Chapter 52

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Nicolae's arm slid around my waist as we walked back up the manor steps together. I wanted to cry for joy at being back home. I had thought to never be allowed back here. I had thought to never feel the touch of him again. He opened the door and the rest of the family was there waiting to greet me home. I bit my lip and couldn't stop my relieved tears as I ran to the other two brothers; they both caught me up, wrapping their arms around me, snuggling me in their embrace at the same time. I breathed them in for a long moment, before I turned to Lorie and gave her a hug and a smile, thanking her for taking care of my dogs for me.

It was evening so I walked her upstairs to get her ready for bed and put her in her bed, telling her another bedtime story about a vampire ball that had ended up in a massacre, when Viktor had taken over another coven in the underworld. I walked back downstairs to the study. I looked in and I couldn't help lingering outside the room, taking in the beautiful view of my family. Nicolae held a book in front of him that he was reading, as he stood near the windows that over-looked the rear gardens. Peter and Drogo were both bent over a chess game. The warm fire crackled in the hearth, sending its glow out into the room. Here was peace. Here was family. Here was love. Here was where I belonged.

I looked down at my hand that still had Viktor's ring. What was he up to? What secret scheme was he running in the background that would require me not to know, to succeed, exactly? Why had Darius suddenly started acting like he was beneath Viktor, instead of being equals? What was I missing? I shook my head with all of the thoughts buzzing through my mind, suddenly making me feel very tired and overwhelmed. I wasn't sure how I was going to handle all of this; the subterfuge driving me crazy. My hands came to my head that felt like it was aching with everything running through it. "Sasha!" Nicolae suddenly had his hands on my shoulders, holding me steady, so I wouldn't fall. He had caught me just in time.

"Come on, you need to go rest after your ordeal," he said turning me toward my bedroom. "Nicolae," I started to protest but he silenced me with a kiss. "You're exhausted, come on." I sighed, giving in but first I walked in to give both Peter and Drogo a good night kiss, caressing their faces. "Come to me when you're done and ready for bed," I whispered to them. "Sasha, you need to rest," Nicolae said kindly. "I know. I just need to be near you all right now. After that scare, I just need to feel you near me." Nicolae's eyes softened and he bent down to pick me up in his arms so he could carry me to my bedroom.

He set me down on my huge bed, crawling in next to me. I reached out and kissed him saying, "Go change and come back." He smiled at me and with a flick on the end of my nose, he disappeared and was soon back with me. He slid into the sheets and pulled me into his arms. I sighed as I melted against him. This was where I really belonged; safe and treasured. "Thank you for saving me, yet again, Nicolae. Always my white knight," I whispered feeling sleepy. "I told you, Sasha, I will always come for you, my love. We will figure out a way," he whispered back, holding me close. I gave a heavy but contented sigh, letting sleep drag me under. At some point in my sleep, I felt Peter and Drogo join us and I remember suddenly feeling whole again, after my heart had been torn out at the prospect of never seeing them again, touching them again. Sleep took me at last.

I woke on a scream in the middle of the night, having a terribly vivid nightmare of Viktor bringing me back to Europe with him, installing me as he Queen; never seeing the brothers again. Three pairs of arms pulled me back down into their embrace to comfort me. I lay trembling between them, trying to dismiss the images that I had just seen. His Queen. Darius acting like a subservient. 'Ready to rule.' His Dark Queen. I gasped aloud in the dark, making the brothers begin stroking me again, trying to comfort me. Oh god. Had Viktor's empire turned into a Kingdom? Was he really setting himself up as a King? A King of the underworld? Was that his secret plot? But why hide it from me then?

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