Dark Wolf Page 51

He knew Fen was worried about him, but he refused to acknowledge that Fen had been right all along and his body wasn’t yet up to bringing justice to anyone. He took to the air, heading back toward his brother. Razvan had made a clean getaway with Byron, yet Fen and Zev had refused to leave until Dimitri was safely away. Dimitri was fairly certain Zev was every bit as stubborn as his brother and neither was budging until they knew he was safe.

Rafael and Nicolas fell in behind him. Zacarias led the way. On some level Dimitri realized they were protecting him, flying in a formation that kept his battered body in the center of a triangle.

I’m waiting on you, Fen, he told his brother. If you’re having trouble and need a little help I’ll circle back and save you as usual. Just say the word. I was just giving you a little time to work it out, but seriously, I can’t have you holding everyone up.

Dimitri had to keep the amusement out of his voice, and out of his mind as well. Laughing at Fen was a dangerous proposition.

Very funny. You’re turning into a regular comedian. Have one of the De La Cruz brothers carry your sorry butt.

Dimitri knew he wasn’t going to get away with laughing at his brother, but still, it felt good to be heading home, with Fen close by. He was free, the pain was slowly subsiding and Skyler was his for all eternity.

Moving through the night sky with the wind in his face and the stars glittering overhead had always been relaxing and peaceful. He didn’t look at the battleground beneath him, strewn with wounded Lycans. He’d had enough of blood and death and pain—enough to last another lifetime. He was weary. Exhausted. Done with fighting for a while.

Where are you?

She reached for him immediately with her soothing touch as if she knew his weariness and exhaustion. She’d done so in the past. He remembered once when he’d spent months tracking a master vampire and witnessing the aftermath of the death and destruction the undead left in his wake, he’d been so sickened by the depravity he couldn’t find solace or peace, even in the ground.

She had come to him then as she did now. Skyler. His miracle. She poured into his mind gently, with that slow, almost delicate touch he had grown so familiar with. She filled him, those dark places of death, the cracks that seemed impossible to mend, so many torn places inside of him caused by the numerous kills he’d made and the things he’d seen. Somehow, when she was there, when they merged like this, she managed to wipe it all out. Everything he’d seen and done was gone, replaced by warmth and love.

Safe. I’m following close, he assured her.

Dimitri, something’s wrong. I feel it.

It’s just the distance between us. I’m a little weak. He made the admission to her that he would never make to his brother. She was there with him, in his mind, she would know anyway. It was practically impossible to hide anything from one’s lifemate, and his lifemate was especially sensitive.

It’s not the distance. Something else. Something creeping up on you. It’s close. Dangerous.

He’d put himself on autopilot, basically allowing Zacarias and his brothers to direct his flight, shielding them from any eyes that might see them while he kept his strength for the long way home. He took a quick look around. Fen, in the form of a dragon with Zev on his back, flew just to his left.

The De La Cruz brothers, like him, had chosen the form of birds, moving powerfully through the night sky. They were all on alert, but no one seemed unduly on edge.

He believed her. He had found, over the years, it paid to believe Skyler. He was a Guardian, a mixed blood, and he had special gifts. It was more than time to begin using the special abilities being the Hän ku pesäk kaikak gave him. The danger was in the feeling of superiority that crept in. He was stronger. Faster. His brain could solve problems at a tremendous rate of speed. One had to temper gifts with the inevitable price one paid for them.

His eyesight was especially keen. He took a long, slow look around, at the ground below him, to his right, his left, behind him and up ahead. His hearing was acute. He listened for any sound that might be out of place, a single note that might warn him of danger. His sense of smell was extremely sensitive, the combined wolf and Carpathian coming together to give him tremendous advantages if he just used them.

There was something. The faintest of ripples washed over him, an uneasiness that set in and held on, yet he couldn’t identify the threat.

Fen. Reach out. There’s something here. Something coming after us. Or we’re heading toward it. Skyler feels it as well.

He knew his brother would take him seriously. They had battled together on and off for centuries. As much as Fen liked to pull rank as a big brother, he respected Dimitri’s abilities and would never ignore a warning.

I feel it. But what? So subtle. What could be that subtle that none of us were aware of it? Fen asked.

The answer was clear to Dimitri—to both of them. Sange rau. Whoever has orchestrated this war is using the Sange rau to assassinate those he wants out of his way.

There were Bardolf and Abel. Fen named the two Sange rau they had defeated weeks earlier. The two had been sent to kill Mikhail Dubrinsky. How could he control a mixed blood, a vampire at that. He has to be pretty powerful to do something like that.

If he was Carpathian before he was Sange rau and we warn the others, he would hear, Dimitri pointed out.

Neither Fen nor Dimitri had ever exchanged blood with Zacarias or his brothers. They would have to use the common path—which would allow a Carpathian-born mixed blood to hear.

Skyler, can Paul reach out to his uncles? If so, have him convey the news that we are being pursued by an assassin. We’re certain the assassin is Sange rau.

There was a brief silence, presumably while she conferred with Paul. He has exchanged blood with Nicolas.

Tell them to keep moving as if nothing has changed, but one will have to take Zev from Fen. I’m going to start dropping back just a little at a time, giving the impression I’m hurt and the flight is beginning to tell on me, Dimitri said.

You are hurt. Dimitri, you can’t fight this monster, not in your condition, Skyler objected.

He laughed softly in his mind, reaching for her to surround her with love. Csitri, I’ve got no intention of fighting him. I’ll leave that to Fen. He needs to feel needed and I’d never take that away from him.

For a moment he thought Skyler wouldn’t catch on, but she did. He’s listening, isn’t he? You’re provoking your brother again.

Of course I am.

Fen gave a little derisive snort. He just can’t handle that I’m better in a fight.

Says you. As I recall, the last time, it was me saving your sorry butt, Dimitri pointed out.

You have to take this threat seriously, Skyler insisted, somewhere between laughter and exasperation.

No worries, sívamet. We’ve got this, Dimitri said with confidence.

He was confident. He’d survived the Lycans’ worst torture and he had his lifemate. It didn’t matter that his body was torn and exhausted, his mind was stronger than ever. His senses were rapidly developing.

You and I both know, the Sange rau will be difficult to kill, Fen cautioned on their private path of communication. I know you’re trying to keep Skyler from worrying, but don’t get overconfident.

In all the centuries we’ve been traveling, different continents even, how many times have either of us ever run across the Sange rau? Dimitri asked his brother.

I’ve seen four, counting Abel and Bardolf.

I’ve only come across Abel and Bardolf, and they were specifically sent to kill Mikhail, Dimitri said, waiting to let the implication sink in.

Dimitri knew the precise moment Paul conveyed the warning to Nicolas and Nicolas sent it to Zacarias. There was no change in them, but he felt the difference. He hoped their pursuer didn’t as well. He faltered just a little, looked as if he tried to recover and slipped back, away from his protectors. Nicolas and Rafael in bird form flew past him, hesitated a moment and then continued on as if he’d told them to keep going.

Fen got the meaning fast. Someone is creating them, using mixed blood to enhance them and using them as assassins. They aren’t necessarily vampire.

And they’re probably newly made. Abel and Bardolf were most likely their most experienced and oldest. They would never send an amateur after the prince in our territory. Whoever is behind this is creating his own army of mixed bloods.

Dimitri allowed the body of his bird to dip a little, seeking a lower altitude, his wings beating double the time the others did, but not actually getting anywhere. The wind shifted just a little, blowing into him, making him falter more. He tried to redouble his efforts—the others seemed to be moving away from him faster—but he was too worn-out.

The large bird of prey—a bald eagle—seemed to come out of nowhere, dropping fast, talons extended, its beak a strange color. Dimitri shifted from an owl’s body to that of the larger eagle, so fast it was impossible to detect the change until the other was nearly on top of him. Dimitri had just enough time to realize the talons and beak were silver weapons, designed to shred, stab and kill fast. He met the bird’s talons with his own, locking them together so that they tumbled from the sky, end over end. Neither could shift, and the ground seemed to be rising fast to meet them.

The assassin tore at Dimitri’s body, stabbing repeatedly in the chest, seeking the heart. He never heard or saw the attack from behind, Fen streaking through the sky, going for the kill. The Sange rau didn’t even feel the stake going through his body to penetrate his heart. When Fen removed the head and the bird landed dead on the ground, Dimitri called down the lightning to burn it.

He sank into the soft soil, sitting abruptly, pushing both hands through his hair. There was blood on his chest, seeping from a dozen slashes and stabs.

“You know, Fen, I think I’ll take that ride now,” he said when Fen strode up to him.

16

On his last return home, Dimitri had taken up residence in the old family dwelling, deep in the forest where the wolves gave him warning if visitors came too close. He’d done a few modern repairs on it, but he wasn’t in residence often. The outside stone was covered in moss, and trees and brush had grown so close they nearly covered the house. Thick vines wove around the stone columns that formed the verandah. The vines were so thick they’d nearly formed an impenetrable wall, yet there was an archway at the stairs as if it had been designed that way.

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