She let go of a shuddery sigh as he let his hands roam over her smooth, naked skin. When he slipped his fingers between the wet satin of her sex, he felt her answering moan vibrate deep inside his own throat. His arousal throbbed with the need to be in her. His blood went molten, desire hot and possessive in his veins. He found the zipper on the side of her skirt and tugged it down. His hands were clumsy and rough as he pushed it over her hips and watched as his woman was revealed to him, in nothing but a black lacy bra, thigh-highs, and gleaming leather boots.

"Holy hell," he murmured, feasting his gaze on her.

She smiled, a catlike curve of her kiss-swollen mouth. "The tapestry might not be the best gift you've ever gotten."

Lucan could only stand there at full attention as she slowly sank down onto those slender heels before him and took his stiff cock in her hands. Her eyes on his, she stroked his shaft and palmed his balls, her thumb working the underside, fingers slick with his arousal. God help him, when her mouth closed around the head of him, he nearly lost it, right on the spot. She sucked him until he could hardly stand it anymore, until all he could do was lift her up to her feet and bury himself to the hilt where they were standing. He didn't know how they made it over to the wall near the open French doors a moment later, didn't have control enough to pause this fevered fucking and bring her to the bed, where he could make love to her properly.

Not that this didn't feel proper. He'd never felt anything more proper in his life than the heat of Gabrielle engulfing him completely, her body caught in his arms, her mouth hungry and demanding on his.

"Feed me," she whispered against his lips now, nipping at him with her blunt little teeth. "Let me drink from you, Lucan."

He couldn't refuse her. There was nothing more intimate than the bond they shared. There was nothing more precious he could offer his mate than the lifeblood that gave her immortality with him and bound her to him for as long as they both drew breath. And drinking from him would heighten her pleasure now like nothing else could.

Gathering her weight in one arm as he continued to thrust into her welcoming body, Lucan brought his other wrist to his mouth and sank his fangs into the veins that pulsed there. Gabrielle drew him to her and latched on hard. She moaned with ecstasy as the first drops of his blood hit her tongue.

He could feel her climax building. His own was right behind her, gaining power as she suckled at his wrist and wrapped herself more tightly around him. He could see her pulse ticking strongly in the veins of her pretty throat. That rhythmic drum pounded inside him too, driving him toward release and beckoning him to take the pleasure that waited just beneath the delicate flesh of his beautiful Breedmate's neck.

Gabrielle's eyes were open, watching him, imploring him. She angled her head, presenting herself to him like an offering atop an altar.

Lucan snarled with the force of the temptation. But his release was too close. And there was a crescent moon out tonight. His gaze flicked toward it through the open French doors and he couldn't bite back his growl.

Gabrielle's mouth drew away from the small wounds on his wrist. She reached up to touch his face, her eyes tender with understanding. "Would it be so bad, Lucan? I want this too." He couldn't speak. He looked into her loving gaze, torn with longing and fear, dread for what kind of future their sons would have if he failed in his mission now. Could he risk that? Could he risk knowing that the sons he shared with Gabrielle might be born into this war of his making - or, worse, become casualties of it?

Gabrielle showed him no mercy. Her lips fastened once more to the open vein at his wrist, as her legs wrapped tighter at his hips, spiked boot heels digging into him like spurs as she held him against her and cried out with the first tremors of her orgasm. Lucan roared as pleasure rocked her body, the sheath of her sex clutching hard around him, tiny muscles coaxing him toward the point of no return.

"Do it," she whispered harshly, lips stained red with his blood as she reached up to take his nape in her palm. She guided his face down to her vulnerable throat. Pressed his mouth against her throbbing carotid as her slender body began to crest beneath him in release. "Oh, God, Lucan. Please ... do it now. I can feel how much you want this too."

Lucan's orgasm coiled hard at the base of his shaft. He couldn't stop his hips from moving, couldn't stop his seed from its want to boil over, his release on the verge of exploding. One nick of his fangs against her skin. That's all it would take. One taste of her blood on the tip of his tongue and he would be unable to keep from taking her in full. She'd be pregnant with his child by the end of the night.

"No," he snarled, more to himself than in rejection of what she'd asked of him. His cock shuddered as he drove in deeper, his control beginning to snap its leash. "I can't ... I won't do this to you."

He'd barely gotten the words out before his body detonated inside her. His release shot through him, a rushing, endless stream. Lucan turned his face away from the temptation of Gabrielle's fast-ticking vein as his seed flooded her and she went very still against him. "I'm sorry," he murmured when he was finally able to summon his voice again. He gently pulled his wrist out of her slack grasp and sealed the punctures with a sweep of his tongue. "Gabrielle ... I'm sorry."

Feeling like a coward and a bastard, he bowed his head to hers and held her in a prolonged and awful silence.

SHE DIDN'T KNOW where he'd taken her. The room was dark, windows shuttered with louvered steel sandwiched between twin panes of glass. There was no light coming in from the street outside, but in the hours that had passed since she'd been brought there, Tavia could hear the muffled din of traffic increasing with the rise of dawn. The late-night hush was gone, punctuated now by the ruckus of the morning commute, the occasional blare of a car horn or the hiss of a slowing mass transit bus interrupting the rhythmic hum of tires speeding over frozen asphalt. She was in a house of some sort. Probably still within Boston, perhaps even in the heart of the city.

She'd expected to be dead by now. After being forced from the hotel at gunpoint, having witnessed what she had inside the suite - three fully armed law enforcement officials disabled and left unmoving at the hands of one clearly unhinged, lethal man - Tavia hadn't been given any logical reason to think she'd be spared, never mind her abductor's word that he wasn't going to hurt her. She'd been alert and waiting for death to come at any moment, listening to the quiet inside the strange place he'd brought her, wondering if he merely slept outside the locked door of the bedroom or was deciding how best to dispose of her.

Even now, after the night had passed into dawn and she was still breathing, she wasn't at all convinced she was going to make it out of this situation alive. She sat on the edge of a bare king- size mattress in a room that was vacant except for its few pieces of shrouded furniture, dreading that the next time she saw him would likely be the last.

He hadn't told her where they were going, had simply rushed her down the back stairwell of the hotel to the parking garage below street level, tossed her into the trunk of the federal agents' sedan, and sped away with her. Although it had seemed like they'd driven for more than an hour, Tavia could have sworn they'd never left the city. The sounds and smells, the bumps and turns of the tight network of streets, the general crackle of activity - her senses had known all of it as though she could almost picture the city from inside the cramped darkness of the trunk. It was familiar to her. It was freedom out there, if only she could find her way out of this locked room.

Away from this lifeless, shrouded phantom of a house.

Wrapping the robe tighter around herself, Tavia got off the bed and padded over to the window once more. There was nothing to see, no means of opening the shutters. They appeared to be electronically controlled and as secure as a bank vault. The glass panes were thick, stationary panels. The only way through them would be to smash her way out, assuming the glass could be broken. And assuming she could find any kind of tool to use on it.

Her eyes having long since adjusted to the lightless gloom, Tavia glanced at the furniture that stood draped in pale sheets around the bedroom. Sturdy, masculine shapes hinted at a tall bureau and mirrored dresser across the floor from the four-poster bed. She walked over and lifted the shroud to make a quick perusal of the drawers. To her surprise she found them neatly packed with folded socks and underwear, organized with military precision into grouped color ranges and fabric styles.

The walk-in closet yielded the same unexpected discovery: a full wardrobe of men's clothing, from scores of expensive-looking tailored suits and tuxedos, to easily tens of thousands of dollars' worth of conservative casual wear. A collection of size-fourteen shoes, all black, and all meticulously polished and maintained, lined the bottom row of the enormous closet. Whoever had lived here enjoyed a privileged life surrounded by very fine things.

And they'd apparently left it all behind.

The entire bedroom screamed of old money and long-established roots. Tavia glanced up at the crown molding that framed the ten-foot ceilings, the wainscoted walls that weren't painted or papered but covered in delicate ivory silk. She drifted to the other side of the large room, her bare feet cushioned by a dark-patterned Oriental rug that spread out over nearly the entire span of the floor.

A wide desk ate up most of the wall space across from the bed. She pulled off its linen drape and sat down in the sumptuous leather chair. The top of the desk had been swept clean, but its drawers, like those of the bureau and dresser, held the neatly ordered contents of a life interrupted and abandoned.

Tavia sifted through the pens and office implements, looking for something she might wield as a weapon against her abductor or a tool to break out of her confinement. As she dug toward the back of the drawer, her fingertips disrupted a stack of printed snapshots collected with an assortment of other memorabilia in a shallow silver tray.

She pulled the tray out and set it atop the polished wood surface of the desk. It was engraved with a distinguished-sounding name: Sterling Chase. His? she wondered.

A small metal vial about the size of her thumb rolled back and forth on top of the photos. Tavia picked it up and examined it, but she couldn't tell what, if anything, was inside. It felt light in her hand, and made no sound when she shook it, but its corked stopper had been carefully sealed with red wax. She set it aside as her gaze lit on the photographs.

There were about a dozen in all. Random events and subjects documenting what seemed to be a decade of time: A formal reception inside a posh country club. Some award presentation attended by a crowd of immense men dressed in the same kind of dark suits she'd found in the bedroom closet. A young boy's birthday party, resplendent with bright balloons and streamers and a mound of gift-wrapped presents, the celebration held in what appeared to be this very house.

And one final snapshot, buried at the bottom of the stack.

Tavia stared at it and felt some of the blood rush out of her head ...

It was her captor.

The deranged menace - the man whom her instincts warned was something more than human. He stood behind a pricey-looking sofa, his muscled arms spread along its back to form a protective arch around the slender shoulders of a petite blond woman and the young boy from the birthday party picture. The boy had gotten older, no longer the towheaded, grinning child holding a giant box with a bow on top of it but a handsome teen wearing a Harvard University sweatshirt and a cocky smile that seemed to say he had the world by the tail.

The woman was stunning. Delicate and beautiful, her perfect oval face was as flawless as the ivory silk on the walls that surrounded her, her long blond hair the color of corn silk, her wide lavender eyes fringed in dark lashes. She beamed at the young man like a proud mother, even though she looked to be only a few years older than he.

Tavia's abductor was smiling too, a subtle, practiced curve of his broad mouth that made him look at once charming and devastating. Attractive didn't even come close to describing the lean angles of his face and the determined, square cut of his jaw.

But where his smile seemed rehearsed and posed, his gaze was disarmingly naked. It smoldered with a pained kind of desire.

All of it aimed at the pretty young woman held loosely in the shelter of his arm.

Tavia sifted back through the rest of the photos once more. He was in most of them, attending important-looking gatherings, dressed in his impeccable suits, surrounded by wealth and privilege and gentility.

Whoever he was - whatever he had become - this was the life he'd come from. This was his family.

This place he'd brought her to?

It had once been his home.

CHASE AWOKE TO a fierce banging in his head.

He came to on a guttural snarl, blood thirst shredding him with sharp talons that had barely loosened their grip from the night before. His skull was throbbing, mouth as dry as cotton. Every particle of his being felt raw, strung out. Starving for a fix.

Without opening his eyes, he pushed himself up from the floor where he'd slumped a few hours ago, weakened from exertion and injury, in desperate need of a feeding. A feeding he could not afford to take, when his addiction would only crave it more and more the next time. He sensed it was dawn outside. Hours had passed since he'd arrived in this place with the woman from the hotel.

Her name seemed less like a stranger's now than a puzzle that needed solving. She was a mystery that didn't make sense to him but was one he could not ignore.

That was why he'd brought her here, to this place he'd never expected to return to again. He'd needed time to think, time to observe her. In the urgent moments following his breach of her cop-secured hotel suite and the precious time he'd wasted driving around Boston in search of viable shelter, he'd finally come to accept there was only one place he could go now. His former Darkhaven, where he'd been leader of his family's enclave following the death of his older brother in service to the Breed's Enforcement Agency.