Dark Ghost (Drak #28)(6) read online by Christine Feehan
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Dark Ghost (Drak #28)(6)
Author: Christine Feehan

 

2

 

 

T

eagan found herself following the trail of blood through the small chamber, down farther into the earth. The cave was far warmer as she went deeper. It should have been cooler, and that made her wonder if there was volcanic activity beneath her. The thought made her pause, but the compulsion to follow the blood trail was too strong to ignore.

 

She knelt down beside a particularly large splash of dark red blood and touched the substance with shaking fingers. It felt sticky, as if it had congealed there a few hours earlier. The moment she touched it, something inside of her answered. Opened. Needed. She should have wiped the blood off her hands in the dirt, but she couldn’t make herself do it. Instead, she curled her fingers tight into her palm, as if holding him there. Instinctively she knew the victim was a man, and she had to get to him. She had to save him.

 

Teagan found him in the fourth chamber. It was a small room, completely dark, and he looked to be in an open grave. Her flashlight caught the edge of his body, lying in the ground about two feet deep. The dirt had filled in around his body, but his face and chest weren’t covered. Her mouth went dry and her throat closed. It was impossible to breathe for a brief moment. She couldn’t run and she couldn’t move forward. She could only stand still, praying, the flashlight shaking in her hand.

 

She stared at him, her heart continuing to pound as the song in her veins burst into a crescendo, as if somewhere on or beneath this man was the very stone she needed to cure her grandmother. She stepped closer, although she was reluctant, afraid he truly was dead, and she couldn’t bear that. But if he was still alive, she needed to help him.

 

Teagan forced her feet to work, moving to his side, dropping down to her knees to feel for the pulse in his neck. The moment she touched him, the terrible dread in her increased. She needed him to be alive more than she needed anything else. He had to live. She waited for his heartbeat. Prayed for it. There was nothing at all. Not even the faintest thread of a pulse.

 

A small moan of fear escaped. Not of him. For him. For her. She knew, deep down, that she’d come to this place to save this man, but her injuries had slowed her down. Slowly she laid her head over his heart. Strangely, his body felt warm, although if he were dead, and had been for a few hours, he should have been cold. She pressed her ear to his chest and held her breath to keep from making the slightest noise. There was no discernable heartbeat, although she felt the heavy, defined muscles in his chest.

 

His shirt was bloody and torn. There were terrible gashes in his chest. Open wounds. Wounds that she knew should have killed him and probably had, but still, she needed him to be alive and she had no idea why, but the need was so strong she shook with the force of it. More, there was evidence of old wounds. Four of them. One in each shoulder and one in each side. Circular scars that were a good two inches in diameter. This man had seen battle.

 

She closed her eyes, sorrow crushing her chest. The need to wail with grief rose in her like a tidal wave, coming out of nowhere, but so strong another sound escaped, an agonized cry that seemed terribly loud in the silence of the cave. She didn’t know this man, but the blow was tremendous. She placed her hand in front of his mouth to try to feel air.

 

“Come on, sweetheart,” she said softly. “Don’t be dead. Unconscious is okay. I can deal with unconscious, but you need to come back to the land of the living.” She dared to press her lips against his ear, needing him to hear her. He was so warm, it seemed impossible that she’d lost him before she’d had a chance to save him. “Stay here with me. Don’t go. Come back to me.” She didn’t know why she structured her plea that way, but the compulsion inside her, the one that couldn’t let him go, forced the wrenching words from – not her heart – but her aching soul.

 

His skin was pale, and hers was darker, a soft mocha latte, her grandmother had always described her. Her mother was African American but her father was Caucasian. He had been a businessman who had pursued her mother and then dumped her the moment he learned she was pregnant. Technically, her three sisters were half sisters, but never once had they ever acted like she wasn’t part of them. They called her their heart because Grandma Trixie always called her that.

 

She could heal. She’d always had an extraordinary gift to do so, but not if someone was already dead. She couldn’t raise the dead. Her throat closed in protest. This man couldn’t already be gone, out of her reach.

 

She leaned down again, trailing her fingers gently over his chest as if the small sensation could penetrate deep to his heart. “Seriously, open your eyes right now.” She tried to make it a command. Instead, it came out a plea. Tears burned her eyes as she stared down into his handsome face.

 

He was beautiful. Even in death, he was beautiful. If she’d been an artist, he would be the man she would want to sculpt. To draw. To put into any medium to preserve.

 

His lashes fluttered, and her heart fluttered right along with them. The breath rushed from her lungs. She stared at him. His eyelids remained closed. Had that been an illusion? She’d planted her flashlight in the ground, the light beaming toward the ceiling, casting a glow over him, but most of him was in the shadows. It had to have been an illusion. But still… Her heart began to pound all over again.

 

Whether he was dead or alive, she wasn’t leaving him in this state. “Listen, handsome, I’m going to run back and get my pack. I can clean you up. That’s the least I can do for you.” Even as she spoke to him, whispered into his ear, her hand went to his chest, directly over his heart. Hoping. She was still praying. She needed him to be alive, but there was no indication whatsoever.

 

Pushing back a sob, she jumped to her feet, wincing when her leg protested – when her face told her the swelling hadn’t gone down at all. She glanced at her watch as she hurried back through the various chambers to the one she’d left her backpack in. Sunset was approaching and hopefully, since Armend and his friends hadn’t found her yet, they wouldn’t as night fell. She’d be able to rest.

 

 

Andre only had one dream in his entire existence, a recurring one, and it was a nightmare – or more precisely, a memory he wished to forget. He slept the sleep of Carpathians. Heart stopped. Breath gone. Essentially, by human standards, dead. A paralysis settled over them and they couldn’t move even if their minds were still active. But he had to be dreaming.

 

A soft voice – a woman’s voice. His lifemate. The whisper of a touch against his skin. The little plea that touched his heart even though it wasn’t beating. He dreamt in color. Bright, vivid color. It was so beautiful, so real, each color distinct, not bleeding gray into it, but there behind his eyes, in his brain. Blues and greens and vibrant reds.

 

He struggled to lift his lashes, to open his eyes to see. He hadn’t buried himself completely in the soil as he should have. He’d lost far too much blood and he knew his safeguards were strong. The vampires would have gone to ground as well. All of them were wounded, including Costin Popescu, the master vampire. He knew he was safe enough and he was just too tired to do anything but lie down in the fresh, clean soil.

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