To talk to an immortal is suicide.
Yet, I've been marked by both.
And the King of the immortals.
My life is no longer my own.
And now I know the truth, my life was never mine to begin with.
It was theirs.
It's always been theirs.
"Ethan, a word?" Alex stood.
"Sure." Ethan kissed the top of my head and left the room while Mason started rummaging around the kitchen; pots and pans clanged together, and then he pulled out a giant piece of steak.
"I hope that's not for me." I pointed.
"Protein…" He threw the steak into the pan. "…feeds the blood, which feeds the mate, which, in turn, feeds you."
"You gonna start singing Circle of Life?" I joked.
"Circle of life?" he repeated.
"Cassius is king."
I looked helplessly to Stephanie, who was trying to hide her smile behind her hand.
"Have you seriously never watched Lion King?"
"Werewolves are scared of TV," Stephanie said with a soft laugh.
"And sirens are afraid of the dark," he fired back, while she shuddered. "I'm not afraid of the TV. I just don't see the point in sitting in front of a flat box and watching people make fools of themselves."
"He'd rather be the fool." Stephanie nodded and winked in my direction.
"Mason…" I walked over to him and put my head on his shoulder. "How about I eat the steak and we watch Lion King?"
"Dances with Wolves?"
Stephanie snickered loudly behind her hand.
"Wolves do not dance," Mason growled.
"Oh, we know." Stephanie nodded. "I've seen it once. Don't care to see it again."
"Too much whiskey." Mason kissed the top of my head. "Eat the whole steak, and then we'll talk about King Lion."
I sighed helplessly and went to sit at the table while Mason cooked.
Stephanie gave me a side hug. "Eight tomorrow morning, alright?"
"Bed." She shrugged. "It's been a long night." Her eyes misted again.
"Are you sure you're okay?"
"Yeah." Her voice cracked. "Like Alex said, we get emotional. Can't help it."
It felt like she was lying, but I was human, how would I know? I nodded and turned my attention back to Mason, who'd started searing the steak.
"So you cook meat but refuse to eat it?"
"I'm a vegetarian." He smiled. I'd never realized how pointy his teeth were on the sides. Maybe that's how he'd been able to bite into me before Ethan had mated with me.
"Your teeth say otherwise." I pointed. "Flat means vegetarian. Pointy means carnivore."
Mason rolled his eyes. "I didn't say it was natural for me to be a vegetarian."
"Okay… so why?"
He let out a heavy sigh. "Meat made my mate sick… for one reason or another. It gave her headaches. She only ate fruits, vegetables, nuts." He flipped the steak. "So I learned to like other foods."
He went very quiet, his eyes focusing in on the steak. "Now…" His voice was hoarse. "I honor her with my every meal."
My throat clogged with emotion.
The fact that he honored her at all — but with every single meal — killed me. How did he survive that? How did he live every day having known true love? And know he may never experience it again — living forever?
"Don't pity me." Mason let out a gruff growl. "It makes it harder."
"Sorry," I whispered. "So pinecones, huh?"
He laughed. "Yes, well, it's an acquired taste."
My heart picked up speed, and then I smelled him. Ethan entered the room, briskly walking by me, kissing my head. "Steak almost done?"
"I'm a perfectionist." Mason held up his hands. "Let the juices seal."
Ethan scrunched up his nose. "Her blood tastes better than that steak."
"Yes, well, her blood tastes good because she's living. She's living because I feed her."
"Werewolf has a point," I teased. "Besides, if I eat my whole steak, we're going to watch Lion King!"
"Whose king?" Ethan tilted his head. "What lion? Mason's a wolf."
And that's how I ended up spending my evening between a vampire and a werewolf, eating steak and watching a Disney movie while they argued over the animal kingdom, not to mention the lion's choice in song.
It felt right.
Like I'd finally found my place.
I had no idea that the security I felt was about to get ripped from me, from the very people I'd put my trust in.
Rachel Van Dyken is the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today Bestselling author of regency and contemporary romances. When she's not writing you can find her drinking coffee at Starbucks and plotting her next book while watching The Bachelor.
She keeps her home in Idaho with her Husband, adorable son, and two snoring boxers! She loves to hear from readers!
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