Embrace Me at Dawn

Page 27

“Tell me how to help her,” he pleaded with Millie.

The older woman hesitated, wringing her little hands. “I don’t know this for sure, mind you, but I’ve seen spells like this, usually given by an unscrupulous wizard.” She shook her head, the bun that looked as if it weighed almost as much as she did unmoving on her head. “But in this case, another witch unleashed this on her, then left her alone… Oh, dear.”

“What is it?”

“I believe it’s a fertility spell. They’re quite dangerous and require a great deal of power. They’ve been banned for centuries. Witches inflicted have died.”

Died? His heart revved up, pounding in his ears. He wasn’t going to lose Anka, not after finally having her back in his arms again. “What can we do? Whatever it is, I’ll do it.”

“I’m afraid it’s not that simple. The fertility spell is one that first acts on the inflicted like an aphrodisiac. She will usually choose the first male her body accepts and demand repeated exchanges of sexual energy. Usually in a few days, the spell wanes. The spell automatically makes her repel all mated wizards. Their smell is putrid, their touch painful.”

Which explained a lot of Anka’s behavior. He zipped his gaze over to Bram. “Go. Now.”

The wizard backed away. “Leaving. I’ll keep the others occupied and see what else we can find out about this spell. I’ll send Ice out to scout for Morganna. Or a banshee.”

With that, Bram left.

Anka immediately calmed a bit, her body only occasionally jerking and twitching now. Lucan sat on the bed at her feet and tried to massage her ankles and shins in soothing strokes. “You’re going to be all right, love.” Then he focused on Millie again. “What else?”

“As I said, she usually takes the first wizard her body will accept. There is one exception, however. If a witch’s true mate is in the vicinity, she will reject all others until he comes to um…service her, I’m afraid.” The little witch winced.

“What?” Shock barked.

“She will only have her true mate if he’s nearby.” She tried to smile as she looked between the two of them. “The way she responds to both of you… I think she’s a bit torn. She may accept either of you.”

That was hardly news. Shock growled at his thought.

“The good news is, since Bram left the room, she’s calmed considerably,” Millie pointed out, voice chipper.

That was thankfully true. Anka’s breathing had evened out. She no longer cried or screamed or acted as if pain tore her apart. Experimentally, Lucan let go of her ankles. Shock did the same to her wrists. Anka shifted restlessly, eyes closed, arching in invitation and spreading her leather-clad legs. Her body searched for a lover.

“Get the hell out!” Shock snarled at him.

“Why do you think you’re her true mate?” Lucan challenged. He had to be it. No man would ever love her as he did. He hadn’t shown it well after she’d been abducted. He hadn’t been there. By God, he planned to be here for her now—and every day thereafter.

“She came to me after Mathias’s torture, and I saved her. I’ve protected her. I’ve lived with her. I’ve waited for her for over a hundred years. You…” Shock sneered. “You only fucked around, lost your bloody mind, then retreated to lick your wounds like a beaten dog.”

The truth stung like a bitch, and he would have loved to pound Shock into a wall, but Anka needed one of them now. He blocked the other wizard out and addressed Millie. “How can we know who her true mate is if she can’t decide?”

“She will. It’s been hundreds of years since I’ve seen this spell, mind you, but my recollection is that if any man tries to touch her once her true mate has, he will be roundly rejected.”

“You called it a fertility spell. Does that mean that the man she accepts…?”

“Becomes the father of the child she will likely conceive? Yes. It doesn’t always work, of course. It depends on the power of the person casting the spell.”

Since Morganna had cast it, it ought to be potent as hell. Chances were, if Anka accepted him now, he’d not only be her lover again, he might also be her mate once more. And the father of the youngling they would probably conceive.

“Great. Thank you, Millie. Is it too dangerous for Anka if we ask you to leave us?”

The older witch shook her head. “Honestly, there’s nothing more I can do for her now. I suspect that only one of you two can help. Good luck.”

The door opened, closed. A sliver of air and light passed into the room, breezing over Anka’s face. She cried out, a tiny little mewl he could barely hear. The scratches she’d given herself earlier had nearly healed, but she was clearly still in some pain. And her nipples stabbed her tank top, a sign that her desperate body still needed attention.

But from who?

Lucan swallowed. The plan rolling through his head was a calculated risk, but could also eliminate Shock from Anka’s life and bed forever. Everything depended on Anka. “All right. If she accepts you now, Shock, I’ll concede. I’ll go away, leave her alone, and never try to win her back again.”

“About bloody fucking time. Get out.”

“You have ten minutes with her. If you can’t prove that you’re her true mate, you will leave her to me and not ever try to win her back.”

Shock’s head whipped around. “You think you’re dictating to me?”

“Would you prefer me to go first, then? I don’t mind at all.”

“Fuck no!”

Lucan shrugged, trying to hide the worry that he might be making the biggest mistake of his life. “It would seem as if those are our two choices. Pick one and let’s get on with helping Anka.”

Shock lowered his head, looking down at the woman they’d both give their lives to save. He could say a lot of awful things about the wankstain, but he had to admit that Shock cared very much for Anka and always had.

Lumbering to his feet, Shock rolled his shoulders and looked toward the window. The shutters had been drawn. Between that and his ever-present sunglasses, Shock shouldn’t be able to see a damn thing. But he stared for a long moment as if the wooden slats closed to the afternoon sun could provide any answers.

“Get the fuck out of here.”

Lucan shot Shock a smile, feigning a confidence he didn’t feel. “That’s great. Enjoy it. I have no doubt I’ll see you in ten minutes.”

Chapter Eleven

Lucan emerged from the bedroom. Shaking, he closed his eyes and braced himself against the wall. Leaving Anka to Shock’s dubiously tender mercies once had been the bloody hardest thing he’d ever done. The second time around, knowing that Anka might accept the prat as her true mate forever, was much harder. His only consolation now? Anka and the strength of the love they’d shared for over a century. His mate mourning had been deep because she had been everything to him. If he’d ever given her any cause to doubt that, he’d castigate himself eternally. As it was, he felt plenty of guilt for not being there when Mathias abducted her. And for not understanding her needs before their mating had been cut brutally short.

If Shock emerged, defeated, any time in the next ten minutes, Lucan swore with everything inside him that he would embrace and honor Anka’s yearnings. He would take care of her, no matter what.

“You look green,” Bram drawled from a leather wingback chair just outside the door.

Lucan quickly explained everything Millie said after his departure. After Bram picked his jaw up off his chest, he sent Lucan a solemn stare. “So now you wait?”

“Now I wait.” He fucking hated it and didn’t know how the hell he’d stand it.


“No. If the few I’ve already had haven’t relaxed me, nothing will. But I am her true mate. I have to be.”

“Perhaps that’s the reason neither you nor Anka have truly let go. Sabelle told me that even when Anka appeared indifferent, her thoughts were often wrapped entirely around you. I don’t know what’s driven her to make half the decisions she has.”

“Fear? Maybe she thinks that too much has happened and that she can’t come home again. She’s scarred. That bastard flayed her flesh wide open and drained her so that she couldn’t heal. She feels less than perfect, though in my eyes, there’s no one more so. But I’ve got eight minutes more to find out if I’ll have the opportunity to convince her of that.”

Bram nodded and didn’t try to fill the silence.

Anka screamed into the soundless void a moment later, making the hair on the back of his neck stand up. Her suffering ripped at his composure. Lucan paced nervously, wanting to rip down that door and hold her. He would slay dragons for her, damn it, if she would let him.

Shock growled something low and short. A demand. A crash followed, then another horrific scream. A bump very much like someone hitting the wall resounded next. Shock cursed. All the while, Lucan held his breath, hoping Anka would come to her senses and realize that he was the only man for her.

“It doesn’t sound as if Shock is having an easy time of it,” Bram observed.

“No.” Thank God.

Then all fell quiet again. Lucan tried not to take that as a bad sign and fought to erase the frown creasing his face.

“Why do you suppose Morganna hit Anka with a fertility spell?” Bram asked to distract him.

Lucan was grateful.

“That’s the question, really.” It had circled in his own head once or twice. “I can’t imagine why. If Morganna merely wanted to reduce the numbers of the Doomsday Brethren, she wouldn’t bother to make Anka fertile. She’d simply kill her. There’s nothing in it for Morganna to make the next generation of Doomsday Brethren. She doesn’t know Anka at all, so why do her a ‘favor’?”

“Agreed. Even if Morganna read Anka’s deepest desires, why expend the energy to make a stranger’s wish come true?”


“Not that Morganna is terribly logical. From everything we know, she’s impulsive and wretchedly temperamental.”

“Do you think Anka angered her?”

Bram shrugged. “Maybe, but again, if she did, why not simply kill her?”

“You’re right. Not logical at all.”

Before he could reply, another of Anka’s blood-curdling cries split the air. Shock’s low voice echoed off the walls, the tone coaxing. Then frantic footsteps pounded across the floor, a frenzied fumbling with the doorknob. Lucan snapped to attention, inching closer to the door, digging his fingers into his thighs to stop himself from wrenching it open.

“Anka!” Shock barked on the other side.

She cried out in answer, a fearful sound of denial. Scuffling filled the air, then a thud. Unnerving silence followed. It dragged on. Lucan waited, paced, wondering what the hell was happening behind that door.

Then a sound he’d dreaded hearing: the rhythmic squeaking of bed springs.

Low moans bounced off the walls next, hers, Shock’s. It didn’t take long before the tempo of the bed springs picked up pace, and Anka gave an impatient little huff, throaty and sexy. Shock moaned long and low, a sound that dripped pleasure and shriveled Lucan’s gut. Fuck if he didn’t want to crumple into a heap of misery.

So that was it; Anka had accepted Shock over him. Even now, the shitty bastard was sating her need and would soon fill her with seed. With his youngling.

So much for being her true mate.

The sympathy on Bram’s face was more than he could bear. “I’m sorry.”

Lucan squeezed his eyes shut. Defeat slid like a thick sludge through his veins. He felt the last of his breakfast chug in his stomach as it threatened to come up. The rest of his fucking life would be spent with surrogates having polite exchanges of energy, never knowing affection or tenderness. Certainly not devotion. And never love.

Anka had chosen Shock. Would they mate now? What would her life be like? Could the git really make her happy? Would he watch her favorite movies with her, despite having seen them a million times? Would he rub her cold feet in winter? Or run her a steaming tub and pour her a glass of wine when stress worked her into a cute little tizzy? Would he know how tenderly she needed to be loved when she looked lost after talking about the death of her mother?

Before now, he had bet his very heart that the answers to all those questions were no. Apparently, he’d been wrong.

Swallowing the rising bile, Lucan forced himself to shove away from the door. He had to get the fuck out of here. One foot in front of the other. Only a few more to the stairs. Bram leapt to his feet and fell into step beside him.

“You’ll understand that I can’t train her anymore,” Lucan murmured.

His life had shattered permanently. Once, he’d believed that he and Anka would somehow reunite. Now, he knew better. He felt…stunned. Broken. Soon, the anger and grief, the abject despair he’d known recently, would hit him. He would drink heavily, rail at anyone who would listen, then bury himself at home in a life of total solitude. How could he have been so bloody wrong about what was in Anka’s heart?

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