Dark Wolf Page 61

Beneath the table, Skyler put her hand on his thigh. He felt her trembling. Keeping his face expressionless, he placed his hand gently over hers. The things he is saying have no impact on me one way or the other, he assured her. Fen and Zev are also as I am, of mixed blood. This council member isn’t stupid. He knows that because we’re lifemates, we exchange blood, and eventually you will become like me.

He might not know that.

He knows. Just as Randall knew not to touch you earlier. Zev would have given them every detail about our culture possibly before they ever came here. They would have researched carefully and consulted with those who have known Carpathians. These council members have been around a long time, Skyler. Believe me, they act as ambassadors and they don’t make mistakes in protocol. Zev took the blame by pretending he hadn’t passed on the information about lifemates, but Randall knew.

“I have no problem with you speaking your mind, sir,” Dimitri said politely. “Hearing truth is always preferable to lies.”

Are you saying that shaggy old bear of a Lycan deliberately made me feel like a schoolgirl in front of all the Lycans?

Dimitri didn’t dare answer that, not when Skyler had a bit of a fiery temper. He took another look around the room just to assure himself there was no beehive clinging to the rafters.

Randall reached for his glass of water, and raised it to his mouth. Without warning the glass slipped out of his hands, dumping the water down the front of him. The amount of liquid pouring into his lap seemed to exceed the size of the glass.

At once Randall’s bodyguards sprang to help, handing him napkins and small towels from the table of food. The council members were not as polite, laughing and teasing Randall good-naturedly about his big hands and how he couldn’t even hold a glass of water. Randall took it all in stride, grinning at his friends and shrugging his shoulders.

Lycans can detect energy when Carpathians use spells, Zev warned, frowning at Skyler. These men are used to deference.

Skyler raised her eyebrow, looking more innocent than ever. Dimitri kept his face impassive, controlling his amusement.

Are you accusing me of causing an accident? Did you feel energy coming from me? She managed to sound as blameless as she appeared.

Dimitri waited for the merriment to die down. “I have a lifemate. It is impossible for me to turn vampire. In order for me to become the Sange rau you fear I would have to choose to give up my soul. There is no way for that to happen.”

Mikhail nodded. “Carpathian males who have lived too long and have not found a lifemate are in danger of turning vampire, but no man with a lifemate could do that,” he reiterated. “There is a difference between a Hän ku pesäk kaikak and the Sange rau. All Lycans do not become rogues. All Carpathians do not become vampire. All mixed bloods do not become Sange rau.”

Arno frowned back at them. “Carpathian hunters can kill the vampire. Elite hunters can kill the rogue packs. Neither can kill the Sange rau. Better to exterminate them than to take the chance that they will wipe out all of us.”

Skyler’s fingernails dug into his thigh, but she didn’t speak or retaliate. It was the first truly insulting thing Arno had said. Up to that point he had been polite and even friendly. Dimitri suspected his beliefs ran as deep as did his prejudice.

“I would prefer not to be exterminated,” Dimitri said. “I am a man, not an insect.”

“A very dangerous man,” Arno pointed out. “Your lifemate nearly died. I know because we were in this room when your prince and her mother believed her dead. It nearly started a war right here. Suppose she had died?” he challenged. “Without a lifemate, you could turn, isn’t that correct?”

Dimitri shrugged his shoulders. “Lifemates follow one another into the next life.”

“In every case? Always?” Arno continued to push his point.

“Not always,” Dimitri conceded, “but it is rare not to do so.”

“We’ve studied your culture.” Lyall took up the argument. “We know that when a mate dies, madness grips the male. How would this affect the mixed blood? Wouldn’t he be more likely to choose the way of the vampire rather than lose his life?”

“It isn’t about losing one’s life,” Dimitri answered. “As a Carpathian, as a lifemate, our first duty is to see to the health and happiness of our mate. She wouldn’t die of sickness. That would be impossible. She wouldn’t die in an accident. She would have to be targeted—murdered.” His eyes met Lyall’s. “Then choosing life over death would be about revenge.”

The word revenge hung in the air between them.

Mikhail sighed. You could have chosen your words more carefully, Dimitri.

I am no politician, Mikhail. If they have studied our culture, they know that by sentencing me to death, they would also be sentencing my lifemate as well. They sit across from Skyler and calmly discuss exterminating us. Both of us. Do you think I will allow any of these men to harm my lifemate?

For the first time he felt the impact of Mikhail’s rage. It hit like a solid body blow, mean and wicked. Do you think that I would? That any Carpathian would? There is no chance that we would ever agree to what they are proposing. There is, however, a small chance that they will see things our way.

Dimitri took a deep breath. Mikhail was right. It wasn’t that Dimitri couldn’t be objective, he just thought sitting there was a waste of time. Trying to change centuries of prejudice seemed impossible to him. Arno had almost a religious fervor to him when he forgot to be a polite council member and began to heat up over a subject that clearly he felt passionate about.

Forgive me, Mikhail. I see that you have had to walk a fine line in spite of what you would like to say to these people.

It was Rolf who broke the silence. “I can understand how one would want revenge, Dimitri. If my wife was murdered, I would hunt down the one who killed her and, God forgive me, I am certain I would kill him. I am Lycan, not human, and my instincts as a predator would likely overcome all civilization.”

Dimitri nodded. “Seeing Skyler dead, or at least believing she was, it was a very dark moment for me, but I would not let her go into another life without me by her side. I would leave the hunt to her father and uncle.” He looked at Arno. “I am Hän ku pesäk kaikak and I have never failed my people or dishonored myself or my family. Duty and honor have been ingrained in me since I was a child, centuries ago. I can only tell you, I serve as a Guardian, not a predator on the people I protect.”

“It is easy enough to pass judgment on the mythical Sange rau when few in our lifetime have ever seen his destruction,” Randall said. “It is an altogether different thing when we have Dimitri and his lifemate sitting across the table from us. Clearly he poses no threat to us.”

“Now,” Arno said. “Now he poses no threat. We don’t know what he will do in the future, and what if they breed?”

The word breed was said with such repugnance and loathing, Dimitri gripped Skyler’s hand tightly, warning her not to speak. This was Mikhail’s territory, not his. Fen and Zev were both silent, but they exchanged a long look.

Dimitri was grateful that the council members weren’t aware both Fen and Zev were of mixed blood. They had been targeted by assassins, not for their blood, but because whoever wanted the war between the two species saw them as threats to his plans.

“That was rude, Arno,” Rolf said quietly. “Extremely rude. Skyler, please accept my apologies on behalf of all Lycans.” He pinned the council member with a frown. “We are sworn to put all prejudices aside and judge fairly. You swore that, although you were a member of the Sacred Circle, you could accept the changes modern society brought.” Rolf indicated Daciana. “She is one of our best elite hunters, yet her skills would be denied to us if the members of the Sacred Circle had their way. You helped pass the law allowing her to serve. We came here with open minds, prepared to change our law if it was warranted.”

“I know. I know.” Arno shoved both hands through the thick pelt of hair on his head. “Women hunted before the sacred code was put in place. A precedent had already been set,” he defended. “The sacred code was written after the Sange rau decimated our people. We needed the women home. Now, it isn’t as crucial.”

“That’s understandable.” Mikhail sought to bring the rising tension down. “We lost our women as well, and most of them do not hunt. We prefer them to remain safe. A few go out with their lifemates, but we’re still rebuilding and we debate the issue often.”

Arno sent him a grateful look. “Forgive me, Skyler and Dimitri. I struggle with my beliefs. Sometimes they don’t make sense and I fight all the harder for them.”

He sounded genuinely upset, a man who definitely wanted to do the right thing, but was caught in a war between past and present.

His beliefs are strong, anchored in centuries of reinforcement. He believes very strongly that every mixed blood poses a threat to his species and shouldn’t—no, can’t be tolerated, Dimitri observed, using the common Carpathian path.

He is not alone in that belief, Zev said. All members of the Sacred Circle believe as he does, and they are not only great in number, but loud about it. Arno is one of their highest-ranking members and speaks regularly on the sanctity of their code. He is probably one of their biggest recruiters. He’s a good speaker and feels passionate about his subject.

Could he be the man targeting the council members for death on our soil? Mikhail asked.

Zev sighed. I would never have believed such a thing of him. He’s always been a good man, but now . . . He trailed off. Gunnolf and Convel were both members of the Sacred Circle, but I never thought they would betray us, or betray our pack.

Rolf shook his head. “We’re all tired. Perhaps we should adjourn until tomorrow night. Dimitri has given us much to think about.”

Lyall glanced at his watch. “It is late,” he agreed.

Arno checked his cell phone. “Later than I thought. I believe it would be best to adjourn also. I need to put things in perspective.”

Prev Next
Free Novels Read Online | Read Wuxia Novel | Read Xianxia Novel