|Home > Christine Feehan > Dark Series > Dark Blood (Chapter 14)|
|Dark Blood(Dark #26) by Christine Feehan|
The canopy above the wolves swayed gently as a breeze blew across the leaves. It didn’t quite penetrate to the forest floor below. An owl settled in the branches above, mostly hidden by leaves as its wings settled closely to its body. He peered down at the spectacle below. Another five wolves joined the circle forming around the two females.
Damon sighed and lifted his head, shaking it. Clearly he didn’t want to shoot any of the wolves. A shot rang out, and the young, silvery female shrieked and leapt into the air. The wolves melted into the foliage around them. Damon cursed and slid his rifle once more into place. He used the scope to look around, trying to find a target other than the wolves.
The female tried to drag herself to cover, yelping in pain each time she attempted to rise. Damon cursed louder. “Damn you, Vasya, you didn’t have to do that,” he said aloud.
Zev held his breath as the brush closest to the wounded female moved just a slight inch, but there was no breeze, nothing to make the leaves flutter. The wolves had retreated, well versed in what the sound of a gun meant. He knew, by the way Damon hunched his shoulders and then settled into his weapon, that the Lycan had seen that telling movement as well.
A feminine hand inched its way out of the brush, the arm following, as Skyler tried to reach the wolf to drag her to safety.
“Vasya, don’t do it,” Damon whispered aloud, making it a prayer. “It’s a woman. Don’t pull the trigger.”
Zev eased down behind Damon, positioning his body directly behind him, ready to stop him should there be need. He couldn’t do anything about Vasya. He glanced up at the owl. It was gone. The takeoff and subsequent flight had been silent. Feathers on the owl provided that silent flight, but Zev was certain Dimitri was close.
He knew he was correct when a man’s high-pitched scream startled the insects into silence. Simultaneously the rifle went off, the sound every bit as loud. Damon swore and used his scope once more to try to see what happened to Vasya.
Zev had his gaze trained on Skyler. The second bullet hit the young wolf, and Dimitri’s lifemate dragged the bloody animal into the brush. He caught a glimpse of Branislava, crouched close. Another wolf, a huge male, leapt from a distance away, as if he’d come from a tree branch rather than on the ground. He raced across the open forest floor, cutting unexpectedly from one side to the next in a zigzag pattern.
Zev recognized Dimitri’s big alpha, Shadow. Whether he was protecting Skyler or the fallen female, he was uncertain, but it didn’t matter. Damon didn’t shoot him. Zev stuck the tip of a silver dagger hard into Damon’s back. All he had to do was use his mixed blood strength to penetrate through muscle and bone to reach the heart.
“Shove the gun out of the tree,” he advised. “You know me. You know I’ll kill you in a heartbeat. Don’t be stupid enough to make any mistakes.”
Damon stiffened, recognizing his voice. He let the weapon fall to the ground below. “I thought you were dead.”
Zev’s heart plunged. Had Daciana told her brother? Was she somehow connected to this betrayal? She was family to him. “Now why would you think that?” He kept his voice even, not wanting to sound in the least as if with that one question, Damon had unknowingly called his sister’s loyalty in question.
Damon shrugged. “The news came down the pipe that the Carpathians had pulled some trick and tried to off the council. You died protecting one of them and the Lycans fought them, trying to get the other council members out of their territory.”
“Link your fingers behind your head and just stay exactly the way you are. I mean it, Damon. Did Daciana tell you all that?” He reached out and casually cut through the belt looping around Damon’s hip, dropping the cache of weapons to the branch. With a flick of the tip of his knife, he sent the entire belt to the forest floor.
A low growl escaped Damon. “My sister? I was told they killed her.”
“Did you try to call her?”
“Over and over. I got no response. I tried her partner, Makoce, but he didn’t answer, either. No one did.”
“She’s alive and well, Damon. She’s guarding the council members as we speak. A faction of Lycans, not Carpathians, attacked the Carpathian village simultaneously with an attempt on the lives of the prince and our council members.” Zev reached around him to flip up his sleeve, revealing the tattoo of the Sacred Circle. “All of those who tried to assassinate the council have that same tattoo.”
“That’s bullshit, Zev. We believe in morals and ethics, not killing our own kind or murdering other species.”
“Yet here you sit, lying in wait to murder a young woman who has done absolutely nothing to you. You were waiting to wound a wolf just to use the animal as bait, knowing she had enough compassion to come to try to save it.”
The accusation was harsh, but he felt harsh. He felt like shaking Damon until his teeth rattled and then taking him out behind the proverbial barn to beat some sense into him. What was wrong with his people? Lycans were good people, not fanatics who killed without thought.
“I wasn’t going to shoot a wolf,” Damon mumbled.
“But someone gave you the orders to shoot them,” Zev insisted. “That was part of your mission. Draw out the woman by using one of our wild brethren.”
Damon sighed. “It didn’t make any sense, but someone has to pay for killing Daciana.”
“I told you, you idiot, she isn’t dead. And really, Damon, killing Skyler wouldn’t bring her back if she was. What possessed you to join with these people? You have a brain, why weren’t you using it?”
Damon didn’t answer.
Zev was fed up with the entire thing. “If you had lifted that rifle at either the wolf or Skyler, I would have staked you on the spot, and you would have deserved it.”
Damon sank back on his heels. “I don’t know why I joined them.” He sounded confused. “You’re right. This goes against everything I believe in. It isn’t like me not to check facts. This goes against the code of the Sacred Circle as well. We don’t condone violence. Self-defense, yes, but not murder. Not luring a girl out into the open and shooting her.” He dropped his arms and turned toward Zev. “What the hell is going on with me?”
“What part of ‘stay exactly the way you are’ didn’t you understand?” Zev asked quietly.
Damon placed his hands, palm down, on his thighs. “I’m not a threat. I want to see Daciana. Maybe she can figure out what’s really going on.”
His voice rang with truth. Zev didn’t know what to believe. He never would have thought that Damon would join in a murder.
He’s telling you the truth, Branislava said. I hear it in his voice.
I hear it, too, but that doesn’t mean a damn thing, mon chaton féroce.
Branislava heard the hurt in his voice. This man had been his friend—a close friend. Zev felt betrayed by him. Not just him, but his entire species. He’d spent his life doing his duty, protecting his kind and first they had turned on him and then shamed him with their actions, and now there was betrayal.
Zev lived by a strict code of honor. He expected little in return for his service, but he did demand loyalty. The pack was always about loyalty and this man somehow was equated, in Zev’s mind, with his pack.
Bring him before the council, let them decide what to do with him, she suggested. If one of them is behind this, wouldn’t they stick up for him?
Not necessarily. He was very reluctant to present Damon to the council for judgment, not after what happened to Dimitri. The council members had sworn Dimitri was safe and well cared for, but in reality he’d been sentenced to the worst fate—the cruelest of all deaths any Lycan or enemy could suffer. Granted, Dimitri was mixed blood, considered the dreaded Sange rau, an abomination that had been outlawed centuries earlier. Even so, Zev trusted few people and, at the moment, even fewer Lycans.
Branislava sighed. Dimitri strode toward them, looking tall and authoritative. She exchanged a long, guilty glance with Skyler. They had saved the young female wolf, but at a great price. She would forever be a part of Skyler and Dimitri’s pack.
“Shadow insisted,” Skyler said, both hands buried in the fur of the female. “He says she’s his chosen mate.”
“And you didn’t help that along?” Dimitri demanded, looking from one to the other.
“Is there a way to influence an alpha wolf?” Branislava asked.
“If there is, the two of you would figure out how,” Dimitri said. He dropped into a crouch beside the female’s body, running his hands over her. “She’s changing inside.”
“She’s been convulsing,” Skyler said. “I tried to help her, block the pain. She’s silent and stoic, panting her way through.”
Dimitri’s hands were very gentle as he stroked them over the female wolf. “Our little misty girl is beautiful, I’ll give you that much.”
“That’s a good name for her,” Skyler said.
Shadow crowded closer, touching his nose to the female. Misty’s gaze clung to his and then included Skyler and Dimitri as if she knew they were part of Shadow’s pack.
“The Lycan bodies have to be incinerated. All five of them, or six if Zev disposes of the last one,” Dimitri said. “Do you think the two of you can do that?”
“Skyler can stay here with you,” Branislava said. “I know where each is located and I can get the job done. She should be with Misty.”
“The silver weapons have to be collected,” Dimitri cautioned. “And after the bodies are incinerated, it’s best to bury the ashes deep so no one will find them.”
Branislava nodded. “I understand. I’ll do it. Zev knows the last Lycan and he’s very upset. I don’t know what he plans to do with him.”
“If you need help, Bronnie,” Skyler volunteered, “Dimitri can handle this.”
“I don’t. I’ve practiced calling down the lightning and I’ve gotten fairly good at it.” She could use more practice if truth be told. She was determined to be an asset to Zev when he hunted rogue packs and vampires. She couldn’t imagine that he would do anything else.
Fen and Dimitri had imparted the stories of the Dark Bloods to both Skyler and Tatijana. They were extraordinary warriors, both the males and females of that line. It seemed that every lifemate was as well, as if that fierce soul called to the soul of another fierce warrior.
She was Dragonseeker and proud of her lineage. Claimed by a Dark Blood, she refused to be less than all the women who had come before her. She would be at Zev’s side for every battle and she would learn to do the things necessary to be safe, and to ensure that he was as well.
Mon chaton féroce, there is no other woman like you and no other that will ever do for me. That is not simply your Carpathian lifemate talking to you. That is Zev Hunter, mixed blood, Tirunul and Dark Blood. Lycan and Carpathian. I fell for you long before I knew what a lifemate was.
She couldn’t help the little spurt of joy rushing through her veins. She wanted Zev to fall in love with her for who she was, not because he had no choice. She wanted to fall in love with him for himself. She couldn’t go through her life without choices. She wanted to be the one to choose her own path. If she made mistakes they would be her mistakes.
Zev complicated things for her, but she couldn’t find it in her heart to resent him. How could she not be proud of him? How could she not look at him and be attracted to him? She might not want to be, but each time his gaze rested on her, her heart fluttered wildly. Her breath caught in her lungs and the scorching heat in her body raged. She was a fire dragon, and heat and fire were her world, but when her veins filled with molten lava and pooled low and heavy, coiling tight, the flames threatened to engulf her. She was tempted to find out just what that fire was all about.
She floated the first body she came to over to the next closest one. This was one of her scariest moments. She didn’t want to set the entire forest on fire. The few times she’d practiced calling lightning, she’d been in a clearing. Twice, she’d had to call down rain to stop the grass and flowers from burning.
Taking a breath, she turned her attention to the sky. Clouds shot up like a tower, climbing fast, roiling and churning as if angry. Lightning forked throughout the whirling clouds, lighting them up in various places as the bolts sought a target. She let out her breath and focused, straining for control. Lightning, raw and crackling with power, whipped through the sky. She fought the white-hot energy, corralling it and bringing it down to strike the two bodies dead center.
It was a huge accomplishment. She wanted to leap up and down with joy. The moment she forgot what she was doing, that whip snaked back up to the sky, lashing everything in its path. Several trees burst into flames.
She hissed an unladylike curse under her breath, one she’d heard Zev use, and lifted both hands to the sky to fill the towering cloud with water. She concentrated on dumping it directly over the trees crackling with flames. At once the fire copied her hiss of annoyance, flickering defiantly for just a moment and then giving up.
She fanned the flames incinerating the two snipers, bringing up the temperature until they burned clean. The ashes cooled quickly, leaving only the silver stakes behind. After retrieving the silver, she opened the earth beneath the Lycans and allowed the ashes to drop deep.
Nice, Branka, Zev praised her.
Fen, obviously monitoring the conversation, wasn’t quite so kind. I’m coming back with a camera to take a picture of the trees with all those scorched branches, though. Josef has an Internet page where he likes to put up botched spells and really bad mistakes. I hear he puts them up for a vote and whoever’s entry wins gets money.