|Home > Christine Feehan > Dark Series > Dark Blood (Chapter 6)|
|Dark Blood(Dark #26) by Christine Feehan|
He swore he could see sparks flickering in the air around her body as she stood with her back to him. Fen and Dimitri stepped back, and Fen lifted his hand.
That’s our cue to exit. We’ll tell Mikhail of your decision. If you make it out of this one alive, Fen added, we’ll come for you next rising and bring you to the cave of healing.
Dimitri snickered. You have a lot to learn about women, Zev. She’s not the little submissive thing you thought, is she?
He had never thought of Branislava as submissive—exactly. He’d seen that fiery dragon of hers and known she was a fierce warrior. But, okay, maybe he’d been a little arrogant thinking he could make decisions—all the decisions. He was particularly good at making decisions, giving orders and having everyone follow them.
“Fen, before you go, what’s a ‘Dark Blood’? What does that mean?” The moment Zev uttered the question aloud, the room went silent. Still. Even the insects ceased their constant droning. Fen and Dimitri slowly turned back from the doorway to stare at him. Branislava turned and leaned against the wall, her eyes wide.
“Where did you hear that term?” Fen asked, walking back into the middle of the room.
“In the chamber, when the ancients spoke to me. What does it mean?” He frowned at their reaction. “Is something wrong? Mikhail must have heard them.”
Fen shook his head. “Mikhail summons them and he can understand them, but when they speak to the one who mingles blood with them, it is private, only between you and them. How did they come to use the term Dark Blood?”
Zev hesitated answering. He didn’t need any more bad news. War was brewing and he was expected to stop it. His woman was upset with him, and he was facing possible death on the next evening. Worse than all of that was the pain that shook him each time he took a breath.
Branislava moved, drawing his attention. She was wearing modern but very feminine clothes. Everything about her was feminine. Just looking at her helped drain the tension from his body. She was the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen in his life. When she spoke, he heard music in her voice. When she moved, he heard the flow of water, that connection to the earth itself.
I didn’t mean to hurt you, Branka. I’m tired. He was so damned tired he thought about just lying right there on the bed and letting himself escape the persistent pain. But that’s no excuse for not thinking before I spoke.
We will talk about the weave of spirits when we’re alone.
He marveled at her ability to sound so sweet when she was laying down the law. There was a note of absolute steel in her musical voice. The sound of it made him want to smile. He was alpha, he’d been recognized as alpha even as a child. Few in authority ever stood up to him, but here was a little slip of a woman, with porcelain skin and enormous green eyes, giving him the look from under feathery lashes that said she meant business.
“Zev. I need to know,” Fen insisted. “What exactly did they say to you?”
“I thought you said the conversation with the ancients was meant to be private,” Zev countered.
Do you know what Dark Blood means? he asked Branislava. He would much rather she deliver bad news to him than Fen, if it was bad. The ancients had welcomed him, not rejected him. If being a Dark Blood was bad, surely they wouldn’t have called him family.
She gave the slightest shake of her head. I heard Xavier speak of hunting a Dark Blood, but as far as I know, he never found one and I had no idea what it was.
“Damn it, Zev, do you have to be so stubborn?” Fen demanded. “We’re your brothers. We’re mixed blood, the same as you are. We’re under that same death sentence the Lycans dole out whenever they find one of us. Do you really think we’d suddenly go the other way and kill you over something you and the ancients talked about?”
“He’s swearing at me,” Zev pointed out to Dimitri with a little grin. He would have laughed but it would hurt more.
“Yeah, he does that sometimes. He thinks it’s okay now because you’re his little brother,” Dimitri said, with an answering grin. He shrugged his shoulders. “It’s best to ignore him. Swearing makes him believe he’ll intimidate us into doing whatever he wants us to do.”
Zev nodded. “I see. I suppose we have to let him think he’s bossing us around.”
“If we don’t, he sulks,” Dimitri said. “Just answer him so he doesn’t go ballistic on us. I’m heading out in a few minutes to go hunting with Skyler. We’ve got our own wolves.” He turned around and lifted his shirt to show the tattoo of two wolves staring back at Zev. “We’re learning to hunt vampire with them. It’s a lot more fun than listening to big brother give lectures.”
“Nice,” Zev said. “I agree. I’d rather be doing anything than getting a lecture from Fen.”
“Keep it up you two clowns. Those wolves of yours can’t protect you from me, Dimitri, and you’re going to be healed sooner or later, Zev,” Fen threatened.
“It’s going to be sooner,” Zev said. “I’ll let Mikhail take his shot at this and see what he can do. I can’t very well leave diplomacy to you.” He counted his heartbeats. Five of them. “The ancients called me Dark Blood.” He frowned. “It didn’t make sense to me. They said I was of mixed blood now, but I was Dark Blood. I tried to find out what they meant, but they seemed to believe I would know.”
Fen and Dimitri exchanged a long look. “I don’t understand. Dark Blood is a bloodline. Like Dragonseeker. Like Dubrinsky. Names change but the bloodline remains the same. Dark Blood is the oldest lineage we have, and there are no more. Our last lifemated couple was lost to us centuries ago. They had a baby with them, and when the prince heard of their death, he sent out warriors to try to find the baby, a little girl, but they came to the conclusion she was killed by the vampire who slaughtered her parents,” Fen explained.
“What else did they tell you?” Dimitri asked.
“That my grandmother became mixed blood and when her pack found out, they killed her. She had a daughter, a baby, at the time. My grandfather took the baby and disappeared, went to another pack, and that child, my mother, was raised Lycan. I know that she died in childbirth.”
“The only way your grandmother could have been mixed blood would be if she was Carpathian and she mated with a Lycan. There would be no chance of her becoming Sange rau. Women don’t become vampires,” Fen said.
“So his grandmother could have been the child of the last of the Dark Bloods, thought to have been killed when her parents were,” Dimitri said. “I remember that time. It was long ago, and we mourned the loss of that couple. They were—extraordinary.”
“He was a warrior beyond what any of us had known,” Fen added. “Everyone looked up to him. She was just as strong. They were often referred to as ‘strong heart’ or ‘heart of a warrior.’ When we studied battle techniques, it was always their techniques, their strategies.”
“They became legend,” Dimitri said. “No one could figure out how a vampire could have killed them.”
“It must have been during the time the Lycans were being decimated by the Sange rau,” Zev ventured. “It would have to be for the Lycans to murder my grandmother. How else would they have even known about mixed blood?”
“So if a Lycan family found a baby during that time . . .”
“Or anytime,” Zev clarified. “Lycans are good people. If they found a baby all alone, especially if they could see evidence that the parents were killed by the Sange rau they would have raised the child as their own. They could have even believed she was Lycan. She wouldn’t know about lifemates, and if a Lycan claimed her and she fell in love with him . . .” He stopped. “Could that happen?”
Dimitri nodded. “Of course.” He looked to his brother for confirmation. Fen nodded, and Dimitri continued. “It isn’t the same, the all-consuming focus and love we have for our lifemates, but some women have found happiness with a man outside of our society.”
“If Lycans had stumbled across this child, took her in and raised her as Lycan,” Fen said, his voice gathering excitement, “then she wouldn’t have ever known why she was different. She might not even notice the difference. When she wanted to be wolf, she could shift, and she might think that’s what her family did.”
Zev nodded. “It was centuries ago and they didn’t discuss the how or why of things back then. They knew nothing of bloodlines or DNA. How she became a mixed blood is anyone’s guess, but if her parents were so skilled in combat, she probably was, too. She most likely fought and hunted alongside her husband. When wounded, he gave her blood.”
He, too, was beginning to believe in the possibility of solving the mystery. Some of the ancient warriors in the sacred chamber had been of the Dark Blood lineage and had recognized him. They knew the history of his grandmother, and that meant that somehow she’d made her way back to them.
“She gave birth to a daughter,” Fen said. “And that daughter was your mother.”
“Were there any other children? Did you have uncles? Aunts?” Dimitri asked, hope in his voice.
“My father never mentioned any other, but he was a secretive man. I doubt that he knew anything of my mother’s family. I asked him and he just shrugged and said my mother didn’t talk about them—ever.” Zev shrugged. “I honestly thought maybe her family had gone rogue and my father and mother had been too ashamed to talk about them.”
“If you really are a Dark Blood,” Fen said, “Mikhail needs to know.”
“It would explain why Branislava is his lifemate,” Dimitri added. “His blood called to hers. Her soul is the other half of his.”
At least, in the Carpathian world, he might be able to offer her something besides the detested mixed blood his people viewed him as.
I do not need you to be anything other than who you are. I see the heart of you. I see your character. It matters little to me what bloodline, if any, you are from. You do have the heart of a warrior and a great capacity for kindness. You are both fierce and compassionate. Both good qualities. There is no deception in you and I admire that tremendously.
His heart leapt at the compliment. No one had ever said anything like that to him, let alone the most beautiful woman in the world. She could make the blood sing in his veins with just a smile, let alone such a tribute. She definitely was the kind of woman that could bring him to his knees much easier than he would have wished.
Her soft laughter brushed against his mind. His stomach did a slow somersault. He loved the sound of her laughter.
I’m beginning to grow too fond of many of your traits, Branka. It would be difficult to go back to the emptiness of my life without your laughter and the sound of your voice.
It doesn’t take much to make you happy.
He recognized teasing when he heard it. There was a secret brightness in her that pulled at him like a magnet. For an alpha like him, the idea that she didn’t show herself to others was even more of a draw for him. Everything about her was feminine, yet he knew deep inside that she was a woman who would walk beside him, fight beside him and go through every hardship laughing with him, if he won her love.
I am your lifemate.
That doesn’t mean you have to love me. I want your love, Branislava. Being my lifemate is wonderful, but that tie represents something else to you, and when we’re together I don’t want it to be out of duty.
There was a small silence. She walked back to the bed and sank down beside him. Or floated. He wasn’t certain which because there was no hint of movement even on the mattress. She slipped her hand into his.
Don’t ask Mikhail to have the ancients release you from our spirit weave.
If I die . . .
I won’t let that happen. We’re tied together.
“Branislava.” He said her name aloud.
For me, Zev. I’m asking this for me.
Branka, if things go wrong, I would take you with me to a place I have no knowledge of. I wouldn’t know if I could protect you or not.
It was Branislava who brought his hand up to her cheek. She brushed her satin skin over his rough palm.
If things go wrong, I know I can pull you back. You’re too strong to let anything take you as long as I’m tied to you. I absolutely know that about you. That’s what the ancients meant when they called you “strong heart” and “heart of a warrior.” You have a protective instinct in you I’ve never seen before. You won’t stop. It’s so strong, Zev, that you wouldn’t die when most strong Carpathians would have succumbed. I know. I was there.
“This is amazing if it’s true that you’re a Dark Blood,” Dimitri said. “Skyler can’t wait to see you, Zev.”
“Is she over our feud?” Zev asked.
Dimitri grinned at him. “One never knows with that woman. She’s got wolves now and she’s not afraid to use them.”
Zev cupped Branislava’s cheek with his palm and brushed the pad of his thumb along her jaw in a little caress. Her skin was softer than anything he’d ever experienced. “Skyler believes in retaliation if you are so foolish as to cross her sense of justice,” he told her.
“I doubt that she holds a grudge,” Branislava said. “She fought harder than any other to save you. Even when bullets flew, she didn’t even duck. She was amazing.” She flashed a small smile. “But then, she is Dragonseeker.”
Fen laughed. “What she’s saying is the Dragonseeker women are known for their retaliation if you get out of line with them. You might do well to remember that, Zev, old buddy.”