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Kenzie couldn’t watch Carise sleep all night, no matter how much she wanted to. For one, it was barely night. Secondly, she had a feeling Mad was going to need her. And if she was about to say goodbye to her mate forever, she wanted to spend as many seconds with him as she could.
Mad was alone in the throne room when she walked in. He slouched on the throne like a king in repose. Put a crown on his head and he’d fit right in. But he was a man made for the axe he slung across his back, not a crown.
“I thought you’d still be with your sister,” he said. Mad looked around for some reason and then stood. “You need a place to sit.”
“I’ve been sitting all day. You did the hard part. And Carise is asleep. I had the servant put a dose of melatonin in her wine.”
Mad reared back. “You drugged her?”
“It’s melatonin. It just helps you sleep. It’s not really a sedative. After all this shit, she deserves a good sleep.” Kenzie crossed her arms and glared at Mad. This could be their last hour together, and he was going to argue with her?
“I don’t think she’d like that.”
“What am I supposed to do?” It burst out of her, and the tears threatened to fall again, but she wasn’t sure she had any left. She’d cried for a long, long time in Carise’s room. “She’s been through fucking hell for the past two years. I just want to bundle her up and find somewhere safe to keep her forever. And I don’t want her to have to think about all the shit that’s happened. So, yes, I gave her a small dose of melatonin to help her sleep. I’m sorry if that makes me a monster. She needed rest. You didn’t see how tired she looked.”
Masculine arms clamped around her, and Kenzie surrendered to Mad’s embrace. This was where she belonged, and she clung to him, knowing she’d have to soak up enough of these moments to last the rest of her life.
“I’ll apologize in the morning,” she muttered. She shouldn’t have done it, and it shouldn’t have taken Mad yelling at her to realize that. Carise was going to be pissed when she found out. Kenzie could deal with it as long as she had her sister.
“Sounds good.” He didn’t let her go.
They were standing like that when the door slammed open and Jaek marched in, bearing a giant club that made him look like a barbarian caveman. “Where is she?” he demanded.
“Don’t you have guards anymore?” Kenzie muttered. She didn’t pull away quickly. She’d taken off her weapons when she was sitting with her sister, and she’d felt so safe that she hadn’t bothered to put them back on. She carefully grabbed one of the throwing knives still on Mad’s belt and concealed it in her hand.
Mad had to feel what she was doing, but he didn’t stop her. And since Jaek was his friend, she didn’t immediately throw the knife.
Relationships required compromise.
“She’s sleeping,” Kenzie said. No need to tell the guy about the supplement. “And she’s okay. Thank you for taking care of her.” She had to choke out that last part, but she’d seen the way her sister blushed when talking about Jaek. This man—alien—hadn’t hurt Carise.
But it was probably good to get her sister away from him anyway.
“I want to see her.” Jaek stomped further into the room, and his grip tightened on the club. He was ready to bust heads, but all the heads had been busted.
“You can’t,” Mad said. He stepped half a step in front of Kenzie, blocking Jaek from getting to her. “Come in the morning. Or stay here tonight and see her in the morning. Either is acceptable. But Carise needs her sleep.”
Jaek’s chest heaved, and Kenzie didn’t have much hope of him seeing reason.
She hated when she was right.
He jabbed the end of the club at Mad, bumping against his chest, not to do any damage but rather to emphasize the point. “I want to see her now,” he demanded. “I won’t wake her up.” He tried to pass by Mad.
Kenzie backed up and got between Jaek and the door that led to Carise’s room. “Not going to happen today.” The knife wouldn’t do much damage to Jaek, not unless she got lucky. She really didn’t want to fight him, and only a tiny bit of that had to do with him being Mad’s friend. The guy was huge and she didn’t think she could win.
But she wasn’t letting a rampaging alien criminal go to her defenseless sister.
Something shifted in Jaek’s eyes, and Kenzie knew things had just gone from bad to worse. He dropped the club and charged at her. Kenzie backed up, trying to get to the hallway and a door she could put in between her and Jaek before he got to her or to Carise.
Mad let out a furious scream and charged Jaek, tackling him to the hard stone floor and punching him across the jaw. It only took two hits for him to stay down.
Mad got up, knuckles raw and face a wash of anger. “Get out,” he snapped through gritted teeth.
Jaek’s eye was starting to darken with a bruise. “Mad—”
“You tried to hurt my mate.” He leaned in close, and for a moment, Kenzie worried he would do something unforgivable. But he only scowled. “Get out of my territory until you learn some manners.”
Something must have told Jaek that Mad meant business. Whether it was the mate thing or the absolute fury in Mad’s voice, she wasn’t sure.
And she didn’t know how to feel when he called her his mate. She loved it. And it made her want to cry. But if she never cried again, it would be soon enough. She hated the way tears hollowed her out.
Why couldn’t she just have one good thing? She couldn’t ask Carise to stay here so Kenzie could have Mad. She couldn’t ask Mad to leave so she could care for her sister.
She was stuck in between.
Jaek snatched up his club and left with a glare, a string of curses echoing from his mouth.
Mad’s chest heaved. “I’ll end him for this.”
Okay. That was getting out of hand. She stood in front of Mad and placed her hand over his heart. He immediately covered her hand with his own. “Jaek is your friend and you’re going to remember that tomorrow. I would have done the exact same thing, and nothing would get me to leave.”
She wasn’t sure if that made Jaek a more reasonable person. Or maybe he just trusted Mad enough.
“He tried to hurt you.” Mad tightened his grip on her hand. “It’s my job to protect you.”
She held up the knife and waved it before carefully sliding it back into the sheath on Mad’s belt. “I can take care of myself.”
He made a feral noise that shouldn’t have made her shiver with want. “I need to protect my mate. I’ve bonded you, but I haven’t claimed you.” The words were getting harsher by the second.
Really, this should not have been turning Kenzie on. She’d seen Mad kill a man in this room only a few hours before.
She kissed him fiercely and then pulled back. “I’m your mate. Claim me.”
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