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“You’ll do fine.” He bent down, kissing her cheek. “It really isn’t that hard, and I won’t let anything happen to you. I promise.”

She smiled at that and spent the next ten minutes snapping pictures of the glittering rocks. Then they started up the rocky hill bathed in sunlight, moving slowly so that Bethany could get a feel for the terrain. Pebbles and loose dirt streamed down behind them as they made their way up.

“This really isn’t bad,” she said, stopping and glancing behind her. “Whoa. Okay. Remind me not to look back.”

He turned around. Beth’s spine was ramrod straight. “You okay?”

She nodded.

Backtracking to her, he slid a little as he placed a hand on her shoulder. Face pale, she gripped his arm. “Are you sure?” he asked, worried.

“Yeah, I just don’t think I’ve ever been this high up before.”

Dawson smiled. “We aren’t that high up, Bethany.”

Her throat worked. “It doesn’t feel that way.”

Was she afraid of heights? Oh crap, if that were the case, this was a bad idea. “You want to head back down? We can.”

“No.” She shook her head, giving him a wobbly smile as she pried her fingers off his arm. “I want to do this with you. Just…just go slowly, okay?”

Part of him wanted to pick her up and zip her back down to the meadow below, but she insisted and he trusted her to tell him when she’d had enough.

Twenty minutes later, he scrambled up the flat rock and reached down to her. “Give me your hand. I’ll pull you up.”

Eyes narrowed with determination, she placed her hand in his. Warmth cascaded through his chest in response to her trust. Tugging her up, he held her until she was ready to stand. And when she did, he noticed that her legs shook a little as she turned around.

Bethany clutched the camera hanging around her neck. “It’s beautiful.”

He rose to his feet, placing his hands on his hips as he took it all in. The sky was that rare, perfect kind of blue. Clouds were fluffy, looking like they were painted in. Tips of ancient elms rose up, concealing the ground below.

“Yeah,” he said slowly. “It’s amazing. A different world up here.”

She glanced over her shoulder at him. “It would be so cool to be able to sit up here and paint.”

“We could do that.”

Bethany laughed. “I don’t think I’d be able to get my stuff up here.”

“Ye of little faith,” he teased. “I can zip your stuff up here and have it ready in three seconds.”

She grinned. “It’s so strange. Sometimes I just forget…what you are.”

Most people wouldn’t know how to take that, but he recognized it for what it was. And that was why he…why he loved her.

Looking away, he clamped his mouth shut. The words had been in his chest for weeks, maybe months, demanding to be spoken, but any time he tried to force them out of his mouth, he locked up. Bethany hadn’t said those words, either, and if she didn’t feel the same, he was afraid he’d scare her off.

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw her inch cautiously toward the edge. “Be careful,” he said.

“I’m always careful.”

Dawson pivoted around and crossed to the other side of the rock. From where he stood, he was almost in perfect alignment with where the colony existed. He sighed, closing his eyes. Neither him nor Daemon had heard from them since the beginning of this year. Soon, he realized, soon he would have to face them, and they’d want to talk about mating. What would he say? There was no way he could even entertain the idea of being with someone else. But he couldn’t tell them about Bethany. He wouldn’t be able to tell them anything. And that would go over like a—

A wicked sense of dread shot through him, forcing his eyes open. He glanced down at the sandstone rocks below his feet. The crystals embedded deep into the sediment winked. The surface was shiny, still damp from the recent rain. Slick—

A gasp shattered his core, barely audible but as loud as thunder. The scream that came next chilled his entire body.

There hadn’t even been a second—time seemed to have stopped, though. His heart pounded in his chest as he whipped around, catching the blurred outline of Beth’s flailing arms.

Lead settled in his stomach, but he shot forward, slipping out of his form without thinking about it. He was fast, but all it took was a second—a second for gravity to do its thing. To reach up and suck Bethany down into nothing but space.

But it was worse than just empty air, because then he would’ve had time to catch her.

He went over the edge blindly, knowing that the side she’d slipped off of had several jagged outcroppings that were bone breaking.

And one, a spike about ten fight long and six feet wide, had stopped her fall about thirty feet down.

Chapter 17

Dawson wasn’t thinking.

Two seconds had passed. Two fucking seconds for him to shed his human form and reach her body, which lay at an odd angle—one leg under the other, an arm hanging limply over the side.

Bethany wasn’t moving.

Something red pooled under the left side of her head. Not blood—it couldn’t be blood. Whatever it was—because it couldn’t be what it was—leaked from her ears. The camera was gone, having fallen even farther.

He couldn’t think.

A part of his brain, the human side, clicked off. Reaching for Beth, he cradled her against his chest, swallowing her in the whitish-blue light.

Bethany. Bethany. Bethany. Her name was on repeat. He rocked back against the smooth wall, and he screamed and screamed. His entire world shattered. Open your eyes. Please open your eyes.

She didn’t move.

She wouldn’t move. Some part of him recognized that a human couldn’t have survived that fall depending on how they landed, but Beth…not his Bethany.

This…this couldn’t be happening.

His light flared around them, until he could no longer see her pale face but only an outline.

He’d promised he wouldn’t let anything happen to her. A second—a goddamn second—he had turned away from her. This was his fault. He shouldn’t have brought her up here after so much rain had soaked the ground, coating the bottom of her sneakers. He shouldn’t have kept going up the hill when he’d seen how nervous she was, how shaky her legs were.

He should’ve been able to stop this—to save her. What the hell kind of power did he have if he couldn’t have saved her?

Dawson screamed again, the sound in his ears that of sorrow and rage. But Bethany couldn’t hear it. No one could hear it. Something wet was on his cheeks. Tears, maybe. He wasn’t sure. He couldn’t see past the pulsating light.

He rested his head against hers, his mouth inches away from her parted lips. His body shook. He inhaled and then exhaled…and the world seemed to stop again.

Wake up. Wake up. Please wake up.

An unknown instinct propelled him forward, a whispering of ages before him. An image filled his mind, of Bethany basked inside and outside in light—his light. It poured through her body, a part of him attaching to her skin, muscles, and bones. He invaded her blood, wrapped himself around her on a cellular level, mending and repairing, healing torn skin and muscle, stitching together shattered bones. It went on and on, seconds into minutes, minutes into hours. Or maybe it wasn’t even a minute that had passed. Dawson didn’t know. But he wasn’t breathing; he wasn’t losing the image or the pleading litany in his head.

Wake up. Wake up. Please wake up.

At first, he wasn’t sure what was happening. He thought he felt her stir in his arms. Then he thought he heard a rough first breath—a weak gulp of air.

Wake up. Wake up. Please wake up.

He was shaking, his light pulsating erratically.


The sound of her voice—oh, her sweet voice—destroyed his world for the third time. His eyes flew open, but he still couldn’t see her beyond his own light.

Bethany? Are you…? He couldn’t say the words, couldn’t believe somehow she was alive in his arms. And how could she be? Along with losing her, he’d lost his mind. A wave of raw pain crashed through him. Bethany, I love you. I’m sorry I never told you. I love you. I wish I had told you. I love you. And I can’t…

I love you, too.

Those whispered words weren’t spoken out loud. They were inside him, reverberating through his body and the part of him that had developed something human—a soul.

He pulled his light back into himself. He couldn’t believe what he saw.

Bethany stared up at him, her warm brown eyes shining with tears. Her face was still pale, but color infused her cheeks. There were smudges of blood around her ears and at the corner of her mouth, but she was looking at him.

“Bethany?” he croaked.

She nodded and whispered, “Yeah.”

Hands shaking, he touched her face, and when she closed her eyes, he panicked. “Bethany!”

Her eyes flew open. “I’m here. I’m okay.”

It couldn’t be, but she was alive and breathing in his arms. He ran his fingers down her cheeks, smoothing away the hair caked with blood. His chest was doing that crazy swelling thing again. “Oh, God, I thought…I thought I lost you.”

“I think you might have.” She gave a shaky laugh. “I’m so, so sorry. I should’ve been paying—”

“No. Don’t apologize. This wasn’t your fault.” He kissed her forehead, then her cheek and the tip of her nose. “How are you feeling?”

“Okay. I’m tired…a little dizzy, but I feel good.”

He was exhausted. As if he’d fought a hundred Arum all at once. Pressing his forehead against hers, he breathed in her clean scent. He couldn’t close his eyes, afraid she might vanish.

Bethany trembled. “What did you do, Dawson?”

“I don’t know. I honestly don’t know.”

She let go of his hand and cupped his cheek. “Whatever you did, it saved…it saved me.”

Bethany was alive! She was here in his arms, touching him. His cheeks felt wet again, but he didn’t care. Nothing else mattered except the girl he cradled to him.

Bethany stayed in his arms and on that damn cliff for what felt like hours, and she didn’t want to ever leave his embrace. She was warm wrapped in his arms. But they had to go. She stood, surprised that she even could. There was no doubt in her mind that at least one of her legs had been broken. And by the amount of blood that had dried in her hair, she was sure her skull had been cracked like an egg.

She put the pause on those thoughts.

Right now, she couldn’t even begin to think about what had happened.

Dawson looked weary as he climbed, but he lifted her off her feet, holding her against his chest. There was only one way to get back down. “Hold on and close your eyes,” he said.

Bethany did as instructed and felt the change in him. His body hummed, and she could see his bright light behind her lids. The wind rushed at her face, blowing her hair back. Seconds later, his lips brushed her forehead. When she realized he was walking, she struggled in his arms. He was obviously weaker now and shouldn’t be carrying her.