Dark Wolf Page 31

Josef’s breath caught in his lungs. Dimitri was going to undergo the conversion with Skyler’s body. He was wounded. Silver burned through his body. Already weakened and starved, the chances of him dying with Skyler were enormous.

You can’t be in two places at one time, holding Skyler to this world and undergoing the conversion, Josef warned. He took a deep breath, terrified, but willing. Is there a way I can take your place in either Skyler’s body—the thought of which totally creeped him out—or holding her spirit to this world?

Skyler’s body jerked again. Her eyes went wild, glacier-blue, but swirling with other colors beneath the blue—a beautiful dove gray Josef recognized. Skyler’s eyes, when she was completely calm and relaxed often went that amazing shade of gray. When she was happy, her startling blue shone through. Now, there seemed to be a mixture and for the first time, Josef felt hope that she hadn’t completely departed from their world.

“Fight, Skyler,” he whispered. “I don’t have anyone but you and Paul. Fight to come back. You’re strong.”

Thank you, Josef, for your offer, Dimitri said. This time his voice was edged with pain. You have always been the brother she has loved. You and Paul. She’s glad you’re here with her, both of you. You give her added courage to see this thing through. You cannot take my place. She is too far gone from us, and I’m holding her by our connection more than anything else. You cannot undergo the conversion with her.

Dimitri’s voice strained now. Turned hoarse and raspy. Josef could see ripples beneath Skyler’s skin as if her body had come to life, yet only her eyes showed real signs of life. Her body was icy cold, her skin tone nearly gray.

I count on you to see to Paul and then open the ground for us. Find some way to keep Paul as safe and comfortable as possible. Fen and the others are drawing closer, but they, too, will need to go to ground. I’ve told him of this . . . Dimitri broke off abruptly.

Josef felt a flash of blinding pain. Skyler’s body convulsed.

Paul gasped and rolled to face her, pulling her hand to his chest. “What should we do? We have to do something.”

Josef shook his head. “There isn’t anything we can do. She’s undergoing the conversion, her organs reshaping. Her human body must die in a sense, in order for the conversion to work. All toxins will be removed from her body and she’ll be remade as Carpathian. The process is extremely difficult.”

He made his way around Skyler to kneel beside Paul. “The wound in your leg seems to be the worst. You’re bleeding pretty badly.”

“Don’t put dirt in the wound,” Paul said. “I’m not Carpathian or about to be, and I’d end up with gangrene or something equally as awful.” His gaze kept straying to Skyler’s body even though he tried his best not to look at what was happening to her.

Josef wanted to distract him, knowing the worst was to come. He didn’t want to tell Paul it was Dimitri possessing Skyler’s body with her, because even for their world, that was bizarre—and wrong.

“A little dirt never hurt anyone. Hold still for a moment. You can’t move or distract me, even if Skyler starts convulsing. Be prepared for anything, Paul. I’m counting on you not to move while I’m trying to heal you from the inside out.”

He shed his own body and entered Paul’s. He had deliberately given Paul the task of concentrating on him, rather than what was happening to Skyler. Skyler was completely in Dimitri’s hands. Josef had never heard of anyone attempting what Dimitri was trying to do. As much as he wanted it to work, he feared Skyler could not be recovered and Dimitri would be pushed over the edge into madness. He was very pleased that Fen was drawing closer, and he sent up a silent prayer that Dimitri’s older brother—a Guardian himself—would get there in time to destroy Dimitri if he became the Sange rau.

Dimitri was well aware of Josef’s thoughts. He feared those very same things. He was weak, and right now, his only focus could be on saving Skyler. Once he had taken possession of her body, he was certain a spark of light, very faint, but there nonetheless, had appeared in that warm mass he held to him in that other world.

He felt her, their connection transcending space and time now. In that other world one could easily get lost. During the worst of the conversion, Skyler might want to be lost. He feared she might try to pull away from him once the pain took hold. He did his best to warn her.

Feel me, sívamet. Feel me holding you close to me. This will be pain unlike any you can imagine. The fire will burn through your body, cleansing it, preparing it for the full conversion. I will be with you every step of the way.

He felt the smallest of answers. Warmth in his mind. His heart jerked in his chest. Stuttered with joy. She was there, clinging to life, relying on him, trusting him.

The Lycans put me through the very fires of hell, but I am thankful now. I can guide us through this. You felt the burn of silver twisting through my body. You were able to withstand that torment. We can do this together.

He had no idea just how bad a conversion actually was, but even in his weakened state, he knew with absolute certainty that he could face anything, take the brunt of it and remain honorable—for her.

Stay with me. Stay, Skyler. I know you’re weary and in pain, but I’m asking you to stay for me. She had said similar words to him when he had been mortally wounded, eviscerated by the rogue wolves he had fought. She had come to him, across an impossible distance and she had helped to heal him. Stay, csitri, I cannot bear to be without you. We’re so close to our life together.

Again there was that small spread of warmth. This time he was certain of that small light in the midst of the warmth. Skyler had an indomitable spirit. She would not desert him. She had fought for him, dared to cross into Lycan lands to rescue him. She would not leave him now. He had to believe that.

Pain welled up, a wave sharp and terrible, burning through his/her insides, raking and clawing at their stomach. He turned Skyler’s head just in time as her human stomach rebelled, emptying the contents over and over, a wretched action he couldn’t stop. Something more powerful than him consumed them. Wave after wave crashed through them, lasting long minutes that could have been hours. He lost track of time.

Abruptly, the pain faded, and they panted together, desperate to draw air into their lungs. He felt dizzy and weak. He couldn’t leave Skyler’s spirit alone in the other world. She would never make it back to him. Possessing her body took a tremendous amount of energy. He was still bleeding from multiple wounds and silver burned through his own body, yet he didn’t dare take the time to try to push it out. Already another wave of fire rose in Skyler’s body, lifting her up and slamming her back to earth.

The strength and intensity of the convulsion knocked the very breath from his body. His/her eyes widened in shock. He had suffered endless days and nights when the silver burned and twisted relentlessly through him, but this pain was different, a long wave that roared through them, building so fast it was next to impossible to get above it or on top of it.

He forced Skyler’s body to relax, relying on centuries of discipline. There was no blocking the pain, no way to stop the convulsions, or the way their body lifted, went rigid and slammed back to earth. As the wave subsided, she vomited again and again, a horrible retching sound that seemed to reverberate through the clearing.

Dimitri became aware of two things. Skyler’s spirit, rather than diminishing and retreating from the pain, seemed to grow a little brighter right in the center of the warmth he had surrounded. The earth sank around them, drawing them deeper into the richness of her soil almost with every wave or convulsion. Both things gave him hope that he might actually pull her back from the land of the dead.

10

Fenris Dalka cursed in every language he knew, streaking through the sky, furious that he hadn’t been able to track his younger brother. He was Hän ku pesäk kaikak—Guardian of all, yet he hadn’t kept his brother safe. Dimitri had saved his life on more than one occasion, had fought the rogue pack and the Sange rau valiantly, saved the lives of Lycans and Carpathians alike, and yet he’d been betrayed, held prisoner and tortured.

Fen, we’re close to him and he’s still alive, Tatijana, his lifemate whispered into his mind, trying to soothe him.

Skyler has been murdered. He will either follow her or choose the path of revenge. Should he do that, he will be lost to us for all time—lost to her. This is my fault. I should have taken far more care over the centuries with him, with just how much blood I gave him when he was wounded.

He could smell the Lycans now. The wind brought him the overpowering scent of blood, of war. The Lycans were in pack formation, surrounding prey, most likely his brother and the two men who had aided Skyler in trying to rescue Dimitri.

He was not alone. The four Carpathian warriors who had started out with him to find and rescue Dimitri had been abruptly called back to the Carpathian Mountains. Two others had joined him, and he hadn’t been surprised. Byron Justicano and Vlad Belendrake, Josef’s only family, had come the moment they were aware he was in trouble. Both had been much closer to the area, and once they knew the exact location of Josef they had set out fast to find him. Byron’s lifemate, Antonietta, was blind and his sister, Eleanor, Vlad’s lifemate, had never been in a battle her entire life, so neither had come, although both had apparently argued to do so.

Fen couldn’t blame them. Had Josef been his son or nephew, he would have raced into the fight as well. As they streaked across the sky, he imparted to both men as much as he could about the way a Lycan pack fought, cautioning them about their speed and ability to leap, how they favored weapons and to stay out of their range whenever possible.

Fen, Tatijana tried to be the voice of reason, we have to actually see what’s happening before we go in and start a war.

They tortured my brother after giving us their word that he would be safe. They sentenced him to death. He called out to me when Skyler was lying in his arms, the breath gone from her body, and showed me everything that had taken place.

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