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Prowled Darkness (Dante's Circle, #7)
Author:Carrie Ann Ryan

He hadn’t said as much, and she knew she was overreacting to that end, but she couldn’t think with him so close…so close, and yet, so far away.

“I need time to think, and you’re not giving me time. You’re telling me what we’re doing because that’s what you’re used to. I don’t know how your realm works, but I know enough about lions in the wild to know that you think you’re the king of the jungle. Or at least something like that.”

“I’m not a lion in the wild,” he growled.

“And I’m not a lioness or prey. I’m a pregnant human who is freaking out over the fact that everything I thought was real isn’t. You’re not human. This baby isn’t human. And now you’re telling me I’m your mate and we’re going to live happily ever after in your realm. You didn’t ask. You didn’t even think about the fact that I have a job here. I have friends here. Family. I had to make plans when you left, and you can’t rip them all away because you think you’re back and my king. It doesn’t matter that you’re a shifter when it comes to that. I wouldn’t let any man dictate my life. Now, you need to go so I can think.”

“I’m not leaving you and our baby.” He held onto her arms but didn’t squeeze. He knew his own strength, and she had to give him praise for that. He wouldn’t hurt her physically, but he’d damned sure hurt her emotionally before.

“You need to go,” she whispered. “Give me time.” He hadn’t admitted that he’d done anything wrong. Hadn’t said he was sorry for breaking her. Hadn’t given her a second thought, beyond bringing her with him to his realm. He might have said he was falling in love with her, but he hadn’t said anything else along those lines. If she had to beg for him to grovel, then it wasn’t a true grovel. She didn’t need to see him on his knees, that wasn’t who she was, but she needed him to give her time.

“I don’t want to leave you,” he whispered.

“You did it before.” It wasn’t fair of her to say so, but she wasn’t feeling very fair at the moment.

He swallowed hard. “I’ll be back soon. Once…once you have time to think.” He cupped her face. “I…” He didn’t finish his sentence. It was as if he couldn’t, and she wasn’t sure what he would have said anyway. Instead, he kissed her forehead and walked away.

She’d been the one to push him away this time, yet it hurt just as much as it had before. The door clicked closed behind him, and she gasped out a sob, her body shaking. Why had she said what she’d said? Why had she pushed him away like that?

It made no sense. The only thing she wanted was to wrap her arms around him and never let him go.

And that was why she didn’t do it.

Because once she did, she’d never let go. And she wasn’t sure she’d survive if she had to watch him leave her again. He might have said they could mate and he could mark her—not that she knew what that entailed since she hadn’t asked and he hadn’t offered up an explanation—but she wasn’t sure she could trust that. This wasn’t like the movies where the hero would walk in and say she was his and the heroine would fall into his arms, happy and forgiving without another word. There weren’t happy endings in real life. Not entirely. Not without work and words that meant something. Eliana hadn’t heard those words from Malik, and she hadn’t given them to him either.

She needed a moment to breathe, to figure out what to do next about her and little squirt. Having Malik around, hovering like the male he was, wouldn’t allow her to think. Of course, she hadn’t merely said that to him. She’d lashed out because she was still hurt.

And that was something she’d have to apologize for once he came back.

If he came back.

The door opened again and she lifted her head, her heart in her throat. Had he come back already?

When Amara walked in, her long auburn hair in curls around her face, Eliana let out another sob. Her friend rushed to her side, wrapping her arms around Eliana’s shoulders. Eliana leaned in to Amara and let the grief that she’d done a poor job of hiding so far slide over her. She’d let Malik walk away—forced him to go away—because she hadn’t been able to deal with the feelings inside of her. She knew she should have let him stay and say more, but if she had, she might have given in without thinking of herself and her child. It might be the right choice in the end, but Eliana still feared that she’d made a horrible mistake.

“Shh, darling, let it out,” Amara whispered. “You haven’t let yourself do this in all these months.”

Eliana swallowed hard and wiped her face even as more tears came. “I haven’t been able to. I was afraid I’d never stop.” She sniffed hard. “And now I don’t think I can.”

“You can, and you will when you’re ready. Why don’t you tell me what Malik said and what you thought about it.”

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