Dark Blood Page 78

Alexandru nodded and circled Gregori’s neck with one small arm, leaning in to whisper something in his ear. He pointed to the wolves and Gregori’s daughters.

“They’re asking permission of Ivory and Razvan right now,” Gregori assured, keeping an eye on his daughters as they raced through the crowd to the two wolf keepers.

Branislava hid her smile behind her hand. Stern Gregori was certainly far more than the prince’s protector and right-hand man. His normal dangerous mask was completely replaced around the children and lifemate. She imagined Zev just like that with his children—and with her. To others he might appear very frightening, but his family would always know the real man, just as Savannah and her children did. Apparently the prince’s son did as well.

She watched Anya and Anastasia run up and tug on Razvan’s pant leg. He immediately stopped dancing and crouched down to eye level with both girls. Ivory leaned down to hear what was said. Branislava noted that although Gregori appeared to have his attention on Alexandru, his gaze flickered often to his daughters.

Razvan looked up at Ivory. Alexandru held his breath. Razvan said something and Ivory nodded. Both girls clapped their hands, smiling, but sobered as the couple continued to talk to them. They nodded over and over, and then turned. Branislava caught Gregori’s instant frown, but he smiled when they turned back, clearly thanking the couple. She noted that both Razvan and Ivory communicated with their wolves. As Razvan turned back to take Ivory into his arms, two more wolves peeled off his back and loped over to the two sitting patiently on the sidelines with Branislava and Zev.

Alexandru jumped down from Gregori’s lap and hurried over with the girls to pet and love on the wolves.

Branislava noted that Mikhail and Raven danced close to Ivory and Razvan, clearly thanking them for giving the children the opportunity to be with adult wolves. She knew that wolf pups were often brought in for the children to learn how to treat them, but Razvan and Ivory’s wolves were part of a hunting pack and usually stayed apart from the other Carpathians.

Branislava watched the girls approach the wolves. They did so slowly, hands extended toward the animals to allow them to smell. Alexandru wiggled his way between the two girls so that Anastasia moved over. She leaned close and whispered in his ear.

Branislava felt her heart turn over at the sight of the two little heads pressed so close together. Clearly Anastasia was instructing Alexandru on how Ivory and Razvan had told the twins to approach the wolves. The prince’s son was very solemn as he extended his hand to the alpha wolf first. He bowed his head as if showing his respect.

“They’re beautiful,” she told Savannah. “Truly beautiful. When Alexandru walked over and stood between the twins, there was a moment when I thought the ground rippled. Did you feel it, too?”

Savannah exchanged a look with Gregori. She nodded slowly. “Yes. The three are powerful together, even at their age. It’s a little disconcerting.”

Gregori reached out and took his lifemate’s hand. “They’re intelligent and have good spirits, all three of them. It will be an adventure raising them, but they’ll be fine.” He kissed her hand. “We’ll be the ones with gray hair.”

Zev laughed. “I was just telling Branislava that we needed to have twin girls.”

Fen and Tatijana sank down beside them. Fen gave a snort of derision. “You’ll be the only Carpathian with gray hair.”

Since Fen’s hair was streaked with a very impressive silver, Zev couldn’t help but laugh at his statement. “Wait, you’ll be the one with quads. Has it ever happened? Four little Dragonseeker girls all with a penchant for revenge.”

Dimitri thumped his older brother’s head. “That would be suitable punishment for you.”

Skyler winked at Branislava. “I’ll bet we could make it happen, too.”

“I’d help,” Gregori volunteered.

“Hey,” Tatijana protested. “I’d be the one carrying them. I’d be a balloon.”

“But cute,” Fen said, pulling her close. “Very cute.”

Mikhail held up his hand, and the dancers immediately stopped dancing as the music faded. He stepped into the middle of the clearing, a smile on his face. “We have a newborn. Sara and Falcon have a beautiful—and healthy—baby girl.”

A cheer went up and Branislava found herself yelling with the others. She hugged Zev close. “I couldn’t have asked for a better ending to this night’s fun,” she whispered.

“They have chosen the name Isabella for their daughter. Isabella Sara,” Mikhail announced.

16

Branislava stared into Arno’s room, her heart sinking. She should have known Xaviero wouldn’t wait long to strike at them. The Lycans were under lockdown and watched at all times, so who had committed such a terrible crime?

“At least we had last night together,” she whispered to Zev, and reached behind her to make contact with him. She needed to feel her rock, her anchor when the world around her spun into madness.

The night before had been perfect, and even later when they sat around Mikhail’s home, they had discussed the three mages only very lightly, as if all of them knew they needed to take a brief respite from touching too close to evil.

Zev started to move her out from in front of him, his arm pressuring her to step behind him, but she shook her head.

“Not yet, Zev. Something isn’t right, and I need to figure out what’s wrong before anyone enters. Skyler was bringing a meal to him and discovered the body. She didn’t go in or touch anything. She said when she started to step through the entrance to check, her skin crawled and inside she felt jittery.”

“Arno’s obviously dead,” Zev pointed out. “There’s a silver stake sticking out of his chest. Skyler’s young. Of course she felt jittery.”

“She may be young, Zev, but she’s sensitive to any magic and there’s magic here. Black magic. Evil. I can feel it.”

“The moment the other council members find out Arno is dead, they’ll want answers,” Zev insisted. “They’ll expect me to have them.”

“I’m just asking for a minute to assess the situation,” she insisted, biting back a snappish tone. She was already nervous, fearing she already knew who had been there and why.

Zev immediately brought his hand to the nape of her neck, fingers easing the tension out of her. “I’m sorry, Branka. I had no right to take my emotions out on you. Arno has been my friend for many years. I liked him very much. He was a very wise man and he never jumped to conclusions. Even when his own beliefs said one thing, he tried to keep an open mind and really listen and give credence to the other side of issues. He leaves behind a loving family who counted on me to keep him alive.”

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