Dark Wolf Page 4

“You’re too close to the problem,” Josef said, proving he was so tuned to her he could practically read her thoughts.

“I don’t like it when I’m not thinking straight,” Skyler said. “He needs me to be one hundred percent on this.”

“I think it’s called love, Sky, as much as I don’t want to admit you could love anyone but me.” Josef winked at her.

“Something’s really wrong, Josef. I know it is. How could I find him when he was already technically dead, but I can’t do it now?”

“Perhaps he’s unconscious,” he ventured.

She shook her head. “I thought of that. I could still find him. I know I could. There’s something about our connection. It’s so strong, I can follow him anywhere. I could touch him when he was underground, rejuvenating in the soil.”

Josef’s eyes widened. “No way, Sky. No one can do that. We stop our hearts and lungs and we can’t move. That’s our most vulnerable time. How could he be aware?”

“I don’t know, but whenever I reach for him, day or night, he’s always been there for me. Always. I can’t remember a single time that I couldn’t find him. Mother Earth always sang to me, a vibration I could feel, and I would know where he was.”

“Did you tell Gabriel and Francesca you could do that? Could you do it with them? With me?”

Skyler paced across the floor, looking once more at her watch a little impatiently. “I never thought to tell anyone, not even Dimitri, the how of it. But no, I never tried to wake anyone else. Francesca and Gabriel get very little time alone together these days, so I never considered waking them. It seemed natural to turn to Dimitri. I knew that he needed me as much as I needed him.”

“All this time I thought you were afraid of a relationship with him,” Josef said.

Skyler’s smile held little humor. “I was never afraid of a relationship with him. How could I be? We have a wonderful relationship. He treats me like I’m the greatest, most desirable woman in the world. He’s intelligent, we can talk about anything together for hours. He’s kind and gentle. He’s everything a woman could want in a partner.”

“I’m hearing a ‘but’ in there.”

“I am not certain I can be the lifemate he truly deserves. I’m great at the emotional relationship and the intellectual relationship, but I have no idea if I can ever be what he needs physically. That’s an entirely different matter.”

Josef shook his head. “Skyler, don’t get all psycho about that. It will happen when it’s supposed to. Dimitri will never want another woman. Not ever. He’ll give you all the time you need.”

“I know. I do. Dimitri would never push me and he never has. It isn’t him that’s worried. I just get anxious thinking about it. I want to be the best lifemate possible to him, but my mind just can’t go to a physical relationship yet.”

She glanced again at her watch. “Paul had better get here soon. Are you certain he got away without anyone being suspicious?”

“Yeah, he’s on his way. Only a few minutes out. You said Dimitri was alive. If he is, we’ll find him.”

Skyler let her breath out slowly. “I don’t like any of this. I detest the fact that the prince, along with everyone else, has abandoned him.”

Josef slung his arm around her and hugged her tight. The smile faded. “We’ll find him. We will.”

Skyler clung to him for a moment and then nodded, straightening her shoulders and stepping away from him. “I don’t like the only explanation I can think of for not being able to connect with him.”

“What is it?” Josef asked.

“He’s blocking me.” There was hurt in her voice. “He has to be. There’s no other explanation that makes sense.”

2

Paul Jansen gathered Skyler into his arms and hugged her hard. He was taller than she remembered, his shoulders wide and chest deep. He’d filled out and looked more of a man than a boy. He worked hard on his family’s ranch and it showed in his deep tan, strong build, defined arms, and confidence. He looked older than his twenty years, responsibility weighing on him.

Skyler hugged him back just as hard. “Thank you for coming. I wouldn’t have asked you if I wasn’t so desperate.”

He held her at arm’s length, looking her over carefully, a small, affectionate grin on his face. “I wouldn’t miss this for the world. We made a pact a long time ago, the three of us, if any one of us was in trouble, we’d come running. I’m glad you called me.”

Josef caught his forearms in the traditional Carpathian greeting between warriors, shocking Skyler a little. There was nothing traditional about Josef, and when he used any of the ancient rituals it always surprised her.

“Good to see you, brother. It’s been too long. They don’t let you get off work very often, do they?” Josef said.

Paul hugged him in the more traditional human way. “I look after my sisters, especially Ginny. The De La Cruz brothers and their lifemates have enemies, and there’s a ranch to run and Ginny to look after during the day.”

“You always did work too hard,” Josef commented, hugging him back. “It’s good to see you. Talking online doesn’t cut it. How is your sister? She’s growing up fast.”

“Ginny is amazing with horses, just like Colby always has been. She’s beautiful, too, which means I have to watch all those ranch hands and make sure they don’t get any ideas.” Paul grinned, but there was no amusement in his eyes.

Skyler had to smile. Most Carpathian hunters were tough as nails and then some, but Paul’s sister Colby had married into one of the roughest families of all. She was a lifemate to Rafael De La Cruz. There were five brothers and all of them were considered extremely lethal, some of the most feared predators on the planet. Clearly, Paul had already learned a lot from them. She had no doubt that he’d learned to defend himself as well. He fought vampires and did a man’s work on the ranch, running things while the Carpathians slept during the day.

“Josef, load your coffin into the truck, please,” Skyler told him. “We’ve got to keep moving. We need to be on the road just in case someone comes looking for one of us.”

Paul looked over the ornate coffin and then burst out laughing. “Look at that thing. Josef, you’ve been having fun, haven’t you?”

Skyler rolled her eyes. “Don’t encourage him. You have no idea. He actually put the cause of death as a broken heart in the official documents. Can you believe that?”

Paul laughed harder. “I would expect nothing less.” He ruffled Skyler’s hair. “You grew up beautiful. Who knew?”

Josef scowled at him. “You see her nearly every day on FaceTime or Skype. She looks the same way she always looks. You, on the other hand, have grown your hair out. You’re even beginning to look like the De La Cruz brothers. Are you crazy?”

Paul shrugged and pushed his cowboy hat back on his head with one thumb. “Everyone is a little afraid of the De La Cruz brothers. I don’t mind in the least being associated with them. It automatically makes me a badass.”

Skyler found herself laughing—and relaxing—for the first time in days. She’d forgotten the easy camaraderie she shared with Paul and Josef when they were together like this. She loved them both and knew they felt the same way about her. Both might tease her about Dimitri, but they held him in great respect. They wanted to find him every bit as much as she did.

Josef was worried that she might not know the consequences of their actions, but she knew all too well. How could she not? She was lying to the people she loved. And she knew, without a shadow of a doubt that the De La Cruz family would protect Paul just as Gabriel and Lucian would her. The De La Cruz brothers had been a long time away from the Carpathian Mountains, and they were a law unto themselves. They were loyal to the prince, but at the same time, it was the eldest, Zacarias, who governed their actions. He would never, under any circumstances, allow one of his family members to be in jeopardy without coming to his aid.

She had thought a lot about what she was doing. Paul was important to her and he knew it. They had discussed openly what the De La Cruz brothers would do should the plan fail and they all get in trouble. The De La Cruz family had more to lose than any other. MaryAnn and Manolito De La Cruz would be hunted and killed, just as Dimitri would be, if the Lycans had their way at the summit taking place soon in the Carpathian Mountains. They were considered the dreaded Sange rau—literally bad blood—a mix of Lycan and Carpathian.

She watched Josef float his coffin into the back of the truck. He was astonishingly adept at moving objects. She could do it, but not as easily as he did. Josef had gone through an awkward phase, but he had certainly come out of it and was smooth and adept at using his Carpathian gifts. He was considered a child in the eyes of the centuries-old Carpathian males. Carpathian children weren’t considered adults until they hit their fiftieth year.

The Carpathians were just beginning to understand his genius with technology, especially computers. There was little he couldn’t do, nothing he couldn’t hack, and no program he couldn’t write. She was fairly certain they still didn’t recognize the enormity of his abilities and what it meant for their people. Carpathians were very intellectual, but she knew Josef was a true genius, miles ahead of most people in any species.

Paul and Josef were outsiders in their own world, just as she was, to a much lesser extent. She lived with Carpathian parents who treated her lovingly, but she wasn’t Carpathian. Paul also was surrounded by Carpathians, but he had to live in a human world, even if he didn’t fit there anymore. He’d seen vampires, had even been possessed by one. And then there was Josef. Her gaze fell on him. Flamboyant. A rebel. Yes, he was both of these things, but he was also loyal, brilliant and someone who could always be counted on.

Her heart had always gone out to him. She couldn’t deny that she loved him, so of course Dimitri knew. He knew everything about her. Long ago she’d opened her mind to her lifemate. At first she’d allowed Dimitri entrance into her mind with the vague idea he’d see, after her terrible childhood, that she could never be what he wanted her to be. He had been then what he was now. Absolute. Calm. Implacable. Certain. Loving.

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