“I didn’t realize,” Sally began.
“You can’t smell Costin. You don’t have anything to go on, but what your mind is telling you,” Peri explained. “You are going to have to trust your friends, your pack mates.”
Sally nodded, but didn’t say anything else.
“Peri, something is not right,” Alina looked back at the Fae.
“What do you mean?” Peri asked.
Alina pointed and they all turned to see that, once again, the stairs were mere feet from them.
Jen threw her hands up in the air. “You have got to be kidding me!” She growled in frustration.
Peri’s eyes narrowed as she stared at the stairs. Why weren’t they getting anywhere? She had pointed out their fear. They were aware of it and not allowing it to dictate their actions, so why weren’t they making any progress. Her head snapped over to Jacque.
“When you came down those stairs, what were your biggest worries?”
Jacque answered, without hesitation. “That we wouldn’t find them in time.”
Peri pointed at Rachel waiting for her to answer the same question.
“I’m afraid that two hours wouldn’t be enough time to find them and get them out.” Rachel told her.
Peri smacked herself on the forehead, as she realized her mistake.
“Finding them,” she said, “not only are we afraid that we won’t make it in time, we’re afraid that we won’t be able to find them.”
“Bloody hell,” Sally murmured.
“Our own fears have been keeping us right here?” Cynthia asked, with raised eyebrows.
“Picture your mates, ladies,” Peri instructed as she walked over and stood on the bottom step so she was a tad taller than the rest. “Cynthia, make yourself useful, since you have no mate to picture, and sing.”
Cynthia’s eyes narrowed. “You want me to sing?”
“Did I stutter?” Peri snapped.
“Can I ask how singing will help?”
“It will keep them grounded on what’s real. Give them an anchor so to speak.”
Cynthia didn’t say anything more, but thought for a brief moment and then started to sing.
I have seen what man can do,
When the evil lives inside of you.
Many are the weak,
And the strong are few.
Her voice carried as she sang, filling the room with a deep, rich music that reached into each of them.
Peri spoke over Cynthia’s singing, but made a motion to Cynthia to keep singing. So she did.
“Picture your mates, think of how they smell, look, and sound. Focus on details no matter how small. What color are his eyes? What does his hair look like when the sun hits it and light touches the individual strands? What does his skin feel like under your fingers? What does your mate’s scent smell like to you and how does it make you feel? Put all your energy into remembering them, every detail.”
Sally let Peri’s voice draw her in and she pictured Costin. His hazel eyes sparkling with mischief and his lips turned up in a playful smile. She pictured his dimple that always made her heart beat faster and heard the laughter that usually accompanied it. She pictured him standing before her with his hands on her hips, as they had been when he had been teaching her how to bartend. She pictured his lips moving towards hers and she remembered how he had smelled, how his scent had called to her. It called to her now. Her eyes had drifted closed as she thought about her mate, but when the scent of him hit her nose, they immediately snapped open.
Sally’s eyes widened as she look around the room where she stood. She hadn’t moved from where she was standing, but the room she was in now was dark and made of earth. All the other females were with her, but there were more than just them. Kneeling on the dirt floor mere feet from each other were their mates. All oblivious to one another, each locked in their own misery.
Her head turned to the right slowly and the breath was wrenched from her lungs when she saw Costin. He was leaning over and looked like he was stroking something, but there was nothing in front of him. Sally ran to him and knelt down next to him.
“Costin,” she whispered his name, as she brushed the hair from his face. “Costin, sweetie, it’s Sally.” His head turned slowly and his eyes locked on hers. His eyes were wild and desperate. He looked back down to the spot where he had been staring and then back at her. He was trying to decide something. She placed her hand on his face and reached out to see what he was seeing. She bit her lip to keep from crying out as she saw her body lying before him; naked, broken, bloody. She jerked away from the image and met his eyes.
“I’m real Costin. I’m real.” She took his hand and placed it on her chest so he could feel her heart beat. “Feel,” she told him. “I’m your Sally, the real Sally. I’m whole, unharmed.”
Costin was staring at the hand she had placed against her chest. His eyes narrowed in concentration, his jaw clenched, and his breathing became shallow. After several minutes, he leaned forward and laid his head where his hand had been. He listened to her heart and felt it’s beating against his face. He turned his face so that his nose was against her and then he slid his face higher until his face was against the bare skin of her collar bone. He took a deep breath and let out a low growl. His wolf stirred and though the man didn’t want to believe that this was his Sally, the wolf refused to let him turn away. Mine, his wolf snarled. Costin’s arms wrapped around Sally and pulled her tightly to him. She gasped at the sudden movement, but then wrapped her arms around him and returned his embrace.
“Sally,” he whispered, his voice was rough and she felt his words rumble in his chest.
“It’s really me, Costin. I’m real. I know you don’t know what to believe, but I’m real.”
Costin pulled back and looked at her. He reached up, brushed away a tear from her cheek, and felt the wetness against his skin. Then he leaned forward and pressed his lips to hers. There was no hesitation from Sally. She returned his kiss wholeheartedly. She kissed him as though her life depended on it. Costin felt Sally’s lips mold to his, and then part when his tongue pressed against them. Her taste hit him hard and he ended the kiss abruptly pulling back to look in her eyes.
“It’s you?” he asked, almost afraid to hope.
“Yes.” She smiled and it lit up the darkness that had been surrounding him for so long.