Did that even make sense?

“Make the cut. Do it quickly. Mine’s already healing.”

Crap. I didn’t have any more time. If I wanted to live—and I really did—I had to do this. And if I was honest with myself, I wanted it, too.

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I counted to three and slashed the knife across my palm. Before I could do anything else, he grasped my left hand in his.

“What’s mine is yours and yours is mine. From earth to air to fire to water. Moon and sun. I will be yours to the end of time.”

I gasped as his aura rolled over mine. All I could see was gold. I felt his aura. I’d been thinking that it was sunlight, but it really was like the sun. Warm. Kind. He had this deep well of patience and respect for others that I wasn’t sure I had. It was beautiful.

My mother had always told me to look for a good man. I never really knew what she meant, but I did now. Lucas was a good man. A really good, tenderhearted, strong man.

And then I felt it. The pack. Each bond running from him to the various members. Hundreds of them. Like little tendrils, reaching out across a great space. They were all moving. Running through the forest. They were following the bond with their Alpha. It overrode whatever magic was hiding this valley. I could almost feel the wind brushing against their fur as they headed straight for us.

But they wouldn’t get here in time.

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“Knowing what I have to offer, will you accept me and this bond?”

He was quiet, not even breathing, as he waited for me to answer. I almost didn’t. Feeling what he felt—knowing how strong and good he was—I didn’t feel worthy. But I wanted to be.

“Yes.”

It was as if a tether wrapped around my heart. I could nearly feel it pulling my soul out of my body as his soul wrapped around me.

Then something snapped so loud I could almost hear it break.

The oath to Luciana. Her anger rolled at me, but fell short. I was free of her. After years, it was over. Just like that.

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I wanted to cry and laugh. The relief I felt was so strong, for a moment, it was as if I were weightless.

Then the pressure of the mate bond increased. My breaths came in quick pants. It was too much. He was too much. All this power. I couldn’t—

“With these words the bond is complete. I share all my power with my mate.”

It rushed at me. Filling me up. The empty well was now overflowing.

I blinked a few times as his aura faded a little from view.

A hand reached through the fire, yanking on my braid. For a second, I slid away from Lucas, but he tightened his grip on my hand. Moving fast, he threw the athame across the fire.

The vampire yelled and let go of my hair.

I had to do something. Now.

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Lucas pulled on my hand until I was sitting on his lap. My legs wrapped around his waist. Our left hands were still grasped together, trapped between our bodies.

I couldn’t think enough to rhyme, but I didn’t need it. I had more power—more magic—at the tip of my fingers than I’d ever had before.

“Burn.” I pictured the vampires drowning in flames. Turning to ash.

Screams filled the chamber.

The magic swelled through our bond and I grabbed it. “Burn. All of the evil in this temple. Burn.” The magic flowed out of me. It didn’t feel like my magic. It felt like Lucas. Like the pack. Like ancient witches. But it didn’t matter. It was working. The cries of the vampires told me that.

I kept repeating the command until it was quiet. Until I felt the magic expanding beyond this room. Going upstairs. Turning every undead monster to nothing more than a pile of ash.

Sweat rolled down my back, and even with all that added magic, I felt drained.

I leaned back from Lucas. “Are they all dead?” My voice was horse.

“I think so.” He leaned back against the leg of the altar. “I can’t hear any of them moving. How about putting out the fire?”

I nodded. My throat was sore, so instead of saying it aloud, I closed my eyes and pictured the fire going out. When I opened my eyes, it was done.

Sweat made Lucas’ hair look spiky instead of messy. I ran my hand through it, and he closed his eyes, leaning into the touch.

That feels nice.

I heard Lucas’ voice in my head and froze.

Lucas opened his eyes. “What?”

“I heard you.”

He raised an eyebrow.

“In my head. I heard you.”

“Of course you did. You’re my mate, princess.”

“I thought you weren’t going to call me that anymore. It’s still a little demeaning.”

“It’s not meant to be.” He ran his thumb down my cheek. “A very long time ago, I was once a prince. And that would make you—my mate and wife—a…”

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