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  • Home > Christine Feehan > Dark Series > Dark Blood (Chapter 16)     
    Dark Blood(Dark #26) by Christine Feehan

    In the far corner of the verandah, Fen stirred uncomfortably. He’d stayed quiet. Now he wished Tatijana was with him instead of inside with her sister. Every now and then he felt her laughter brushing through the walls of his mind and knew the two Dragonseeker women were getting advice from Skyler on how to make coffee.

    Dimitri and Skyler hadn’t arrived yet, but each time he touched Tatijana’s mind, she and Branislava were chattering with Skyler. The couple was on the way to join them, having put the newly converted female wolf in the ground to heal. She was safe beneath their home, resting in the bed they shared when sleeping the rejuvenating sleep of the Carpathians.

    “I heard a Lycan by the name of Vakasin and his partner, Fenris Dalka, killed him,” Damon said. “It’s written in the sacred book.”

    “Did the sacred book also include the information that when Vakasin returned to his pack, they turned on him and murdered him?” Zev asked.

    “That’s impossible,” Damon denied. “They wouldn’t do that.”

    “Oh but they did,” Zev said. “Vakasin spent a couple of years tracking the Sange rau, fighting with him and sustaining terrible wounds. He needed blood and his partner, Fenris Dalka, provided that blood. When Fen was wounded just as badly, Vakasin gave him the blood needed to sustain his life.”

    “That’s a common practice in a partnership,” Damon said, clearly puzzled. “But it doesn’t explain why Vakasin’s own pack would turn on him after he spent a good portion of his life tracking down the infamous and nearly invincible Sange rau.”

    “Not unless Vakasin was Lycan and Fenris was Carpathian,” Zev said in a low, carrying tone.

    “Fenris Dalka is Lycan. His name is Lycan. He’s been around the packs for years. I’ve heard of him, although I’ve never met him,” Damon said.

    “I came across the torn and dying bodies of men, women and children,” Fen said from the shadows of his corner. “At the time, I was Fen Tirunul, not Dalka. It was a sickening sight. I thought I hunted the vampire. I was certain he was vampire, but he killed too many, left behind such devastation. Each time I caught up with him, he nearly killed me, and I was experienced with much skill. He was fast and enormously strong.”

    Damon whirled around, peering into the corner, trying to make out the man speaking.

    “I came across Vakasin’s tracks many times and saw where he fought and was wounded over and over. He was tracking the undead as I was, only it was no mere vampire. We joined forces, hoping to have a better chance of killing it.”

    “You? You’re Fenris Dalka?” Damon demanded. “The Fenris Dalka?”

    “The vampire we were hunting had used Lycans for his blood so much that eventually he became what you refer to as Sange rau, or bad blood. It is bad blood, not because a Lycan mixed blood with a Carpathian, but because he mixed blood with a vampire. Vampires are wholly evil. There is a big difference between the undead and a Carpathian.”

    Damon opened his mouth to reply, but Branislava and Tatijana returned with cups of coffee for Damon, Daciana and Makoce. Damon’s gaze immediately jumped to Branislava’s face as she handed him the hot mug.

    “I have no idea if it’s any good,” she admitted. “It’s the first cup of coffee I’ve ever actually made.”

    Tatijana handed a cup to Daciana. “Not the first, this is about the fifteenth, but we think this could actually be drinkable. We want the truth because we have to be able to make this for our guests.”

    “I’m sure it will be fine,” Damon said, staring into Branislava’s emerald eyes.

    As usual, Branislava wore a long dress, looking very feminine, the material clinging to her breasts and emphasizing her waist and flared hips. A ribbon was woven into her long braid, and she moved gracefully to Zev’s side, perching on the arm of his chair, drawing her legs up under her.

    Zev immediately wrapped his arm around her waist and pulled her closer to him. His wolf was close to the surface, much closer than he would have liked. Damon was just too attentive to her, his interest far too evident. His wolf prowled and snarled and raked, demanding the freedom to rid the world of a rival.

    Branislava leaned into him, her lips brushing his ear. Hello, my little Wolfie. I’ve missed you. She breathed the words into his ear, yet no sound emerged. He heard her only in his mind.

    Warm air sent fingers of arousal dancing through his body. The tension in his wolf eased instantly to be replaced by amusement—and satisfaction. His wolf no longer wanted anything to do with Damon, but Branislava was in danger of him eating her up.

    Daciana and Mokoce drank their coffee gratefully. Damon took a sip of his and nearly choked. He turned away from Branislava, desperate to keep from spitting the brew out on the verandah.

    Branislava’s soft laughter sounded intimate in Zev’s mind. He really shouldn’t have come here to hurt the wolves, kill Dimitri and Skyler and upset you.

    Evil woman. His laughter joined hers. I should have expected that you would exact some sort of revenge. His laughter faded and he whipped his head around to look into her eyes. You didn’t poison him, did you?

    The temptation was there, not to kill him, just make him a little sick, but I resisted. Branislava sounded just a little regretful. She even glanced at Damon speculatively under the sweep of her long lashes, as if at any moment she might change her mind and lace his drink with one of the millions of spells she knew.

    Zev wanted to be alone with her. He needed to be. How was he going to talk to her, let her get to know him? Give her the chance to fall in love with him? He was falling hard for her. It seemed that every time they had a moment alone, something happened to steal it away from them.

    You’re getting to know me, Branislava said. Her arm tightened around his neck and she brushed her lips against his ear, sending that warm air rushing like liquid lava through his bloodstream. You know more about me than anyone else other than Tatijana. I’m beginning to know you as well, especially your wolf. I rather like him. He thinks like me.

    He never ever wants you to refer to him as Wolfie out loud. In Fen’s presence especially. Or Dimitri’s. Or Tatijana’s and Skyler’s, because I will never hear the end of it.

    He had no idea why he didn’t just object strenuously to her use of that name, but somehow when she whispered Wolfie so intimately into his mind in her soft, sexy voice . . . He sighed. He might already have tumbled right into loving her.

    “Did you understand what Fen just told you, Damon?” Daciana demanded, pinning her brother with angry eyes. They were nearly golden, a clear sign that she was furious with him. “Carpathians can turn vampire just as we can turn rogue. There’s a difference just as with us.”

    Damon carefully set the cup of coffee on the wide railing and leaned one hip against the stone. “I’m aware there is a difference between a Carpathian and a vampire.”

    “So use your head,” Zev snapped. “When the sacred code was written, the Sange rau had slaughtered our people, completely decimated our ranks. It made sense to keep the women at home and out of harm’s way. No one knew much about the demon who preyed on our people, and it was nearly impossible to kill, so they created the sacred code and it made sense to them.”

    Damon rubbed at his temples again, a frown creeping across his face.

    Branka, look at him. Every time I mention anything to do with why he’s here or the Sacred Circle or code, he gets a violent headache. I saw a small trickle of blood come from his nose earlier when he was trying to tell me who sent him here. He couldn’t remember and became very confused.

    Branislava sat up a little straighter, her attention centering on Damon. The wolf in Zev didn’t like it, but he understood and it was far easier for Zev to control that dangerous streak of jealousy knowing why she was so focused on the Lycan.

    “Damon?” Daciana prompted. “If you understand the difference between a Carpathian and a vampire, it isn’t that big of a leap to understand the difference between the Sange rau and the Hän ku pesäk kaikak. The Hän ku pesäk kaikak translates to ‘guardian of all,’ which is what Dimitri is.”

    “And me,” Fen said. “I hunted the Sange rau with Vakasin, and we shared blood when wounded. Vakasin became Carpathian and Lycan and I became Lycan and Carpathian. Neither of us were vampire or rogue. We were stronger, yes, and faster, and in the end that is what enabled us to defeat the Sange rau.”

    Damon nodded his head several times but he pressed his fingers to his eyes. A fine sheen of sweat broke out on his face.

    Out of the mist, Dimitri and Skyler came, walking hand in hand up the stone steps to the verandah. Dimitri looked—lethal. Zev couldn’t blame him. Skyler had been targeted more than once by members of the Sacred Circle and they were relentless in the pursuit to kill her. Dimitri still bore the scars of the silver chains they’d wrapped him in from his forehead to his ankles.

    Clearly, Dimitri gave off an aura of danger. Both Makoce and Daciana moved closer to Damon as if they might protect him from the Hän ku pesäk kaikak.

    Dimitri ignored them and went straight to Branislava to drop a kiss on the top of her head. “Little sister, you were wonderful tonight. Thank you.”

    She touched him with gentle fingers in reply. Skyler exchanged a kiss on the cheek with Branislava and then Tatijana.

    “I’m sorry we’re late,” Dimitri said. “We were attending the wound on the wolf.” Again he didn’t look at Damon, but his low tone carried easily and deliberately.

    Damon ducked his head, shame creeping into his expression. “I’m sorry. There’s nothing else I can say, other than I really mean it—I don’t know what’s happening to me.”

    “You’re shadowed,” Branislava said, her voice so low it was merely a thread of sound. “Mage-shadowed.”

    Tatijana’s gasp was loud. She reached out to Fen, who took her hand instantly.

    “I don’t know what that means,” Damon said.

    Daciana and Makoce moved even closer to Damon, closing ranks on either side of him. “Please explain, Branislava,” Daciana said. “None of us understand.”

    “He’s showing all the signs. Look at him, Tatijana. He’s confused when asked direct questions about who sent him here. If he tries too hard to remember he gets a severe headache. You do, don’t you, Damon?” she asked.

    He nodded. “The headache is so bad I can barely breathe, let alone think.”

    “When he pushes past the pain in an attempt to get answers to why he would go against his beliefs to murder a young woman or shoot and wound a wolf to use as bait, his brain reacts with an actual bleed. If you keep questioning him, trying to force him to remember, you’ll kill him,” Branislava stated with absolute conviction. “He is definitely mage-shadowed.”

    Tatijana nodded. “We’ve seen it many, many times.”

    There was a small silence. Fen whistled. Dimitri sank onto the porch swing, pulling Skyler with him. Daciana gripped her brother’s arm and just held on tight.

    Damon shook his head. “I don’t know what that is, but there’s nothing wrong with me except a nasty headache.” He looked around at the somber faces. “There can’t be.”

    His gaze dropped to his sister’s face. “There isn’t.”

    Daciana slipped her arm around him as if she could brace him. “What is it, Bronnie?”

    “How do you get rid of it?” Damon asked. “There must be a way. I want it out of my head.” He shuddered.

    “Only a highly skilled mage can shadow a person without his consent or knowledge,” Branislava said. “By that I mean someone of Xavier’s caliber.”

    “Xavier’s dead,” Tatijana declared quickly. “There’s no way he survived.”

    Fen wrapped both arms around her and pulled her close. “Obviously this couldn’t be Xavier, my lady,” he assured softly. “Whoever has done this infiltrated the ranks of the Lycans long ago or Damon would have noticed a stranger immediately. Lycans don’t bring outsiders into their meetings.”

    “You were there, you infiltrated,” Damon accused, as if he suspected Fen of corrupting his mind.

    “I am Lycan,” Fen said calmly. “I have Lycan blood just as you do. I am loyal to our people just as I am loyal to Carpathians. You might say, Damon, I have dual citizenship.”

    Damon rubbed his face hard. “I don’t understand any of this.”

    “What can we do about it?” Daciana asked. “Can you help him?”

    “It can be undone,” Branislava said slowly. “Although it is risky. This mage has actually placed the shadow on his brain like a deep wound that has scarred over. I don’t know how to explain this. It isn’t the same as placing a sliver of himself into the person to possess that person at will. That can also be referred to as shadowing, although that’s not an accurate term.”

    “Is it possible the mage is doing this to others?” Zev asked.

    “Of course,” Branislava answered.

    Zev didn’t think she was even aware of the slight trembling of her body. On the outside, she presented a cool, confident demeanor, but inside, he felt her fear, just like the terror that gripped Tatijana. The idea that Xavier or a mage as powerful as he was could possibly be behind the attacks was frightening to them.

    “Could a mage mass-produce shadows, say, at a Sacred Circle meeting?” Zev asked as he threaded his fingers through hers and pulled her hand to his chest, over his heart.

    Branislava and Tatijana frowned as they looked at each other. Tatijana appeared more agitated than Zev had ever seen her. Fen cuddled her close, clearly reassuring her.