Dark Wolf Page 65

He’s settled back on the roof and is hunting you, Fen reported. I’m in position and staying still. I don’t want to spook him.

Pack hunting was new to most Carpathians, but Dimitri and Fen had used the tactics of the Lycans often over the last few centuries. They worked well together. There was little difference between hunting the vampire and hunting the Sange rau—not now when they were evenly matched in speed, intelligence and skill.

Dimitri closed in from the other side and signaled that he was ready. They had to be fast, stripping Hemming of his rifle and any other gun quickly. He, no doubt, was deadly with them.

Fen struck from the left, streaking fast, keeping his energy contained, slamming into Hemming, rolling him out of the tree and riding his body down, so that when they hit the ground he could slam the stake into the assassin’s heart.

Hemming was struck so hard he dropped the rifle, but as they fell and Fen’s legs clamped around him, he drew his own dagger and stabbed Fen’s thigh. He was fast, piercing flesh and muscle three times before they hit the ground. Fen didn’t flinch, ignoring the wounds, waiting his moment. He slammed the stake into Hemming’s chest as they landed in the dirt, using the momentum from the fall and the unforgiving ground to ensure he struck deep enough. Hemming had been thrashing so much, the stake cut through the edge of his heart, but failed to pierce the center.

The breath was driven from their lungs, but Hemming retained possession of his dagger. He rolled, slicing at Fen’s chest and throat in desperation, trying to pull the silver stake from his body as he did so. Before he could rise, Dimitri was there, silver sword flashing. He severed the head and Fen jerked the stake free and slammed it home again, this time penetrating the heart all the way through.

The two of them sat in the dirt beside the body, trying to get their breathing under control. “We’re getting better at this,” Fen said.

Dimitri surveyed the damage to his brother. “I can see that.” He pushed his hand through his hair before kneeling up to stop the flow of blood leaking from the wounds on Fen’s thigh. “He had military training, Fen, but wasn’t like us. He didn’t have centuries of growing as a mixed blood. Where are they coming from?”

Fen sighed. “We’ve got one of them alive. The council members and Mikhail will question him. I did notice that he had a small tattoo on his wrist, an intricate kind of tribal design, in a circle. Arno has that same tattoo.”

Dimitri pulled back the sleeves of the sniper. “He’s got it as well. So do most of the dead Lycans I encountered in the street.”

“So if someone wants to kill all of the mixed bloods, why are they using them to aid their cause?” Fen asked. “The deeper we get into this puzzle, the less any of it makes sense.”

“I’m at a loss for an explanation,” Dimitri admitted. “But that symbol they all wear means something.”

“We’ll have to ask Zev what it means.” Fen took a deep breath. “If he lives. They’re still fighting for him.”

“Let’s go help,” Dimitri said. “I reached out to Gabriel and Lucian, and they have everything under control and we’re not needed right now. They’ll do cleanup and burn any bodies.”

Fen nodded and accepted his brother’s help rising. “Andre, Tomas, Lojos and Mataias took the remaining council members back to the inn. Mikhail and Gregori are sorting all that out. We just have to make certain Zev survives.”

Dimitri and Fen made their way back to the rubble that was the meeting hall. Skyler and Tatijana had taken turns working inside Zev’s body. Arno had given blood more than once and clearly was dizzy, lying down beside Zev’s body.

Skyler looked so pale Dimitri rushed to her side, wrapping his arm around her and immediately offering her blood. The energy it took to heal such a severe wound required a tremendous supply of life-giving blood.

Zev needs blood much worse than I do. Arno couldn’t keep up and both Tatijana and I have had to work to clean and close this terrible hole in his body. The stake went through numerous organs, Skyler reported to both of them.

Fen immediately dropped down beside his lifemate. “I can give him blood.”

Tatijana glanced at him, taking in the sight of his wounds. She sighed but said nothing as he tore a laceration in his wrist and held it over Zev’s lips to drip the ancient blood into his mouth. Zev didn’t respond and the drops ran down to his jaw.

Zev, you must take this offering of blood, Branislava called to him. Allow Fen, your brother-kin, to give to you what you need.

Zev heard that angelic voice, but he didn’t respond. He heard the call and answer chant, the swelling volume of voices, so many warriors and women and even children, attempting to draw him back.

Yes, come back.

That voice was a melody, a sweet, soft melody playing through his mind as elusive as the wind. He knew he should recognize it, but he was tired and trying to work puzzles out was too difficult. I am weary of this life. I have lived far too long. War and killing have become all that is left to me. Letting go would be so much easier than facing the pain of his horrendous wounds and the endless loneliness that would follow. He had done his duty a million times over. What was really left for a man such as him?

Stay. We are bound together, you and I. Our spirits are woven together. There was no other way to save your life. If you go, you take me with you.

That made no sense to him. He was bound to no one, forever alone. The blood dripping into his mouth became bothersome. He licked at the drops to remove them. The taste burst through his system, a rush of adrenaline. Fen. Fen was there. Of course.

The adrenaline allowed him to identify that soft melodic voice. Branislava, the woman he couldn’t get out of his mind. He didn’t ever get involved with a woman. His lifestyle forbade such a thing. No one had ever intrigued him or had drawn him the way she had. She was off-limits and yet, he couldn’t get her out of his head.

I’m dreaming. That was the only answer, and men like him didn’t dream of beautiful women weaving their spirit with his in order to fight for his life. No one would do that. No one. The risk was far too great.

Stay with me. Take the blood Fen offers. It is ancient Carpathian blood. It is the blood of the Lycan. We will go together to the ground, allowing the earth to heal you. You will not be alone. I have tied my fate to yours.

She made the revelation so simply as if what she had done was nothing. He knew better. Zev pushed aside weariness and forced his body to respond to Fen’s offer. He couldn’t do less for a woman who offered her life for his. He wasn’t a coward and he wasn’t afraid of pain. He would not allow an innocent to die simply because it was a difficult road to travel back to life.

His entire lifetime had been a fight. He wouldn’t lose this one.

20

Skyler ran into her mother’s arms, hugging her tightly. “I missed you so much, Francesca. I’m sorry I caused you such worry.”

“You scared us to death,” Francesca admitted, tears welling up in her eyes. “If it wasn’t for Gabriel, I would have . . .” She broke off and shook her head. “I never want to go through that again. Thank God, your connection with Dimitri was so strong he was able to pull you back. Do you realize how far gone you were? Neither Gabriel nor I could reach you.”

Skyler hugged her again hard. “I did try to hold on, when I realized I was slipping away so fast, I knew he would come for me. I anchored myself as best I could, but it was so cold and I was so lost, I was terrified I couldn’t hold on long enough.”

It had been her absolute belief that Dimitri would find her that allowed her, even as her spirit slipped away from her dying body, to withstand the icy cold and dark. It had been terrifying in that other place, the flicker of life in her drawing the attention of those crouched in the darkness, waiting for a new soul to steal.

Francesca drew back to look her over carefully. “I inspected you when they flew you back here, although you probably don’t remember much. You were exhausted, needed blood, rest and healing. How are you feeling?”

“I feel fine,” Skyler assured. “Fully healed. I couldn’t wait to see you, but Mikhail wanted Dimitri to talk to the council members first.”

“I heard.” Francesca gave her a faint smile. “Were you able to keep your temper while they talked as if Dimitri was a bug to be squashed?”

“You mean exterminated,” Skyler corrected with a faint grin. “I didn’t blow the place up, that was someone else.”

They walked together out into the meadow, crossing a field of wildflowers. “He’s good for you,” Francesca observed. “You’re confident and happy.”

“I’m so in love with him,” Skyler confessed. “More even than I thought possible.”

“We should have seen that you were grown-up,” Francesca admitted. “Neither of us could bear the thought of you going away from us so soon. It was selfish, but you’re our first and we’ve always been a bit overprotective.”

“I understand. I hated lying to you. It was truly the worst feeling in the world, but no one would give me any information on where he was or what they were doing to save him.”

“That was wrong as well. We knew you were his lifemate,” Francesca said. They reached the center of the meadow where the flowers grew in abundance. Francesca sank down into the middle of the fragrant wildflowers. “As his lifemate you should have been kept informed at all times.”

“Still,” Skyler sat beside her adopted mother, “I might not have gone off on my own to rescue him, and he wouldn’t have lived. Fate seems to have a funny way of making things right.”

Francesca smiled at her. “You came to us and made our lives so full, Skyler. Never think that I don’t feel love just as fiercely for you as I do for Tamara. We chose you. I think you were always meant to be ours.”

“I think so, too,” Skyler said. She was a silent a moment and then reached for Francesca’s hand. “You know what Dimitri is, a mixed blood, the very thing that caused all this fighting.”

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