Crina nodded slowly before answering, “I am now.” Her lips turned up in a small smile. “You’re my mate?”

“That I am, beautiful.” He winked at her, digging deep for the confidence that he usually wore like a favorite pair of pants.

“How can this be?” Crina’s head turned to look at her Alpha for the answer.

“We need to talk,” Vasile answered tersely.

Half an hour later, after everyone had taken seats on any surface they could find, Vasile finished explaining all that Wadim had told him. The group was quiet; the only sounds were the life in the forest, which were carrying on as if no destinies were being forever changed, and no species were forever altering the history of their race.

Adam looked over at Vasile and the look he gave him asked for privacy. Vasile stood, motioning for the others to follow. Adam took Crina’s hand in his to keep her next to him. He waited until they had gone far enough that they could not be seen. Adam reached for his magic to create a barrier so the others could not hear their conversation.

“They can’t hear us,” he told her with a grin.

Crina smiled back.

“How are you?” he asked her.

“It’s a little bit of a shock.”

“Are you -” Adam paused, steeling himself to ask the question that he wasn’t really sure that he wanted to know the answer to. “Are you okay with this? I mean, do you want me as your mate? You know, even though I am Fae?”

Crina didn’t respond right away and Adam took that as her answer. He let go of her hand and scooted back, giving her space.

“I understand if you don’t want to be mated to me. I’m not exactly what you thought you would end up with.” His words were gentle, but Crina could hear the hurt beneath them.

She scooted closer to him, closing the distance he had created. She took the hand he had pulled away and looked up into his face.

“It is a shock, but it is not a disappointment. I’ve known all of my life that I would one day have a mate, someone I would spend the rest of my life with. I knew that I would be bound to him and would be enamored and completely in love with him. Yes, this is different than what I expected, but it is still a joyous thing. I am scared, but so excited to finally have found my mate.” Crina looked down, suddenly not as confident. “My apprehension is that this is not something that you would have expected or prepared for. Can you love me? Can you choose this, us?”

Adam leaned forward and wrapped an arm around her waist and lifted her onto his lap. He pulled her close to his chest, enjoying the feel of her body against his.

“I won’t lie and say that I ever thought that I would spend my life with one female. But I look at you and my soul feels like it has been searching for you forever. For the first time in my life I feel complete and excited about what is to come. I choose us, and I know that we are going to have to get to know each other. We'll take it as slow as you want.

“I can tell you that whatever crazy thing created this bond has also created a very protective and jealous man. I understand now why your males are so possessive. I have been watching you since last night and it has taken incredible control not to take you away from these others males. I also understand the importance of touch. I look at you and long to be close to you, to feel you, whether it be just your hand or more.”

Crina blushed at his words, her usual in-your-face demeanor softening as the words of her mate poured reassurance into her.

“So we just go forward from here?” she asked him.

“I wouldn’t want to go backward, to before you were mine.” He leaned forward and looked into her eyes. “May I kiss you?” he asked her, not wanting to take such a liberty too soon.

She nodded shyly. Adam cupped her face and pulled her closer. Their lips touched, and what was meant to be a simple, chaste kiss became laced with passion. Crina reached around his neck and pulled him closer. Adam refrained from seeking entrance into her mouth, satisfied that she had let him be so close to her, and he reveled in the fact that he was not the only one feeling the fire between them.

He pulled back but did not let go of her face. She stared back longingly and it took all of his self-control to not continue what they started.

“The others are waiting for us,” he whispered to her.

She licked her lips as she smiled.

Adam groaned. “Please don’t do that.”

Crina laughed, and for the first time in a long time, felt joy, real joy, fill her heart.

Adam stood, placing her feet on the ground at the same time. He lifted the magic that kept the others from hearing them.

“Vasile, we are ready.” Adam didn’t raise his voice; he knew that the Alpha would hear him just fine.

As the group came into view, Jacque made a bee line for Crina.

“Are you okay?” she asked, her brow furrowed, searching intently for anything that would indicate otherwise.

Crina looked up at Adam and smiled. “I’m better than okay.”

Jacque let out a breath and smiled back. “Excellent. I was really hoping the guys wouldn’t have to kick Adam’s ass if he hurt you.”

Adam glanced at the males with a single brow raised.

“I knew you would make the right choice,” Vasile told him confidently.

Adam nodded his thanks.

“Okay.” Vasile turned to look at the path they had been following. “We need to continue on. The pixies showed an interest in our presence earlier with the little emotion stunt. We need to be on guard and move quickly.”

“When are we going to finally talk to the little buggers?” Jacque asked.

“When they are ready to show themselves,” Vasile answered. “Until then, we keep moving.”

Minutes after they had continued on their trek there was a loud crack, like a gun shot. The group stopped abruptly, everyone going into full alert. The males created a circle around the females and prepared for anything that might lunge out of the forest. Another crack sounded, seeming to come from above them. Adam glanced up and saw a large branch begin to fall from the tall tree.

“RUN!” he yelled as he pushed the group up the path. They jumped into action and took off. As they ran they continued to hear frightening cracks – branches were crashing together as limbs fell all around them.

Vasile was in the lead when a crack much louder than the others broke into the air. He began to sense that the danger had moved ahead rather than behind them. Suddenly a branch the size of a small tree fell in the spot Vasile’s foot had just been about to land. The other wolves crashed into his back as he pulled to a halt.