Dark Challenge (Dark Carpathians #5)

A sound intruded. It was barely discernable, the rub of fur against a leaf,but it was enough to elicit a frustrated groan from Julian. He leaned his forhead against her crown. "This family unit you have is driving me over the edge.We have no privacy,piccola, none whatsoever."
She laughed softly with the same frustration. "I know,Julian. But it is one of the small sacrifices we all pay for caring for one another. We help each other through any crisis."
"Who is going to help me through this one? Believe me,cara, I am definitely having a crisis. I need you before I start to go insane."
"I know.It is the same for me," she whispered, her lips against the corner of his mouth, teasing, tempting. There was an ache in her voice, an answer to the ache in his. "We will have our time."
"It had better be soon," he growled, meaning it.

Desari reached up to trace his lips. ‘You have a perfect mouth, Julian. An amazingly perfect mouth.’
He arched an eyebrow at her. ‘Just my mouth is amazing?’
‘You are such a man.’ Her eyes laughed at him. ‘You need constant reassurance that you are magnificent.’
He nodded. ‘Magnificent. I like that. I could live with magnificent. Good choice of words, lifemate.

Desari reached up to trace his lips. "You have a perfect mouth, Julian. An amazingly perfect mouth."
He arched an eyebrow at her. "Just my mouth is amazing?"
"You are such a man." Her eyes laughed at him. "You need constant reassurance that you are magnificent."
He nodded. "Magnificent.I like that. I could live with magnificent. Good choice of words,lifemate."
She circled his neck with her arms. "Arrogant male. Darius is right, you know.You are incredibly arrogant."
"But deservedly so," he pointed out.

Fine," Julian agreed grudgingly. "But if that idiot Barack happens by with his hangdog look, tell him to keep going.

Her slender arms instantly circled his neck so that she could press her body against his hard frame. "I am a superstar,lifemate,yet you wish to leave me along at every opportunity. There are men everywhere who would be happy to take your place by my side."
He bent his head, his teeth scraping a provocative rythm over her pulse. Desari went liquid, boneless, her stomach clenching in anticipation. "No, they would not be happy to take my place at your side,cara mia, because I would promptly end their lives in a most unhappy way."
"You are such a caveman, Julian. You look tall and elegant and princely, yet you have not matured beyond the cave." Desari allowed her tongue a brief inspection of the taste of his skin. She closed her eyes to savor the moment.
"I have no intention of rising above caveman mentality," he growled in her ear, his breath teasing tendrils of hair and sending little flames dancing through her bloodstream. "There are so many benefits for the caveman."
"You like playing the part of the dominant male,no doubt," she whispered, her voice so husky with need that his body tightened in urgent, painful response. Her mouth moved over his throat, her hands seeking skin beneath his shirt. "I have a need of you, lifemate, and you are deliberately ignoring your sworn duties to me."
"Little minx.

How do people know for certain when they find their lifemate?"
Julian's smile was like a physical touch, a soft caress. "I have lived centuries without seeing color or feeling emotion.And then I found you. The world is now beautiful again and filled with life, with color, with so much intense emotion I can barely process it. When I look at you my body is alive. My heart is overwhelmed. You are the one."
"What happens if the woman does not feel it also?" Desari asked, curious. This was an entirely new concept to her, one she had never considered.
"There is only one true lifemate for each of us. If the male feels it, so does his mate." His white teeth flashed at her. "Perhaps she might wish to be stubborn and not admit it right away, not wanting her freedom curtailed for all time. Because there are so few of our women, they are guarded carefully from birth and given into the care of their lifemate as soon as they are of age.

I can find Syndil anywhere in this world, at my time," Barrack responded, his voice low and confident. "And I can protect her.

Come to me, cara mia,come to me.You are mine.No one else will ever do for you.You want me with you. You need me.Feel the emptiness without me.
Julian was implacable in his pursuit. He ruthlessly applied more pressure. Find me.Know that you are mine. You cannot bear another's touch, cara mia.You need me with you to fill the terrible emptiness.You are no longer happy and content without me. You must find me.
He sent the imperious command, his entire focus bent on finding her mental channel. He did not stop until he was certain he had connected with her, that his words had penetrated any barriers separating them and found their way to her soul.

I do not mind,Julian," she told him. "I rather like the way you spend your time with me." She pressed closer to him,her naked breasts against his bare chest.
His answering kiss was slow and tender, a gentle exploration. "In this one thing I will have to insist. Your health must come before all things, even our pleasure. On the next rising we will have more time together. This dawn you must rest."
She tried to keep the amusement out of her mind. He was so positive he was giving her an order. "Of course, Julian," she murmured softly, her long lashes feathering down to cover her dark eyes. Her body moved restlessly against his, her full breasts pushing into the heavy muscles of his chest. "If you say we cannot, then I must agree with you,but I am sorry to hear that it is so." Her hands were moving over his buttocks, her fingers tracing their defined muscles. Her fingers moved to his hips, caressed his thighs,worked their way to cup the weight of his rising desire in her palm. "I will do as you say, lifemate, if that is what truly pleases you." Her mouth drifted down over his throat and chest, following the pattern of golden hair to the taut muscles of his belly.
Beneath her caressing fingers, his body thickened and hardened in response, his gut clenched hotly, and the breath seemed to slam out of him. "You are deliberately testing my resolve,piccola, and I am failing the test miserably."
"That is exactly what I wanted to hear," she answered complacantly, her mind already occupied with much more interesting matters.

I have no intention of rising above caveman mentality,” he growled in her ear, his breath teasing tendrils of hair and sending little flames dancing through her bloodstream. “There are so many benefits for the caveman.

I need you, Desari. I was empty without you. And that kind of emptiness eats away at you, consumes you until your soul is dark and ugly and all that matters is sating your hunger. But nothing fills the void.Nothing. Year after year you endure the emptiness until life itself is a curse hardly to be borne. And all the while the darkness, the beast in you whispers, an insidious whisper promising power from the kill,promises that wear away your belief in God,in all the things that are right and true and good.The monster inside you,so black and hungry for life, grows and grows until it has consumed everything you ever were. That is the curse born by Carpathian males, Desari.

I offered leadership over the family, Savage, not over me.I go my own way."
"As do I.I meant no disrespect to you; indeed,Darius, I wish to learn of your history. I believe you are the brother of Gregori,our healer. He is a great man, not unlike yourself." Julian grinned suddenly. "Gregori and I do not always get along either."
Darius blinked, the only evidence of movement. "I cannot imagine why," he muttered ruefully.
"I grow on you," Julian assured.
"I do not think you should count too greatly on it," Darius replied.
"The sun is rising, my friend.Let us go."
"It will not be so easy living within my rule," Darius cautioned softly.
Julian's eyebrows shot up. "Really? As I answer only to my Prince, I think I shall find it an interesting experience.

I thought you were planning on talking him to death," Darius informed the golden bat dryly as he himself shape-shifted from a black bat to a feathered and much more powerful predator.
"Someone had to do something while you were playing with your rock patterns," Julian replied easily, allowing iridescent feathers to erupt along his own body, becoming a raptor more than able to keep up with his companion's aggressive flight.
They began to fly side by side easily toward the forest where they had left Desari. "I could do no other than protect the man of my sister's choosing." Darius managed to make it sound as if his sister had a hole in her head.
Julian snorted. "Protect me? I do not think so,old man. You were the one standing back in the shadows while I destroyed the beast."
"I had to ensure you came to no harm through other traps and snares. You certainly wasted enough time with the undead," Darius replied softly.

I want you like this,crying out for me to release you but wanting it to go on for all eternity," he whispered against her skin. "Pleading with me to end this, begging me to never stop. It is there in your mind.I hear you, see your fantasies.I know each of them, and I will fulfill every one.

I want you so badly I feel I might go insane if I do not have you at this moment."
She lay her head over his, rubbing his thick mane of golden hair with her chin. "But?"
Julian sighed softly. "I will have to be content with looking at you in adoration." He reluctantly released her and stepped away. "I think I can manage to wait a short time." His golden eyes glittered at her dangerously. "If you do something to distract me."
Desari tilted her head, her long hair sliding like so much silk over her shoulder, partially covering her bare skin from his view. A small, feminine smile curved her soft mouth. Just the sight of it made him groan. "Distract you?" Her voice hummed with promise. "I can think of several interesting things we can try to distract you from thinking of my family." Her smile was sexy, enticing, a promise.
"You are not helping me," he scolded, his body as unrelenting ache.
Desari had slowly merged her mind with his. She saw his terrible need of her, the images of them intertwined. She felt the fire rushing in his blood, the heaviness pooling between his legs. The monster roaring for release, inciting him to take his lifemate with heat and passion and damn the strangers he was trying to be considerate of.

You are the lifemate of a senstive, modern male. Julian's lazy amusement warmed her further, confirming what she already suspected, that he often stayed a shadow in her mind.
How fortunate for me. Desari smiled at herself in the mirror. Her dark hair cascaded in waves down her back. There was a sparkle in her eyes. She knew Julian had made her feel more alive than she had ever been. Sensitive, modern men are so to my liking.
Men? I am certain I did not hear my lifemate use the word
men.The plural.No man is allowed to be to your liking other than myself. He sounded stern, the fierce Carpathian male at his most menacing.
Desari laughed aloud. I suppose I can see your point, Julian, but really, it is so difficult to keep from noticing all of those handsome hunks in the audience.
Handsome hunks?
His voice dropped low with the affront. They are more like lovesick fops. If they could feel the vibrations in the air, they would show sense and run for their lives. It is bad enough to read their fantasies and hear them talk their trash, cara,but it is altogether worse to hear that my woman is looking back. One smile at the wrong man, lifemate, and trouble will find the man quickly.
You sound jealous,
she accused him, amusement curving her soft mouth.
The first rule for all women to know and never forget is that Carpathian makes do not share their lifemates. Your brother has much to answer for that this was not drilled into you since birth.It was his job to prepare you for my coming. It was said somewhere between jest and complaint.
Desari drew in her breath sharply, finding herself wavering between laughter and exasperation. My brother had no idea of your existence, you arrogant male. Besides, how could he possibly prepare me for your total ignorance of women? More likely, had he known you were coming to speak your ritual words, he would have been waiting to ambush you.I myself would have burrowed deep within the ground until you passed beyond my surroundings.
You would have burst from the ground staight into my arms,
cara mia, and you know this to be true.
Now he was laughing, that smug, taunting, male amusement that should have set her teeth on edge but instead made her laugh. I think you are trying to find something to dictate to me about just so you do not lose your ability. Go away and practice this male art form on someone else.
You will be singing to me tonight,
piccola,and to no other man.
You are a spoiled little boy,not a grown man.
Should I come show you what a grown man I am?
His voice was suddenly low and warm, so sexy she felt a rush of answering heat. She could feel the brush of his fingers against her throat, trailing down the valley between her suddenly aching breasts.
Go away,Julian, she laughed in answer. I cannot have you getting me hot and bothered just now.
As long as I know you re hot and bothered for me, I will do as you request and go back to work.
I can only hope.

You have done nothing to draw this evil one to you,Syndil. There is no evil in you,no wickedness. You are the light of our lives, as is Desari. Without you,there is no existence. I will not allow him to take you from us, from me. Know this,woman: if you do not stand with me, merge completely and allow our combined strength to fight his hold on you,then I will follow wherever he takes you and battle to the death for your return.

You want to come to me. You know you have to come to me.Nothing can stop you. It is inevitable,like the tide. There can be no turning back.

Julian made another effort to breathe. Air. It was all around him, yet he couldn’t seem to drag enough into his lungs. He took her hand in his and carried it to the warmth of his mouth.
‘We will need to find a safe subject, cara mia, or I will not make it through these next few minutes.

Men are not so difficult. They are logical and methodical.’
She laughed softly. ‘You wish it were so. I must tell you, although I am taking a huge chance that you might become impossible to live with, that you are an extraordinary lover.’
‘Keep talking, lifemate. I am listening,’ he responded with a deep satisfaction. ‘Magnificent was only a starting place. Extraordinary lover is the perfect description. I see that now.

No, they would not be happy to take my place at your side, cara mia, because I would promptly end their lives in a most unhappy way.’
‘You are such a caveman, Julian. You look tall and elegant and princely, yet you have not matured beyond the cave.’
…’I have no intention of riding above caveman mentality,’ he growled in her ear, his breath teasing tendrils of hair and sending little flames dancing through her bloodstream. ‘There are so many benefits for the caveman.

She kissed him, her body molding to his, and in his mind her beautiful voice rose in song just for him. The notes skipped from his mind to the sky, silver and gold notes of joy and happiness, of courage and admiration. She sang of love between two people, sacred and beautiful. She sang of peace and happiness. Her hands moved over him possessively, lovingly, checking his body for wounds. Her warrior was home. Whatever

Sleep deeply, the sleep of our people, chosen one of my sister,that you will heal completely and wake refreshed and in full strength.

The first rule for all women to know and never forget is that Carpathian males do not share their lifemates. Tour brother has much to answer for that this was not drilled into you since birth. It was is job to prepare you for my coming.

The first rule for al women to know and never forget is that Carpathian males do not share their lifemates. Your brother has much to answer for that this was not drilled into you since birth. It was his job to prepare you for my coming.

You are already part of a family," Desari reminded him,her body brushing his, her arms circling his waist from behind. She had materialized out of nowhere,her presence filling the healing chamber.
She was there.Completing him. His air. His heart.The part of his soul that really lived and loved and mattered. Without conscious thought he sent up a quick prayer of thanks that he had been granted such a priceless treasure when he felt so undeserving of her.
Julian loved the way she smelled. He inhaled, and her scent washed over him, clean and sexy. "This mess? With all these males?" Julian allowed a low, rumbling growl to escape. "This is no family. This is a man's nightmare."
Desari deliberately moved against him, her body soft and pliant with invitation. "Is that what you think?"
"What I think is"-Julian circled her slender throat with his large hand in mock threat- "you are deliberately tempting me when I have important, pressing business to atttend to.

You cannot look at me like that, piccola, or I am sure to go up in flames."
Desari allowed her fingers to tangle in his golden mane. "Thank you for thinking of my family when I could not." Her voice was a whisper of seduction, sliding over his hot skin. Just the sound of it made every muscle in his body clench.
Julian made another effort to breathe. Air.It was all around him, yet he couldn't seem to drag enough into his lungs. He took her hand in his and carried it to the warmth of his mouth. "We need to find a safe subject, cara mia, or I will not make it through these next few minutes."
Desaris soft laughter was like music in the wind. She perched on a large tree trunk that lay across the forest floor. The breeze tugged at her long hair so that it shifted around her like a veil, one moment hiding the temptation of bare, gleaming skin, the next revealing it. "A safe subject," she mused aloud. "What would that be?"
The air slammed out of his lungs once again at the sight of her. She looked so much a part of her surroundings. Wild. Sexy. Provocative. "You might try closing your shirt." His voice sounded hoarse and desperate even to his own ears.

You grow sleepy,cara mia," Julian whispered, leaning down to kiss her forehea. "We should go to your brother's chamber. I will check him once more before we go to ground."
Desari refused to open her eyes. She made a soft purring sound, completely contented to lie in his arms. "Not yet, Julian," she protested softly. "I do not want to leave this place for a little while longer."
"I can feel how tired you are, my love. I can do no other than-"
"Do not say it!" Deasri thumped his chest. "Just lie there and hold me. That is what I want. Men are such difficult creatures,Julian. I am beginning to realize this."
He rubbed his chin on the top of her head, her hair catching in the shadow along his jaw. "Men are not difficult. They are logical and methodical."
She laughed softly. "You wish it wree so. I must tell you,although I am taking a huge cance that you might become impossible to live with, tha you are an extraordinary lover."
"Keep talking,lifemate. I am listening," he responded with a deep satisfaction. "Magnificent was only a starting place. Extraordinary lover is the perfect description. I see that now."
Her soft laughter washed over him, as gentle as a breeze. Touching him. Just like that. She could touch him with her breath. Julian wrapped his arms around her tightly and buried his face in her ebony hair. "Why is it you always smell so good?"
"Would you want me to smell like a cavewoman?"
"I do not know,cara. I do not know what a cavewoman smells like."
She opened her eyes at that, her long lashes fluttering in the sexy,flirty little way she had. "You'd better not want me smelling like any other, Julian, or you will find out what a real ancient woman can do when she is enraged.