When they had all fallen silent and one by one drifted off to sleep, Decebel still lay awake. His body was curled around Jennifer's, and as he thought about what was to come, what they would be facing in a matter of days if not sooner, he pulled her closer. His worst nightmare was coming to pass. His mate would be in battle, in danger, and he might not be there to protect her. As much as he hated the idea, he also knew he couldn't cage her in. He couldn't keep her from living because he was afraid of losing her. He had to let her fight, he had to let her be her own person, not just his mate.
Two days had passed since Jen and Jacque had phased for the first time. In that time, Decebel and Fane took them out several times under the watchful eye of Peri so that the girls could continue to familiarize themselves with the movement and senses of their wolves. Decebel and Fane even began teaching them the best way to attack and when it was more appropriate to run and hide. Neither Jen nor Jacque cared for the idea of hiding. When they weren't out in their wolf forms, Decebel and Fane met with the other males, discussing strategy.
Today it had been decided that tomorrow night Vasile would call Thad and Desdemona out. He wanted them to meet him on his terms, on the battlefield of his choosing.
"I know your secret, Mona." Thad smiled at the witch, but it was not a friendly smile. Mona sat in one of the many sitting rooms in the Serbian pack mansion. She looked bored and not at all worried by Thad's declaration.
"And what secret would that be, Alpha?" she asked dryly as she looked at her nails, making it apparent that she found them infinitely more interesting than her present company.
"You are not helping me so I can obtain the healer, you want the healer for yourself – for your magic." Thad was standing behind the couch that Mona occupied, his hands resting on the back as he leaned over her.
"There are two healers. There is no need to be stingy, Thad." Mona's attitude was so blasé that it set Thad's wolf on edge.
"Tell me your plan, Desdemona. You could at least give me that much respect. If you want one of the healers, I'm willing to share. But we can't go into this disparately."
"Vasile is gathering his troops." Mona stood and began to slowly pace around the room as she spoke. "He has called on three other packs for aid. It will not be an easy battle."
"If I know you, then you have something up your sleeve. What's your advantage?" Thad narrowed his eyes at the witch.
"I have my own army." Mona's smile lit her whole face, but not in a way that would be considered pretty. "The wild ones will do my bidding. If we add your pack to the mix, I do believe we will be the victors."
"The wild ones?" Thad cocked his head to the side as he considered her words. "Ah, you have called upon the beasts and animals of the forest."
Mona's face turned dark as she detected judgment in his voice. The air around her grew thick and the room darkened. "You forget who I am. I am the last of my kind, the most powerful in history. I will call on the elements, the beasts – the demons from the abyss, if necessary. Know this, Thad, Alpha of the Serbian pack: I will obtain that which I seek. Do not attempt to stand in my way or I will destroy you."
Mona turned on her heel and, with her cloak billowing behind her, stormed out of the mansion, not giving Thad a second thought.
Jacque head lay in Fane's lap as they sat on the couch in front of the always-burning fire in the meeting room of the Tavern. The building was quiet as everyone settled in to try and get some sleep.
"So this is the eve of battle," Jacque murmured softly.
"I'm assuming this is some movie reference?" Fane asked.
Jacque chuckled. "Lord of The Rings. Eowyn tells Aragorn he can't leave them on the eve of battle when he goes looking for the cursed dead who owe his bloodline a service."
"I've seen Lord of The Rings, Luna."
"Yes, but you haven't seen it a hundred times like me and my girls."
It was Fane's turn to chuckle as he traced her lips softly with his finger. Then his eyes grew serious.
"I need you to be smart tomorrow, Jacquelyn," he told her firmly. "I don't need you to be a hero or be brave. I need you to be smart, fight smart. Can you do that for me?"
Jacque pulled herself into a sitting position, but Fane wanted her closer so he pulled her onto his lap.
"I can if you can," she countered.
"How did it feel to be in your wolf form?" Fane asked her as he gently stroked her cheek.
Jacque let out a deep breath. "It was amazing. I mean truly amazing, Fane."
Fane let out a chuckle at the awe in her voice.
"Your color is a beautiful grey and your eyes looked like they were outlined in mascara...or eyeliner. Whatever it is you girls use," Fane told her.
Jacque smirked at that, then asked, "Would it have bothered you had I never been able to phase?"
Fane looked down into her eyes. "I never expected you to be able to, Jacquelyn, and I was okay with it. The fact that you can is just a bonus. I love that I get to share that part of our lives together, but it wouldn't have lessened what we are as mates had it never been possible."
"Thank you," Jacque whispered.
Fane pulled her face toward his in order to kiss her. What started out as gentle turned into a fierce show of passion. Fane flipped them so that Jacque was lying on her back with his body over hers. He kissed her again as his right hand pushed up under the hem of her shirt. His hand wrapped around her waist, the skin-to-skin contact comforting them both.
Jacque opened her eyes and heard a growl rumble from Fane.
"You're eyes are glowing, my love," Fane whispered. "It's extremely sexy."
Jacque grinned at her mate and then nipped his bottom lip.
"Don’t you think we should go somewhere a little more private?"
Fane grinned naughtily, "There is no one in here with us and the doors are closed. What could be more private?"
Jacque snorted at the images Fane sent to her mind. Fane raised his eyebrows in a questioning gesture. In response, Jacque pulled his shirt up and he moved back just enough for her to pull it over his head. She ran her fingers across the marks that covered the right side of his of him. Fane pressed her hand flat against his chest and let her feel his heartbeat.
"It beats for you alone." The sincerity in his voice penetrated Jacque's better judgment and she gave into the desires of her mate. Neither of them knew what tomorrow would bring. They didn't know if this was the last night to spend in each other's arms.