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Authors: Christine Feehan

Dark Blood (4 page)

BOOK: Dark Blood
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Mikhail looked at him and then at Branislava speculatively.

Get me out of this situation now, Fen. I don’t know what’s wrong, but if that man keeps looking at her that way, I’m not going to be able to stop myself from attacking.
Admitting to that weakness when he knew Branislava could hear was one of the most difficult things he’d ever done.

Fen didn’t hesitate. “Zev needs to rest now. He’s been awakened far too early out of necessity,” he announced. “I hate to cut introductions short, but he needs to leave now.” He indicated Zev’s shirt.

Zev followed his gaze to the crimson stain spreading wider over the white material. He covered it with his hand. His palm came away coated with blood.

Mikhail nodded and stepped aside. Fen led the way to the outside of the chamber, with Dimitri close behind Zev and Branislava.

The moment they were out of sight of the others, Fen halted. “I’m going to take you out of here, Zev. You can’t walk the distance and you can’t shift right now.” He indicated the blood. “That’s genuine. I didn’t put it there. Your wolf came too close to the surface and your body won’t stand up to the change yet.”

“Are you going to tell me what’s going on? What’s happening to me?” Zev demanded. He’d had enough of intrigue and his own strange behavior.

Let them get you home,
Branislava said.
I can attend your wound.

I need to know what’s going on.
He tried not to snarl the demand, but it came out that way despite his best effort.

I need to heal your wound.
She didn’t flinch in the face of the wolf. She used her soft, melodic voice that could bring any man to his knees. Even his wolf seemed to respond, subsiding enough that he could do as she asked.

He swore under his breath, but he nodded to Fen. Fen didn’t wait to see if he’d change his mind. He caught up Zev and took him through the caves, going through the lower and upper chambers with astonishing speed. The caverns leading down to the sacred chamber were really miles of maze, a true labyrinth, but Zev knew instinctively that he could find his way back in spite of the rapid ascent.

The velocity wrenched at his body, but he didn’t protest, wanting to get answers as soon as possible. They burst out of an opening between rocks that looked like no more than a mere crack when he looked back. Branislava, with Dimitri right behind her, emerged after them.

Which direction, Zev?
Fen asked.

Take me to the house in the forest.
He needed the familiarity of the trees and open air. He was Lycan and the forest would always be his first choice.

The terrible need to change, that snarling, raging wolf, had retreated, but the aftertaste was a blow to his pride. He’d nearly lost control in front of everyone—and he was a master of control. Not once in all his long years had he ever come that close. He knew he was a dangerous man. He was Lycan, born to a time when they still hunted prey. He had managed to overcome that hunger. He was able to fight without a pack. He negotiated peace among packs. To lose control was appalling, almost beyond his comprehension.

The forest felt cool and fresh when they entered it. The scent of ancient trees aided in calming his wolf. He breathed in the air, taking in familiar scents. He was aware of every living thing within a few miles. This was home.

The house was small, built of stone like so many in the area were. This one was deep in the forest, far from everyone else. Wolves inhabited this territory, and he immediately felt a kinship with them. It didn’t surprise him to catch Dimitri’s scent, very faint, mingling with that of Dimitri’s lifemate, Skyler. They had been running with the wolves at some point earlier in the evening.

Fen didn’t set him down until they were inside the stone house. He set him on the bed that had already been made up. The scents of Tatijana, Fen’s lifemate, and Skyler were everywhere. Fen had called ahead and they had made the house welcoming for him. Still, it was significant that neither were present.

Branislava put a hand on his chest indicating for him to lie back. He put his hand over hers, just for a moment, as he eased down onto the bed. Her palm was right over his heart and her touch seemed to go right through him.

I know something is wrong with me, but I would never hurt you.
That much he was certain of. It might be the only thing he knew for certain.

I never thought you would.

She pulled her hand out from under his to catch the edges of his shirt and rip it open. He winced when he saw the wound. It was an ugly mess, the hole far bigger than he anticipated. The edges were mending from the inside out, but it had a long way to go.

Branislava turned her head to glare at Fen and Dimitri. Zev realized she was angry—not at him—but at them. She turned back to him, her touch gentle as she placed both hands over the wound. He felt warmth in her touch, which seemed to grow hotter.

You need to go to ground, Zev. This wound needs to heal.

I need to know what’s going on. Gregori said I was a dangerous man, and he spoke the truth. I can’t lose control. I can’t allow my wolf to take control from me in any situation.

Branislava sighed and sank onto the bed beside him. When she lifted her hands, they were free of his blood and he knew he was no longer bleeding. “We are lifemates,” she announced. She didn’t sound happy about it.

Zev frowned and slowly sat up. Puzzled, he looked to Fen for an explanation.

Fen shook his head, holding both hands up. “I don’t know what happened, Zev. When you were so severely wounded, all of us fought for your life. No one wanted to let you go, but you were so far gone and there was very little time . . .” He broke off, shrugging again.

“I wove my spirit to yours,” Branislava confessed. “It was the only thing I could think to do to keep you from dying. You wouldn’t go if you would take me with you.”

“You said either one of us could undo that weave,” Zev remembered.

She nodded slowly. “That’s true. But it will not release us altogether.” She looked down at her hands. “I knew when I first saw you.”

“That’s impossible,” Fen said. “He’s Lycan first. How can a Lycan be lifemate to a Carpathian? A Dragonseeker?”

“I don’t know the how of it, just that it is so,” Branislava replied.

“Okay,” Zev said softly, realizing she was distressed. He was beginning to be able to read her. “Now what happens?” Now, some of what the ancients had said to him about how everything was about blood was beginning to make sense. They called him “Dark Blood,” not mixed blood. He was both.

Her heart was pounding too fast at the admission that she was his lifemate. He reached out and took her hand. “You have no reason to fear me. Whatever this thing is between us, you tell me what you want to do. I would never force you into anything.”

Fen ran both hands through his hair, and Dimitri turned away to stare out the window into the night.

Zev’s frown deepened. “You’re not telling me something I clearly need to know,” Zev said. “Just say it.”

“Until you claim her, until she is fully yours, you’ll struggle with control. Your wolf is going to rise anytime a man is close to her. You think you’re dangerous now, but wait until a little time has gone by and she’s just out of your reach. Madness can set in. You’re mixed blood, which means both your wolf and your Carpathian will drive you to keep her safe,” Fen explained.

“Dimitri didn’t claim Skyler for years,” Branislava pointed out. “Tatijana told me all about it.”

“It was a different situation,” Fen said. He pinned Branislava with a stern gaze. “Much different, and you’re well aware of that.”

It was all Zev could do not to leap from where he was and attack Fen, just for the tone he used and the look he gave Branislava. He let his breath out slowly, forcing his years of discipline to come to his aid.

“Don’t do that to her,” he said, keeping his voice low. “None of this is her fault. How could any of us know what would happen?”

“We need you right now,” Fen said. “You have to be 100 percent. Two more council members arrived this evening, and there are more Lycans in our village than we have Carpathians. Trying to kill every male in close proximity to Branislava doesn’t make for good diplomacy.”

Branislava flinched as if Fen had struck her. Every protective instinct of both species rose in Zev like an exploding rocket. His fingers bunched in the thick quilt on the bed, hiding the curved claws trying to burst from the ends.

“Fen, I think it best if you leave us for now.” Zev managed to get the words out without growling. “We need to work things out between the two of us.”

Fen sighed. “I apologize, Branislava. Zev is right, none of this is your fault. How could any of us know this was going to happen?”

“I knew,” Branislava admitted in a low tone. “When I saw him there at the dance. When he took me into his arms. I knew then, just like I know we should complete the binding ritual.”

Zev shook his head. “We’ll talk it out and figure it out together. Fen is right, I am extremely lethal. I refuse to lie to you about that, but no one, least of all me, is going to tie you to a man you don’t want.”

“That’s your Lycan talking,” Dimitri said, “not your Carpathian.”

Branislava attempted a small smile. “I already tied us together, remember? Our spirits remain woven together. Where you go, I go.”

“But we can undo that,” Zev reminded her. “You told me so yourself. You’re not trapped, because that’s how you’re feeling, isn’t it?”

Fen and Dimitri made a move as if to go but Branislava held up her hand. “I need to know why you insisted on waking him early. It’s important to any decisions we make here.”

“Zev is the one person the Lycan council still trusts. We have no idea who is friend or enemy. He knows Lycan politics and he’s aware of personalities and every intrigue these people may try. The alliance is no longer as important as figuring out who our enemy truly is. Zev is the person who can do that.”

“The council members are friends,” Zev said. “I’ve spent my life protecting them and enforcing their laws. I can’t just switch sides.” He ran his hand through his hair. It was thick and long, untamed and hanging around his face, instead of being pulled back as he normally wore it.

“You would still be protecting them. You know assassins are trying to kill them. They’re at risk just as the prince is. Hopefully you’ll figure this out and keep them all alive,” Fen pointed out.

Dimitri nodded his head. “You are truly our brother. Our blood runs in your veins. We all three are tied together in a blood bond. We would never have risked your healing unless the situation was dire.”

Branislava’s hand crept toward his, slowing smoothing the pads of her fingers over his knuckles where his fists were still bunched in the quilt.

Zev felt more of the tension drain away. At least he knew
he was all over the place. Finding how to control it might be difficult, but now that he knew the reason his wolf was bordering on being out of control, he was certain he had the discipline to overcome his knee-jerk reaction to other males near Branislava.

“I’ll be honest with you both, I’m not certain I’m up for the challenge yet. I can barely stand, let alone protect the council members.” He detested the admission, but he had to be straight with them. He could end up being a liability if they counted on him. “I could get you all killed if I can’t hold my own in a fight. You can’t be worried about whether or not I can protect myself.”

Fen nodded. “We’re aware of that. Mikhail said you’d say that. He wants you to consider allowing him, with Gregori, to heal you.”

Branislava gasped. She whipped her head around to look at Fen. “That isn’t done. You know that. Even I know that.”

“Of course it’s done,” Fen said. “The prince is the most powerful man we have.”

“Which is why it isn’t done. Let us try again. Skyler is a powerful healer. We’re Dragonseekers, Gregori on his own can aid us.”

“You’ve all tried, Gregori included,” Fen argued. “He’s Lycan, they regenerate very fast. He’s mixed blood and they regenerate even faster. He isn’t healing, and you know it.”

“The wound was too severe,” Branislava admitted, her voice pleading.

Zev turned his hand over and took hers, placing her palm over his heart. “Don’t be upset. I’ll heal. I always do.”

She shook her head and looked down at her lap.

Fen sighed again. “Actually, Zev, you’re supposed to be dead. No one could have healed that wound. By weaving your spirits together, she cheated death, so to speak. She knew you wouldn’t go into the other world and force her to go with you.”

Zev shrugged. “I don’t give a damn how it was done. As far as I’m concerned she was more than courageous, betting on me when all of you believed I would die—that I was supposed to die. I’m here. I’m alive.”

He caught Branislava’s chin in his hand and tipped her head up, forcing her to look into his eyes. “We’ll do this together. We’ll find out who is behind all this and then, I promise, we’ll sort things out between us.”

“You might have to do the sorting out between you
you find out who’s behind this mess,” Dimitri muttered under his breath.

Zev shot him a quelling glance. “Don’t listen to him. What’s between us is just that—between us and no one else. Understand?”

Branislava nodded, giving him another small smile that sent his heart into overdrive.

“Tell me about this healing process with the prince and why he so rarely does it.” Zev tore his gaze from Branislava and looked directly at Fen, refusing to allow him to sidestep the question.

“One or the other can heal like anyone else. Gregori is known to be one of our greatest,” Dimitri said, when his brother remained silent. “The combination of Mikhail and Gregori is more like a nuclear bomb going off. If they aren’t precise, if they miss one small calculation, take the heat too high or . . .”

“I get it,” Zev said. He sighed and tapped out a rhythm with Branislava’s palm over his heart while he considered his various options.

It isn’t done because it’s considered too dangerous.

BOOK: Dark Blood
4.67Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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