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Branded. 


It was a hot summer. Diana lay on the bed, tired by the heat, yet her mind was still working, engrossed in the research before her gaze. 

Behind her, another gaze was engrossed in the appreciation of her body. She could feel Matthew looking at her back, spots of welcome cold everywhere his eyes settled. 

He didn't wish to distract her from her work, she could tell, yet he would be content if she put it away and rolled over to give him the same attention. Not happy, for there was something on his mind, she could tell, which was why she waited, letting him continue to gaze, until she learned what was troubling him. 

The cold rose higher, until it halted abruptly just below her neck, where the brand lay. 

Ah.

"Don't," she uttered, startling him. 

The coldness went away as he presumably looked down, ashamed. 

"I can't help it, Mon coeur," he said quietly. "I should have not been asleep. I should have gone outside with you." 

"And I should have woken you," she countered. "Instead of being pleased that you chose to sleep beside me, deciding to let you rest longer. Anyway, I have been thinking about that. I don't think she intended to brand me." 

"She wanted to rip you apart," he reminded her. 

"Yes and she failed. I think it was the spell binding. Remember how it is tied to what I need and to you. That seal is a symbol of your protection. That is what the spell was doing. It was trying to protect me from harm. It was showing her that no matter how powerful she was, your protection was stronger. "

She put her work aside and rolled over to face him. Her hand went to his jaw, rubbing her thumb over his lips, showing her trust in him. 

" So don't look at it and blame yourself, my love, " she said quietly. "Look at it instead as a part of you protecting me, until the rest of you could come to my aid." 

"I will try, Mon coeur," he promised. 

She smiled at him before rolling back over and picking up her work. 

A few moments later she felt his cold gaze on her back once more. When it reached the brand this time, it lingered, tracing every link with reverence, instead of shame.