But she was already pivoting away from him. “Now that this farce is over, I’ll go collect my things.”

When she sailed off in a hurry, both Marcel and Leila gaped at him.

“What the hell did you do to her, brother?”

Jehan shook his head. “I don’t know.” And then, the truth settled over him. Something about what she said. Something about how she said it...

She’d heard him today.

His conversation with Lazaro Archer back in Rome.

He cursed under his breath. Then he started to chuckle.

Marcel frowned at him. “She’s pissed as hell at you about something and you’re laughing?”

“Yeah, I am.” Because now he understood her cold-shoulder today. He understood her anger at him now. And he’d never felt more elated about anything in his life.

Rounding up his brother and Leila, Jehan pushed both of them out the door.

“What are you doing?”

“Sending you on your way,” he replied. “Don’t come back for four more nights. This handfast isn’t over until I say it is.”

He closed the door on their confused faces, then turned to go after his Breedmate.

CHAPTER 17

Sera folded the red silk gown and placed it on the bed, trying not to let her heart crumble into pieces.

Outside the massive bedroom suite, the villa had gone quiet. As much as she wanted to celebrate Leila and Marcel’s newfound love and bond, part of her was aching for everything she thought she might have had with Jehan.

Now that the handfast was over, she didn’t even have those few remaining nights left with him.

Which was probably for the best.

Being around him now was its own kind of torture.

He was already making plans without her. Plans he didn’t intend to discuss with or allow her any say in.

So why should she mourn the fact that their week together had just been cut short?

“Where do you think you’re going?”

She froze at the sound of his voice but forced herself not to turn around. If she did, she was afraid she’d be tempted to run to him. With her heart so heavy in her breast, she was afraid she’d be unable to keep herself from whirling on him with pounding fists and streaming tears. Demanding that he explain how he could look at her so tenderly and make love to her so possessively if he only meant to leave her behind in a few more nights.

Although she didn’t hear him move, she felt the heat of his large body at her spine. “I asked where you think you’re going, Seraphina.”

“Home,” she said. “As soon as possible, I hope.”

She walked back into the wardrobe to retrieve another of the pretty, feminine dresses that Leila had packed for her. Jehan was waiting when she came out. He had placed her bag on the floor, and now he sat on the edge of the bed, his sky blue eyes holding her in an unwavering stare.

Why did he have to look so intense and imposing, so impossible to ignore?

The sight of him waiting there, his handsome face grim with purpose, made her limping heart start to gallop.

She forced herself to move, walking over to pick up her bag and place it on a nearby chair so she could continue filling it. “Shouldn’t you be packing your things too? If we’re lucky, we might be able to get out of here in the next hour or so.”

“I’m not leaving, Seraphina.”

She glanced up at that. She couldn’t help herself.

He stood up and walked over to her. “I’m not going anywhere tonight. Neither are you.”

“What are you talking about?”

Her breath caught as he closed the space between them. As always, his presence seemed to suck all of the air out of the room. Right now, it was leeching away some of the resolve she wanted to hold on to so desperately.

“You heard it yourself, Jehan. The handfast is over. We’ve both made good on our obligations to our families, so now we’re free to go.”

He shook his head, his expression sober. “Eight nights, Sera. That’s what we agreed to. I’m holding you to it. I don’t give a damn if the pact terms say you can leave me now. I have four nights left with you, and I mean to claim them.” He reached out and stroked his fingers down the side of her face. “I mean to claim you, Seraphina. As my woman. As my Breedmate.”

“What?” Shock and confusion washed over her. “But I heard you on the phone today. You said you were leaving. That you had decided to go back to Rome. You disregarded me to your commander as if I didn’t matter at all. I heard you—”

His thumb swept over her lips, stilling them. “What you apparently didn’t hear was that I also told Lazaro Archer I had fallen in love with you.”

No, she hadn’t heard that.

And hearing it now sent spirals of joy and relief twisting through every cell in her body.

“You didn’t hear me tell him that I needed to make a place for you in my life. Or that I couldn’t leave the handfast without knowing you were mine.” He caressed her cheek, eyes smoldering with affection and desire. “My life is with the Order, Sera. I can’t give that up.”

“I would never ask that of you, Jehan. I understand that you’re doing something important, something that you’re devoted to. After what we found at the camp, I realize your mission with the Order has probably never been more crucial.”

“No, it hasn’t,” he said. “I can’t leave my duty, but I know you can’t give up yours either. I’m not going to ask you to leave your life behind to be with me in Rome.”

She frowned, grateful that he understood what her work meant to her, yet unsure how their two worlds could mesh as a mated couple.

“That’s why I’ve decided to pull a new team together here in Morocco. After last night, it’s obvious that Opus has a strong presence here, so I’ve been tasked with pursuing those leads here on African soil. I’ll work out the details with Commander Archer when I return to Rome at the end of the week.”

She couldn’t believe what she was hearing. She couldn’t believe what he was doing for her. For them both. For the new bond he meant for them to share.

“Jehan, I don’t know what to say.”

He lifted her chin on the edge of his fingers. “You can start by saying you love me.”

“Yes,” she whispered. Then she said it again with all the elation in her soaring heart. “I love you.”

He drew her close and kissed her, his lips brushing hers with such tenderness she wanted to weep. The next thing she knew, he had her spread beneath him on the bed. As he undressed her, then hurriedly stripped off his own clothing, his dermaglyphs pulsed with all the deep colors of his desire. His cock stood erect and enticing, awakening a powerful hunger in her—for his body, and for his blood.

Jehan clearly knew what she was feeling. His own hungers blazed in his transformed eyes and in every formidable inch of his naked flesh.

His fiery gaze scorched her face as he looked at her in utter devotion.

And need.

So much need, it rocked her.

He lowered himself between her legs and entered her slowly, as he bent to lick a searing path along her jawline, then her neck. “You’re mine, Sera.”

“Yes,” she gasped, arching into his abrading kiss as his fangs tested the tender flesh of her throat. “For the next four nights, I’m yours however you want me, Jehan.”

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