Dark Wolf Page 60

“In the Carpathian culture, other men rarely touch one’s lifemate,” he explained quietly, addressing Randall as if the others weren’t rattling their weapons. He sounded as if he was merely passing on information, not stopping a battle. “Skyler is Dimitri’s lifemate. As you know, she nearly died, and you can understand he is quite protective of her.”

Skyler admired his voice, low, smooth, calming. It was a gift, a rare one, but powerful. He could calm a crowd with that voice and he did so easily.

“I apologize,” Randall said to Dimitri. “I had no idea. Is talking to her forbidden as well?”

His booming voice rang through the room, making Skyler wince. She felt as if she’d been reduced to a schoolgirl, a small child who needed parental permission before speaking with an important adult.

What are you doing? She hissed the question to Dimitri, a little shocked at his behavior. I thought we came here to stop a war, not start one.

It was an automatic reaction. I don’t like men I don’t know or trust in such close proximity to you.

Then I shouldn’t have come. You should have told me.

His self-derisive amusement slipped into her mind. I had no idea I would have such a reaction. Apparently, there are things I have to learn about myself.

It was impossible for Skyler to be angry with Dimitri. He had a strong protective instinct and a wicked sense of humor that was always going to get him out of trouble with her.

She stepped around Dimitri. “Of course it isn’t forbidden to talk to me, or any other woman for that matter. I think everyone is a little on edge after what happened.” She smiled at the shaggy, very large Lycan and held out her hand.

Randall glanced at Dimitri, who remained impassive. He looked relaxed, but Skyler, so tuned to her lifemate, felt his body coil, ready to strike.

The Lycan took her hand in his enormous one, completely engulfing hers. “We’ve heard a lot about you,” Randall said. “You’re quite a legend already. I trust you’re recovering from your injuries?”

Skyler nodded. “Dimitri took great care to see to my recovery. We’re sorry we kept you waiting, but the wounds were . . . severe.”

For her, everything about Randall rang true—what one saw was what one got. She glanced at her lifemate.

He isn’t a deceptive man and I doubt if he would lie about ordering death by silver. Had he done so, he would have owned up to it. If he believes in something, he’s not the kind of man to hide his opinion.

You got all that from holding his hand?

Skyler pressed her lips together tightly to keep from laughing. You’re in a foul mood.

You’ve got a wolf slobbering all over your hand. These wolf men are charmers and I don’t trust any of them, especially the one holding your hand, further than I can throw them.

Her eyebrow shot up. Dimitri was teasing, but there was just that little bit of truth in his tone as well. That would be pretty far. I’ve seen you in action.

A second council member came out from around the table to join them. This was Lyall, the man who hadn’t seemed at all interested in seeing what the Lycans had done to their prisoner. She was surprised that he came up to them, introducing himself to Dimitri and reiterating how sorry they all were for what had taken place.

She stepped back again, just a little, knowing it would make Dimitri more comfortable. The moment she did, both Zev and Fen moved subtly, coming in from either side so that she was hemmed in, although it didn’t really look that way.

She kept the frown off her face and watched Dimitri talking with Lyall and the last of the council members, a man by the name of Arno. He was friendly, but openly wary of Dimitri. In the end, after Dimitri told his story to them, it was Arno who asked the most questions, and the majority of the questions seemed to be about being a mixed blood rather than who had been Dimitri’s worst tormentors.

He wants the alliance with Carpathians, but he doesn’t believe in distinguishing between Sange rau and the Hän ku pesäk kaikak, Skyler pointed out to Dimitri.

Rolf seemed to grow impatient with Arno’s questions. “This is becoming tedious, Arno,” he interrupted. “It’s important to find out who is behind this treachery. In case you’ve forgotten, it was not only Dimitri who was targeted for death; we were as well.” He looked around the room. “Mikhail, if you don’t mind me saying so, I think we should clear this room. Tempers seem to run hot the more of us there are.”

“I agree,” Mikhail said.

Skyler felt his relief rather than heard it in his voice. She was more than happy to exit the room and find her adopted mother, but as she turned to go with Dimitri, both Mikhail and Rolf stopped them.

“If you don’t mind,” Mikhail said, “we’d prefer that you two, as well as Fen and Zev, stay just a while longer to help us.”

Dimitri took a deep breath. Their eyes met. He inclined his head. You don’t have to stay, csitri. I can do this alone and you can visit with Francesca. He had spoken to her on the common Carpathian path, not their private one, indicating to Mikhail that if she wanted to leave, Dimitri would insist on it.

She sent Dimitri a reassuring smile. I wouldn’t mind hearing what they have to say. Sometimes I know when someone is lying. I might catch that vibe and we’ll know if someone here really is behind this conspiracy.

I’m not certain it is a conspiracy, not in the way you mean, Zev chimed in thoughtfully, shocking Skyler.

She hadn’t realized he was able to speak telepathically to all Carpathians, but she should have. He had been inside the shelter she’d created, and only those with Carpathian blood could pass the shield. In order for him to cross that barrier, he had to be fairly advanced as a mixed blood.

“We’ll stay,” Dimitri said aloud.

They waited until most of the Lycan and Carpathian guards left the room. Dimitri took a careful look around the room. It appeared to be nearly empty. The four council members remained, each with two guards. He recognized Daciana and Makoce from Zev’s elite pack. Both had stayed behind with Rolf. Each of the other council members also retained two guards.

Mikhail had Gregori and his brother Jacques with him. Dimitri knew better. Gregori would never allow the prince in a room where the other faction had more men. He found himself uneasy, but couldn’t put his finger on why.

Rolf and the other council members seemed sincere in wanting to talk about the issue of the Sange rau and whether or not any mixed blood should be hunted and killed regardless of whether or not they had done harm to anyone.

Fen. This time he used the private connection he had with his brother.

I’ve been feeling uneasy for some time.

Yet no one else does, Dimitri pointed out. Not even Mikhail.

If there is danger close by, no doubt, it is either a few of the Lycans who just left, or we’ve got a Sange rau close.

They use sniper rifles, Fen. These are trained assassins coming after us.

Gregori waved his hand and a large round table appeared in the center of the room. “I suggest you all sit down, gentlemen.”

They won’t be able to get a shot through the windows, Fen said. Gregori has already thought of nearly any kind of attack that could take place. This room is sealed. Even the Lycans who left cannot get back in without Gregori allowing it.

Dimitri toed a chair around, straddling it, uncaring what the Lycans thought of his actions. He pulled Skyler’s chair closer to him. Knowing he could shield her from any trouble made him feel a little better, although he was still very uneasy. Fen toed the chair on the other side of Skyler around and straddled it as well. Both were in a position to move fast if they needed to.

The council members and Mikhail took their places. Only Zev sat at the table, while the Lycans guarding the council lined up with their backs to the walls.

Again Dimitri took a long slow look around the room. Gregori was standing within striking distance of Mikhail, but there were others. He found himself focusing on the wall where all the Lycans had draped themselves. Of course that wall had been left temptingly blank, perfect for the councils’ guards to wait for their council members.

There were at least four Carpathian warriors somewhere on that wall, a part of it, knots in the wood, perhaps a tiny insect, and each would have already chosen their targets.

Lojos, Tomas and Mataias, he guessed. And the ghost. Andre’s here as well, isn’t he?

Fen sent him a little grin and inclined his head very subtly. They wouldn’t miss the party.

“At the risk of offending Dimitri,” Arno began, “I believe very strongly that the things we’ve been taught since practically the very beginning of our existence, that mixed blood is far too dangerous to be tolerated, are sacred. We can’t abandon the very code we live by because a few of the Sange rau have not yet turned rogue.”

Mikhail leaned forward, his eyes meeting Arno’s. “We’ve come together to discuss this subject and we want to hear all opinions. This sacred code is something that has been in your culture for centuries and shouldn’t be so easily discarded. We have to examine what we know now, versus what those who put the code into existence knew in their time. Knowledge is power, and hopefully, over the centuries, we’ve managed to gain more awareness, understanding, comprehension and information.”

“Our experience with this issue clearly has been different than yours,” Rolf said. “Our packs were destroyed. No one was spared. We nearly were extinct thanks to the Sange rau.”

Mikhail nodded. “It is easy to understand why your ancestors laid down such extreme rules, but you are sitting at this table with one of our most skilled ancient hunters. Dimitri has defended Lycan, Carpathian and humans alike for centuries. He has hunted and killed both the vampire and rogue wolves and has done so with honor for centuries. Clearly, he is no threat to the Lycans, and in fact, is an asset.”

Arno shook his head. “There is no guarantee that he will continue to be so. Again, Dimitri, I must apologize for speaking as if you aren’t sitting right here, but these things must be said.”

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