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  • Home > Christine Feehan > Dark Series > Dark Blood (Chapter 5)     
    Dark Blood(Dark #26) by Christine Feehan
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    “I wove my spirit to yours,” Branislava confessed. “It was the only thing I could think to do to keep you from dying. You wouldn’t go if you would take me with you.”

    “You said either one of us could undo that weave,” Zev remembered.

    She nodded slowly. “That’s true. But it will not release us altogether.” She looked down at her hands. “I knew when I first saw you.”

    “That’s impossible,” Fen said. “He’s Lycan first. How can a Lycan be lifemate to a Carpathian? A Dragonseeker?”

    “I don’t know the how of it, just that it is so,” Branislava replied.

    “Okay,” Zev said softly, realizing she was distressed. He was beginning to be able to read her. “Now what happens?” Now, some of what the ancients had said to him about how everything was about blood was beginning to make sense. They called him “Dark Blood,” not mixed blood. He was both.

    Her heart was pounding too fast at the admission that she was his lifemate. He reached out and took her hand. “You have no reason to fear me. Whatever this thing is between us, you tell me what you want to do. I would never force you into anything.”

    Fen ran both hands through his hair, and Dimitri turned away to stare out the window into the night.

    Zev’s frown deepened. “You’re not telling me something I clearly need to know,” Zev said. “Just say it.”

    “Until you claim her, until she is fully yours, you’ll struggle with control. Your wolf is going to rise anytime a man is close to her. You think you’re dangerous now, but wait until a little time has gone by and she’s just out of your reach. Madness can set in. You’re mixed blood, which means both your wolf and your Carpathian will drive you to keep her safe,” Fen explained.

    “Dimitri didn’t claim Skyler for years,” Branislava pointed out. “Tatijana told me all about it.”

    “It was a different situation,” Fen said. He pinned Branislava with a stern gaze. “Much different, and you’re well aware of that.”

    It was all Zev could do not to leap from where he was and attack Fen, just for the tone he used and the look he gave Branislava. He let his breath out slowly, forcing his years of discipline to come to his aid.

    “Don’t do that to her,” he said, keeping his voice low. “None of this is her fault. How could any of us know what would happen?”

    “We need you right now,” Fen said. “You have to be 100 percent. Two more council members arrived this evening, and there are more Lycans in our village than we have Carpathians. Trying to kill every male in close proximity to Branislava doesn’t make for good diplomacy.”

    Branislava flinched as if Fen had struck her. Every protective instinct of both species rose in Zev like an exploding rocket. His fingers bunched in the thick quilt on the bed, hiding the curved claws trying to burst from the ends.

    “Fen, I think it best if you leave us for now.” Zev managed to get the words out without growling. “We need to work things out between the two of us.”

    Fen sighed. “I apologize, Branislava. Zev is right, none of this is your fault. How could any of us know this was going to happen?”

    “I knew,” Branislava admitted in a low tone. “When I saw him there at the dance. When he took me into his arms. I knew then, just like I know we should complete the binding ritual.”

    Zev shook his head. “We’ll talk it out and figure it out together. Fen is right, I am extremely lethal. I refuse to lie to you about that, but no one, least of all me, is going to tie you to a man you don’t want.”

    “That’s your Lycan talking,” Dimitri said, “not your Carpathian.”

    Branislava attempted a small smile. “I already tied us together, remember? Our spirits remain woven together. Where you go, I go.”

    “But we can undo that,” Zev reminded her. “You told me so yourself. You’re not trapped, because that’s how you’re feeling, isn’t it?”

    Fen and Dimitri made a move as if to go but Branislava held up her hand. “I need to know why you insisted on waking him early. It’s important to any decisions we make here.”

    “Zev is the one person the Lycan council still trusts. We have no idea who is friend or enemy. He knows Lycan politics and he’s aware of personalities and every intrigue these people may try. The alliance is no longer as important as figuring out who our enemy truly is. Zev is the person who can do that.”

    “The council members are friends,” Zev said. “I’ve spent my life protecting them and enforcing their laws. I can’t just switch sides.” He ran his hand through his hair. It was thick and long, untamed and hanging around his face, instead of being pulled back as he normally wore it.

    “You would still be protecting them. You know assassins are trying to kill them. They’re at risk just as the prince is. Hopefully you’ll figure this out and keep them all alive,” Fen pointed out.

    Dimitri nodded his head. “You are truly our brother. Our blood runs in your veins. We all three are tied together in a blood bond. We would never have risked your healing unless the situation was dire.”

    Branislava’s hand crept toward his, slowing smoothing the pads of her fingers over his knuckles where his fists were still bunched in the quilt.

    Zev felt more of the tension drain away. At least he knew why he was all over the place. Finding how to control it might be difficult, but now that he knew the reason his wolf was bordering on being out of control, he was certain he had the discipline to overcome his knee-jerk reaction to other males near Branislava.

    “I’ll be honest with you both, I’m not certain I’m up for the challenge yet. I can barely stand, let alone protect the council members.” He detested the admission, but he had to be straight with them. He could end up being a liability if they counted on him. “I could get you all killed if I can’t hold my own in a fight. You can’t be worried about whether or not I can protect myself.”

    Fen nodded. “We’re aware of that. Mikhail said you’d say that. He wants you to consider allowing him, with Gregori, to heal you.”

    Branislava gasped. She whipped her head around to look at Fen. “That isn’t done. You know that. Even I know that.”

    “Of course it’s done,” Fen said. “The prince is the most powerful man we have.”

    “Which is why it isn’t done. Let us try again. Skyler is a powerful healer. We’re Dragonseekers, Gregori on his own can aid us.”

    “You’ve all tried, Gregori included,” Fen argued. “He’s Lycan, they regenerate very fast. He’s mixed blood and they regenerate even faster. He isn’t healing, and you know it.”

    “The wound was too severe,” Branislava admitted, her voice pleading.

    Zev turned his hand over and took hers, placing her palm over his heart. “Don’t be upset. I’ll heal. I always do.”

    She shook her head and looked down at her lap.

    Fen sighed again. “Actually, Zev, you’re supposed to be dead. No one could have healed that wound. By weaving your spirits together, she cheated death, so to speak. She knew you wouldn’t go into the other world and force her to go with you.”

    Zev shrugged. “I don’t give a damn how it was done. As far as I’m concerned she was more than courageous, betting on me when all of you believed I would die—that I was supposed to die. I’m here. I’m alive.”

    He caught Branislava’s chin in his hand and tipped her head up, forcing her to look into his eyes. “We’ll do this together. We’ll find out who is behind all this and then, I promise, we’ll sort things out between us.”

    “You might have to do the sorting out between you before you find out who’s behind this mess,” Dimitri muttered under his breath.

    Zev shot him a quelling glance. “Don’t listen to him. What’s between us is just that—between us and no one else. Understand?”

    Branislava nodded, giving him another small smile that sent his heart into overdrive.

    “Tell me about this healing process with the prince and why he so rarely does it.” Zev tore his gaze from Branislava and looked directly at Fen, refusing to allow him to sidestep the question.

    “One or the other can heal like anyone else. Gregori is known to be one of our greatest,” Dimitri said, when his brother remained silent. “The combination of Mikhail and Gregori is more like a nuclear bomb going off. If they aren’t precise, if they miss one small calculation, take the heat too high or . . .”

    “I get it,” Zev said. He sighed and tapped out a rhythm with Branislava’s palm over his heart while he considered his various options.

    It isn’t done because it’s considered too dangerous.

    The hole in his gut hurt, a constant throbbing reminder of the huge wooden stake blown into him by a bomb as it tore apart a table. He really preferred not to remember how that enormous splinter nearly as big as his fist ripped through his body.

    How much longer before I heal naturally in the earth?

    There was a small silence. He turned his head to look at her, bringing the tips of her fingers to his mouth. He used the edge of his teeth to scrape along the pads of her fingers, waiting for her reply.

    Wolves are very oral, aren’t they?

    It was the last thing he expected her to say. Laughter welled out of nowhere. He didn’t laugh as a rule, and it hurt like hell to do it, but he couldn’t help himself.

    Yes, I suppose we are.

    Amusement set her green eyes sparkling like emeralds. I like that you have a sense of humor.

    “I’ve found, being around Fen and Dimitri, that I need a really good sense of humor,” he replied aloud, raising his eyebrows at the two men claiming kinship with him.

    “You’re a riot a minute,” Fen said. He crossed his arms over his chest and leaned one hip against the wall. “You tell me what you want to do in this situation. If you want to take the time to heal naturally in the earth you will heal—eventually. You’re Carpathian and you’re strong. It could take months, even a year, but you will heal.”

    Months? A year? Branislava had been in the ground with him. She knew whether or not that wound was healing fast or slow.

    In my opinion you’re healing very rapidly for such a mortal wound, but Fen’s right, it could take several months, probably longer. You shouldn’t have survived.

    Zev sighed. “Did Mikhail ask you to waken me? Or was it your idea?”

    Fen looked uncomfortable, but he didn’t answer.

    “Fen argued for days not to bring you out of the earth,” Dimitri said. “Mikhail and Gregori insisted it was imperative. Both believe that without your knowledge of the Lycans and the council, we don’t have a chance avoiding an all-out war, let alone securing an actual alliance.”

    Zev bit down gently on Branislava’s fingertips as he considered the various possibilities. This woman sat in silence beside him, contemplating changing her entire life to become the lifemate of a virtual stranger in order to keep him from killing every single male who came near her. Duty. He sighed. He’d spent more than one lifetime doing his duty to his people. When did it end? He was damned exhausted.

    You are not entirely a stranger.

    There was that small note of humor in her voice. He realized she rarely spoke aloud, preferring to talk only to him. He’d noticed, the single time they’d danced together, that other Carpathians had flocked around her, but they had done most of the talking. She was very quiet, almost subdued, but her nature wasn’t at all passive.

    Beneath that cool, quiet surface was a fiery, passionate woman, as fierce as any warrior he’d fought with. He knew, because he’d seen her dragon. Bright, crimson-red scales tipped in gold, she’d been a sight in the sky. He was in her mind and saw that will of iron, honed in the ice caves where her father had kept her prisoner.

    His heart thudded hard when he made that connection. Of course she would think being forced to become his lifemate would be a form of imprisonment. How could she not? She craved freedom, and yet, the moment she surfaced, almost the very day, she had met him and she had known they were lifemates.

    “Tell Mikhail and Gregori, I’ll do it,” he said, making his decision.

    Beside him she stiffened, but she said nothing.

    You know there is no other choice for me. If there’s a chance I can prevent bloodshed, I have to try.

    Fen straightened, shaking his head. Clearly he wasn’t any happier than Branislava, but he’d done his duty, just like she would do, just as he chose to do.

    Zev shrugged his shoulders. “We’re warriors, Fen. It’s what we do. Who we are.”

    Fen nodded. “They’re taking a hell of a chance with your life, Zev.”

    “For Mikhail to consider doing such a thing, knowing Branislava tied herself to me, he has to have good reasons. He’s our prince, I accepted that when I chose brotherhood. I’m sworn to protect the council and have a need to help those who are my people as well.”

    He wanted to lie in the cool earth and not think anymore. He’d made his decision. “I’ll ask Mikhail to get the ancients to release our spirit weave,” he added to Branislava. “Just in case something goes wrong.”

    3

    Branislava abruptly pulled her hand from Zev’s and got up, moving away from him and across the room to stare out the window. She radiated hurt. Her long, thick hair was banded with fiery red over the red-gold strands. He caught a glimpse of those green eyes, now changing color, deepening to an intense blue green like the deepest sea. Stormy. Turbulent.

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