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  • Home > Christine Feehan > Dark Series > Dark Blood (Chapter 4)     
    Dark Blood(Dark #26) by Christine Feehan

    “I remember him,” Zev said. “Our last meeting was during the fight with the rogue pack attacking all the women and children. He fought like a banshee. Without him, I’m not certain I’d have made it through that battle.”

    As Gregori and Gary approached them, Mikhail added, “Gregori’s like an old mother hen fussing over her chick. Now that he has Gary to drive insane, maybe I’ll be lucky and he won’t fuss over me so much.”

    “You’re not ever going to get that lucky,” Gregori shot back, in no way perturbed by Mikhail’s needling. It was clear the two men were old friends.

    Mikhail shrugged, a small grin lighting his piercing, dark eyes. “I thought that might be the case. One can only hope.”

    It was the first time Zev could ever recall seeing the prince, or Gregori, for that matter, relaxed.

    He was aware of everything now as if his mixed blood had heightened every sense, as if both wolf and Carpathian were on the alert. The heat in the chamber. The water. The fact that Gary Jansen and Luiz Silva were both unattached males in very close proximity to Branislava. The breath hissed out of him in a long, slow growl under his breath.

    He tugged on Branislava’s hand, drawing her closer to him. I don’t want to fall on my face in front of the prince. It was a lame explanation, but the only one he could think of for explaining why he needed her close to him.

    “It’s very good finally meeting you, Gary,” Zev said aloud, offering his right hand to shake. Gary was very pale, but he looked incredibly fit for having suffered a mortal wound, essentially death and conversion.

    “I’m glad you made it through,” Gary said. “Gregori kept me up-to-date on everything that was happening.” He bowed low toward Branislava, offering her a smile. “It’s good to see you out and about. You look beautiful.”

    Right there in that sacred cave, surrounded by very perceptive warriors, Zev felt a kind of snarling rage burst through him like a live volcano. He actually saw red. Waves of crimson banded through the room, and in his mouth, he felt teeth lengthen. He fought back the change, refusing to allow the wolf side of him freedom.

    He’d never experienced such an emotion or even one with such intensity. The Carpathian side of his nature seemed to be a little hard to control. He was going to have to get used to it—and so was his wolf. He doubted if the ancient warriors and the prince would be so welcoming to a snarling, raging wolf.

    He glanced at Branislava to see how she took Gary’s compliment. The man was being honest—there was nothing at all in his demeanor to suggest anything else—but still, Zev didn’t think it was proper, when he was holding her hand, to have another man complimenting her. And bowing? Come on. He’d been human, not Carpathian. Showing off was ridiculous.

    It is always acceptable and proper for a man to tell a woman she is beautiful. There was the merest hint of amusement in Branislava’s voice. “Thank you, sir,” she said more formally to Gary. And bowing is very courtly and always welcomed.

    Fen raised an eyebrow at him. Your wolf is showing. Fen didn’t even try to hide his taunting laughter. It was nothing at all like the gentle, kind, soothing hint of amusement Branislava had in her voice.

    Zev sent him a quelling glare. He forced his attention back to Gary, determined to get his attention off of Branislava. “How did you manage to get in with this bunch?”

    “I was their enemy,” Gary admitted. “I saw an actual vampire attack and I joined a society that hunted vampires—except they weren’t really targeting vampires. More often it was people they didn’t like. I helped some people to escape, and Gregori was there to help them, too, although I didn’t know that at the time. We met. That was quite a few years ago. My life was very different. I was skinny and tripped over my own feet when I walked. In my wildest dreams I never thought I could ever really fight a vampire and win, but over the years, I’ve had to learn.”

    “But you still were going to try back in those days,” Gregori pointed out. “You never lacked for courage.”

    “I thought you were supposed to be a genius,” Mikhail said. “Yet you chose to hang around Gregori.” His grin widened. “And all the rest of us.”

    “Well, I can never say my life is dull,” Gary said, with an answering smile that faded quickly. “You gave my life a sense of purpose.”

    Gary wasn’t skinny now. He was fit and strong, with the look of a warrior who had seen many battles—and he probably had. He had been their go-to man during the day when the Carpathians were underground.

    “I’m Darius.” The man who looked much like Gregori introduced himself. “Gregori has told me so much about you. All good, which is rare for him.”

    Zev managed a smile. He scented a woman on Darius, and knew instinctively he had a lifemate. He breathed away the itch that seemed to come and go over his skin. “It’s good to meet you, too.” He’d definitely been awakened too early. His wound throbbed and pulsed with pain. No matter how hard he tried to push it away, the pain pushed back.

    Zacarias De La Cruz, his brother Manolito and the newcomer Luiz joined them. Luiz was built like a Jaguar, compact with ropy muscles and a fluidity when he walked that couldn’t be mistaken. Manolito was like Fen, Dimitri and Zev, a mixed blood.

    Zacarias looked Zev over, bowed to Branislava without saying a word to her.

    See, now that’s courtly. Gary might be able to learn a few things from the man.

    Branislava’s soft laughter moved through his mind, but she didn’t reply.

    Zev, hurry through the introductions, you’re looking like you might drop dead all over again, Fen warned.

    Zev nodded at Luiz, gritting his teeth. He felt like he might drop dead as well, but that was impossible now. Two unattached males were very close to Branislava, and both were looking at her as if they might engage her in conversation at any moment. And just why the hell would that be so wrong? What had gotten into him? Joints and muscles ached. His skin itched. His jaw felt as if it might shatter, and he clenched his teeth trying to breathe away the need to change. His wolf prowled closer than ever to the surface.

    “It’s nice to finally meet you,” Luiz said. “I’ve heard of you, of course.”

    Zev tried to reply, but Luiz’s gaze kept straying to Branislava, and if he shook hands or attempted speech, all they would get was his wolf.

    As if he knew there was a problem, Zacarias glided smoothly between Luiz and Zev. He didn’t posture, but he was definitely a threat. Instead of backing down, the alpha wolf rose with a snarling challenge Zev could barely suppress.

    Why is your wolf so close? Dimitri asked. I can feel that you’re fighting him. He stepped closer to Zev, moving in on his other side protectively.

    I don’t know, but he wants out and he’s looking for a fight.

    Zev. Gregori reached for both Dimitri and Fen as well, as they were now tied to Zev. He knew all three could hear. Your eyes have changed color and you’re giving off a very dangerous scent. Should I remove the prince?

    Zev breathed hard to try to stay in control of the wolf raging to get out. He saw in images of heat, colors banding and shimmering. He pinpointed the hearts of every single person in the room. He heard them, loud and strong, calling to him.

    Gregori, Zev is severely wounded, Fen reminded. He can barely stand.

    He’s dangerous, one of the most lethal men I’ve ever met, and there’s no quit in him. He’ll fight until he’s dead. And he’ll take as many with him as he can.

    Zev wished he could reassure them all, but he wasn’t certain anything more than a growl or snarl would come out of his mouth. He concentrated on trying to breathe, but it seemed as if every breath he drew contained fire so that his lungs burned, adding to the need to change. He kept his head down, knowing if Gregori and Zacarias could see the wolf rising, the other warriors in close proximity could as well.

    Branislava moved closer to him, almost protectively, sliding under his shoulder. That small movement seemed to appease his wolf enough for him to breathe. Unfortunately, that small movement on her part instantly drew the attention of the men around them, including that of Luiz, who couldn’t seem to stop staring at her. A low warning growl escaped before he could stop it.

    Mikhail looked at him and then at Branislava speculatively.

    Get me out of this situation now, Fen. I don’t know what’s wrong, but if that man keeps looking at her that way, I’m not going to be able to stop myself from attacking. Admitting to that weakness when he knew Branislava could hear was one of the most difficult things he’d ever done.

    Fen didn’t hesitate. “Zev needs to rest now. He’s been awakened far too early out of necessity,” he announced. “I hate to cut introductions short, but he needs to leave now.” He indicated Zev’s shirt.

    Zev followed his gaze to the crimson stain spreading wider over the white material. He covered it with his hand. His palm came away coated with blood.

    Mikhail nodded and stepped aside. Fen led the way to the outside of the chamber, with Dimitri close behind Zev and Branislava.

    The moment they were out of sight of the others, Fen halted. “I’m going to take you out of here, Zev. You can’t walk the distance and you can’t shift right now.” He indicated the blood. “That’s genuine. I didn’t put it there. Your wolf came too close to the surface and your body won’t stand up to the change yet.”

    “Are you going to tell me what’s going on? What’s happening to me?” Zev demanded. He’d had enough of intrigue and his own strange behavior.

    Let them get you home, Branislava said. I can attend your wound.

    I need to know what’s going on. He tried not to snarl the demand, but it came out that way despite his best effort.

    I need to heal your wound. She didn’t flinch in the face of the wolf. She used her soft, melodic voice that could bring any man to his knees. Even his wolf seemed to respond, subsiding enough that he could do as she asked.

    He swore under his breath, but he nodded to Fen. Fen didn’t wait to see if he’d change his mind. He caught up Zev and took him through the caves, going through the lower and upper chambers with astonishing speed. The caverns leading down to the sacred chamber were really miles of maze, a true labyrinth, but Zev knew instinctively that he could find his way back in spite of the rapid ascent.

    The velocity wrenched at his body, but he didn’t protest, wanting to get answers as soon as possible. They burst out of an opening between rocks that looked like no more than a mere crack when he looked back. Branislava, with Dimitri right behind her, emerged after them.

    Which direction, Zev? Fen asked.

    Take me to the house in the forest. He needed the familiarity of the trees and open air. He was Lycan and the forest would always be his first choice.

    The terrible need to change, that snarling, raging wolf, had retreated, but the aftertaste was a blow to his pride. He’d nearly lost control in front of everyone—and he was a master of control. Not once in all his long years had he ever come that close. He knew he was a dangerous man. He was Lycan, born to a time when they still hunted prey. He had managed to overcome that hunger. He was able to fight without a pack. He negotiated peace among packs. To lose control was appalling, almost beyond his comprehension.

    The forest felt cool and fresh when they entered it. The scent of ancient trees aided in calming his wolf. He breathed in the air, taking in familiar scents. He was aware of every living thing within a few miles. This was home.

    The house was small, built of stone like so many in the area were. This one was deep in the forest, far from everyone else. Wolves inhabited this territory, and he immediately felt a kinship with them. It didn’t surprise him to catch Dimitri’s scent, very faint, mingling with that of Dimitri’s lifemate, Skyler. They had been running with the wolves at some point earlier in the evening.

    Fen didn’t set him down until they were inside the stone house. He set him on the bed that had already been made up. The scents of Tatijana, Fen’s lifemate, and Skyler were everywhere. Fen had called ahead and they had made the house welcoming for him. Still, it was significant that neither were present.

    Branislava put a hand on his chest indicating for him to lie back. He put his hand over hers, just for a moment, as he eased down onto the bed. Her palm was right over his heart and her touch seemed to go right through him.

    I know something is wrong with me, but I would never hurt you. That much he was certain of. It might be the only thing he knew for certain.

    I never thought you would.

    She pulled her hand out from under his to catch the edges of his shirt and rip it open. He winced when he saw the wound. It was an ugly mess, the hole far bigger than he anticipated. The edges were mending from the inside out, but it had a long way to go.

    Branislava turned her head to glare at Fen and Dimitri. Zev realized she was angry—not at him—but at them. She turned back to him, her touch gentle as she placed both hands over the wound. He felt warmth in her touch, which seemed to grow hotter.

    You need to go to ground, Zev. This wound needs to heal.

    I need to know what’s going on. Gregori said I was a dangerous man, and he spoke the truth. I can’t lose control. I can’t allow my wolf to take control from me in any situation.

    Branislava sighed and sank onto the bed beside him. When she lifted her hands, they were free of his blood and he knew he was no longer bleeding. “We are lifemates,” she announced. She didn’t sound happy about it.

    Zev frowned and slowly sat up. Puzzled, he looked to Fen for an explanation.

    Fen shook his head, holding both hands up. “I don’t know what happened, Zev. When you were so severely wounded, all of us fought for your life. No one wanted to let you go, but you were so far gone and there was very little time . . .” He broke off, shrugging again.