Home > Dark Tarot (Dark #31)

Dark Tarot (Dark #31)
Author: Christine Feehan




As with any book, there are so many people to thank. Mercedes and Melissa Baker, two extremely talented artists, were such an inspiration to me. Thank you so much for working so hard to create a unique tarot deck for me to use in a short period of time. Your talent is inspiring! Brian, thank you for believing in me and pushing me to continue against incredible odds. This was a particularly difficult project! Domini, I have no idea how you continued under the circumstances, but you kept going when no one else would have. You are a modern Liona and a true inspiration. Denise, you know this book would never have been written without you. Thank you for the concept and for your belief that it would turn out to be extraordinary.



Sandu Berdardi had a decision to make. He sat on the roof of a building facing the ocean in the dark of night, watching the waves as they came and went in a never-ending show of power. He was like that sea. He scrubbed one hand down his face, knowing his time had been up centuries earlier. He had hung on far too long. A matter of honor. Always it came back to that. Honor. It was inked on his back.

Olen wäkeva kuntankért. Staying strong for our people.

Olen wäkeva pita belsÅ‘ kulymet. Staying strong to keep the demon inside.

Olen wäkeva— félért ku vigyázak. Staying strong for her.

Hängemért. Only her.

He was an ancient Carpathian. There were few of his kind left in the modern world. They rarely scarred, not unless they had been wounded mortally and somehow managed to survive. He had several scars. Tattoos didn’t take on their skin. Those had to be carved into flesh repeatedly and stained with special plant-based ink.

The oaths tatted onto his back were all about honor. His entire life had been dedicated to honor. Here he was, on a rooftop, far from the Carpathian Mountains, in a country he didn’t understand, surrounded by people he didn’t understand. His time had definitely passed. He knew he needed to go back to the monastery or to choose the dawn.

More and more, he needed to be alone, away from everyone. Hunting alone was a delicate balance that added an extra level of danger. Not because he feared dying, but because he feared what he became when the violence called to him—took control of him. He had learned there were things in the world every bit as monstrous as vampires, and he was one of those things.

He had held on grimly to his honor, held to the code etched into his skin, but he knew time was slipping away from him. His soul had gone from tattered to scarred. There was no removing scars. There was no coming back from some things. His time was over. A Carpathian male had few choices once he lived beyond a certain time, and Sandu had certainly surpassed that time centuries ago.

He didn’t have the social skills to be in the company of modern humans for a prolonged period of time. He hadn’t wanted to learn those skills, although it was apparent it was necessary if he was going to remain here. He doubted if he would. He no longer belonged in this world, and he hadn’t for centuries. He’d recognized that fact many years earlier. He didn’t have an anchor to keep him sane. He’d left the monastery with his ancient brethren in the hope of finding his lifemate, the one woman who could save him, but the world was a big place, and time made it even bigger.

He was a renowned vampire hunter, but truthfully, that only added to how dangerous he was. He had gone into the monastery, recognizing that he was no longer safe around humans, or even Carpathians. When Carpathians were born, their souls were split apart, the dark half residing in the male, the light in the female. The male had to find the keeper of his light and bind them together. That had been the way of their people until their ranks had been decimated.

There were few Carpathian women. Recently, the prince of their people had discovered that a few human women with psychic abilities could carry the souls of the Carpathian males and become their lifemate, renewing hope when hope had been lost for so long. With a world so vast, it wasn’t like there was a beacon guiding them to the right woman.

Sandu had come to San Diego to help his fellow ancients, but it was time for him to leave—one way or the other. Colors had long since faded from his memory, along with any recollections of his childhood. He had lost all ability to feel emotion after those first two hundred years. The longer he lived, the more the whispers of temptation had grown stronger. If one killed while feeding, they could feel a rush, but they would become the very thing they hunted—the undead. He had kept his honor over the centuries, ignoring those whispers and tracking the vampire to destroy him. Now, even the whispers were gone. He hunted. He fed. He lived in a gray void. He searched in vain for his lifemate.

Each kill of the vampire had brought him closer to the edge of madness. Like so many others, he considered meeting the dawn, which was basically suiciding, but that didn’t seem honorable, leaving behind his lifemate to be born over and over with no satisfying love life. When he became too dangerous, he had entered the monastery with the hope of gaining better control before returning to the world and once more searching for his other half.

He had left that retreat, but now, after so many battles, he knew it was time to return, or to leave the world for good. He had that decision to make and he had to make it alone, away from his brethren. They would seek to influence him to stay with them in the compound set up on the outskirts of the more rural part of San Diego.

You are very conflicted.

The voice came out of nowhere, filling his mind in spite of its softness. Feminine. Gentle. A statement but definitely tentative, as if she knew she was intruding and didn’t want to but feared he might really be contemplating suicide. He remained silent, studying each note, wondering how she gained access to his mind and why the sliver of moon over the water suddenly appeared a different shade of gray.

I don’t wish to disturb you, but sometimes talking things out can help.

That was a clear offer. Her voice. He blinked rapidly because all around him the world was changing. There was white froth on the waves. The few people on the sidewalk were in brightly colored clothing. His stomach lurched, and behind his eyes there was an explosion of agony, which he quickly cut off. He toned down the way he was seeing, fading the hues to almost shadows so his brain could get used to it.

Who are you? He kept his tone strictly neutral. Nonthreatening. He tried to get a direction on her, but it seemed impossible, as if the notes were far off and being dispersed through several filters.

I am Adalasia. I’m sometimes called Lasia.

She didn’t hesitate to give him her name, and her soft voice, although muted, rang with truth. In these modern times, few women were called by that name. It was very old Italian, mostly used around the twelfth to fourteenth centuries. There was no way she was that old unless she was Carpathian. Even mages wouldn’t be that old. Many times, when someone set him up to be murdered, they feared giving him their true name, yet she hadn’t hesitated. He was suspicious of the way she had slid so easily into his mind, and he couldn’t quite get a direction on her—yet.

I am Sandu. And yes, there is a decision to be made.

A journey. She made it a statement.

In many ways. It is not a single journey, but in many directions, and it is a dangerous path I will travel. I will have to ask another to embark on that path with me. Deliberately, he tested her. He had been contemplating going on a journey alone, but no longer, not since the moment color had been restored to him.

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