Dark Wolf(3)By: Christine Feehan
The lid of the coffin opened with the same series of ominous, horror film creaks he’d used when Varga had opened the lid. There was silence. Skyler’s heart beat steadily. She leaned over the coffin and glared at the young man who lay as if dead, his arms crossed over his chest and his eyes closed. His skin was pale porcelain and his black spiky hair with the dyed blue tips stood out starkly against the white backdrop.
“You look amazingly robust for a man who starved himself to death,” she said sarcastically, mimicking the official. “You could have blown everything with your absurd story.”
Josef’s eyes snapped open dramatically. He faked an accent as he slowly sat up. “I could use a drop of blood or two, my dear.”
She smacked him over the head with her papers. “The customs official didn’t believe I was twenty-five.”
Josef flashed a cocky grin. “You’re not. You’re barely nineteen, and when Gabriel and Lucian find out what we’ve done, we’re both going to be in more trouble than either of us has ever known.” He paused, the smile fading from his mouth. “And I’ve been in a lot of trouble.”
“We have no choice,” Skyler said.
“Don’t kid yourself, Sky, there’s always a choice. And you aren’t the one they’re going to kill. I’m going to be their prime target. When Gabriel and Lucian come looking for you—and they will,” Josef said, “they’ll find you. They have a reputation for a reason. If we really do this, every Carpathian hunter will be out looking.”
Her father, Gabriel, was extremely powerful, a legendary Carpathian hunter. Her uncle Lucian, Gabriel’s twin, had helped to create that legend among the Carpathian people, and when they discovered her gone, of course they would come after her.
“Isn’t that the point?” Skyler replied with a small shrug. “By the time they wake and realize we’re gone, we’ll have a good head start. We should be able to find Dimitri.”
“You do realize,” Josef said, floating out of the coffin, “this could very well cause an international incident. Or worse, war. All-out war.”
“You agreed to help me,” Skyler said. “Have you changed your mind?”
“No. You’re my best friend, Sky. Dimitri probably despises me and wishes I was dead, but he’s your lifemate and he’s been literally thrown to the wolves.” Josef sent her a little grin, pleased with his pun. “Of course I’m going to help you. I helped you come up with this plan, didn’t I? And it will work.”
“Dimitri doesn’t despise you; in fact, he’s glad you’re my friend. We’ve talked about it. He isn’t like that.” Skyler made a face at him. “You know very well he knows I think of you like a brother. He’d defend you with his life.”
Josef grinned at her. “Forgive me for despising him just a little bit. He’s good-looking, intelligent, an ancient hunter, and your lifemate. He destroyed all my dreams and fantasies about you. I don’t dare even think along those lines or he’d know.”
Skyler rolled her eyes. “As if. Even I know you don’t think of me that way, Josef. You can hide a lot of things, but not that. There’s no fantasy and no destroyed dreams. Your lifemate is either not born or”—she smirked at him mischievously—“she’s probably one of Gregori’s daughters.”
He groaned and slapped his forehead with his palm. “A curse on you forever for uttering those words, for putting that thought out into the universe. Don’t even think that, let alone say it aloud. Can you imagine Gregori Daratrazanoff as a father-in-law? Sheesh, Skyler, you really do want me dead.”
She laughed. “It would serve you right, Josef. Especially after putting you died of a broken heart on those papers!”
“It could happen. I’m a romantic, you know. Dimitri thinks I’m a little kid, just like they all do, which is probably just as well, because otherwise he’d see me as a rival.”
“You take great pains to keep them all thinking you’re a kid,” Skyler pointed out with a small smile. “You like them to underestimate you. You’re a genius, Josef, and you don’t let any of them see the real you. You deliberately provoke them.”
His grin widened until he looked positively mischievous. He blew on his fingertips. “That is very true. I don’t deny it.” His smile faded. “But this is very different than the pranks I pull on them. This is big, Skyler. I just want you to understand what’s at stake.”
“Of course I know what’s at stake.”
“Your family is one of the most powerful families of our people.” He frowned. “Which reminds me, why don’t you ever refer to Gregori as your uncle? He’s a brother to Lucian and Gabriel, so technically, he is your uncle.”
“I guess I never thought about it. I don’t know him. We’re in London, and he’s here in the Carpathian Mountains and he’s never shown a tremendous amount of interest in me.”
“He’s a Daratrazanoff, believe me, Sky, he’s interested in you. If you disappear, your family is going to come looking and they’ll be on the warpath. All of your family, especially Gabriel.”
“Are you afraid of my father?” Skyler asked.
“I’ve got news for you, honey, everyone is afraid of your father, and if they aren’t they should be, especially when it comes to you. Haven’t you noticed how protective he is of you? Your uncle Lucian is just as bad if not worse, and if anyone messes with one of those men or anyone they love, they answer to both of them.”
Skyler bit her lip. “I’m sorry, Josef, for putting you in this position. I can’t turn back. I have to find Dimitri. I know I can do this. This plan is flawless. And we both knew—and counted on Gabriel and Lucian coming after me. I can go from here by myself, I really can.”
Josef burst out laughing. “Now you really have lost your mind. If I let you do this alone, they’d really kill me. No, we’re here and we have to see it through. I think you’re the only one who could pull this off. But, Skyler, if you get into trouble, this really will start a war. Lucian and Gabriel are not going to back off if someone hurts you, or if you’re captured. They won’t care what the prince says. They’ll go after you and no one will stand in their way. You’d better go into this knowing that. You have to know the consequences and be willing to face them.”