Dark Wolf Page 13

He was reluctant to wait, she heard it in his voice. She knew the chances of their plan succeeding went down the longer they waited. If a Lycan discovered their camp before she was “lost” their ploy wouldn’t work. She doubted she could get close enough to plant a tracking device without their knowledge if she wasn’t injured and needing help. They would have to find another way to track Dimitri back to his prison. She knew she could find him now, with the psychic trail becoming stronger, but it would take time and energy they clearly didn’t have. And then there was Dimitri. Anything could happen on his end—and none of it was good.

“I’ll be ready,” she said. She took the mug of hot chocolate more to appease both of her friends than because she thought she’d drink it. “What I need is to let Mother Earth help heal me. Can you open the soil here for me to stretch out in?”

“Baby, you can’t sleep in the ground,” Josef said. “I can’t cover you and you’d be vulnerable to any attack. Crazy woman, you aren’t Carpathian yet.”

She found herself laughing. “Crazy man, I meant just a few layers. I didn’t plan to sleep there. The insect population alone would stop me.”

“Worms,” Paul added. “They crawl in and out of bodies . . .”

“The worms crawl in, the worms crawl out . . .” Josef quoted an old song children had sung to one another in play yards the world over.

“Stop,” Skyler commanded. Just being in the company of her two best friends made her feel lighter. Safer. More grounded. “Eventually I’ll be sleeping in the dirt, and I don’t want to think about worms or any other bugs crawling over me.”

She needed to feel her connection with Mother Earth if her fail-safe plan had any chance of success at all. She didn’t want to talk about it yet, not until she was certain she could do it. Everything depended on what she learned there in that ancient forest soil.

Josef kissed the top of her head. “You really are a squeamish little baby sometimes, Sky. Dirt is not a dirty word. You said it with such distaste. Like a girl.”

“I am a girl, you goof,” Skyler pointed out. She looked down at the chocolate in the mug. Her stomach rebelled again. She was going to need Josef’s aid again. “And no girl likes the idea of sleeping in the ground with insects. I am human, after all.”

“You aren’t exactly human,” Josef said, letting go of her. “More like a trippy little alien. By the way, I forgot to tell you, I’ve really gotten far in that database of human psychics Dominic found in South America. I’ve gotten past the encryptions and I’ve figured out the code they were using for each person entered. I’m close to cracking the entire thing. If I do, I can give the names to Mikhail and those women can be protected from the human society trying to kill us, vampires, and anyone else hunting them.”

Skyler’s stomach lurched. An ugly knot had formed. She looked down and the mug was empty. “Thanks, Josef.”

“For the chocolate or the ‘trippy little alien’ compliment?”

Paul snorted. “Is that what that was? A compliment? You’re never going to make it with the ladies, Josef, if you don’t get better at talking to them.”

“I’m not wasting my swag on my sister here,” Josef nudged her foot with his. “I do just fine with the ladies.”

Paul shook his head. “I was your wingman at the last little party we went to together, and I’m pretty sure you struck out once you began talking.” He winked at Skyler. “They all thought he was pretty cute until he opened his mouth and began spouting some kind of number theory.”

“Oh, Josef,” Skyler said, covering her smile with one hand. “You didn’t really, did you?”

Josef took the empty mug from her hand, glaring at Paul. “The girl was beautiful, you know, not all skinny and blond and cloned like most of them. I mean she had a real figure and her hair was dark and shiny and when she smiled, my heart sort of exploded and took my brain with it. When I short-circuit, I fall back on the numbers in my head.”

“He sees in numbers,” Paul said. “Can you believe that?”

Josef thrust another mug into her hand. She recognized the aroma of vegetable soup. Her stomach knotted even more. She closed her eyes, wanting to get it over with. Whether the food stayed down or not was another matter. She knew, before she slept, Josef would give her more of his healing blood. She couldn’t be converted without a true blood exchange, but that didn’t mean she wouldn’t feel the effects.

When she opened her eyes, she was grateful that not only the soup was gone, but the mug as well. Paul handed her the water bottle again while she concentrated on keeping the food in her stomach.

“Josef is amazing,” she said, meaning it. “So are you, Paul. I couldn’t be any luckier. Thank you both for coming with me.”

“Don’t go getting all girly on us,” Josef reprimanded. “The next thing you know, we’ll be sitting around the fire sobbing and some Lycan will catch us and figure it would be best to put us out of our misery.”

“Fine, open a patch of earth for me—take it down to where the soil is rich with minerals.”

Josef looked around the forest floor. “Anywhere should be good. This is ancient land and has been regenerating for thousands of years.”

He peeled back the vegetation and topsoil to expose the richness hidden beneath. Paul lifted Skyler again and gently deposited her in the two-foot-deep opening. Skyler handed him back the water bottle and turned her attention completely to the soil.

She lay back, uncaring that the dirt would get into her hair. Josef could take care of that easily. All that mattered was her connection to Mother Earth.

Great Mother Earth, who gave us all birth,

Hear my call.

Help me, great one, show me the path that I must walk,

I place myself in your arms, hear the beat of my heart,

Hear my call.

Sounds came first. The deep booming beat of a drum. Steady. Coming from the earth’s very core and spreading throughout the land to give life to the plants and trees, all the flora and fauna. The trickle of water came next, so soft at first, but when she listened, the sound was powerful, the flow of earth’s blood reaching out like arteries and veins to nourish.

Great one, I am of your making,

I ask for your healing balm,

I have need of you and your gifts,

My body is worn and tired.

She had never felt so stretched thin, afraid if she asked Paul and Josef they would tell her they could see where she was frayed, or holes torn in her very skin. Without Josef’s blood, she knew she would never have the strength to help free Dimitri from such a terrible weapon.

Help me, Mother, bring forth your healing energies to give me strength.

My need is great. Hear me. See me. Be of me. Wrap me in the warmth of your arms.

Rich soil poured around her body, over it, a thin layer, but almost up to her neck. She should have felt claustrophobic, but instead, she felt warm and safe. As if from a great distance, she heard a gasp from Paul, but her mind was connected to the steady drumming beat of the earth’s heart. Her own heart matched that strong rhythm. She felt the new growth, long twisting vines, pushing out of the soil beneath and beside her to wind around her body, a cover of forest green.

Skyler felt as if she was in the very cradle of life, held by loving arms. Small hairs from the roots reaching toward her brushed along her legs and arms. Little shoots of greenery reached for her, to snuggle in close to her body, beginning to weave together into a thin, fine blanket over her body.

I need you, great one, my soul mate burns,

He is hung on hooks, their tips delivering silver poison into his body,

Threads of silver burn their way toward his heart.

His life runs out through my fingers like fine grains of sand.

Hear me, great one, bring forth your healing energies,

Give me your strength, heed my call, heal me, Mother.

Already she could feel strength flowing back into her. The small cracks she felt fragmenting her mind slowly closed and the continuous pounding in her head faded away. Her legs and arms felt stronger than ever. The chaos in her mind stilled, and she found herself calm and determined.

Tell me, great one,

Those of the Lycan breed were born of this place,

What was their making?

How can they be subdued?

Show me their path,

Reveal to me their weaknesses,

Show me the way to diminish them.

Give me the power to release their hold.

She had to feel the Lycans when they came near. They were pack hunters and gave off little or no energy. They were somehow able to contain it, so that even the Carpathians couldn’t feel their presence before an attack. She would need to know where every single wolf was, why they were there and what their plan of action would be.

Mother Earth had seen it all played out on her surface. Centuries had gone by and the Lycan species had taken on the mantle of civilization, but like the Carpathians, they were predators first. They were wolves. They hunted in packs, rather than as single hunters like the Carpathians. Packs generally had an alpha pair and they used the tried and true attacks that had worked for centuries.

They had evolved, strong, fast, very lethal, and they were smart. They had integrated into human society, looking civilized, but deep under their skin, they were always Lycan. They still hunted the same way they had been successful so long ago.

Skyler absorbed the information stamped into the very ground by the Lycans who had used this forest for so many years. She took her time, grateful to be a daughter of the earth, grateful the offering was so detailed. It was important to learn about Lycans as pack hunters in order to figure out the best way to elude—or defeat them.

When she was certain she knew how the inner workings of the pack were managed, she gave thanks and then asked for help with Dimitri. His weakness beat at her. His hunger. He was starved, and no Carpathian could go days or weeks without going to ground.

Great Mother, my beloved is of your making,

He is your own son, a son of Mother Earth.

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