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Soulmate (Chapter 10)

The first sight of her broke through his animal state and gave him enough mind to stand up like a man.

She reminded him of Hellewise. She had that same look of tender courage, that same ageless wisdom in

her eyes. Any woman could be pretty by virtue of regular features. But Hana was beautiful because her

soul showed in her face.

Seeing her made him ashamed. Seeing her defend him, intercede on his behalf as she was so obviously

doing, made him angry.

He resisted when she sneaked him out of the cave and tried to send him back into the world. Didn't she

understand? It was best for him to die. As long as he was loose, no child, no woman, no man was safe.

Even as he stood there in the moonlight with her, he was trembling with need. The bloodlust was trying to

unbalance his mind, and it was all he could do not to grab her and bite into her soft throat.

When she offered him her throat, he almost cried. It wasn't a sacrifice to turn her down and walk away.

It was the only right thing to do, the only thing he could do.

And then the hunters came.

His mind was unbalanced by the torture. It was that simple. Not that it was an excuse, there was no

excuse for what followed. But during the endless time while Hana's clan burned and stabbed and beat

him, he lost all contact with the person he thought of as himself. He became an animal, as mindless as the

mob that was trying to kill him.

As an animal, he wanted two things: to survive and to strike out at the people who were hurting him.

And there was a way to do both.

Throats. White throats, spurting dark blood. The image came to him slowly in his haze of pain. He didn't

have to lie here and take this. He was wounded, but there was still a granite core of strength inside him.

He could fight back, and his enemies would give him life.

The next time a spear jabbed at him, he grabbed it and pulled.

It belonged to the broad-shouldered hunter, the one who'd led the others to him. Thierry grabbed the

man as he stumbled forward, wrestling him to the ground. And then, before anyone in the crowd had time

to react, he darted for the hunter's throat, for the big vein that pulsed just under the skin.

It was all over in a minute. He was drinking deep, deep, and gaining strength with every swallow. The

dam of the Three Rivers was staring at him in paralyzed shock.

It felt good.

He tossed the dead man aside and reached for another.

When several hunters came at him at once, he knocked them apart and killed them, one, two, three. He

was a very efficient killer. The blood made him supernaturally strong and fast, and the bloodlust gave him

motivation. He was like a wolf set loose in a herd of antelope-except that for a long time nobody in the

clan had the sense to run. They kept coming at him, trying to stop him, and he kept killing.

It was a slaughter. He killed them all.

He was drunk with blood and he gloried in it, in the animal simplicity of it, the power it gave him. Killing

was glory. Killing to eat, killing for revenge. Destroying the people who hurt him. He didn't ever want to

stop.

He was drinking the last drops from the veins of a young girl when he looked down and saw it was

Hana.

Her clear gray eyes were wide open, but the light in them was beginning to go dark.

He'd killed her.

In one blinding instant he wasn't an animal anymore. He was a person. And he was looking down at the

one person who had tried to help him, who had offered him her blood to keep him alive.

He raised his eyes and saw the devastation he'd left in the cave. It wasn't just this girl. He'd murdered

'most of her tribe.

That was when he knew the truth. He was damned. Worse than Maya. He'd committed a crime so

monstrous that he could never be forgiven, never be redeemed. He had joined evil in the end, just as

Maya had promised he would.

No punishment could be too great for him-but then, no punishment would make the slightest difference

anyway, not to these people or to the dying girl in his arms.

For just an instant some part of him pushed away at the feelings of guilt and horror. All right, you're evil,

it said. You might as well go ahead and be evil. Enjoy it. Have no regrets. It's your nature, now. Give in.

Then the girl in his arms stirred.

She was still conscious, although barely. Her eyes were still open. She was looking up at him….

In that moment, Thierry felt a shock that was different from anything he'd ever felt before.

In those large gray eyes, in the pupils which were hugely dilated as if to catch every last ray of light

before death, he saw… himself.

Himself and the girl, walking together, hand in hand through the ages. Joined. Shifting scenes behind

them, different places, different times. But always the two of them, tied with an invisible bond.

He recognized her. It was almost as if all those different ages had already happened, as if he were only

remembering them. But he knew they were in the future. He was looking down the corridor of time,

seeing what should have been.

She was his soulmate.

She was the one who was supposed to have walked with him through different lives, being born and

loving and dying and being born again. They'd been born for each other, to help each other grow and

blossom and discover and evolve. They should have had many lives together.

And none of it was going to happen. He was an immortal creature-how could he die and be born again?

And she was dying because of him. He'd destroyed it all, everything. He'd killed his destiny.

In the enormity of it, he sat silent and stunned. He couldn't say, "I'm sorry." He couldn't say, "What have

I done?" There was nothing that he could say that wasn't so trivial as to be demeaning to her. He simply

sat and shook, looking down into her eyes. He had an endless feeling of falling.

And then Hana spoke.

I forgive you.

It was just a whisper, but he heard it in his mind, not with his ears. And he understood it, even though

her language was different from his. Thierry reeled with the discovery that he could talk to her. Oh,

Goddess, the chance at least to tell her how he would try to atone for this by spilling out his own blood.. .

You can't forgive me. He could see that she understood his own hushed answer. He knew he didn't

deserve forgiveness. But part of him wanted her to realize that he had never meant this to happen. I

wasn't always like this. I used to be a person-

We don't have time for that, she told him. Her spirit seemed to be reaching toward him, drawing him into

her, facing him in a still and separate place where only the two of them existed. He knew then that she

had seen the same thing he had, the same corridor of time.

She was gentle, but so sad. I don't want you to die. But I want you to promise me one thing.

Anything.

I want you to promise me you 'II never kill again.

It was easy to promise. He didn't plan to live… no, she didn't want him to die. But he couldn't live

without her and he certainly couldn't live after what he'd done.

He'd worry about it later, about how to deal with the long gray stretch of future waiting for him. For

now, he said, I'll never kill again.

She gave him just the faintest of smiles.

And then she died.

The gray eyes went fixed and dark. Unseeing. Her skin was ghostly white and her body was absolutely

still. She seemed smaller all at once as her spirit left her.

Thierry cradled her, moaning like a wounded animal. He was crying. Shaking so hard he almost couldn't

keep hold of her. Helpless, pierced by love that felt like a spear, he reached out to gently push her hair

off her face. His thumb stroked her cheek- and left a trail of blood.

He stared at it in horror. The mark was like a blaze of red against her pale skin.

Even his love was deadly. His caress had branded her.

The few survivors of Hana's clan were on the move, surrounding Thierry, panting and gasping with their

spears ready. They sensed that he was vulnerable now.

And he wouldn't have lifted a hand to stop them… except that he had made a promise to Hana. She

wanted him alive to keep it.

So he left her there. He picked up her still, cooling body and carried it toward the nearest hunter. The

man stared at him in fear and disbelief, but he finally dropped his spear to take the dead girl. And then

Thierry walked out of the cave and into the merciless sunlight.

He headed for his home.

Maya caught up with him somewhere on the steppes, appearing out of the tall, ripping grass. "I told you

how you'd end up. Now forget that washed-out blonde and start enjoying life with me."

Thierry didn't even look at her. The only thing he could imagine doing with Maya was killing her… and

he couldn't do that.

"Don't walk away from me!" Maya wasn't laughing now. She was furious. Her voice followed him as he

kept going. "I chose you, Theorn! You're mine. You can't walk away from me!"

Thierry kept going, neither slower nor faster, letting her voice blend into the humming of the insects on

the grassland. But her mental voice followed him.

I'll never let you get away. You'll always be mine, now and forever.

Thierry traveled fast, and in only a few days, he reached home and the person he'd come to see.

Hellewise looked up from her drying herbs and gasped.

"I'm not going to hurt you," he said. "I need your help."

What he wanted from her was a spell to sleep. He wanted to sleep until Hana was born again.

"It could be a long time," Hellewise said when he told her the whole story. "It sounds as if her soul has

been damaged. It could be hundreds of years- even thousands."

Thierry didn't care.

"And you might die," Hellewise said, looking at him steadily with her deep, soft brown eyes. "And with

what you've become-I don't think creatures like you are reborn. You would just… die."

Thierry simply nodded. He was only afraid of two things: that Maya would find him while he was asleep,

and that he wouldn't know when to wake up.

"I can arrange the second," Hellewise said quietly. "You're linked anyway; your souls are one. When

she's born again, voices from the Other Side will whisper to you."

Thierry himself figured out how to solve the first problem. He dug himself a grave. It was the only place

where he could count on being safe and undisturbed.

Hellewise gave him an infusion of roots and bark and Thierry went to sleep.

He slept a long time.

He slept straight through the epic battle when Hellewise drove Maya and her son Red Fern out of the

tribe and away from the witches. He slept through the origins of the Night World and thousands of years

of human change. When he finally woke up, the world was a different place, with civilizations and cities.

And he knew that somewhere Hana had been born in one of them.

He began to look.

He was a wanderer, a lost soul with no home and no people. But not a killer. He learned to take blood

without killing, to find willing donors instead of hunting terrified prey.

He looked in every village he passed, learning about the new world surrounding him, surviving on very

little, searching every face he saw. Lots of communities would have been glad to adopt him, this tall

young man with dusty clothes and far-seeing eyes. But he only stayed long enough to make sure that

Hana wasn't there.

When he did find her it was in Egypt, the Kingdom of the Two Lands. She was sixteen. Her name was

Ha-nahkt.

And Thierry would have recognized her anywhere, because she was still tall, still fair-haired and

gray-eyed and beautiful.

Except for one thing.

Across her left cheek, where his fingers had smeared her own blood the night that he had killed her, was

a red mark like a bruise. Like a stain on her perfect skin.

It was a sort of psychic brand, a physical reminder of what had happened in her last life. A permanent

wound. And it was his fault.

Thierry was overcome with grief and shame. He saw that the other girl, Ket, the friend who had been

with Hana in the last life, was with her again now. She had friends. Maybe it was best to leave her alone

in this life, not even try to speak to her.

But he had forgotten about Maya.

Vampires don't die.

Life is strange sometimes. It was just as Thierry was thinking this that a figure walked into the lobby. Still

half in his daydream of the past, he was expecting it to be Circe, so for a moment he was simply

confused. Then his heart rate picked up and every muscle in his body tensed violently. " It was Maya.

He hadn't seen her for over a hundred years. The last time had been in Quebec, when Hannah had been

named Annette.

And Maya had just killed her.

Thierry stood up.

She was as beautiful as ever. But to Thierry it was like the rainbow on oil scum. He hated her more than

he had ever imagined he could hate anyone.

"So you found me," he said quietly. "I knew you'd show up eventually."

Maya smiled brilliantly. "I found her first."

Thierry went still.

"That amulet was a very good one. I had to wait around to catch her alone so she could invite me

inside."

Thierry's heart lurched. He felt a physical wrench, as if something in him were actually trying to get out,

trying desperately to get to Hannah-now.

How could he have been so stupid? She was too innocent; of course she would invite someone into her

house. And she thought of Maya as a friend.

The ring should have offered at least a measure of protection from mind control-but only if Hannah had

kept it on. Thierry realized now that she probably hadn't.

His voice a bare whisper, he said, "What did you do to her?"

"Oh, not much. Mostly it was just conversation. I mentioned that you were likely to get rough with her if

things didn't go your way." Maya tilted her head, eyes on his face, looking for a reaction.

Thierry didn't give it to her. He just stood, watching her silently.

She hadn't changed in thousands of years. She never changed, never grew, never got tired. And she

never gave up. He didn't think she was capable of it.

Sometimes he thought he should just tie himself to her at the waist and find a bottomless pit to jump into.

Rid the world of its two oldest vampires and all the problems Maya caused.

But there was his promise to Hannah.

"It doesn't matter what you say to her," he said stonily. "You don't understand, Maya. This time is

different. She remembers and-"

"And she hates you. I know. Poor baby." Maya made a mock-sympathetic face. Her eyes sparkled

peacock blue.

Thierry gritted his teeth. "And I've come to a decision," he went on evenly. "The cycle has to be broken.

And there is a way to do it."

"I know," Maya said before he could finish. "You can give her up. Give in to me"

"Yes." This time he cut her off. And the look of astonishment that flared in her eyes was worth it. "At

least, yes to the first part," he finished. "I'm giving her up."

"You're not. You can't."

"She's happy in this life. And she-doesn't want me." There. It had been hard to say, but he'd gotten it

out. "She remembers everything-I don't know why, but she does. Maybe because she's so dose to her

original form. Maybe somehow the memories are closer to the surface. Or maybe it's the hypnosis. But in

any case, she doesn't want me anymore."

Maya was watching him, fascinated, her eyes the violet of deep twilight, her lips parted. Suddenly, she

looked beyond him and smiled secretly. "She remembers everything? You really think so?"

Thierry nodded. "All I've ever brought her is misery and pain. I guess she realizes that." He took a

breath, then caught Maya's eyes again. "So I'm end-tag the cycle… now."

"You're going to walk away."

"And so are you. She's no threat to you anymore. If you want something from me, the only person to

deal with is me. You can try any time you like in Vegas." He gazed at her levelly.

Maya threw back her head and let out ripples of musical laughter.

"Oh, why didn't you tell me before? You could have saved me some trouble… but on the other hand,

her blood was very sweet. I wouldn't have missed-"

She broke off, then, because Thierry slammed her against the oak-paneled wall of the lobby.

In one instant, his control had disappeared. He was so angry that he couldn't speak out loud.

What did you do to her? What did you do? He shouted the words telepathically as his hands closed

around Maya's throat.

Maya just smiled at him. She was the oldest vampire, and the most powerful. In every vampire who

came after her, her blood had been diluted, half as strong, a quarter as strong, an eighth. But she was the

original and the purest. She wasn't afraid of anyone.

Mel I didn't do anything, she said, answering him the same way. I'm afraid you were the one who

attacked her. She seemed very unhappy about it; she even stabbed you with a pencil. Maya lifted a hand

and Thierry saw a neat dark hole puncturing it, faintly ringed with blood.

The power of illusion, he thought. Maya could appear as anyone and anything she wanted. She had

talents that usually only belonged to werewolves and shapeshifters. And of course she was a witch.

She really has extraordinary spirit, Maya went on. But she's all right-you didn't exchange as much blood

as you 'd planned. The pencil, you see.

People were gathering behind Thierry, murmuring anxiously. They were about to interfere and ask him to

please let go of the girl he was strangling.

He ignored them.

Listen to me, he told Maya, staring into her mocking golden eyes. Listen, because I'm never going to say

this again. If you touch Hannah again-ever-in any life-I will kill you.

"I'll kill you," he whispered out loud, to emphasize it. "Believe me, Maya, I'll do it."

Then he let her go. He had to get to Hannah. Even a small exchange of blood with a vampire could be

dangerous, and Maya's blood was the most potent on earth. Worse, he'd already taken some of

Hannah's blood last night. She could be critically weak now … or starting to change.

He wouldn't think about that.

You won't, you know. Maya's telepathic voice followed him as he made for the door. You won't kill me.

Not Thierry the compassionate, Thierry the good vampire, Thierry the saint of Circle Daybreak. You're

not capable of it. You can't kill.

Thierry stopped on the threshold and turned around. He stared directly into Maya's eyes.

"Try me."

Then he was outside, moving quickly through the night. Even so, Maya got the last word.

And, of course, there's your promise….

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