Dark Wolf Page 27

Too many, Dimitri said.

So basically an entire army. There was a faint note of humor in Paul’s voice.

You could put it that way, Dimitri agreed. I didn’t realize you were telepathic.

Josef exchanged blood with me. He enabled me to speak to Skyler and him. Otherwise, I’m not really, Paul admitted.

But you do have psychic gifts after all. Dimitri made it a statement. Paul might have exchanged blood with Josef to start the process, but he was too good at telepathy not to have some natural talent. I knew you and your little sister had some jaguar in you, which can pass on psychic abilities, but I was told you didn’t have them.

Ginny is a lot like Colby, Paul said, sidestepping the issue. She has a gift with animals, not just the horses, but all animals. She can talk to them. At first I just thought she was a horse whisperer, but it’s much more. She can communicate with animals, and they understand her just as much as she understands them.

When did you first start noticing the ability in her? Dimitri did his best to keep Paul’s attention away from the fact that they were running for their lives, and Skyler from thinking too much about Josef’s safety.

Still, Dimitri was genuinely intrigued. Gifts expanded or showed up as human children got older. Was that why Skyler was becoming so powerful? Was it her age? Or her acceptance of who she was and the acknowledgment of what gifts she actually wielded?

She always had a way with horses, Paul said. But since we’ve been in South America, she’s really thrived. This last year we all started noticing her abilities.

Dimitri suddenly became aware of another heartbeat. He caught Skyler just as she paused. Paul ran into him, nearly knocking them all off the path. He signaled Paul to crouch low and go still. He slipped his arm around Skyler’s shoulders.

There is only one heart beating that I can hear ahead of us, he said. Probably a sentry left behind to warn the pack if he came across your trail. They know someone had to aid me.

Skyler let out her breath, her hand on the path, pushed into the soil to gather more information. Just one in our way. He’s nearly directly in our path. Even if we’re super stealthy I don’t see how we can get past him without detection.

Dimitri could, but even if Skyler cloaked her breathing and muffled her footsteps, the Lycan was on high alert and he would feel them. Skyler tried to think of a spell, anything at all to misdirect the wolf.

Dimitri’s fingers went to the nape of her neck, massaging, easing the tension out of her. Give me a minute. I’ll be back.

Skyler caught his hand, shaking her head. No, the pack will know the moment he’s down. They communicate through some kind of psychic network. Not telepathy, but when they hunt like this, they have some kind of ability to know where each member of the pack is. The formation is crucial to them. Give me a minute to figure this out.

We don’t have a minute. Josef can’t run against them for long. Once the pack catches up to him, he’s going to have to get out of there fast. Even if he takes to the sky, they leap impressive distances.

Skyler bit her lip hard. Can you give him a sense of how high? Josef takes chances. I know you told him not to, but he always is proving something to himself.

He doesn’t yet have a sense of self-worth, Dimitri said. I can send him the information and caution him again that we need him.

Skyler turned her attention to the task at hand. Creating a diversion to move the guard was the safest way.

I call to the heart of a hunter,

I call to the scent of blood,

I call to the fox that is trickster,

Use your cunning to lead them astray.

They waited, crouched on the path. Skyler could hear the guard’s heart now, through her connection with Dimitri. She was astonished at how acute his senses were. With her hands in the soil, she felt the movement of the fox, trotting out just a little way from the wolf, out of sight, but brushing his fur along a thorny bush.

Instantly, the Lycan responded to the furtive noise the fox made. He moved with far more stealth, picking his way through the brush.

Now, we’ve got to go now, Skyler said. Suiting action to words, she was up and hurrying along the green carpet, sending up silent prayers that the guard wouldn’t return to the same exact location, but pick a spot away from their path.

Josef, hear me, Dimitri said. You cannot allow the pack to come too close to you. You’ve given us a lead. They jump tremendous heights. He did his best to give an example in imagery, showing the elite hunters in battle. We need you with us as soon as you can come back.

Josef knew the Lycans were gaining on him. He was a fast runner, and in truth, he wasn’t setting his feet on the ground, but rather skimming just above it, because he didn’t want the Lycans catching his scent. They hadn’t been able to follow Dimitri’s scent, but they had known where he was from the device they’d planted on him.

Still, for all his speed, they were breathing down his neck. It was time to abandon his subterfuge and get out of there. He’d led them several kilometers from Skyler, Paul and Dimitri, and that had been his goal. He threw the tiny tracking device into the thick layer of vegetation on the forest floor and launched himself skyward. As he did, a Lycan burst from the brush, half man, half wolf and leapt after him.

Claws hooked into his legs, terrible curved nails that ripped and tore his flesh. The Lycan refused to let go, trying to claw his way up Josef’s body to his belly. Josef couldn’t shift with the claws in him. The sheer weight of the Lycan pulled him back toward the ground where more of the pack waited eagerly. They jumped and snarled. One pointed a weapon his way.

Desperate, Josef changed tactics. He couldn’t shift his body, but he could his hands. He lifted his arm and brought his clenched fist, now made of solid iron, straight down on the Lycan’s head. The crunch was sickening. Josef’s stomach lurched, but the wolf dropped away from him, landing on top of two of the pack.

Josef reversed direction, shifting as he did so, making his body too small for them to grab, the bird spreading its wings and taking off, making it to the safety of the canopy. Small droplets of blood streamed after him like a comet. He circled away from the pack and back toward Skyler and Dimitri.

Get ahead of us, to the clearing, Dimitri directed. We’re coming in fast.

The pack knows, Josef warned. They’re already spreading out and heading your way, trying to get in front of you and around behind you. I can see them from up above. They’re fast, Dimitri, too fast.

The pack knew the woods, and they were used to running flat out for kilometers without breathing hard. Now they were in a frenzy to reach Dimitri.

I might have killed one of them, Josef confessed. I’m sorry. They’re really stirred up.

Dimitri dropped all pretense. “Run. As fast as you can. Don’t look back, just go for the meadow. Don’t follow the path anymore, Skyler, take the shortest possible route.”

What did it matter to hide their scent? The pack knew their direction and would use every means to cut them off. They couldn’t know about Skyler’s safe haven smack in the middle of the clearing, but they knew they were making for a specific destination and the pack was determined they wouldn’t make it.

Skyler picked up the pace, running hard. She couldn’t imagine what this type of exertion would do to Dimitri. She already had a major stitch in her side and her lungs were burning. The trees began to thin, giving them less cover.

Wolves leapt out of the forest just behind them—the guards left behind, converging together to make their attempt at stopping the escaping party.

One raised a weapon. Dimitri dropped directly behind her, his larger body shielding hers. Skyler, undaunted, sent her plea once more.

I call to thee, Mother, hear my call,

Send that which is silver to stop their footfall.

Bring forth that which is silver, now let it block,

Use that which was hidden to protect and to stop.

Beads of silver bubbled up from the soil and began to liquefy and extend across the ground behind and around them in a semicircle. Dimitri glanced back and down at the silver spreading so fast. His body gave an involuntary shudder.

Lycans wear boots. This cannot stop them.

Lycans wore thin gloves in order to handle the necessary silver weapons when going after rogue packs, and they almost always wore boots to protect their legs in the thick forest. The silver on the ground would not be a deterrent.

It won’t stop them, but it will slow them down. We just need time, Skyler assured.

The silver began to rise in columns, much like dust devils or mini tornadoes, spinning rapidly as they rose and fell, always surrounding the fleeing escape party.

The moment a Lycan came too close, the tiny beads shot out of the whirling twisters, peppering the wolves coming up behind them. Curses, growls and snarls rose, someone shot at them, the bullet whining through the rotating beads.

Dimitri spun around as if he might attack them, but Skyler caught at him, jerking at his arm. No, no, we can’t take a chance on starting a war, not if we have a chance to make it to the clearing. My blood was spilled there. The spell is strong. They won’t be able to penetrate through the shield.

He ran, but he didn’t like it. Twice he tried to drop back and cover Paul as well, but Paul just slowed with him.

Take care of Sky, Paul admonished. I’ll be fine. If they keep shooting at us, I’m going to shoot back, war or no war. This sucks.

Dimitri had to agree with him. He wasn’t used to running or being so weak. He prepared himself for battle, knowing that even Skyler’s clever wall of silver twisters wasn’t going to keep the Lycans back for long. Even as the thought entered his head, the wolves took to the trees, leaping high to catch branches, working their way around the twirling silver walls.

He caught glimpses of void spaces as if in the distance the trees were much thinner.

We’re close, Skyler said. But I can feel the main pack gaining on us. I’m sorry, Dimitri, I know I’m the one slowing you both down.

He had always known the pack would catch up with them. His worry was the safe haven Skyler had created wouldn’t be there and they’d be caught out in the open in a place nearly impossible to defend.

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