"Quit glaring at my friends, you flea bag, and pay attention to the woman you just ordered to marry you. Of course I want to marry you."

"Then what's the problem? Let's get married. Now." Decebel started to pull her back in front of Vasile, but she jerked her arm back.

He growled again, stopping short when he saw her sway.

"Jennifer, please sit down. I don't want you to hurt yourself." This time his words were so gentle they virtually caressed her skin.

Jen smiled to herself. Screw it. I'm going to play the pity card, she thought and she purposely tried to look weaker than she really felt.


"Yes, baby, what is it?"

Jen had to bite her tongue to keep from giggling at his sudden change in demeanor.

"Please kneel down so I don't have to strain my neck to look up at you."

Decebel was on his knees in front of her in a flash. Jen put her hand over her face to cover the laugh that was in her throat and tried to play it off as a stifled sob.

"Jennifer, baby, please. What can I do?" Decebel hated seeing her in pain and she knew it. So maybe she was going to hell for playing him, but she refused to marry him without being asked.

Finally composed, she dug down deep for the most pitiful voice she could find and because she had tears from the laughter that were so close to erupting, she even had them sliding down her now sad-looking face.

"Ask me." Her voice shook.

"Ask you what, baby?" Decebel moved forward close enough that he could cup her face. "Tell me what and I will ask."

Jen bit her lip, grasping composure again, and opened her eyes. A big grin stretched across her now-bright face. "Ask me to marry you, you big oaf."

It was Decebel's turn to drop his mouth open. He stared at his mate with part irritation and part awe. She had played him like the most skilled musician.

Jen waited for his reaction. Despite her acting, she really was beginning to fade. Finally he laughed at her audacity and ability to keep him on his toes. He looked deep into her eyes and pulled her body flush against his. He heard her pulse pick up and loved the effect he had on her – the effect she had on him. Slowly he leaned forward until his lips were touching hers. He blew a breath across her mouth and nipped her bottom lip. Jen was trembling and he knew she was fighting a moan.

"Jennifer, my love," he whispered.

She squeaked out a, "Mm-hmm?"

"I want you." He repeated the words he had professed to her that night in the garden, the night he'd first claimed her. "I love you. Please be my wife, please accept me in every way, my mate."

Jennifer's breathing had become shallow and she couldn't respond. She was surrounded by his scent, his touch, his breath. Decebel motioned for Vasile to get on with it while his mate was in a temporary stupor, drunk on his desire for her.

Vasile recited all the wedding vows and Decebel said "I do" at the appropriate moment. When it was Jennifer's turn, he looked into her eyes – he saw her acceptance and waited for her to verbally confirm it.

Jen could no more deny him than she could cut off her own hand. And, to be fair, he had asked.

"I do," she answered breathlessly.

Decebel wrapped his arms around her and was kissing her before Vasile even got his final words out. The kiss started out fierce and desperate, his lips conveying the fear of her rejection. When he felt her hold on him weaken, he softened the kiss until he finally pulled away. He looked at his mate, his wife – she was beautiful. She smiled at him as she pulled back from his embrace.

Suddenly Jacque and Sally were by her side, hugging her and laughing.

"You deserve a freaking Oscar for that performance. I mean, I'm tempted to kiss your feet in awe." Jacque was grinning at Jen as she held out her fist for a fist-bump. This one even called for the hand explosion after the bump complete with sound effects.

Decebel looked from girl to girl, shaking his head. "You three are so odd."

Jen grinned at him and started to say something, but all she got out before she began to crumple was his name. And it was a plea so desperate that he moved quicker than he ever had. Her body landed in his arms before she could connect with the floor. Decebel looked down to her face, then her chest. There was no rise and fall.

"She's not breathing." He hurried in the direction of her room, his words a boom behind him. "Healer, with me!"

Chapter 21

"Quickly, Decebel," Sally was saying as she laid her hands on Jen's chest. She didn't know what to do for her friend. There was no blood in her lungs this time. It was like her body was giving up. Decebel tore into his wrist, not caring about the pain. He waited to place it over Jennifer's mouth until Sally had given her two breaths of air. Sally began chest compressions while Decebel placed his wrist over her mouth and rubbed her throat, trying to get her to swallow.

Jacque looked on as Sally and Decebel worked on the broken body of her best friend. Tears filled her eyes and Fane's strong arms wrap around her.

"This isn't supposed to happen, Fane. She can't die. She just can't." Jacque turned into Fane and buried her face in his shirt. She was getting nauseated listening to Sally press on Jen's chest, waiting to see if Jen would breath on her own. Minutes ticked by, and still Jen lay lifeless.

Sally stopped her chest compressions and raised her head to look at Jacque. Her eyes swelled with tears and the sound that came from her tore at every heart in the room.

"I can't save her." Sally's voice started out more outraged than in pain until the truth sank in. Jen was gone, and there was nothing Sally could do. Her body shaking with rage as she stood up. "What the hell good am I if I can't SAVE MY BEST FRIEND!" She was quickly losing it.

Jacque started to go to her, but Fane held her back. Costin rushed around them and took Sally in his arms. She fought him at first, hitting his chest, denying his comfort.

"Sally mine, let it out. Scream, kick me, hit me. Do whatever you need to. I've got you and I'm not letting go."

Sally sagged against him, weeping, shaking, and utterly broken. Costin picked her up and carried her out of the room. She needed to pull herself together and he knew she couldn't do that with everyone staring at her.

Fane turned to his father as he watched realization fall over Decebel.

"He's not going to be safe."

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