She pulled greedily from him and his wolf, which had now, after so many years of restlessness, begun to settle just a bit because it was being allowed to provide for its mate. The wolf was caring for its other half, which is what it was created to do. “Take what you need, beloved, it is freely given,” he told her as he gently brushed the hair from her neck. He should wait, he should make it special and treat her as the precious jewel that she was, but he was not taking any chances of her leaving this world without him. He bit into her just below her ear and only deep enough to get a swallow of blood and leave his mark. He pulled away quickly and licked the wound clean. She had not even noticed as she continued to drink from him. He felt himself growing weak but he would not deny her. He could hear voices telling him to stop her, that she was taking too much. When he was sure she just might bleed him dry, she stopped and licked his wrist just before passing out again.
He sat there holding her head in his lap, staring down at his beautiful mate. Her neck was torn savagely. Her dress had been ripped, and he could feel the skin on her back beneath the arm that held her. She smelled of blood, anger, and fear. But there was one smell that trumped them all, one that he had known from the first time he had smelled it and he would never forget it—Serghei. The cottage wreaked of him, of his rage and jealousy. He had attacked Alina. Vasile did not know if he had been trying to rape her or if he simply wanted to see the marks. The bite was done out of pure malice; no male who was simply wanting to mark his female would ever do so with such brutality. Her parents must have caught him in the act and attempted to intervene, but they would have been no match for a feral wolf, and that was exactly what Serghei had become.
“Alpha, please,” a gentle voice spoke from just beside him. She was smart not to be at his back, taking an angry wolf by surprise was not a wise maneuver. “She does not need to wake here. Please bring her to my home and allow me to help you care for her.”
Vasile turned to look at the small woman who knelt beside him, her head bowed slightly to the side baring her neck. “Your name?” he growled.
“I am Auriel. My parents died in the werewolf wars and I am an unmated female. I live in their home just two cottages over.” She motioned with her hand in the direction she was speaking of.
“Are you loyal to Emilian? Do not lie.” His eyes narrowed dangerously.
“Your parents were my Alphas, and when they perished, you became my Alpha and that has not changed.” Her shoulders squared and her back was straight as she spoke with true conviction.
Vasile picked his mate up in his arms and stood. “Then lead the way.” He made eye contact with his top three and motioned towards the inside of the house. They knew what he was asking without the use of words. They would clean up the cottage and have the bodies cleaned and prepared for burial so that Alina could say a proper goodbye.
Auriel pushed the door open to her small home and entered not waiting to see if he followed. He had to duck his head as he walked through the front door and turn just slightly to get his wide shoulders in.
“You can lay her in there,” the female said as she motioned to a small bedroom.
Vasile laid her on the small bed. He brushed her long hair from her face and ran a finger softly down her pale cheek. He mentally begged her to open her eyes, to smile at him, or to snarl, anything just to show him she would be alright. But the only movement was the shallow rise and fall of her chest.
Auriel walked in and reached for Alina’s shoe on the foot closest to her but her hand never made contact. Vasile had grabbed her wrist as soon as he saw her intent. “No one will touch her but me,” he said firmly.
“But, you are not yet completed the bonding ceremony; it would not be right,” she stumbled over her words as her body shook with fear.
“My mate was violated by a male in her pack, was that right? Was that proper?” His voice was cold and harsh.
A tear slid down the female’s cheek as she shook her head. “I am only trying to protect her.”
Vasile shook his head. “I am the one she will never need protecting from.” He released her and stepped back. “Please get me the things I will need to clean her and clothe her. I will not trust anyone to touch her, not when there are so many traitors in this pack.”
Auriel did not argue this time. She simply scurried from the room and did not return until she had everything Vasile had asked for. She shut the door behind her after having laid everything on the small dresser across from the bed. She had even brought him a warm basin of water.
Vasile took the blanket at the end of the bed and pulled it up to Alina’s chin. He would protect her modesty as much as possible. He removed her shoes and stockings. Then with the blanket still covering her, he reached beneath it and beneath her to undo the button on the back of her skirt. He pulled it off of her without ever removing the blanket and tossed it on the floor. He would have it burned because he would never smell another male on his mate’s clothes if he could help it. Next he began to raise her shift but then after a moment’s thought decided it would just be easier to tear it. He was careful to go slow and keep her covered. Finally, she was fully undressed and he began to wash her. He wiped her arms and legs and then gently cleaned her face and then her neck. He growled low as he wiped the blood from the now healed wound where Serghei had pierced her beautiful skin. He wanted to roll her over so he could wash her back and get that male’s smell off of her, but he decided to wait until she woke.
He tucked the blanket in around her to keep her warm and then pulled the only chair in the room up next to the bed. He sat and leaned forward until his head was by hers, and he closed his eyes as he breathed in her scent. It calmed him like nothing else could. He reached up, without opening his eyes, and took her hand in his intertwining their fingers. He knew he needed to check on his warriors and figure out if anyone had run off to tell Emilian of his arrival, but he could not bring himself to leave her side. He needed to hear her voice, needed to see her eyes open and full of life. So he sat with his head next to hers, breathing her in, allowing his wolf to take solace in the feel of her skin on his. He pushed away the rage for now and simply focused on her.
“Luna, come back to me,” he whispered into her mind through the bond that had grown stronger since he had completed the Blood Rites. “We have so much living to do, beloved, and so many things to see and experience. I have yet to even taste your lips and you are finally of an appropriate age for me to do so. You have to come back to me; I need you. You have to come back so we can build a life together, heal our pack, and see what adventures the Great Luna has in store for us. Please, Mina, hear my voice and obey me. Come. Back.” He could feel her spirit slipping away not to death but to a place where there was no pain, no fear. Her mind and body were trying to protect her by keeping her unconscious, and he could not allow that. He gathered his power, called on his pack―those loyal to him―to share their power with him, and then he pushed it into his mate. She would hear him and answer him because any other outcome was not acceptable. She would not leave him while he had to watch her body whither as her mind stayed shut away from him. She was his and just as he would give her every bit of himself, he would demand the same of her.