After doing some searching, Vasile found Decebel sitting on a bench across the road from the tavern. Vasile walked toward him, looking up and down the road. There weren't any cars to disturb the silent night. The crunching of the snow under his shoes seemed to echo loudly.
The village was small, and very primitive in some ways. Though there was indoor plumbing, there was no electricity. Oil lamps lit the buildings and fires heated the homes. Vasile smiled to himself at the simplicity of life here. But even here, complexity and trouble found its way in.
Decebel looked up as Vasile sat down next to him.
"How could I forget my mate, Vasile? What kind of man does that make me?"
Vasile wrapped an arm around him, briefly giving him the comfort of touch and letting him know he wasn't alone.
"It makes you like the rest of us – vulnerable. No matter what we do, no matter how hard we try, we can't protect our mates from everything. We aren't omniscient or omnipresent.” Vasile sat back, contemplating. “I think part of the reason that she has been wiped completely from your memory is that you haven't yet completed the bonding ceremony or the Blood Rites."
Decebel snapped his head around. "What was I waiting for, an engraved invitation?"
Vasile chuckled. "It wasn't that simple."
"Is it ever with women?"
"Don't let my mate hear you say that," Vasile teased.
"So why had I not bonded my mate?"
"You were drawn to one another from day one. The intensity of your relationship is one of the strongest I've ever seen. That said, there were no mating signs."
Decebel took in a sharp breath. "None?"
Vasile shook his head.
"And yet I was sure she was my mate?" Decebel asked in disbelief.
"We all were. It was confirmed just before the mansion went up in flames."
"How?" Decebel felt hopeful. Why? He wasn't sure. He didn't even remember the girl Vasile spoke of.
"Your bond finally connected. You were able to hear each other's thoughts." Vasile watched as his Beta processed that news.
Decebel felt like he had been punched in the gut. He had a mate – a mate! His head cocked to the side as a thought hit him. "If I have a mate, where the hell is she?"
"The Alpha of the Serbian pack tried to have her killed."
Decebel stood up abruptly, outraged, but then a key word hit him. "Tried to have her killed? So she isn't dead?"
Vasile shook his head.
"Tell me," Decebel said simply.
"Marianna, one of our younger unmated females was fooled by Thad into agreeing to kill your mate. It was assumed this would take you out of the picture and leave me without your protection."
Decebel squeezed his eyes shut. "I remember that. I remember killing a girl, but I don’t recognize her. She was pack? I killed one of ours?" His voice shook with horror.
"Be still, Decebel. She betrayed our pack. She tried to kill your mate. You were justified in your judgment and sentence." Vasile paused, narrowing his eyes as he continued to remember the events of that night. "When your bond connected, Jen was able to tell you what she remembered. You shared your memories with me. She was pushed into a cavern and had been severely injured."
"Why have I not been searching for her?" Decebel interrupted.
"She made you promise to get her friends to safety first."
"And I listened to her? I put her friends before my own mate?!"
"Why are you laughing?" Decebel's brow furrowed as he watched his Alpha in confusion.
"You're mate can be quite convincing when she needs to be. She pretty much told you that if you came for her without taking care of her friends first that she would never forgive you. And you knew that she spoke the truth. If there is one thing Jen is, it's loyal, fiercely loyal to those she loves."
"So she's out there, hurt and alone in this freezing cold?" Decebel realized that even though he didn't know this girl, didn't know what he was supposed to feel for her, he still wanted to save her – he wanted a chance to meet her.
"We will find her." Vasile's words were absolute. He would accept nothing less than Jen's safe return and his Beta's memory restored. And the witch who dared touch what was his, well, he wanted her head on a stick. Violent, definitely. But then, he was Alpha and nobody hurt what was his.
"So what's the plan?" Decebel asked. He refused to sit idly by just because he couldn't remember things. She was pack. He would do whatever he needed to protect that pack.
"We do need to make a plan. Meet me in the back room of the tavern. I will go and get the others."
The Alpha and his Beta began to walk back towards the tavern.
Decebel continued on when Vasile stopped to talk with the tavern's owner.
"I will compensate you well for the time you allow us to stay," he told Nicolae, a short middle aged man with a round belly and five o'clock shadow. He had an easy smile and, from what Vasile could see, he was a gentle soul. Vasile spoke in their native tongue, wanting to befriend the gentleman and create a comradeship with him.
"I have heard you have a member of your family missing?" Nicolae asked.
"Yes. We were having a family gathering and the girl got lost in the woods. We will be here until she is found."
"Anything that I can do, I will. For now, I'll have meals readied for your family."
Vasile nodded. "That would be great. I will send some of my people to help you prepare and gather whatever you need. Thank you."
Decebel watched as Vasile and Alina came into the back room. Following them was Sorin, Skender, and then others that smelled like pack, but that he had no memory of.
He noticed that the healer and the red head kept sneaking glances at him. It was obvious that they knew him, but no matter how hard he tried, they remained black voids in his mind.
"Alright, daddy-o. Let's get this party started." Jacque clapped her hands together, punctuating her obvious eagerness.
"Fane." Vasile's voice was a warning.
"Luna, sit," Fane growled at Jacque.
Jacque glared at her mate, but acquiesced while murmuring, "You are so going to pay for that later."