Dark Wolf Page 29

“They’re children,” Francesca accused. “You killed our child.” She began to sob. “She’s dead, Gabriel. Oh, God, how could this happen? How could they kill her?”

“You come into my home, sit at my table and all this time, you have been committing such treachery?” Mikhail said, his voice very low, a whip, striking hard at the four council members.

They winced at his tone, looking at one another. The Lycan guards reached for their weapons. Gregori caught Mikhail and all but shoved him back. Lucian stepped up beside him so they presented a solid wall between the Lycans and their prince.

It was Rolf who pushed past his own guards and stood without any weapon, facing his accusers. “I have no knowledge of what is happening. Clearly, you are aware of something tragic taking place. We came here in good faith. We have not committed any crime against your people, and we certainly do not kill children.”

Mikhail moved past his own bodyguards, although both stepped up beside him, prepared, he was certain, to kill everyone in the room if they made a move toward him. He could barely stand the look of such grief carved deeply in Gabriel’s face. Francesca’s weeping broke his heart, yet there was the ring of truth in Rolf’s voice.

“Skyler, Gabriel and Francesca’s daughter, is lifemate to Dimitri,” he explained.

“I heard her,” Francesca said, lifting her face from Gabriel’s shoulder. She pushed back her long dark hair and took a step toward Rolf—a very aggressive step.

Like all Carpathians, man or woman, she held great power. Mikhail might be able to keep the men under control long enough to get to the truth, but a grieving woman who had lost a child was something else altogether.

“I saw. Dimitri hung in a tree by hooks, silver winding its way to his heart. You lied to us. You told us he was safe, but even while you sat here charming us all, you were killing him, torturing him, death by silver you call it,” Francesca accused.

She took another step toward the Lycan. Gabriel put a gentle hand on her arm, but she shook it off. “She set him free, and your army chased her.”

“Paul was with her,” Nicolas said. “He’s been shot as well.”

“With silver,” Francesca said. “They riddled her body with silver.”

Rolf frowned, shaking his head. “They wouldn’t. I’m telling you no sentence was ever passed on Dimitri. He was to be held safely.”

The other council members looked at one another, expressions puzzled or alarmed.

Francesca took another step toward Rolf. “She was nineteen years old. Nineteen.”

The door burst open and a couple stood together in the doorway. Mikhail’s heart sank. How could he possibly prevent a war between Lycan and Carpathian? Razvan of the Dragonseekers, birth father to Skyler, and his lifemate, Ivory, stood shoulder to shoulder. Paul was a De La Cruz. Skyler was Daratrazanoff and Dragonseeker. To harm either of them would set lethal predators relentlessly pursuing the perpetrators of the crime. There would be no stopping the families.

“We did not do this,” Rolf said again, this time looking directly at Francesca. “I swear to you, give you my word of honor, we did not do this.”

“She’s not dead,” Josef yelled. “She can’t be dead. Go after her, Dimitri. You have to go after her.” He scrambled on all fours to get to Dimitri’s side. “She’s Dragonseeker. She’s strong. Go after her.”

Paul dragged himself to the other side of Skyler and Dimitri, one leg useless to him. He nodded his head. “She’ll fight for life with the same determination she fought for you.”

Skyler lay lifeless in her lifemate’s arms. Dimitri took a deep breath. He was bleeding from several wounds himself, the silver twisting through his body, burning with terrible intensity, but nothing could rival the grief and rage rising like a firestorm out of control. The madness was close—too close. He could feel darkness swirling inside him, the edges turning a fiery red. He took another breath, fighting back the emotions that threatened to dishonor him.

“If I can get her spirit and bring her close, you have to convert her, Josef. I cannot do both,” Dimitri instructed. His voice was raspy, hoarse, fear for Skyler choking him.

He shed his body fast, becoming pure spirit, a white light that entered her body and rushed down the tree of life after her fading spirit. He knew her so well. Every expression. The sound of her laughter. The way her eyes changed color and her hair banded with color, even when she dyed it. He knew her heart and soul. That steel spine that made her so formidable. Most of all he knew her love.

I cannot lose you. Your soul is tied to mine. We are one, csitri. Where you go, I will follow. Stay where you are, hold on and let me come get you.

There in the darkness he felt her. There was no light to guide him, but he would know the feel of her anywhere. That soft, gentle nature, the one that surrounded him and held him to her when all else was lost. She had come for him in his darkest hour. His lady. His Skyler.

His spirit moved downward along the trunk of the tree of life, passed the upper branches. Once below them, he couldn’t feel her anymore. For a moment panic nearly threw him back into his own body, but then he settled, calling on centuries of discipline. Hunting her in the cold and dark required calm, not panic, and he refused to lose her when he knew she was still there—somewhere.

Dimitri rose slowly, this time allowing the sense of the Guardian to emerge. The instant he did he became aware of everything there in the dark. Souls crying out. Those without souls crouched in the dark waiting for an unsuspecting traveler who knew them. The bitter cold coming from deep below, rising to infuse everything in its path with ice.

Yet above him and just to his left, there was a pocket of warmth between two branches, almost as if something had been caught there, or had clung there. He moved fast, surrounding that warmth with his light, holding it captive, recognizing the feel and strength of her unconditional love for him.

Päläfertiilam. Lifemate. Hän ku vigyáz sívamet és sielamet—keeper of my heart and soul. Give yourself into my keeping. Let me hold you close while Josef brings you fully into my world. To do this, you must have absolute trust in me. I will need to possess your body.

She was too far gone. She would never be able to take Josef’s blood even with his aid. He wasn’t even certain if the conversion could be done. Possession was forbidden, a tool of the mage world or the vampire, but he could see no other way.

Skyler could not respond. He couldn’t even see a faint flickering light, but her warmth increased to the point of true heat. He took that as a yes. He divided his spirit, a dangerous move when his own body was burning from the inside out. Nothing mattered to him but saving his lifemate.

He came back into his body disoriented and shaking. A part of him had remained in the nether world. “Paul, she is a daughter of the earth. We can’t heal these wounds in time, but Mother Earth may do so. Get the richest soil and press it into each of the bullet holes. Josef, take her blood, enough for an exchange.”

“But . . .” Josef and Paul exchanged a look of disbelief.

“Just do it. Then give her your blood.”

Dimitri didn’t wait for them to agree with his plan. He took possession of Skyler’s lifeless body. The fit was strange and wrong. Her eyes snapped open and she looked at Josef.

Josef fell back away from Skyler. He recognized those ice-cold blue eyes, and they weren’t Skyler’s. If he did as Dimitri asked, would she rise a puppet? The undead? He shook his head at the idea. There was no darkness in Skyler, not even with her powerful mage blood. He knew her.

He leaned down and sank his teeth into her neck, taking in the powerful combination of her lineage. He had taken her blood many times before when he was caught out away from others and needed to feed, but she was different now. More potent. There was even a different taste to her. He didn’t know if he was feeding from Skyler or Dimitri or a combination of both.

When he was certain he had taken enough for an exchange, he tore at his own wrist and pressed the laceration to Skyler’s mouth. Her movements were jerky, stiff even, as if she had little control over her own body. Her tongue tentatively swiped over the wound and then she began to drink, a small movement, barely there, increasing in strength.

Shocked, Josef gave her as much blood as he dared, not understanding what Dimitri was doing. He knew healers could retrieve spirits that hadn’t gone too far into the other world, but he’d never seen this done. Conversion was hard on a body. One species didn’t easily allow another to take over. But possession? Such an abomination was forbidden. One did not take over the body of another.

At this stage, Skyler was still human. Pressing dirt, no matter how rich, into her wounds couldn’t possibly heal her. Still, Paul did as Dimitri instructed and so did Josef. What else could they do?

Around them, the Lycans had gone wild, desperate to get through the transparent shield Skyler had erected. They tore at it with bare claws. They bit at it, fired bullets into it, and even hacked at it with swords. The shield held. Lycans climbed the trees surrounding the clearing and the strongest of them made large leaps in an effort to get over the shield. Most dropped to the ground, but two landed above their heads, slamming their bodies hard into the transparent ceiling. More dug at the ground in a feverish, frenzied effort to tunnel beneath the shield to gain entry.

Razvan sent Gabriel and Lucian one silent look, turned on his heel and abruptly left the doorway, striding away, the set of his shoulders the only thing that gave away his absolute rage. There was no doubt in anyone’s mind that he intended to go find those who had murdered his daughter.

Ivory stepped inside the door and walked straight up to the Lycans, fearless. Her back was covered with tattoos of wolves. The wolves stared at the Lycans with lifelike eyes as she moved through their ranks. No one said a word. No one moved, not even when she emerged from the pack of Lycans to go up to Rolf and look him in the eye.

“He does not lie,” she announced. “It appears as if none of the members of the high council were aware of this betrayal, but I cannot tell if all of those who guard them were unaware of this treachery. There is the smell of conspiracy here. Which ones are guilty, I cannot say.”

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