Dark Wolf Page 41

“Did she just call us wolf men?” Zev asked, one eyebrow shooting up.

“Were lucky it wasn’t wolf boys,” Fen pointed out. “She throws that in upon occasion.”

“Zev, lay back and just relax,” Tatijana advised. “Fen and I are both going to work on you together.” Her eyes met Fen’s. “You go after the poison, and I’ll work on the anticoagulant.”

Fen nodded, knowing she was particularly worried about the wound. There was no keeping anything from Zev. He knew, probably because he’d been wounded a thousand times in battles. He was a wolf with a body that regenerated quickly. If his arm refused to stop bleeding and he felt weaker even after the infusion of blood, he would know.

Fen shed his body, becoming white, healing energy, his spirit traveling quickly into Zev. The blood of both Lycan and Carpathian was present, although the Lycan was still stronger. Probably, had they not given Zev so much blood over the last few battles, he would have gone several years without realizing he was slowly transforming.

He moved through the body, inspecting the bones for any trace of poison. Tatijana had provided a clear image in his mind, but already the tiny blisters were spreading from the arm to the shoulder and along the collarbone. He went to work extracting the poison, slowly driving it out of the body. Some of the venomous dots were so minute, it was difficult to spot them.

He felt Tatijana’s presence, but only the heat of her energy, as she began her own work on separating the anticoagulant from the tissue and muscle surrounding the wound. Someone had worked on the formula to coat Gunnolf’s knives and daggers, probably his sword. Fen should have thought to collect the weapons so they could find out exactly how it was done.

If the faction of Lycans who wanted war were using poisonous weapons, then the Carpathians and any allies had to quickly find a way to counteract the formula used. He pushed more of the beads from Zev’s bone, driving the venom from Zev’s body. There was no trace of silver in the poison that he could find, so he was positive a Lycan had worked out the compound. An enemy would have added that component as well, but a Lycan, even a treacherous one, would not want to get anywhere near silver.

He studied the line of drops. He’d seen something similar recently. Had a mage helped with the chemistry required? The idea of a mage and Lycan alliance was, frankly, quite terrifying. Once the crimes of Xavier, the high mage, were known throughout their world, most of the other mages had scattered, not wanting to be associated with him, but that didn’t mean they weren’t around. Xavier had exploited them and murdered them for his own experiments just as he had every other species. No one had been sacred to him—not even his own flesh and blood.

Fen had no idea of time passing as he meticulously removed every tiny drop of poison from Zev’s body and then went back to work at healing from the inside out. Tatijana had already done her part and was working to repair the enormous slice as well. They finished together, and nearly fell into their own bodies.

“He needs blood,” Tatijana told Vlad. “I’ll give him more just before we go to ground.”

“I want to make certain all of you understand that when you rise hungry tomorrow, and you will, especially after donating all this blood,” Fen said, “that most likely anyone you come across will be Lycan. Ingesting their blood will eventually change you. Mikhail talked to all of you about the problems.”

“He didn’t talk to me,” Zev said, and lifted his head to feed from Vlad’s extended wrist.

“We don’t have enough answers to all the questions we asked,” Fen said honestly. “Like how a woman is affected, or a child, should we choose to have one. How a Carpathian can convert another. More, we continue to mutate the longer we live with such a mixture.”

“You people should come with a warning label,” Byron told Zev.

Zev flipped him off. Behind them, Paul snickered and Josef began to laugh. Flipping others off was not an accepted practice among the Carpathian ancients, or even those considered old, like Byron.

Byron stifled a grin and turned around with a sober, very serious expression. “Josef, I believe Tatijana told you to go to ground.”

Tatijana stirred, and Josef quickly waved his hand to open the ground before she could reprimand him. He floated down and the rich soil quickly filled in over him, covering him completely.

Byron shook his head. “That boy is certainly courageous, but I have to tell you, Vlad, he’s a handful.”

“We never know what he’s going to do or get into.” Vlad sent Paul a quick frown over his shoulder. “We were happy when he was hanging out with Paul and Skyler because we thought—wrongly—that they were a good influence on him.”

Paul sent him a smug smirk. “We pulled it off, though. All of us.”

“I wouldn’t look so happy,” Vlad advised. “Your uncles are on their way. They’ll be here before dawn.”

The smile faded quickly from Paul’s face. “Uncles? As in all of them? Rafael? Zacarias, too?”

Vlad nodded his head. “All of them,” he confirmed.

Paul groaned, covered his face with his hands and lay back. “I wish I could go to ground. Maybe for twenty years or more. I don’t think my sister is going to get me out of this one.”

Zev politely thanked Vlad, trying hard not to laugh at the boy’s dismay. The kid had fooled him and that wasn’t an easy thing to do. “So it’s you and me, kid,” he said. “We’ll be facing them together. The Lycan, who they blame for all of this, and you, because you outsmarted us all—even them.”

“You might not want to mention that part,” Paul said. “It isn’t like they have the best sense of humor. I’m not certain I’ve ever actually seen Zacarias laugh. We might want to take our chances in the forest.”

“You’re surrounded by snipers,” Fen pointed out. “That wouldn’t be the best idea.”

“Better a quick bullet than Zacarias tearing my head off and using it for some kind of macabre weapon, which he’s quite capable of,” Paul said.

“In the old days they used to cut off heads and put them up on spears to warn everyone what would happen to them if they angered the great lords,” Fen said with a sly glance at Zev. He nudged him with his foot. “Your head would look mighty pretty perched up on top of a spear, staring into the woods as a warning to the Lycans who shot young Paul there.”

“Fen!” Tatijana sounded shocked. “You’re getting more bloodthirsty by the minute. Go to ground and behave yourself.”

“He doesn’t know the meaning of the word,” Zev said, a little piously. “But if Paul’s uncle does cut off my head, Fen, it will be up to you to keep him from starting a war. You’ll have to talk sense into him.”

Fen scowled at him. “I doubt anyone can do that, even me, and when my brother rises, it will take all of you to talk sense into me.”

He couldn’t quite suppress the rage that rose every now and then when he thought of his brother being tortured in the Lycan camp. He would never have found Dimitri in time to save him. If Skyler and Dimitri didn’t have such an incredible, intense bond between them, his brother would have died an unspeakable death of sheer agony.

Zev’s faint smile faded. “I am sorry, Fen.”

Fen shrugged. He knew that Zev’s years of service to the council had conditioned him to follow orders and carry out commands. He was the council’s defense. Their eyes and ears. They trusted him implicitly, and he had earned that trust the hard way. He couldn’t blame Zev. The elite hunter had even confessed to him that he’d considered going against the orders of the council, or even ending Dimitri’s suffering himself by killing him.

“We’re not at war yet,” Fen reminded softly. “I find it difficult to understand how Dimitri could have been treated that way during wartime, let alone when we’re at peace.”

“I found it equally as hard to understand,” Zev admitted. “I found myself realizing I couldn’t uphold the council’s rulings if I didn’t believe they were just and fair.” That realization had shaken the very foundation of his existence, his every belief.

Fen took a deep breath and let it out. “I’m sorry. None of this is your fault.”

“Maybe. And maybe it is. I should have known something was very wrong when I couldn’t reach the council for answers.” Zev shook his head. He was tired. Exhausted actually. He wanted to close his eyes and go to sleep. “You don’t have to stay up and keep me company. Paul and I will take turns keeping watch. You need sleep every bit as much as I do.”

Fen looked over at Paul.

Paul nodded, looking far too old for his age. “No problem, we’ve got this,” he agreed.

13

The sound of muted weeping filled his mind. Dimitri’s eyes snapped open. He looked down at the woman in his arms. Skyler lay curled into him, looking smaller than ever. Tangled vines, bright in color, had wrapped them up in a cocooning blanket of living flora. Beneath the cover, both of them were na**d, needing the soil to heal every wound. He caught glimpses of her body, white porcelain, marred now by several bullets tearing into her flesh.

Skyler’s hand moved against his neck, the smallest of gestures, a mere brushing of her fingers, back and forth, betraying nerves.

Immediately he waved his hand and commanded the soil to open, to allow in air and the night. A cool breeze instantly fanned their faces. Overhead stars glittered and the moon glowed a soft yellow behind lazy clouds. He shielded them carefully from any eyes or ears, wrapping them in a warm cocoon of privacy.

He brushed back the hair from her face, removing all residue from both of them, while allowing the living blanket to remain. He wanted her to be comfortable with him, not aware both were na**d beneath that twisting layer of vines.

“What is it, Skyler? Are you afraid?”

Her long lashes lifted and she looked up at him. The moment their eyes met, his heart leapt in his chest. She had always been stunningly beautiful to him. As she’d grown into a woman, her Dragonseeker blood became much more apparent. The heritage ran strong in her, giving her ever-changing eyes, dark now, with the tips of her lashes wet.

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