Born into a world of evil and ice, Dragonseeker Lara Calladine is a child of three species yet belonging to none. She walked her chosen path alone, trusting no one. For beyond the frozen hell of her youth were even greater dangers.
Today, an expert in the study of ice caves, Lara searches for the source of her nightmares. Nicolas De La Cruz can help her. Though centuries of hunting and killing have taken their toll, he longs to feel sensual love without the hunger for blood.
As Lara and Nicolas search the treacherous Carpathian landscape, their tenuous trust shifts into an undeniable passion. But their mysterious pasts share a secret that could destroy them both...
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"Lara, let's get out of here," Terry Vale said. "It's getting dark and there's nothing here." He shouldered his caving equipment, not surprised that they hadn't found an entrance to an ice cave. If no one had discovered the cave by this time in the Carpathian Mountains, he doubted if the place existed.
Lara Calladine ignored him, continuing to scan the mountainside for the smallest crack that might signal the presence of a cave. She wasn't wrongnot this time. Power had surged and crackled the moment she set foot on the upper slopes of the mountain. She took a deep breath and pressed a hand over her pounding heart. This was it. This was the place she had spent her life searching for. She would recognize that flow of energy anywhere. She knew every weave, every spell, her body absorbing the gathering power so that veins sizzled and nerve endings burned with the electrical current building inside of her.
"I've got to go with Terry on this," Gerald French agreed, backing up the other member of their research caving team. "This place gives me the creeps. We've been on a lot of mountains, but this one doesn't like us." He gave a nervous laugh. "It's getting dicey up here."
"No one says ‘dicey,' " Lara murmured, running her hand along the face of the rock about an inch from it, looking for threads of power. The two men were not only her climbing partners, but her closest friends. At that moment she wished she'd left them behind, because she knew she was right. The cave was here, she just had to find the entrance.
"Whatever," Gerald snapped. "It's getting dark and there's nothing here but mist. The fog is creepy, Lara. We've got to get out of here."
Lara spared the two men an impatient glance and then surveyed the countryside around them. Ice and snow glittered, coating the surrounding mountains with what appeared to be sparkling gems. Far below, despite the gathering dusk, she could see castles, farms and churches in the valley. Sheep dotted the meadows and in the distance she could see the river running, filled to capacity. Overhead, birds cried, filling the sky and dive-bombing toward her only to break off abruptly and circle again. The wind shifted continuously, biting at her face and every bit of exposed skin, tugging at her long, thick braid all the while moaning and wailing. Occasionally, a rock fell down the slope and bounced off the ledge to the hillside below. A trickle of snow and dirt slid near her feet.
Her gaze swept the wild countryside below. Gorges and ravines cut through the snow-capped mountains, plants clung to the sides of the rocks and shivered naked along the plateaus. She could see the entrances to several caves and felt the strong pull toward them as if they were tempting her to leave her current position. Water filled the deeper depressions below, forming a dark peat bog, and beds of moss were a vivid green in stark contrast to the browns surrounding them. But she needed to be herein this spotthis place. She had studied the geography carefully and knew, deep within the earth, a massive series of ice caves had formed.
The higher she climbed, the smaller everything below her looked and the thicker the white mist surrounding her became. With each step, the ground shifted subtly and the birds overhead shrieked a little louder. Ordinary things, yes, but the subtle sense of uneasiness, the continual voice whispering to leave before it was too late told her this was a place of power protecting itself. Although the wind continued to wail and blow, the mist remained a thick veil shrouding the upper slope.
"Come on, Lara," Terry tried again. "It took us forever to get the permits, we can't waste time on the wrong area. You can see nothing's here."
It had taken considerable effort this time, to get the permits for her study, but she had managed the usual wayusing her gifts to persuade those who disagreed with her that due to global warming concerns, the ice caves needed immediate study. Unique microorganisms called extremophiles thrived in the harsh environment of the caves, far away from sunlight or traditional nutrients. Scientists hoped those microbes could aid in the fight against cancer or even produce an antibiotic capable of wiping out the newest emerging superbugs.
Her research project was fully funded and, although she was considered young at the age of twenty-seven, she was acknowledged as the leading expert in the field of ice-cave study and preservation. She'd logged more hours exploring, mapping and studying the ice caves around the world than most other researchers twice her age. She'd also discovered more superbugs than any other caver.
"Didn't it strike you as odd that no one wanted us in this particular region? They were fine giving us permits to look virtually anywhere else," she pointed out. Part of the reason she'd persisted when no caves had been mapped in the area was because the department head had been so strangestrange and rather vague when they went over the map. The natural geographical deduction after studying the area was that a vast network of ice caves lay beneath the mountain, yet the entire region seemed to have been overlooked.
Terry and Gerald had exhibited exactly the same behavior, as if they didn't notice the structure of the mountain, but both men were superb at finding ice caves from the geographical surface. Persuasion had been difficult, but all of that work was for this momentthis cavethis find.
"It's here," she said with absolute confidence.
Her heart continued to poundnot at the excitement of the findbut because walking had become such a chore, her body not wanting to continue forward. She breathed away the compulsion to leave and pressed through the safeguards, following the trail of power, judging how close she was to the entrance by how strong her need to run away was.
Voices rose in the wind, swirled in the mists, telling her to go back, to leave while she could. Strangely, she heard the voices in several languages, the warning much stronger and more insistent as she made her way along the slope searching for anything at all that might signal an entrance to the caves she knew were there. All the while she kept all senses alert to the possibility that monsters might lurk beneath the earth, but she had to enterto find the place of her nightmares, the place of her childhood. She had to find the two dragons she dreamed of nightly.
"Lara!" This time, Terry's voice was sharp with protest. "We have to get out of here."
Barely sparing him a second glance, Lara stood for a long moment studying the outcropping that jutted out from smoother rock. Thick snow covered most of it, but there was an oddity about the formation that kept drawing her gaze back to the rock. She approached cautiously. Several small rocks lay at the foot of the larger boulders, and strangely, not a single snowflake stuck to them. She didn't touch them, but studied them from every angle, observing carefully the way they were arranged in a pattern at the foot of the outcropping.
"Something out of place," she murmured aloud.
Instantly the wind wailed, the sound rising to a shriek as it rushed toward her, blowing debris into the air so that it shot at her like small missiles.
"It's the rocks. See, they should be arranged differently." Lara leaned down and pushed the small pile of rocks into a different pattern.
At once the ground shifted beneath them. The mountain creaked in protest. Bats took to the air, pouring out of some unseen hole a short distance from them, filling the sky until it was nearly black. The dark crack along the outcropping split wider. The mountain shuddered and shook and groaned as if alive, as if it was coming awake.
"We shouldn't be here," Terry nearly sobbed.
Lara took a deep breath and held her palm toward the narrow slit in the mountainside, the only entrance to this particular cave. Power blasted out at her, and all around she could feel the safeguards, thick and ominous, protecting the entrance.
"You're right, Terry," she agreed. "We shouldn't." She backed away from the outcropping and gestured toward the trail. "Let's go. And hurry." For the first time she was really aware of the time, the way the gathering darkness spread like a stain across the sky.
She would be coming back early morningwithout her two companions. She had no idea what was left in the elaborate ice caverns below, but she wasn't about to expose two of her closest friends to danger. The safeguards in place would confuse them, so they wouldn't remember the location of the cave, but she knew each weave, each spell, and how to reverse it so that the guards wouldn't affect her.
Ice caves as a whole were dangerous at all times. The continual pressure from overlying ice caps often sent great frozen chunks of ice blasting out of the walls, fired like rockets, capable of killing anything they struck. But this particular cave harbored dangers far outweighing natural ones and she didn't want her companions anywhere near it.
The ground shifted again, throwing all of them off balance. Gerald grabbed her to keep her from falling and Terry caught at the outcropping, fingers digging into the widening crack. Beneath their feet, something under the ground moved, raising the surface several inches as the creature raced toward the base of the rocks Lara had realigned.
"What is that?" Gerald shouted, backpedaling. He thrust Lara behind him in an effort to protect her as the dirt and snow spouted into a geyser almost at his feet.
Terry screamed, his voice high-pitched and frightened as he tipped over backward and the unseen creature raced toward him beneath the earth.
"Get up! Move!" Lara called, trying to get around Gerald's sold bulk to throw a holding spell. As he swung around, Gerald's backpack knocked her off her feet and sent her rolling down the steeper slope. Her birthmark, the strangely shaped dragon positioned just over her left ovary suddenly flared into life, burning through her skin and glowing red-hot.
Two dark green tentacles burst from the snow-covered ground, slick with blood, the color so dark it nearly was black, emerging on either side of Terry's left ankle. The sound of bubbling mud rose along with a noxious, putrid stink of rotten eggs and sulfur, so overpowering the three of them gagged. The bulbous tops of the tentacles reared back, revealing coiling snake heads that struck with brutal speed. Two curved, venomous fangs clamped from either side through Terry's skin nearly to the bone. Terry screamed and flailed in terror as his blood dripped into the pristine snow. The small gap in the ground began to widen into a larger hole a few feet from Terry. At once, the tentacles retreated toward the hole, slithering across the surface, dragging Terry by his ankle. His screams of fear and pain grew louder, shrill and panicked.
Gerald flung himself forward, gripping Terry under his arms and throwing his weight in the opposite direction. "Hurry, Lara!"
Lara scrambled to the top of the slope. The mist whirled and thickened around her, making it difficult to see. She spread her arms as she ran, gathering energy from the darkening sky, uncaring that her companions might see, knowing she was Terry's only chance for survival. Never once since leaving the ice caves had she used the knowledge inside of her, the wealth of information her aunts had shared with her, embedding memory after memory in her mindindeed, she hadn't been certain it was real. Until that moment. Power flooded her. Her mind opened. Expanded. Reached into the well of knowledge and found the exact words she needed.
"It's too strong." Gerald dug his heels into the earth and held on to Terry with every ounce of strength he possessed. "Stop wasting your energy and help me, damn it. Come on, Terry, fight."
Terry ceased screaming abruptly and began to fight in earnest, kicking with his free leg in an attempt to dislodge the two snake heads.
The vine threw more tentacles out, the greenish black stems writhing hideously, looking for a target. The teeth sank deeper into Terry's ankle, sawing at flesh and bone in an effort to keep their prey.
Lara flung herself forward, lifting her face to the sky as she muttered the words she found in her mind.
I call forth the power of the sky. Bring down lightning to my mind's eye. Shaping, shifting, bend to my will. Forging a scythe to sharpened steel. Hot and bright the fire be, guide my hand with accuracy.
Lightning zigzagged across the sky, lighting the edges of the clouds. The air around them charged so that the hair on their bodies and heads stood out. Lara felt electricity snapping and sizzling in her fingertips and focused on the thinner space between the long, thick bodies and the bulbous heads of the snake vines.
White light streaked across the short distance and pierced the necks of the creatures. The smell of rotting flesh burst from the vine. Both severed tentacles dropped limply to the ground, leaving the teeth, with the heads attached, still sunk deep into Terry's ankle. The rest of the tentacles reared back in shock and then burrowed beneath the dirt and snow.
Terry grasped one of the heads to pull it out.
"No!" Lara protested. "Leave it. We have to get out of here right now."
"It burns like acid," Terry complained. His face was pale, nearly as white as the covering of snow, but beads of sweat dotted his forehead.
Lara shook her head. "We have to get off this mountain now. And you can't take chances until I can look at it."
She took his arm and signaled to Gerald to grab his other one. They steadied Terry between them and began to hurry from the slope to the well-traveled path off to their right.
"What was that?" Gerald hissed, his eyes meeting hers over Terry's head. "Have you ever seen a snake like that before?"
"Was it two-headed?" Terry asked. Anxiety made him hyperventilate. "I didn't get all that good a look at it before it struck. Do you think it's poisonous?"
"It isn't attacking your central nervous system, Terry," Lara said, "at least not yet. We'll get you back down to the village and find a doctor. I know a few things about medicine. I can treat you when we get to the car."
The mountain rumbled ominously, shivering beneath their feet. Lara glanced up at the swirling white mists. Above them, spiderweb cracks appeared in the snow and began to widen.
Gerald swore, renewed his grip on Terry and started sprinting along the thin, winding trail. "It's going to come down."
Terry gritted his teeth against the pain radiating up from his ankle. "I can't believe this is happening. I feel sick."
Lara kept her eyes on the mountain behind them as they raced, dragging Terry every step of the way. "Faster. Keep moving."
The ground shifted and rolled and small fans of snow slid in artful patterns toward the slope below them. The sight was dazzling, hypnotic even. Gerald shook his head several times and looked at Lara, puzzled, slowing down to look around at the undulating snow. "Lara? I can't remember what happened. Where are we?"
"We're about to be creamed by an avalanche, Gerald," Lara warned. "Terry's hurt and we've got to run like hell. Now move it!"
She put every ounce of compulsion and command into her voice that she could muster on the run. Fortunately both men obeyed, concentrating on getting down the steep slope as quickly as they could and asking no more questions. The safeguards protecting the cave were not only lethal, but they confused and disoriented any traveler stumbling across them. The warning system usually was enough to make people so uneasy they left the area, but once triggered, the safeguards fought to erase memories or even kill to protect the entrance to the cave.
It was definitely the place she had been looking for. Now she had to survive in order to come back and discover the long-buried secrets of her past. Gerald stumbled, and Terry screamed as the snake head slammed against a particularly dense pile of snow and ice, shoving the teeth farther into his flesh.
Lara felt the mountain tremble. At first there was silence and then a distant rumbling. The sound increased in strength and volume until it became a roar. The snow slid, slowly at first, but picked up speed, churning and roiling, rushing toward them. Lara forced down panic and reached into the well of knowledge she knew was deep inside of her. Her aunts had never appeared human to her, but their voices had been, and the immense wealth of information they had collected over centuries had been stored in Lara's memories.
She was Dragonseeker, a great Carpathian heritage. She was human, with courage and strength of the ages. She was mage, able to gather energy and use it for good. All of her ancestors were powerful beings. The blood of three species mingled in her veins, yet she belonged in none of those worlds and walked her chosen pathalone, but always guided by the wisdom of the aunts.
She felt strength pour into her, felt the crackle of electricity as the sky lit up with lightning. Once more looking over her shoulder, she sent a command to the wilds of nature to counteract the protective guard the dark mage had used on the mountain.
I summon thee water ice, fit to my hand, provide me with shelter as I command.
Snow stopped movement abruptly, sprayed in the air, frozen in place, curled over their heads like a giant wave motionless in midair.
"Run!" Lara shouted. "Go, Gerald. We've got to get off the mountain."
Night was falling and the avalanche was not the worst they might face. The wind had stilled, but the voices remained, shrieking warnings she dared not ignore. They gripped Terry and half ran, half slid down the steep slope. Above their heads, the heavy mantle of snow had formed a wave, cresting over them, motionless like an ominous statue.
Terry left behind streaks of blood as they skidded over the icy surface. They were sweating profusely by the time they made it to the bottom. Locating their car was an easy task. In this particular area of Romania, most of the locals used carts with tires pulled by horses. Cars weren't a common sight at all and theirs, as small as it was, looked far too modern in a place centuries old.
Gerald dragged Terry through the meadow to where the car was parked beneath some naked branches. Lara turned back toward the mountain, let out her breath and clapped her hands together three times. There was an odd, expectant pause. The wave rolled, snow dropped. The mountain slid, raising a cloud of white spray into the air.
"Lara," Terry gasped. "You have to get these teeth out of my ankle. My leg burns like hell and I swear, something's crawling inside of meinside my leg."
He sprawled on the small backseat, his skin nearly gray. Sweat soaked his clothes and his breathing came in ragged gasps.
Lara knelt in the dirt and examined the hideous heads. She knew what they werehybrids of the dark mage, bred to do his bidding. She'd seen the beginnings of them in her nightmares. The snakes injected a poisonous brew, including tiny microscopic parasites, into their victim's body. The organisms would eventually take over his body and then his brain, until he was a mere puppet to be used by the dark mage.
"I'm sorry, Terry," she said softly. "The teeth are barbed and have to be removed carefully."
"Then you've seen this before?" Terry gripped her wrist and held her close to him as she crouched beside the open door of the car. He was sprawled across the backseat, rocking in pain. "I don't know why, but the fact that you know what they are makes me feel better."
It didn't make her feel any better. She'd been a child, dragged into a laboratory. The sights and smells had been so hideous she'd tried to forget them. The stench of blood. The screams. The grotesque tiny worms in a putrid ball, wiggling in a feeding frenzy, consuming blood and human flesh.
Lara took a deep breath and let it out. They didn't have much time. She needed to get Terry to a master healer who could handle such things, but she could slow the deterioration down.
Gerald looked around him, then back up at the mountain, now quiet and still. White mists swirled, but the voices were gone. Overhead the clouds grew heavier and darker, but the mountain looked pristineuntouchedcertainly not as if anyone had climbed it and been attacked.
"Lara?" He sounded as puzzled as he looked. "I can't remember where we were. I can't remember how these snakes attacked Terry. Don't snakes need warm weather? What's wrong with me?"
"It doesn't matter right now. What matters is getting these teeth out of Terry's leg and getting him to the inn where someone who knows what they're doing can help him." Someone with natural healing skills, more than doctor's skills. If they were in the vicinity where she had been held as a child, then it stood to reason someone would know how to treat a mage wound.
She closed her eyes to block out the sight of Terry's gray face and Gerald's anxious one. Deep inside, where that wealth of knowledge lay, she found her calm center. She could almost hear the whisper of her aunts' voices, directing her as the information flooded her mind. The curved fangs had a barb at the tip.
Severed head that now does bite, fangs be removed with heat and light. Draw the poison that would remain, holding the harm, stop the pain.
"There might be someone much better at taking these out," Lara said. "We can get you to the inn fast and the couple who own it might be able to find someone for us who has dealt with this before."
Terry shook his head. "I can't stand it, Lara. If you don't take them out now, I'm going to rip them out. I really can't stand it."
She nodded her understanding and reached beneath her jacket for the knife on her toolbelt. "Let's get it done then. Gerald, get in the backseat on the other side and hold Terry's shoulders." More than anything, she didn't want Gerald where some of the tainted blood might spatter onto him. The tiny microorganisms were dangerous to everyone.
Gerald obeyed her without question, and Lara studied the first snake head. The hybrid was part plant, part living animal, and all frightening. It was meant to take over a person, no matter what the species, and bring them under the dark mage's control. It hadn't been just Carpathians and humans he had tortured, but his own people as well. No one, not even his own family, was safe, as Lara could attest to.
She closed her eyes and swallowed hard, slamming the door on memories that were too painful, too frightening to remember when she had such a complex task before her. She had rarely used her healing abilities on anyone else in the last few years. In her childhood, she'd made the mistake several times, traveling with gypsies. She'd knit broken bones. Healed a wound from a blade that would have killed a man. Removed harmful bacteria from children's lungs. At first people would be grateful, but inevitably they would come to fear her.
Never show that you are different. You must blend in wherever you are. Learn the language and the customs. Dress the way they dress. Speak as they speak. Cloak who and what you are and never trust anyone.
She liked Gerald and Terryvery much. They'd worked together for several years, but she'd been very careful never to intrude on either of them, or to show them that she was different in any way.
Terry's pleading voice forced her thoughts to the task at hand. She steadied herself and gave him a reassuring nod. They were used to following her lead and it was natural to look to her now. She took another breath and let it out, pushing down the revulsion welling up.
The words to the healing chant rose out of that same bank of knowledge and she repeated them under her breath as she slid the razor-sharp knife beneath Terry's skin and found the barb.
Ku?asz, nélkül sivdobbanás, nélkül fesztelen löyly. Ot élidamet andam szabadon élidadért. O jelä sielam jorem ot ainamet és sone ot élidadet. O jelä sielam pukta kinn minden szelemeket bels?. Paj?ak o susu hanyet és o nyelv nyálamet sívadaba. Vii, o verim sone o verid andam.
The ancient Carpathian language she'd learned as a child came easily. She might be rusty, having never used it other than to murmur it to herself before she fell asleep, but the words, spoken in a chant, were always soothing to her.
As she whispered the healing words, she blocked Terry's pain. The fang was wickedand nasty. It curved into the skin, growing wider, digging deep, and at the end, near the point, was a small barb, curving in the opposite direction. She had to slit the skin carefully to allow the points on either side to become loose enough to slide out without further damaging Terry's leg.
At first she used her human sight, blocking all other ability to see until she had the barb out. Only then did she allow herself to look with the eyes of a mage. Tiny white worms writhed and burrowed, swarming to the cells to reproduce as quickly as possible. Her stomach lurched. It took tremendous effort to shed her awareness of her own thoughts and physical self and become a blaze of healing white light pouring into Terry's wound to burn the organisms as quickly as she found them.
The wormlike creatures tried to hide from the light, and they reproduced quickly. She tried to be thorough, but Terry squirmed and moaned, distracting her, all at once reaching down to his other ankle, trying to yank the snake head free.
She found herself abruptly back in her own body, for a moment disoriented and panic-stricken. "Terry! Leave it. I'll take it out."
She was too late. He screamed as he yanked at the foul snake's head, tearing it loose from his ankle. The barb ripped through his skin and muscle. Blood sprayed the backseat of the car and shot across the seat, splattering Gerald's chest.
"Don't touch the blood with your hands!" Lara yelled. "Use a cloth. Get your jacket off, Gerald."
She clamped both of her hands over the wound, pressing hard, ignoring the burning pain as the blood coated her skin, burning to the bone. She fought past her own fear and panic to reach for the cool, centered place inside of her, calling healing light, burning white-hot and pure, to counteract the acid of the snake blood. The way her birthmark was burning there had to be vampire blood mixed in the foul brew.
Gerald ripped his jacket open and threw it away as the material smoldered with a grayish smoke.
Terry grew quiet as Lara sent healing light streaking through his body to the gaping wound in his leg. Bleeding slowed to a trickle and the tiny wormlike creatures retreated from the spreading heat Lara generated. She cauterized the wound, destroying as many of the parasites as she could before bathing her hands and arms in the same hot energy.
"Did you get any blood on you, Gerald?"
He shook his head. "I don't think so, Lara. It felt like it, but I wiped my hands and face and there aren't any smears."
"Once we get Terry to a healer, take a shower as soon as you can. And burn your clothes. Don't just wash them, burn them. Everything."
She backed out of the seat, helping Terry to swing his legs out of the way of the door so she could close it and rush around to the driver's side. Terry's coloring was terrible, but more important, she didn't like the way he was breathing. Part of his distress could be shock, the shallow, too-fast breathing of panic, but she feared she hadn't stopped the parasites from assaulting his body. He needed a master healer immediately.
She drove as fast as she could over the narrow, pitted mountain road, sliding through some of the sharper turns and bumping over the muddy holes. Dirty water sprayed into the air as the car fishtailed through mud and snow. All around them, the peaceful countryside seemed a sharp contrast to their terror and desperation.
Haystacks and cows surrounded them. Small thatched houses and horse-drawn carts with huge tires gave the impression of stepping back in time to a much slower-paced and happier era. The castles and abundance of churches lent the area a medieval look, as if knights on horses might come charging over the hills at any moment.
Lara had traveled all over the world searching for her past. She remembered little of her journey from the ice cave and once the gypsies had found her, she'd traveled all over Europe. Passed from family to family, she'd never been told where they'd found her. Coming to the Carpathian Mountains had been like coming home. And when she had entered Romania, she felt at home. This place was still wild, the forests untamed and the land alive beneath her feet.
The car slid around another corner and they were out of the heavier forest and into the peat bogs. The trail narrowed even more, winding on solid ground while the smell of the bog permeated the air around them. Trees swayed and drooped under the heavy weight of snow. Lights in the distance heralded farms and for a moment she thought to stop at one of the nearest ones for aid, but Terry had been bitten by a mage-bred snake carrying vampire blood. Healing a mage wound was difficult enough, but a hybrid with vampire bloodthat required skills far beyond her knowledge or that of a human doctor.
Their one hope lay with the innkeepers. The couple had been born and raised in the area and had lived their entire lives there. Lara couldn't imagine that they wouldn't have some knowledge of the danger lying beneath the mountain. Over time, it became difficult to tamper with the same memories. And there had been something about the innsomething that had drawn Lara to it. A suggestion of power, as if perhaps there was subtle influence at work, encouraging tourists and visitors to stay at the homey, friendly inn.
Lara had allowed herself to be susceptible to the flow of power because it was the first time since the dragon had shoved her onto the upper cavern ledge that she had encountered the light, delicate touch of flowing energy. She had forgotten what it was like to bathe herself in the crackle of electric power, to feel it surrounding her, flowing through every cell until her body hummed with it. The inn and entire village gave off the amazing feeling, although it was so subtle she had nearly missed it.
"Lara," Gerald called from the backseat. "My skin is starting to burn."
"We're almost there. Go in and take a shower first thing." She didn't want to think what Terry was suffering. He was very quiet, other than making a soft moaning sound. "Gerald, when we get to the inn, we'll need to talk to the owners and ask who the village healer is."
"The owner's name was Slavica and she seemed very nice."
"Hopefully she's very discreet as well. She certainly seems to know everyone."
"Wouldn't it be better to ask for the nearest doctor?" Gerald asked.
Lara tried to sound casual. "Sometimes the local healers know so much more about plants and animals in the area. Although we've never encountered this particular species before, it's a good bet the villagers have, and the local healer probably knows exactly what to do to extract the poi" She broke off and hastily changed her description. "Venom."
Lara pulled the car up the twisting road to the inn on the edge of town. The large, two-story inn faced the forest with its long porch and inviting balconies. She parked as close to the stairs as she could get and raced around to help Gerald get Terry out.
Shadows lengthened and grew as the clouds overhead thickened with the threat of snow. The wind howled and the trees swayed and rustled in protest. Lara glanced around her with sharp, wary eyes as she opened the door to the backseat and reached inside for Terry.
"I'll come back for the snake heads to show the innkeeper. Don't touch them," she cautioned.
Terry was nearly deadweight as he hung between them. Gerald had to practically carry him as they stumbled through the snow. The walkway was clear, but they took a shortcut, tramping across the front slope to get to the porch faster.
A tall, dark-haired man opened the door for them and reached to help. Even under the dire circumstances, Lara found him handsome, compelling even.
"Don't get the blood on you," she warned. "It's highly venomous."
The dark-haired man's gaze swept up to her face and froze, locking on to her. For one moment there was shocked recognition in his eyes and then it was gone as he got his shoulder under Terry to relieve her of the weight.
Lara whirled around, back toward the car. "Get him inside and ask the innkeeper to find a healer. I'll get the snake heads."
Excerpted from "Dark Curse"
Copyright © 2009 Christine Feehan.
Excerpted by permission of Penguin Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Carpathian Nicolas De La Cruz has come home to report bad news to his prince. However, he also plans to commit suicide ending his centuries of loneliness.-------------- Lara Calladine has finally escaped the ice prison of her abusive father and even eviler grandfather. A half-breed she spent her childhood tortured by the pair in odious experiments to understand the dilution of her dragonkeeper bloodline with human DNA. She knows they are coming for her although that might be the nightmares that frighten her. When she and Nicholas meet, Lara knows she has found her soulmate so has Nicholas, but trust of another person is something she has learned first hand to never do. Still the time to confront her nightmares is now as she has a persistent champion demanding to be at her side.----------------- The latest Dark novel is a superb entry that can stand by itself as a powerful romantic fantasy yet also augments the super saga plot. The story line is fast-paced and filled with action both trademarks of Christine Feehan. Lara makes the tale excellent as a unique individual who has suffered torment and torture her entire life. Nicholas realizes rather quickly that he has her love, but gaining her trust seems impossible even as he risks his life to help her. Ms. Feehan provides a terrific thriller to the delight of the Carpathian crowd.--------------- Harriet Klausner
A truly excellent hero. Even when Nicholas is doing things the reader doesn't approve of, Feehan still manages to create sympathy and empathy for her tortured hero. By the end of the book, Nicholas is a terrific life-mate and one you won't soon forget. Feehan once again used the new Carpathian language which she introduced in Dark Demon. Her hero uses it constantly and the reader is forced to skim it, looking for the next English word to understand what he really said. It jars the reader from the story and makes it very frustrating to get a flow going - especially when you realize that it isn't really a true foreign language, but rather an imaginary one. Nicolas De La Cruz was a very refreshing South American hero. I really really liked him, and thought, darn! Lara is one lucky lady. :) In the previous books that featured De La Cruz brothers, I thought they were obnoxious with their overly-chauvinistic attitudes (even for Carpathian males, they were way too chauvinistic - except for Riordan). Nicolas isn't really like that. He kind of starts off that way for about two minutes, but he catches on pretty quickly that his attitude just won't work with a partner in his life. He quickly evolves into a really nice, supportive (and hot!) lifemate for Lara, and you can see the evolution occuring in his mind. He's very aware of himself, his attitude, what Lara needs, and how he needs to adapt himself to meet her needs, etc... I thought that was very refreshing. I think if you're a Carpathian fan, you'll enjoy this book a lot. I felt that it was a turn in a better direction for Feehan, and I'm looking forward to the next book. This book reminded me a lot of the Christmas book, and I really like that one. I like seeing a lot of characters interacting with each other, and finding out what previous couples are up to. In this book, you find out that several couples have moved back to the mountains to be closer to their people, and I really liked that.
I was very disappointed in this book. I did not like the portions regarding the "child". I do not care to read graphics regarding children. Also,the story started off just fine, but the ending left me hanging. I daresay I will wait a LONG time before considering her work again and I had read all of the books up until now. I am sure that authors change their styles to what they feel their readers want, but I am not happy about this change.
I read all of these books and let my money spent be your warning....the books are, for the most part, just a spin off of ONE storyline. The same story over and over with different names and circumstances. I do not recommend them and would not read them again.
I loved this book! It was great and I couldn't put it down. The new twists that Christine keeps putting into her books is amazing and keeps be off my seat. Nicolas De La Cruz is another ruthless one of the De La Cruz brothers. He returns to his homeland to see the new Prince before he walks into the sun and end his life. But as he returns, he comes across a petite woman, Lara. Lara is much like Natalya. She has mage blood in her veins, Dragonseeker and Carpathian, but not strong enough to have an affect on her. Lara came to the Carpathian Mountains to find out more about her past. When she was a child, she had lived in an ice cave, a blood supply for her father and great-grandfather, Xavier. Now, with unclear clues to her past, she and Nicolas will come together, with Natalya and Vikirnoff, to find out more about Lara's past and the aunts that had saved her life from Xavier. But not all is as it seems. Carpathian women are having trouble bearing children as Xavier has planted new enemies into the soil and another attack against their race. I loved this book! A thriller and new questions arise!
THIS ONE IS A LOSER! BORING PLOT, TOO MUCH PERSONAL ANGST AND POOR PLOT LINE! DON'T WASTE YOUR MONEY!
christine feehan has an excellent creative mind. the dark series are my favorites. i truely hope they never end. the graphics, the plots, the intense romance scenes, the shocking discovery as you go on is so good that i never want to put the books down. and right now i am waiting for the two new series to come out. i have just about all the books except the two new series and i will wait for them. mrs. christine feehan you rock at these novels. thank you for introducing these novels into not just my life but everyones life who enjoys reading them.
i didnt think this series could get any better but i was proven wrong. once again christine feehan thrills with her depth of character, feeling, and thrills. cant wait for the next installment!
There were many parts of this book I enjoyed. Yet this book and the one before have elements I can do without. I realize the Carpathians are of the earth, but the cave scenes with the women were boring. I just couldn't handle the chanting earth worship scenes. Plus, Feehan has added more environmental issues in Dark Celebration and Dark Curse that are just hard to take. It seems out of place, even for Carpathians, as if she is pushing an agenda. So much for escapism in a book. I enjoyed the story of Lara and Nicolas.. Plus there were scenes between old characters that were funny and enjoyable.
I used to love Christine Feehan, but she has been going downhill with her books. Turbulent Sea was not anywhere near what the other Drake Sister books were and now Dark Curse doesn't have an ending. I was all excited to turn the page and read more and instead all I got was page after page of Carpathian junk. A few words of their language is fine, but if you feel the need to put in a dictionary at the end to translate, then there is too much. I wish I would have waited and bought this book used because it was a waste of money.
This book was terrible. I had been looking forward to it, but it was a waste of time. I've read the entire Dark series but this one doesn't measure up. The rest of the Carpathians are selfish not wanting Nicolas to turn Lara so she can save their children. Preventing her and Nicholas from going to ground and only giving her a half live. Unable to go in the sun or the ground. Unable to eat real food, but not able to live 100% off of blood. I know there's always turbulence in the novels, but this one had no type of resolution in the end for the major characters.
If you, like me, have been a die-hard Carpathian fan from the very first book, Dark Prince, then I don't even have to say a word to you about Dark Curse-- becuase you either have it in your hands right now, you've already read it, or you already know that because it's part of Feehan's Carapthian series, it is, by default, one of the BEST out there! Hands down, Ms. Feehan is the queen of paranormal romances, giving readers a complex and yet very easy to follow fantasy world filled with magic and mysteries, evil and good, shapeshifters, sexy Carpathians and turned vampires. Add in some hot, passionate and tender love scenes, plenty of them, and a great deal of adventure and action and you've got the receipe for a perfect series! Continuing the series, Dark Curse tells the story of Nicolas and Lara. The story is sad at parts, telling of Lara's poor childhood, but like all of her books still has it's funny moments. Also, be prepared for a few tears along the way-- it gets that emotional, that true, both in the grief and the love. And the sex scenes-- holy cow! Grab a fan, because you are going to need it! If you haven't been bitten by the 'Carpathian Reading Bug' yet, then I don't know what else I can possibly say to convince you to pick up the books. They have everything you could possible want in any book, especially a romance! Love, passion, humor, adventure, suspense, magic, vampires... Seriously, what more could you ask for? Oh, right, sorry, forgot to mention the SEXY AS HELL ALPHA MALES! (If you are, somehow, still not convinced, well then, I give up!) I've loved all of the books, from 1-16 (Dark Curse being number 16) and unlike some series where they are boring and repeative after 4 or so books, this series is one that I would love to see another 20 books out of and I'd never grow bored because Feehan is amazing and makes you fall in love with each and every character we meet along the way, making you want to know this person's story or that person's, and the pull is so strong that you can't just put the book down and walk away-- no, you have to finish it, and then move on to the next one in the series, devouring that one in mere hours too. And when there are no more new ones to read for a year or more? Well then you sit around and go silently crazy, like me, waiting, and while you wait, you re-read them all, from beginning to end, and savoring them a second and third time before moving on to other authors and books, hoping they will be just as captivating and perfect, and some of them are very close ,of course, but none of them really hold your attention as much as the Carpathian Series does-- that is, there are no other series that you would be happy to see 10-20 books from! And believe me, Feehan keeps adding new twists and turns, characters and stories not yet explored in every new book, drawing you in even deeper so that you HAVE to have another book. Unlike with other series, the words 'the series was drawn out waaay to long' do not apply here, and after you've read even one book (as if you could stop at just one!) you too will be nodding your head when I say that. 5/5 STARS! A perfect book, a perfect series, it easily deserves a 1000000/5, but I can't really give it such a rating, can I? *Well, except for in my own mind, of course..* Like all the previous books in this series, you will gobble it up quickly, find yourself falling right into the story with Nicolas and Lara and all the other Carpathians and various other races in the book, and when it finally lets you go after the last page is read and the book is closed, you will be obsessed with getting your hands on the next book *not yet written, unfortunately!*. And if you don't, I have to ask....'What the hell is wrong with you?' It's a rhetorical question, of course, and I don't really mean to insult anyone.. :D
The heroine gnaws through her scarred wrists, allowing her blood to drain into the dirt because she believes suicide is the only way to escape the hero. Unfortunately, she survives and the book goes on, and on, and on from there.Feehan includes a lot of the Carpathian Language in the dialog, and adds anthropological essays in the back matter. I found the supplemental material to be the most interesting part of the book. She has created an intricate world, but she's run out of interesting ways to tell stories about it.
Centuries of fighting vampires left Nicolas De La Cruz ready to meet the dawn (end his existence) after completing one more task for his family, his prince and his people. With his darkness close, he finally heard the voice that could save him and his soul, as Lara Calladine stabbed a knife in his side to get him off her. She had come to the Carpathian Mountains to finally deal with her childhood nightmares and find the only family she ever knew. The Aunts had always been there telling her stories, teaching her and then helping her to escape. Finding so many of their stories to be true, including that of the lifemate, Lara struggled to trust Nicolas and fight her past nightmares.Book 19 ¿.. Just say Wow! Was the Curse his or hers? The elements and layers of this series are getting more complex, the addition of so many with Mage influence opens the door for such great sorcerers stories. As always, the characters are so easy to care about, the interactions with the other Carpathians are exciting and the fall of Nicolas¿s ego was nicely done. This is (in my opinion) the darkest of the series with the abuse that Lara remembers and the fear that she has of people and things. The questions are stating to have answers for the Carpathian people and that is one of the best parts of a series, you become (almost) invested in their lives. More bonus, and appendix with the Healing Chants and information about the Carpathian language. I am looking forward to the next novel (due out September 2009). I don¿t want to wait, but obviously I will.
Nicolas De La Cruz has come back to the Carpathian mountains to deliver a serious message to Mikhail Dubrinsky, the prince of the Carpathian people. The De La Cruz brothers have discovered a terrible plot against their people and the prince, and must get word to him and the other Carpathian hunters to remain vigilant. Once he has delivered his message, Nicolas has every intention of meeting the dawn and ending his life. He has been living in an emotionless, colorless world for many centuries, and has become tired of battling the enemy. He has no idea that destiny will bring his salvation to him that very night. Lara Calladine spent the first years of her life trapped in the ice caves, a victim of her demented grandfather Xavier, the dark mage. After escaping, she learned to hide her "special" abilities from the humans around her, and has returned to the Carpathian mountains seeking her answers from her past. Part human, part mage, and part Carpathian, she will need all of her power to cope with the aggressive Carpathian male claiming her as his lifemate.Nicolas must move beyond his domineering instincts toward Lara and help her find her way back into the deadly ice caves, for within her memories lie the key to the problems the Carpathian race has been facing for years. Lara has the power to unlock the mysteries surrounding Carpathian pregnancies and the high infant mortality rate. She may be the only one powerful enough to save the Carpathian people.Dark Possession seems to follow the new pattern that has emerged in the last three books. The series is evolving, adding new and exciting elements, while giving us thrilling stories of new lifemates. Lara and Nicolas were compelling characters, and their story was very well-written. Dark Possession added to some of the other stories, and some lurking questions from the last few books were resolved. The only problem I have with this book is that it had a weak ending. I realize the purpose was to really leave things open for future books, but it was still a little disappointing.Overall, Dark Possession was a little different and refreshing. Now I just have to wait until September to see what happens next!
Years ago when I first started reading this series of the Carpathian's, a dying race who protect mankind by hunting vampires, I wasn't really aware of an over-arching plot and just took each story as it came. Now it is clear that there is certainly a purpose in mind and this series is, in fact, headed in a solid direction. This novel certainly pushes forward the plot in a very active fashion as we explore the where, why and how of the threat of extinction of the Carpathian race.The romance is pretty much one we're familiar with by now. Tall, dark and arrogant Carpathian just about ready to go vampire suddenly finds his lifemate walking down the street. Said lifemate isn't so sure about the whole "made for each other" mind set but eventually a combination of lust and a little capitulation on the part of the guy to being maybe just a little less chauvinistic (note "little") finally changes her mind. Although I liked the characters of the emotionally damaged Lara and uber-macho Nicolas, they didn't stand out as much for me as some of the past pairings did.I do enjoy the additions of past characters, it's always nice to see my favorites again, although if anyone were to try starting off the series with this particular novel my guess is they'll be completely lost. This is certainly one that builds on the past plot points and situations.This is a quick and interesting read and I'm looking forward to where Ms. Feehan will travel next with her stories.
Let me first say that Feehan's 'Dark' series is akin to literary crack for me. I just can't stop reading them! I agree that her books have become very predictable, yet I still love those Carpathian dudes. I want one for myself. Anyway, I picked up "Dark Curse" which is #16 I believe. If you've read one, you know the story. He's a tortured hero who's ready to give up his soul to the dark when suddenly...he hears the voice of his lifemate and is saved. He quickly falls under her spell, and now he has to learn some gentleness and patience (which never comes easy for these Alphas) to lure his lifemate into loving him while saving her from the dark creatures who hunt for her. And YES, this book is the same story...but I still like it. He is Nicolas. She is Lara. He is one of the famous De La Cruz brothers. She is the daughter of the ?evil? Razvan and granddaughter of the wicked Xavier. She still has flashbacks to her nightmare childhood where she was kept for food by Xavier and Razvan. She escaped with the help of her two great-aunts, full blood Dragonseekers, who were also held by the wicked pair. Now that she's an adult, she has come to find and bring the bodies of her great-aunts home.What I liked: Feehan gives us a lot more information on Xavier's plot against the Carpathians. We find out why Carpathian women have such difficulty with pregnancy and why their children are so fragile. We find out more about Razvan including some facts that should provide at least one, if not two, novels in and of themselves! The sex is still mega hot.What I didn't like: Several indexes about the Carpathian language. This isn't high fantasy...get over yourself. The cutesy, non-rhyming, chants (which are WAY too detailed). Lara being a bit too whiny. The diatribe about women fighters. A happyish ending, but Lara is still not Carpathian and can't be turned for a while which means Nicolas and she will continue to suffer. BOO.Is the book worth reading? If you have been following this series, then absolutely. If you haven't...read Dark Prince (the very first one). If you like it, you'll pick up a couple more. Then you'll be hooked like the rest of us!
This new installment of Christine Feehan¿s Dark Series brings Nicolas, an ancient of the Carpathian race on the verge of turning vampire, together with Lara a woman searching for her heritage and answers to memories of family and dragons.The two fight an evil mage, Xavier and discover the origin of a parasite that has been used as a weapon against the Carpathian people.The book takes place in the Carpathian mountains and answers a lot of questions from throughout the series which fans will love.This book is definitely a cross between fantasy and paranormal and of course it is a romance. The action and adventure is there as in all Feehan novels. It will prove to be one of the best in the series!
As a child, Lara Calladine was kept locked in an ice cave and tortured by her father Razvan and great-grandfather Xavier as they feasted on her blood. Xavier was a powerful wizard who had turned insane in his quest for immortality. Razvan had been chained to the wall of the cave and tortured daily. She escaped from the cave of horrors and swore she would never go there again. Since Lara was part Carpathian, she had to avoid the bright sun of the day and became a well-respected explorer of ice caves in her professional life. Although she swore she would never return, she returns to the Carpathian Mountains to find the ice cave she escaped from to look for her beloved aunts who helped her escape. Instead, she finds her lifemate in the form of Nicolas De La Cruz, a Carpathian warrior. He is determined she not put herself in danger but she is determined to return to the cave and free her aunts who had been cast into dragons and frozen into the ice walls of the cave by Xavier.
Romance at its best! Love conquers all...Lara & Nicolas are beautiful ?
Dark Curse by Christine Feehan 5 out of 5 Stars This is the 19th book in the Dark Series about the Carpathian race. Ms. Feehan has developed an amazing world, and if you love fantasy novels, then please read this series. Don't start with this book, since there are so many things you will feel lost about, but this is my favorite so far in the series. I can't wait to get caught up with the others. This is the story of Lara and Nicolas. We first met Lara during a flashback in the book about Natalya and Vikirnoff, and one of my favorite things about this one is that there are so many previous characters in this book. We get to see Shea and Jacques' son, and see what a warrior ceremony and a naming ceremony is like for the Carpathians. The overall story line moves quite a bit in this book, and I'm so ready for the next one to see how all of these things are worked out or at least moved a little further along in the story. We also got to see the rescue of the Dragonseekers, Tatijana and Branislava, so I can't wait to see what happens to them and how they are able to live now that they have been rescued. They have finally figured out what has been keeping the race from reproducing, now we just have to wait to see how they are going to cure that problem. This book just had so many things going on that I was never bored at all through the whole book. It was a great read, and I can't wait to start the next one. Amanda,My Secret Book Spot