Touching Lucas once more was all that mattered. Her entire focus had centered on him. She needed him. And she wasn’t dying without telling him the truth.

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Because she’d been lying to her wolf. She wouldn’t die with that lie and she wouldn’t let him die without knowing the truth.

Josette lifted Sarah’s arm. Sarah didn’t wince. Didn’t gasp. She just took the wave of pain that came when Josette pulled her up. Josette eased her shoulders under Sarah’s arm and the other woman wrapped her hands around Sarah’s stomach. “Easy . . .” Josette whispered. “Go slow.”

When you didn’t have a lot of time, slow wasn’t really an option.

A chorus of high-pitched howls split the night. She heard the fear in those howls.

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Sarah’s head lifted and she saw an explosion of fire light the night. Fire that had come from behind the line of trees to the right. Rafe’s wolves had fled that way, disappearing into the trees. But it looked like those bastards might not have gotten away after all.

A woman walked from the woods. Her dark hair brushed past her shoulders. Her steps were sure, certain, and her fingers curled around a gun. The full moon also revealed that her nails had sharpened into claws and her teeth—vampire.

“Maya!” Josette yelled. “Help me, please!”

Maya’s eyes widened and then she raced forward. “Josie, dammit! Why the hell did you run from me? I lost your scent—it just disappeared and—”

“They’re dying,” Josette said, her soft voice cutting through the fury of Maya’s.

The vampire kept running toward them. The scent of fire came with her. “I don’t see any blood on her.” Maya took her away from Josette. Sarah’s hand slipped into her back pocket, searching . . . there. Her fingers curled around the treasure and she whispered, “Lucas . . .”

“He’s the one with the blood,” Josette said.

“Yeah, that I can smell. The blood and the silver. Not anything else, though, why—”

“Lucas . . .” Sarah dug her nails into the vampire’s arm.

“Ouch! Shit, okay, you want him, you got him.” Maya scooped her up, even though the vamp was smaller than her—gotta love that enhanced vampire strength—and carried her to Lucas. He was on the ground, body twisting, his bones snapping, but he wasn’t shifting. Just . . . trapped. In pain.

Maya eased her onto the ground. “Someone tell me what the hell is happening here. Ah, Rafael’s dead, that’s good. Guess Lucas beat me this time . . .”

Sarah ignored her and reached for Lucas’s hand. His fingers curled around hers.

“When he killed grand-mère, Rafe stole a brew of hell-fire from her,” Josette said. “It burns, fills the air, and the scent covers nearly everything else.”

Lucas’s hand was cold. No, she was cold. Sarah wet her lips. He was close. Everything should be better now. “Need to tell . . .”

The others fell silent. They didn’t matter then anyway. Only he mattered.

His claws were out, but he still had the body of a man. Still had those too light blue eyes.

Her fingers squeezed his. “I . . . lied.” But what else was new, right?

If he were in wolf form, she could think all this instead of struggling to speak. But then, if he were in wolf form, he might have a fighting chance.

“Do something, Josette.” Dane growled. “Dammit, your grandmother was the mambo.”

“And I’m a dead-raiser. I can’t do anything unless he—” She muffled a sob. “You don’t want my help. Trust me.”

Sarah kept her eyes on Lucas. “I made . . . deal . . . with FBI . . .”

Lucas didn’t speak. Maybe he couldn’t. His mouth was blood-red. No, that was blood dripping from his lips.

“Miller . . . w-wanted me to take out Rafe . . .” He’d stopped her outside of LA. Given her orders, even though she didn’t even work for the jerk anymore.

Sarah realized her heart wasn’t beating just right. Far too slow.

“If . . . if I . . . d-did . . . you’d be o-ff . . .” Off the extermination list. His pack would be clear. They wouldn’t be watched. Wouldn’t be targeted for death. But she couldn’t say any of that. Couldn’t.

A growl built in Lucas’s chest.

“Shift!” Dane snarled.

But he had too much silver in him. She knew it.

“Get the silver out!” Maya shouted. “Cut him open and get it out!”

“It shattered,” Josette said. “Exploded on impact. Rafe said it—”

“He’s not dying!” The furious determination was Jordan’s. His claws sliced into Lucas’s chest.

Sarah felt the rip of her own flesh.

Tell him.

“M-mate . . .” He was hers. She’d known it the first time he kissed her. More than a legend. The man who’d offered her protection. Passion. Life. And . . . “Love.” Her chest rattled. “Love . . . Lucas.”

She wouldn’t die without telling him.

He wouldn’t die without knowing.

For him, she’d trade anything, do anything.

And it sure looked like she’d be dying for him.

“Love . . .”

His eyes glittered. Her heart lurched. Lucas’s fingers opened and Marie’s ring, the ring Sarah had kept close, lay nestled between their hands.

Josette gasped. “Grand-mère . . .”

Not ready to give your life for his, are you?

Marie’s voice. The mambo had asked her that and Sarah had been afraid. She wasn’t afraid anymore. “I . . . will . . .”

The ring began to slip from their hands.

Josette dove for them. Her fingers wrapped around theirs, and she held tight. “No!”

Thunder rumbled. A whisper of a thousand voices filled the air. Hands reached for Sarah, cold, greedy hands.

“No!” Josette tightened her hold and heat, fiery heat, exploded in Sarah’s palm. “Death, you can piss off!” Josette screamed. “I’m taking my grand-mère’s power!”

Then an electric current ripped through Sarah’s body. She jerked, heaved, and saw Lucas do the same. But Josette took the hardest hit. She cried out, and her body flew back through the air. Sarah saw her slam into the ground and crumple near Piers.

Then she didn’t see anything else but darkness.

Love . . .

If you were gonna die, Sarah figured there were worse things to die for.

The change poured over Lucas, his blood seemed to boil, his body contorted, and he roared Sarah’s name.

But she didn’t move.

Jordan stumbled back, his hands bloody. “Got some, I got—”

Fur burst over Lucas’s skin.

“Hell, yes,” Dane shouted.

The wolf within scratched and clawed his way to the surface. The silver still inside burned like a bitch, but something was different now. Maybe his brother had managed to get out enough silver, maybe Josette had worked some of her grand-mère’s magic. Either way, the wolf was coming out.

Sarah.

She’d be able to link with him now. She had to hear him. Sarah.

But when he reached for her mind, he only touched darkness. No, not just darkness . . .

Love . . . Lucas . . . The faintest trace of her voice. It seemed almost like a muted echo, as if he were catching a whisper she’d already voiced.

Free . . . no extermination list . . . free.

Sarah was leaving him. The wolf felt it with absolute certainty. He rushed to her, his muzzle pressing against her throat.

No, stay with me. The man’s order. She was supposed to stay. He’d claimed her in front of the pack. That meant they were mates. Together always.

Stay. He was desperate now.

He howled, fear and fury building.

“The wolf’s spirit is strong.” That was Josette, and when his head whipped toward her, he saw her sitting on the ground—her eyes were cloudy, a glazed blue. Just like Marie’s. “But what will you give, wolf? To fight Death, what will you give?”

Everything. His muzzle pressed against Sarah once more. Stay with me. Not an order. Not anymore. He couldn’t hold the shift, already the wolf’s body was trembling, weakening, and the muscle and flesh of man would be back soon.

Sarah.

“Are you strong enough to fight for her?” Josette asked.

Fur disappeared. The wounds on his chest weren’t as bad. Healing, slowly. Lucas coughed, choked, and rasped, “I’ll do . . . any . . . thing for her . . ..”

Because she was in him. In the heart that others thought he didn’t have. She’d worked her way inside, slipped right past his guard, and he wasn’t about to go back to the emptiness he’d known before her.

With Sarah, it wasn’t about pack and responsibility. It wasn’t about the wolves and their safety.

Just a man and a woman.

Just . . . life.

If only she wouldn’t die on him.

His hand touched her chest. Her heart pounded beneath his touch. Growing stronger, stronger . . .

“Sarah? Come back . . . to me.”

“She can’t ever leave you.” Josette. Still with the blind eyes and faraway voice. “Bound—spirits, minds, hearts. If you live . . .”

Sarah’s eyes opened.

“She lives.”

His arms curled around her and he yanked Sarah against him, holding her tight. “You scared the hell out of me.” Still was scaring him.

“The battle isn’t over . . . more to come . . . so many years . . . so much blood . . .” Josette’s voice drifted in the air, slurring a bit.

Lucas eased back and stared into Sarah’s eyes. Such a deep, beautiful green.

“Give everything . . .” Josette was almost whispering now, “you’ll survive all that comes, give nothing . . .”

“Josette?” Maya sounded worried. “Dammit, Josie, what the hell is happening? You can’t do this stuff—”

“I’ll give you everything I have,” Sarah whispered. “I love you, Lucas.”

Love.

He hadn’t really been given a lot of that in his life. Didn’t understand it. Didn’t know . . .

Her lips brushed his jaw. “I . . . should have told you sooner . . . I don’t really understand what . . . the hell happened here tonight . . .” With every word, her voice grew stronger. He grew stronger. “But we’re okay, right? We’re . . . gonna make it?”

He nodded and held her tighter. Death had been too close. Life and death—the line between them was so very fragile. And humans weren’t the only ones weak enough to fall over that line.

Linked. Bound. When she left this world, he’d leave, too. Her lashes brushed against his cheek. “I don’t want to lose you.”

“You won’t.” Not in life and not in death.

Sarah looked up at him. “Promise me.”

He’d do more than that. “Sarah . . .”

Josette gasped, her breath wheezing. Lucas glanced over as her eyelids fell closed. Maya grabbed her, holding tight. Brody ran from the woods, heading toward them. “Maya!”

“Help me!” She yelled to him. “I don’t know what’s happening to her!”

A shudder rippled over Josette’s body. Her palm opened, revealing Marie’s ring.

Behind Josette, Lucas saw Piers’s body. Josette’s left hand was touching his side.

A groan broke from the man’s lips. He rose, blinking. “L-Lucas?” His gaze swept the scene. Saw the remains of Rafe. Saw Lucas holding Sarah tight. Saw the limp arm of the woman who’d been touching him. “Josette.” Need and raw hunger shook his voice.

But Maya came at him with her own claws. “Don’t even think about hurting her, wolf.”

Lucas knew he wouldn’t. Piers looked at him, shaking his head, his eyes wide and horrified. “Alpha . . . I—”

Sirens wailed in the distance. Not like the humans would have been able to overlook Brody’s fire and the fire from Marie’s house. Even in this part of town, two blazes wouldn’t go unnoticed.

“We have to get out of here,” Jordan said, grabbing Lucas’s arm. Dane took Sarah’s. “Now.”

He knew they had to flee because he wasn’t healed. Wasn’t ready to bullshit an explanation about the savaged bodies there and the dead demon inside.

Maya’s gaze raked them. “Go. I can handle the cops.”

Probably, since she’d been a cop . . . once upon a time. Before a vamp’s bite had changed her life and taken her from that world.

Piers reached for Josette. “No damn way, wolf,” Maya snapped and Brody pressed closer to her. “You’re not taking her.”

Piers growled.

“Piers!”

The blond wolf shifter’s head snapped toward him. Right then, he understood. Oh, did Lucas fucking understand. His mate was against him, her body trembling, and there was no way he’d separate from her.

But . . .

Josette didn’t know what was happening. “Heal first, then claim her.” An order from the alpha.

And Piers had damn well better obey. Lucas could understand the guy going bat-shit crazy because he thought his mate was dead—if Sarah had died—no. He could understand. So Piers wouldn’t be punished, but he would obey now or hell would come.

Piers lowered his head. His fingers curled into a fist, never touching Josette.

“He needs her,” Sarah whispered.

Just like I need you.

Piers could fight his battle for Josette. But right then, the priority was getting Sarah and the rest of the pack to safety.

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