“Us?” Kraig craned his head back and looked at me. “I thought you wanted to know what the doctor did to me, what I knew about the way he changed me. I’ve been trying to remember if I heard any names when the others came, but my memory is hazy.”
I shook my head. “That’s important, but I still need to finish going through his files. You’re malnourished and exhausted. I don’t want to put you through that trauma after all I’ve already put you through.”
Kraig frowned. “You’ve said something like that twice now. You didn’t do anything to me.”
Guilt swamped me. “I blooded you. You told me no.”
“Because you deserve more than me. You’re an alpha, a streak leader, and I am... was human werekin. Now I’m a freak.”
“You know I wanted you as a human werekin; the bias and small-minded bigotry in other groups is not how I run this streak. My father would come back from the beyond and kick my ass if I even thought of believing that crap. And I’d deserve it. He’d probably do it anyway, if he knew how I blooded you. If there had been time, I would’ve tried to give you a choice, but I couldn’t lose you. I’m sorry.”
Kraig shivered, and I pulled the blankets up higher, tucking them behind his back. He dropped his gaze, hiding those cornflower blue eyes. He licked his lips. “Do you... regret it? With me?”
“Saving you was the only choice. If there had been another way, I wouldn’t have blooded you though. I know you left because you didn’t want me.” It killed my alpha pride, and my stomach churned as I considered our future. “You still don’t.”
“What?” Kraig plastered a cool hand on my chest and pushed away so he could scoot up in the bed and look me full in the face. “I’ve always wanted you, but I wanted what was best for you more.”
“You’re what’s best for me.” I stroked his sharp cheekbone with my thumb, cupping his face gently. “When I thought we’d lost you, I was devastated. I haven’t looked at anyone else to blood bond with–I couldn’t. Even thinking about it made me sick. Ever since I knew what a mate was, I wanted you to be mine. But you wouldn’t mate me.”
“And that just drove your alpha nature crazy.” Kraig snorted indelicately. “You always did expect everyone to fall in line with what you thought was best.”
“I was a jerk back then, but I thought I’d changed. If you want to leave, when you’re better, I won’t stop you.” It was like ripping out my heart to even say it; I’d be left off worse than broken if he did, but I had to let him make the choice.
A pained look crossed Kraig’s face.
“What is it? Are you okay?” He’d warmed up, but he was still in rough shape. “Where does it hurt?”
“You’d give me up?” Kraig whispered. His lower lip trembled, and he pressed them together.
“Not if it was my choice. But I won’t make you stay if you want to leave. We’ll find a way to make the blood bond work somehow.” The tiger spirit inside me was not happy even saying the words.
Kraig took a deep breath and let it out in a long sigh, the tension leaving his body as he leaned closer to me, tucking his head against my neck. The warm puff of his breath brushed against my skin as he said, “I tried to run before, and look how that turned out. You know, I dreamed about you last night.”
“You did?” I held my breath, everything hanging on what Kraig was saying.
“I dreamed about you every night when they had me. What our life could’ve been like together—the happiness I’d pushed away when I refused to let you risk your status with the other groups by blood bonding with me.”
“I never cared about that.” My heart began to pound faster, and Kraig flattened his hand on my chest again. “You’re the most important thing in my life.”
“We might not have a traditional bonding, but I want you for my mate. I never want to live feeling the kind of regret I did all those nights when I’d wake up, so happy from being in your arms, and realize I was still on the cold stone floor of whatever basement I was chained up in.”
“So...?” I needed him to say it.
“I’m never leaving you. You’re my mate, and I’m yours.”
Relief swamped me, and I had to close my eyes to hide the stinging tears that made Kraig’s face blur. “Thank fuck.”
He chuckled. “Tell me how you really feel,” he joked.
I opened my eyes. “I love you,” I said.
Kraig’s breath caught in his throat, and his eyes began to shine in the soft light seeping in past the curtains. He licked his lips. “I love you too.”
We’d bonded, we’d slept in the same bed, and I just heard the words I love you come from my mate... but we’d never kissed. The first press of my lips to his made me glad we were lying down—my knees would’ve buckled if we were standing.
The soft warmth, the taste of his skin, and the flick of his tongue against my lips, all combined with the knowledge that he wanted me as much as I wanted him... I groaned. Kraig took advantage and thrust his tongue inside my mouth. His hand slid up my chest and neck to sink into the hair on the back of my head as he took control of the kiss.
And I was perfectly content to let him. I followed his lead, pulling him close with a hand on his lower back. This time his erection met mine, and I swallowed his shuddering whimper.
“Deke! Oh god, please.”
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