning our battles but you will be leading us. I will protect you with everything in me.

She looked at him with soft eyes. "I mind. I want them to accept you as I have."

His stomach clenched in response, his groin thickening. But it was his heart that was most in danger. He drank her in as he offered his wrist to Raja, the rich beauty of her, not so much her physical body, but the light in her soul that shone over his.

The silver alpha wolf looked at Ivory and then obediently trotted over to Razvan and accepted the first feeding as was his due. Razvan fed the big male, all the while keeping his gaze locked on Ivory.

For so long he'd had nobody in his world, no one to send him warmth, to make him smile, to care whether he lived or died-and yet now there she was, sitting like some forest princess in the middle of her unusual wolf pack, willing to share her life with his, even if it was so he could aid her in destroying Xavier. He would take that-he'd take any reason at all, as long as she included him in her family.

"You are as essential to me as the air I breathe or the soil we rest in." He wanted her to know that he would have chosen her no matter what their destiny had been. He wanted her to know that because of her, the sacrifices in his life had been more than worthwhile.

She shot him a look from under her thick lashes. "You are my lifemate, my other half."

He smiled at her, refusing to feel a sting at her reminder. She didn't have to feel the same way. "That is not what I am saying to you. I am not asking for anything in return, Ivory. I just felt it was important for you to know how I feel."

The alphas were finished feeding from Ivory now and the second pair took their place as the smallest ones fed on Razvan. He was beginning to get a little dizzy. Ivory hadn't been kidding when she said they would wake up ravenous and would want to bond with the ritual blood.

Ivory ducked her head and he saw her fingers curl deeper into Gynger's thick pelt. The tip of her tongue moistened her bottom lip, drawing his immediate attention. He'd made her nervous again, and that endeared his fierce warrior to him all the more. She wasn't the least bit comfortable talking about emotions. The wolves pressing close to her and winding around their mates seemed to give her the necessary impetus to answer him.

Her chin came up and her eyes reluctantly met his briefly before her long lashes once again veiled them. "You mistake my meaning."

That was all he was going to get out of her, but it was enough for him. The slow burn that started in his belly mixed with the blaze of love in his heart, making for a potent combination. He savored the feeling of wanting her. He had never thought he would feel that for a woman. He abhorred the crimes his body had committed and never thought to feel the powerful draw between lifemates for himself, yet every moment in her company strengthened his emotions for her and the urgent needs of his body.

He knew, deep inside, a beast had been awakened by this one woman. Only she could set that part of him free. Only she could tame that wild part of his nature. He watched her fingers move through the fur of the wolves and knew he wanted those same fingers stroking his skin. He had kissed her in their shared dream and he could taste her in his mouth, on his tongue, filling his senses with the wild rain of her, the scent and taste of a new storm washing the forest clean.

Laughing, amazed that he was alive and with her, he reached for the change, let it take him, the wonderful wrenching of muscle and bone, the stretch of tendons and sinew as his body bent and changed, as his skin itched and then fur burst through, his own luxurious pelt of black and silver, the markings distinct. His muzzle was elongated, his mouth filled with teeth and the delicious sense of freedom. His paws were large and moved over the snow and ice easily as he circled around his mate, pushing playfully at her with his nose.

The pack instantly pushed up against him, eager for the run, tails up and swishing as they nudged their noses against Ivory, wanting her to hurry.

"Okay, okay, you monsters," she acquiesced, laughing.

Through his wolf's eyes, Razvan watched her embrace the change, going to ground, the movement graceful and fast, so that one moment she was standing tall, elegant and beautiful, and in the next she was on all fours, a sleek, gorgeous wolf with a silvery coat. There was no mistaking her eyes; they glowed a soft amber as she looked at him, her mouth smiling.

The pack immediately went to her as they had done to him, lowering their bodies in submission. She rubbed her body along theirs, accepting their homage, and then the pack went crazy, leaping around playfully, wagging tails held high, bowing toward one another and then pouncing, rolling in the snow and coming up laughing.

Razvan felt Ivory's laughter and then she lifted her head to the moon and howled for the sheer elation of it. Laughing, he joined her, adding his voice, claiming the territory, letting the pack sing their joyful music. The wild notes rang through the trees, lifted to the stars and moon and then there was silence as Ivory lifted her nose to scent the wind.

She took off running, streaking through the trees with the pack close on her heels, and Razvan discovered the sheer enjoyment of running in the pack. The wolf's body was made for running, the slight webbing between the toes allowing him to race lightly and easily over the snow. Because the wolf walked on its toes, he found his weight was evenly distributed, making the body more efficient for running. Razvan loved the new form, reveling in the way his muscles stretched and contracted as he loped along, covering large amounts of ground, easily springing over fallen logs.

All the while he ran, and the pack left evidence of their passing through the glands on their feet, marking the trail for one another and warning others away. At first Ivory set a fast pace, running flat out, letting the pack feel their bodies again, the flow of muscle, the wealth of information, the sound of the forest. He could hear the water trickling below the ice and the way the needles rustled in the snow-laden branches overhead as the wind blew just hard enough to send the limbs swaying.

The scent of rabbit and fox was heavy, as well as that of an abundance of other forest creatures, all shivering in silence as the pack passed through their territories. Ivory swerved left, away from the Carpathian village toward the caves and sacred places the Carpathians used in their rituals. She didn't want her pack to run into any local wolves. As a rule she kept an uneasy truce between her pack and any others they encountered, but for now they were exercising their freedom and deserved to go unscathed through any territory they chose.

She was proud of them for their roles in saving the farmer and his family; at least, she hoped the little girl was still alive. No one had told her one way or the other, although she could understand why. They had all been amazed at the volume of minerals and elements the earth had encased her and Razvan in, a primordial mixture of everything needed to revitalize and repair them. The earth had done so centuries earlier for her alone, without the healing aid or blood of the Carpathians. It had been a struggle to find enough blood to maintain life.

She had been nearly insane those long years, merely existing without thought for anything but survival and, in the intervening years, she had accepted her solitary life. Now, Razvan ran beside her, his shoulder occasionally brushing hers, his heart beating in rhythm with hers. Every step through the snow, winding through the trees, fording a small, still-unfrozen river and skirting ice edgings was so much more fun.

I forgot about fun.

And there was that. Mind to mind. She wasn't alone anymore and never would be again. Once Razvan had bound them together she had merged her soul with his, her body with his, mind and heart, until they were literally one in spirit. He had experienced her life, just as she had experienced his. There was nothing they could hide from one another. She didn't know which was worse, the psychological damage Xavier had inflicted on Razvan or the torture. Once his aunts had turned him, she was certain that as a Carpathian male, the worst would have been being used to breed children for Xavier to consume. And also betraying his sister, desperate to send her warnings, only to have Xavier corrupt each message until the mage had nearly trapped her.

As she loped across a field of white, Ivory moved closer to him, wanting to experience his first time as a wolf, wanting to be the one to give him joyful memories to ease the worst of his experiences. He stretched his neck and ran it along hers as he moved, and she felt him move in her mind, surrounding her will with warmth.

I am having the time of my life. I have never had such fun. I am not certain I would have known how to have fun without you showing me. I suppose one needs to have a companion to share this kind of adventure with to really savor it.

She liked the way he thought. Mostly she just liked his company. They played hide-and-seek in the trees and covered each other in snow. At one point Raja initiated a strange game of dog pile and Razvan seemed to be the one the wolves all leapt on, rolling in the snow and down an embankment, with Ivory laughing at him.

Razvan surged to his feet, reveling in the wolf's strength, shaking his body to loosen the snow clinging to his black undercoat and the silver tips of his fur. Ivory leapt from the bank and hit him with her shoulder, sending them both tumbling back down the slope, rolling so that the ice crystals clung to their fur. When they rose, they looked like two wolves carved of snow.

Razvan rubbed his body along Ivory's, helping to get the snow off before turning and directing the pack back toward the Carpathian homes scattered throughout the forest. It was an amazing feeling to have the entire pack follow him. Ivory was just two or three paces behind, all of them trotting in ground-eating silence. The wind was in his face, the night air singing to him, smaller animals scurrying away to safety as he led the wolves through the forest, giving the pack their due, knowing who ruled there in that moment.

Both Ivory and Razvan needed to feed before they went to their lair, and he was eager to go, to get out of Carpathian territory. It was one thing to "see" his sister and daughter from a distance, to be told he might have a second and third daughter he knew nothing about. But to face them and watch them judge him-that was much more difficult.

It matters little to us, Razvan. I know who you are. And I know what is in your heart and soul. If they choose to look at you with suspicion . . .

As they should, he reminded gently, hearing the protective note in her voice. But it warmed him that she did know his heart and soul. She knew him better than anyone else, and if he was strictly honest, he had to admit that having one person in the world know what his life had been, what his sacrifices were, mattered.

You are a miracle, Ivory. It is good to know there is one person who holds my true life in her memories. Why did it matter so much now, when he had accepted for so long that he was branded traitor, criminal, most despised and despicable Carpathian on the face of the earth. Just the thought that Ivory might believe he had bred children for the sole purpose of using their blood to feed his longevity made him ill.

Do not, Razvan. I have shared all of your life, even the most hazy of your memories. Whatever your body was directed to do, it was not your spirit, the essence of who you are, that allowed it to happen.

He had to concede she was right. But my choices led to him using my body.

I have come to believe that fate hands us our destiny. Maybe I needed to endure the things in my life to be worthy of traveling by your side. Maybe you needed to endure your life in order to fulfill a great destiny. What we did shaped us and honed us into what we are now.

And what she was-was everything. He turned his face from hers, hiding his eyes as he continued up the trail leading to the prince's home. There was so much emotion in him for her that he didn't dare let her see, afraid of scaring her. She was so fragile when it came to accepting actual love. He tasted the word on his tongue, found it belonged in his heart. Yes, he was in love with his lifemate, and the emotion grew stronger with every minute spent in her company.

Razvan lifted his head and sent a questing call to the prince, announcing the presence of the pack. He knew Raven, the prince's lifemate, was pregnant and close to delivery. The entire Carpathian people anticipated the event and, no doubt, so did Xavier. That alone would make some of them suspicious about the timing of Razvan's appearance. It was best if they paid their respects and left as quickly and as quietly as possible.

Do you think Xavier will make a move against the prince's child?

I have no doubt, especially if the child is male. Razvan considered it carefully. He will have to make his move. He hates the Dubrinsky family above all else. They represent the power of an immortal race.

We can be killed, Ivory pointed out. As such we are not truly immortal.

When Xavier looks in the mirror, his flesh is rotting off the bone, and he looks at you, what do you think he wants? He stays alive now only by the blood of others, and yet every day he is slipping more and more. The blood cannot change his rotting brain. His entire life he has fought to defeat that family. He must do so now.

Then we must be ready for him. This might be our chance, Razvan, but we will need time to prepare for the battle. There was not so much eagerness as purpose in Ivory's voice.

That is probably why the master vampire was in the area. He searches for Xavier.

She drew in her breath sharply, skidding to a halt there in the deep forest. Razvan stopped immediately and turned back to her, shifting to his normal form. She followed his example, unknowing that her face was as pale as the snow beneath their feet.

"What is it?"

His voice was gentle. His eyes were gentle. Everything about him was, except for his strength, that deep, abiding, relentless strength that meant he would never stop. He didn't put his arm around her to comfort her-she would have pulled away. He simply put one hand on her shoulder and looked her straight in the eye, questioning. Not once did he invade to demand an answer. He stood there, simply looking at her, waiting for her to confide in him. She found him irresistible.

"As you know, Sergey was my brother. Long ago, in another time, he was my brother, yet he joined our greatest enemy. The very man who had me torn apart. He became the very thing that Xavier used to chop me into pieces and scatter me to the wolves. They laughed, Razvan. I can still hear them sometimes when I first awaken from beneath the soil. I tell myself he is not my brother, but it was my brother who made this choice. He wanted to become vampire. He chose to go into league with Xavier. He did these things not to avenge me, but for power. Because my brothers believed the Carpathian people should follow them. They want power."

She didn't want that knowledge to hurt anymore. She wasn't that same naive young woman who adored her brothers and believed the best of everyone. She knew Prince Vlad had sent her to Xavier's school, not to help her but to get her out of his son's sight. She looked at Razvan, unaware of the tears in her eyes. "It still hurts."

This time he did pull her close in that same gentle, slow way. He wrapped his arms around her and pressed her face into his shoulder and just stood, silently offering her comfort. She thought his compassion might diminish her somehow, but it only filled her with warmth and steadied her as nothing else could. She wasn't that young girl anymore, but she wasn't alone either. She had Razvan, and somehow he fit her like a second skin.

"I am all right," she whispered, pressing a kiss along his neck. The blood pounded there, calling to her. Her body stirred restlessly and she felt the instant answering heat of his. "It was a momentary weakness, passed now."

"Not weakness, fel ku kuuluaak sivam belso-beloved. You are supposed to feel whatever you can. Regret, sorrow, pain, even betrayal. There is reason for sadness in that, for the loss of a loved one. Grief. You do not dwell on these things, but you must feel them. It is part of life."

She sent him a small smile, pressed one last kiss against his neck just to feel his warmth and take in his masculine scent. She stood there, her body leaning into his, her face buried against his throat, and she knew she could face anything with him. "We certainly can say all those things have been part of our lives," she agreed, forcing a briskness into her voice to cover the emotion that threatened to spill over as she stepped away from him.

His fingers curled around her arm, slid down to her wrist and remained there like a bracelet. She couldn't look at him, not when her heart was so full. She felt silly and shy and out of her comfort zone. No one had touched her with such disarming tenderness. No one looked at her with such desire or love. She could only handle so much attention after being alone for centuries.

He cupped her chin in his palm and forced her head up, waiting until her long lashes lifted the veil over her eyes and their gazes locked together. She felt the rush of heat, like a drug pouring through her veins.

"You are a very dangerous man, Dragonseeker," she whispered.

His slow smile set off a burn, low and sinfully wicked.

"That is just as well, warrior woman, as you are the most dangerous woman I know." There was gentle amusement in his voice. And pure velvet heat.

He leaned his head down toward hers, taking his time in that slow, measured way he had. The way she knew he would stroke her skin. The way he touched her with the pads of his fingers, so light, but savoring, a slow burn that spread until the fire raged out of control, refusing to be dampened or extinguished.

She could feel her body tightening. Her breasts aching. Her womb spasming. His breath was warm and male. She couldn't close her eyes. She watched his face change as he came closer and closer to her. The way he looked, those worn lines softening, the wonder on his face and the building hunger in his eyes. She could see his long lashes, thick and full, the only really feminine thing about him, when his body was all hard muscle and strong, broad bones.

His breath took hers. Exchanged. He breathed for her. In her. He took her over, with that same slow, measured stroke of his mind. And then his lips were on hers and a heat wave rushed over her. White lightning streaked in her veins, electricity sizzled and snapped over her skin until she was lost, drowning in the pure fire of his kiss.

Ivory didn't know how it happened, but she found herself with her arms circling his neck and her mouth fused to his, her body pressing close. She felt a shudder run through his body, and hers trembled in answer. She wanted to stay there, just like that, in that perfect moment, with happiness and hunger singing through her veins. She tried to quench the desire rising like a tidal wave, swamping her, but there was no way to stop the rising need.

His lips left hers and trailed seductively from the corner of her mouth to her chin, to her throat; a burning fire at the swell of her breast. She felt the scrape of his teeth and she moaned, the sound breathy and a little desperate. His tongue swirled over the soft mound. Her breath caught in her throat. Another sound escaped. Her fingers fisted in his glorious hair as his teeth sank deep and the erotic pain burst into a swelling pleasure that spread through her body faster than lightning strikes to settle into a throbbing beat pulsing between her legs.

She wound one leg around his and cradled his head, trying not to cry at the pleasure crashing through her. He savored the taste of her like a fine wine, not gulping or tearing, but drawing the essence of her life and the exotic flavor of her into him slowly. His hands slid down her back and pressed her hips forward so that she could feel him hard and hot against her. Just as she thought she might drown completely, or sob and plead with him to complete their bonding, his tongue swept over the pinpricks.

His breathing was ragged, his eyes hot and a little wild. He simply tore his shirt open and pressed the back of her head with his hand. His fingers curled into a fist, bunching her silken braid, holding her against him, her mouth over the tempting sound of his heart. His blood ebbed and flowed, beckoning, a terrible temptation she couldn't resist.

She nuzzled against the heavy muscle of his chest, loving the feel of his strength and the depth of his response to her touch. With deliberate intent she stroked her tongue over his pounding pulse, wanting that Zen-like calm to go up in flames. She needed to know-absolutely know-that he not only wanted but needed her with the same growing intensity that she did him. She couldn't be alone in this desperate need.

His hand pressed her head closer, a silent command to take his offering. She did another slow swirl of her tongue just to hear that deep male groan, to feel the jump of his pulse and the hammering of his heart. She let the fire take her, sweeping up through her feminine channel to her belly and breasts, while her teeth lengthened and she drew the scent of him into her lungs.

He whispered something low and guttural, the sound more important to her than the words. His fingers were magical in her hair and against her scalp, the nape of her neck, and one hand swept over her buttocks, pressing tightly as he half lifted her. The strength in his body matched that of his will and she couldn't help the feminine thrill at the feeling of his hardness against her softness.

She took a breath, savoring the moment of exquisite lust wrapped with terrible love so sharp it pierced her heart. Then she sank her teeth into his body, connecting them in the way of lifemates. Richness spilled into her. Every cell soaked him up, took him inside. The taste of him burst against her tongue like fizzing bubbles.

Razvan gave another throaty moan, even sexier than the first one, the sound vibrating through her body, adding to the swirling mix of emotions welling up with her physical reaction to him. He moved her like no other could, getting under her skin and into her bones and now, the addictive taste of him nearly made her lose all perspective. She needed him, right there in the middle of nowhere with snow on the ground.

Not our first time. Our first time together I want to have hours with you, not a few minutes with our pack surrounding us and with danger at every turn.

Even his denying her was sexy. The velvet voice, the slow heat, the stark need he didn't try to hide from her. She let herself take one last taste and then she swept her tongue across the pinpricks and simply stood, letting his strength hold her up when her entire body was trembling.

"You are right," she said with regret.

"We need to go home soon." He whispered the words in her ear.

She liked the sound of that. More, she loved the husky note in his voice that told her he was every bit as shaken as she was. For an answer, she circled his neck with her arms and just held him, just absorbed him into her.

The pack grew restless, circling them and nudging at their legs in inquiry. Ivory found herself smiling. "The children are growing impatient, as children do."

To her consternation his hand slid down to her abdomen and rested there, fingers splayed wide. "You will look so beautiful with our child in you, should we ever manage to destroy our enemy."

Ivory had never considered the possibility of a child. Her entire life had been devoted to one thing-ridding the world of an evil monster. The idea that she might have a lifemate and a child, that she could someday live with a semblance of normalcy, shocked her. She wasn't entirely certain she could handle it.

Razvan laughed softly and leaned down to feather his lips lightly over hers. "Do not worry, my little warrior. There will never be normal for either of us, but we will make our own rules and our life will suit us just fine."

"Let's get this done then," Ivory said.