|Home > Christine Feehan > Dark Series > Dark Blood (Chapter 15)|
|Dark Blood(Dark #26) by Christine Feehan|
You wouldn’t dare, Branislava challenged in her most fierce tone.
Of course I would.
Tatijana, you traitor, Branislava hissed. Keep that man of yours under control. I’ve got to do this two more times and he’d better not come here and take pictures and give them to Josef.
How did I get into this? Tatijana asked innocently. I was just making certain you were all right, keeping an eye on you like we do with each other and he was . . .
Sneaking. That’s what he was doing, Branislava accused, trying not to laugh as she made her way through the forest to find the next pair of bodies.
I find the most interesting things in my lifemate’s mind, Fen ventured, unrepentant. This one is worth bucks.
Zev listened to the banter, letting the shared amusement warm him, easing the sting of betrayal just a little bit. He nudged Damon, indicating to him to get out of the tree. This would be the telling moment. If Damon made a break for it, or tried to kill him, he’d been lying the entire time. Zev hoped that wasn’t the case, but he wouldn’t hesitate to kill Damon, even if it meant Daciana would be his enemy for the rest of his life.
Damon rose slowly, lifting his hands toward the sky, indicating he wouldn’t go for a weapon. He knew Zev, knew him for the relentless, implacable hunter that he was. He could be a killing machine when he had to be. He was fast and strong and there was no give in him. Damon wasn’t about to make any mistakes.
He leapt to the ground, keeping his hands in the air, making certain to land away from his weapons. Zev hadn’t so much as moved, but the stake in his hand was in a throwing position and Zev never missed—not anytime Damon had heard of. He landed in a crouch and slowly stood, his arms up, palms showing his hands were empty.
Zev dropped down beside him. “Do you have any other weapons on you?”
Damon even kept his nod slow. “In my boot. Taped to my back.”
“Put your hands down, you look ridiculous,” Zev snapped. He had no idea what he was going to do with Damon. He wasn’t going to take him before the council members to judge for his actions, not until he had a chance to look into Damon’s mind.
“I honestly don’t know what the hell I’m doing here,” Damon said. “I have no idea why it sounded so logical to me. Then, when I’m up in that tree and the wolf poked her head through the brush, everything in me just rebelled at the idea of wounding her.”
“I could cut off your head and read your memories,” Zev offered, half serious.
“You’re pretty pissed with me, aren’t you?” Damon said.
“You have no idea. I need people I can count on. We’ve got a war brewing and assassins running around. Lycans have always been the peacekeepers, the protectors, and this time, it looks as if they’re the ones starting the war. I was counting on you and Daciana to have my back while I’m trying to straighten this out. The last thing I ever expected was to find you here with a gun in your hand about to murder Skyler or Dimitri.”
The Lycan alpha male, pack leader mentality got the best of him and Zev cuffed the back of Damon’s head hard enough to make him stagger forward.
Damon rubbed the back of his head with a wry grin. “I guess I had that coming. Where’s the rest of my team?”
“They’re dead, Damon. What did you expect? You go hunting Carpathians in the forest at night, they’re going to come after you, especially if you’re trying to kill their women. You’re lucky I was the one who found you.” Zev glared at him. “I’m still thinking about killing you on principle alone. Don’t think you’re out of the woods yet.”
Damon turned to face him. “They’re dead? All of them? Lycans don’t get killed that easily.”
“The wolves warned us that someone was hunting. Did you think the Carpathians were going to roll over and just let you kill their women?”
“Stop saying women. I wasn’t going to kill a woman. She was targeted because she . . .” He trailed off, looking confused.
“She saved the man she loved from death by silver. He was tortured. I saw him. The council didn’t pass sentence on him; in fact,” Zev stated, “the order was to keep him safe while they tried to reach an agreement with the Carpathians on the Sange rau.”
Damon scowled. “That’s right. The prisoner . . .”
“Dimitri,” Zev corrected. “He’s a good man, call him by his name.”
“Dimitri is Sange rau. He’s a bad blood, a mixed blood, fully capable of wiping out our entire species.”
“He’s not Sange rau, any more than I am. He’s Hän ku pesäk kaikak, which, in case you’re actually interested, is guardian of all. He protects all of us, Lycan, human and Carpathian alike. He saved Gunnolf and Convel, both of them, and to repay him they went against the council’s orders and convinced everyone that he had been sentenced to death by silver. Had Skyler not come for him, he’d be dead and we’d be at war with the Carpathians. If anything, the Lycans owe that girl a debt of gratitude.”
Zev couldn’t quite keep the note of anger out of his voice. He was furious with Damon. Lycans didn’t behave this way. They had a code of honor they lived by—he had lived by it. So had Damon.
“Tell me again who told you I was dead.”
Damon rubbed his temples. “I don’t know. I was at a meeting. A service. I was worried about Daciana. There had been trouble in the forest at the summer cabins. I couldn’t get ahold of her and I thought I’d try to get some news. You know all that talk they do bores the hell out of me.”
“They?” Zev prompted. Overhead the storm clouds sizzled with whips of lightning. Thunder boomed, shaking the ground. Branka, that’s too close, pull in your power a little bit, he cautioned. She was going to light up the entire forest if she wasn’t careful.
I’ve got this, Branislava said. No worries.
Zev sighed. When a woman said not to worry, that was clearly the best time to be worried.
Damon scowled again, trying to recall who the speaker was. “He’s there at the meetings all the time with Arno and Lupo. They give motivational speeches all the time. He’s in Lupo’s pack. Why can’t I remember his name?”
Lupo Wolfe was one of the oldest council members who had been locked away to protect the existing council should any of the traveling members be lost.
Zev noted that Damon pressed his fingers to his temples again. “What’s wrong?”
“I don’t know. My head feels like it’s splitting in two.”
“Don’t think about this anymore,” Zev suggested, suddenly suspicious. There was a hint of blood, just a small trickle near Damon’s nose. “Let’s go find your sister. She can fill you in on what’s happening. It will be good to have you around while we try to sort things out. We need help protecting the council members from our own kind. We don’t know who the enemy actually is.”
Lightning zigzagged through the trees, a giant whip, lashing through the forest like a cat-o’-nine-tails. He caught Damon and threw him to the ground just as one of the switches snapped over their heads.
Soft laughter rippled through his mind, almost a giggle, a sound Zev had never heard Branislava make. Whoops. Sorry. Lightning whips are difficult to wield, aren’t they?
That sound wrapped around his heart and squeezed tight. Get that under control. Dial it down. You’ve got way too much power and you’re going to hurt yourself.
He didn’t want to admit to her that he’d never actually tried controlling lightning. He’d seen both Fen and Dimitri call down the lightning, but he was Lycan. He didn’t call it down. He could see how it would be useful, but not in the hands of an overly enthusiastic woman.
Damon slammed him down as another sizzling streak of white-hot fire snapped over their heads, coming a little too close for comfort. Every hair on his body stood up.
Zev burst out laughing. Woman! What are you trying to do?
“This is some crazy storm,” Damon said.
“More like a crazy woman,” Zev countered, and pushed himself up. “Get your weapons and let’s get out of here.” If you’re finished playing . . .
She came out of the trees, walking toward him, her long hair swept back in a braid that trailed down her back. The silken mass was fiery red. Her eyes shone like emeralds and she had a huge smile on her face. In her hands she spun fire, the flames streaking through the air in loops around her as she danced.
She looked exotic, stealing his breath with her beauty. The double rings of fire looped around her body and then rose as she wielded the whips, spinning them around her and then back to either side. The whips were golden in color, the flames crossing her body, sweeping under her feet as she leapt gracefully into the air and then rose above her as she came back to earth.
Zev’s breath caught in his throat. Beside him, Damon’s jaw dropped. Branislava’s soft laugh of pure joy was contagious and both of them smiled at her.
The flaming whips changed color, going fiery red and orange as she made intricate patterns in the night, all the while her body moving to some melody only she could hear.
Zev glanced at the rapt expression on Damon’s face and growled low, his gut tightening into knots. “Pick up your jaw and stop staring at her like you’re going to eat her up. She belongs to me.”
“You’re kidding,” Damon answered before he could censor his shock. “Sorry, she’s just so sexy.”
Zev cuffed him again, this time hard enough to send him forward, sprawling on the forest floor. “You don’t need to think she’s sexy.”
“I don’t think it,” Damon glared at him from the ground, unable to tear his eyes from the fire dance. “I know it. No wonder you kept coming back here.”
Zev sighed. He couldn’t very well fault Damon for having eyes, but his wolf was definitely reacting all over again. He had to find some kind of balance. It helped that, as Branislava spun and danced, she looked only at him—danced only for him.
He could see that she felt free and young and happy, something she’d never been able to do. Clearly dancing was going to be a passion of hers. Her skin glowed as if the fire inside her burned passionately. He didn’t want the moment to end for her. She’d had so little happiness or fun in her life, and playing with lightning whips gave her such joy. Damon thought the whips were poi, two chains with the globes for fuel attached to either end.
Branislava danced toward him, whirling around. Come dance with me.
He wanted to—he wanted to be part of her fun. It was important to him that she have all the time she needed to get to know him and that they shared moments just like this one together, but he had the responsibility of Damon.
If he’s really hiding the truth and I just don’t see it because he’s my friend, it could be dangerous.
We have lightning. She spun the whips furiously.
Zev laughed. He wasn’t going to use lightning whips, but he could improvise. “Stay here a minute, Damon. Right there on the ground. And don’t do anything stupid. She’s pretty mean with those fire whips.”
He danced his way to her, picking up her rhythm, his sword spinning in the air. He could hear the music playing in her head, the drumbeats her feet followed. As he neared her, flames leapt from her whips to his sword, igniting the tip and racing up the blade. He spun the sword in front of him as he approached her.
Her laughter added to the music playing through his head as he drew one of his many knives and set it on fire, tossing it in the air as he spun the sword. He enjoyed every movement, the pattern of their feet, the graceful, flowing ballet as they moved around one another, all the while lighting up the night sky with their fire dance.
Never once did he lose sight of Damon. As much as he enjoyed himself, he knew if Damon made one wrong move, that deadly knife, so beautiful flying through the air, would find its way directly into his friend’s heart.
What am I supposed to do with him, Daciana?” Zev asked, jerking his thumb toward Damon. “If I give him to the council . . .”
“You can’t,” Daciana interrupted, kicking her brother in the shins with the toe of her boot as she paced by his chair.
Branislava had hastily prepared their verandah for company. The chairs were comfortable and the lighting muted. Mist blanketed the forest, obscuring the trees, cutting them off from the rest of the world. She was inside, moving around, and he smelled the aroma of coffee. How she could manage making coffee he had no idea, but she was taking her time so he guessed the first couple of tries hadn’t worked out so well.
“You know what they’ll do to him. They’ll think he’s a traitor and part of the conspiracy to kill them.” Daciana looked across the porch to Makoce. “What do you think?”
“Does anyone want to know what I think?” Damon asked.
Daciana bared her teeth at him. “No. Absolutely not. You just sit there quietly. Do you have any idea the trouble you’ve caused? We’re sworn to uphold the law and you’ve broken it a million times over. You’re lucky Zev didn’t kill you right there in that tree when you aimed a weapon at a wolf and then at Skyler.” She kicked him again just for good measure.
“I want to know who gave the order to come here and kill Skyler and Dimitri,” Makoce said. “If we can get that information, maybe we can figure out what’s really going on here.”
Damon leaned toward him. “Most members of the Sacred Circle believe the Sange rau can’t be tolerated. They’re the devil. They destroy entire packs. You know that.”
“How many have actually been in existence since the very first one our people encountered? And do you know who hunted it for several years, fought it and eventually killed it?” Zev asked. “Do the members of the Sacred Circle even have a clue who actually killed the Sange rau responsible for so much death and destruction?”