|Home > Christine Feehan > Dark Series > Dark Blood (Chapter 23)|
|Dark Blood(Dark #26) by Christine Feehan|
“He couldn’t have claimed her as a lifemate,” Gregori said. “Not without the ancients bringing him fully into our world, but certainly their love could create a strong enough bond.”
“Lycans love passionately, with everything in them, when they find their true mate,” Zev said. He leaned forward, his gaze on the prince. “Would this mage keep a mixed blood alive in order to have a fresh blood supply? Because all along I’ve wondered how he would preserve my grandmother’s blood. We have ways now, but centuries ago?”
Fen nodded. “Zev’s got a point.”
“Xaviero was used to living in an ice world. He could preserve the blood there,” Tatijana pointed out.
“But he wouldn’t share,” Branislava said. “You know he wouldn’t, Tatijana. They tried to outdo one another. That’s why it was so easy to believe Xaviero and Xayvion were dead. That, and we wanted to believe it. If Xaviero had acquired the Dark Blood the three of them sought, he would have hidden it from the others and felt smug and superior.”
Tatijana nodded her head. “Just talking about them makes me feel sick inside.” She turned her face against Fen’s shoulder. He immediately responded, rubbing his hands down her back and then up to the nape of her neck, fingers easing the tension from her stiff body.
“We must assume that both brothers still live and we face a very powerful enemy,” Mikhail said. “This man Damon is a problem.” His dark, penetrating gaze swung to Zev. “I presume he is a good man or you wouldn’t have spared his life.”
Zev nodded. “We’ve been friends a long time. Daciana and Damon are family to me.”
Mikhail glanced at Gregori. “How do we help Damon without tipping off Xaviero that we know he’s behind this mess? If you remove the shadow—” He broke off. “Is it even possible? You were upset at the thought that Branislava might have tried.”
Gregori sighed. His silver eyes met Branislava’s in understanding. “A mage this powerful would have equally powerful safeguards to protect his shadow. Tripping one would alert him, and he would immediately strike at us through his puppet. Failing that, to protect his identity, he would kill Damon.”
Mikhail’s gaze was steady on his son-in-law. “If we do nothing and allow this mage to have a window through Damon, what then?”
“His hold on Damon will strengthen with each use. Eventually, we won’t be able to have the chance to save him. Anyone near the man is in danger at this point. Anything he sees or hears could get back to Xaviero.”
Branislava nodded. “Gregori’s right, Mikhail. That shadow can’t be left inside of him. It should be removed as soon as possible.”
“Can you do it, Gregori?” Mikhail asked. “And how high is the risk to you?”
Gregori closed his eyes briefly and shook his head without answering. Branislava’s heartbeat accelerated. She clutched Zev’s hand, every cell in her body rebelling. Every single fear she ever felt in those long years of captivity welled up to choke her—to choke back what had to be said.
Zev leaned down, his mouth brushing down her cheek, leaving a trail of fire in a chamber of pure, scorching heat. She was safe here. Xaviero couldn’t find her there in the sacred cavern surrounded by the people she loved and who loved her.
“I’ve removed splinters in the past, Mikhail,” Gregori said, “But never a shadow. Until I see what I’m facing, I can’t say for certain. If Xaviero is capable of mass-producing shadows in groups of unsuspecting people as indicated, he’s had centuries of practice and knows far more than I do on the subject.”
“Gregori would have little chance to remove the shadow, not without knowing Xaviero’s work,” Branislava said. Once again her eyes met Tatijana’s. Her sister shook her head, her fist jammed in her mouth to prevent a protest.
She took a breath and forced herself to say the one thing she feared above all others—the one thing she’d known when she saw the shadow and knew who had made it. “I’ll have to do it.”
Silence took hold in the sacred chamber of ancient warriors. Water trickled from the walls down to the pools, drops hissing as they hit the hot water. Steam rose as curling vapor and drifted around the stalagmites. The flickering light from all the candles cast expressions on the faces of the ancient warriors in the giant totems of minerals. It seemed as though the world held its breath.
Zev heard his own heart like thunder roaring overhead. His first reaction was visceral. Absolutely not. He wouldn’t allow it. He didn’t care what she said, or whether or not Damon would die, she wasn’t going to put herself in that kind of danger. He hadn’t known what looking at the shadow entailed or the jeopardy she had been in or he never would have allowed that. Gregori’s reaction when she’d admitted she had done so was enough for him. She was not going to go near Damon ever again.
Branislava moved, a small flexing of her fingers, and he looked down to see his hand clamped around her thigh, his knuckles white. Immediately he relaxed his grip on her, certain she would have bruises, silently cursing himself for not being more careful. But damn it all . . .
“It’s the only way,” she said aloud, looking at him, looking straight into his eyes—into his soul.
She knew his primal reaction. She knew everything he was, Lycan and Carpathian, protested. She knew him, his instincts and his need to keep her safe. He could see her fear, so stark in her eyes, yet she was going to attempt to remove the shadow from Damon.
He couldn’t contain the fury rising sharp and fast and terrible. His wolf leapt to protect her, to force obedience. Zev rose and stalked out of the chamber, leaving her there where she was safe from the madness gripping him. He wanted to shake her until she saw reason. He wanted to put her across his knee like she was an unruly child. He wanted to wrap her up in his love and keep her hidden away where nothing could ever touch her.
He kept moving, going from chamber to chamber, winding his way through the maze, uncaring if he was going up toward the ground level or farther down from the warrior cave. The where mattered little to him. Just the why.
Why wasn’t her love for him strong enough to keep her from putting her life in danger? His fingers curled into two tight fists. Sharp claws cut into his palms. His skin itched and his eyes and jaw ached with the effort to hold back the wolf that would snatch her from the meeting and run off into the night with her.
Her voice was cool, like a gentle breeze. Rather than soothe him, it fanned the anger pouring through him. He swung around and caught her shoulders in a hard grip. “You shouldn’t have followed me.”
“Do you think I’m afraid of you?” she asked, her tone a low, musical melody his ear immediately tuned to.
“You damn well should be,” he snarled. He kept himself rigidly under control, not shaking her when he needed to, but holding her so she couldn’t move.
“Well, I’m not. I know you’re upset with me . . .”
“Upset? Is this what you call upset? What an insipid word that is, and it in no way describes what I’m feeling. Fury might come closer. You have no right to make a decision to risk your life without even discussing it with me. Last night you didn’t tell me what the real danger of looking into Damon’s mind might be.”
When she attempted to speak he held up his hand for silence. “You sugarcoated it for me. I’ve always done you the courtesy of telling you exactly what is going on. I’ve treated you with respect and I expected the same from you.”
“That’s not fair, Zev,” she said, her tone low, her long lashes sweeping down to hide her expression.
He caught her chin in hard fingers and yanked her head up, forcing her to look into his eyes. “I don’t particularly give a damn about fair right now. This isn’t a good time for us to have this discussion.”
He had to draw in deep breaths to keep his wolf at bay. Every few words a low, warning growl escaped. Heat imaging banded his vision in yellows and reds. He was alpha and no one, least of all his mate, disobeyed or defied an alpha in his pack, not without consequences. And they sure as hell didn’t make independent decisions, not after the betrayal of Gunnolf and Convel.
For a moment her eyes glittered with pure fire. He saw flames burning behind the glittering gems. That she could be angry as well just took his temper up another notch. He caught the nape of her neck and drew her to him, his mouth coming down hard on hers. He kissed her, pouring his fury and terror at her courage into his domination.
She didn’t fight him, which was a good thing. That would have only triggered more aggression, and they both knew it. He kissed her again and again, holding her still, his touch a little brutal, his kiss demanding and forceful. Her mouth submitted to his, but her tongue dueled and fought, her nails digging into his skin as she melted into him.
Her body was fiery hot, as if all the passion in the world was pent up in her soft form. He used his claws to rip through her clothing, tearing the material from her body in strips until she was entirely naked in his arms. He didn’t know if she got rid of his clothing or he had, and it didn’t matter. He walked her backward, kissing her over and over, the same forceful, dominant kiss he couldn’t stop.
He kissed her as if there was no tomorrow, as if they had this one night together and he needed her to survive—and he knew he did. His kiss was overpowering, smoldering with such fire that tiny electrical shocks sizzled through her bloodstream and raced from her breasts to her melting core.
Her back hit the wall of the cavern and he trapped her there, using his larger body, bent on possessing her. He cupped her breasts while he kissed and bit his way down to her nipples. She cried out, arching into his mouth when he drew her left breast into the scalding heat. He showed no mercy, lavishing attention on her with hands, teeth and tongue until she was panting with need, her breath coming in heaving gasps of desire.
It’s too much. I’m going to go insane. I can barely stand.
His wolf was almost impossible to control and each time she made a small movement, as if she might pull away, he became more aggressive, rougher in his handling of her.
Then get on your knees. He growled the command, his fist in her hair, half pulling her down in front of him.
She went to her knees obediently and he barely had enough sense left in him to cushion the ground for her. His hand circled the girth of his bursting cock. He pulled her head back, using the long rope of hair and pushed into her mouth without preamble. Immediately her lips closed around the sensitive head and he flung back his head and roared.
Fire consumed him, a tight fist surrounding him, drawing him deeper and deeper. Her tongue lashed at him with flames and the edges of his vision went red. He held her silken hair with both hands and pushed deeper into her mouth, taking complete control of the rhythm and speed. He tried to be careful, but the sight of her, so beautiful, her breasts flushed and bouncing with his every thrust, his shaft disappearing in her mouth was almost too much. She was beautiful beyond anything he’d ever known.
Branislava let her passion wholly consume her. She knew she had pushed Zev into his wild, uncontrolled state, giving his wolf nearly free reign, but she loved it. She loved how close to the edge he was, how rough he was. She loved knowing she could tame that feral creature and draw him back to her with her body. With her love.
His body was hers, wholly hers and she played him like an instrument. She hummed softly as she suckled him, the vibration traveling up his shaft to that oh-so-sensitive head. She increased the heat and friction as his thrusts grew more urgent. His taste was not only intoxicating but addicting. She couldn’t get enough of him.
He thought he was in control, but she knew she was. This man belonged to her. His body belonged to her. She reveled in her ability to bring him so much pleasure. She wanted to give him more and more. Already she was dripping, filling the air around them with her call to her mate. Hot cinnamon-spiced honey trickled down her thigh and she couldn’t wait for him to lap it up.
His hips bucked again and again, barely giving her a chance to breathe. It didn’t matter, nothing mattered to her but pleasing him. Driving him wild. Giving him everything he needed to get past what she’d committed to doing. If this was his way, his show of domination, she would gladly accept it every time.
It didn’t have to make sense to anyone but her. She loved stroking her tongue along his shaft. She loved the feel, shape and taste of him. She craved his taste. She could use her Carpathian senses to breathe, taking him deeper until she was constricting him, strangling him, and he was swearing, gasping and burning with her.
Her mouth was red-hot. Her skin the same. That wealth of fire in her rose to match the fury in her wolf. She hadn’t been angry, but she had wanted him with every breath of air she drew into her lungs. She’d deliberately let him see that fire, knowing in his state he would mistake her passion for anger.
She had wanted him just like this—a firestorm burning out of control. She needed to feel his fury in the way he withdrew and then thrust deep again. Sometimes he just stopped, holding himself deep, his hands fisting in her hair while growls and soft cursing reverberated through her mind. That only added to her heightened pleasure. Her body responded with more liquid heat, the tension coiling in her so tight she feared she would have an orgasm without him inside of her.
His shaft swelled more and she felt as if she had swallowed a burning torch. Then he was gripping her even tighter while he roared again, his seed spurting hard over and over. He withdrew swiftly, before she could catch her breath, pushing her backward so that she tumbled to the ground, sprawling out in front of him. He was on her fast, revealing the wolf that he was, latching on to his prey with a growl.