Dark Wolf Page 24

She could see where the hooks tore into his body and held him prisoner. Twelve of them, six down each side. She knew each location because blood welled from beneath those chains and smeared over them. Tiny beads of blood dotted his forehead and ran down his face. He stayed as still as possible, but the pain had to be excruciating, even without the silver traveling through his body toward his heart.

My love. Her voice wobbled. She choked on the lump in her throat. She knew it was bad, yet she hadn’t imagined—this.

He didn’t move or give away that she was so close. He kept his eyes closed. His head down. But she felt his love.

I shouldn’t have waited. The moment I heard, I should have set out after you.

You are here now. Can you feel them watching me? He meant it as a warning. There is someone always watching.

I feel them. I have come prepared for that. In all our conversations over these last years, I did pick up a few things from you. And Josef is a mini-general. He is very good at planning a battle, even one such as this, where we hope to escape unnoticed.

He didn’t ask her how. He knew she had a plan and he gave her the trust she deserved. She’d gotten to him against impossible odds.

She stayed in the shadow of the brush, a few meters from Dimitri. This night, she would be the very thing she’d always despised in herself. This night, she had to rely on the mage—the hated mage—that she now found she embraced with all of her heart. It was the mage in her that would save Dimitri.

Digging her feet deeper into the soil, she raised her hands in front of her, keeping movements small and called on the four elements.

I call upon Air, breathe forth a tempest of might.

I call upon Earth, bring forth your trembling might.

I call upon Fire, bring forth your flames.

I call upon Water, wash away that which remains.

At once the wind increased, short little microbursts that shook the tallest of the trees. An ominous crack was loud in the silence of the night. The top of a very heavy tree came crashing down, right on a cabin some distance away. Branches and trunks plunged through the thin roof and landed in the small confines, one of the branches landing directly in the fireplace. Flames shot up the branch, and reached the trunk just as another burst of wind fanned the blaze.

Shouts came from every direction. The earth beneath her shook with footsteps as the Lycans converged on the conflagration. The cabin went up fast, and they had to hurry to keep the fire from spreading to the neighboring trees and other huts. Many of the little structures used dried branches and needles and mud for a roof.

When she was certain every Lycan was engaged in saving their camp, she turned her attention to the hooks. She had to get him down first.

That which is hooked and made to hold,

I unmake your properties so you release and unfold.

Air, I call upon you, float him gently down.

Keep us safe from all sight and sound.

I call upon Earth, take him into your arms,

Surround him, protect him, keep him from harm.

Fire I call you, cauterize his wound.

Burn that which is bleeding, so it may not seal our doom.

Water, I call thee forth, your healing might,

Wash away that which is blood

So there is no scent,

No sight.

Dimitri’s body nearly dropped to the ground, but she was able to send a cushion of air beneath him to float him down. Skyler didn’t let the joy sweeping through her take control. Removing the hooks from his body had been the easy part. Now there was that terrible chain embedded in his very skin. He lay helpless in the thick grass, the chains wrapped tight, biting into flesh and in some spots, bone.

She pressed her lips together hard. She needed to draw on her courage, not think about what would happen after she removed the chains. She wasn’t positive Dimitri would even be able to walk, let alone help if they ran into trouble.

She took a deep breath, let it out and made her try.

Chains of silver bedded within,

Chains of silver under tissue and skin,

Chains of silver connected to bone,

Chains of silver now may you be undone.

Skyler felt her heart begin to accelerate into panic. The chains were so deeply embedded in his flesh they’d become a part of him. Nothing happened. What if she couldn’t do this?

They loosened.

The calmness in Dimitri’s voice steadied her. He sounded the same. Her Dimitri. Cool under fire. A rock. Skyler nodded her head, took another deep breath and tried again.

Chain of silver buried deep within,

Chain of silver wrapped like a serpent’s skin.

Chain of silver that cuts to the bone,

I seek out your making so that you will now be known.

I trace your pattern and follow your path,

Removing your roots as I seal and cast.

In each valley and burn I insert a balm,

So that your poison is ceased and can do no more harm.

Skyler forced herself to go slow, to plan every movement methodically. She couldn’t afford to draw any attention their way. The wind fanned the flames, but she hadn’t wanted to risk a forest fire, so the Lycans were putting it out fairly quickly. She glanced at the flames and waved her hands so that the fire jumped to a second cabin, the roof exploding into orange-yellow flames as the chains fell away from Dimitri’s body, revealing the horrible extent of his burns.

Kneeling beside Dimitri, she put her wrist over his mouth. Now, right here, take my blood. We only have a few minutes. I need you to do this.

He was so weak. She felt his fear beating at him. Hunger was terrible, dominating his every thought now, beating in his veins, through his starving heart. Her blood was potent for him, the blood of his lifemate. It would tempt him as no other. He feared loss of control. His mind was already wandering, the pain mixing with the hunger until sometimes he wasn’t certain where he was or what was happening around him.

Dimitri, feed now. If they find us, they will kill me. Skyler used the one thing she knew would get through to him.

He took her wrist gently. His thumb brushed over her pulse, the movement so light, but she felt that soft touch through her entire body. His lips, cracked and dry, feathered over her skin, right where her pulse leapt. She had expected his teeth to sink in and tear at her, but there was love in his touch—seduction even.

Dimitri lay there on the ground, his burned body nearly paralyzed after hanging in the tree so long and his mind barely comprehending that he was free of the hated silver. He was starving, yet he took great care not to frighten her—or hurt her. She framed one side of his face with her free hand, her palm against those terrible burn marks, trying to soothe away the pain.

His teeth sank into her wrist. For one moment there was blazing pain and then the sting was gone, instantly giving way to something else. Something she hadn’t expected. Josef had taken her blood, and it was purely a necessary function. Neither felt anything when he’d done it. This was so different—and unexpected.

Skyler smoothed back hair from his tortured face and then leaned down to brush kisses over the burned and blackened skin where the chain had dug into his forehead. She had never voluntarily kissed him. Not once in all the years they’d been talking together. He’d kissed the top of her head, and sometimes the corner of her mouth or her chin, but she’d never made a single move to do something she considered intimate.

She thought her kisses would feel healing. She thought she would give him comfort and it would feel that way to her. It was kiss him or cry. Her beautiful Dimitri, so ravaged by hatred when he was capable of so much love. When she brushed those kisses along the line where the silver chain had been, she felt more than just comforting, more than healing. She felt an overwhelming love that seemed, for the first time, to transcend the physical.

She didn’t understand the need that began right there in their worst moment, but it didn’t matter. That was part of who they were together. She would have let him take every drop of blood she had in her body if he wanted—or needed it. It was Dimitri who found the strength to stop, running his tongue over the two holes in her wrist to stop the bleeding and then pressing a kiss over the mark to ease any ache.

He opened his eyes and looked up at her. She saw him there, in his glacier-blue eyes. That smile that didn’t reach his lips, but was there just for her.

We have to go, Dimitri. Can you stand? That was her biggest fear. She couldn’t teleport him out of there, and she doubted if she could even get him on his feet by herself.

I can do whatever it takes. I can’t believe you did it, sívamet, you actually got the chains off. That was a miracle right there. They’d become part of him, eating through his skin and finding muscle until the silver had adhered to every cell it touched, driving him mad.

Dimitri sat up slowly, tentatively, stretching out his arms, finding movement painful, but wonderful at the same time. He didn’t try to stand, his feet and legs were still numb, but he rolled onto his hands and knees, testing his strength. Hunger still was uppermost, thundering in his ears and pounding a demand in his veins, but he could get past it now. Skyler’s blood was a powerful mixture, nearly intoxicating. Still, he was weak, even with what she’d given him.

He was grateful she didn’t panic, or try to force him to his feet. He had to know he could get up and run and then do it, all in one motion. The trees she’d emerged from looked far away. He felt her hand on his back, rubbing, massaging. Healing.

You go first and I’ll follow. Don’t argue with me. Just do it, he told her.

He would bring up the rear and protect her as best he could. They would come after him with silver, and he knew there would be no mercy in him if they got close enough for him to get his hands on them.

Skyler nodded and turned toward the trees she’d used for cover. Dimitri stopped her with a hand on her shoulder. She looked back at him. She was beautiful, crouched there, determination in the set of her chin and shoulders. Love in her eyes. He needed to see that. He needed to see reality. He nodded, and she took off, staying low, Dimitri right behind her.

They gained the protection of the heavy stand of trees. Brush had grown up everywhere, unusual in a forest so dense, where the canopy kept the sun from hitting the forest floor. In the very center of the brush, a thick green carpet stretched out before them. The strip of grass was narrow and Dimitri realized with every step he took, behind him, the grass sank into the ground so that only dried leaves and brush remained, covering their tracks.

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