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Taken by Midnight (Chapter Thirty-four)

When Jenna woke up, she was staring at the ceiling of the compound infirmary. She blinked slowly, waiting to feel the searing pain of the knife wound in her side. Instead, she felt a warm touch skating tenderly along her arm.

"Hey" came the deep, velvet voice that she'd been hearing in her sleep. "I've been waiting for you to open those pretty eyes."

Brock.

She turned her head on the pillow and was struck to see him seated next to her by the bed. He looked so handsome, so caring and strong. His dark brown gaze drank her in, his sensual mouth curving with just the barest traces of a smile.

"They called me in Newport and told me about your injury," he said, then exhaled a soft curse. "I saw the blood on you outside the Minion's house, but I didn't know it was yours, Jenna. I couldn't get back here fast enough to make sure you were okay."

She smiled up at him, her heart soaring to be near him again, even while she was afraid to be happy, uncertain whether or not he'd returned only to help her heal.

"How are you feeling, Jenna?"

"Okay," she replied, and realized just then that she actually felt very good physically. She sat up a bit and moved aside the sheet and blanket that covered her. The ugly gash that should have been below her rib cage was nothing more than a small scab, the wound that had been bleeding so profusely now all but gone. "How long have I been out?"

"A few hours." Brock's expression softened as he looked at her.

"You've surprised us all, particularly Gideon. He's still trying to figure out what's going on with your physiology, but it appears your body is learning to heal itself. Adaptive regeneration, I think he called it. He says he wants to run more tests, try to determine if the regeneration might also impact the aging of your cells over time. He seems to think there's a decent chance that's going to be the case."

Jenna shook her head, astonished. Also wryly amused. "You know, I'm starting to think it might be kind of fun being a cyborg."

"It doesn't matter to me what you are," he replied soberly. "I'm just glad to see you're doing well."

In the silence that stretched out between them, Jenna fidgeted with the edge of the sheet. "How are the other women–the Breedmates we rescued?"

"They're all settling in at Reichen's place. Gonna be a long road for a lot of them, but they're alive and Dragos can't touch them ever again."

"That's good," she replied quietly. "And Corinne?"

Brock's face grew solemn. "She's been through hell and back. She wants to go home to her family in Detroit. She says there are things she needs to take care of back there, in her past, before she can think about her future."

"Oh," Jenna said.

She understood how Corinne felt. She'd been thinking about her own past a lot, as well, and about the things she'd left unfinished back in Alaska.

Things she had been too cowardly to face before but now felt ready to confront as soon as she was able.

Since the rescue today, she'd been thinking about her future, too. It was impossible to picture without Brock in the equation, especially now that she was looking up into his handsome face, feeling the warmth and comfort of his dark gaze and his gentle touch.

"Corinne has asked me to take her back home," he said, words that tore at her heart.

She bit back the selfish reply that might have implored him not to go.

Instead she nodded, then blurted out the things she knew he'd need to hear.

Things that would relieve him of any guilt about what they'd shared together or the tender promises he'd made her in the time before he knew his past love would be delivered back into his arms.

"Brock, I want to thank you for helping me the way you have. You've saved my life–more than once–and you've been the kindest, most tender and giving man I've ever known."

He frowned, parting his lips as if to say something, but she talked over him.

"I want you to know that I'm grateful for the friendship you've given me. Most of all, I'm grateful for the way you've shown me that I can be happy again. I didn't think I ever would be, not really. And I never thought I'd be able to fall in love again–"

"Jenna," he said, his voice stern, his dark scowl deepening.

"I know you have to go with Corinne. I know I can't give you any of the things that she can, as a Breedmate. We could never have children, or a blood bond. There's a good chance we won't have anything close to the time you'll be able to share with her." He shook his head, muttered a low curse, but she couldn't stop until she'd said it all. "I want you to go with her. I want you to have your second chance–"

"Stop talking, Jenna."

"I want you to be happy," she said, ignoring his quiet demand. "I want you to have everything you deserve in a mate, even if that means without me."

He finally silenced her with a hard kiss, putting his hand on the back of her neck and bringing her up against him. He drew back, holding her gaze in a passionate, possessive stare.

"Stop telling me what I need to do." He kissed her again, softer now, his mouth covering hers, tongue demanding entrance. She felt his need, and the emotion that seemed to say he never wanted to let her go. When he finally released her, his dark eyes were glittering with amber sparks. "For one damned second, Jenna, let someone else be in charge."

She stared at him, hardly daring to hope she knew where he was heading.

"I'm in love with you," he whispered fiercely. "I love you, and I could give a damn if you're human, cyborg, alien, or some mixed-up combination of all three. I love you, Jenna. I want you to be mine. You are mine, damn it.

Whether we only have a handful of decades together or something closer to forever. You are mine, Jenna."

She sucked in a ragged breath, overcome with joy and relief. "Oh, Brock. I love you so much. I thought I'd lost you today."

"Never," he said, staring deeply into her eyes. "You and me, we're partners. Partners in everything now. I'm always gonna have your back, Jenna."

She laughed around a sob, and gave him a shaky nod. "You'll always have my heart."

"Always," he said, then pulled her into his arms for a deep, never-ending kiss.

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