[This post is from Hecate’s point of view.]
Hecate tangled her fingers in his hair, pressing her cheek against his temple. She felt oddly numb, even as her throat grew tighter, her heart starting to beat a little faster. A tear tracked down her cheek.
Don’t retreat. Don’t. Stay. Stay with him. Stay.
“I’m here,” she said in a faint voice. “Matt, I’m here and I’m not going anywhere. I’m not going to leave.”
He held her tighter. She buried her nose in his hair, inhaling his scent.
“I promise,” she breathed. “I promise. I love you too much. We’ve both lost enough.”
Matt lifted his head from her shoulder and gently took her face between his hands. There was so much pain in his eyes that she was afraid her heart might crack in half. A lump in her throat threatened to choke her and she reached up, pressing one of her hands over his. His fingers were cold. Her heart seized.
No. Stay. Don’t retreat. You can’t. He needs you—and you need him.
“I love you,” she whispered, then leaned in to kiss him. His lips were warm, tasting of salt and faint traces of his morning coffee. Then his arms were around her again, holding her close, tight, as if protecting her. “I love you so much it hurts. I’m with you—to the end, if that’s what it takes.”
“Not the end,” he whispered against her lips. “It’ll never take that. I swear—never.”
He kissed her again.
Thordin cleared his throat a moment later and Hecate stepped back, wiping her eyes, her cheeks, more tears there than she’d realized she’d cried. She took a breath. “We should get back,” Hecate said softly. “The others need to know. Need to plan.”
“Yeah,” Matt agreed. “Yeah, they do.”
“We’ll beat them,” Carolyn said. “We’ll find a way. We always do.”
“She’s right,” Hecate whispered, wishing she had as much confidence and faith as Carolyn seemed to be mustering. “It’ll be okay. Somehow.”