Six months later
Bronwyn felt the sudden jerk in her belly and groaned into the lens of her microscope. “Easy there, little veana,” she said, giving her stomach a pat. “Let’s wait until you come out for the soccer game kicks, all right?”
Laughing, Sara set a seedcake down beside her on the desk. “I think she’s trying to tell you something, Mama.”
Studying the blood samples, Bronwyn didn’t even raise her head to ask, “What’s that?”
“That maybe you should give the microscope and yourself a rest.”
Bronwyn narrowed her eyes on the sample, cursed, then switched it with another slide.
“Can you stop for a second, look at me?”
Bronwyn closed her eyes and exhaled. She didn’t want to talk, or look at anything but her blood samples; the ones of her own and Lucian and the ancient samples of Breeding Males before him. She’d promised herself she’d take every last bit of research she’d performed for that bastard Cruen and use it to help her paven, her child, and her new family.
“Do I have to go all doctor on your ass?” Sara said. A hint of humor threaded her tone, but for the most part it was serious threat time.
Bronwyn turned away from the microscope and swiveled her chair to face Sara. She’d had all her things brought to Lucian’s room, turned half the space into her own mini lab so she could work night and day.
“Talk to me,” Sara said, her blue eyes heavy with concern. “Tell me what’s happening here.”
“Nothing’s happening here,” Bron said with frustration and more anger than she wanted to reveal. Why couldn’t they all just leave her alone, let her get back to work? “Every time I feel like I’m close, it’s a dead end.”
Sara took a breath and released it, then said calmly, “I know this isn’t something you want to hear, but have you thought that perhaps there is no way to fix him, no cure?”
“No.” Time passed all too quickly now-an oddity, as she’d expected it to move slowly and painfully-but as she researched, as she tried desperately to find an antidote for the Breeding Male gene, she knew that Lucian was somewhere slipping away. Without another word, she turned back to her work, flipping open her computer.
“Your real true mate will come at some point, Bron-“
Bron shook her head, her insides jumping now. “Maybe. Maybe not. I’ll deal with it if it does, but I’ll never mate with anyone else. My choice will always be Luca.”
“Bron, please, I know this is painful as hell and impossible, but you’ve got to-“
“No! What I have to do is get back to work. Get back to finding…” Bronwyn froze, her mouth filling with saliva.
“Bron? Bron, what is it?”
A sudden shock to her system had Bronwyn ratcheting up, then doubling over in pain. She began to pant, gripping her belly, the pain centering below her pelvic bone.
“No,” she uttered, feeling a gush release from her core. “No, no…”
Sara was beside her, holding her up. “Your water broke.”
“Oh, God. It’s too early.” And you’re not here. Goddamn you, Luca, I need you here!
“Early or not,” Sara said calmly, “she’s coming.”
Bron glanced up and whispered through waves of debilitating pain, “Without her father.”
“He will know her, Bron,” Sara said, her eyes strong and resolute as she helped her to the bed. “Let’s get you settled and call for Leza.”
He was lost inside his mind, had been for longer than he knew. Both his arms and his legs were shackled, his neck too. When they’d brought him here, his mother and Titus, Lucian had made them swear to see it done, and both, through their tears, had given him his last cognizant wish. Without sight, without knowledge of the days or hours, he existed on blood rations and bouts of both hysteria and manic sexual hunger. But he would hurt no one.
He scented his mother before she even walked into the room, and when she did, he let his eyes lift a fraction to follow her movement. She went straight to his father, to Titus, who had been at his side every night until dawn hit. She put her hand on his shoulder and nodded sadly.
“I don’t know if you can hear me, son,” Titus said, his voice strained. “Your balas has been born.”
“She is well and beautiful,” Mai continued softly. Something in her voice changed then, just a quiver. “Her mother, too.”
Lucian didn’t know where it came from, but a feeling long buried flickered in his chest; then it grew, flowered, spread, warmed, and after a moment, a tear wound its way down his cheek, over his chin, and onto his chest.
He felt his father’s hand over his, and for the first time in his long life, he didn’t want to pull it away. The paven understood; the paven would help him
It took every effort to move his lips, but he had to. The time had come, blissfully. “You…kill me now.”