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|Bad Blood(Blood Coven Vampire,book 4) by Mari Mancusi|
I throw him a grateful look—he really is the most understanding guy on the planet—and dash out the door and down the hall. “Magnus!” I cry at his retreating figure.
He turns slowly, shoulders slumped, looking, suddenly, all of his thousand years. “And to think,” he says slowly, as I rush to approach, “you were worried about me replacing you.”
My heart pangs in anguish at the hurt look on his face. I remember all the pain I felt from seeing him just talk to Jane. I can’t imagine what he must be feeling now—having walked in on his girlfriend making out with another guy. A million excuses whirl through my mind, but I know in my heart he deserves better than that. At the very least, he deserves the truth. Not to mention an apology.
“I’m sorry,” I say weakly, not knowing quite where to begin. It’s only been a few days since I last saw him, but it feels like a lifetime ago.
“I know,” he replies, his voice sad. He reaches out to me with both hands and no reservations, pulling me into a forgiving embrace I’m not sure I deserve. I collapse into him, grateful beyond belief at his understanding, while feeling unworthy of receiving it. He strokes my hair with long fingers, soothing me as sobs rack my body and tears burst violently from my eyes.
“Oh God.” I sob, my mouth against his shoulder. “I never meant to . . . I mean, I was actually saying goodbye and . . .”
“Shhh,” he murmurs, his cool breath brushing my earlobes. I’d forgotten how nice it was to be held securely in his strong, vampire arms. “It’s okay. You don’t have to explain. I think I understand exactly what’s going on here.”
I pull away from the hug so I can look at him. My vision’s still blurry from all the tears. “You do?” I ask.
He nods, a regretful look on his face. “Let’s face it; I haven’t taken very good care of you these past few months. I’ve been so preoccupied—so busy guarding the affairs of my coven—that I’ve ended up neglecting you and your needs. And then . . . then I took off to Vegas with another woman . . .” He hangs his head in shame. “Just like your father did so many years ago. Leaving you feeling abandoned and alone, I’m sure.”
Part of me wants to deny it. To tell him it’s not a big deal at all. But what good, at this point, could my being self-protective really do? It’d only succeed in pushing the problems we’re facing back under the rug—not exactly a great long-term solution. We both know we need to deal with these issues head on, if there’s any way to save this relationship.
“I’m not trying to be selfish,” I begin. “I mean, I know running the coven is important and I love the work that you do. I’m willing to deal with a workaholic even.” I give him a half-smile, then grow serious again. “But when you didn’t believe me about Jane—when you dismissed my fears and suspicions without even a moment of consideration that I might be right . . .”
My voice breaks. “You shut me out. Called me jealous and childish. That really hurt.”
“I can imagine,” Magnus says, his face full of anguish. “If I were you, I’d probably have let Sasha do her thing . . . leaving me to flounder in my own stupidity. But instead, you kept going. Refusing to give up helping me, even though I demanded you stop.”
“What else was I going to do?” I ask. “Sit around and watch you die?”
He hangs his head. “Half of me thinks I would have deserved it.”
“Look, I know you’re older than me,” I continue. “And I know you have more experiences to fall back on than I do. But if this is going to work, we have to be equal partners. I’m not a child to be seen and not heard. And if you think of me that way, then it’s not going to work.”
“Sunny, sweetheart,” Magnus says, “I was a fool to think that. Blinded by my own stupid arrogance—and look—my pigheadedness nearly cost me my very life.” He shakes his head sorrowfully. “I promise you, I swear to you, I’ll never treat you less than an equal ever again, for the rest of my life.”
“That’s all I’ve wanted,” I reply, my voice choking with emotion. “I know I can’t be your blood mate, but I just want to be your partner. Someone you trust and want to share your life with.”
“About the blood mate thing . . .”
I suck in a breath. “Yes?”
“I don’t want one,” he declares. “Not now—and not ever. And I’m going to go to the council as soon as they convene and inform them of that so we’re not put in this situation again. After all, I am Master. I do get to make the rules, right?”
He smiles lovingly at me. “And you’re the only one, my dear, who I want to be bonded with for eternity.”
My heart wrenches at his words. “But . . .” I say, not wanting to be selfish. “If you need help running the coven . . .”
“Then I’ll hire an employee,” he finishes. “We vampires have become so set in our ways—so stubborn about following tradition that we don’t often think outside the box. But really, why does my co-ruler have to be bonded to me by blood? There are those in my coven that I would trust with my life—bond or no. Like Jareth, for example,” he says. “I’m thinking of promoting him to second in command. He’d make a great co-ruler, I think, don’t you?”
I nod wordlessly, feeling overwhelmed with all that’s happening. It’s as if someone opened my secret wish book and made every last one of them come true.