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The front door opened. Melena stepped outside with two mugs of coffee in her hands and took a seat on the steps next to Cori. She passed over one of the mugs.

“Thanks,” Cori said, sipping on the hot brew.

The sensor smiled. “You are aware it’s cold outside, right?”

“A little.” In fact, Cori had hardly noticed. She should have figured it out, considering it was early November now and it was always freezing in Alaska during that time.

“You’ll feel it more once it drops below zero, but in the twenties it doesn’t really affect us much.” Melena paused. “Unless you go to Purgatory because that place screws with your sense of cold and hot.”

Cori took another sip of her coffee. “I’m still not sure how I feel about being different.”

“I wasn’t either in the beginning.”

“So you do get used to it?” Cori asked, cocking her head.

Melena shrugged. “Mostly. I worry about how the passage of time will affect me, but I appreciate that I can put up a better fight now and that I’m nearly impossible to kill.”

Cori gave her a confused look. “You can be killed?”

“I was told a powerful enough immortal with a sturdy sword could probably manage it. Or maybe if I got dropped into an active volcano, it could do me in as well.” She twisted the mug in her hands. “But I haven’t been willing to test those theories out for obvious reasons.”

Cori could understand that. “Still, at least there’s a way you could die someday. I guess that’s something.”

“You know as long as you keep that attitude, he’s going to avoid you,” Melena said, giving her a reproving look. “For these past few months, you were the shining example to him of hope for a brighter future. Then you pretty much crushed it near the end.”

Cori swallowed back a lump in her throat. “It’s probably for the best he stays away right now.”

The sensor arched a brow. “You think you’re happier without him?”

“Not really, but we weren’t in love or anything, so I don’t know why everyone is making such a big deal about it.” Cori wished people would stop asking these questions when she didn’t have the answers herself. All she knew was that she was conflicted at the moment and needed time to work things out.

Melena stared across the yard at some unknown point, frowning. “You must have felt something for him.”

“I did care about him—still do,” Cori admitted, setting her coffee mug aside so she could lean back on her elbows. “Hell, I want to go over there right now and have mad, passionate sex with him if that makes you feel any better.”

Melena snickered. “Thanks for the visualization.”

“But it just felt like it all happened too fast. I don’t know what I want out of life right now, especially since it could be longer than expected, so how am I supposed to figure out how to be with him?” Cori had run through that circle of questions too many times to count.

“But you’d have sex with him?”

She nodded. “Yeah, sex is simple. It’s feelings that get complicated. I like hanging out with Bartol, cooking for him, talking—that was all great. He may be the only man I’ve ever felt completely relaxed around. I’m just not ready for big, life-altering decisions at the moment. Hell, I’m just starting to get my home rebuilt.”

Lucas, Micah, and Derrick had done something to speed up that process. They’d torn down what was left of her old cabin last week and started laying the groundwork for the new one a few days ago. In about a month, they expected to have it ready. Cori was still having a hard time believing it, but if people could live to be thousands of years old, she supposed anything was possible. For now, they had ordered her to stay away until construction was finished. That was the only condition they gave for them to handle the work with the meager insurance check she’d be receiving soon. Everyone promised it would be worth the wait, though.

Melena turned her gaze away from the yard, a smile playing at her lips. “We’ll work on Bartol soon. For now, you just concentrate on getting your life back together.”

“Thanks,” Cori said. “But just one thing.”

“Yeah?”

She narrowed her eyes on Melena. “What the hell have you been staring at?”

The sensor cleared her throat and looked away guiltily. “Nothing.”

“Bartol’s watching us, isn’t he?” Cori whispered, not daring to look that way again.

“He’s been here every day checking on you,” Melena admitted in a low tone.

“So there is hope?”

She nodded. “There’s always hope.”


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