Dark Wolf Page 19

She closed her eyes and breathed evenly, opening her mind a little at a time to try to take in, to absorb the feel of a Lycan through every sense she had. She recognized the way he moved from what Mother Earth had revealed to her earlier. He barely made a sound, a soft whisper, no more, as his clothing occasionally brushed against leaves. He was so quiet they startled wildlife they came upon.

She felt the mechanics of him, the steel-like but flexible framework and the muscles moving beneath his civilized clothing. She even began to absorb the field around him that protected his energy from leaking out and giving him away in a hunt—or battle.

He was a good man. She got that much from him, but he was lethal and wouldn’t hesitate to kill if necessary. She wouldn’t want him coming after her. That thought was frightening and she couldn’t help the little shiver that went down her spine. Of course he noticed instantly.

“We’re nearly there. There’s nothing to fear. I’m not going to let anything happen to you,” he assured. His voice was kind, even compassionate.

“I’m sorry I’m so much trouble,” Skyler said. That was the truth. She didn’t like using a good person. He clearly wasn’t the demon she’d conjured up in her mind. The Lycans had taken Dimitri prisoner when he’d been defending not only his prince, but also the Lycans. They tortured him and would have killed him if she hadn’t intervened. She’d developed a dislike of them. Still, she would much rather have had Zev find her than some really awful Lycan who might kill her.

“You don’t weigh much,” Zev observed. “A good wind might blow you away.”

A bubble of nervous laughter welled up. “My father says that.”

“Your father is right.” He frowned. “He should be watching out for you. Coming here was not a good idea.”

She couldn’t very well tell him her father didn’t know and the world as she knew it would probably be over once he found out. “My ankle agrees with you.”

He found their base camp unerringly, as if he already knew it was there. He hadn’t cast around for signs looking for the site, but seemed to follow a direct—and the shortest—route straight to it.

He came to an abrupt halt. “Where is everyone?”

“Out looking for me, I suppose,” Skyler replied in a small voice. Her ankle really was hurting and she was grateful when he put her into a chair. He had been smooth, walking through the forest, but still, movement jarred the injury. “There’s only Paul and Josef. The others haven’t arrived yet.”

Paul strode into camp, a mixture of concern and aggravation on his face. He held a rifle in his hands. She knew it carried tranquilizers. “What the hell happened, Skyler?” he demanded. “We’ve been searching for you for most of the day. I was about to call for help.”

Zev’s entire demeanor changed. He ate up the distance between Paul and him with long, fluid strides, nearly gliding. He was on Paul before he had a chance to even bring his weapon up.

“I’m a cop,” Zev announced, with a small apologetic glance over his shoulder at Skyler. “I’d like to see your papers now. No one should have authorized work in this area. We closed it off a few weeks ago.”

It was the last thing Skyler expected, but she realized his revelation and demands made perfect sense. The Lycans had to have a way to keep everyone away from them while they prepared for war, or tortured and killed their prisoners. Zev probably really did have a rank of some kind in law enforcement.

Paul kept possession of his weapon but went to the locked box and removed the papers giving them permission to set up cameras in this area of the forest. Zev studied their passports and the official documents carefully, taking his time. This was no cursory glance.

Skyler’s mouth went dry. Her heart began to pound. Josef was the best, she reminded herself. His paperwork was always impeccable.

Zev looked up suddenly, pinning Paul with his piercing, focused stare. “Who’s in charge?”

“He’s not here at the moment,” Paul said. “He went out searching for Skyler, but we come back to the camp every two hours.” He glanced at his watch. “He should be coming back soon.”

Zev handed the papers back to Paul. “Everything appears to be in order, but there’s been a mistake. I want you to break camp tomorrow morning and get out of here. This girl cannot be wandering the forest alone, nor should you or whoever is in charge. It’s too dangerous.”

“We’re aware there is an active pack of wolves here,” Paul said. “That’s why we’re here. We just study their environment. We don’t try to interact. If we’re lucky we’ll have the cameras in the right places and we’ll get a glimpse of them.”

Zev shook his head. “There have been several killings. Mutilations. Not the wolves, someone human. This area is closed at the moment. You need to pack up immediately and leave.”

“Are you saying a serial killer is on the loose?” Paul asked.

“We don’t acknowledge such things. We’ve chased a criminal into these woods, and he knows his way around. I am officially telling you and your party to leave. I’ll be back tomorrow to ensure you’ve obeyed.”

Paul scowled and tried to protest. Skyler ducked her head, twisting her fingers together, looking guilty, as if she knew Paul would take his anger out on her. After all, she’d set this all in motion by getting lost.

“She has a sprained ankle and needs care,” Zev added. “And in case you think to chastise her, I was already aware of your camp and was coming to tell you to leave when I ran across her.”

That made sense, too. He was Lycan. He belonged in the forest. It would talk to him the way Mother Earth spoke to her. She had no doubt that he had known—that he’d heard foreign footsteps or smelled their scents on the wind.

Zev dropped a hand on her shoulder. “I hope you feel better very quickly. I’m sorry we met under such circumstances. Please persuade whoever is in charge to take me seriously. You can always come back once we’ve found the killer.”

It was a perfect cover—a police manhunt. Skyler nodded. “Thank you for your kindness.”

Zev left them, striding away, disappearing into the trees. Skyler wrapped her arms around herself and rocked back and forth. She hadn’t been aware that she’d been scared, but now she felt a little sick, but definitely triumphant. She’d done it. She’d slipped that tiny little bug into Zev’s pocket, and he hadn’t even known.

Paul hurried over to her, wrapping his arm around her shoulders. “Are you all right?”

She nodded. “He’s a very scary man, but he was really nice to me. I was terrified the papers wouldn’t hold up.”

“I was more worried he’d take out one of his weapons and annihilate us both,” Paul said. “My little tranq gun didn’t seem so great when I could see weapons in his belt, hanging from a million loops on the inside of that coat, and even inside his boots. But, he looked and felt human.”

“He was Lycan,” Skyler assured. “I could tell the difference. He smelled wild. Part of the forest. It was in the way he moved as well. He’s a wolf.” She slowly unzipped her boot and straightened her leg, holding out her injured foot toward Paul. “Can you get this thing off of me? Josef did a great job on my cover, that’s all I’m going to say on the matter.”

“You mean until he gets here. You’ve got that look on your face.” Paul did his best to remove the boot without hurting her further. He whistled when he saw her swollen, bruised ankle. “Well, one thing about Josef—he’s thorough.”

“I think I’ll lie down and rest until the sun goes down,” Skyler said.

She needed to touch Dimitri’s mind. He might be in the Carpathian paralysis, but he hadn’t been able to sleep the sleep needed for rejuvenation and his mind was still active. She found that the more she merged her mind with his, the more she needed to do so.

She’d fallen in love with Dimitri, his gentle, tender ways and his absolute, unfaltering love for her. Now she knew the pull between lifemates. That link had grown stronger between them. She could feel the need to touch him, to just know he was alive somewhere, rising in her more and more as every hour slipped by. Perhaps it was because she was older now, or because she’d made that final commitment to him.

Paul helped her hobble to her hammock and she lay down, stretching out, trying to relax. She knew the worst would be this night. Their plan would either work or they would all be in trouble. Most of it depended on her.

She opened her mind and stretched herself along that now familiar path. Dimitri. It is done and I am safe. She knew he would need to hear her voice just as much as she needed to hear his.

Dimitri, caught in the Carpathian midday paralysis, would have closed his eyes had he been capable of moving. Relief was so raw it was tinged with madness. He hadn’t been able to move, but he could think—imagine—every bad scenario that could possibly happen with Skyler alone in the forest. He poured himself into her mind, needing to touch her, to feel that closeness with her.

Skyler could feel Dimitri’s relief flowing into her mind along with his warmth, the heat that always drove the cold of her nightmares away.

I was worried. It was nothing less than an understatement.

She found herself smiling. He felt different. He knew, like she did, that tonight was their night. Her plan had to work, there was no other choice. She took a deep breath and let it out. She had committed to him. She knew she loved him. There was no other. They could both die this night.

Dimitri, I love you with all my heart. I know you feel that. I have never hesitated to come to you as your lifemate from lack of love.

I am aware you love me, Skyler, he said, his voice a little perplexed. Did you think I would doubt you? I feel your love surround me every time we touch.

I have always told you the truth, that I fear I will not be able to satisfy you on a physical level. They had talked so much that she was no longer embarrassed to bring the subject up, although she still felt inadequate when they did discuss sex.

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