Dark Wolf Page 45

He stepped up to the couple and clasped Dimitri’s forearms, Skyler in between them. “Welcome, son. And thank you for saving her life. Few could have accomplished such a thing. Her spirit was so far from us, neither her mother nor I could find her.”

Gabriel looked down at his daughter. “You made us very proud, Skyler. No one would ever have conceived that you, Paul and Josef could accomplish what all of us failed to do. Mikhail sent out search parties, but no one was able to find a hint of the trail.”

Skyler circled his waist with her arms and laid her head on her father’s chest, the tension slowly draining away. “I’m grateful you understand that I had to find him.”

Gabriel kissed the top of her head. “I do.” He glanced over his shoulder at the silent couple standing behind him. “I think there are others who wish to greet you and make certain you’re alive and safe. They’ve gone hunting this morning and can provide both of you with blood.”

Behind him, Skyler’s birth father Razvan stood tall and straight. He’d been the most hated man besides his grandfather Xavier, before it came out that he was imprisoned as well and Xavier had used his body to commit unspeakable crimes. He was her father, yet he didn’t know her. Razvan’s blood, both Dragonseeker and mage, ran in her veins.

Skyler had inherited her concentrated power from this man. The woman beside him was Ivory, his lifemate, keeper of wolves. She stood beside Razvan, close to him, yet able to move easily and quickly should there be need to fight. Her wolves traveled like tattoos on her body, watching her back, and now half the pack guarded Razvan as well.

The two were considered skilled, dangerous fighters. They rarely were around other Carpathians, but hunted vampires relentlessly.

Skyler’s hands tightened around Dimitri’s. She’d always pushed aside this part of her life, unwilling to face it, subconsciously viewing Razvan as a participant in the evil Xavier had done. She’d been sold to a man, both her mother and she, by the high mage. That man had sold her to others for money.

“You don’t have to,” Dimitri said.

“No.” She lifted her chin. “I do.”

14

“It is best if we sit.” Dimitri took charge. Skyler was swaying with weariness. He needed to sit as well. Both needed blood. “But Skyler wishes to greet her birth father.”

Gabriel and Lucian stepped away to give Razvan and Ivory privacy, such as could be had in the close quarters of the transparent shelter.

Razvan crouched down in front of his daughter where Dimitri had helped her to sit in the grass. Ivory placed her hand firmly on his shoulder in support of whatever might happen.

“I was afraid the world had lost you,” Razvan greeted.

“You came,” Skyler said. “Even though we have barely talked, you still came.”

“You are my daughter. I may not have had the pleasure of raising you, but you will always be my flesh and blood. No one will ever harm you and escape our punishment. We would hunt them to the ends of the earth.”

Dimitri smiled up at Ivory in greeting. “Skyler has Razvan’s fierce nature. She was quite willing to take on all the Lycans after seeing what they did to me.”

The tension drained from Ivory’s body and she smiled back at him. “We’ve come bearing a gift for you, for both of you, if you would accept it.”

“Just coming is gift enough,” Skyler said. She pushed back a few strands of hair that had escaped the thick braid. Her hand trembled.

“You need to feed,” Razvan said. “Both of you.”

“I’m not certain I can do it by myself yet,” Skyler admitted, looking back at Dimitri.

“There’s no need,” Ivory said. “Razvan can aid you, and I’ll give Dimitri blood. Later, the others can as well. At the moment, the De La Cruz brothers are hunting. They should be back very soon.”

At Dimitri’s alarmed look she smiled. “Discreetly. They said they’d be discreet.” She extended her wrist toward Dimitri. “I offer freely.”

Razvan didn’t hesitate. He waved his hand toward Skyler to calm her, to distance her from what would take place. It would allow her to take his blood without real knowledge so she could take what she needed to survive. She had plenty of time to get used to taking her own food, but for now, to expedite her healing, it would be better to just allow her to feed without distress.

Skyler knew the moment Razvan’s mind reached for hers and tried to take control. She’d always known when Josef or her parents had done so. She knew she needed to allow him to do so, to give her consent. Before, she never would have trusted someone mage born, not after what had happened to her, but this man had held out against impossible odds and he hadn’t turned vampire or succumbed to the terrible temptation of power his grandfather had dangled in front of him. He had endured endless torture and had accepted the hatred of everyone who knew him with stoic resolve.

He was much like her beloved Dimitri. He didn’t ask for understanding or plead his case. He simply accepted and walked away if shunned, but he would fight fiercely for those he loved. He was loyal and courageous and he could always be counted on.

She looked at the man who was her birth father for the first time through accepting eyes. She let go and allowed him entry into her mind. His touch was gentle, and it was over in an instant—she blinked and found herself stronger.

Dimitri had already politely closed the small wound on Ivory’s wrist, giving her a slight bow from the waist, although they were seated in the grass.

“Thank you both,” Dimitri said. “Your blood will aid in our healing.”

Razvan smiled at the couple. “We did bring you a present of sorts, a gift to celebrate your becoming lifemates. We knew the moment we became aware Skyler still lived,” he added by way of explanation. “Although, of course, it is a responsibility and therefore must be your choice to refuse or accept with no ill will on our part.”

Dimitri and Skyler exchanged a long glance. Skyler’s heart began to pound with excitement. Ivory and Razvan were considered eccentrics among the Carpathian people. More than anything, they loved wolves and ran with their own pack—not wholly animal and certainly not Lycan. These were wolves Ivory had accidently turned Carpathian. Such a thing was forbidden of course, but she’d taken responsibility for them and kept them in line.

Dimitri had spent centuries protecting wolves in the wild, advocating for them and providing land for them to hunt and live without fear of humans killing them. He had done so in the beginning to provide a sanctuary for his brother when he was injured in battle, but over the years, he’d purchased lands in various countries to provide safe preserves.

Ivory and Razvan would know how hard Dimitri fought for the wolves in the wild and they would know of all her studies, gearing her to aid him in his chosen fight. She held her breath, her eyes shining, she was sure, with her excitement. She just knew.

“We brought wolf pups. They were born nearly two years ago and are not from our pack. Our wolf pack found them, the adults had been torn apart, leaving the pups to starve. They were weak and we . . .” Ivory broke off and looked to Razvan for help.

“We saved them the only way we could. Our pack rarely asks for anything and we couldn’t refuse them. The vampire mistook the pack for ours. We’d been hunting him for some time,” Ivory continued. “I—we—felt responsible. We inadvertently led the vampire right to them. He wiped out the pack and slashed, but didn’t kill the pups, leaving them as bait for us.”

“I take it his plan didn’t work out in his favor,” Dimitri said, his voice going grim.

“No, he was brought to justice,” Razvan assured. “And we acquired four more pups. A female and three males. We thought, under the circumstances, they would be best placed with you. As much as they’re a part of our family now, we realized we couldn’t allow our pack to get that large.”

Skyler gripped Dimitri’s hand. She was actually trembling with her excitement, hardly able to contain it.

“We thought the two of you would be perfect to care for them,” Ivory confided. She rubbed her hand over her thigh restlessly.

Razvan reached over and placed his hand over Ivory’s, stilling that small movement, comforting her. She was offering them part of her family, pups she’d raised, and loved.

Skyler could see the faint patchwork scars running through Ivory’s skin. She was beautiful in spite of all those scars, radiant, knowing she had Razvan’s unconditional love. Skyler looked at Dimitri, at the chain links burned into his skin. She would take away the blackness, and even out the pitting over time, but his scars would be there, his badges of courage, just as Ivory’s were.

And she would love him. Nothing could ever change what she felt for Dimitri. The intense emotion for him would only grow with time—if that were possible.

“They’re trained to adhere to our skin and watch our backs,” Ivory explained. “They’ll do the same for you. They just look like large, intricate human tattoos if anyone sees them.”

“You have to allow them to hunt for food, but control what they choose to eat. And you absolutely have to be in control at all times,” Razvan explained. “You can’t allow them to run over you or you’ll end up having to destroy them as you would a vampire.”

Ivory nodded solemnly. “The two of you are the only ones we considered. Would you be interested? If you are, we can share information with you now and give you the pups when you’re both feeling stronger. I’ll train you, Skyler, to run them.”

Skyler tried not to be disappointed. She wanted her own wolf pack that moment. She had always loved the idea of Ivory’s famous wolf tattoos. Dimitri? She tried not to influence him. It was their decision together, not just hers. She knew he would listen with an open mind to her reasons and she wanted to be able to do the same for him.

His laughter was soft in her mind, filling her with an odd tingling sensation, with a small rush of heat. Skyler.

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