Dark Wolf Page 52

Beneath the stone building, deep underground, Dimitri and Skyler lay entwined together, their bodies slowly healing. Dimitri woke each rising and hunted, sustaining the two of them and then going back to ground to allow Mother Earth to rejuvenate them both.

He woke and lay listening to the beat of the earth’s heart. Over time the rhythm had become reassuring, a constant, steady drumbeat he could always count on. It didn’t matter where in the world he was, if he lay in the ground, it was there.

He opened the soil above their heads, staring at the underside of the house his parents had constructed so many centuries earlier. He had played in the room above them. He remembered the sound of his mother’s laughter and the murmur of his father’s voice. He realized he wanted to stay, to make this their home. It was deep enough in the forest to keep their wolf pack safe and yet still close enough to the other Carpathians that Skyler could have company whenever she wanted.

He leaned over her. He loved watching her as she slept. Skyler always looked peaceful now—so different from the nights he’d entered her room and found her tossing and turning caught in the throes of a hideous nightmare. Gently he brushed back silken strands of hair that had come loose from the braid he’d woven for her just the last rising.

Her lashes were long and feathery, dark, yet tipped with gold. He traced her high cheekbones with the pad of his finger, absorbing the satin-smooth skin. It had always annoyed her that she couldn’t tan. Josef and Paul teased her mercilessly, throwing their hands over their eyes to accuse her of blinding them with her white stomach or legs depending on what she was wearing. If she was out in the sun at all, she burned a bright red, and then they called her “lobster girl.”

Dimitri found himself smiling at the memory of the antics of her friends. “You make my life beautiful and full,” he murmured aloud to her. Wake, csitri. We have much to do. It’s time to start our life.

She stirred at his call, rolled in his arms and lifted her lashes. The impact of her eyes meeting his was physical, a low, wicked punch that drove the air from his lungs. She had her relaxed, happy color, the true dove gray that he loved beyond any other color.

“Good evening, sívamet. Are you feeling stronger?”

Skyler nodded and touched his face. “Much. I wouldn’t mind exploring our home a little bit. I haven’t really seen much of anything since we’ve been healing.”

“I want you to hunt for food with me.” It was the first time he’d asked her. He didn’t push for an answer, knowing this would be one of the hardest concepts for her to accept.

Dimitri didn’t mind supplying blood to her, but in the event they were ever in trouble, she needed to know how to hunt and that she could do it by herself. It was a natural part of being Carpathian. Skyler craved blood, but the thought of taking it from an unknowing source bothered her on a strictly human level.

There was a small silence. Skyler’s hand had dropped to his chest and she smoothed over the chain burns there—absently—like she did each rising. “Okay.”

His heart jumped. One little word. She accepted their way of life and trusted him to teach her the things necessary to survive. He knew this was a huge milestone for her.

“Afterward, I need to see Francesca.”

He wanted her to himself. They’d spent several risings in the ground healing. Yes, he’d gotten to hold her, and even exchange blood with her, but the entire rest of the time, they’d both been beneath, sleeping the rejuvenating sleep of the Carpathians.

The time spent in the ground had been necessary—both of them were in bad shape when they’d arrived in the Carpathian Mountains. Skyler had barely enough time to hug her adopted mother before she collapsed. Unfortunately, that essential time spent in the soil meant they weren’t able to really start their life together.

He held her while they slept, entwined together, skin to skin. He gave her blood and certainly there was intimacy in both, but he felt almost as if he was losing ground with her, that she’d taken a step back from him. She said little, and she seemed to prefer to spend the time in the ground, rather than face their life together.

“You’ve got that frown on your face again,” Skyler said, and reached up to rub his lips as if she could remove it. “What’s wrong? Don’t you want me to go with you?”

His hands shaped her tucked-in waist as he helped her into a sitting position. “Of course I want you to go with me. We both needed healing, but at some point we’ve got to rebuild our strength. I want to show you so many things.”

“And I want to learn. Specifically, shapeshifting,” Skyler said. “And flying. And running with the wolves.”

He couldn’t help laughing. “In other words, everything.”

She nodded, coming up on her knees to inspect the burns around his throat and forehead. His heart jumped. She had not leaned into him physically or touched his scars intimately since they’d arrived in the Carpathian Mountains. She’d definitely worked at healing them, but she had used more of a professional touch. The brushes of her fingers were far too intimate to him to ever be considered professional and both his body and heart responded to those caresses.

She murmured the words she chanted each time she carefully traced each chain loop surrounding his body.

I call to you, Mother, bring forth your might,

As I seal these paths that would bring pain and blight.

I call to aloe, so green and cool,

Bind with me now, become my tool.

Bring forth your life’s blood again to heal,

Ease this suffering, these scars do steal.

Each line I trace, may it fade day to day,

Taking all that causes pain away.

He allowed himself to inhale her scent, to bring his hands up to her back and hold her, fingers splayed wide to take in as much of her bare skin as possible.

“You’ve been keeping things from me,” Skyler said, leaning so close to him that the tips of her br**sts grazed his chest as she ran soothing fingers into the deep indentations around his throat. “You’ve been worried about something. I’ve waited for you to tell me, but I figured rather than merging my mind with yours and prying, I’d just ask.”

Dimitri took a breath and let it out. Her fingers stroked over his skin, her touch sending flames flickering through his bloodstream. He had dreamt of this, had wanted it, but knowing he couldn’t act on the desire flooding his body made the moment bittersweet. She needed time, and he was determined to give it to her.

“You pulled away from me,” he admitted starkly. “You’ve never done that before. I know everything that’s transpired in the last few weeks has happened fast and you needed time to assimilate it all—especially becoming fully Carpathian.”

It was more than that—she would eventually become as he was—Hän ku pesäk kaikak. There was no getting around it, not when they were lifemates and would never be able to resist the urge to exchange blood.

Skyler was silent a moment, turning his words over and over in her mind. She had to admit to herself she’d been nervous each rising. She felt safe, there in the ground, in her little cocoon, wrapped in Dimitri’s arms.

Before, when he had come to her, sometimes several nights in a row, just to talk, they’d merged minds to do so, and she’d thought she knew him. He didn’t hide anything from her, but she’d never really merged so deep with him that she saw beyond the darkness in him. It had grown like a cancer, spreading over his soul, always looking for a way in.

To save him, she had pushed beyond that crouching darkness. She saw every memory, every deed. She knew the dangers he’d faced without flinching, the centuries of loneliness he endured without dishonor, and she’d seen how patient he’d been, even while the darkness pushed at his soul. Then, he had saved her, possessing her body, taking control of her mind, merging them both so deeply that she relived those memories with him, not just observed them.

Every kill took something from him, leaving behind tears in the fabric of mind and soul, even after losing one’s emotions. Bringing even the worst of criminals to justice was not without a price—and he’d paid often. The fissures and cracks had deepened, and that darkness had crept in, taking advantage at every turn.

She saw the thousands of physical wounds. He’d been alone, or he’d been with Fen, and sometimes, rarely, another hunter she didn’t know. Mostly, he’d been alone. He’d lived lifetimes, through history, and he’d always been honorable, no matter the circumstances. He’d saved lives and never asked for anything for himself—except her. His lifemate. He’d held on, hoping someday he would find her.

“When I was trying to find you, Dimitri, I felt empowered. I felt as if I was a partner to you, someone who could give you every single thing you needed and deserved. I knew you needed me and I knew that I could be exactly what you needed.” She sighed. “But then we came here to the Carpathian Mountains and I began to have doubts.”

The pads of her fingers went still, remaining over the burns on his neck. He found it amazing that in those raw indentations, he could feel the concentrated power of her healing ability, and yet she was expressing her reservations about whether or not she could be a partner to him.

A thousand arguments rose in his mind, but he stayed silent. She needed to be able to talk to him without misgivings that he might not really listen to her. As much as he wanted to reassure her, this was her moment, not his.

“I kept thinking, what have you really gotten in a lifemate? I’ve only lived nineteen years. I couldn’t hope to know the things you know. How could I possibly match you intellectually? I’m smart, I know I am. I’m only nineteen, but I already have several degrees. Still, what I know about any one subject is a drop in the bucket compared to your knowledge.”

Dimitri felt her fingers moving again, smoothing over the burns around his throat. She settled back on her heels and followed the chain links wrapped around his shoulders.

“I kept wondering, what exactly do I have to offer you?” Her gaze jumped to his and color flushed beneath her skin before her eyes went back to her work. “I’m afraid of physical contact—intimacy—you know that. It isn’t news to you, but I just keep thinking I’m not bringing you anything at all. Not only do I not know the first thing about pleasing a partner, I find the entire idea repugnant.” She paused. Took a breath. “Or I did.”

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