Jen let out a whispered laugh, trying to be quiet like Peri had warned.

"You know how we argued about the whole not withholding sex as a form of manipulation?"

Jacque growled. "Yes, I can't believe he said that to you. I didn't tell Fane because he would've been very offended thinking that Decebel might've thought he just wanted to mate with me to get in my pants."

"He doesn't think that about Fane."

"He thinks I can manipulate Fane that way."

"Well, can't you?" Jen asked, raising her eyebrows.

Jacque turned red from the neck up. "Yes, but geez, he's not over a century old and been with other chicks. He's still pretty eager about the whole thing."

It was Jen's turn to growl."Yeah, Decebel was so kind to remind me that he isn't as white as freshly fallen snow. But I'm not holding it against him. I mean, multiple decades being celibate? I would begin to wonder if he was even attracted to women."

"So what happened when you guys went to bed?" Jacque wiggled her eyebrows at Jen suggestively.

Jen really laughed then and had to put her hand over her mouth to stifle the sound.

"Oh man, it was priceless, Jacque. I really should keep my phone on Record when we're alone. There's a whole side to Decebel that you guys don't get to see."

"Spill," Jacque encouraged.

"Okay, okay. Well, at first I was mad, right? But then he told me it hurt him that I was blocking him. His voice was so soft, so unlike Decebel, and it really hit me hard. I don't want to hurt him, ya know? So I relented and apologized for blocking him from my mind. We started kissing, and things were moving along, then he pulled back and pushed me away."

"What?" Jacque's mouth dropped open.

"I know, right? At first I was hurt. It felt like rejection. I felt like he was just confirming what he had said, that he wasn't excited to be with me. But then he explained how he did really want me but didn't want to be manipulated. It was about that time that I realized you guys were probably waiting on me."

"Yeah, well, we thought you might be awhile."

"Ha ha," Jen retorted.

"So then I decided to give my fur ball a little dose of Jen. I wasn't mad anymore, really, but I just couldn't resist."

"Spit it out already." Jacque was making a motion with her hand that punctuated her words.

"I told him that I understood that he was nervous about meeting my expectations because it had been a while for him."

Jacque stopped walking as she doubled over, trying to laugh quietly.

Jen continued despite Jacque's lack of composure. "And I told him I would go as slow as he wanted while we explored our physical relationship." She finished with a very self-satisfied look on her smug face.

Jacque kept on laughing and finally Jen gave into her own laughter after having to hold it in while she'd tortured her mate.

"Bloody hell. I wish I had been a fly on your wall. I bet his face was utterly horrified."

"Oh, he looked confused at first, but then it sank in that I was basically saying he was having trouble performing. Yeah, he was beating on the bathroom door by the time I walked away."

"Good grief, Jen, you do love to provoke an already pissed-off lion."

"How boring would life be if I just nodded my head and said, 'yes, sir'?"

Jacque snorted. "Well, my life would definitely be a whole hell of a lot more boring. You just never cease to amaze me."

They began walking again, Jacque checking the device they had deemed the LT – locator thingy.

They walked, and at times when they could feel eyes on them, they jogged through the forest. The tree limbs snagged at their clothes and their noses were pink from the unforgiving temperature, which had dropped when they'd left Peri behind.

21 days post-curse

They had been walking/jogging for several hours and the morning light was just beginning to penetrate the thick cover of the trees when suddenly both girls nearly fell to their knees.


Jen squeezed her eyes shut against the onslaught of emotion that she felt pouring into her mind from the bond with Decebel. She opened them slowly to see Jacque doing the same thing.

"Guess they woke up," Jen said weakly.

Jacque nodded slowly and it was obvious to Jen that she was talking to Fane, and from her narrowed emerald eyes, it was apparent that she was getting a proverbial earful.

"I want to say I understand why you did this, Luna, but at the moment all I can ask is how the hell you could be so irresponsible?"

"Irresponsible? Seriously, Fane? Someone had to do it! Someone had to take the risk and the best option was Jen and I. You don’t always get to be the hero. Just because you're a man and I'm a woman doesn't mean I'm not capable of doing what needs to get done."


Jacque cringed at the fierceness in his voice. She'd never dealt with Fane this angry. But she knew it was anger originated from fear. He was afraid for her.

"This is about me wanting my mate safe, Jacquelyn. This isn't about me being a man and not wanting my woman to show me up, or me thinking you aren't capable. I know you are more than capable, but sometimes we have to know when to admit the enemy is more than capable. Don't you get that? You are mine to protect – mine! You have taken what is mine and put it in danger. You went behind my back when you knew I didn't want you to do this. And now you're out there where I can't protect you and I'm here unable to move, wondering if you will be alright. So please forgive me if I'm not really concerned about whether or not I hurt your feelings when I say you're being irresponsible. I love you, Jacquelyn. I'm pissed at you, but I love you. You better keep yourself safe. Imagine if we were in reversed roles. Just try to imagine that."

Jacque took a deep breath and let it out slowly. She had known he would be mad, but truly hadn't prepared herself for the force behind that anger. Though she hated making him upset and hurting him, she still felt she and Jen had done the right thing.

"I'm sorry I scared you. I'm sorry that I went behind your back. But this had to be done. I won't apologize for that. I love you, I will be safe."

"Just come back to me, love. Come back to me."

"So, how'd you sleep, babe?" Jen asked casually, fighting the very dominant and Alpha nature that Decebel was attempting to use on her.