Dark Blood Page 110

Seriously, Xaviero, is your mind going? she taunted. You actually used elements to try to harm us? You must do better than that or the four of us will have to send you straight through the gates of hell to join your brother. You signed a deal with the devil in blood. I believe that paper is in your pocket, and he will hold you to it.

Xaviero cursed her in several languages. All of you are dead. Every person you care about is dead. They just don’t know it yet, he promised.

Smiling at Xaviero, seemingly unaffected by his rage or his promise, she lifted her hands and sketched symbols in the air between them. The symbols hung there, runes of flames. Xaviero tensed, trying to read her attack on him. His hands came up in answer for another round in their battle.

Zev struck him from behind. Xaviero’s eyes went wide in absolute shock. He hadn’t noticed that his hellhounds had disappeared and that he was no longer within a protective circle. It never occurred to him that Branislava was merely keeping his attention on her—that all four women were using delaying tactics, simply playing a game with him while the real attack came from elsewhere.

In Lycan form, Zev’s wolf bit through the scrawny neck and clawed down the mage’s back, ripping open flesh to pull the spinal cord free. He flung it on the fire, whipped the body around and plunged his fist deep into the mage’s chest, clawing for the heart. He tossed that on the fire as well. Shifting to his natural form, he drew his sword and severed the head, throwing that on the fire. The body followed.

That’s one way to do it, Branislava whispered into Zev’s mind.

“Feel better?” Fen asked.

“A little bit of overkill?” Dimitri suggested drolly.

“That was me keeping my cool,” Zev answered. He looked around. “There’s mop-up to be done, but I need to attend to my grandfather. He’s in bad shape.”

We’ve got this, Fen said.

22

Zev hurried to the spot where he’d left his grandfather, Dimitri pacing along beside him. Daciana, Makoce and Lykaon guarded him. All three looked grim as they stepped back to allow Zev to kneel beside Hemming.

Silver chains, wrapped close together, were embedded deeply into the skin. Clearly some skin had grown over the chains, making them a part of his body. Dimitri had suffered a few weeks wrapped in silver chain and he remembered every second of the merciless agony. He couldn’t imagine how long Zev’s grandfather had endured such torture.

“Get them off,” Hemming gasped in greeting. “Zev, get these chains off of me now.”

Zev took a deep breath, nearly shook his head but Dimitri’s fingers settled around his arm, preventing him from speaking. Skyler can do it. Let me call to her. She removed mine.

Call her then. Hurry.

Zev smoothed his hand through his grandfather’s hair in a rare gesture of affection. “The woman who can remove the chains is on her way. I had no idea you were still alive. I thought you long dead after one of your hunts.”

Branislava appeared at his side, Skyler, Tatijana and Ivory close behind. I brought them in case we could help with healing, she confided.

Zev was grateful she was there, grateful he had her. The moment she was close to him, he felt as if he could endure anything—even losing his grandfather for the second time.

Skyler knelt down on the other side of Hemming, running her hands over his body and the tight silver chains embedded so deep. She looked up at Dimitri with stricken eyes. He laid his hand gently on her shoulder.

Zev, if I remove the chains, he will die. He’s lived too long in them. They’re embedded in his very bones, and have become part of his system. He lives in agony, but . . . Skyler trailed off, tears in her eyes. She looked up at Dimitri again, as if somehow her lifemate could change what was. Perhaps I’m wrong. Bronnie? Tatijana? Ivory?

Branislava positioned her palms just above Hemming’s body and ran her hand from head to toe. Zev felt her instant reaction and knew without her saying so that Skyler’s evaluation had been correct.

Zev bowed his head for a moment before looking his grandfather straight in the eye. “If we remove the chains, Grandfather, you will die.”

Hemming smiled at him. For the first time his face seemed to relax beneath the terrible bands of silver. “I long for peace, Zev. For the chance to be with Catalina once again. I miss her every moment of my existence. Get the chains off of me.”

Skyler shook her head. “I don’t want to be the one. I don’t, Zev. What if you look at me as the person who killed your grandfather? I can’t do it.”

Hemming turned his head slowly to look at her. “You’re so young. I can’t remember ever being that young. The chains are . . .” He seemed to have to search for the word. “Painful.”

Zev felt his heart contract. If Hemming couldn’t remember the actual word to describe pain, he’d been in the chains too long suffering the torture of death by silver. The mage hadn’t put the hooks into his body, so that the liquid silver could eventually find his heart and kill him. Xaviero had been far too clever for that. He’d merely wrapped him in the chains, rending him helpless and in total agony.

Zev felt Branislava steel herself and knew what she was going to do. His heart nearly burst with gratitude and love for her.

“I’ll remove them,” Branislava said firmly. “Skyler can show me how.”

Skyler nodded several times. “Of course. If that’s what he really wants.”

Hemming smiled at her. “More than anything else, I desire to be free of these chains. To experience true freedom one last time. Of course, I would like to remember what it is to live without pain.”

Branislava slipped her hand into Hemming’s hand. “I’m Zev’s lifemate, Branislava. He calls me Branka.”

Hemming studied her with intelligent, all-seeing eyes. “Of course he does. He is a lucky man to have you. I expect that you will take good care of him.”

“Always,” Branislava whispered. She glanced at Skyler.

Zev could feel his lifemate choking up. He couldn’t blame her. Up close to Hemming, one could feel his power. He had resisted the mage’s demand and been tortured for far too many years. He’d held out when others would have succumbed.

“I’m going to try to loosen the chains first,” Branislava said. “The other healers will join with me so the power will be extensive, but the chains are deep in your body and this may be even more painful to you. We’ll try to keep that at a minimum as well.”

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