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|Out Of The Dark(Grey Wolves #4) by Quinn Loftis|
Jen was holding it together by a thin strand as she watched the mighty Decebel humble himself in front of her and their pack.
"I cannot undo what has happened. No matter what I give, to be able to fix the past weeks is beyond my ability. The only thing I can do is prove to you, however long it takes, every single day for the rest of our lives that I will be a man, a mate, a friend, and a lover worthy of you."
Decebel knelt in front of her then and dropped his arms to his side. He looked at Peri, then at Jen.
"I must give an offering to you to prove my ability to provide for you both physically and emotionally, to protect, and -" Decebel added this last part, though it was usually understood he wanted it spoken aloud, " to love you. I didn't expect to be doing our Bonding ceremony on the other side of the veil. The offering I have for you is not one that is typical, but oddly enough I think it is appropriate and I hope that you accept it.
“Once the Blood Rites are performed, my mark will remain on your skin forever. Your bite mark will not remain on me. Your scent will be in me, but the great Luna did not feel it necessary for the female's bite to remain visible. So, my offering to you is your mark burned and etched into the flesh above my heart."
Several gasps rippled across the room, Jen's being the loudest. Decebel continued before she could interrupt him.
"My hope is that you will see by this offering that I will endure whatever necessary to ensure you remain with me, whole, safe, protected. I hope that it will show that I want the world to know the name of the incredible woman who holds my heart in her hands. The blood born from this offering is my promise that by the sweat of my brow, the flesh of my body, and the blood of my life I will always provide for you in whatever form that might take. Do you accept my offering, mate? Do you accept me?"
Jen was speechless. She didn't want Decebel to be in pain. She didn't want to see his beautiful skin marred because of her, but she knew if she denied him it would be a blow to his pride that could never be restored. If Decebel could do this, then so could she.
Jen's eyes locked with his when she spoke. "Yes. I accept your offering."
Decebel let out the breath he had been holding. "You sure do know how to keep a man in suspense, love."
Jen was too nervous to have a smart mouth comeback. She watched as Peri pulled a knife from the fireplace where the blade had been sitting in the hot coals. How had she missed that? Jen refused to look away from Decebel's eyes as Peri began.
"Decebel," Peri's voice was strong and the magic that she normally kept toned down was pulsing through the room, "do you willingly accept the markings this blade will put on your flesh? Do you fully acknowledge that these markings are permanent and will not heal the way other injuries inflicted on your kind do? Are you aware that you shed your blood under the power of the Fae?"
"I do and I am."
With his affirmation, Peri pressed the blade to his chest. Jen's eyes, against her will, glanced down to watch. Her mouth dropped open as she watched his flesh cut and burned by an unmoving blade. When Peri pulled the blade away to put it back in the fire a small, perfect J was left on his skin. A few moments later Peri put the knife next to the J and again the knife seared into his flesh and without moving, cut and burned an E next to the J. This continued letter after letter. Decebel never moved, never made a sound as blood ran down his chest and abdomen. There was, thankfully, not a lot of blood since the skin was not just cut but burned as well. It still made Jen sick to watch his precious blood be shed for her. When the final letter was finished Peri set the blade down and handed Jen a cold, wet towel.
"Tend to your mate. He has done you a great honor this day." Peri stepped back into the shadows as Jen stood. Decebel tried to get her to sit back down but Jen brushed his hand away.
"Let me," she told him firmly. With Decebel on his knees, his face was level with Jen's and she looked into his eyes as she gently wiped the blood from his chest and stomach. Once it was all gone, she dropped the towel and placed her hands on either side of his face. She leaned in until her lips where just barely touching his and whispered against them, "I love you, Decebel."
Before Decebel could wrap her in his arms as he longed to do, Vasile's voice broke through.
"Jen, it is time for you to give your vows to Decebel."
Jen stepped back, and when Decebel gently pushed her into the chair she acquiesced to his wish because she was indeed tiring. Watching him endure that had wiped her out.
She pulled the piece of paper from where it had been tucked in her dress – well, in her bra. Decebel raised an eyebrow at that.
"Where was I supposed to put it?" she asked innocently.
Decebel scooted closer to her on his knees. He tapped her on the nose in punishment for her brazenness, but there was love in his voice when he said, "Mate, share with me your vows."
The "now" was insinuated and not lost on Jen. She cleared her throat and looked down at her paper. She had tried as best she could to pour her heart into her words. She wanted Decebel to know he was a man of value and worth. It was so amazing to her that their vows had been exactly in sync with one another's.
“The absolute worst time of my life was when I heard your voice possess no emotion, no warmth, no bossy demands, no recognition of me.” Jen saw the pain in his eyes at her words. He thought she was reprimanding him. “Decebel, look at me.” He raised his eyes to hers. “Bear with me. I have a point and it’s not to hurt you. Trust me.” She repeated his words, imploring him to do just that, trust her.
Though his lips were tight and his eyes glowed, he nodded for her to continue.
“I have to admit, it’s weird to be able to feel a person’s intentions simply by the sound of their voice in your mind, but I could. When you called me ‘Jen,’ I felt my heart shatter. One misspoken name and everything that defines me imploded and nearly suffocated me. Before this, I never thought about how important it is that you think me special enough to call me something others don't have the privilege of. I remembered how I could see in your eyes how you valued me. But without recognition, I lost not only your love, but my value to you." Jen took a deep breath and paused. It was then that she heard soft sobs and sniffles. She briefly glanced away and saw there wasn’t a dry eye in the room. She looked back to Decebel and leaned forward, placing her hands on his shoulders. She pulled, making him understand that she wanted him closer. He relented and moved until he knelt in between her knees. He rested his hands on either side of her chair and leaned closer.