Chapter 10 - Vows

"I'll take you. And them." Kent spoke, and my eyes flew open. I couldn't breathe.

Did he really just say that?

"What?" I whispered, my lips hardly moving.

"I'll take you. I may not like you, but I won't be responsible for taking a mother away from her children. Plus, like it or not, you come from good breeding. You'd produce a worthy heir." Kent had closed off emotion as well. He wasn't excited about marrying an adultress, but he didn't have much choice.

"Perfect! It's settled, then. Who's ready to get married?" The physician was overly excited for this marriage, grinning from ear to ear while looking between Kent and myself.

"But why? I just told you I have children. I come with baggage. Why would you risk your reputation just for me? I'm a nobody. You haven't even met my twins. You're willing to just jump right in and marry me and my kids? You do realise this would make you their father, right? Are you sure you want to go from bachelor to family of four overnight?" I continued my attempt to change the Alpha's mind.

I am no pity case. I would rather die than have someone help me just because I am a single mother with a curse that gave me a quickly approaching expiration date.

"I told you; I'm not doing this for you. I'm doing this for your children. Besides, we're soulmates. We might like each other someday." Kent smirked (fakely) and shrugged. His words were firm and so was his determination.

I opened my mouth to protest again, but another round of agony erupted in my body, forcing me to bite my lip to keep from crying out. When I could control myself again, I caved.

"Fine. Doesn't mean I'm suddenly your property." I relented sourly, scowling at everything. I hated the trend of males acting like they owned their mates. It was inhumane.

"Fine. Let's get this over with, shall we?" Kent turned to the physician and crossed his arms over his front, an expectant look on his face.

"Right! Tatia, stand, if you can." The physician clapped his hands together, making my head hurt, and I attempted to find my footing. I vaguely recognised Kent's hands trying to help, but I sent a swift growl his way and he retreated like a bunny on the run.

Chuckling darkly at his reaction, I used the support of the table to keep me from falling over. This soulmate bond had really thrown me for a loop. I was weaker than I had been in years, probably the last time I'd been this dependent was either when I gave birth to the twins or back when I was a youngin.

"Take hands, please, then you'll repeat after me." The physician spoke, his excitement shining through a little too much given the dire circumstances.

Kent sighed then held his hand out, palm towards the ceiling. He gave me a tired look when I pressed my lips together and glanced in disappointment first at the hand, then at him. Begrudgingly, I brought my left hand to hover over his, clasping it awkwardly.

The only times I ever was this intimate with another being was when I held hands with the twins while crossing the street.

There was a twinkle in the physician's eyes as he began the wedding ceremony.

"Alpha, repeat after me; I take you in wife," The physician began, and I swear I heard drums.

"I take you in wife," Kent complied, turning to lock eyes with me after a silent prodding of the physician.

"To be with you always," The medicine man continued, and the drums grew louder. I was about to face the firing squad, I was sure.

"To be with you always," Kent's tone was low and resonated through the room as if he were the man officiating my death.

"In wealth and in poverty," The drums were speeding up now, preparing for the climax of the serenade I was getting, at which point I would be dead.

"In the disease and in health," The physician's voice had faded away to such that I no longer heard him. I only heard my groom.

"In happiness and in grief," I imagined the loading of the guns, the smell of gunpowder filling my nose, the stench of blood making my vision turn red. This couldn't be happening. I was going to die!

And yet, with each word my future husband uttered, the pain seemed to lesson. It was a strange phenomenon, that the very thing that would be my downfall was the same thing that would save me from a painful death.

"From this day until death separates us." The finality of the words really set into my skull when Kent slid a gold band onto my left ring finger, a piece that the physician must have procured sometime after I entered my dazed state. Forcing air into my lungs, I managed to survive the new weight that pulled my hand towards the floor.

Our grasps were intertwined once again when the physician transitioned to me.

"I take you in husband," My voice was shaking, I was sure, no matter how much I tried to sound confident.

"To be with you always," As I pushed myself to calm down, I was able to notice the rapidly increasing heart-rate of my companion. This brought some sort of peace of mind to me, however strange it may seem. The fact that I was not the only one who wasn't ready to be husband and wife consoled me, somehow.

"In wealth and in poverty," I doubted we would ever be poor, given that Mountaineers were one of the wealthiest packs in America, but I said the words anyway. If a time came that Mountaineers, and thus my husband, lost their rich status, I would still stand by his side. I didn't really have a choice, though, did I?

"In the disease and in health," Breathing ragged and hands shaking, I kept my gaze locked with Kent's. I hoped I wasn't making a mistake in doing this.

"In happiness and in grief," I took a pause here, thinking of the twins. Praying Kent would accept them soon enough, I pictured my little angels' faces.

Tsar deserved a father who would teach him to hunt and bring him up with confidence and strength, someone who would show him that weakness is not for the weak, and that sometimes it is a strength.

Ina needed someone to dote on her and spoil her with the riches of his pack, a father who would take her out on Daddy-Daughter dates to fancy restaurants, dressing up in fine clothes together and laughing over the strange desert names. She deserved a man in her life that would scare away her boyfriends and walk her to the altar on her wedding day.

"From this day until death separates us." I finished, taking the gold band that the physician offered, and I slipped it onto Kent's left ring finger. In his eyes, I saw fear. I felt the same.

"I now pronounce you husband and wife, you may kiss the bride." The physician spoke the words I had wished to avoid, but they came anyway. Kent hesitated only a moment before dropping his hold on my hand and lightly placing it on my neck, just below my hairline. He tipped my head back slightly and pressed a kiss onto my lips.

I had always imagined my first kiss would be passionate and well-pined after. This was neither. I don't deny the fact that the Alpha was handsome, but I hadn't anticipated this night's turnout at any point in the evening, and this kiss certainly wasn't fueled by pent-up emotion.

The kiss ended after a few seconds, longer than a peck and shorter than what was traditional. I didn't hold it against him. We'd just met, after all.

Almost as soon as Kent pulled away, I felt my knees go weak. My hand had left the table sometime during my vows, and I was still wobbly on my feet. There was a burning pain in my hand, and I collapsed against the table.

Gasping for air, I shakily slipped the gold ring on my finger off a little ways, revealing a circle of seared flesh with molten gold forming the words rodstvennuyu dushu around my finger. It hurt like hell, and I almost thought the flames that licked my hand with an invisible force were actually sent from the underworld.

"This normal?" I managed to ask, my voice higher than usual with the strain of pain wracking my body.

"Yes, it's just the spell accepting the marriage." The old medicine man replied quietly. I sent a glare his direction. This was more painful than watching Maria die. This was more painful than being banished. This was more painful than the initial pain of being chosen by the stars to be soulmates with Kent.

This was hell.

Glancing up at my husband, I noticed how he squirmed a little. With this bond of ours, he would probably be feeling a bit of what I was, and there was an innate power within him that was probably urging him to comfort me right about now. No mate likes when their mate is hurting.

The fire subsided, and strength returned to my legs. Drawing a calming breath, I managed to find my feet and stand up by myself again. It was quite the empowering feeling.

"I better go resign from my job." I stated to no one in particular, sighing deeply and eying the clock on the wall. It was well past two a.m. at this point.

"Keep separation minimal the first few weeks, and consummate the marriage as soon as possible. You don't want the stars thinking you double-crossed them by not accepting your mate." The physician spoke as if he was addressing instructions to taking medicine.

I winced slightly. I wasn't exactly looking forward to having to tell Kent all about how the twins were conceived. He would be able to tell that I hadn't had intercourse with anyone before, which would raise a few questions. How would he tell? Only the powers of magic could explain how Tatiana was still a virgin.

"Right, thank you. I'll see you around phys." I exited the room, not caring if Kent followed me or not.

Unfortunately, he did. I was stuck with him now, so I guess I had better learn to tolerate this arrangement.

"We can leave in the morning, if that's alright with you. You won't really need anything, except for the kids' things, I suppose." I could tell by the way Kent rambled that he was still in a daze, still unsure what had just happened.

"Tomorrow's good. You have a car, or are we flying?" I questioned, my tone tired and my eyes even more so. Kent cleared his throat.

"Yeah, the others came on a plane, but I had to take care of some business on the way here, so I drove. I have a truck, so there won't be a problem with bringing things with us." Kent seemed to have regained his composure as we walked to my boss' office.

"Sounds good. The twins wake up really early, they're only five, after all, so we can leave whenever." I paused outside Sheila's door, my superior.

"I'll be right back, you can just stay out here. Shouldn't take too long." I met Kent's gaze, anxiously biting the inside of my cheek. He nodded, and then I knocked once before entering Sheila's domain.