He was standing there, talking to Vasile, when all of the sudden he stopped, closed his eyes, and inhaled deeply through his nose. His head turned slowly, straight toward her, and when he stopped, his eyes snapped open and met her stare. For a moment no one else in the room existed. It was simply Jen and Decebel. Neither of them moved. They simply stared, taking each other in, memorizing every detail like it could be the last time they would see each other. As her gaze wandered down his body, she noted that he wore a black v-neck sweater that formed tightly to his powerful shoulders and chest. The sleeves were pushed up slightly, revealing muscular forearms. He wore grey slacks that appeared to be tailored and black dress shoes. He could have just walked off a photo shoot for GQ. What made him more attractive was that he had no clue just how ruggedly handsome he really was.
Vasile cleared his throat and that broke the moment. Jen was suddenly aware that everyone in the room was staring at her.
She began to feel her legs shake, not used to carrying her weight. As if he sensed her growing weariness, Decebel crossed the room in several long strides and wrapped a secure arm around her waist. When his hand came in contact with her skin Jen felt him tense and slowly lean back to look at the back of her dress. He was growling and, since she wouldn't look at his face, she couldn't be sure, but she imagined his eyes were glowing as bright as the hot July sun in south Texas.
Decebel looked up at the room and announced, "The males will sit on the left side."
Without so much as a whispered question Costin, Fane, and Sorin all took seats on the left side of the room. Decebel walked her to where he had been standing moments before, next to the fireplace. The entire time his hand was splayed wide over her right side, covering any parts of her marking that might be showing.
To Vasile's surprise, Decebel asked him to stand with his back to the room, with Jen and Decebel on the other side, instead of Vasile standing behind the couple and facing everyone. This, of course, made it impossible for anyone to see her side because it was facing the fireplace. Jen bit her lip and drew on every ounce of her willpower to not roll her eyes. As Decebel walked around her, she felt his fingers slip just inside the side of her dress and trail down, knowing he was touching her mark – his mark. Jen shivered and nearly kicked Decebel when she saw the side of his mouth lift in a triumphant half-smile. When he was finally standing in front of her, all memory of irritation fled as she looked at the utter devotion and love staring out at her from his eyes. His face had softened, even the glow in his eyes had receded slightly.
The room quieted as Vasile turned to address the others.
"Decebel is an Alpha in his own right. He led his own pack, was powerful and undefeated in challenges. For this reason his Bonding Ceremony will be as it would for an Alpha in the presence of a high Fae. It is the first time in a very long time that we are privileged to have the Fae with us during a bonding. Because of thi,s Decebel has asked for Perizada to participate in the ceremony which is only bestowed upon Alphas. "
Jen gasped and started to speak, but her lips pressed together when Decebel gave her the look that told her he meant business. She didn't understand what was going on and it worried her to know that the Fae would be a participant in something so special.
Decebel could see the apprehension in Jennifer and reached across to run the backs of his fingers across her cheek. "Trust me," he mouthed silently.
"Always," was her silent response.
Vasile turned his back on the room and looked at his Beta.
"Decebel, once Alpha to the Western Romanian pack, you have found your true mate and she has accepted your claim. As is customary, you will wash her feet, exemplifying your willingness to serve her and care for her needs, no matter how simple they may be. You will recite the customary vows and then your own vows. During that time, you will present your mate with your offering."
Decebel nodded once to Vasile and led Jennifer to a chair. A basin of water with steam rising from it sat next to the chair on the floor. Jen could smell lavender floating on the air.
Decebel smiled. "To soothe," he told her. Even without their mental bond he understood the questioning look in her eyes.
He slowly raised the hem of her dress to expose her feet and calves. Jen took it from him and folded it over her lap, covering the tops of her knees. She could tell it made him uncomfortable to lift her dress in the company of others. As soon as that thought flitted through her mind, Jen bit her tongue to keep from giggling like a school girl. She remembered watching Fane wash Jacque's feet at their ceremony and thought it was very sweet, but as Decebel took her leg in hand and with a washcloth squeezed water onto her foot, she realized just how intense and intimate this moment was.
He continued to wash her feet while he lifted his gaze to hers and spoke.
“On this day I kneel before you, as a servant to my mate, to ask if you will make me whole. Will you give yourself to me? Finally calming the beast inside, bringing order to chaos, shining light where there has been only darkness? Will you bind your life to mine, your fate to mine, and your soul to mine and, in doing so, complete the mate bond?”
Jennifer wished she could say that she remembered the response to the vows, but in truth the intensity in his voice, the love in his eyes, held her mind captive. Her thoughts were sluggish from her sickness and her weak body. She tried to remember exactly what to say, but all she could recall was, "I will bind my life to yours, my fate to yours, and my soul to yours and complete our mate bond. I will take you for my own, my mate, and my Alpha.”
Decebel dried her feet off gently and pulled her dress down, recovering her legs. When she began to stand he gently placed a hand on her shoulder.
"You are tired." He spoke so softly only she could hear.
Jen gave him a slight smile, but felt a pang of anger that she wasn't strong enough to stand through her own bonding ceremony. Decebel winked at her – he knew she was ticked and she couldn't help the grin that spread across her face.
Fane brought Decebel a chair so he could sit directly in front of Jen. He sat down and leaned forward with his elbows on his knees. He took both of her hands in his and looked into her eyes.
"I'm not good with words. And some words I use at times are spoken harshly and before I think about what I'm saying."
Jen smiled at his confession and waited for him to continue.
"I thought about what I want to say to you, how to say it to you, and I confess I never could get it quite right. I thought about what you have been put through in the past weeks and can't imagine any words which could afford you the measure you are due for what you have endured. How can I come to you with any worth, when for three weeks I didn't know who you were? I left you alone. What kind of man does that to his woman? What kind of mate forgets the one who completes his soul?"