“When I look in the mirror I see my face, my blue eyes, black hair, and strong jaw. But I don’t recognize the figure staring back at me. Something inside me has changed, grown darker, and colder. My wolf rages inside, constantly fighting me for control. I know I mustn’t give in. For if I do, chaos will come crashing down around us, along with lifeless bodies.”
Fane felt sweat dripping from his brow as he ran. His lungs burned with effort as he tried to suck in more air. He could see her just up ahead. She was crying and screaming for him to help her.
"I'm coming!" he yelled.
His footfalls pounded against the earth, seeming to fall in time with the beating of his heart. Every time he got close to catching up, she would be ripped from his grasp. He was losing her. He felt his wolf clawing to get out, raging, howling inside of him. Yet no matter how he tried, he couldn't phase. He felt helpless, and that feeling only fueled the burning anger deep inside of him. She was his. His to protect and over and over he failed her.
Fane sat up suddenly, gasping for breath. He blinked several times and looked around in the darkness of the room he shared with his mate. Another dream, he thought. Sleep continued to elude him. Along with it, the peace he so desperately wanted. He glanced over to where Jacquelyn lay, or should be laying, he thought with a frown. He closed his eyes and reached out to her through their bond. He found her sitting with Jen and Sally by the large stone fireplace in one of the sitting rooms in the Romanian mansion, a place at which she seemed to take refuge more and more lately. No fire burned. The hearth, like his heart, was cold.
Fane bit back the anger he felt at her for leaving him alone in their bed—again. But he knew he couldn’t blame her. He knew he had been distant from her, knew that she ached for him to talk to her, to touch her, and yet still he held himself back.
Utter fury boiled inside of him; he needed to destroy an enemy that was not flesh and blood. But he feared that she would see this and he didn’t know how he could explain that to her. How did he fight a memory? How did he defeat something that was no longer happening, but wouldn’t let go of him? He was at a loss and so he kept her at arm’s length to protect her from what he had become.
It had been two weeks since they had defeated Desdemona and yet it felt as though it was only yesterday. Vasile and the other Alphas were doing their best to work together in a peaceful manner attempting to formulate a course of action. A new enemy had a risen just as the old one had fallen and the supernatural world now waited with bated breath to see what this new evil would bring.
Fane knew he should be helping his father and the others. He knew that it was his duty to lead and to set an example for others, but knowing and doing are two very different things. The cold truth was that his control was gone. Something in his wolf had snapped after seeing their mate trapped in her own mind. She had been experiencing the worst kinds of violation and abuse and he had only been able to stand by and watch. Now it took every ounce of strength he had just to let her out of his sight. For the first few days after the battle he hadn't left her side. It was only after she threatened to have Peri put a binding curse on him that he relented to her demand to have time with her two best friends. But he was always in her mind, always attune to her whereabouts and safety. It angered her more that, though he demanded she stay near him, he would not let her in. The bond was open, but not where she could see into his heart. He remembered her exact words when he had finally relented to her pleas.
“I’m tired of being in this room, Fane,” she had told him. She had been standing by the window gazing out longingly. She kept her back to him as she spoke. “I love you, you know this, but I need more than just this.”
“I just want you safe,” Fane had told her through gritted teeth.
She had laughed bitterly, “Safe and caged are two very different things. You have got to get over whatever obsession it is you have with protecting me. We are in your father’s freaking house; I couldn’t be safer.”
“Too many wolves.”
She laughed again and turned to face him. “I’m done. I’ve tried to be patient and understanding. I’ve tried to talk to you, to get you to help me understand what’s going on with you, but you won’t let me in. I’m your damn mate, your wife, and you won’t talk to me. You can either get your crap together and respect me the way I deserve to be respected…or I will drag Peri into this mess and bind you. You won’t be able to touch me, not like you normally do anyway,” she spat out and Fane had felt as if she had slapped him.
“Jacquelyn,” his chest ached as he spoke her name and he took a step towards her.
“Don’t,” she snarled as she held up her hand. “You are going to fix this, Fane Lupei, and it better be sooner than later because I’m this close,” she’d held up her hand pinching her fingers together with no space in-between, “to packing my crap and finding a different room.”
Fane would like to say that he didn’t lose his cool. He’d like to say he didn’t shred the sheets on the bed or throw the TV across the room, but he’d be lying. Her declaration brought out his wolf. The idea of her leaving him, of not being in their room where she belonged, was more than his wolf or he could take. Jacquelyn’s eyes had widened, but there was more anger than fear in them when she had stormed from the room. That had been two days ago.
He hadn’t known if she would come back that night or not. She had briefly spoken to him through their bond to let him know where she was but then she had shut him out cold. She barely spoke to him when she chose to be around him and what little she did was short and to the point.
Coming back to the present, Fane climbed out of bed and staggered a bit. His limbs felt stiff and tight from the intensity of the dream and it took a few steps before he felt them loosen. He went into the bathroom and splashed cold water on his face but avoided looking in the mirror. He didn’t want to see what stared back at him.
When he came back into the bedroom, he stopped abruptly in mid–step when he saw Sally sitting in one of the chairs that was in the small sitting area.
“Does your mate know you are in another man’s room?” he asked dryly as he altered his course to the closet and grabbed a shirt. He slipped it over his head and then rejoined Sally though he did not take a seat.
“He does, though he is not happy that I did not allow him to come with me.” Sally stared at him as if he were a new species of bug that needed examining. He stared right back. He felt his wolf stir and had to push him down. Sally stood and walked over to him. He tensed but didn’t move. She slowly lifted her hand and placed it on his chest and he watched as she closed her eyes. He wanted to push her away and growl at her for thinking she had a right to touch him, but then, she was a healer and it was, therefore, her right.
He tried to keep the walls in his mind up but Sally was strong and she pushed through with little effort. He waited for her to see what he had become and then run screaming from the room. He felt her presence, but it wasn’t the same as the mate bond. There was no intimacy involved, and yet, at the same time, he felt very vulnerable. She stepped back as her hand dropped and her eyes opened. She met his gaze and her face became stern.
“She could help,” she told him firmly, but her words were gentle.
“At what cost to herself?” he asked.
“It is her right to sacrifice for you. Just as much as it is your right,” she continued before he could speak. “It’s spreading inside of you like a disease and eventually your wolf will take over. The wolf taking over, all instinct, without any of the reasoning of the man would be a very, very bad thing. Though, the fact that you are not in control might actually be worse. You know this and still you hold back. She is aching and empty because of your refusal to allow her to be what you need.”
“You saw what happened?” he asked, knowing she would understand that he was asking her about his memories.
“You saw who touched her, who she willingly allowed, and yet that doesn’t anger you?” his voice dropped to a growl.
“It wasn’t real, Fane. It was a curse that fed our deepest fears. She has suffered enough and you are causing her more pain than the curse did. You have to find a way to let it go. You need her and she needs you. If you can’t talk to her right now, then talk to someone because you are on a war path to self-destruction, and if you lose this battle, it won’t only be Jacque who suffers.”
He watched as Sally walked from his room closing the door gently behind her. He knew what she said was true. He had to fix this mess he had created. He needed his mate, needed her like a drowning man needed air. Sally spoke of Jacquelyn aching and his gut plunged to the ground. He knew that ache. It was his constant companion as well. His arms longed to hold her. His wolf needed to possess her, and he needed to love her—to show her how desperately he loved her.
He didn’t know if he had pushed her too far or if she would forgive him. He didn’t know how to tell her about the madness inside of him. He didn’t know how to bear his weaknesses and shame to her, but he knew that if he didn’t he would destroy them both.
“Love, we need to talk,” he sent through their bond and pushed so that it penetrated the wall she was keeping between them. He felt her shock, and then the utter despair that filled her, rush through to him. “Please, Jacquelyn, come back so we can talk.”
He held his breath waiting for her answer, praying it wasn’t too late.
“It’s about damn time,” she growled at him.
He nearly fell to his knees and wept as she reminded him of who she was. She was his and she wasn’t giving up on him.
“No I’m not giving up on you, but I just might kill you.” She was coming to him; he could feel her getting closer.
“If dying by your hand means I can feel your touch, then you can kill me a thousand times,” he knew his words sounded as fraught as he felt.
“Don’t tempt me.”
Fane growled as he felt the pain inside of her at the mention of touch. It had been so long since they’d touched and it was his fault.
“I’m going to fix this, Luna, though I fear how you will look at me once you know everything. But I’m so empty without you and the darkness is beginning to drive my wolf mad. He growls for you and I can barely hold him back from snatching you and begging you not to leave. I need you but more than that, I want you.”
He knew that is what she needed to hear. She had felt like he didn’t want her anymore and that she was no longer worthy to be his mate. The door slammed open as she rushed inside and threw herself into his arms. Fane buried his face in her neck and breathed deep. Her scent rushed into his lungs and for the first time in weeks he felt as though he could breath. He held her close and shuddered when her fingers twined in his hair.
“I’m sorry,” he whispered against her hair, “I’m so, so sorry.”
Jacque bit her lip as she tried to hold back the tears. She knew they were a long way from okay, but they were a step in the right direction. She knew there were going to be many fights ahead, but she also knew that meant lots of making up as well.
“I heard that,” Fane told her as he nipped her neck.
Jacque let out a weary laugh, “We have much to discuss before we get there wolf-man.”