The moment she was fully healed, Trick cradled her on his lap. Shit, her heart was beating too fast and her breathing was now too damn shallow. He rocked her. “Breathe with me, Frankie.” She looked up at him, eyes wide and glassy. Her face was pale and clammy and made him want to punch something. His wolf paced, still edgy with panic.
“Who shot Cruz?” asked Frankie.
“Josh,” said Marcus, hovering. “He’s a crack shot.”
Trick recalled Cesar telling them that the Alpha kept a rifle as a keepsake. He made a mental note to thank Josh. Right then his only concern was his mate.
He smelled a familiar scent just before his mother crouched beside them. Her soft smile was all for Frankie as she held out a glass of water. “Here, baby girl, drink this.”
Trick took the glass and lifted Frankie just enough for her to sip at the drink. That was when Uma lightly smacked his head. He flinched. “Ow. What the fuck?”
“Don’t curse at me,” reprimanded Uma, her voice shaky. “My heart almost burst right out of my chest when you went through that window. I know you had to get to your mate, I understand you couldn’t leave her in there, and I’m glad that you didn’t. But that doesn’t mean you didn’t just put me through hell.”
Completely stunned that she’d break down that way in public, Trick glanced at his father, who was standing beside her. Michael gave Trick a look that said “See, she loves you.”
Trick simply told her, “I’m okay.”
“I know. That’s why I’m not a sobbing wreck.”
Michael offered Frankie an affectionate smile. “Glad to see you’re all right.”
Uma took the glass back from Trick and stood, almost bumping Trey as she backed up. She lightly touched his arm. “Sorry, Trey.”
His Alpha blinked, clearly surprised that he hadn’t gotten his usual scowl. His brow creased as he said, “Um . . . no problem.”
People gathered around, checking on Frankie, gently petting her. When they finally cleared, Trick looked down at his mate and noticed that her eyelids were drooping. “Let’s get you home.”
“You got me out,” she whispered.
He frowned. “Of course I did. I’m sorry I didn’t get here sooner,” he added, kissing a spot on her forehead that was free of dust and blood.
“You shouldn’t have come in after me. You could have been killed.”
He spoke against her mouth. “Frankie, you have to know there isn’t a damn thing I wouldn’t do for you. Get that through your head.”
Her eyes suddenly filled. “Cruz killed them. He killed my parents. He was Christopher’s lover for a while.”
Trick’s brows lifted. “I would never have guessed.”
“Cruz believed my mother tricked Christopher into thinking they were mates. It was like the Rio situation magnified by a thousand.” Nose tingling, she sniffled. “I’m so fucking angry at Cruz, but a part of me is also relieved.”
“Because now you know the truth.”
“Yeah. And now I know that I really wasn’t holding back from you or the bond. I just hadn’t accepted my past because it would have meant accepting that my father was guilty. I so badly wanted it to have all been some big mistake.” That inner turmoil had felt like an elastic band around her chest for so long. “Now that I know it was, I can make my peace with everything. So you’d better brace yourself.” And the elastic band snapped.
“Brace for—?” A sharp impact slammed into Trick’s head and chest. His world briefly shook and dimmed, but there was no pain. And suddenly it was like she was inside him. Their bond had clicked fully into place, and a relieved breath shuddered out of his wolf. “About fucking time.”
She chuckled weakly. “Yeah, it is.” Her wolf pushed against her skin to rub up against him, soaking up his warmth.
“Home. We’re going home.” Keeping her in his arms, Trick stood just as Josh approached them. “I heard what you did. I’m in your debt.”
“You’re my brother’s pack mate—there’s no debt.” Josh cast the wrecked cabin a look. “I think it’s safe to say that Cruz didn’t survive that. If he did, he’s all yours.”
Trick buried his face in her neck as he slammed his cock deep and erupted inside his mate, filling her with everything he had. Even as that familiar peace stole over him, the panic didn’t entirely abate. It didn’t matter that she’d been fully healed for over twenty-four hours. Didn’t matter that he had her right there in their bed, all soft and warm and relaxed. Anxiety still had a firm grip on him.
Maybe she sensed that, because she wrapped him up tight, curling her arms around his neck and locking her legs around his hips. He kissed her neck, taking her scent inside him to soothe both him and his wolf.
“Let go of the guilt, Trick,” she whispered. “It’s senseless.”
No, it wasn’t. She’d been scared, and he hadn’t been there. Hadn’t helped. Hadn’t protected her. Hell, he’d barely gotten there in time to save her from being crushed by a fucking building.
She’d firmly assured him again and again that she wasn’t upset with him for not getting there sooner. In fact, she’d ordered him to “give yourself a fucking break.” She didn’t feel that he’d failed her or even that he could have been much help if he had gotten there earlier. Though intellectually he knew that it wasn’t his fault that she’d gone through that shit alone, he couldn’t help feeling like a bastard.
“You have to stop torturing yourself sometime, Trick.”
He softly snorted. “Says the person who won’t stop torturing herself for not bringing Cruz to justice twenty-four years ago.”
She sighed. “I just don’t get why I didn’t tell people what happened.”
Bracing himself on his elbows, he lifted his head and tucked her hair around her ear. “You were traumatized.”
“I just had to say his name. That’s all. Why didn’t I do that?”
“You are not allowed to feel guilty about this. If I told you that a three-year-old pup didn’t name her parents’ killer because she was shocked and terrified, would you blame her?”
“Then you don’t get to blame you.” He kissed her softly, sipping from her mouth. “You need to forgive your three-year-old self, Frankie. You need to let it go. Okay?”
She exhaled heavily. “Okay.” She skimmed her fingers along his jaw. “I love you.”
“I know you do. And I love you.” He kissed her again. “And I love that our bond is now complete.”
“Me too.” Her cell phone rang, pulling them out of their own little world.
Trick grabbed her cell from the nightstand and glanced at the screen. “It’s your agent.”
Frankie took the phone and answered, “Hi, Abigail.”
“Hi, how are things?” she asked.
“Good, thanks. How about you?”
“Oh, I’m fine. I’m calling because I managed to find out who purchased the sculpture you told me about. The gallery kept the records.”
“It’s okay,” said Frankie. “I already know who it was.”
“Yeah. Cruz Stewart, right?”