Home > Dark Legacy (Dark #27)

Dark Legacy (Dark #27)
Author: Christine Feehan

1

Emeline Sanchez watched the children playing in the large play yard directly across from her little Victorian home. She liked sitting outside on the wide, wraparound porch where the wind could touch her face. Sometimes, that small touch was the only relief she got from the relentless pain winding through her body every minute of the night and day.

Rain had given the air a clean, fresh scent. The world looked shiny and new, every leaf on the trees a vivid green or silver. Small birds sang to one another, hopping from tree branches to gnarled limbs. They were bright red spots of color, adding to the beauty of the compound. The property was owned by Tariq Asenguard, co-owner of a string of high-end nightclubs. He had a unique piece of property, and she would have loved to live there if things had been different. Tariq was Carpathian, an ancient race with amazing gifts, but they needed to drink blood to survive. She knew they were forced to sleep in the ground during daylight hours and only came out at night. If they didn’t find their lifemate in time, many succumbed to the temptation to feel by becoming the vilest of creatures – vampire.

“Emeline.” A tall woman with long, dark hair and forest green eyes waved at her from the play yard. “It’s a beautiful day.”

Genevieve Marten was gorgeous. Model thin. Tall with long legs that went on forever. Dressed in slim jeans and leather boots, she looked far too elegant, even in that attire, to be playing nanny to five children. Emeline knew Genevieve was independently wealthy and had traveled the world, yet she was as sweet as anyone could be, and she’d taken on the job of looking after the children when Tariq and Charlotte couldn’t. Emeline was certain Genevieve didn’t have a mean bone in her body.

“It is, isn’t it?” she called back. For that one moment, Emeline felt normal, like she had a friend and they shared a joyous moment just because it was such a beautiful day.

As she waved, a long tangle of blue-black hair fell around her face and she pushed it back, vaguely thinking she was going to have to cut it soon. She’d always loved her hair, the one feature she thought was attractive about her. But it fell below her waist, and she was just too exhausted to take proper care of it. Merely lifting her arms to brush it, much less wash it, was becoming a terrible chore. She sighed and rested her chin on the heel of her hand, her eyes on the five children running.

She loved watching the children. She didn’t really know true happiness anymore, but the closest she came was at times like this, observing them playing and laughing, seemingly carefree and happy. They were alive because of her deliberate sacrifice. The sound of their laughter, seeing them on swings and slides and doing normal things, was worth every horrific moment she’d suffered. They were alive. Traumatized, yes, but still alive and hopefully recovering very quickly.

“Come join us,” Genevieve called.

Emeline wanted to join them. She even needed to, but she couldn’t take the chance. She didn’t think Genevieve would turn on her, but there were others…

“I’m drinking tea,” she said. “You should join me. I baked cookies.”

The children had become aware she was out on her porch, something she often did during the daylight hours, even in the middle of a violent storm, but never at night. At night, she stayed in the house, her heart beating too hard, terrified he would come for her. She knew Vadim was coming, it was only a matter of time. He whispered to her sometimes, when she wasn’t strong enough to keep him out of her head. Those times were becoming more and more frequent. Emeline often had prophetic dreams. She could replay them over and over, changing small details in an effort to change the outcome of what occurred. Vadim had found her in those dreams, he had found a way to trap her and capture her. She escaped, but he was still with her in her mind now, impossible to get out.

“Emeline!” the chorus of voices called to her. Happy. Affectionate. Although she rarely left her porch, they knew she had their backs. She’d saved them more than once at a great cost to herself. They weren’t fully aware of that expense, and she hoped they never would be. They were too young to bear any more burdens than they already did.

“Swing with us, Em,” Danny called. At fifteen, he was tall and gangly, his form just beginning to show the promise of who he would become. Emeline knew he had great courage, as well as love for his siblings. He’d kept them together after their parents had died, and when the girls were taken by the monstrous men down in the labyrinth beneath the city, he had gone after them. She couldn’t help but admire Danny.

“Not right now, but I have a plate full of warm chocolate chip cookies. And, Genevieve, I also have fresh cranberry and pistachio biscotti dipped in white chocolate.”

Tariq Asenguard had taken the children in, become a foster parent of sorts, until the adoptions came through, protecting them with his friends and unique security system – just as he protected her. Emeline was grateful to him, but she knew she couldn’t stay much longer.

Danny raced to the porch, leaned down and brushed the top of her head with a kiss, scooped up a handful of cookies and was back at the swings before either three-year-old, Lourdes or Bella, could protest. Bella was his youngest sister. Lourdes was the orphaned niece of Tariq’s wife, Charlotte.

“Thanks, Em!” Danny yelled, stuffing one into his mouth whole. “So good.” Both little girls immediately held out their hand for one, and Danny obliged them.

Despite his youth, Danny watched over his family with a fierce protectiveness. He was equally as protective of little Lourdes, Emeline, and Emeline’s best friend, Blaze. They’d helped him when he thought everything was lost. He was a smart boy, indescribably brave, and he’d begun to emulate the Carpathian males who’d taken them all in. His hair was a little too long, because he was growing it so he could pull it back in a long ponytail like the Carpathian males often wore. He admired Tariq and even walked like him.

They’d been orphans living on the streets, trying to stay together, when the girls had been taken. Danny had refused to give up on his sisters and had gone after them, down into the underbelly of the city – a huge labyrinth of tunnels and rooms, a city below the city. Emeline shivered at the memory. She tried very hard not to think about it, to close the door on the horrors of what had been down there. She first encountered Danny in a dream and then, later, in reality when his sisters had been taken. Despite knowing what would happen to her, she had aided him in ensuring the safety of the girls. She’d seen her fate enough times in dreams, but someone had to get the children out or they would have died in that murky, stench-filled place of nightmares.

She understood street children; she’d been one herself and she knew how much they craved the stability of a close family. She looked around the huge complex, with the buildings, gardens and lake bordering one side, the high fence surrounding the property on the other three sides, and all the amenities the acreage offered. It was still a prison. No matter how beautiful, none of them could safely leave. Not even the children. Maybe especially the children.

“Cranberry and pistachio biscotti?” Genevieve put her book down. She’d gone to the bench under the tall oak where she could keep an eye on the children. “You made them?”

“This morning,” Emeline enticed. She wanted Genevieve’s company. She needed to feel normal even if it was just for a few minutes. Sometimes, if her focus changed, she could resist the pain longer, not be afraid for just a few minutes and pretend that she would have a life like everyone else. She needed that today – one of the reasons she’d spent all morning baking.

“You can ride my dragon,” Amelia offered. She was fourteen, her body already developing into that of a woman’s. Her hair was thick and often tousled from her continual roughhousing with her brother. She had beautiful eyes and a killer smile. Emeline adored her and the way she loved her sisters and brother.

Emeline knew it was huge to get an offer to ride one of the dragons. Made of stone, the five dragons – each with a unique color – sat off to one side of the play yard. They looked as if they were statues, just that. Nothing else. Emeline knew that each dragon had been made specifically for one of the children. For their amusement, yes, but mostly for protection. The dragons, crouched so lifelike in the massive yard, could suddenly come to life, spread wings and fly as well as breathe fire. Amelia’s dragon was a striking orange and she loved it dearly. Emeline often saw her whispering to it, or circling the long neck with her arm and nuzzling it with affection.

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