Wroth woke to wetness on his chest.
Her silky hair tumbled over his arm. When he opened his eyes he realized she was crying over him. Impossible. "Myst?" he rasped.
Her head shot up and she gave him a watery smile that quickly faded. She slapped him, a hard, cracking blow. Then she leapt on him, nuzzling, squeezing, as if she couldn't get close enough to him, as if she wanted in him.
"Don't you ever do anything so stupid again." She slapped at his chest, which he was surprised to find was healed.
He flexed and tensed his muscles throughout. He was bandaged in places, but he had all his limbs. This was good. Now if he could just get his wife to cease slapping him. "If you do not stop, milaya, we will have words."
So she turned to kissing him again with whispers in his ear and tears dropping to his face, each one like a gift. "You've been out for five nights. And you wouldn't wake the hell up."
"Where are we?"
"In Val Hall."
"No, you're safe." She leaned back and raised an eyebrow. "Do you think I would just let my sisters fall on you like a carcass?"
He winced at the image. "Can't wait to meet them all. How did you get away?"
"Ivo traced, but Cara and Regin are on his trail."
"I'm just glad I was there to save you," Wroth said solemnly, making her grin. "Did you kill the turned demon?"
"The lightning and I did."
He remembered then. She'd been hit directly, hair whipping, eyes silver, the most awing sight he'd ever witnessed. "I saw you get struck." His voice went low. "You smiled."
"It feels good. It's very rare to get a direct hit - "
Outside, something, some male, howled with fury. Wroth tensed to trace her away.
"Oh, don't worry. Just another crazy day at the manor." She waved away his tension. "A Lykae nabbed little Emmaline and took her back to Scotland - thinks she's his werewolf queen or something."
"Uh-huh. So Lucia trapped the Lykae's brother for leverage, but apparently he's proving most uncooperative. Anyway, if you knew Em you'd see how ridiculous the idea is. She's terrified of her own shadow, much less a roaring Lykae's unique...appetites."
He'd have to ask her about that later. "She's the halfling - the one that's part vampire." When her brows drew together he rushed to assure her, "I will never tell Kristoff about her, but I suspect that Ivo's searching for her."
"They know. They'd already sent a retrieval party after her, and once they bring her back, she'll be safe here. The wraiths will shut out any threat." One flew by the window at that moment cackling to punctuate her statement.
He raised his eyebrows and when she grinned, he cupped her face with a bandaged hand. "I love you."
"Could you...could you feel the same way? Before you answer, I want you to know that I meant what I said. I am sorry for forcing you to stay and for losing my head. I will always be shamed by my actions."
"Wroth, I wanted to stay with you after, oh - about a day! I'd planned to play you, but realized early that I was falling in love with you."
He hadn't heard her correctly. Yes, she'd been upset over his injuries, but that didn't mean she loved him. "You're saying you love me too?"
She nibbled her lip and nodded. "I'd always had a crush on you, you know."
When he frowned, she said, "I used to adore hearing tales about you. And was saddened when we'd heard you'd died. Then to meet you in person?" She blushed a little. "I found that you lived up to my fantasy of you."
He was bewildered to hear this from his fierce, stunningly beautiful wife. In a gravelly voice, he spoke an utter understatement, "That gives my ego a bit of a boost coming from you."
Her lips curled. "Among other things, the uncommon gift of a direct strike of lightning, and the fact that you were the only man able to free me from my chain, and the fact that you were so sodding eager to give up your life for mine - though mind you, if you try that again, I'm going to kill you - have all convinced me that we should be together."
"Always, Myst. I'd do it easily." When she was about to protest, he asked, "What about your family? I will try if they will."
"For all the reasons I just listed, a couple of my sisters have decided they'll try to overcome their repugnance of you."
He scowled at that. "Big-minded of them."
"Yet they want nothing to do with Kristoff or any among your order. You're the exception because they felt like they knew you as a human and because of what has happened between us. But if, say, your brother showed up here, they'd...it would be...bad."
"If you can make a genuine effort, I believe they will all come to accept you in time."
He wanted to be clear on this. "Accept you as my wife and me as your husband?" He wanted everything from her. Not just a few decades. He wanted eternity. And as long as she was in a giving mood...
She nodded, a smile playing about her pink lips. "We still have a lot to muddle through, mind you. Our families and our factions, and who controls the remote, and living logistics - because Blachmount needs TLC and lightning rods in a bad way...But I suppose I have to take possession of you, since I've already taken possession of my engagement ring."
He grinned. "You liked that, did you?"
"I couldn't take my eyes off of it," she said with a saucy smile.
He clasped her to him and pulled her close, knowing she craved being wrapped tight and secure in his arms as much as he needed her soft and trusting within them. "I can't quite believe this. Even after everything?" If she could give him another chance, Wroth thought they could do anything together.
"Yes. But..." She stroked the smooth backs of her claws down his arm. "You'll have to spend eternity making it up to me."
He released her to lever himself above her, cupping the back of her neck. His gaze flickered over her face, then met the eyes of his wife as she smiled up at him. Feeling love for her so strong it hurt him, his voice ragged with it, he rasped, "Milaya, it is done."