Dark Wolf Page 67

Pounding footsteps announced the arrival of Paul and Josef.

Francesca smiled at Skyler. “That’s my cue. I’ll talk to Gabriel. I know Ivory and Razvan are staying close to watch over you.”

“Aww, Mrs. D.!” Josef skidded to a halt and bowed low, sweeping a jaunty black fedora from his head. “Have no worries about young Skyler Rose. I’m here to save the day.”

“Thank you, Josef. Now that I know she’s safe, I’ll go find my lifemate. Hi, Paul. It’s so good to see you again. The two of you take good care of my girl.”

Paul threw his arm around Skyler’s neck and pretended to strangle her. “She’s safe with us,” he growled in a threatening manner, winking at Francesca.

Skyler ducked her shoulder and threw him in a smooth, rolling move. Paul somersaulted and landed on his feet.

“I see that you boys have this under control,” Francesca said. She blew a kiss to her daughter and was gone, shifting into vapor and streaming away.

“Nice move, hotshot,” Paul said admiringly. “I let you show off for your mother.”

Skyler laughed. “You’re the one who taught me that move so don’t pout.” She flung her arms around him and kissed his cheek. “How are you feeling? You’re the only one of us who couldn’t go into the ground to heal properly.”

Josef snorted. “Don’t go giving him any sympathy. He’s been basking in it ever since he arrived here. He’s got that sister of his and four aunts to fuss over him as well as his uncles, who don’t dare give him the lecture he so richly deserves because they’ll face the wrath of their lifemates. He’s milking it.”

Paul’s grin turned a little sheepish. “There could be some truth in that. Better to have them all fuss over me than Zacarias and Rafael boxing my ears or something equally as nasty.”

“Now he has a point,” Skyler said. “I’d take the sympathy over those two, or any of the De La Cruz brothers for that matter, lecturing me.”

“And you didn’t fare so bad either, my man.” Paul poked Josef in the ribs. “Don’t think I didn’t notice you basking a little yourself.”

Josef smirked. “My mom and my aunt did a little fussing, I’ll admit. And Byron and Vlad aren’t nearly as intense as Zacarias and Rafael. It was kind of nice being spoiled after I thought I might get flayed alive over our little adventure.”

“We did the right thing,” Skyler said, sobering. “Thank you both. Without you, Dimitri would have died. There’s no question about that. I couldn’t have gone after Dimitri alone, and you both came through for me when I needed you most. I’ll never forget it.”

“We made a pact a long time ago to stick together,” Josef said. “That’s forever for me.”

Paul nodded. “I’m in. I might not have forever like the two of you, but . . .”

“I’ll convert you myself,” Josef said. “Of course you have to be converted. Why wouldn’t you? You have enough Carpathian blood in you to be Carpathian.”

Paul shrugged. “I’m not certain my psychic gifts are strong enough to allow me to survive the conversion. Ginny’s might be, but we don’t know. I would never take chances with her, and neither would Colby, so we’re just waiting to see what happens in the future.”

“You’re psychic enough,” Josef declared.

“What’s it like, Skyler? Going through the conversion? It looked horrible. I was terrified for you.”

“She was dead,” Josef said. “She probably doesn’t remember it.”

Knots formed in Skyler’s stomach. She remembered every convulsion, that endless wave of pain that tore through her body, destroying everything human and reshaping to give birth to Carpathian. “I remember,” she admitted in a low voice.

She shivered, her body cold, reacting to the memory. She couldn’t imagine how anyone would go through it without help. Dimitri had taken the brunt of the conversion by taking over her body and riding it out, shielding her as much as he could from the pain wracking her physical body.

Do you have need of me?

Dimitri. The moment he poured into her mind, filling her with warmth and love, she felt different. Unafraid. Paul asked me about the conversion. I remember the pain. And you. You shielding me. What you did was extraordinary.

What I did was possess your body. It is forbidden.

I gave you permission and that makes it different. I don’t think I ever thanked you. What you did was save my life and take away pain. I love you more than anything, Dimitri. In that moment, she wanted to reach out and touch him, to stroke her fingers down his beloved face and trace every line and scar.

I will leave this meeting with the prince and the others if you wish me to come to you.

Skyler found herself smiling. He would, too. He would just walk out of an important meeting with the prince to see to her every need or desire. She wrapped her arms around herself and hugged hard. Sometimes she couldn’t believe she was so lucky.

I can visit with Josef and Paul while you work. I know that meeting is important.

We have to devise a plan to protect the council members during the day while we’re underground. At this point, no one is certain which Lycans can be trusted. Two council members and a good third of the remaining Lycans have the same little tattoo that was on the assassins.

Did Arno’s guard say anything yet? she asked hopefully. Dimitri had made certain he would remain alive so they could question him.

There was a small silence. Skyler’s heart jumped. Just tell me.

He’s been murdered. At first we believed he’d committed suicide, but we discovered a small needle mark in his neck. Someone poisoned him.

Skyler closed her eyes briefly. Then you know for certain at least one more of the elite guards is dangerous to us all.

Or a council member. We can’t rule them out. Arno was pretty outspoken against anyone with mixed blood. In fact, he was passionate about his beliefs.

He worked hard to help save Zev’s life.

He doesn’t know Zev is mixed blood. Dimitri flooded her with warmth again. Have fun with Paul and Josef. I’ll meet you at home shortly.

The low sensual tone moved through her body like thick molasses. The man could make her want him just by looking at her let alone talking in that smooth, sexy voice.

Josef groaned aloud. “Stop talking to that man of yours and ignoring us. You’ve got your goofy face on.”

Laughing, she nudged him with the toe of her boot. “I don’t have a goofy face.”

“You go all moony and dreamy,” Josef accused. “It’s sick.”

“It’s a sickness all right,” Paul teased. He clasped his hands to his chest over his heart and fell backward in the grass. “Oh, Dimitri, you make me swoon.”

“I’m so telling him you said that, Paul.” Skyler gave him a hard punch in the thigh, hoping to give him a dead leg. “He’ll be delighted to know you swoon over him.”

“He’s so manly and everything,” Josef added.

“Ow!” Paul rubbed his thigh, glaring at her. “I’ve been shot, woman. Have some respect for my still healing wounds.”

Josef rolled his eyes. “There he goes, looking for feminine sympathy, reminding everyone very subtly he’s heroic.”

Skyler gave a little derisive snort. “He’s barking up the wrong tree if he expects sympathy from me. I was there, remember, Paul? Didn’t you get shot in the butt?”

Josef and Skyler burst into a riot of laughter.

Paul glared at them. “I did not get shot in the butt as you well know. Fat lot of good you two are. I’ve got to milk this thing as long as I can. Having you two howling like hyenas isn’t going to serve my cause one little bit.”

“He’s got a point,” Josef said. “We are his best friends. We really should help him out. Zacarias and Rafael are on his butt all the time now.”

“And Colby is actually supervising a ‘healthy’ diet for me.” Paul gave a little groan. “I’m a grown man and you’d think, just because I got shot, I’ve reverted to being a toddler in her eyes. I actually had to sneak out to find you, Skyler. That’s how close a watch they have on me.”

“Poor Paul, to have to put up with all those people loving you and taking care of you,” Skyler teased. “It makes me so sad for you.”

Paul scowled at her. “All right, I give up.” He held up his hands in surrender. “I’m getting no sympathy from this crowd.”

“We could compare scars,” Josef offered. “That might make you feel better. I’ve only got a couple.” He sounded disappointed.

“Naw. Skyler would win that round,” Paul said. “They riddled her with bullets. They only winged me six times.”

Skyler shuddered. “Don’t say ‘riddled.’ You both are a little out there, you know that? Who wants to get shot and compare scars?”

Josef’s eyebrows shot up. “You know, woman, you just don’t get it. Number one reason—chicks. Chicks love guys with heroic scars.”

Paul nodded in agreement. “Totally.”

Skyler shook her head. “The two of you are sad, sad, sad. You shouldn’t need gimmicks to get girls.”

“Are you kidding, Skyler?” Paul said. “We use whatever we can. Look at Dimitri. He suffered death by silver, valiantly staying alive, and did it work for him? In the end, he got the girl.”

Laughter bubbled over. “He already had the girl. He didn’t need to get hung on hooks with silver winding through his body just to impress me. I was already impressed. And that should teach you both something.”

Josef and Paul looked at one another. “That you’re easy?” Josef asked.

Skyler smacked him on the back of his head. “Those bullets are nothing compared to what I’m going to do to you.”

“Simmer down, little sister,” Josef said. “And spill your secret, because you have one and we want to know all about it.”

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