Midnight Awakening (Chapter Thirty-five)

Elise watched Tegan sleep, relieved that his ordeal was over. With Marek's death, there would be much healing to come, not only for Tegan and her as well, but for Lucan and the rest of the Order. A dark chapter of their past had closed at last, the secrets aired. Now they could all look ahead to the future, and whatever tests the new dawn would bring. Elise had thought she'd feel some sense of triumph over Marek's death: the one ultimately responsible for Camden's suffering was no more. She'd made good on her promise, with Tegan's help.

But she didn't feel victorious as she smoothed a strand of soft, tawny hair off Tegan's brow. She felt anxious and concerned. Desperate that he be all right. The Crimson that Marek had given him was slow to wear off. He'd been sleeping fitfully since they arrived back at Reichen's Darkhaven estate. Bouts of convulsions had wracked him, and his skin was still clammy to the touch.

Oh, Tegan, she whispered, leaning over him to press her lips to his. Don't leave me.

God, if she lost him to that hideous drug too, after everything they'd been through…

The tears slid down her cheeks, the first time she'd allowed herself to break down in the hours since they'd been back. The first time she'd actually let herself consider what would be the worst scenario.

What if Tegan didn't fully revive? He'd been so close to Rogue once before–what would it take for him to slide into that pit of hopelessness? And if he did, would he be able to climb back out?

You won't get rid of me that easily.

She wasn't sure if she heard the words spoken out loud, or merely as a wish in her heart. But when Elise drew back, she was looking into Tegan's eyes. His gorgeous, gem-green eyes. Only the barest trace of amber remained.

His name was a sigh on her lips, a thankful prayer. She kissed him hard, and wrapped her arms around his broad shoulders on the bed. His answering growl of interest made her smile against his mouth. You're back, she murmured, so relieved.

Mmm, he grunted, his hands coming up to caress her. I'm back, Breedmate. Thanks to you.

So, you finally admit it–you need me.

His smile was wicked. Come up here with me. I want to show you just how much.

She got up on the bed with him, straddling his hips and fully expecting him to pull her down on top of him and begin the seduction he was so skilled at. But he only looked at her. When he stroked her cheek, his fingers were tender, reverent.

I admit it, he said, his gaze so sincere it made her heart clench. I'll admit it to you now, and to anyone, anytime. I need you, Elise. I love you. You are mine. My woman, my mate, my beloved. My everything.

Her vision swam with watery happiness. Tegan…I love you so much. Tell me this is real. That this is forever.

You think I'm the type of male to settle for anything less?

She shook her head, bleary-eyed with joy as she leaned down and kissed him.

The staccato rap on the door went ignored for a couple of seconds, but then Lucan's deep voice sounded on the other side. There was a tense edge to the warrior's tone. How we doing in here?

Come in, Lucan, Elise called to the Order's leader–after what they went through together today, her dear, trusted friend.

She got up from Tegan's body despite his groan of protest and walked over to meet Lucan as he came inside. He was cleaned up and healing, but it would take some time before his body was completely restored. He gave Tegan a weary smile as Tegan swung his legs over the edge of the bed and sat up.

What is it? Tegan asked, snapping back into warrior mode despite the fact that he'd been leveled for the past few hours. What's happened?

Lucan didn't mince words. Dante and the others just called in from Prague. They found the crypt up in the mountains, just like Kassia's clues said they would. It was all there, T. A cave carved into the rock, a hibernation chamber full of dermaglyphic symbols and the bones of the humans Dragos fed his father in preparation of his long sleep.

But, Tegan prompted, pulling Elise toward him like he wanted something firm to hold on to.

But it was empty. Lucan shook his head, ran his hand through his dark hair. The goddamn crypt had already been opened. Someone freed the bastard. We can only guess how long ago, but it appears to have been years. Decades, even.

Then…he's out there somewhere? Elise asked, dreading confirmation of that terrible fact. What are we going to do?

We start looking, Tegan said. Christ, assuming the Ancient is alive, he could be anywhere. A needle in a haystack.

Lucan nodded. And we're going to need all the resources we can get. Rest up, both of you. We won't be heading back to Boston until the others return from Prague tonight.

With that, Lucan turned and started for the door. Halfway there, he paused. He came back to Tegan's bedside, his expression serious. From the beginning, Tegan, you were more brother to me than any kin by blood. You still are. Tegan felt likewise, in spite of all they'd been through. Maybe because of it. I'll always have your back, Lucan. You can count on it.

Lucan held out his hand to him. As the two warriors clasped their palms together, Tegan felt the warmth of friendship–of brotherhood– flowing between them. It surprised him, how welcome that affection actually was to him. And how much he'd missed it.

Lucan nodded. The powerful Gen One vampire's eyes warmed with unmistakable respect as he turned to Elise.

The Order is in your debt, he told her, now holding his hand out to her. For what you did to bring us Dragos's secret, and for what you did here today for Tegan and me…I am personally in your debt. Thank you, Elise.

She gave a little shake of her head as she placed her fingers in his broad palm. No thanks are necessary. I'm happy to do whatever I can to help the Order. And Tegan.

Lucan smiled as he carried her hand to his lips. His kiss of gratitude was chaste and sincere, but it still made Tegan growl a little.

You are well mated, he said, that sage look shifting to Tegan.

Yes, I am, Tegan agreed without the slightest hesitation. He grinned at Elise, desire sparking as always just to look at her and know that by some miracle of fate, she was his. I am very well mated.

Lucan nodded. Rest up. I won't bother you again until we're ready to move out and head back to Boston.

As soon as he was gone, Elise wrapped Tegan in a loving embrace, her lips warm with promise as she kissed him. He felt the strength of her love surrounding him, and he knew that no matter how dark the coming days might be, he would always have this light to hold him. He kissed her back, interest stirring rigidly to life.

You heard Lucan, she murmured against his mouth, a smile in her voice. You need to get some rest.

So? he growled, playfully nipping her supple lower lip.

Elise laughed. So, maybe we should wait to do this until we get home.

Tegan rolled her onto the bed with him, smoothly pinning her under his awakening body. He looked down into her wide lavender eyes, which held him with so much love it staggered him.

He kissed her slowly, tenderly, sincerely.

I am home, he said, his voice rough with emotion as he pressed her down beneath him. This is the only home I'll ever need. About the Author

With family roots stretching back to the Mayflower, author LARA ADRIAN lives with her husband in coastal New England, surrounded by centuries-old graveyards, hip urban comforts, and the endless inspiration of the broody Atlantic Ocean. To learn more about Lara and her novels, please visit www.LaraAdrian.com. Read on for a sneak peek of