He turned and ran for Alina’s room. Auriel was banging on the door attempting to open it but it would not budge. He could hear his mate’s cries of pain, and it was making him frantic, but it was the smell of burning flesh that cost him his control. He rammed his shoulder into the door as he roared, “ALINA, OPEN THE DOOR!” He was afraid to use his power and basically blow the door open because he did not know where in the room she was. If she was close to the door, she could be hurt, so he relied on the strength of his wolf. She screamed again and he hit the door as hard as he could. He saw a tiny sliver of a crack as it began to give way under his strength. Bolstered by the progress he hit it again and again and again while over and over she whimpered and snarled and cried out in pain. Finally he shoved as hard as he could and the door, and the dresser that had been holding it closed, gave way. He was in the room a split second later, and his heart crashed into his ribs as he looked at his mate.
She was on the floor, her night gown and shift torn so that they fell away from her neck and shoulder. Her hand was wrapped around the candle he had left burning on the night stand, and the skin where Serghei’s bite had been was burned beyond recognition. He realized as he hurried to her side, his eyes locked on the wound, that she had been burning herself for a lot longer than she had been screaming.
“Mina, why?” His words were a whispered plea as he took the candle from her shaking hand.
She looked up at him and the look of utter despair tore at his soul. Everything inside of him begged for violence, to maim and kill and destroy the one who had put that look on her beautiful face.
“I felt dirty and soiled. I just wanted it off,” she told him through the tears that streamed down her face. “I would rather my skin be scarred and disfigured than bare another’s mark.” Her shoulders shook as she sobbed.
He pulled her onto his lap, wrapping his arms around her and holding her tight against him. “I do not want you to endure any more pain. To hear your screams and not be able to take it away is complete agony. If I could take away every terrible memory, every scar that reminds you of the nightmare you endured, then I would.” After sitting there in silence for several moments, Vasile stood with her in his arms and laid her back in the bed. Auriel was there without him having even asked with a cloth to clean the wound. It would heal but there would be a scar.
Vasile cleaned the wound as gently as he could. She never made a sound, just simply sat looking up at him. “I am not going anywhere, Mina,” he tried to reassure her. To his surprise and complete relief she reached up and grabbed his arm. She pulled until he sat on the bed next to her. One small hand reached up and cupped his face, and he naturally leaned into her palm as if he had done it a thousand times.
“I love you, Vasile Lupei,” she whispered to him never taking her grey eyes from his.
“Say it again,” he pleaded.
“I. Love. You. My Alpha, my mate.”
Her words and the passion with which she said them had him wanting to kneel before her, honoring her in a way that he would never bestow on anyone else. “As soon as you are ready I want to complete the bond. I need to know you are mine in every way. I need,” he choked up on his words as he tried to express to her just how urgently he wanted her.
“I know, and I understand. I just wish you did not have to bind yourself to someone so broken,” she admitted.
“Time and love heal all things. Let my love heal you―body and soul. Let me cover you in my adoration. You are everything that I need. Just as I am everything you need so we will get through this. I believe that down to the marrow of my bones, but I cannot do it without you.”
She dropped her hand from his face and took his hand in hers. “I am not going anywhere.” She repeated his words back to him. She took a deep breath and bit her bottom lip to keep it from trembling. Finally she asked, “Vasile, where are my parents?”
Alina attempted to brace herself for what he would say, but no matter how she tried to prepare for the news, it was still as if someone had punched her in the gut.
“I am so sorry that I did not get there faster.” His voice was tight with anger. “They have gone on to the other side. I would have told you sooner but I did not want to cause you more distress. Their bodies have been cared for and are ready for burial. I did not want you to have to deal with that after all that has happened.”
“It was Serghei.” She was not asking. She knew who had done it but she needed to hear it.
“Yes,” he answered anyway.
Alina squeezed her mate’s hand that she still held. She clutched it like a lifeline as the sea of turmoil and despair threatened to pull her under. She wanted to mourn for her parents, but she knew that for now she would have to put her pain aside. They had a pack to reclaim, a tyrant to remove, and a murderer to bring to justice. For now she had to be Vasile’s mate, the female Alpha of their pack, and when all was done, then she could be the mourning daughter.
“Please do not feel responsible, Vasile. I shut the bond because I did not want you to expose yourself. I did not think Serghei would go so far. Thank you for coming for me. Thank you for caring for my parents when I could not.”
“It is my honor to care for you. Tonight we will rest. I will be completely inappropriate and lie in the same bed with you holding you in my arms because any distance between us is not something I can endure right now.” His honesty and boldness did not surprise her, not anymore. She knew her mate. When he wanted something, when he had made up his mind, there would be no swaying him. And if she were to be completely honest, she did not care how improper it was, she wanted to be in his arms.
She watched as he removed his shirt but left his breeches on. His muscles flexed with every movement and she was enraptured by the sheer beauty and perfection of his form. The remaining light from the gas light flickered and cast a soft glow over him, making his skin appear smooth as silk. She ached to touch him, to feel the warmth of his flesh against hers. He left the light burning and climbed into the small bed beneath the covers with her. She had to nearly lie on top of him for them to both fit because of how large he was.
Vasile pulled her tight against him and her cheek was pressed to his bare chest. He smelled incredible, masculine, and musky like the forest. Alina pressed a soft kiss just above his heart and heard his breath catch. She liked knowing that she affected him just as much as he did her.