“Tell me.” He turned back to me. “Jorah of the Ellwood Coven, where is this pretty forest located? The Emerald Expanse, perhaps? It’s very green, although nothing is as green as those eyes of yours.”
Warmth filtered into my chest at the compliment, and I swallowed, then hesitantly made my way closer to him. “This forest is in the human realm, not in Faela.”
He barked out a laugh. “I suppose my imagination is pulling out all the stops to distract me.”
“Distract you from what?”
He frowned, his voice coming out as a whisper. “The pain.”
A sharp pain pierced my heart. “I’m sorry, love. I’m trying to get to you as fast as I can.” The endearment slipped out, but it felt natural.
A sad smile graced his lips as he sighed. “If only that were true, pretty witch. If only that were true.”
“It is.” Trusting my gut, I moved closer to him and placed my hand on his forearm.
The pretty man gasped and met my eyes, breathing out, “You feel real.”
“I am real,” I insisted, trying not to focus too hard on how amazing his skin felt under my hand. “I’m real, and I’m on my way.”
“But you live in the human realm,” he whispered, his voice shaky.
“I do, but I have a home in Faela. My family and I are on a ship, sailing north from the Pink Isle, sailing to you.”
His pretty blue eyes filled with tears, and he backed away, forcing my hand to release him. “It’s kind of cruel for my mind to wave a pretty boy making impossible promises right in front of me, isn’t it? Am I not suffering enough in life that I have to suffer in my dreams as well?”
He cried out in pain, cutting me off, and I rushed forward, catching him before he could fall to the ground. A whimpering whine came out of his throat, and I expected him to push me away again, but instead, he curled into me. Without hesitation, I scooped him into my arms, sat on the ground, and held him in my lap as he began crying silently.
After a few minutes, he whispered in a hoarse voice, “They’re hurting me… again.”
My eyes filled with tears as I rocked him and ran my hand over his hair, whispering, “Shh. I’ve got you, love. I’m here.”
“It hurts. Everything hurts,” he murmured.
That sharp pain pierced my heart again, and I hugged him to me, resting my cheek against his hair. “Do you… do you know what’s happening?”
“They like the way my blood tastes.”
Bile threatened to fill me as a long-lost memory, or the memory of an old vision filled my head. With a start, I realized that the man in my arms was the same one that had been caught in that net and forced to watch his younger brother die and get—nope, not going down that road.
Instead, I said, “I’m sorry. I’m trying to get to you.”
He whimpered again.
“What can I do, love? How can I help?”
He was quiet for a long time before he whispered, “Stay with me until I wake up.” He cleared his throat. “Even if you’re not real, I don’t feel so alone with you right here.”
I pressed my lips to his hair, speaking against him. “I’ll stay as long as you want. You never have to be alone again.”
A long, sad whine came out of him, sounding almost like a song rather than crying, although it was a heartbreaking sound. It made tears spring to my eyes as I continued rocking him and petting his hair.
A long time passed with us like that. Me holding him, and him whimpering or singing his sad song or simply sitting in my arms, not saying anything at all. But eventually, I felt him being tugged from my arms, and a new kind of panic reached my chest. “No, don’t go.”
“Don’t have a choice,” he said through clenched teeth. “They’re waking me.”
“No, please.” Tears filled my eyes again. “You can’t go.”
“Maybe I’ll see you again one day, Jorah of the Ellwood Coven.”
The tears spilled over onto my cheeks. “You never told me your name.”
A sad smile tugged his lips upward. “No, I didn’t, did I?” His face grew serious again before he placed his hand on my cheek. “Thank you for offering me comfort, Jorah of the Ellwood Coven. It was more than I expected to ever have again.”
From one breath to the next, he was gone. Disappeared without a trace, right from my lap.
A sob tore from my chest as I stood and turned, searching the forest for my poor, sweet viramore—because there was no doubt now that he was my soulmate—but he was nowhere to be found.
“Hey!” I yelled. “Come back! Please! Please, come back! Where are you? Please, please, come back! Please. Pl—”
“—ease!” I yelled as I woke, confused. Half-dreaming, half-awake. “Come back!” I yelled again before I realized I was once again on the ship in Faela and not in the forest at home.
When I realized my sweet viramore—because he had to be my soulmate—was nowhere to be found, a sob tore from my chest, and I drew my knees up, wrapping my arms around them and burying my face there to cry.