Anghel smiled. “Your father would be proud.”
“I hope so,” Vasile admitted.
“I hear that you have something quite important happening tomorrow, some might even say life changing,” the Alpha teased.
Vasile did not attempt to stop the grin that spread across his face any time someone mentioned his mate. “It might change things a little.”
“Treasure her, Vasile,” Anghel’s tone had become serious. “Things will not always be easy but what joy she will bring you. And what an amazing chance you have to live sacrificially for a female whose heart beats solely for you.”
That night Vasile lay in his bed alone, not by his own choice and definitely not happy about it. His wolf was even more displeased, but it was what Alina wanted because tomorrow they would be bound as one. She had attempted to reason with him, and when that did not work, she simply told him that he could grumble all he wanted, but her bed would be occupied by only one for the final time that night.
“It will be good for us to spend our last night unbounded apart, so we will remember just how empty we are without the other.” Her words echoed in his mind as he growled into the empty room. It was not quite as satisfying to grumble about something when no one was there to listen.
“I do not need to be reminded, Mina. I assure you the four years without you are thoroughly engrained in my memory. You will sleep with me.” He thought that would be the end of it. He supposed now, he was being taught a very important lesson as he began his life with his mate; she was not one of his wolves to obey his commands or submit to him without question. She was his equal maybe not in strength or speed but in every way that mattered, and that gave her the right to question him, argue with him, and perhaps occasionally put him in his place.
As he slipped into her mind he smiled to himself. He thought it only fair that she should learn a lesson as well. He did not like to be denied, especially by her, and a smart wolf was a patient hunter. It knew that often the best time to engage your prey was when they were not expecting it.
“As the dutiful mate that I am, I wanted to make sure you were not lonely.” He dropped his voice to a deep purr and felt her immediate reaction. He pictured her in his mind, imagined his fingers stroking her cheek, his lips pressed to her neck, and his breath on her flushed skin. “I would be remiss in my responsibilities if I did not meet any needs that you might have.” He paused, listening to her breathing increase, feeling her desire for him grow. “Is―is there something you need, beloved?”
“Vasile.” His name was a plea on her lips and it touched him to his soul.
“I need…would you,” He loved that he had affected her so and loved even more that she needed him enough to ask. She was quiet for a moment and he thought his heart might beat out of his chest as he waited for her to ask him to come to her, to hold her, and to ease the ache he knew they both felt. Finally she continued.
“Would you please go check on Cosmina? I did not give her any grain this evening. And while you are up could you make sure the lanterns in the gathering hall have plenty of kerosene so that they will not burn out during tomorrow’s feast? Oh and one more thing, I love you, and I cannot wait to be completely yours.”
He was growling and clawing the sheets until that last part. How could he stay irritated with her when she said something so sweet and something she knew he needed to hear? He let out a deep sigh and finally resigned himself to one last night of bachelorhood.
While waiting for his mate to arrive, Vasile told Perizada, “Thank you for coming.” They stood by the river that had been Alina’s favorite spot. It was finally happening. Today he would be bound to her and she to him and nothing would ever separate them.
“It is an honor, Vasile,” she told him respectively, but true to her pompous nature she added, “though the main reason I am here is to make sure your mate knows not to put up with the overbearing, often times obnoxious, and almost always ridiculous behavior of the males of your species. In particular―you.”
“I am not sure that your advice will be needed. My female is quite outspoken without another’s encouragement,” he grumbled as he remembered his night with a bed very empty of his mate.
“All the same,” she said and smiled slyly. “Ahh, finally,” she added looking out over the lawn.
Vasile froze, not even able to take in a breath as he stared at the stunning creature coming towards him. She was his, he thought in wonder. How on earth he could ever be worthy of her, he did not know. But he did know that he would live every minute trying to be.
Alina paused a moment and relished the look on her mate’s face as he laid eyes on her for the first time that day. It had been quite a feat to get him to agree to wait until the bonding ceremony to see her. And now, based on his awe struck face, it was worth it.
She had spent the morning being washed, perfumed, decorated, and dressed by Sisily and Auriel who had become a good friend. A few tears had been shed over the absence of her parents, but she had laid them to rest, and though they lived on in her heart, she knew they would not want her to mourn them forever.
The dress she wore was simple but accentuated her curves in all the right places. It was a silk candlelight colored sheath, cinched in a bit at the waist, and a daring low front with scalloped lace peeking out of the top. The sleeves were long and came to a point on her hand. It was long enough that it covered her feet when she walked.
After savoring him for a moment longer―his broad shoulders and strong arms encased in a dark grey dress shirt with black breeches and black boots― she decided he looked dangerous and sexy.
“I heard that,” he whispered in her mind and a crooked smile appeared on his face.
She shook her head at him and continued forward, walking towards a future that not too long ago she was not sure would ever come to pass.
There were none present other than Alina, Vasile, and Perizada. Usually close friends or family would be allowed to attend a bonding ceremony, but Vasile had told her he wanted her all to himself. She understood. It had taken so long, and they had been through so much to get to this moment. She understood why it should be private.
When she reached him he took her hands in his and looked at her with utter adoration. “You look incredible.”
She smiled at him. “As do you.”
“I am sorry to interrupt your silent, no doubt nauseatingly sweet discussion, but I believe you two have waited long enough and are quite ready to finish this.” Peri looked at them pointedly and Alina tried not to laugh.