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Word Count: 2093

~Meara

The world materialises around us, a cold breeze ruffling my hair.

"This isn't the manor," I comment, pulling my hand from Sire's as I look around.

After leaving the witch behind, we were meant to return back home. However, I'm standing ankle-deep in snow, looking at what appears to be a natural spring carved into the rock, steam wafting up from it's surface.

"No. It isn't," Sire comments casually, as if he hasn't just brought me to what may very well be a small mountain top that is covered in snow and doesn't have anything around it for miles.

"Why are we here?" I ask warily.

"To relax," he says, tugging his shirt off his head. I'm lucky he has magic and was able to bring clothing to himself, otherwise he would completely naked right now.

I watch in stunned silence as he kicks of his pants too. "I've been on the verge of death for many centuries, I need a break."

He clearly knew of this place previously, as he strides confidently into the hot water with nothing but his underwear on, sinking down until just his head and shoulders are above the surface.

"I suppose I stand here." I wrap my arms around myself uncomfortably.

"Join me. I'm sure you're tired and stressed too," he muses, stretching his arms out over the rock as he relaxes in the heat of the water.

I rub the back of my neck. "I'm definitely stressed."

This has been a hard few weeks since Sire was put underground. At every turn something has gone wrong, and now I feel just as hopeless and dejected as I did after I first found out about the curse.

"I feel like this is all my fault. The curse, everything," I admit.

Sire's expression turns grave. "It isn't. It's the man who cursed me in the first place, and all the witches that helped him."

"Still..."

"Join me. I want to talk," he encourages, gesturing widely at the pool.

"You want to talk some more?" I'm not sure how much there is to say after we spoke in his tomb. I'm scared he's going to go back on his promise to trust me, to not punish me now.

"Come on."

Breathing out through my nose, I decide I may as well sit in the hot water rather than stand out in the snow, even if it means getting close to him wearing next to nothing.

I rush to take my shirt and pants off, ignoring the heat of Sire's gaze.

The chill from the icy night air is diminished the moment I sink beneath the surface. I sigh with relief, my muscles immediately relaxing.

I turn my head at Sire.

The moisture from the steam has caused his dark locks to start curling at the edges, framing his face. He gazes me with an unmatched heat in his eyes, causing my skin to burn hotter than the water.

"Don't stare," I admonish softly, forcing myself to look up at the night sky.

"Alright." He sounds amused.

"What do you want to talk about?" I question, wishing my tone didn't sound so stunted and awkward.

Sire knows my body reacts to him. It's not just because he is my mate, either. He is gorgeous, almost naked and looking at me like he wants to devour me.

"So Carran truly didn't touch you while I was gone?" he asks darkly.

"No. I didn't hear from him once," I admit. Even if something did happen with Carran, I wouldn't tell Sire. Not when he could react explosively and enact his revenge pre-emptively.

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