“If I thought you were ready, I would show you right this minute just how much I still desire you.” His voice was low and hypnotic as his fingertips traced her face. “If I did not smell fear on you, see the hurt in your eyes, or hear the thoughts that are bombarding you mind, I would complete the bond with you. I would step out of this room, ask Auriel to leave, and then I would show you with my hands, my lips, my breath, and my body, just how very much I want to be close to you with nothing between us. I am angry that Serghei hurt you and took a piece of your innocence.”
She cowered at his words but he kept going.
“Not for the reason you think, Mina. I hate that he took your innocence because I wanted your first experiences to be incredible. I was so angry over the kiss because I wanted your first kiss to take your breath away. The first time your markings were traced, I wanted my fingers to be the ones dancing across your skin because I knew that if it was me then you would have shivered with pleasure, not disgust. Your body would have heated with desire, not anger. The first mouth and teeth to taste your flesh should not have been out of the desire to hurt, but out of an indescribable need and reverence to claim you, to taste you, and to give you pleasure. My love, I am sad not because I did not get these things first but because you did not get to experience them for the first time the way you deserve.”
Alina did not know what to say. How did one respond to a declaration so raw and full of emotion and love? He saved her from herself by pulling her into his arms and pressing her face gently against his chest, just over his heart. His arms were so strong, so safe. In that moment she wished that she would never have to leave his embrace, that she could just live wrapped in the security of his strong frame where no one could ever touch her again.
“I will never allow harm to come to you again. You are mine and I will not be parted from you again.”
He finally forced her back into the bed, commanding her to sleep. As she drifted off she realized that, in her emotional state, in her need to be reassured that Vasile still wanted her, that they had failed to talk about her parents. But the more she thought about it, the more she felt like they had not so much as failed, as much as Vasile avoided the topic all together. She would have asked him about it if she had been able to keep her eyes open and her brain awake, but she was useless against her body’s need for rest. So she gave in, hoping that the reason she feared Vasile had not answered her was not correct.
Romanian Proverb # 18
Fereste-mã, Doamne de prieteni, cã de dusmani mã feresc singur.
God defend me from my friends; from my enemies, I will defend myself.
“Will you please sit by the door while I step outside to speak with my wolves?” Vasile asked Auriel with what he hoped came across as sincere politeness.
“Of course, Alpha. I will watch after her; I will protect her with my life.”
Vasile was slightly taken aback by the passionate answer, but he simply nodded and then with one final hesitation he walked out of the cottage.
Nicu, Ion, and Alin were waiting for him several feet from the front door. The grim looks on their faces did not inspire any kind of confidence that they were any closer to finding Serghei than they had been when they arrived.
“How is your mate?” Ion asked, genuine concern filling his eyes.
Vasile’s jaw tightened as he thought about Alina’s reaction to her memories. “She is safe, alive, and in my care where she belongs. That is enough for this moment.” Obviously picking up on his desire not to discuss his mate, they did not ask him anything further.
“Her parents are in the gathering hall. The members of this village helped take care of them and prepare them for their resting place. Her home has been cleaned.”
“Her parents’ home,” Vasile interrupted. “Her home is with me.” He was on edge. He was feeling extremely possessive and he needed to get a grip. “Continue,” he finally said letting out a long breath.
Nicu picked up where Ion left off. “We have been questioning the pack members and they are all telling us the same thing. The village was being check weekly for signs of anyone assisting us. Alina’s home seemed to especially be a favorite for Emilian’s warriors to stop by, particularly Serghei. No one had ever seen him be harsh with her nor did they ever appear to have a disgruntled conversation. Today was the first time they had ever seen Serghei become violent.”
“What changed?” Alin asked. His eyebrows drew together as he considered his own question. “Something changed that set him off.”
“Alina’s markings have appeared,” Vasile answered quietly. All three sets of eyes snapped up to his neck.
“So have yours,” Ion breathed out. “But they were not like that earlier today.”
Vasile rubbed the bridge of his nose as he ground out, “I completed the Blood Rites. That is probably why my markings finally changed.”
“You what?” Nicu coughed.
“I had to,” Vasile defended. “I did not know if she was going to live and I was not going to live without her.”
“What about your pack? What about us?” Nicu asked.
“I love this pack. You three have become like brothers, but my mate will always, without question, come first. Besides, without her, without my true mate, I would not have been able to truly lead the pack like I should. My father proved that.”
They nodded in acknowledgment and he could see the understanding in their eyes, though he also could see that they would miss him if he died. That was not something he had expected.
“What should we do now?” Alin asked.
“Ion and Alin, I need you gather any males willing to fight. Emilian will know that we are here very soon if he does not already. He will not challenge me because he knows he cannot win.”
“He will fight dirty,” Ion agreed.
“Nicu, I want you to go to the castle and scout it out. Bring back any information that will help us. We need to know if he has a plan or if he is scurrying around trying to get prepared because he never thought I would return. If he is not prepared we need to strike now. If he is battle ready, then we will find a way to gain the upper hand. Alina is healing but it is not her physical wounds that concern me.”
“You take care of your mate, Vasile,” Ion told him. “We will get everything ready.”
“I trust that you will. Thank you,” he told them as they turned to go. He watched them be swallowed up by the night. Knowing he could trust his warriors to do what needed to be done, he started to breathe just a little easier until a shrill scream pierced the darkness and straight into his soul.