Then Costin and Sally were alone.

Sally sat very still and stared at the floor, willing it to open up and swallow her.

Costin sat on the stool that Peri had occupied and remained silent. Sally could feel his eyes on her, those beautiful hazel eyes that captivated her every time she looked at him.

She finally let out a deep breath, unable to stand the silence any longer.

“Say something, please.” She spoke softly, so unsure of what he was thinking.

Costin reached over and brushed the hair that had escaped her pony tail from her face.

“You love me,” he said with a grin.

Sally’s breath whooshed from her lungs as if she had been punched in the stomach. “How much did you hear, exactly?”

Costin shrugged. “Enough to tell you that it is I who am unworthy of you. What can I do to prove to you that you are more than I could have ever hoped for? You hold my heart in your hands, my sweet healer. Your soul is calling to me so loudly that my wolf demands I stay near you. I don’t want to pressure you and I don’t want you to complete the bond with me because Peri says you should. It has to be your decision, for the right reasons.” He pulled his stool closer to hers. She could smell his unique scent – something spicy that she couldn’t place...and something like the woods covered in freshly fallen snow.

“Sally.” He spoke her name reverently and it came out nearly in a whisper. She felt his breath caress her face. Before she realized what he was doing, he stood and pulled her up from the stool. He picked her up by her waist and sat her down on the worktable and wedged himself in between her legs. As he wrapped his arms around her, she heard him murmuring softly to her in Romanian.

Sally’s heartbeat quickened. He buried his face in her neck, taking deep breaths. After several moments, she wrapped her arms around his neck and pulled him closer. Nothing had ever felt as right as being in his arms.

Costin pulled back just enough so that his lips were next to her ear. She felt his warm breath against her skin, and as if it was the most natural thing in the world, she tilted her head to the side, allowing him more access to her neck.

A low rumble emitted from Costin. His warm lips against her neck caused chills to ripple down her back.

“I won’t lie, Sally.” She felt his lips moving against her skin as he spoke and a soft moan escaped her. Costin chuckled, enjoying the effect he was having on her. “My wolf is restless. He wants his mate. He wants to protect you, be close to you, and the man agrees with him.”

Sally’s head fell forward onto Costin’s shoulder and she gripped the tops of his arms when she felt his tongue dart out quickly on her neck. “I need you,” he continued. “When I’m away from you all I think about is the next time I will see you. When I’m with you it’s all I can do to keep from touching you, holding you, kissing you. Knowing you are going to be with me through this life, feeling the darkness recede when you touch me, watching your defenses melt when I hold you....these things keep me from going crazy while I wait.”

Sally pulled back and placed her hands on either side of his face. She didn’t have any experience with relationships, emotional or physical. She decided to just let her instincts guide her. She ran a thumb across his sensual lips and let out a breathy laugh when he playfully nipped it.

“You won’t ever leave me?” she asked softly. Her hands left his face and slid down his neck to his shoulders.

“Never.” The intensity in his eyes and the conviction in his voice almost quieted the doubts, worries, and fears that had been keeping her heart from him. Almost.

“Okay.” She smiled shyly.

“Okay?” Costin felt his wolf perk up. “Are you saying okay you believe me or okay let’s do this bonding thing?”

Sally giggled at the eagerness in his voice. “Yes,” she answered simply.

A huge grin spread across Costin’s face as he cupped her face and pulled her close, pressing his lips firmly to hers. Sally tensed at first but the passion she felt from their bond quickly made her overcome her insecurities. She wrapped her arms around his neck and tilted her head to the side so he could deepen the kiss. She tentatively separated her lips, offering him entrance and he wasted no time taking advantage of her boldness.  One of Costin’s hands slipped from her face and traveled to the back of her neck, while the other skimmed down her arm, ending up on her hip. He pulled her closer and growled when she moaned into his mouth. The kiss was intense. Sally felt a pull inside her reaching out to Costin. She felt like she couldn’t get close enough. Her inner Jen perked up at that and Sally smiled inwardly as she thought about how this must've been what Jen was always raving about.

Costin pulled back and, much to her embarrassment, Sally actually groaned in disappointment. This brought a chuckle from him.

Sally’s eyes narrowed. “What is so funny?”

Costin leaned forward, pressing a kiss to her forehead. “You are, my sweet. You are actually embarrassed by your desire for me. It’s cute.”

Sally groaned again and tried to hide her now blushing face in his chest. “You have got to be kidding me. How could you tell I was embarrassed?”

“I could feel it. That’s part of our bond. It must be getting stronger if I’m beginning to feel your emotions. See if you can feel mine.”

“How exactly am I supposed to do that?” she asked hesitantly.

“It might be easier if you close your eyes and just concentrate on me. Think about how I look, how I feel, how I smell –  and, if you want, you can think about how I taste.” Costin laughed when Sally playfully slapped his arm.

She closed her eyes and began to think about him. She thought about his messy hair, his beautiful hazel eyes that danced with mischief. She thought about the smile that stretched across his face that always seemed to say that he knew something no one else did, and then she thought about the dimple that accompanied that smile. Slowly she felt a pull toward him, almost as if a string connected them and it was drawing them together.

Suddenly intense warmth flowed over her and she knew it was his love. It was pouring out of him and covering her like a cloak of protection. It was intense, like the waves flowing in with the tide. His love was like those waves crashing into her doubts and fears, drowning out her insecurities, and just as those waves brought destruction they also brought life. The waves brought life from the open ocean close to the shore and to those who needed that life. So it was with his love for her. He filled her with life. Costin claimed to have darkness in him, but he was so much more than that.