"The life-form had to have first been in the meteorite," Ivory said and slumped down, her arms cushioning her head. "I should have known. It is iron rich."

"How did it survive coming to Earth?" Razvan asked, rubbing her shoulders.

"I have no idea, and frankly, I do not even care at this point. The soil is teeming with them and, so far, every time you have brought me contaminated soil, they rush to surround the mutated microbes and destroy them while leaving everything else intact." She turned her head to one side to look up at him. "Do you know where the microbes are produced?"

"Xavier's largest factory was destroyed and he moved to his fortress deep under the mountains. I can find it. But the microbes are not in the soil there. He leaks them down a glacier to feed the water systems and spread to the soil. The last time I hunted for us near the village just below the glacier, I overheard the local midwife speaking of the high rate of miscarriages. I fear the contamination has spilled over into humans. If the microbes infected their gardens, they could begin to suffer the fate of our species." He massaged her neck with gentle fingers. "You need to rest, Ivory."

She had been working steadily for three weeks straight, never leaving the lair, not even for food. Razvan had hunted for the pack and for Ivory. He had taken the wolves running nightly and had gathered soil samples from dozens of places, bringing each back to her, but Ivory refused to go with him, preferring to stay and conduct her experiments. She looked pale and worn, with dark circles under her eyes.

"I have a bad feeling, Razvan," Ivory said. But she gave a small sigh of pleasure as his fingers worked their magic, easing the knots out of her neck. "It has been growing in me for some time now and I feel the need to get this done fast."

He was silent and she looked up at him to catch the expression on his face. Ivory sat up quickly and turned to face him. "You have felt it, too."

He nodded. "Growing stronger all the time and the pack has been strangely restless."

"Something is wrong."

He didn't want to agree with her, not when she was so worn, but his every instinct told her she was right. "We have to go to the prince with what we have," he said.

She bit her lip. "I think I am right, Razvan, but I am always so meticulous. I would repeat the experiments a thousand more times and document more evidence. I am still working on the spell to change the existing mutations for when we find his factory."

She pushed her hand through her hair in agitation. "There is still so much work. You cannot just rush this kind of thing. If we make a mistake, we could do as much harm as Xavier, no matter what our intent."

They stayed up into the morning hours when her skin hurt and blistered, despite being so far beneath the ground-an aftermath, he knew, of spending more than a century beneath the earth to heal her horrendous wounds. She sank into the sleep of their people. Ivory often woke before she should, agitated and on edge. Her body was unable to move while her mind raced with worry. Razvan made love to her often, easing the tension in her, but she couldn't stop the obsessive drive that kept her working nonstop. Even the soil couldn't seem to rejuvenate her.

He pulled a brush from the table and began to run it gently through her hair, knowing she always found that soothing. He did as well. The feel of the silken strands against his skin served as a reminder to him of the absolute wonder of finding her when there had never been a moment of hope of such a miracle.

"How close are you to reversing the spell?"

"I will not know until I try it, Razvan." There was a hint of despair in her voice. "I am beginning to see the enormity of what Lara and Nicolas have faced. They do not dare convert her and bear the death of our children on their souls, yet how can they continue without a life of their own?"

Razvan's smile above her head was tranquil. "You endured. I endured. Such is life, Ivory. We hope our children do not have to struggle as we have, but living life well and handling adversity shapes character. I am proud of Lara for her choices and would not take away from her the chance for service to others. She has many years she can continue to live well before it is necessary to convert her. If we fail, she will endure as we did. At the end of the day, we can only say we did our best. We cannot control others, just ourselves."

Ivory felt his quiet stillness, the peaceful calm that kept him so composed in difficult situations. She allowed that serenity to seep into her and soothe her own turbulent mind. With each stroke, the brush seemed to pull more of the tension out of her soul. Razvan was right. They could only do their best and that was what they had done.

She realized, as he divided her hair into three thick strands and began a tight weave, that she had wanted to show the Carpathian people that Razvan was no criminal to be mistrusted, but was, in fact, a great man who had sacrificed for all of them. Razvan didn't want that. He didn't care about others' opinions. He simply was. That was how he lived his life. He did his best and didn't try to control others.

She took a deep breath. "Okay. I say we go then, find out what is happening and let the prince make the decision to try a larger experiment or keep working. I also need to try the reversing spells on microbes that are out in the field. There is no point in attacking the factory if we cannot permanently stop his work."

"The more Xavier is harassed, the less time he has to do damage," Razvan said gently. "If this does not work for us, then we can buy ourselves time by taking down his fortress and making him move again."

She started to turn her head to look at him over her shoulder, but he tugged on her hair, preventing her. Ivory frowned. "We cannot take a chance on losing him. If he disappears . . ."

"I can find him. Anywhere. Anytime."

She waited a heartbeat until her pulse settled. "How?"

"He took my blood for well over a hundred years, Ivory. He left pieces of his dark, depraved soul within me. I will draw him as no other."

She clamped down hard on the surge of bile rising suddenly at the idea of Razvan in Xavier's hands. "You would use yourself as bait."

"Of course. To draw him to us. He would come."

His hands were steadier than hers as he secured the tie on her braid. She knew because she reached back and laid her hands over his. "No." A single word. His single word to her. Now she knew how he'd felt when she'd suggested using herself as bait.

He didn't argue, but then she was getting used to his ways. That didn't mean agreement. He simply bent down and kissed the side of her neck, right over her rapidly beating pulse.

"I mean it, Razvan. We will not destroy his present fortress, even if we need more time."

His smile was placid, gentle, even tender. His palm cupped the side of her face. "As we do not know if you have succeeded, there is no reason for discord between us."

She bit his fingers hard and glared at him. "Just so you know, there will be discord between us. A lot of discord. More than any man will ever want to have in his life."

He burst out laughing, sticking his fingers in his mouth to ease the sting. "I will remember that."

She gave him a sniff of annoyance and gathered weapons. Razvan had divided his time between helping her, caring for her and working on his proficiency with the various weapons she had. He was a quick learner with astonishing reflexes, and was very disciplined about his practice. He spent hours with the crossbow and sword each night. He practiced tumbling and hand-to-hand as well as throwing the arrowheads. He was quick and intelligent and she enjoyed his company, but most of all his tranquility. He had brought her peace and joy.

Razvan held out his arms and Blaez and Rikki leapt onto his back easily, merging into his skin until he was decorated with detailed tattoos just as the rest of the pack joined with Ivory. They gathered the soil and the documentation of the experiments, and scanned meticulously before streaming out into the night and streaking fast across the sky toward the Carpathian settlement.

As they flew across the forests and meadows, they spotted evidence of vampires passing through the vicinity. Blackened shrubbery. Withered branches. Split tree trunks. In one area it was obvious a battle had taken place: the ground was blackened.

Ivory sucked in her breath. They are out in force.

He will come for me. Again his voice was absolutely calm.


Ivory dipped her wings and circled away from the ravaged wasteland below, taking them through a narrow pass and then over rolling hills dotted with small farms, but she felt his smile.

You will not be smiling long if you keep it up.

I was just saying.

You were provoking me.

I would not do that.

The female owl sent him a haughty look and began her descent, calling ahead to the prince to announce their presence. His house looked quiet. Deserted. She pulled up in alarm and settled into the tops of a tree to use the owl's acute sight to examine the area around the house.

They left in a hurry and they did not shift.

Raven is pregnant, fairly advanced in her pregnancy, Razvan reminded her. Is it possible it is her time?

The bad feeling inside of Ivory got worse. Perhaps we should use our blood call to the healer, she suggested uneasily.

Razvan didn't hesitate. He went inside himself to find the strain of healer blood running through his veins and sent a call: We have need to speak with the prince but find his home empty. We both are uneasy. Is there trouble?

There was a long silence, as if the healer might not answer, and then his voice came. Faint. Faraway. Stressed. Hesitant. My lifemate cannot hold on to the babies. We are in the cave of healing, preparing a birth chamber. Lara and Nicolas have been injured.

Razvan turned the owl's head and looked at Ivory before launching himself into the air, the female following this time. There were no words to say. If Nicolas had been injured, they had to have been attacked-and attacked deliberately. The master vampire-or Xavier-had determined who was saving the unborn children and had made a bid to remove that obstacle to his plans. But how did they know to attack Lara? Razvan questioned, remembering that brief hesitation from Gregori. They think I am a spy in their camp and that I gave up Lara to Xavier.

Immediately Ivory dropped toward the ground, shifting form at the last moment to pace through the snow with quick long strides of energy, radiating a fury that couldn't be mistaken. She had heard that small hesitation in the healer as well.

"We go, Razvan, and we could be walking into a trap. They might try to jump us, and if they do, we will have no choice but to fight our way clear." She whirled around to face him, a slow hiss escaping. "Someone will die."

Razvan regarded her with dark, somber eyes, leaning against a tree trunk with casual ease, watching her move like quicksilver through the snow. He loved her ferocious protection, the fine fury that shone through her, radiating out like the brightest moon.

"I will go alone." He kept his tone quiet, very calm.

Her chin went up. "You will not be their sacrifice. They are upset. On edge. They need a scapegoat and they will make you one. We both know it."

"One of us has to speak with the prince. You are the better warrior. I do not mind them putting their hands on me or searching me. You would never tolerate such a thing, nor would I be able to allow them to touch you without respect. If you go, there will be a fight. If I go, there is a chance we can get to the prince with our evidence and help them."

"They do not deserve help." She snapped the words at him, enunciating each one.

He folded his arms across his chest as she took up pacing again, her hands in tight fists at her sides. He said nothing, merely watched her through half-closed eyes.

She stopped in front of him, her breath coming in ragged gasps, her heart there behind the tears swimming in her eyes. There was nothing more disarming than a warrior woman looking vulnerable and weeping. He lifted his hand to her face in wonder. "Don't cry for me, Ivory. I have always lived with my choices. I have to see that Lara is safe. And I cannot let babies die if we have a way to save them, and neither would you."

"If they harm one hair on your head-just one-there will be a war such as they have never seen."

His hands framed her face. He knew it only embarrassed her when he told her he loved her, because she had a difficult time answering him back. And it would probably be worse if he told she moved him as no one and nothing else ever had or would. So he kissed her.

Razvan poured everything he felt for her into his kiss. Infinite love. Complete acceptance. Pride. Joy. Lust. Everything he was, he gave to her. She answered him, sinking into the heat of his mouth, giving herself up to that world of pure sensation mixed with love. She could live there, in his arms, their mouths fused together forever, her body sinking into his, her arms around his neck. Her home. Her shelter. Her everything.

When he reluctantly left the haven of her mouth, he rested his forehead against hers, drawing in a deep, shuddering breath. "If this goes wrong, han ku vigyaz sielamet-keeper of my soul-know I will wait for you in the next life. Xavier must be destroyed. Before all else, he must be destroyed. Look at me and tell me you will come to me with your soul shining brightly."

"You ask too much."

"I do not, Ivory. I ask you to endure as you have endured for so many centuries, your eye fixed on the task given to you. We have had this time. A stolen moment of happiness. What they do-or do not do-matters little to us." He placed his hand over her heart, felt it beat into his palm. "We have a great purpose and we must see it through to the end."

The sob in her throat threatened to choke her as she swallowed it back down. "You terrify me with your calm acceptance, Razvan."

"I do not control others, Ivory, only myself. I do what I must, no matter the cost."

"I will hate them with all of my heart if they harm you."

"You are my light, Ivory. I need you to be that light. I count on that light."

"You ask more from me than you would from yourself. You would slay them all if they touched me."

"Yes." His thumb traced her fine bone structure. "You are the miracle, Ivory, not me."

His fingers curled around the nape of her neck and he pulled her to him and simply held her in his arms until the stiffness and tension drained from her body and she lay against him, pliant and soft. Their hearts beat the same rhythm. In tune. His soul moved against hers. She felt the brush of his lips in her hair and then he put her away from him.

"Give me your documents and the soil samples. I will let you know if we are clear. If not, I will see you on the other side."

Reluctantly she handed them to him, ignoring that her hands were shaking. Razvan held out his arms and shrugged off the wolves, then knelt to bury his fingers in their fur, holding their heads and touching their faces as he rubbed their ears and necks before standing. When he turned away from her she caught his hand.


He took a breath and turned back to her. "Beloved?"

"You are my miracle."

He smiled at her and walked away, carrying her words with him. It didn't take courage to walk into the lion's den. Whatever fate waited was nothing in comparison to what he had suffered at Xavier's hands. They would not torture him. Without Ivory they had nothing to hold over his head, no emotional pain they could give him. There was only death. He had accepted death as part of life a long time ago and he didn't fear it.

He walked with an easy pace, circling through the trees, making no attempt to hide his presence. He had left his weapons with Ivory, although he could summon them at will, and the Carpathians would know that.

He felt the first prickle of unease as he drew closer to the series of caves leading to the healing chambers. He knew they watched him. He heard the flutter of wings overhead as several owls settled onto the branches above his head. He kept walking.

Healer, I am coming in.

There was a small silence while Gregori relayed the information to others. Two owls floated down from the trees, shifting before they came to earth, resuming physical shapes. He recognized Falcon and Vikirnoff as they dropped in behind him to escort him. Above his head, the other owls took flight.

They have posted sentries, Ivory, and they are searching for you.

They will not find me.

He didn't allow his smile to show on his face as he entered the cave of healing. I do not doubt you are right. And he didn't. The Carpathian males continually underestimated Ivory. They should have known better, if they gave it any thought at all. Her bloodline. Her intelligence. Her determination to survive. Her hunting skills alone should have tipped them off that they were trying to chase a tiger.

Razvan continued into the tunnel connecting the series of caves. Grim-faced warriors were posted at each entrance. None of the faces were friendly. He felt the beat of their suspicions, the dark recrimination. He had been tried and convicted already. He didn't look at them as he walked past them, nor did he drop his head or quicken his pace. He felt, occasionally, the probe of a mind touch, but he had been with Xavier too long to ever allow anyone into his mind, no matter how strong the probe.

He knew that would only condemn him further in their eyes, but it mattered little to him. Gregori met him at the third entrance and fell into step.

"You know what they think."

"How is my daughter?"

"The attack came at dawn as they were out hunting, a time most vampires, particularly a master vampire, rarely rise. They had to have information not only that Lara was the one needed, but exactly where they had gone to hunt."

"How is my daughter?" Razvan repeated.

"She is healing, as is her lifemate. We had no choice but to complete the conversion and put them both in the ground. They went at her first. She was-mutilated." Gregori shook his head when Razvan stopped and looked at him. Keep walking. This is a very difficult situation. Without Lara, we cannot break the cycle of the microbe attack. We sense their presence but they hide from us. We have no way to lure them to the surface. Being fully Carpathian, Lara will no longer be able to trick the microbe, but it was necessary to convert her. The women must rest in the ground, as do we, but then the microbes invade, Gregori added telepathically.

"Tell me how she is." There was a bite to Razvan's voice. He felt Ivory stir in his mind, surrounding him with warmth. Deeply merged with him as she was, she heard every word and knew what his control cost him.

"It will take time, Razvan. The vampire wanted to make a statement. He went after her womb. I did the best I could, but I am not a miracle worker."

For a moment he couldn't move. Couldn't breathe. His daughter. Lara. She had suffered so much. He found himself on one knee, his head down, dragging air into his burning lungs. When he looked up at Gregori, his eyes burned with ruby red flames and death stalked behind the fire.

I go no farther, healer, until you tell me her location.

You know I cannot. My daughters are at stake here as well. Savannah struggles to keep them within her. One is very weak. We will lose her before this night is gone if I cannot find a way to defeat the microbe.

I bring you our best chance at it, but unless you give me my daughter's location so Ivory can aid her, I will not go one step farther. And you are welcome to slay me, but I take your answers with me.

Gregori let out his breath in a long, slow hiss. "I know you are not guilty of the crime, Razvan. I have spoken out and defended you."

"I want my daughter to be whole. Ivory can see to it. We will call it my last request."

Gregori cursed in the ancient tongue, frustrated and angry to be put in such a position. Mikhail. I believe he should have the chance to save Lara's ability to have children when I cannot. I know he is not guilty of these charges. You know what is inside of this man. He has a will of iron, and what he says, he means. He will go to his death, and for what? Tell me, for what?

Give him the coordinates.

Gregori instantly passed Razvan the location.

Ivory sent another burst of warmth. I will ask for Mother Earth's assistance. She has been good to us, Razvan, and I believe she favors you. She will give aid.

He clung to the promise in her voice. Lara deserved a full life. He wanted her to have it all, even if he didn't live to see her happiness. He swallowed the rage and fear and forced a calming breath before he stood and resumed walking, again looking neither left nor right.

Tell me when it is done, Ivory.

Gregori guided him through a small series of caves and tunnels leading lower beneath the ground. Heat rose and swamped them, forcing them to regulate their temperature continually. Large crystalline formations burst from the walls and through the high ceilings, as well as rose from the floor. Instinctively he knew this was the warriors' council chambers, and this was where his fate would be decided.

The chamber held more male Carpathians than he'd known existed. As he entered, the giant columns hummed in welcome. Gregori glanced at him, and then his silver gaze slid around the room, marking each warrior's face. He remained at Razvan's side as the most despised Carpathian walked, head high, through the warriors and straight to the prince.

He inclined his head. "Mikhail. I understand there has been trouble."

"As if you did not know," a voice said.

Mikhail lifted his head, his gaze sweeping the crowd. "One more word and this room will be cleared. As you have seen, Razvan has entered of his own free will and the chamber welcomed him. I apologize for that unfortunate outburst," he added and stepped forward, clasping Razvan's forearms in the traditional greeting between warriors. "Sivad olen wakeva, han ku piwta-may your heart stay strong, hunter."

"Pesasz jelabam ainaak-long may you stay in the light," Razvan replied.

"A master vampire attacked Lara and Nicolas as they went out to hunt in the early twilight hours. He knew where they would be. Nicolas fought them with valor. Had he not been the skilled warrior that he is, they would not have escaped. He killed three of the lesser vampires and nearly destroyed a fourth. Nicolas recognized the master vampire as Sergey Malinov. As he slashed up Lara, he told her that his sister sent her regards."

Razvan didn't flinch. He heard the soft murmur swelling to outrage behind him, but he kept his gaze locked with that of the prince. "And you believe Ivory would order such a thing done to my daughter?"

"No, but the attack was clearly orchestrated, with the victims specifically chosen and information given about them."

"So there is a traitor among you."

The prince inclined his head. "I fear so."

"And it is easier for them to believe that I am the one who has betrayed your people," Razvan said. "As I already have been branded a traitor."

"I fear that is correct." Mikhail sighed.

"I bring you hope," Razvan said. "Before you carry this farce any further, let me deliver to you what we have found. Ivory worked for weeks to find something to combat the microbes. She has tested this life-form and believes it will destroy any mutated microbe in the earth. She, of course, wishes for more time for further tests, but wants you to see what she has found and make your decision."

He took the precious pouches of soil from his belt and handed them to Gregori, along with the small book documenting each experiment and her findings. "At least you will have a place to start."

Gregori bowed to him. "Thank you."

Razvan. Ivory's voice was tight, putting him on alert. I have found the resting place, but it was being disturbed. Someone with a very large knife has been trying to unearth them.

Fury pounded through his veins and thundered in his ears. Who dares to try to kill my daughter and her lifemate?

I will bring him to you.

Do not come to this place. I think they are about to put me through some kind of trial to determine if I am their traitor.

Ivory hissed in his mind, and a very feminine, unwarriorlike image of retaliation on the lot of them made his groin throb, not with anticipation but in sympathetic pain.

"Razvan, the counsel wishes you to submit for testing from a chosen panel," Mikhail said. "Ancient warriors that lived under my father's rule. They do not know me well." He lifted his voice. "Though they are sworn to defend me, they do not trust my judgment and will have the choice when we are done here to leave this council and go their own way without heed, but also without allegiance to our people."

In essence, Mikhail was giving the ancients this one time of doubt and then he would not tolerate it again.

Razvan shrugged. "So be it."

Sun scorch them all. O jela peje terad. Ivory bit out each word so that not only Razvan could hear, but Gregori, Vikirnoff, Natalya and the prince-everyone who had given them blood. Her contempt was palpable, blatant, reducing them all to maggots beneath her feet.

Razvan had to stop his grin from showing. He glanced at Gregori. That is my lifemate.

A rare one, Gregori agreed.

He sighed, obviously steeling himself for his task. He beckoned the chosen ancients near. Vikirnoff. Mataias. Tariq and Andre. Each one had to pronounce Razvan clean of Xavier and find no hidden agenda. One wrong thing and they would slay him. Gregori grit his teeth, hating that they had to appease the ancients. To him it was a slap in the face to question the wisdom of the prince.

Had they questioned their own prince, Razvan reminded him, perhaps Ivory would have been spared her ordeal and Rhiannon would not be dead. The war between mage and Carpathian might never have taken place.

Gregori marveled at the absolute calm and acceptance in Razvan. Gregori had no wish for others to invade his privacy to the point that Razvan would have them search his memories and know every humiliation suffered. It was cruel and wrong as far as the healer was concerned.

I love you, Ivory, Razvan sent gently. More than life. Leave me now. Do not let them invade you as well. Although these men would have knowledge of her as he did, the terrible things she had endured. Wipe out the direction of our lair from my memory. He knew she was capable. She was capable of far more than any of them knew.

Ivory complied and then she was gone, leaving him entirely alone once again.

Ivory had no patience for niceties. She marched onto the healing chambers, uncaring of the owls flitting through the trees and the grim-faced Carpathian males falling in behind her as she approached the series of caves. She felt the wrench of a safeguard and dragged the traitor through the mild barrier with her just to show those around her she didn't need to stop and unravel their pitiful safeguard for either her or the spy.

She entered the caves, looking down her nose at the guards, her expression haughty as she stalked through the tunnels, following her lifemate's scent unerringly. As she turned into the third cavern, making the descent, she was forced to protect her captive from the building heat.

Ivory moved through the tunnel, looking at none of the guards, her head up, her eyes unknowingly fierce, the boy, Travis, firmly in her grip. Her crossbow was slung across her shoulder, giving her wolves a clear view of front and sides as she made her way through the chamber.

Falcon made a movement toward her and she heard Sara gasp. She held up her free hand to halt them. "Take me to your prince, Falcon."

"Put down your weapons, Ivory."

"I am a weapon. I can bring down these caves and kill everyone inside, including your precious prince, and you know it. Do not argue with me. Take me to your prince now."

Falcon stepped in front of her, leading her through the long entry, through the tunnel lined with warriors. "Travis," he said gently, "you will be fine."

"No thanks to you," Ivory said with a sniff of disdain. "I hope you are a better warrior than parent, Falcon."

He flashed her one emotion-laden look over his shoulder, promising retribution, but she merely continued walking. The council chamber was packed with Carpathians, both male and female. Many turned their attention from the trial in front of them to her. She caught a glimpse of Natalya's face, bloodred tears tracking her cheeks, and she felt no sympathy for her at all. She would have liked to give her a reason to cry.

The lines of warriors opened for them, the men parting to reveal Mikhail, his face drawn and tired. Razvan stood to one side, and Ivory tried not to drink him in, tried not to show the relief sweeping though her.

She inclined her head regally at the prince. "I have brought you your traitor." She pushed the child into the circle.

Falcon caught the boy to him, wrapping one arm around him and holding him protectively. "What are you accusing him of? Being in league with our enemy?"

"Exactly. Were you planning on killing my lifemate in your need for revenge against Xavier? How inconvenient that I found the real culprit." She looked around at the faces of the counsel, her contempt obvious. "Whatever fate you chose for him, you now have an obligation to put on this boy."

Falcon pulled Travis closer to him. "She lies to save her lifemate."

Her eyes flashed at him. "I never lie. Healer, examine him. All of you, the entire mockery of accusers. The shadow of Xavier has found a home. The boy must have been hiding in the woods while we battled Xavier's abominations and we only destroyed one of the four shadow fragments. He carries one. He is your traitor, not my lifemate, who has fought to save a species not worthy of life."

Razvan said nothing as he looked upon his warrior woman. Fierce. Proud. Unbending. She looked far more regal than the prince. A queen among men, showing her utter contempt of their stupidity. She took his breath away with her beauty. With her absolute belief in him and her ferocious protection of him-in spite of his instructions. She didn't mind very well, but it was worth it to see her dress down the ancient warriors in the room.

"I examined Razvan as you asked," Gregori said, "although I was reluctant to put him through such an indignity when I already knew he was free of Xavier. I will examine the boy." He was grateful that he had gone first and no other Carpathian had relived Razvan's memories, although he felt it would shame them to know what the man had suffered, as it did him.

"You will not touch my son," Falcon said. "No one will touch him." He laid a hand on the hilt of his knife. His heart lurched. Startled, he looked at his belt. The scabbard was empty.

Travis snarled and flung himself forward, straight at Mikhail, his small arm upraised, his face a mask of hatred as he attempted to plunge Falcon's knife into the prince. Gregori moved to intercept almost before anyone knew what was happening. He caught the boy's small wrist, marveling at the strength in the child as he fought to retain the weapon.

The knife fell to the floor at Mikhail's feet and Gregori held the child to him. "It's all right, Travis. Everything is going to be all right," he soothed, rocking the boy. "I've got to take him to the surface and remove Xavier's fragment."

"There are still two missing," Ivory said. "You will need to check everyone who was there that day. If Xavier managed to find other hosts, everyone is at risk." She turned cool eyes on Falcon. "Start with him. Perhaps the entire council should search him."

Ivory. Razvan said her name gently.

"Tell me of the progress, of your find," Mikhail said. "I want to take you to Raven and Savannah. Will you come with me now?"

Ivory looked to Razvan for the answer. It is up to you.

We came here to save the unborn children.

"I will return as quickly as possible," Gregori said. "Let me help this boy."

Mikhail nodded and then looked around the chamber. "We will need everyone to aid us in attempting to save our children. Those of you who do not care to keep your vow of allegiance, I free you from your blood-sworn vow. Go now and do not return." He waited but no one moved. "I will call when we need to draw energy for the healing chant." He gestured for Razvan and Ivory to follow him.

Ivory shot another look of contempt toward Natalya and her lifemate before walking beside Razvan, her head up as the prince led them through the crowded chamber. She disliked any public display of affection, but she deliberately tangled her fingers with Razvan's to show solidarity. The entire lot of the Carpathian people could walk into the sun, for all she cared. She didn't have a high opinion of them and so far, other than Gregori and maybe the prince, nothing had happened to change her mind.

Ivory. Razvan said her name again. Gently. A reprimand.

It is merely my opinion, lifemate.

He hid his smile from the others, but she caught the brief flash of male amusement.