Dark Wolf Page 47

Skyler took a deep breath. Xavier had found a perfect punishment, selling them into the sex-trafficking world. She closed her eyes briefly, snuggling deeper against Dimitri. He felt solid, a wall of muscle and sinew, always to be counted on.

“Life certainly changes, doesn’t it?” she asked her birth father. “One moment you feel there is no hope, no way out, and the next, the entire world opens up for you.”

Razvan reached for Ivory’s hand. “That is the truth, Skyler. You and your friends achieved the impossible rescuing Dimitri. If we manage to avoid a war with the Lycans, it will be a miracle—and due to you. Had he died, Mikhail would have had no forgiveness.”

“I had no idea he sent out a rescue party,” Skyler admitted.

“Although,” Dimitri said, “you should have known Fen would come for me.”

Skyler nodded. “But he would have been too late. You couldn’t reach out to him.” She traced the burn along his forehead, the links that had prevented him from telepathy—other than with her. She’d been lucky they had such a strong connection or she would have lost him. “I have good friends. Paul and Josef came with me without a thought for their own safety.”

“We have good friends,” Dimitri corrected. “I’ll never forget what they did for us.” He looked over at the two young men, sitting side by side in the circle of warriors discussing the upcoming escape from the collapsing shelter.

Josef looked happier than Dimitri had ever seen him. Josef hadn’t expected any family members to come for him, and the fact that both his adopted father and uncle had come immediately had an impact on him. He’d run free, going his own way and often stirring up trouble with older Carpathians. It hadn’t occurred to him that in spite of his differences, he was loved.

On the other hand, Paul had known the De La Cruz family would come if he got in trouble. They worked with him, teaching him how to fight vampires, working on the skills needed to run their impressive empires—many cattle ranches—in South America. They relied on him to keep his sister Ginny safe while they were in the ground. Paul was part of their lives and under their protection.

Dimitri sighed, looking at the grim faces of the Carpathians. They knew the little fortress was disintegrating, and the Lycans knew it as well. He, like the others, could feel eyes watching them. He could detect the wolves in the swaying branches of trees as well as the brush along the edges of the forest. He didn’t see how they could avoid a fight.

“We should join the others,” he said. “They’re planning our escape out of here. Lycans are difficult in that they come at you as a pack and they’re lightning fast. If we’re supposed to avoid killing any of them, as Mikhail wishes, retreating without actually fighting is going to take a miracle.”

Skyler leaned toward Ivory again. “I’m so excited and happy that you offered us such an amazing gift as the wolf pups. I really look forward to having them.”

Ivory nodded. “Razvan and I discussed it for a long while. I knew better than to save them. We can’t have Carpathian wolves running around without control, but it threw me back to the time when I returned from the hunt and found my pack annihilated by the vampire. For a few minutes there, I’m not certain I was entirely sane. I exchanged blood before I thought about what I was doing. Then I couldn’t just leave them. Razvan was understanding and helped me with the conversion, but both of us knew, we couldn’t keep that many wolves. Our pack is established. These four need their own.”

Dimitri found himself smiling. His body hurt like hell and already, even with the transfusion of ancient Carpathian blood, he was exhausted, but the thought of the wolf pups being a permanent part of their lives was exciting.

“Do you think that with my mixed blood, my wolf so close at all times, such a part of me, that the pups will take to me?” he asked.

Skyler sobered. “I didn’t think of that. We’ll both be mixed blood at some point.”

Ivory shook her head. “The wolf pups should be able to relate even faster to you both. They’ll sense the wolf and accept you as alpha far more easily than we’d first anticipated. That acceptance is everything. The fact that you, Dimitri, knew so much about wolves influenced our decision. We are certain you could easily run a pack.”

Dimitri tightened his arms around Skyler, feeling her joy. She needed joyful moments like this one and he knew it. She’d gone through far too much in a short period of time. She hadn’t wavered for a moment in her determination, but still, the last few risings had been extremely difficult on both body and mind. The tremendous gift of the wolf pups had come at the most opportune time.

“Thank you both again,” Dimitri said sincerely. “You found the perfect gift for the two of us and we’re grateful. The moment we’re healthy, we’ll come to you.”

“Just send word,” Ivory said, with another quick glance toward Razvan, as if she in some way might offend him. Her privacy was legendary. Few, if any, knew the way to her home and clearly, even with them, she wanted to keep it that way.

Dimitri couldn’t blame her. She’d been betrayed and chopped into pieces, and scattered across a meadow in the hopes the wolves would devour her. Ivory had risen stronger than ever, a fierce fighter, every bit as skilled as her male counterparts. Razvan had quickly caught up with her expertise and they had become the scourge of vampires. Even master vampires avoided them.

As the four of them rose, Dimitri and Skyler a little shakily, Skyler sent Gabriel a grateful look. No father could be better than you, Gabriel. Thank you for bringing me peace with Razvan. You’re such a generous man, and you taught me that trait. I hope to always make you proud to call me daughter.

There’s no need to fear I will ever be disappointed. I know the untruth you spoke to Francesca and me about your whereabouts and plans for your college vacation time weighs on you, but in truth, we let you down.

She went to protest, but he held up his hand, making room in the circle beside him. Skyler and Dimitri took their place next to him.

Even had you been too young to be claimed, it was already established that Dimitri was your lifemate. All of us knew it, yet we didn’t give you the consideration to tell you what was happening. We treated you like a child and left you in the dark. That was our mistake and our fault. You have no reason to be guilty or ashamed. I thank the universe that you have such good friends in Paul and Josef.

Both Dimitri and Skyler thanked the universe for them as well. She smiled at the two of them, sitting in the warriors circle, suddenly being treated as men, although it was Zacarias De La Cruz everyone was listening to.

“The question is, how do we get everyone safely out of here?” Zacarias said. “We could fight our way out, and as a last resort, we will, but out of respect for Mikhail and what he’s dealing with there, it would be best if we found a different way.”

“Skyler and Dimitri need a safe resting place to heal,” Gabriel added. “Both are still in poor shape.” He sent an apologetic look toward his daughter.

The transparent walls around them suddenly rippled again. The ground shifted slightly.

Skyler nestled her hand inside of Dimitri’s for comfort. She knew it wasn’t her fault that the shelter was collapsing—it wasn’t designed to last forever—but she was too weak to fix it.

Dimitri tightened his fingers around hers instantly and shifted his body, just a little to offer more protection. She leaned her head back against his shoulder. The Carpathians and Zev had been discussing various possibilities for some time. She thought by now, they would have figured something out.

“We’ve got enough of us here to slip out and pick them off one by one,” Nicolas De La Cruz suggested. “They might feel our energy, but with a large electrical storm, we could easily slow them down and distract them. We know how they fight. We could take them.”

“You can’t kill every Lycan because you’re angry at them,” Zev protested.

“Why not?” Rafael demanded. “Making war on children makes them fair game as far as I’m concerned.”

Paul and Josef exchanged a long look with Skyler. Josef’s amusement was in his eyes, making the other two smile in spite of the circumstances. Although being invited to take part in the discussion, clearly they were still relegated, by some, to the “child” label.

Because they’re solving this problem so peacefully and adult-like, Josef sent, his tone overflowing with laughter.

It was difficult to keep a straight face with Josef’s sense of humor spilling over to them.

“I guess I’m their biggest problem,” Paul confided in a loud whisper. “I can’t shift.”

“Neither can I at this point,” Skyler said. “I can barely sit up anymore.”

Her whispered words acted as some kind of a trigger for the conferring Carpathians. They all turned and looked at her.

She sank back against Dimitri again. He put both arms around her, caging her in—a small warning to the others that he was running out of patience with the arguing.

“I’ve got to get her out of here now,” Dimitri decreed. “I don’t care about retaliation, only making certain Skyler gets the care she needs.”

“Let’s just fly everyone out of here,” Fen said. “There’s no need to go to war with these people. We have a strong enough force to shield Paul, Zev and our wounded.”

“We have a reason,” Rafael declared.

Zev scowled and started to say something, but Fen shook his head in warning and cut him off before he could engage with Rafael, who clearly was upset over his nephew being shot multiple times.

“There’s no way to tell who is with Gunnolf’s faction and who stands with the council. We can’t lump all Lycans together. Clearly, there’s some internal war going on and whoever is behind the bid for power sees Carpathians as a threat. Until we have a clear understanding of who our real enemy is, we can’t risk injuring—or killing—an innocent.”

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