Dark Wolf Page 32

Fen had considered Zev Hunter his friend. He liked and respected the elite Lycan hunter. They had fought together and were wounded together. He was angry with the Lycans, but it was Zev he felt a cold, dangerous fury at. It mattered little to him that Zev had been the one to cover for his brother or even that he’d given blood when he could see Dimitri was slowly starving. He hadn’t taken him down from those terrible meat hooks made of silver. He’d allowed Dimitri to be tortured.

The truth was, had not Skyler, Josef and Paul set out to rescue Dimitri on their own, his brother would have died. The silver would have found its way to his heart. Skyler, in his opinion, had been magnificent, worthy of being Dimitri’s lifemate, no matter how young she was. Josef, for all his reputation, had earned Fen’s respect. And young Paul, a human, had been courageous. None of them deserved the treatment the Lycans had shown them.

The forest thinned, and through those trees, he saw the clearing. He had no idea how many Lycans surrounded the meadow, but they seemed to be attacking a transparent wall on all four sides, using axes. The blades simply bounced back at them. He could see where Lycans had tried to dig their way under that rippling transparency, and where a few had hacked at the top.

Skyler created that safe haven right in the middle of Lycan territory. There was pride in Tatijana’s voice. In spite of their best efforts, they haven’t been able to get through.

Fen took his time studying the transparent haven. Josef, splotches of red staining his clothes in several places, appeared to be trying to stop the flow of blood from Paul’s wounds. Dimitri’s body lay beside him, seemingly lifeless, but he was bleeding from several wounds. Skyler’s body lay beside his, one hand outstretched toward Paul.

As he watched, Skyler’s body convulsed. His heart jumped. Tatijana, did you see that?

She’s undergoing the conversion. There was excitement in her voice.

Can you feel her life force? She was gone. I couldn’t touch her. I felt the ripple through our connection with all our people, with the prince himself. She was lost to us. Fen saw the body lift up and slam down again, and yet even witnessing it with his own eyes, he couldn’t believe what he was seeing. How is this possible?

Tatijana was Dragonseeker, Skyler her kin. She reached through their connection, eager to find the girl alive. She reached and reached, but there was only cold space, empty darkness.

She is too far away for me to touch, she admitted reluctantly. Her body would not be undergoing the conversion if she were dead, Fen. I don’t understand what’s going on here, but Dimitri and Skyler have such a powerful connection, perhaps he was able to find her when no other could.

Fen knew they didn’t have a lot of time before the Lycans detected the Carpathians. They would feel energy coming at them—although not Fen’s. He was of mixed blood, condemned by them, but they weren’t aware of it. As far as they all knew, he was Lycan, one of them. They had no knowledge that he was Dimitri’s brother, and that would get him close to Zev.

No. No, Fen. You can’t throw away your life, our lives on revenge. We don’t yet know if Skyler is dead . . .

You cannot feel her and she’s your own kin. The prince cannot feel her and he is the vessel for all our people. He would know if her life force was gone. Even while he argued with her, his gaze searched relentlessly for Zev in the pack of frenzied wolves trying to tear down Skyler’s safe haven and get at the four people inside to finish what they’d started.

Skyler’s body had settled again. Around Dimitri and Skyler the earth seemed to sink so that their bodies were partially in the soil. He could see that someone had pushed rich, black loam into Skyler’s wounds. Even as he watched, Josef turned away from Paul and dragged himself over to Dimitri.

Watching the boy’s determination and his selfless act of courage, Fen’s heart swelled with pride. Josef might be young, but he was a Carpathian warrior through and through. He could have gone to ground to heal his own wounds. No one would have blamed him. He was clearly severely wounded, but he had taken care of his friend and now turned to try to aid Dimitri.

Relief poured into him. Dimitri wasn’t dead or Josef wouldn’t be bothering. If Dimitri hadn’t gone to ground in an effort to heal himself, he must have a good reason, and the only good reason would be to try to save his lifemate’s life.

From his position, he couldn’t get a good look at his brother, but Josef worked diligently. Fen saw the exact moment when the boy shed his body and went into Dimitri’s.

He’s adept at healing, Tatijana said. Did you have any idea he could do that? she asked Vlad, Josef’s adopted father.

Vlad and Byron exchanged a long look. Vlad shook his head. He continually surprises us. The boy is . . . different. He follows his own path. I’m not surprised, however, to see him with Skyler or Paul. They’re very close.

Fen signaled the others to stay where they were, while he allowed the wind to take him closer. The Lycans couldn’t sense his energy and they would never know he was there. He shifted into the form of vapor, sending small fingers drifting out of the trees toward the clearing. He drifted with them. He wanted to get a good look at the occupants of the safe haven and a number count on the Lycans.

Fighting a Lycan pack was ludicrous with only three men. They would have to pick them off, one at a time. Tatijana’s dragon could unleash the fires of hell on them right there in the clearing, and he contemplated whether or not that would be the best move to make, just to drive them back. He and the others could gain access to the haven and help the wounded.

He was directly over the transparent force field. No matter how hard the Lycans hacked and chopped at the shield, not a single scratch appeared that he could see. How could it be so strong to withstand such an assault, especially when Skyler lay nearly dead—or dead?

He dropped lower, forcing himself to be patient, to allow the wind to take him naturally. He caught Skyler’s scent. Dragonseeker blood. Mage blood. She had used her own blood to build this safe place for the others. Her very essence was woven into the spell. He even smelled the scent of potent, rich soil. Daughter of the earth.

If he could catch her scent, so could the Lycans. They would know Skyler had been the one powerful enough to create such a fortress they could not enter. She had been the one to rescue Dimitri and find a way for them all to flee, avoiding the Lycans until they were nearly to safety. They wouldn’t understand the kind of power she had—and that would make her suspect in their eyes. The Sange rau was hated and feared. Skyler very well could have just put herself in the same category with that condemned abomination.

Fen allowed himself to drift to the roof to peer down at Dimitri and Skyler. His heart nearly stuttered to a halt. He barely recognized his brother. Dimitri had always been extraordinarily handsome, tall, broad-shouldered and muscular. Blackened swirls of linked chain were now burned into the flesh of his forehead and over his entire body. He looked emaciated, his skin gray between the burned circles covering his body. His clothes, always elegant, were shredded, in tatters. Bright red splotches soaked into what was left of his shirt and trousers, and into the ground beneath him.

Josef valiantly fought to stem the blood, but clearly his focus was on pushing silver liquid from Dimitri’s body through the pores. Everywhere the silver had touched Dimitri’s skin were burn marks and blisters.

Fen found himself cursing again. He was furious that the Lycans had tortured Dimitri. Torture was so uncivilized, and yet the wolves were supposed to be far more civilized than Carpathians. They had integrated into human society and, in spite of their longevity and predatory instincts, had become quite adept at hiding their identities’ from other species.

You lived among the Lycans for this last century and even at times before that, Tatijana said. Does this seem like normal behavior to you?

Fen had too many years as a vampire hunter, too many years existing in the endless, emotionless void not to be able to call upon self-discipline when he needed it. Tatijana’s comment struck a chord with him. He had never seen Lycans armed in the way these were, or so many. They did look more of a military force than an organized pack.

He pulled his gaze away from his brother’s burned body and began to assess the Lycans surrounding the haven Skyler had constructed. At first glance, every wolf seemed to be trying to tear down the walls, but after a few moments of study, he realized there were three factions. The first—and they appeared to be the strongest and most numerous—were the aggressive, determined Lycans actively using weapons and instruments to get at the four wounded inside.

He recognized Gunnolf and Convel in the front, driving the others to greater effort. He sent a silent snarl their way. Dimitri had virtually risked his life to save theirs and they had repaid him with betrayal and torture. They would not live out the night if Fen had anything to say about it.

We need to get inside in order to help them, Tatijana reminded. I will shift to my dragon. Vlad and Byron will follow suit. We can drive them back from this fortress that Skyler has created and get inside. Our blood very well may be what turns the tide.

Fen couldn’t argue with her. Dimitri definitely was in starvation mode. He had no idea if Skyler was dead or hanging on by a thread, but his mixed blood and Tatijana’s ancient blood would definitely help.

Give me another minute here. I have to figure out what’s going on.

Something wasn’t right. The second faction appeared to be arguing with the first, trying to stop them, separating themselves from the frenzied activities of the first group. There was a conflict, a definite division between the Lycans. He spotted Zev in the second group, clearly furious, throwing Lycans to the ground as he waded toward Gunnolf and Convel.

The third group of Lycans seemed uncertain. They were the smallest in number, and they didn’t want to join either side, confused about what they should be doing. Where was the decisive leadership always present in a pack? In all the centuries Fen had been around the Lycans, the alpha always called the shots and settled all differences—there was a clear hierarchy. Yet this enormous pack seemed fragmented, a huge schism dividing them.

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