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The Singer Elizabeth Hunter 2022/7/22 11:38:41

He shot out of the room. Waiting in the bedroom while she cried had almost broken him. He couldn’t lose her.

They all got out of his way. He caught up to her before she could make it to the door.

“No! No no no no no…” She said it over and over. She closed her eyes when his arms wrapped around her. She shook her head and turned her face away.

“It’s me.” He buried his face in her neck, inhaling the sweet smell of her skin. She was shivering, but her mating marks glowed against his. Gold on silver. Shining as he held her back from bolting to the door.

“You’re dead,” she whispered. “I felt it. I can’t—”

“I’m not dead. I came back.”

There was nothing from her but a sob. The tears leaked from her closed eyes, and he sank to the ground with Ava in his arms.

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“I came back to you,” he whispered, his lips pressed to her temple. “Vashama canem, reshon. I heard you. It was the only thing I heard.”

She had stopped struggling, but her eyes were still closed.

“You think you’re crazy, don’t you?”

She nodded, still silent.

“You’re not crazy.” Malachi forced his voice to harden, even as he held her as softly as he could. “Ava, look at me.”

Her head did not lift.

He felt her shoulders begin to soften. And the fists he gripped in his hands tentatively turned their palms to his.

“I saw you in the spice market,” he began, thinking back to the dreams he thought had only been illusions. The flickers of memory his mind had recovered. “It smelled of cloves and honey.”

Her head lifted a little.

“And you were carrying an old leather case. I followed you because… you fascinated me.”

She finally opened her eyes but didn’t look directly at him. Their friends stood, surrounding them, holding their collective breath, but Malachi pretended they weren’t even there.

He leaned down to her ear and whispered, “I met you in the forest. I found you, and I picked you up off the ground. I held you, and I loved you under the stars. You thought they were only dreams. I did, too.”

Ava finally turned to him, her eyes wide and wet with tears.

“I tried to ask you where you were. From the moment I woke, all I have searched for is you.”

She lifted a hand, tentatively touching his jaw. He saw her lips form his name, but no sound escaped.

“I was helpless in the forest. I lost you again, and I thought I would lose my mind.”

“This is real?” she asked again, her voice rising. Her other hand joined the first, touching his face. Tracing his lips, then moving down his body. She turned in his arms, but her hands never left his face. His neck. His shoulders.

She laughed once. Sharp. Painful to his ears. Then she buried her face in his neck and inhaled. “Your smell,” she said, her lips pressed against his neck as his arms tightened around her. “It’s you. I smelled you on Leo’s shirt, and I thought—”

“It’s me, Ava. I promise. It’s not a trick.”

She burst into tears again, but this time he heard relief, not panic. He felt their friends relax, and he saw Damien pull Sari into an embrace.

“It’s not possible,” she said again, sniffling.