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From behind, her slight build reminded him of a young girl. Even though she was sheltered, untouched and innocent in the ways of the world, Dari was no child. Oh no. Like himself, she had watched many come and go from her immortal life.
Attributing her difference to a rare blood disorder, Dari had outlived many who knew what she was, who had kept her safe in a commune and her existence a secret from the rest of the world.
Dari wasn't really in a meadow, of course. Her physical body was actually deep in the Canadian mountains, sprawled on her linen sheets, drifting between consciousness and sleep.
His gaze panned down her body. Crouched on her knees beside a bubbling brook, she plucked a vibrant yellow tulip from her garden. She brought it to her nose and inhaled. He loved entering her happy dreams. Unlike his, which were hazy shades of gray, hers were always full of rich color, texture, and the most delectable scents. Her nightmares on the other hand were dark, bleak and would unsettle even the bravest warriors.
As though she sensed his presence, she rose to her full height and twisted around. Their gazes collided. His body immediately grew needy as beautiful brown eyes widened in delight. Her face lit up with a smile, dark hair tumbled in disarray over her shoulders. His heart swelled with emotions. The feelings she evoked in him filled him with warmth and left him speechless. He swallowed down the edge of longing, the raw ache of emptiness. For Dari could never really be his.
She reached out to him, her blue floral dress catching a slight breeze, ruffling around her knees. "Mikel, where have you been?" Her sweet voice curled around him, drawing himcloser. "I've waited too long."
She didn't drop her flower, leaving it forgotten, left to wilt, like most would. No, she treasured life too much for that. Perhaps that was what he loved about her the most.
Slipping the stem behind her ear, she rushed toward him, arms extended.
He circled his hands around her, gathering her in tight against his body. The scent of Apricot Beauty tulips mingling with the intimate, distinct feminine aroma of Dari closed in on him, teasing all his senses, making his legs nearly give. The overwhelming need to make love to her, to join their bodies as one made him fairly mad with longing. He resisted the urge to drop to the ground and drag her down along with him. To claim her mouth, sink into her plush softness and lose himself in her body for an eternity.
His heart twisted as he brushed her thick black hair from her delicate shoulders. A familiar primal, possessive sound climbed out of his throat. Dari. Sweet Dari. She had no idea he existed outside her dream world. Nor did she have any idea who she was. Or what she was.
Throughout his younger years, Mikel had been watched over by many guardians. All handing down the knowledge and written literature on the Nallie breed, for fear that Grayson would find his way back to Earth and wreak havoc once again. Mikel knew what he was. That information had purposely been kept from Dari. For her own safety. Grayson wanted her. Wanted to breed her. And should they ever find her ... White-hot fury rushed through Mikel. He drew her in tighter, his nostrils flared. He refused to finish that thought because he would always see to her safety, and shield her from life's harsh realities.
Years ago, a rumor had circulated and reached Grayson that a baby girl had been saved. If Dari knew what she was, there was a chance she'd harness her power, nurture it, manipulate it the way Mikel had learned to do, and ultimately give away her location. Because Mikel had full use of his psychic powers, the walls around his castle had been equipped with metal shields which gave him a modicum of protection against being detected. This also prevented him from physically leaving his home. Ayden, a young man from the village, saw to his basic needs. Even though the vampires weren't looking for Mikel, and knew nothing about a baby boy being spared the sword, if they ever discovered his existence they'd surely be able to find Dari through him. Never would Mikel allow that to happen.
She tilted her chin, bringing them face-to-face. "Why do you come so infrequently?"
He couldn't tell her why. That every time he stepped out on his balcony, exposing himself to the world while he forged a psychic connection with her, there was a chance her signature would be located.
He pitched his voice low and brushed the pad of his thumb across her warm cheek. "I come when you need me to come."
Her expression told him she didn't believe that for a minute. "I always need you." Longing colored her voice.
He grinned, loving her honesty. For Dari knew nothing about deceit. "Okay, I come when I need you."
She thrust her pelvis forward, pushing up against him and felt his arousal. A sexy grin played on her lips. "So I see."
He frowned and pulled her impossibly tighter. It was never just about sex with her. His brow knitted together. His voice turned rusty, gruff. "I don't just need you like that. You know that, don't you?" He hadn't meant for his words to come out so harsh but he needed her to comprehend that.
She nodded in understanding, for she too needed him on a deeper level. He slanted his head and looked into her eyes. To make sure she truly believed him. He sensed she did. Lightening the mood, she smiled up at him and he smiled back.
He slowly drew her away from the subject. "Tell me what you've been doing. I see you're still gardening." He looked past her shoulder. A patch of colorful flowers began to wilt, their leaves turning to crisp ash. Like the rising tide, a wave of blackness rolled across her beautiful flowerbed, killing everything in its path. The smile fell from his face. His stomach knotted as a quick flash of angst rushed through him. Sadness was invading her happy thoughts.
Her face tightened warily. Dark eyes clouded. "I had the dream again." She pushed up against him, seeking his warmth, his comfort, his love.
He offered it freely. Dari knew no love. Not the real kind anyway. Her guardians cared for her, but none of them had ever loved her like a daughter or a sister, or even an intimate partner.
"Which one?" He knew the dream well, but something compelled him to ask anyway. He wasn't sure why. Maybe he'd hoped it had changed, had gotten better. He bit back a sigh. And maybe they would eventually live normal lives, have a family, picnic at the beach and die like normal mortals. Sometimes he wasn't sure if it was a blessing or a curse that they'd been spared the sword.
She dipped her head. A long mane of black hair curtained her emotions. He brushed it from her face and placed his finger under her chin, lifting her gaze to his. Dark, haunted eyes met his glance.
"The same as always. People running. Sharp teeth." She shook her head and paused to consider the word. "Not teeth. Fangs." She blinked and continued. "The flash of metal swords, wooden stakes and arrows. So many flying arrows." She stopped to shiver. Mikel brushed her arms, absorbing her tremor.
"And the baby," he asked. "Was the baby crying?"
She nodded. "Always."
Sadly, the baby she heard crying in her nightmares was herself. Stabbed with a wooden stake that had barely missed her heart, left alone to die like all other Nallie. Like Mikel, Dari's little body had been discovered and hidden in a commune by the "Dallam clan", mountain dwellers who, despite knowing what they were, believed in protecting life and believed with proper nurturing and guidance, the babies would grow into loving beings with empathy for others. Later Mikel and Dari had been separated and placed an ocean apart, thus decreasing the probability of them connecting, which would enhance their psychic signature and their chance of being detected by Grayson and his bloodband. It would also keep them from mating, since such a joining gifted them with special powers.
She shifted to allow her sensuous mouth to reach his. Not wanting to dwell on her dream, she switched subjects. Long lashes fluttered, her warm breath wafted across his cheek. Her eyes caressed him with sultry heat as her face suffused with color. The air around them charged with sexual energy.
"Kiss me, Mikel." She snuggled into him. Her hands slid through his hair. The intimate, erotic touch making it most difficult to draw his next breath. "I miss your kisses." Her voice covered him like a blanket of warmth as her desire reached out to him.
His gaze flitted across her face. He tilted his head, his blood pressure soared with hungry anticipation as he filled his lungs with her scent. His voice dropped an octave. "There is nothing I'd like better."
She gifted him with a smile and poised her lips open, her mouth a hairbreadth away from his. He traced the pattern of her face, and growled as his lips closed over hers capturing her mouth in a slow simmering kiss. At that first delicious taste, his world tilted on its axis. She tasted like sun, honey and flowers, and everything sweet. He pulled her in closer and she melted against him.
Late-afternoon sunlight poured over their bodies, warming him from the inside out as he became lost in the sensations of her hot, wet mouth. How pleasant that the sunrays didn't sting their flesh in her dream world, he mused.
As his passion soared his sharp fangs descended. He was always careful to hide them from her. With the utmost tenderness, and all the while fighting back the vampire stirring his primal need to pierce her flesh and taste her blood, he nipped at her lips, unable to get enough of her. He slipped his tongue inside to join with hers. He felt her hard nipples crush against his chest, alerting him to her mounting arousal. He swallowed the whimper that escaped her lips as he brushed the outside swell of her swollen mounds. Her body practically vibrated. His breathing grew shallow, labored.