The group let out a collective groan.
“Here we go,” Sally murmured under her breath.
“What?” Jen asked. “I’m just saying.”
“I vote we knock out the pregnant chick when it comes down to that or strangling her,” Peri called over her shoulder.
“Good thing this isn’t a democracy,” Jen hollered back.
“Jen, behave so that the nice fairy won’t want to strangle you.” Cynthia grinned at Jen.
Jen laughed. “Aw, sweet Peri Fairy wouldn’t strangle wittle ol' me.”
Peri began to walk more quickly and the others followed suit.
“Why are we moving faster?” Crina immediately asked.
“Because we need to save those blasted males quickly so that Decebel can keep his mate in line.” Peri looked over her shoulder at Jen. “She’s not even got a small bump in her flat little belly. Can you imagine when she’s big enough to have 'wide load' plastered across her butt? She’s going to be a bloody nightmare.”
“I heard that,” Jen growled.
Alina chuckled, thankful for the distraction.
“Peri, be nice to the pregnant werewolf. Jen, stop antagonizing the fairy.”
The entire group laughed at Alina and laughed even harder as Peri muttered under her breath, “Fairy, my ass. You’ll all be thinking fairy when you’re farting out of your mouths.”
Sally marched behind the group, listening to the banter. She closed her eyes, once again trying to reach Costin, and felt their bond open briefly. What came through nearly caused her to crumble. All-consuming fear poured over her. She stumbled but caught herself before she fell.
Her breathing became erratic as she tried to collect herself. She looked up and saw that the others were still walking – no one had noticed her reaction. Good. Calming herself, she bit her lip trying not to think about the image that had flashed briefly in her mind, an image from Costin. It was her, lying on the ground, blood pooling around her body. Her face was contorted in intense pain. The fear and panic she had felt in Costin... They had to get their mates out of there. No one could stand that for long. Not even men as strong as theirs.
“In my heart I know it’s not real. I know she is safe. But my mind does not believe my heart. My mind sees her lifeless body before me and my wolf rages. Kill, maim, and destroy, he snarls in my head. I feel my humanity slipping away as I watch unspeakable things happen to my mate. My wolf only believes what is before him and the emotions of the man are stopping him from being what he needs to keep her safe. I don’t know how long I can stay me. I don’t know how long until the wolf takes over for good.” ~ Costin
Costin closes his eyes against the scene before him. If he has to watch another man put his hands on her, or hear her cries for his help again, he’s going to go crazy. She begs for him to save her. She asks why he won’t stop them from hurting her, why he is letting them touch her.
Costin is on his knees as he looks up at her tear-streaked face.
“It’s not real, baby,” he whispers through tears. “It’s not real.”
“Costin, please stop him, please don’t let him touch me again.”
Costin watches her struggle against the male’s hold. She reaches out to him and Costin tries to get to her, but it is all in vain.
He closes his eyes as she screams began anew. The sounds are enough to make him vomit and even the smells are real. His precious Sally’s scent, wrapped in fear, anger, lust and pain.
He screams into nothingness, his cries smothering out that of his mate's.
Decebel felt the world crash in on him as he watched Jennifer give birth to their baby girl. Blood was everywhere and the echoes of his mate's cries bounced off the walls. Just as the baby was born, a huge owl swooped down and clutched the screaming babe in its claws. The owl took off into the night with a loud screech. Decebel lunged for the animal, the cries of his baby – his and Jennifer’s little girl – deafening in the night.
“Why didn’t you save her, Dec?” Jennifer asked him through tears and moans of pain. “Why didn’t you save our baby? You promised to save her.”
Decebel closed his eyes and when he opened them Jennifer sat before him, whole, and glowing with pregnancy. He wanted to enjoy the brief moment of peace, but couldn’t, knowing that it was only beginning again. His fears would once again be fulfilled before his eyes. And it would happen over and over and over.
Jen climbed into his lap and it was so real he could feel her breath on his neck. Her scent wrapped around him and he clung to her.
“Shh, baby,” she cooed to him. “It will be alright.”
“No it won’t, Jennifer. It will never be alright.” Decebel’s voice shook with pain and his shoulders shuddered as sobs wracked his body.
Then Jennifer was ripped from his grasp, a formless shape her captor. She screamed in pain clutched her swollen abdomen.
Decebel reached for her, begged the form to let her go.
Blood poured from between her legs, splashing to the ground with water mixed in. Jennifer fell and rolled onto her side. He watched helplessly as the form hovered over his mate and pushed on her stomach.
“DECEBEL!” Jennifer screamed. “Make it stop, make it stop! Don’t let them take her from me, from us.”
“Shh, my love, please, it’s going to be alright.” Decebel crawled on his stomach to her, his body covered in her blood. His hands slipped in the sticky substance as he got closer to her. He cradled her face in his hands and tried to wipe away the blood he got on her pale skin.
“It hurts,” she whispered.
“I know. I know, baby. I’m so sorry.” Decebel leaned down and kissed her lips gently. He gathered her to him and watched helplessly as she writhed in pain and finally gave birth to their child. He laid Jennifer back and reached for the still, little form.
Decebel looked into the beautiful face of their baby and wept at the lack of life. No crying, no breath, no movement. Nothing.
“Let me see her,” Jennifer whispered to him weakly as she reached for the child.
Vasile reached for Alina but she backed away from his grasp.
“How could you let this happen, Vasile?” she asked him through tears. “How could you not protect your own?”
Vasile closed his eyes, searching for the truth in his mind, remembering his mate telling him this wasn’t real. He needed her strength, especially now as he stood before a version of his mate who looked upon him with such disappointment that even as an Alpha he felt small. Alina was his heart. Everything good in his life came from her and the idea of disappointing her, of not being what she needed, paralyzed him. He had let her down. He had let his son be taken, along with his pack and the Alpha of another. He hadn’t fought hard enough, or done everything he should have.