Dark Secret (Carpathians 12)

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9780749938536: Dark Secret (Carpathians 12)

Meet a savage hunter from the darkest jungles and the beautiful prey he’ll never let escape in this sensual Carpathian novel from #1 New York Times bestselling author Christine Feehan.

Rafael De La Cruz has spent centuries hunting vampires with his brothers, and with each passing year his capacity to feel emotions has grown weaker and weaker until finally there’s barely even a memory left—until only sheer willpower keeps him from turning into the very abomination he hunts. But it’ll take more than will to keep him away from the woman who is meant to be his and his alone...
 
For five years, rancher Colby Jansen has been the sole protector of her younger half-siblings, and with fierce determination and work she has kept her family together and the ranch operational. Now, the De La Cruz brothers are threatening that stability. They claim that her siblings belong with their father’s family, not with her. Colby vows to fight them—especially the cold and arrogant Rafael De La Cruz. But Rafael is after more than her family—he wants Colby, and will not let anything stand between them. After ages of loneliness, the raw desire to possess her overwhelms his very soul, driving him to claim her as his lifemate.

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About the Author:

Christine Feehan is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Carpathian series, the GhostWalker series, the Leopard series, the Shadow Riders series, and the Sea Haven novels, including the Drake Sisters series and the Sisters of the Heart series.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

1

 

The huge chestnut snorted, his eyes rolling wildly in his head. “Hang on to him, Paul,” Colby quickly warned her brother. The horse was sidestepping nervously, jerking his head, stiffening his legs.

“I can’t, sis,” Paul cried out as with a surge of savagery the animal swung around, breaking the boy’s precarious hold. Paul scrambled to safety, his anxious eyes on his sister’s slender figure.

The chestnut was crow-hopping, whirling, slamming into the fence with a resounding crash that shook the posts and the ground itself. Paul winced, his olive skin going pale beneath the dark tan. Colby was smashed up against the fence twice more before she hit the ground and rolled to safety beneath the rails.

“Are you all right, Colby?” Paul demanded anxiously, flinging himself on his knees beside her in the powdered dirt.

Colby groaned and rolled over to stare up at the darkening sky, a humorless smile curving her soft mouth. “What a stupid way to make a living,” she told Paul absently. “How many times has that worthless animal thrown me?” She sat up, pushing at the damp tendrils escaping from her thick red-gold braid. The back of her hand left a streak of dirt across her forehead.

“Today or altogether?” Paul teased, then hastily wiped the grin from his face when she turned the full power of her eyes on him. “Six,” he answered solemnly.

Gingerly she stood up, swiping at the layer of dust on her worn, faded Levi’s. Ruefully she examined her tattered shirt. “Who owns this beast anyway? Whoever it is had better be someone I like.”

Carefully Paul brushed dust off her hat, avoiding her gaze. Unless a horse was being trained for rodeo riding, Colby allowed Paul to handle all the details. Worst possible luck. “De La Cruz,” he muttered apprehensively. At sixteen he was taller than his sister. Lean, tanned, already with the muscles of a horseman, Paul was unusually strong for his age. His face held the stamp of someone much older. He held out the weathered flat-brimmed hat almost as an offering of atonement to his sister.

There was a small silence while the wind seemed to hold its breath. Even the chestnut stopped snorting and reefing while Colby stared in horror at her brother. “Are we talking about the same De La Cruz who came to this ranch and insulted me? The same one who demanded we pack up our things and leave our father’s ranch because I’m a woman and you’re a child? That De La Cruz? The De La Cruz who ordered me to turn you and Ginny over to the Chevez family and gave me a whale of a headache with his insulting domineering disgusting male chauvinistic behavior?” Colby’s soft husky voice was nearly velvet, the delicate perfection of her face utterly still. Only her large eyes betrayed her mood. “Tell me we aren’t talking about that De La Cruz, Paulo. Lie to me so I don’t commit murder.” Her brilliant eyes were fairly shooting sparks.

“Well,” he hedged, “it was Juan Chavez who brought the horses over, sixteen of them. We had to take them, Colby. He’s paying top dollar and we need the money. You said yourself Clinton Daniels was pushing us about the mortgage.”

“Not their money,” Colby snapped impatiently. “Never their money. It’s conscience money, for their sins. We’ll find other ways to pay the mortgage.” She shook her head to clear it of the anger welling unexpectedly out of nowhere. Slamming her hat against her denim-clad thigh, she muttered unladylike things under her breath. “Juan had no right to offer you the horses behind my back.” She glanced at her brother’s miserable face and instantly the anger evaporated as if it had never been.

She reached out to shove her hand affectionately through his jet black hair. “It isn’t your fault. I should have expected something like this and warned you. Ever since that family showed up, that De La Cruz person has been nothing but trouble. I wrote the letter to the Chevez family for Dad nearly three years ago. Isn’t it a blooming miracle they’re finally getting around to answering it?” Colby swung around to face the chestnut, watching it carefully with wary eyes. “This horse is probably their way of getting rid of me so they can have you. With me out of the way they might have a chance at taking you and Ginny with them back to their South American hellhole. And robbing you of your inheritance while they’re at it.”

Colby was short and slender with soft full curves, large deep green eyes fringed with lacy dark lashes, and an abundance of long silky hair. Shapely arms deceptively hid strong muscles. White scars marred the deep tan on her arms and on her small hands, showing the years of labor. Paul, watching the dimple melt into the corner of her mouth, felt a surge of pride. He knew how she hated her scars, her hands, yet they were so much a part of her. Unorthodox, free, untamable, so natural, there was no one like Colby.

“They live on a multi-million-dollar ranch,” Paul pointed out. “Posh. Probably a swimming pool, no work. Beautiful women. Sounds like a tough life to me. Maybe it’s a conspiracy and I’m in on it.”

“Are you telling me you can be bribed?”

He shrugged his wiry shoulders, winking at her with a little mischievous grin. “If the price is right you never know.” He tried to waggle his eyebrows and failed. “You don’t have to worry, Colby,” Paul offered suddenly, “I don’t think Mr. De La Cruz knew Juan brought the horses to us. In any case”––he shrugged pragmatically––“money’s money.”

“So it is, my boy.” Colby sighed.

At seventeen Colby had shouldered sole responsibility for the ranch, her eleven-year-old brother, and six-year-old sister after a freak small plane accident had left their mother dead and Armando paralyzed. She had done so without a murmur of protest. Two years after the accident, her stepfather had insisted Colby write to his family in Brazil and ask them to come out quickly. He had known he was dying and he had put aside his pride to ask for help for his children. No one had answered, and their beloved father had died surrounded by his children, but without his brothers and sisters. Now, at sixteen, Paul could appreciate what these last five years had cost Colby. He did his best to take some of the load from her, knowing, for the first time in his life, what it was like to really worry about someone else. Each time Colby was thrown from a horse, he found his heart beating overtime.

Colby never complained, but he could see the signs of strain, the weariness growing in her. “You want to take a break? The sun’s down,” he suggested hopefully. No doubt Colby was bruised from head to toe. His eagle eyes noticed she was cradling her left arm.

“Sorry, hon.” Colby shook her red head regretfully. “I can’t let this one get the idea he’s boss. Let’s get back to it.” Without a trace of fear she entered the corral and caught the reins of the huge animal.

Paul watched her as he’d done a thousand times in the past, her small slender figure, fragile looking beside a half wild horse, yet totally confident. She had built such a reputation for herself as a trainer, many of the top rodeo riders brought their newest acquisitions to her from all over the United States. Normally, she spent weeks, months, gentling them patiently. She had a special affinity for animals, horses in particular. Colby’s methods were usually harder on her than the horses. It was when she had to break them fast, like now, that Paul worried the most.

Their ranch was small, mainly for horses––the few cattle and acres of hay were for their own personal use. It was a hard life, but a good one. Their father, Armando Chevez, had come to this country when he was buying horses for his wealthy family in Brazil, looking for new bloodlines for the enormous ranches they had in South America. He had met and married Virginia Jansen, Colby’s mother. Their match was not looked upon fondly by his family and he had been virtually disinherited. Colby never told her father she had found the letter from the Chevez patriarch stating he was to leave the “promiscuous, money-hungry American woman with her bastard daughter” and return home at once or he would be considered as if dead by the entire family. Colby had no idea who her birth father was and could care less. She loved Armando Chevez and thought of him as her true father. He had loved her and protected and cared for her as if she was his own blood. Paulo and Ginny were her family and she guarded them fiercely. She was determined they would have the ranch when they came of age, just as Armando Chevez had planned. It was the least Colby could do for him.

It had been a long afternoon and seemed an even longer evening. Paul was clenching his teeth and swearing softly under his breath as again and again the big chestnut broke his grip on the bridle and Colby was sent crashing to the ground or into the fence with bone-jarring force.

Ginny arrived and placed a picnic basket filled with a thermos of lemonade and cold fried chicken on the ground, then sat down outside the corral waiting patiently, one fist jammed into her mouth, her large brown eyes, round with anxiety, fixed on her sister.

Colby tightened her hold on the reins, her delicate features set with determination. Ducking her head she wiped the thin trickle of blood at the corner of her mouth onto her sleeve. Beneath her she could feel the powerful muscles of the horse begin to bunch, to stiffen. Paul took a step forward, his hand clenched so tight on the bridle his knuckles were white. The animal’s huge head attempted to drop. Colby fought it up expertly. Even as the struggle took place Paul marveled at Colby’s control. Then the horse once again broke free of Paul’s grip and threw itself from side to side, rearing, bucking, whirling, and crow-hopping.

Ginny leapt to her feet, clutching the railing as she stared in awe at the expertise with which Colby anticipated the chestnut’s every move. Twice Paul was certain the horse was going to fling himself over backward. But Colby was determined to remain in control, her entire being concentrated on the horse.

 

 

Rafael De La Cruz parked his truck near a cliff overlooking the entire valley. Behind him the mountains rose steeply, covered thickly in pine and fir. The woman nestled beside him touched him with a scarlet-tipped fingernail, very reminiscent of a bloody talon. He stared at it a moment then leaned over her abruptly, dispassionately, and pushed her hair away from the pulse beating strongly in her neck. He tried to recall what her name was, someone who was thought important in the small world he inhabited at the moment, but no one to stir his interest. All that mattered to him was the steady sound of her heartbeat calling to him.

She was prey like all the rest of them. Healthy. Strong. A woman who wanted to sleep with someone rich and powerful. There were so many of them, women who were drawn to the De La Cruz brothers like moths to flames. She tilted her head at him and he immediately captured her gaze, mesmerizing her. It was almost more trouble than it was worth.

Rafael sank his fangs deep into her neck and he fed. He drank his fill, all the while fighting down the beast threatening to rise, demanding the kill, whispering of ultimate power, whispering of emotion, of feeling. Just to feel once again, for one microsecond, it would be worth it. The woman was nothing, useless to him other than as prey. Easy to control, easy to kill. She slumped against him, and the movement snapped him out of the enthrallment of the beast. He closed the tiny pinpricks, healing the wound with a sweep of his tongue. He stared at her for a time, then contemptuously pushed her away from him so that she slumped across the seat. She was like all the rest. Willing to sell herself to the highest bidder. To sleep with a virtual stranger because of his wealth and power. Dressed in low-cut, revealing apparel to attract men to them. So many of them, like cattle. She had lured a predator, thinking herself the temptress, thinking she was luring him into her sexual web. He slid out of the cab into the night air. Rafael paced along the top of the cliff, his sensual features stamped with a hard, ruthless confidence. He was used to instant obedience, used to manipulating the mind of his human prey.

Rafael and Nicolas wanted to go home, to South America, and the Amazon rain forest. Back to their world, back to their ranch where they ruled and their word was law. Back to the neighboring jungle where they could shape-shift whenever they wanted without fear of being seen. Back where life was uncomplicated. But they had one small job to do before they could return, persuading a human female to do as the Chevez family wanted.

Rafael and Nicolas, answering the call of their prince hundreds of years earlier, hunted the vampire in South America. It was little enough to give back to their dying race. They wanted to go back to the country that had been their home and way of life for hundreds of years. It was far more difficult for them to remain for long in this unfamiliar country. But the Chevez family, which had faithfully served the De La Cruz family for centuries, needed their help now, and they were honor-bound to provide it. The problem was one small human female.

Nicolas had gone to her and ordered her compliance, “pushing” at her mind with a hard command, but to his surprise and displeasure, it had not worked. She became even more stubborn, refusing to talk with any member of their family. In all the centuries of their existence, such a thing had never happened. All humans could be controlled, could be manipulated. It was Rafael’s job now, even if it meant taking her blood to force compliance. When the brothers wanted something, anything, they got it. She would not stand in their way. For a moment a muscle jerked along his shadowed jaw. One way or another, they would get what they wanted.

He sighed as he stared up at the stars. There was nothing to ease the unrelenting merciless nights. He fed. He existed. He fought the vampire. He went through the motions of everyday life, yet he felt nothing but hunger. Insatiable hunger. The whispering call of power to kill. To be able to feel. What would it be like to sink his teeth deep into human flesh and drain his prey, to feel something, anything, for a few moments. He glanced back toward the woman in the truck, temptation whispering insidiously.

Rafael! Nicolas’s voice was a sharp reprimand. Shall I come to you?

Rafael shook his head, denying that ever-present enticement. I will not give in this night.

Rafael swept his gaze across the dusky sky, noting the bats dipping, performing their evening ballet. The wind brought him untold information. He was uneasy, his senses telling him a vampire could be close, but he was unable to ferret the undead from its lair, if, in fact, it was in the area. It had probably gone to ground the instant Nicolas and Rafael had shown up and was waiting for them to leave before rising.

The wind carried the distant sound of voices. Alarmed. Soft. A beautiful cadence that touched something deep inside him. He heard the voice, a melodious voice, yet he couldn’t understand the words. He stepped closer to the edge of the cliff...

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Book Description Little, Brown Book Group, United Kingdom, 2007. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. Colby Jansen has been raising her step-siblings, Ginny and Paul, single-handedly since her beloved stepfather, Armando Chevez, died. She s also been working herself into the ground to keep the family ranch running, but now she s got a real fight on her hands. Members of the Chevez family, along with two of the powerful De La Cruz brothers, for whom Colby s family has worked for centuries, arrive at her door, intending to take custody of the children and dispose of the ranch. For ancient Carpathian Rafael De La Cruz, the world has become dark, and he is in danger of turning vampire. But when he meets Colby, he knows immediately that she is the one who could save him. Colby finds the handsome Rafael threatening but, against her better judgement, she is also irresistibly drawn to him. They quickly find that they are an equal match in terms of fiery temperament and stubbornness, but when an ancient and powerful vampire begins stalking Colby and her family, she and Rafael combine forces to combat a deadly evil. Bookseller Inventory # AA29780749938536

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Book Description Little, Brown Book Group, United Kingdom, 2007. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. Colby Jansen has been raising her step-siblings, Ginny and Paul, single-handedly since her beloved stepfather, Armando Chevez, died. She s also been working herself into the ground to keep the family ranch running, but now she s got a real fight on her hands. Members of the Chevez family, along with two of the powerful De La Cruz brothers, for whom Colby s family has worked for centuries, arrive at her door, intending to take custody of the children and dispose of the ranch. For ancient Carpathian Rafael De La Cruz, the world has become dark, and he is in danger of turning vampire. But when he meets Colby, he knows immediately that she is the one who could save him. Colby finds the handsome Rafael threatening but, against her better judgement, she is also irresistibly drawn to him. They quickly find that they are an equal match in terms of fiery temperament and stubbornness, but when an ancient and powerful vampire begins stalking Colby and her family, she and Rafael combine forces to combat a deadly evil. Bookseller Inventory # AA29780749938536

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Book Description Paperback. Book Condition: New. Not Signed; Colby Jansen has been raising her step-siblings, Ginny and Paul, single-handedly since her beloved stepfather, Armando Chevez, died. She's also been working herself into the ground to keep the family ranch running, but now she's got a real fight on her hands. Members of the Chevez family, along with. book. Bookseller Inventory # ria9780749938536_rkm

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