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Chapter 45 – Long Island Iced Tea, Again – Raine's POV

The gardens were beautiful as expected, with moonlight splashing down, creating dramatic shadows and mysterious pathways.

Alaric, Loki and I walked slowly together through the winding, perfectly manicured shrubbery. Initially, he held Loki's leash. But he handed it to me after several minutes, when it became obvious to him that I was in no danger from the giant tiger.

I stroked my fingers through the thick tufts of hair on Loki's neck.

"It really is quite remarkable how he seems to have taken to you," Alaric commented, still surprised. "Normally, he is the most vicious and dangerous one of the bunch. And definitely the unspoken leader. They all follow his command."

I cooed at the jungle cat, "You are just a big softy, aren't you?"

He whined and nudged his large head into me. Just that slight movement knocked me off balance.  My fingers tightened in his hair to keep myself upright. I tutted at him. He whined again.

We spent thirty more minutes walking and talking amidst the flowers, before Alaric said, "Are you ready to go back?"

I looked up at him and asked, "Would it be okay if I came here during the day?" The moonlight was pretty, but I knew it would look spectacular in the daytime. It also seemed like a private, non-vampire hideaway, perfect for having some peaceful alone-time when I needed it.

He smiled, "Of course. I forget you have no restrictions when it comes to the sunlight."

Anxiety ran through me. I bit my lip and said, "About that. What is your plan regarding the timing of me becoming a vampire?" Just saying those words caused me to sweat and my heart sprinted in my chest painfully.

Loki seemed to respond to my stress, releasing a warning growl deep in his throat. I clutched him tighter, trying to ready myself for Alaric's response.

Alaric studied us both and replied, "What do you want?"

I laughed humorlessly, "I'm not sure if I will ever want that. Truthfully, it scares the hell out of me."

"We have time. I do not see any reason that decision needs to be rushed," he answered calmly.

Relief flooded through my system, almost making me tingle. I breathed, "Okay."

Loki relaxed under my fingertips.

Another thought wandered into my head and I asked, "Do you feel like you are taking a risk with me?"

He looked at me quizzically. "What do you mean?"

"If the whole point of this is to create an heir, you have to admit I am a bit of an unknown factor." I remembered the less than pleased looks King Quinn and some of the Council members gave me. I muttered, "I think the King is quite suspicious of me. Are you equally suspicious?"

He contemplated my question for moment and then answered, "Admittedly, you are unique. But I do not get a sense that it is in a negative way. I do not know you well yet, but thus far you appear quite transparent, which certainly goes a long way in gaining my trust."

"I do tend to speak whatever happens to be on my mind. I'm not always sure if that's a good thing or not," I said wryly.

He smiled, "I am certain it will be just fine."

..........

When we returned to his suite, I was surprised to find a gentleman scurry around the living room and then disappear into the kitchen. My eyes followed him in confusion.

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