"Come back to me, Jennifer. I can't lose you – I refuse to lose you, dammit. You will live!" The last was a snarl.
Suddenly, she gasped and air filled her empty lungs. Her eyes fluttered open. Decebel watched in amazement.
"Jennifer?" Decebel brushed her hair away from her face and kissed her forehead.
"You don't remember me and yet you're still so damn bossy." Jen's words were a hoarse whisper, but they all heard her.
Decebel watched as she closed her eyes but continued to breathe.
Sally was shaking with relief and the adrenaline began to overtake her. Costin leaned down next to her and pulled her into his arms. She buried her face in his chest and cried.
Cynthia asked Peri for clean sheets for the bed and towels to clean Jen up. As she and Decebel laid Jen on the bed, she looked up at him.
"Let Sally and I clean her up. We will take good care of her."
Decebel shook his head with a low growl. "I will care for her."
"Decebel, you aren't mated to her yet."
"She is my mate. I will care for her. Do not argue with me, female, I am your Beta and you will obey me."
Cynthia was a little shocked at his declaration since she was talking to Decebel and not his wolf.
"Cynthia, it's okay," Sally said as she began to wipe her tears away. "Jen isn't modest. It wouldn't bother her for Decebel to see her." She looked up at Decebel. "Do you want me to stay with you?"
Decebel shook his head. "No, I want to be with my mate alone. She needs me. I may not remember her but I feel something, like my soul is being knitted back together. I think giving her my blood helped."
"Decebel, Vasile thinks you need to perform the Blood Rites in order to save Jen." Sally waited for his response and was surprised when he finally answered.
"I will do anything for her, but she has to bite me for the Blood Rites to take place. Drinking my blood is not enough."
"Maybe if you continue to give her your blood she will get strong enough to stay conscious," Sally said in a hopeful tone.
Costin brushed Sally's hair from her face and smiled at her when she leaned into his touch. "You are amazing," he whispered to her.
She looked at him, confused. "Why do you say that?"
"Because you refuse to think the worst, and only think of possibilities that result in a positive outcome."
Sally blushed,."Jen's a fighter. She would be pissed if she thought I didn't think she could make it."
Decebel stood over Jennifer. She lay still but for the movements of her breathing. Sally had brought him several towels and a large blanket to put over her. She'd also brought him a large bowl with warm water in it, and washcloths to clean his mate. He leaned down to kiss Jen.
"I will be as gentle as I can, love," he whispered as he dipped the washcloth in the warm water. After squeezing out the excess, he began to softly wipe her face, removing any trace of blood. Then he washed her arms and hands and dried them. The entire time, Decebel talked to her. He told her about the life he remembered and how he didn't remember the good things. All the while he protected her modesty by keeping the blanket over as much of her as he could.
When he finally removed her shirt, the breath felt like it had been punched from his lungs and he fell to his knees at the sight.
The door flew open at the sound of Decebel's knees hitting the floor. His head snapped up immediately and he simultaneously covered Jen with the blanket. His eyes were glowing as he snarled at the intruder.
Sally paled and after seeing that Jen was still breathing, slammed the door shut.
Decebel gently pulled the sheet back again and couldn't stop his hand from lifting and his fingers from tracing the markings that ran along her right side from under her arm to down below the waistline of the sweat pants she wore. Markings that were identical to his. At that thought his head jerked up and he quickly re-covered Jennifer. He stood and walked over to the bathroom attached to the room. He pulled his shirt over his head and looked in the mirror.
Decebel's eyes watched in wonder as his markings changed before his very eyes. The marks that covered the right side of his back and shoulder now began to move like a vine up the right side of his neck and down his right arm to the wrist. Several moments after the vine-like movement had stopped, Decebel continued to stare. He might not remember Jen, but his body did – his soul knew she was his.
He pulled his shirt back over his head and finished cleaning up his mate and getting her more comfortable.
As he covered her with a blanket after having dressed her in the clean clothes that Peri had brought him, he watched her chest rise and fall, taking solace in that sight. He moved to the other side of the bed and lay down, careful not to jar her. He propped himself up on his elbow, head supported by his hand, and stared at her beautiful face. She was still so very pale, but to his relief she did look better than when Costin had brought her through the forest.
There was a soft knock at the door. Without turning to see who it was, he said, "Come in."
Sally peeked her head in. "Are you both alright?"
"She is breathing, clean, and with me. For now that will have to be enough."
Sally stepped far enough into the room that she could close the door behind her.
"Decebel," she started, then paused, trying to gather her thoughts. Still he did not turn his face from Jennifer. "Do you remember her at all?"
"My wolf recognizes her, knows her scent. But if you're asking if I have memories of her and I together, the answer is still no."
"Are you willing to do the Blood Rites with her?"
That question got him to turn and look at Sally.
He sat up on the edge of the bed, but left his left hand resting gently on Jennifer's leg.
"Have a seat, healer. We need to talk." Decebel motioned to the chair across from him.
When Sally was seated, her hands folded in her lap, Decebel met her honey brown eyes with his amber ones. He took a deep breath and let it out before he spoke.
"I will not do the Blood Rites without her fully conscious and making the choice herself."
"Not even to save her life?" Sally asked calmly, without any accusation in her voice.
"The Blood Rites are sacred, and intense. I cannot take that choice from her. Besides, she might not want to complete the bond while I do not remember her. Who wants to be mated to someone who doesn’t know you?"