Dark Wolf Page 3

“Don’t, Sky,” Josef said. “We’re best friends. What happened to you wasn’t your fault, and you should never feel ashamed.”

“I’m not ashamed, well, not like you think. I believe Dimitri is a great man and he deserves a lifemate who can match him in everything. I’m not that woman yet. I want to be with him, I feel that need nearly as strongly as he does. It grows in me every single day.”

“Do you think he would hold your past against you?” Josef asked.

Skyler shook her head. “No, he often is close enough to talk to me at night when I can’t sleep. We talk a lot at night. I love his voice. He’s very gentle with me, never demanding. I know it’s difficult for him. I can feel his struggle, although he hid it from me at first. You can’t be in someone else’s head without eventually seeing everything. Darkness threatened to swallow him all the time, yet he never said anything to me, he never tried to hurry me. He certainly didn’t condemn me because I was too young—and afraid. Dimitri doesn’t judge me.”

“No one does, hon,” Josef pointed out. “You’re the one so hard on yourself. I especially loved the stage when you dyed your hair constantly. It took a little while to find yourself and be comfortable with who you really are.”

Skyler’s eyebrow shot up. She stared pointedly at Josef’s black, spiked hair tipped with blue.

His grin was contagious, revealing twin dents near his mouth. “This is who I am. I found that out a long time ago. I like my hair with blue tips.”

“Because no one will ever guess just how smart you are. They’re too busy looking at your hair and the piercings you occasionally put in just to bug them all,” she accused, laughing softly. “I love you, Josef, you know that, don’t you?”

“Yep. That’s why I’m here, Sky. I don’t have all that many people who care about me. If you say you need me, I’ll come.” He looked away from her.

Skyler put her hand on his arm. “There are many people who care about you, Josef, you just don’t let them get close. If you gave Dimitri a chance, he would be a good friend to you. I know he would. I’ve talked to him many times about you.”

“I thought you hadn’t seen him since you’d been to the Carpathian Mountains.”

“He thought it best if we stayed away from one another. I knew it would be too difficult for him with me being physically close to him, but he came to London on and off when he needed to hear my voice.”

“Did Gabriel know?” Josef asked.

“Probably. He didn’t ask me, but I noticed when Dimitri was close, Gabriel stayed closer and when he wasn’t with me, Francesca was close by. There were times when Uncle Lucian and Auntie Jaxon hung around. They’re busy, so I knew it was because they were afraid Dimitri would come and claim me.”

“But he didn’t.”

“Of course not. He’s a man of honor. I’m not old enough in the Carpathian culture, which is funny, because in the human culture I could marry easily. No one would think twice about it.”

“Did you want him to claim you?” Josef asked curiously.

Skyler shrugged. “Sometimes. I dream about him. I don’t ever think about other men, or even look at them. It’s always Dimitri. He calls to me and isn’t even aware of it. When we’re talking, mind to mind, I see things. How alone he is. How dark his world is. How hard it is to struggle against the constant pull of the darkness. He endures so much for me. So much for all of us. When he hunts, it has become harder for him. Every time he has to kill. I see all that, and the terrible sacrifices he makes for me.”

“He wouldn’t want you to see those things, Sky,” Josef said gently. “You know that, don’t you? Carpathian males, especially the hunters, they’re like stone, total warriors, and if he thought he wasn’t protecting you from that creeping shadow, he’d be very upset.”

Skyler smiled at Josef. “I can’t help what I see, Josef. I’m not exactly like everyone else. What kind of a concoction am I? Psychic. Mage. Partly Carpathian. Daughter of the earth. Dragonseeker. I see things I’m not meant to see. I feel things I shouldn’t. I know he was nearly taken from me. I felt him. I called to him. Sang the healing chants I’ve heard Francesca sing. I lit candles, and I cried for days when he was so far away I couldn’t reach him.”

She looked into his eyes, letting him see her grief. Josef was definitely underestimated by most people, but she saw his genius, and she valued their close friendship. She could talk to him, tell him anything, and he never betrayed her confidence.

“I need him,” she admitted simply. “And I have to find him.”

Josef slung his arm around her shoulders. “Well, little sister, that’s exactly what we’re going to do. Paul should be here any minute. He texted me and said he had everything ready.”

“Did he cover his tracks? Didn’t he tell you once that Nicolas took his blood? If he did, he can track Paul.”

“Baby, any of them can track us, and they’ll be hot on our trail the moment they realize you’re missing.”

“I know that. I’m just saying it can’t happen until we’re ready.” Skyler glanced again at her watch. “He’s late.”

“His cover is perfect,” Josef assured. “He flew over with the De La Cruz families, and he told them we were going to go exploring the mountains on the Ukraine side. We’re camping for a couple of weeks. Of course they were happy to get rid of us, and no one is going to question that we’d want to do something together. We talked about it endlessly for the last couple of years. This would be the perfect opportunity for us to get together so they bought our story easily.”

Skyler gave a little sniff. “Of course they don’t mind if you two go off camping in the wilds together. Remember when I wanted to go on one of your camping trips? The world almost came to an end.”

Josef laughed and leaned one hip lazily against the coffin. “Gabriel turned into the big bad wolf and nearly ate Paul and me for dinner just at the suggestion. I was surprised he allowed you to go off to college. You were so far ahead of your age group in school.”

Skyler shrugged. “I went home at night the first year. I needed to. That had nothing to do with Gabriel and Francesca. I don’t know what I would have done without them. I needed them so much in the early days. And they really came through for me.” Tears shimmered in her eyes. “I hate to repay their love and kindness with lies, but they left me no choice.”

“You tried talking to them about Dimitri?” Josef asked.

Skyler nodded. “I knew something was wrong, that Dimitri was troubled the last time we talked. He left abruptly for the Carpathian Mountains a few weeks ago and then he was in a terrible battle. I felt him slipping away from me. He was so far away, and I almost couldn’t reach him. By the time I did, he was nearly gone. I could feel his life force fading.” She looked up at him. “You remember that night? I called you to come and help me.”

“You were in the college library and fortunately I’d come to visit you, so I wasn’t far away,” Josef said, “but you didn’t tell me what happened. Only that Dimitri needed you. You were wiped out.”

The memory of that night shook her. Dimitri had been badly wounded. Mortally wounded. She was far from him, studying in the college library—so mundane—the distance dimming their connection. She’d reached for him, knowing he was in trouble, and it was his brother she found. When she touched Dimitri, he had grown so cold, ice-cold. She shivered, the coldness still in her bones. Sometimes she didn’t think she’d ever get it out.

“His brother was there, fighting for him, following after his fading light and trying to bring him back. I called to Dimitri and begged him not to leave me. I did my best, even across such a great distance, to help his brother bring him back to the land of the living. I just couldn’t let him go.”

She caught her lower lip between her teeth, biting down hard. Even now her heart ached. She pressed her palm tightly over the pain. “I can’t lose him, Josef. He has always been there for me, as long as I’ve needed him, any way that I’ve needed him. It’s my turn now. I won’t let him down. I’m going to find him, and I’m going to help him escape.”

“Before, when he was dying, you could reach him,” Josef ventured carefully, knowing full well he was walking through a minefield. “Why do you think you can’t now?”

“I know what you’re getting at, Josef,” she snapped, “and it isn’t true. Dimitri is alive. I know he’s alive.”

Josef nodded. “I hear you, Sky, but that doesn’t answer my question. Maybe we’d better figure out why you can’t reach him when the two of you have always been able to communicate telepathically. You’re extraordinarily powerful. More so than some Carpathians. Many of us can’t cover the kinds of distances you’ve been able to. So what’s different now?”

She frowned at him. Josef was incredibly brilliant and even if she didn’t want to hear it, she needed to listen to him. He had a point. She’d been able to cross great distances to connect with Dimitri—and him with her. She had known when he was in trouble, when he had fought in a battle with a rogue pack and took the brunt of the attack in order to give his brother the opportunity to destroy a very dangerous vampire/wolf cross.

She had felt Dimitri’s pain, so terrible she could barely breathe. Right there, in the college library she had nearly fallen to the floor, with that flash of pain that wasn’t hers. She had followed that trail back to him unerringly despite his fading light. Over the years of talking telepathically, the connection between them had grown strong, and she found him even as his life force was fading away, traveling to another realm. If she could do that, Josef was right, why couldn’t she find him now? It didn’t make sense—and she should have figured that out on her own.

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