“You cannot have them,” Peri answered the voice. She knew none of the others would be able to hear her over the storm. Rain now pelted them painfully and the temperature dropped, making the drops even more excruciating as they sliced against their flesh. She could feel the magic Reyaz spoke of, could feel the darkness in it, and the intent behind it. And she realized that there was no way around it, not this kind of magic. It demanded a sacrifice and it would not relent its hold until it got it. “So be it,” she whispered into the raging storm. She stood slowly, careful to steady her weak legs and turned to look at Vasile. The rain made it difficult to see him clearly and she hoped that he could hear her with his wolf ears. “This is my sacrifice to make. It has been an honor, Vasile, Alpha, friend.” She flashed herself to the edge of the cliff and with one final glance back at the wolves she had grown to love so deeply she leapt.
“There’s a song that I listen to when I need to know that it’s okay to fall apart. The chorus says to let it hurt, let it bleed, let it take you right down to your knees. I’m there. I’m on my knees hurting, bleeding, burning, from the inside out. What if it doesn’t stop? What if it’s just too much? How long do I let it hurt? How long do I let it bleed and what if I can never get up off my knees?” ~Jacque
Decebel looked around at the others and saw that they were all as shocked as he was. The rain stopped, and the wind died down. The ground around them was just a forest floor. Peri’s sacrifice had broken the magic. Peri’s death had saved their lives. Decebel gritted his teeth together as the anguish continued to build inside of him. He wanted to grieve for Peri. He wanted to show her the respect she deserved and he would, whether it be in this life or the next. But first he had to get to his mate.
He heard the sobs of the females and the murmuring voices of the males attempting to comfort them, but they would find no comfort, not here in a place that continued to take from them and to rip lives that completed their family from them.
“Where did she go?” Elle asked as she looked around the forest for any sign of Peri’s body. “Why isn’t her body here?” Tears stained her face and her hair, wild from the storm fell loosely around her shoulders.
“I don’t know,” Vasile answered. “What she has done for us will not be forgotten, and we will give her the burial she deserves once this is finished.”
The others nodded and mumbled agreements as they attempted to pull themselves together.
Lilly buried her face in Cypher’s chest as he enveloped her in his large arms. He whispered to her gently, “I’m sorry little one; we will make it out of this.”
Lilly wanted to believe him, but then part of her wanted to curl into a ball and let the sorrow swallow her.
“Vasile, we must hurry,” Decebel told him. He turned in the direction where the cliff edge had appeared to be and walked a few steps, taking a deep breath. There, he thought, there is my Jennifer. He took off at a dead run, not caring if anyone followed him. His one thought, his only thought, to get to his mate, to see his child, and then to die telling the woman he loved how precious she was to him.
“It’s been a long time,” the Great Luna told the white wolf.
Lucian phased back into his human form and stood beside Alina’s body. He looked at his creator and felt the warmth and love flowing off of her and into him.
“Why did you let me live?” he asked her, thinking of the long centuries he had spent wandering the dark forest, aching for companionship, and at times, longing for death.
“Because you have a purpose still in this life and it is an important one.”
He looked down at Alina and felt the sorrow from her death and remembered the pain in his brother’s eyes. “Was her purpose done?” he motioned to Alina.
The Great Luna shook her head as her lips tightened into a thin line. “No, it was not.” She frowned at the still body of the Alpha female and walked over to her. She knelt down and eased her arms under her and picked her up effortlessly.
“Come, Lucian. I will not leave a child of mine out in the dark.”
Lucian followed her without hesitation. He heard weeping up ahead and then he and the Luna emerged into a tiny clearing where one of the girls from the circle, Jacque, he recalled her name, sat with the brunette, Sally, lying in her lap. She looked up at them and her tears fell harder and she began to rock back and forth.
“Why?” she asked the Great Luna. “Please tell me why?”
She turned and carefully handed Alina to Lucian and then went over and knelt by the two girls. She murmured something he couldn’t hear and then Jacque nodded her head and then slumped forward until her forehead rested on the Luna’s shoulder. He watched as the goddess caressed the female, calming her.
“Let us go,” she finally said as she picked up Sally in her arms and motioned for the other to follow.
“Where are we going?” Jacque asked.
The Great Luna smiled at her as a proud parent smiles at their child. “There will be no more death today, not of my children. It is time that I interfered.”
Jen felt sweat sliding down her back and matting her hair to her face. The warm air felt cool against her damp skin and she welcomed that small relief. She squeezed her eyes closed as she embraced the pain of labor, knowing that she was bringing a precious life into the world, a life she and Decebel had created. She bit her lip as she fought back the urge to scream, as the contractions
became more painful and closer together. Cynthia told her to find a focal point, to grab onto a thought and hold it in her mind, and to see it with clarity. She had no problem picking a focal point because he had been her focus since the day he had growled at her in that hospital room. He had claimed her and even when there were no signs other than what he felt, he had made it clear that she was his.
She pictured his face in her mind, his amber eyes, and the secrets they held. She envisioned his high cheek bones, straight nose, and firm lips that often stayed in a permanent scowl aimed at her, but could quirk up in an amused smile at a moment’s notice. She pushed all of her focus into that picture of him and finally the pain subsided from the contraction. She knew she wouldn’t have a respite for very long.
“Okay,” Cynthia said as she pushed the blanket over Jen’s knees so she could see how far dilated she was, “that was a strong one.”