Taken by Midnight (Chapter Thirty-five)

Jenna's boots crunched in the moonlit snow as she stepped onto a patch of pristine, hallowed ground just outside the tiny village of Harmony, Alaska.

It had been a couple of days since she'd awakened in the compound infirmary, fully healed from the stab wound she'd received during the rescue of the captive Breedmates.

Only a couple of days since she and Brock had promised to spend their future together as lovers, mates … partners.

"Are you sure you're ready to do this?" he asked her, wrapping his strong arm around her shoulders.

She knew he hated the cold of this place, yet he'd been the one to suggest the trip north. He'd been patient and understanding, and she knew he would stand out here with her forever if he thought she needed the extra time. His breath steamed in the frigid night air, his handsome face solemn, yet reassuring within the deep hood of his parka.

"I'm ready," she said, turning a misty glance onto the small cemetery that stretched out sleepily before her. Twining her gloved fingers through his, she walked with him toward the far corner of the plot, to where a pair of tall granite markers stood side by side in their thick blanket of snow.

She'd been prepared for the wave of emotion that swamped her as she and Brock approached Mitch and Libby's graves for the first time, but it still took her breath away. Her heart clenched, her throat constricted, and for a moment, she wasn't sure that she'd have the strength to see this through, after all.

"I'm scared," she whispered.

Brock squeezed her hand, his deep voice gentle. "You can do it. I'm gonna be right here next to you the whole time."

She looked up into his steady, dark eyes, feeling his love enfold her, lending her his strength. She nodded, then continued walking, her wet gaze rooted on the etched lettering that made everything seem so irrefutable.

So very raw and real.

The tears started falling the moment she stepped onto the ground in front of the headstones. She let go of Brock's hand and moved closer, knowing she had to make it through this part on her own.

"Hi, Mitch," she murmured quietly, kneeling down into the snow. She placed one of the two red roses she'd brought with her at the base of his marker. The other one–fastened with a pink ribbon to a small, stuffed teddy bear–she laid carefully near the smaller gravestone. "Hello, sweetpea."

For a long moment, she remained there, listening to the wind as it blew through the boreal pines, her eyes closed on her tears as she remembered happy times with her husband and daughter.

"Oh, God," she whispered, choked with emotion. "I'm so sorry. I miss you both so much."

She couldn't hold back the pain. It poured out of her in great, ugly sobs–all the pent-up anguish and guilt that she'd been holding locked inside her since the night of the accident.

She'd never been able to feel this purge before. She'd been too afraid.

Too angry with herself to give into the grief and finally let it go.

But she couldn't stop it now. She felt Brock's steady presence behind her–her lifeline, her safe haven in the midst of the storm. She felt stronger now, safe.

She felt loved.

Even more miraculous to her, she felt worthy of being loved.

With a few more murmured words of good-bye, she touched each of the gravestones, then slowly rose to her feet.

Brock was right there, his open arms waiting to catch her in a tender embrace. His kiss was sweet and soothing. He looked down into her eyes, his fingers light and gentle as he swept away her tears. "Are you all right?"

She nodded, feeling lighter despite the lump that still rose in her throat. She felt ready to begin a new chapter in her life. Ready to start her future with the extraordinary Breed male she loved with all the mending pieces of her heart.

Gazing into Brock's warm eyes, she reached out for him, slipping her hand into his. "I'm ready to go home now."