Dragos's furious roar silenced the prattle instantly. He vaulted off the silk sofa, his arm sweeping out in front of him to lash out at a crystal vase of orchids that sat on a delicate pedestal nearby. The piece exploded against the wall and shattered, spraying glass and water and bits of flowers in all directions.

His lieutenant gasped in fright and leapt backward, hitting his spine against the closed door. His eyes were nearly popping out of his head, his face stricken with ball-shriveling fear. His expression turned even more dread-filled as Dragos bore down on him, seething with rage.

In those terrified, widening eyes, he saw his lieutenant's remembrance of a threat Dragos had made in this very hotel room just a week before.

"Sire, please," he whispered. "The Minion failed you today, not me. I am only responsible for the message, not the mistake."

Dragos didn't care about any of that. His anger was too far gone to be reined in now. With an animal war cry meant more for Lucan and his warriors than the insignificant pawn who stood quivering before him now, he reeled his fist back and punched it hard into the vampire's chest. He smashed through clothing, skin, and bone like a hammer and plucked out the frantically beating organ caged inside.

The dead lieutenant collapsed at his feet. Dragos glanced down at him, his closed fist blood-soaked and raining a scarlet cascade onto the corpse and the white carpet around it.

Dragos tossed the vampire's heart like so much trash, then tipped his head back and bellowed, his fury vibrating the air around him like a roll of thunder.

"Dispose of this rubbish," he snarled to the pair of assassins who looked on in silence from the other side of the hotel suite.

He stalked into the bathroom to scrub the offending gore from his hands, calming himself with the knowledge that although the Order had managed to deliver yet another strike against him today, he still had the upper hand. A pity they didn't realize it yet.

Very soon, they would.

He had the Order squarely in his sights now.

And he was more than ready to pull the trigger.

Chapter Thirty-four

When Jenna woke up, she was staring at the ceiling of the compound infirmary. She blinked slowly, waiting to feel the searing pain of the knife wound in her side. Instead, she felt a warm touch skating tenderly along her arm.

"Hey" came the deep, velvet voice that she'd been hearing in her sleep. "I've been waiting for you to open those pretty eyes."


She turned her head on the pillow and was struck to see him seated next to her by the bed. He looked so handsome, so caring and strong. His dark brown gaze drank her in, his sensual mouth curving with just the barest traces of a smile.

"They called me in Newport and told me about your injury," he said, then exhaled a soft curse. "I saw the blood on you outside the Minion's house, but I didn't know it was yours, Jenna. I couldn't get back here fast enough to make sure you were okay."

She smiled up at him, her heart soaring to be near him again, even while she was afraid to be happy, uncertain whether or not he'd returned only to help her heal.

"How are you feeling, Jenna?"

"Okay," she replied, and realized just then that she actually felt very good physically. She sat up a bit and moved aside the sheet and blanket that covered her. The ugly gash that should have been below her rib cage was nothing more than a small scab, the wound that had been bleeding so profusely now all but gone. "How long have I been out?"

"A few hours." Brock's expression softened as he looked at her.

"You've surprised us all, particularly Gideon. He's still trying to figure out what's going on with your physiology, but it appears your body is learning to heal itself. Adaptive regeneration, I think he called it. He says he wants to run more tests, try to determine if the regeneration might also impact the aging of your cells over time. He seems to think there's a decent chance that's going to be the case."

Jenna shook her head, astonished. Also wryly amused. "You know, I'm starting to think it might be kind of fun being a cyborg."

"It doesn't matter to me what you are," he replied soberly. "I'm just glad to see you're doing well."

In the silence that stretched out between them, Jenna fidgeted with the edge of the sheet. "How are the other women--the Breedmates we rescued?"

"They're all settling in at Reichen's place. Gonna be a long road for a lot of them, but they're alive and Dragos can't touch them ever again."

"That's good," she replied quietly. "And Corinne?"

Brock's face grew solemn. "She's been through hell and back. She wants to go home to her family in Detroit. She says there are things she needs to take care of back there, in her past, before she can think about her future."

"Oh," Jenna said.

She understood how Corinne felt. She'd been thinking about her own past a lot, as well, and about the things she'd left unfinished back in Alaska.

Things she had been too cowardly to face before but now felt ready to confront as soon as she was able.

Since the rescue today, she'd been thinking about her future, too. It was impossible to picture without Brock in the equation, especially now that she was looking up into his handsome face, feeling the warmth and comfort of his dark gaze and his gentle touch.

"Corinne has asked me to take her back home," he said, words that tore at her heart.

She bit back the selfish reply that might have implored him not to go.

Instead she nodded, then blurted out the things she knew he'd need to hear.

Things that would relieve him of any guilt about what they'd shared together or the tender promises he'd made her in the time before he knew his past love would be delivered back into his arms.

"Brock, I want to thank you for helping me the way you have. You've saved my life--more than once--and you've been the kindest, most tender and giving man I've ever known."

He frowned, parting his lips as if to say something, but she talked over him.

"I want you to know that I'm grateful for the friendship you've given me. Most of all, I'm grateful for the way you've shown me that I can be happy again. I didn't think I ever would be, not really. And I never thought I'd be able to fall in love again--"

"Jenna," he said, his voice stern, his dark scowl deepening.

"I know you have to go with Corinne. I know I can't give you any of the things that she can, as a Breedmate. We could never have children, or a blood bond. There's a good chance we won't have anything close to the time you'll be able to share with her." He shook his head, muttered a low curse, but she couldn't stop until she'd said it all. "I want you to go with her. I want you to have your second chance--"

"Stop talking, Jenna."

"I want you to be happy," she said, ignoring his quiet demand. "I want you to have everything you deserve in a mate, even if that means without me."

He finally silenced her with a hard kiss, putting his hand on the back of her neck and bringing her up against him. He drew back, holding her gaze in a passionate, possessive stare.

"Stop telling me what I need to do." He kissed her again, softer now, his mouth covering hers, tongue demanding entrance. She felt his need, and the emotion that seemed to say he never wanted to let her go. When he finally released her, his dark eyes were glittering with amber sparks. "For one damned second, Jenna, let someone else be in charge."

She stared at him, hardly daring to hope she knew where he was heading.

"I'm in love with you," he whispered fiercely. "I love you, and I could give a damn if you're human, cyborg, alien, or some mixed-up combination of all three. I love you, Jenna. I want you to be mine. You are mine, damn it.

Whether we only have a handful of decades together or something closer to forever. You are mine, Jenna."

She sucked in a ragged breath, overcome with joy and relief. "Oh, Brock. I love you so much. I thought I'd lost you today."

"Never," he said, staring deeply into her eyes. "You and me, we're partners. Partners in everything now. I'm always gonna have your back, Jenna."

She laughed around a sob, and gave him a shaky nod. "You'll always have my heart."

"Always," he said, then pulled her into his arms for a deep, never-ending kiss.

Chapter Thirty-five

Jenna's boots crunched in the moonlit snow as she stepped onto a patch of pristine, hallowed ground just outside the tiny village of Harmony, Alaska.

It had been a couple of days since she'd awakened in the compound infirmary, fully healed from the stab wound she'd received during the rescue of the captive Breedmates.

Only a couple of days since she and Brock had promised to spend their future together as lovers, mates ... partners.

"Are you sure you're ready to do this?" he asked her, wrapping his strong arm around her shoulders.

She knew he hated the cold of this place, yet he'd been the one to suggest the trip north. He'd been patient and understanding, and she knew he would stand out here with her forever if he thought she needed the extra time. His breath steamed in the frigid night air, his handsome face solemn, yet reassuring within the deep hood of his parka.

"I'm ready," she said, turning a misty glance onto the small cemetery that stretched out sleepily before her. Twining her gloved fingers through his, she walked with him toward the far corner of the plot, to where a pair of tall granite markers stood side by side in their thick blanket of snow.

She'd been prepared for the wave of emotion that swamped her as she and Brock approached Mitch and Libby's graves for the first time, but it still took her breath away. Her heart clenched, her throat constricted, and for a moment, she wasn't sure that she'd have the strength to see this through, after all.

"I'm scared," she whispered.

Brock squeezed her hand, his deep voice gentle. "You can do it. I'm gonna be right here next to you the whole time."

She looked up into his steady, dark eyes, feeling his love enfold her, lending her his strength. She nodded, then continued walking, her wet gaze rooted on the etched lettering that made everything seem so irrefutable.

So very raw and real.

The tears started falling the moment she stepped onto the ground in front of the headstones. She let go of Brock's hand and moved closer, knowing she had to make it through this part on her own.

"Hi, Mitch," she murmured quietly, kneeling down into the snow. She placed one of the two red roses she'd brought with her at the base of his marker. The other one--fastened with a pink ribbon to a small, stuffed teddy bear--she laid carefully near the smaller gravestone. "Hello, sweetpea."

For a long moment, she remained there, listening to the wind as it blew through the boreal pines, her eyes closed on her tears as she remembered happy times with her husband and daughter.

"Oh, God," she whispered, choked with emotion. "I'm so sorry. I miss you both so much."

She couldn't hold back the pain. It poured out of her in great, ugly sobs--all the pent-up anguish and guilt that she'd been holding locked inside her since the night of the accident.

She'd never been able to feel this purge before. She'd been too afraid.

Too angry with herself to give into the grief and finally let it go.

But she couldn't stop it now. She felt Brock's steady presence behind her--her lifeline, her safe haven in the midst of the storm. She felt stronger now, safe.

She felt loved.

Even more miraculous to her, she felt worthy of being loved.

With a few more murmured words of good-bye, she touched each of the gravestones, then slowly rose to her feet.

Brock was right there, his open arms waiting to catch her in a tender embrace. His kiss was sweet and soothing. He looked down into her eyes, his fingers light and gentle as he swept away her tears. "Are you all right?"

She nodded, feeling lighter despite the lump that still rose in her throat. She felt ready to begin a new chapter in her life. Ready to start her future with the extraordinary Breed male she loved with all the mending pieces of her heart.

Gazing into Brock's warm eyes, she reached out for him, slipping her hand into his. "I'm ready to go home now."



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