Thursday, March 10, 2016
Riders on the Storm
Genevieve awoke to darkness, out of a greater darkness. Sweat chilled her skin. Her heart pounded. The images from her nightmare still played out behind her eyes in sharp, almost painful detail. The visions hadn’t come upon her so powerfully since … she couldn’t remember when.
Two tigers, one black, one white, circling each other like a yin-yang pendant, but in conflict rather than harmony. Change. Lives in the balance. Death. New life: a serene she-wolf with a pup in her arms, like a lupine madonna. And behind it all, a figure with no face, too far away to see distinctly but destined to draw closer. A figure that radiated hatred and insanity.
Then light appeared, pigmentless skin that almost seemed to glow in the dark. Her lover’s hand. Her lover’s voice. Her Sergei.
He spoke to her in Russian, out of habit, then remembered and switched to English. “Lyubimaya. You are safe. Is bad dream, nothing more.”
“Dream, my eye. That was a vision. One bad vision. More than one bad vision.” She heard her own voice cracking under the weight of the Deep South. Whenever she was upset her accent retreated to Georgia, like a puppy crawling under the couch. She swallowed several times until she was sure she could speak clearly and rationally. As if visions of death that came in her dreams could be considered rational.
All the while she wrestled with her nerves Sergei massaged her neck and shoulders with his huge yet gentle hands. That helped. That helped immensely.
At last they settled back against the headboard. Sergei pulled her against his shoulder. “Tell me.”
Gen swallowed one last time, then recited what she’d foreseen. She felt him jerk at the mention of the black tiger, and tense when she described the she-wolf and her child. Oddly, her mentioning the faceless madman did not provoke a reaction. “Aren’t you worried?”
“Did you see yourself? Were you in danger?”
“No … ”
“Then is no need for worry.”
“Says you.” She leaned into him and let herself melt against the strength of his powerful body. “You worry me. What you do and who you do it for.” She turned in his arms to gaze up into his frank blue eyes. “There are shadows in your path. They swirl around you. They threaten to engulf you. You walk a dangerous road, my love. It’s coming to a fork, and both paths lead to destruction.”
He only shrugged, and brushed his lips across her forehead in a feather’s caress. “I have lived a long time. I intend to go on living.”
She thought of the faceless stranger. “What if someone disagrees?”
“Pah. What can they do?”
What indeed? She knew his past, his profession. A seven-foot Siberian tiger shifter trained as an assassin had little to worry about. Except, perhaps, from those who gave the orders.
“Leave him,” she said suddenly. “Leave Zhere Ghan.”
“Eh? What does he have to do with this?”
“I don’t know. It’s just a feeling. Somehow he’s at the heart of this. If you stay with him, you’ll die.”
“You work for him too. You must quit, then.”
“Oh, I’m gonna.” Dammit, there was Georgia again. Genevieve cleared her throat. “I’m sick of wagging my tail at that club of his. There’s a new one going up. Miss Penny’s in charge. Lamar’s already jumped ship. He said he’d get me a job if I wanted it. You should, too. Something, anything. Just get away from the Ghans.”
Sergei took her hand. “I can’t. Is blood debt. I can’t leave until debt is discharged.”
“He’ll never let you go. You have to know that.”
“Da. Yes.” He nodded somberly. “That is my charge to bear.”
She clung to his hand. The hand that had caressed her body and brought her to ecstasy so many times. The hand that had killed, also many times. “If we leave the Peak—”
“He will follow. And you will pay the price.” A growl deepened his already cavernous voice. “I will not have that. You see the future, yes?”
“Glimpses. Snatches here and there. My gift’s never handed me a road map.”
“Is enough. We see where to make detour. Nobody dies.”
She couldn’t help but smile. “Let’s hope. I’d be happier if—”
“So would I. But is not to be.” He kissed her cheek. “Sleep now. In the morning we look for side roads.”
Gen sighed. There’d be no arguing with him. With his arms around her and her head pillowed on the broad, white expanse of his chest, eventually she fell back to sleep, this time with no dreams.
# # #
While his red wolf lover slept, Sergei lay awake. Thinking. Pondering. Afraid.
He’d told her much about his life, but not in great detail. She didn’t know about the deed that bound him to Zhere Ghan. She didn’t know the Seven had arrived in Talbot’s Peak.
She didn’t know the truth about Mikhail.
He leaped back from that thought to the previous. The Seven hadn’t come here to sight-see, and they didn’t come cheap. Ghan swore he hadn’t hired them. Who else would have the resources?
And why were they here to begin with?
He brooded long on Genevieve’s vision of the wolf and pup. There was something else she didn’t know: his orders from Zhere Ghan regarding Warner Hancock, his wife and their unborn child.
I have plans for Damien and his holdings. We can’t have another heir muddying the waters. Kill the bitch and her whelp. The old dog too, if he gets in the way. I leave that to your discretion.
Sergei had yet to carry out the order. Ghan was becoming impatient.
He didn’t realize he’d tightened his arms around Genevieve until she whimpered for breath in her sleep. He eased up at once. Destruction for sure, my firewolf. If I ignore my orders, Zhere Ghan will destroy me. If I follow my orders, it will destroy the love in those glorious eyes. A broken heart is worse than death. Whose heart must break? Yours or mine?
Not hers. That would never be an option.
Sergei was not a man for prayer. Yet now his lips moved silently in supplication, asking for one side road.