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Chapter 58 – Loyalty – Alaric's POV

Fuck!

This wasn't good. We were outnumbered. Gen. Raed was growling fiercely behind me. Besides Armand, he was their most celebrated warrior. But Echo's men weren't looking for a fight. Instead, they would all attack, and just one of them needed to break our defenses, so they could grab her and run.

Fuck!!

I could hear Raine's heart thundering in her chest. Her fear was almost palpable. I hated that she was going to be hurt once again by our world. I didn't love her, but I had grown to respect her and truly enjoyed her company. I knew we could have made a union between us work. She was so close to letting me in; so close to giving me all of herself. If she could do that, reach that point, it would be confirmation to me that she was strong enough and our future looked promising.

Her kindness and fairness would make her an excellent Queen, and her gentleness would make her an excellent mother to our future children. It was strange that I was on the verge of a fight, and my thoughts were rampant with images of little boys and girls, who looked like her.

My thoughts turned dark. Once Marku had her, he would strip away all of her goodness. Everything of value in her would be destroyed, leaving an empty shell. Another more horrible thought crossed my mind. Maybe the right strategy wasn't to try to defend her when I knew we were going to lose. Maybe I should give her the only true protection I had left. I knew she would certainly choose death than a life with Marku. But the thought of having to snap her neck, and watch the life leave her eyes took my breath away.

Even though a flood of thoughts raced through my brain, only a second had gone by since Echo casually explained his expectation that Marku would protect him. I snarled, "You are a fool if you think Marku will protect you, once he has her in his hands!"

His eyebrows furrowed. On some level, he had to be smart enough to realize the extreme risk he was taking. His eyes cut to her and I saw it there – he was overcome by her scent and he wanted her desperately. There was no doubt in my mind that he would take everything he wanted from her body forcibly, before handing her over to Marku. Renewed white hot fury crashed over me again, causing me to practically vibrate in anger.

Suddenly, I heard an alarming change in Raine's heartbeat. It slowed dramatically. And rather than its previous chaotic and sporadic beating, now there was a gentle and consistent thud. I wanted to turn and look at her, to make sure she was okay, but I didn't dare take my eyes off of Echo.

In the next second, my attention was radically altered, forced onto the four vampires attacking me. From my peripheral vision, I saw Echo stand back, ready to attack. He wasn't engaged in the fight. He was just biding his time, until he had an opportunity to grab her.

Instinctually, my body reacted to their assault, striking and punching them off of me. But there were too many. One of them kicked my legs out from underneath me, causing me to spin and crash to the ground. I could see Raine now and she shocked the fuck out of me.

She wasn't cowering in fear, as I had expected. Oh no, she was fully engaged in the fight – and holding her own - against two vampires!

With renewed hope, I crashed my hand through the chest of the closest vampire to me, relieving him of his heart. Leaping to my feet, I slammed my fist directly into the face of another, while I kicked a third, forcing them farther away from my body. As I spun around again, I could see Gen. Raed viciously warding off as many as he could. Three lay dead.

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