Vasile nodded. "Get the females upstairs. The males stay here. It will take all of us if we have to take him down."

Decebel brushed Jennifer's hair from her face. His blood was on her lips, yet he kissed her anyway. She was so still – so very, very still. The healer had stopped the compressions but Decebel refused to give up. He gave her two breaths and resumed pumping her heart. She couldn't die. She would not die. He would not survive without her, and the world would not be able to handle the wrath that Decebel would reign down on it. Jennifer was the only good thing left in him.

He felt arms pulling him back and voices telling him to let go.

Let go? Are they crazy? He would never let her go. She was his. She was bonded to him, married to him. The demons from hell would have to devour him before he ever let her go.

He growled and snarled. An arm came into view and Decebel snapped at it with his huge teeth. They all jumped back, as well they should. He would kill the first one who attempted to take her from him.

When he looked down at her again, willing her to breathe, and her heart to beat, it hit him like a hundred ton truck. She was gone. No light shone in her face, no sassy smiles or cutting glares. The woman who only moments ago he had kissed, had teased, had claimed, was gone.

He picked her body up and moved toward the bed, laying her down reverently.

"Get out. All of you. If you value your lives you will get out of this room. Now." Decebel didn't raise his voice. He didn't have to. Death was in his eyes and hell would follow.

He paid no attention as, one by one, they left. The last was his Alpha, who paused at the door. Decebel didn't acknowledge the action but continued to look at his mate. His broken, dead mate.

He fell to his knees with a huge crash. He buried his face in her stomach, absorbing as much of her scent as he could. He dreaded the moment he would begin to feel the heat leave her body. He remembered what it was like when he held Cosmina, her body cold and stiff. This was nothing like that. This felt like someone was ripping him apart. His heart fought to beat, his breath was short, and he struggled for each one. Maybe he was dying. Maybe he could follow her to the other side. He wanted no life here without her – he would welcome death as a lover, embracing her cold darkness. But death didn't come.

Decebel stayed there on his knees, his face on his mate. One hand brushing her hair, the other holding her hand. He couldn't bring himself to move. If he moved, then it was real. If he moved, they might take her body from him and then he would have nothing left of her. So he wouldn't move, he would stay here and hold her until the world returned to the dust it once was. He knew it wasn't rational, but he no longer cared what rational was. In fact, he was so far gone that he decided if she was going to the other side, she would go bearing his mark.

Decebel eased up closer to her face. He pushed her hair gently from her neck and pulled her dress down slightly, revealing her shoulder and neck. He kissed her softly on the spot he would soon mar.

"I love you, baby. I will be with you soon. Very, very soon." Decebel leaned in and, without hesitation, sunk his teeth into her flesh. Her blood was still warm, but only just. She tasted better than he could have ever imagined – she was made for him, her blood was perfect for him. He pulled back and licked her wound, then he brushed a kiss across her lips and laid his head back down on her stomach.

"There now, love. Now it is done. You will bear my mark for eternity." Tears slid down Decebel's face as he finally wept for his loss. He shook with the knowledge that he would never see her smile again, never feel her kiss, never hear her sarcastic words or her whispered declarations of love. He would never know her as a wolf knows his mate, or as a man knows his wife. He would never have the opportunity to, as she put it, make babies with her. He wept and wept for all the things he was losing, not just her, but the life he was supposed to have with her.

The first thing Jen noticed was how good she felt. It seemed like she'd been in such pain earlier – had it been a dream?

Opening her eyes, she knew immediately she was not in her room or the house beyond the veil. Slowly, she stood and looked around.

"We're not in Kansas anymore, Toto," she muttered into the emptiness.

There was no color, no darkness. Just light, a whiteness all around her. It was silent and, if she were honest, really creepy. This was definitely not a dream. It all felt too real.

"Hello?" She didn't yell, but spoke firmly and loud enough for someone not standing in her vicinity to hear.

She waited.

"Okay, you brought me here. The least you can do is show a girl around."


"At least tell me if I'm dead or not."

"That is the question, isn't it?"

Jen swung around in the direction of the voice and saw, to her shock and confusion, Perizada.

"What are you doing here?"

"I've come to interfere where I should not. But then, obeying was never my strong suit."

Jen snorted. "A woman after my own heart." She paused and glanced around. "So am I dead?"

"Technically, yes. But also no."

"Wow, you are very forthcoming," Jen said sarcastically.

"You are supposed to die. But I have seen what happens with your absence in their lives. It is not pretty. So I'm defying the fates. I think they've got this one wrong."

"You know, I said that very thing about God giving me blonde hair. You would think these guys would get it right, being professionals and all."

Peri smiled at Jen's spunk and appreciated that she wasn't groveling or freaking out. So many humans resorted to freaking out when they didn't understand things.

"So how do I get back?"

Peri raised a single eyebrow at her. "You are not worried about defying the fates?"

Jen shook her head, rubbing her face with her hand. "I just bonded with my mate and married the man I love. I didn't even make it from the altar to our bedroom. I mean seriously, woman, have you seen his body? Well, I'm sorry, but I've waited too long and been way too good to not get a piece of that. So you will excuse me if I'm not shaking in my dead body about defying the fates. I want to go back; I need to go back. They need me. You've seen that ragtag bunch. Who the hell will keep them all in line if I'm not there?"

Peri was chuckling by the time Jen finished her rant. "Oh my, you are going to be fun to have around, Jennifer, mate of Decebel. Well, I think your mate has suffered long enough. He hasn't killed anyone yet, but the time is drawing near when they will attempt to take your body. Someone will die if we don't get you back into it."

Tags: Quinn Loftis The Grey Wolves Young Adult