Dark Wolf Page 28

My body is still shaky, csitri, he told her, I’m not altogether certain I would be any faster on my own. But he would turn around and pick them off one by one. The hell with not going to war, not when they were going to kill his lifemate and Paul.

I’m with you, bro, Paul said.

Did I think that out loud? Dimitri asked. It was a sign of his weakness that he had.

Skyler answered him. Loud and clear. I heard it, too. All this time I thought you were the cool, peaceful, Zen-like warrior.

Dimitri saw that both Skyler and Paul found his little gaffe amusing in spite of the danger they were in, and he was grateful he’d made the mistake. They were running flat out now, uncaring of their burning lungs and cramping muscles. They knew they were running for their lives.

Paul gave an inelegant snort. Yeah, cool and Zen-like, that’s Dimitri. I say let him loose on these bozos.

Just ahead, Dimitri could see the clearing. Skyler broke into the open first, running fast, heading for the very center. Josef waited, his hands in the air, ready to do whatever it took to protect them, but having no real idea how.

Dimitri paced himself just behind Skyler, always making certain his body blocked hers from the line to the Lycans. Behind him, he heard Paul grunt and the boy’s pace changed. He glanced over his shoulder but Paul continued to run, not quite as fast, but he was into the clearing.

Shots rang out. He scented blood. Dimitri whirled around while Skyler skidded to a halt. Behind them, Paul was down, writhing on the very edge of the meadow. Just as Dimitri began to backtrack, Paul staggered to his feet, waving him off.

Paul picked up his pace again, sometimes hopping, but gamely coming toward them. Dimitri could see the shield shimmering, translucent, but definitely warping in the night air. Something was there waiting for them. He was reluctant to remove his body from where he blocked the Lycans’ line of fire from his lifemate.

Get inside, Skyler. Get to safety. I’m going back for Paul.

Paul went down again, hard. Anyone could see the boy was in trouble. There was blood on his shoulder, clearly a through and through, and more blood on his leg.

Let me get him, Josef said, rushing past Skyler and Dimitri.

Another volley of shots rang out, and Josef hit the ground, his body rolling. Skyler let out a frightened cry and would have run past Dimitri, but he blocked her way.

“I’ll get them. You get inside.” Dimitri used his firmest voice, a command.

He sprinted toward the two boys. Both boys were game, Paul pushing himself up enough to drag his body forward as Josef rolled over and came to his feet, staying low and zigzagging as he ran toward Paul.

“It’s a trap,” Skyler yelled, suddenly seeing the pack of Lycans emerging from the forest, all with guns trained on Dimitri. “They’re using Josef and Paul as bait.”

Dimitri had already been certain that was exactly what the Lycans were doing. They would have been far more accurate in their marksmanship had they wanted the boys dead. He sprinted past Josef and reached Paul, bending down to lift him.

A volley of shots rang out, so many guns firing silver bullets straight at him. He heard Skyler’s scream of raw fear for him, and then, somehow she was there, flinging her body in front of his, her arms completely outstretched to give him as much protection as possible. She even leapt into the air to protect his head.

Her body was flung hard back into him and he caught her, the burn of silver smashing through both his arms and legs. He turned and ran flat out for the safety of her shield. Behind him, Josef scooped up Paul and raced after him.

The Lycans fired over and over, the sound like claps of thunder, one volley running into the next. Dimitri leapt through the shimmering wall, feeling the wrench on his body, a terrible, disorienting twist, pulling his body nearly apart, almost as if their safe haven rejected him. Once he was through, the strange sensation disappeared, leaving behind the realization that not only had Skyler been shot numerous times, but so had he.

Josef yelled as he came through, Paul slung over his shoulder. Splashes of red dotted both bodies.

Dimitri put his lifemate on the ground, his fingers looking for a pulse. She was bleeding from half a dozen wounds, any one of which would kill her. Finding not even a faint heartbeat, he threw his head back and roared his rage and grief.

9

Mikhail Dubrinsky, prince of the Carpathian people, sat across from the four members of the Lycan council who had come to negotiate an alliance with him. They had brought a full regiment of guards to protect them. He couldn’t blame them for that—he’d called in his warriors as well. It made for an interesting combination.

Gregori Daratrazanoff liked none of it, but then he was tasked with Mikhail’s personal protection, and he basically glued himself to Mikhail’s side. The main topic on the table, and the biggest bone of contention between the two species, was the subject of mixed blood. The Lycans had avoided the Carpathians for centuries, to ensure such a mix between their two species would not occur.

The Lycans referred to any mix between Lycan and Carpathian as Sange rau—bad blood. They believed anyone who had such a mixture must be hunted down and killed. Since it didn’t happen very often, none of their hunters were well versed in killing one of such a mixture.

Mikhail had seen the Sange rau in action and he could well understand the danger, not only to the Lycans, but to all species. They were almost unstoppable—unless you had another of mixed blood to bring them to justice. That was the key in this meeting. He had to convince the Lycan council that there was a difference between a wolf/vampire cross and a Lycan/Carpathian cross. The wolf/vampire murdered everything and everyone without discrimination, sometimes simply for the joy of killing—just as a vampire would do. The Lycan/Carpathian was called Hän ku pesäk kaikak—Guardian of all. Carpathians had given that name to the mixed blood because it was true: they fought for all species against the Sange rau.

He liked all four of the council members. They were each quite different. Lyall was soft-spoken, listened attentively and appeared extremely intelligent. Randall was a bear of a man, shaggy and bulky, with a booming voice, a grip like a vise, yet he was definitely the most reasonable. He weighed what he said thoughtfully. Arno had the best sense of humor, was more open and friendly than the others, but he was also the one most outspoken on the Sange rau. Rolf rarely spoke, but when he did, the other Lycans immediately fell silent and listened to every word. If there was a single alpha among the council members—and Mikhail was certain there was—Rolf would be the leader.

Francesca Daratrazanoff moved gracefully over by the tables. Lycans ate food, and she laid out the meals the local inn had delivered for them. She was an asset with her gentle, calming ways, and more than once, when the debate between Lycan and Carpathians became heated, she chose her moment to insert some small comment in her soft voice, bringing them all back under control.

Still, the level of tension was extremely high in the room, given that the De La Cruz brothers were present. All had brought their lifemates to Romania, although none of the women were at the meeting, which didn’t surprise Mikhail at all. Manolito De La Cruz and his lifemate, MaryAnn, would be considered Sange rau by the Lycans as they had mixed blood. Fortunately, the Lycans could only detect such a thing during a full moon, so they had no idea, but keeping the very lethal brothers from wanting to leap up and slay the Lycans each time they insisted the Sange rau must be killed was definitely becoming a problem.

Lucian and Gabriel Daratrazanoff said little. Neither joined in the arguments, but stayed in the background watching the proceeds of the meetings with interest. Gabriel’s daughter, Skyler, was lifemate to Dimitri, and the Lycans held Dimitri captive. Mikhail had been assured by the council members that Dimitri was safe and would remain that way until the summit between the two species came to a decision.

Mikhail rubbed the back of his neck. His people would never accept the Lycans’ view of mixed blood—and neither would he. All the discussions and heated arguing were really a waste of time. He would never change his position on the subject, or agree to pass a death sentence on innocent men just on the off chance that they might turn criminal.

Mikhail stood up, a fixed smile on his face, calling a halt to the meeting as the debate was once again becoming extremely heated. “I’m certain you’re all hungry, and Francesca is signaling your food has arrived. She has made it very clear to me that you must eat it while it’s hot. Shall we adjourn and give this subject a rest?”

Give it a rest?

He glanced across the room to Gregori. Their eyes met. Amusement showed in Gregori’s eyes briefly, although he hadn’t changed expression.

Zacarias hasn’t said a word, but the women aren’t here this evening. Marguarita, Colby, Juliette, Lara and MaryAnn have all been tucked away somewhere safe, Mikhail pointed out. This meeting is going to deteriorate fast if we don’t think of some way to get the Lycans to understand the difference between vampire and Carpathian. Manolito and Rafael are total hotheads.

Does that surprise you? Something really catastrophic would have to happen to trigger Zacarias to make any kind of move without your permission, Gregori assured.

The Lycan council members rose and drifted toward the tables. Their guards fell into step behind them, flanking them, a solid wall of large men. Mikhail was very aware of how fast the Lycans moved in battle. All were armed, just as his men were.

Somewhere, in the distance, he heard a woman cry out. Colby De La Cruz, Rafael’s lifemate. The sound was high, keening, a wail of fear and sorrow. Nicolas De La Cruz leapt to his feet, his brothers following suit. There was instant silence in the room, the Lycans swinging around to face what appeared to be a very lethal threat.

Mikhail stepped between the two factions, holding up his hand, facing the brothers. Francesca screamed, covered her face with both hands and would have fallen to the floor had Gabriel not caught her around her waist and held her, pressing her face to his shoulder, his eyes cold and hard as he, too, stared with lethal intent at the Lycans.

There was no way to stop the instantaneous ripple of knowledge, of treachery. Mikhail spun around to face the council members. The grief in the room was overwhelming, pressing down on all of them.

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