“Costin,” Sally’s voice reached into him and drew the man back. She was calling for him. His mate was calling for him. He was by her side an instant later and nearly touched her before he remembered that he couldn’t.

“Sally I need to hold you, please invite me.”

Sally blinked, as she tried to focus on what he was saying. Her mind was a jumbled mess and she kept trying to push away thoughts that would only lead to tears.

“I need you Costin,” The words were barely thought and Costin had scooped her up and left, without a backward glance, heading straight for his room.

He laid her on his bed and sat beside her. He stroked her cheek and his heart broke when she pulled away from him.

“Sally, look at me,” Costin tried to keep the growl from his voice; he didn’t want to scare her any more that she already was.

She slowly turned her face towards him, but she wouldn’t meet his eyes.

“Don’t be submissive to me,” he told her as he gently tilted her chin up, ignoring her flinch. “You’re my mate, my equal, and you will always meet my eyes.”

She stared up into his hazel eyes. He was so handsome it nearly hurt to look at him. She ached for his touch but she feared it as well.

“Why?” He asked her.

“I’m not clean, I’m not…”

“You’re mine,” He interrupted and then continued out loud. “You are mine and I am yours.”

“They t-t-t,” Sally erupted into tears as she tried to explain to Costin. She needed him to know because he wouldn’t want her anymore. At this moment, she was so broken that she knew that if he left now she would just curl up and die. But if he stayed because he didn’t understand then she wasn’t really his anymore, and that would hurt even more.

“Costin, I was a virgin,” she finally got out.

“You still are love,” he told her gently. “I would remember if we had indulged in something that is bound to be amazing.”

Sally shook her head, frustrated that he didn’t understand.

“No, it wasn’t you. Someone else did it, Costin, and I couldn’t stop him. I tried, I promise.”

“I know baby, but that wasn’t real. It didn’t really happen.”

She continued as if she hadn’t heard him. “That’s not the worst part, oh god, that’s not the worst.” Tears flooded her eyes and sobs broke through her chest. She reached for him, though she knew she had no right to. Not any more.

“I…” She tried to tell him but she couldn’t. Shame washed over her and so she showed him instead. She buried her face in his neck and played the images for him of the things she had endured, the things she had done. Her body shook and she bit her bottom lip to keep from crying out.

Costin wrapped his arms around Sally and pulled her onto his lap. He saw the things in Sally’s mind that she believed had happened. Costin wouldn’t lie and say that it didn’t make him angry, but not for the reason Sally thought. It made Costin angry, because it took something that was to be special and beautiful for her and cheapened it; stole it from her, making her think that she had cheated on him. Costin had endured the same images in the In-Between and he had prayed that he would be able to keep those images from her, to keep her safe. Yet, here she sat utterly devastated.

He didn’t know what to do. She wouldn’t believe his words. He could see the ferocious determination to push him away because she thought she no longer deserved him, that she wasn’t worthy of him. It was ridiculous; if anyone wasn’t worthy, it was him. Sally was his precious and amazing Sally, with a heart of gold and a gentle spirit.

“I love you,” he told her and she shook harder, but he wasn’t going to stop, not until she understood with absolute certainty that he was not leaving her.

“I love you Sally. I love you and I’m not leaving.” He pulled back so that he could wipe the tears from her cheeks. She fought him, but he was stronger. He held her shoulders still and looked at her.

“I’m going to kiss you now; do not fight me.”

Sally tried to shake her head, but Costin wrapped his hand around the nape of her neck and held her still. She refused to open her mouth and Costin nipped her lips in admonishment.

“Open your mouth, Sally.” His voice was a deep, husky whisper in her mind, it made her shutter, and for a moment, she forgot her pain and fear. She opened her mouth and when their tongues met, she moaned. And, just like that, the sound brought an image to her that made her want to vomit. She tried to pull away, but Costin refused to let her go. He continued to kiss her and Sally gasped when she saw the images in his mind.

Costin decided the only way to fight Sally’s mind was to give her something else to think about.

“Let me replace those images Sally mine. Those were false things, lies that never happened. No one has touched you intimitley. No other has kissed you as I do and nobody has taken what is so precious to us both. They are lies that were put in your head by a spell. When we are married I will replace those with something real.” He didn’t wait for a response. He continued to kiss her as he laid her back on the bed. He blanketed her with his body, putting just enough weight on her to make her think about him. Costin moved from her lips across her jaw line. She tilted her head back, giving him access to her throat and he took advantage of it. He kissed her, nipped her gently with his teeth. He made his way across her neck until his lips hovered over his mark.

“I’m going to bite you, I don’t want you to be alarmed,” he told her softly. She nodded slowly as she drowned in the feel of his body, the touch of his hands and the caress of his lips. Costin wrapped his hand around her neck so that she wouldn’t jump and make him accidentally tear into her soft flesh. He tilted her head back and sunk his teeth deep into her neck. Her blood filled his mouth and he felt his wolf howl in victory. They had their mate back; she was in their arms where she belonged. Costin’s other hand slipped under the back of her shirt meeting flesh with flesh and his wolf took comfort in the touch. He pulled his teeth back, licked the wound. He felt the rightness in the act and felt his heart flood with love for the woman before him.

“Sally,” he groaned her name as he kissed down her collar bone, and then pulled back to look at her. As he stared into her eyes, he shared with her his desire, his passion, and need for her. He knew she wanted to wait until they were married to mate, and he would honor her wishes. He hoped once they were married and mated that every time he touched her, she wouldn’t have the memory of what the curse had shown to her popping up. So, he vowed that once she was his wife was going to make sure that a mere touch from him would flood her mind with the desire that he alone could unleash on her.

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