Cool wind whipped the fur around her face as she leapt over a log to land easily on her paws. She could smell the water from the creek ahead as well as the damp soil and other critters running around.
As she slowed down, her heart continued to beat frantically. Movement to her left drew her attention. A powerful male wolf stepped into view. She almost stumbled from the power that radiated from the shifter.
Instinct had her dropping down to her belly as the wolf strode toward her. She rested her chin on her front paws to show the appropriate amount of submission. She didn’t want to challenge this male—no, indeed, her body was reacting to his dominance by tightening in arousal. He lowered his head while he was still several yards away and she got the distinct impression that he was scenting her.
She rolled over onto her back and tucked her paws close to her chest, showing him that she was completely open to him. When he finally reached her he used his snout to push her paws aside and nuzzled the soft vulnerable skin of her belly. She whimpered in both obedience and need. He rewarded her with a lick across her muzzle before he gave her side a strong push, causing her to roll.
He braced himself over her back and she knew what would come next. She lifted her rear end up into the air to accept him.
Marissa Boyd gasped as she was startled awake. She panted, turned on from her erotic dream, and her entire body flushed and hot. Fuck, that had been wild.
Next to her, the man she’d picked up at the bar the night before was snoring softly. Damn, she’d forgotten about him.
She climbed out of her king-sized bed quietly, hoping not to disturb her sleeping partner. Hell, she wished they had gone back to his place instead of hers, then she could have slipped away without having to face him again. Instead, she was going to have to do the whole ‘Good morning, had a great time, don’t call me, I’ll call you’ thing. And with that dream still affecting her it would be hard to act normal.
The bedroom door was open so she strolled out naked and straight to the living area. At least there she had a basket of clean clothes that she hadn’t put away yet. She picked up a pair of panties then slipped them on before grabbing a T-shirt and pulling it over her head. Once she was covered she walked over to the large windows and yanked open the curtains. She had a beautiful view of the Pacific Ocean and she enjoyed seeing it when the sun was just rising over the water.
Even though she’d lived there for a few years now she wasn’t used to seeing all the openness. The Pack that she’d grown up in had been located in the middle of the woods. She’d given up the freedom of nature to surround herself with water and city people.
Marissa pressed her hand against the cool pane of glass and closed her eyes. Why did she have to dream about things that she would never have? It was impossible for her to ever have her fantasies become reality. She was alone and she should be used to that, but Marissa craved the intimate touch of someone who would accept her. Even if she was broken. She’d been on her own for so long now that she figured the feelings of loneliness would have disappeared. Instead the feeling was stronger than ever.
But she was a grown woman and didn’t have time to let her despair rise. She pushed off the window and turned to go into the kitchen. It was only a dream and she would forget about that and the male wolf that didn’t exist. At least not for her. The coffee pot was ready to go so all she had to do was press the power button. After she got some caffeine inside her she could get rid of her guest.
If I could only remember his name.
Damn, she hated when the full moon was close. It was the only time she didn’t have complete control over her shifter side. Marissa might be defective but she did get horny around this time of month like so many of the other shifters. She didn’t know if it was a wolf thing or what. It wasn’t like she could ask anyone either. Her family was gone except for her sister, Elizabeth. And Marissa would not be asking her sister about her sex life. Elizabeth was much more conservative than she was.
The beep from the machine let her know that her coffee was ready. She strolled back over to the counter then reached up and pulled down a mug. Marissa poured some of the dark brew into the cup before adding some sugar. She stirred it slowly as she breathed in the fragrant aroma. If there was anything that she spent too much money on it was her organic and expensive coffee—a habit she had picked up when she’d first moved into the small coastal town. She lifted the mug to her lips and blew on the liquid inside, then took a sip.
“Ah,” she murmured in happiness.
“That smells great. Can I get a cup?”
She jerked slightly, not having heard her companion wake and walk around her condo. She turned and smiled at him. Damn, he was built. He had long black hair with beautiful blue eyes. His chest, arms and back were muscular and he had a hard six-pack. Yeah, she’d picked damn well the night before. She licked her lips as he stood there in just a pair of jeans, still unbuttoned, and looking sexy as hell.
Chad, she could remember his name now. They’d met at the local bar that she liked to visit because it had rough, biker-type patrons. For a human he sure had given her one hell of a ride.
“Sure.” She waved him forward. “Come on in.”
He grinned, showing perfectly straight white teeth.
Hmm, maybe she could take him back to bed for an encore. If the dream could help with anything maybe it would get her into the right mood. Chad was nothing like the wolf in her dream. Of course, he was human, but he also couldn’t force her to submit the way that only a strong shifter male could. Still, it would be a waste to send him away while she was tingling with need. She’d make his drink and let things grow from there.
“How do you take your coffee?” she asked.
“Black is fine,” he replied against her ear as he stepped up behind her.
She shivered slightly from the huskiness of his voice. Marissa grabbed another mug then filled it up before she turned to face him.
The look in his eye was telling her he wouldn’t mind another round either. She handed him the cup, making sure to let her fingers brush his. He accepted it with his right hand but wrapped his left around her back. He pulled her close as he dipped his head.
“I really enjoyed last night,” he said.
“Me too,” she agreed. Marissa ran her hand over his naked chest. “You sure know how to show a girl a good time.”
He chuckled. “It’s easy when I’m with the right partner.”
Marissa flushed. Yeah, she had been up for anything with the full moon just a day away. Chad nuzzled her neck then gave her a quick nip. The move was so unexpected that she jumped. It was almost wolf-like. She knew he was human but that small sting was perfect. A repeat was very much needed indeed. He set his mug down on the countertop with a loud clunk before he gripped her hips, lifting her up.
As she landed on the marble top he stepped between her legs. Marissa was glad she hadn’t gotten completely dressed. She ran her hand over the muscles on his chest then bent forward and licked one of his nipples. He groaned while threading his fingers through her hair. Marissa scooted closer to the edge so she could get a better angle. While tracing her tongue from one pec to the other, she trailed her hands down his stomach toward the waistband of his jeans.
“Yeah,” he murmured and rocked his hips as she slid her hands into the denim.
He was fully erect and she wanted to get a taste.
A loud banging on her front door stopped her from dropping into position.
Chad groaned but helped her slide off the counter. She offered him a smile then patted his chest before she headed toward the door. A glance at the clock in the living room showed her that it was just after nine in the morning. Marissa had no idea who would be at her place so early on a Saturday morning. What if she wanted to sleep in? That was just rude.
When she reached the front door she looked out of the peephole to see who was there. A young man in a brown shirt and shorts stood shuffling his feet while holding an envelope. She wasn’t expecting a delivery but unlocked and opened the door anyway. Maybe the kid had the wrong address.
“Yes?” she asked.
“Marissa Boyd?” the young man asked.
“I have an overnight letter for you,” he said.
“From who?” Why would anyone send a letter through a service that would cost so much?
The kid glanced down at the notepad in his other hand. “It’s from an Elizabeth Boyd in Texas.”
Her sister. Now Marissa was really curious. “Okay,” she said, reaching out for the envelope.
“I need you to sign this, please.” He offered her the clipboard with a pen attached by a string.
Marissa smiled as she signed her name quickly then handed it back. The young man passed her the envelope. It was pretty light so it didn’t seem to have anything big in it. “Thanks,” she murmured but wasn’t really paying the delivery kid any more attention. She closed the door and shook the package.
“Everything okay?” Chad asked from the kitchen doorway.
“Hmm,” she responded distractedly, starting to tear open the package. She shook out a smaller envelope. The paper was made from high quality stock with her name and address written beautifully. She would know her sister’s writing anywhere.
Marissa dropped the envelope onto the coffee table as she walked toward the window. She thought she heard Chad say something but she didn’t respond. Instead, she shuffled the letter from one hand to the other. Until she opened it she could ignore whatever Elizabeth had to say. Good or bad. Not that she didn’t love her sister, but no news was usually the best news. Elizabeth currently lived with a Pack and she was happy so there was no reason for her to write a letter when she could just call. They tried to speak on the phone every few weeks but never saw each other anymore. Marissa refused to visit and Elizabeth had a good job and a boyfriend, not allowing her to find the time to come to California.
“Here we go,” Marissa muttered then tore open the back of the envelope. She pulled out the heavy card and flipped it over.
We cordially invite you…
Marissa stared at the printed words. She was doing it—finally, Elizabeth was taking a mate. When Elizabeth had moved to Texas it was because she’d met Greg. Greg was also a teacher and they both worked at a local elementary school and had been dating for several years. Marissa had known that this day would come, but she still had several emotions running through her.
She was jealous and that wasn’t fair to her sister. Marissa was also happy for Elizabeth and hoped she would be able to show that.
In the ten years that they’d been separated from each other, Marissa had encouraged Elizabeth to follow her dreams, whether with her career or when she’d met Greg. Elizabeth needed to go for what she wanted, and it seemed she was finally getting what she wanted.
Just because Marissa would never have the life she craved didn’t mean that she wanted Elizabeth to suffer any longer. For as long as she could remember, Elizabeth was always paying for Marissa’s sins. Luckily Elizabeth had gotten away from the Pack they had been born into. Once Marissa had left, it’d opened the door to Elizabeth being accepted into another Pack.
Inside the invitation was a folded up piece of paper. Marissa opened it to find a handwritten note.
I know this won’t be easy for you but I need you here with me to celebrate the ceremony. I won’t do this without you. I know I’m asking a lot but I hope you can spend a few days with me to help me prepare and be with me when I say my vows to Greg. Don’t say no. Please come.
With all my love,
Well shit, how could she say no to the only thing Elizabeth had ever asked for?
She jumped when Chad joined her by the window. Marissa dropped her hands but didn’t let go of the letter or the invitation.
Chad nodded to her hands. “Bad news?” He’d dressed and had even put on his shoes. She guessed this was the end of their fun. Oh well, she really wasn’t in the mood any longer and she had some thinking to do. Instead of answering him she only shrugged.
“I’m sorry,” he said.
Then he surprised her by leaning forward and kissing her forehead. She wasn’t used to such an intimate gesture. She closed her eyes for a moment to hold in the warm feeling.
“Thanks,” she whispered.
“I would like to see you again,” he said. “I left my number on your counter. I hope you’ll call me.”
She nodded, really not sure how else to respond. Maybe it wouldn’t be too bad to date a human. She stayed away from relationships because she craved a shifter but had to settle for a human. It was better to just have one-night stands than not be able to give her partner one hundred percent of herself. Or that was what she’d always believed. Perhaps she needed to change her way of thinking. At least she wouldn’t be alone anymore.
“Take care of yourself,” he told her. “And call me.”
Marissa watched as he walked away. Damn, the man really did have a nice ass. Too bad they’d gotten interrupted. With a sigh she turned back to the window. Using her heightened sight she could see the waves crashing against the sand on the shore. It was peaceful but her thoughts weren’t. She had to start making plans to go to Texas next month.
Marissa took a drink of the coffee she’d picked up at the last gas station. The hot liquid burned her tongue and tasted like sludge. It wasn’t Starbucks, that was for sure, but she didn’t expect any different in the middle of fucking nowhere. She had flown into Texas International Airport and rented a car to drive the rest of the way to the small town her sister called home. And small town was giving the place a lot of credit. The entire area between El Paso and the Panhandle was made up of tiny towns that even if they were combined wouldn’t be as big as Dallas. There wasn’t even a mall for at least another three hours. Not that she wanted to go shopping but it would be nice to have options. It was still a shock to her how excited her sister Elizabeth had been about moving here, but looking at the passing scenery of trees, trees and more trees, Marissa didn’t get it. What could anyone like about the middle of nowhere? No buildings, other cars, or people around.
Rolling her window down and turning Bon Jovi even louder on the stereo, she concentrated on the drive—not the reason for coming. She dreaded going into Pack territory, but Elizabeth was the only family she had left, and, after finding her mate, Elizabeth wanted Marissa there for the mating ceremony.
That thought brought a smile to Marissa’s face as she glanced at the invitation on the seat next to her. She wanted Elizabeth to be happy, and Greg sounded like a nice guy. She’d spoken to him numerous times on the phone, and he’d always been respectful toward her. And that wasn’t common. A were who couldn’t shift was an outsider. And everyone except Elizabeth had treated her that way her entire life.
Marissa had left the Pack she’d been raised in as soon as she could. Never to set foot in any Pack territory again. That was until later today. Elizabeth, on the other hand, had stayed until she’d met Greg, a member of a different Pack. They had met during one of the few conferences Elizabeth had attended. After the initial meeting, Greg’s Pack had offered her a teaching position at the elementary school and she had taken it. He had been courting her ever since with the blessing of her new Pack Alpha, Gage Wolf.
Seriously, Elizabeth’s Alpha’s last name was Wolf. Could he have not come up with anything better? Maybe tried to hide what he was? Marissa just knew that Gage was going to be an arrogant, cocky, infuriating man. She was not looking forward to meeting him. Greg, however, she was actually excited to get to know.
Marissa chuckled, thinking of everything Greg had done to win her sister’s heart. He’d known he’d wanted Elizabeth and had patiently waited. It had taken Elizabeth a year to agree to the mating ceremony, but she finally had. Marissa knew one of the reasons Elizabeth had been holding off was because of her. Elizabeth was a good person, and, even though Marissa had told her numerous times that Elizabeth needed to live her life as a full shifter, the guilt still hit Elizabeth.
Sometimes Marissa thought her non-shifter status was harder on her sister than herself. Marissa wasn’t good enough to belong to a Pack but Elizabeth still tried to get her interested in that kind of life. It had added stress between the two of them until Marissa avoided Elizabeth’s calls most of the time. That was probably why Elizabeth had gone the route of private messenger.
She hadn’t meant to let so much time to go by without talking to her sister and Marissa always intended to return her messages, but life seemed to get in the way.
It didn’t help that Elizabeth really didn’t understand how Marissa felt about things.
Marissa had the same instincts as any other were and with that came the need for a Pack, but she had given up on that a long time ago. She’d grown up alone and would always remain that way—in the middle, between a shifter and a human. She had many gifts due to her genes—the extended lifespan, the wolf traits and some enhanced features—but not enough. Elizabeth thought Marissa could belong with her. Elizabeth was wrong and Marissa really hoped that she would concentrate on her ceremony and not nag her.
Marissa would put everything she had into this week and the ceremony that meant so much to her only sibling. Even if she would rather have been anywhere else. But she did love Elizabeth, she looked up to her sister, and had to push down the bit of jealousy that she always felt.
The differences between her and Elizabeth had grown as they had aged. That was why Marissa had never visited Elizabeth’s new home. She wasn’t scared of being in Pack territory, she just didn’t want to face all the males and their egos. And from what she understood, the Pack’s Alpha or leader, was pretty young himself.
When around other wolves, the female wolf inside her demanded that she mate with one of her own kind. So, as long as she avoided everyone except her sister as much as she could and kept her urges inside, everything would be okay. She would not act like the wolf she couldn’t shift into.
And if the Alpha was anything like her old one, she’d just tell him where to stick it. The idea of telling the Alpha of a territory to go to hell made her smile wider and laugh harder. She wasn’t seventeen anymore. She wasn’t a scared little girl who had to follow everything someone told her. No, she was a grown woman. And she was going to enjoy the time with her sister.
She wasn’t dressed to impress the Alpha or any men in the territory as she currently wore a pair of hip-hugging jeans and a tight pink T-shirt. The paint on her toenails matched the color of her shirt, as did the flip-flops. It was a far cry from the suit she wore every day as an office assistant. She felt free.
As much as she avoided being around shifter territory, her wolf craved the chance to run free. She would be on two legs instead of four but, after months inside the bustling crowded streets in a city, Marissa hoped to get a couple of private moments in the woods.
When she almost missed the turn-off to the territory gate, she jerked the wheel sharply to the left. The back of the car skidded around and kicked up dirt. Laughing, she straightened the car and slowed her speed. She didn’t think Gage Wolf would be happy if she took out a couple of trees.
Why did this Pack located in the middle of nowhere need a fence and a guard station?
She reached the gate and rolled to a stop to wait for the guard. He didn’t disappoint. A man over six feet came over to the window then leaned down, smiling at her.
“Can I help you?” he asked in a husky voice.
She took a deep breath and smiled back. If all the men were this good-looking, she would have her work cut out for her trying to keep her distance. They’d flirt and tease with her, and she’d have to be strong and resist, because as soon as they knew her secret, she wouldn’t exist any longer to them. And no matter what she said to herself, the rejection always hurt.
“I’m Elizabeth Boyd’s sister. I need directions to her house, please.”
His smile didn’t change and he nodded. “Give me just a minute.” He winked then headed to the guard house and picked up the phone.
Marissa watched his ass flex under the tight pair of jeans he was wearing. At least as he made his call she got to enjoy the view.
The guard glanced over his shoulder at her and she waved. Yeah, she was still here and wasn’t going anywhere. He was no doubt checking with the Alpha to make sure she could come in and play. With her own sister, no less, Marissa thought bitterly.
She kept her face friendly and her thoughts to herself as he came back to the car. “Problem?”
“Not at all,” he said, shaking his head, and gave her directions to her sister’s house. “My name’s Steve if you want to get together later,” he added.
Not in this life.
“Hmm, we’ll see.” She was careful not to commit to anything he could hold her to later. The laws of the Pack were much different from the laws where she lived. Marissa knew them all and had only ever broken one.
Shaking that unpleasant thought from her head, she drove through the gate. Looking back into the rear-view mirror, she saw Steve standing with a smile on his face.
“Down, girl,” she told herself. “This is Pack territory.”
The gravel crunched under her tires as Marissa made sure to keep her speed slow. She wasn’t going to give anyone any reason to mess with her.
The grounds of the territory were absolutely beautiful. Thick, dark green grass went on as far as she could see. Behind a row of houses, tall and healthy trees rose up toward the sky. At least the property was pretty. Maybe she would enjoy herself just a little.
* * * *
Gage Wolf hung up the phone in his study and glanced at the clock. Elizabeth’s sister had made good time. When Elizabeth had told him she wanted her sister here for the ceremony, he’d thought it was a good idea. He’d still not met the young woman but he’d asked about Elizabeth and her entire family when Greg had first brought up the option of Elizabeth joining the Pack.
He remembered the conversations he’d had with Elizabeth about her sister when he was first considering accepting Elizabeth into his Pack.
Elizabeth was protective and worried about her younger sibling. He understood it must have been hard for a non-shifter to grow up, but he didn’t get why Marissa refused to see her sister.
And that, he knew, was the main reason Elizabeth had held back on the ceremony for so long. Gage was determined not to allow Marissa to hold Elizabeth back from what she wanted. And she wanted Greg.
At the knock on his door, he looked up. His second-in-command, Logan, poked his head in. “I’m taking off now.”
“Want to go for a run later?” Logan asked as he opened the door wider to lean against the jamb.
“I’ll be going by the Boyd house tonight,” Gage told him, watching his friend and Pack member smile.
“I don’t think you’ll be the only one.”
“What do you mean?”
The mischievous twinkle in his eyes was unmistakable. “Steve might have mentioned to a few of the guys how hot she is.”
Gage shook his head. Steve hadn’t wasted any time if Logan already knew. Gage didn’t need further complications. “She’s not here to mate.”
Logan laughed. “Well, that may be beside the point.”
“She doesn’t need to be bothered.”
“Well, who is to say it would bother her? She is a were.”
“Yes, but still…” Gage wasn’t sure why he already felt protective toward her. His best guess would be that Elizabeth had shared the secret of her sister not being able to shift and how it still affected her. While it wouldn’t be a problem to his Pack members, he didn’t want the girl overwhelmed with attention. Like most men, male shifters loved the chase of attracting a mate. They could just be more direct in their pursuit.
“Well, then you might want to get over there.” With that, Logan turned and left.
Cursing, Gage stood then followed his friend down the hall. Gage cut through the living room to exit from the sliding door in the study. As the cool night air hit him, he rolled his neck and shoulders. A run would have probably been a good idea. It had only been a couple of days but he loved to shift into his other form. It gave him the freedom that he didn’t get in his normal day-to-day life. All day long he was answering questions while at the same time his shifters had everything they needed. It was nice to let the wolf reign for a while. Not that he wasn’t fully aware of what he was doing or his surroundings when in his shifted form. He just couldn’t answer questions without the ability to speak.
Gage hurried down the curved path that would take him from the Alpha house to some of the other homes. He needed to set the ground rules down for his Pack toward this woman but first he needed to warn Marissa of the chance of having quite a few men at her tail. He hoped in the time she’d been away from her Pack and on her own that she’d found contentment. Gage worried about any ill effects from this stranger being in his territory on Elizabeth. Greg and Elizabeth deserved happiness.
Gage walked up to Elizabeth’s attractive two-story house a few minutes later. Before he could ring the bell, the door opened and a young Pack member walked out onto the porch.
Gage stepped aside to let the man pass. Jeff looked surprised to see him before quickly dropping his eyes.
Gage nodded his hello and strolled through the open doorway and right into the middle of a conversation in progress.
“I’m going upstairs to unpack. If you have any more visitors, tell them to come back in a week. I can’t believe they all need to come by right now to congratulate you on your mating ceremony.”
“That’s not what this is about and you know it,” Elizabeth said calmly.
“Well, I’m not a circus freak show!”
He hadn’t gotten a good view of Marissa but he’d clearly heard her frustration. They really should have figured this would happen and done their best to prevent her being bombarded by eligible men.
Elizabeth stood with her back to him, her hands clasped tightly behind her, and sighed. She stiffened and he knew he’d been scented. She turned and faced Gage with a surprised look on her face.
“Gage,” she greeted.
He wasn’t certain if it was in welcome or not. He could practically feel the tension coming off her.
“I didn’t know you were coming by. I mean, I thought you might, but with so many…” She looked nervously around her.
He only lifted an eyebrow. “I take it you’ve had a lot of guests?”
Elizabeth didn’t appear amused. “Yeah, and it’s driving her crazy. I’m sorry. I don’t know where my manners are. Please come in.”
Gage entered the living room, immediately taking in the new scent and the others mixed in with it. He could have named the wolves that had stopped by. There was only one smell he didn’t recognize, and that had to be Elizabeth’s sister.
His nostrils flared as he inhaled the fresh wood and spice smell that had his body immediately coming to life. He knew that if her scent was so alluring he was going to have his hands full keeping the available wolves away from her.
“I’ll go get Marissa.”
Gage laid a gentle hand on her arm. “I’ll go up. I need to talk to her privately.”
Elizabeth seemed uncertain for a moment, shifting on her feet and glancing upstairs.
“I just want to welcome her, tell her a few things about the ceremony, and make sure she understands some Pack rules.”
Elizabeth nodded. He was sure she was worried about not only her sister but him also. Greg had mentioned the amount of stress that had been mounting.
“She… She’s not always the nicest.”
Elizabeth looked away when she said it, and Gage knew it wasn’t easy for her to be in between her sister and her Alpha.
Gage smiled and patted her arm. “Don’t worry. We’ll both be fine,” Gage assured her.
That seemed to console Elizabeth, and she nodded. “I’ll just be in the kitchen starting dinner then.”
Gage listened as he made his way upstairs. He could hear Marissa muttering to herself from down the hall.
He walked into the bedroom and stopped in his tracks. It was one of the most amazing sights he’d ever seen—her butt was sticking out from under the bed with her legs tucked under her. She moved from side to side and Gage felt himself growing hard.
He growled at the reaction, and she must have heard because there was a bang against the bottom of the bed, followed by another stream of curses.
She peered from under the bed, then crawled out, rubbing her head.
“What the hell are you doing in here?” she demanded.
“I was going to ask you the same thing. Do you always crawl under beds?”
Marissa gave him the once-over. Her attraction was immediate—he sensed it. Gage heard her heartbeat pick up and watched while she wiped her hands nervously on her pants. She shifted from foot to foot and he smelled her arousal. The stubborn look on her face told him she was going to fight it.
Even though he was certain she knew exactly who he was, she’d phrased it as a question.
Gage nodded at the beauty in front of him. To say he was taken by surprise was an understatement. Where Elizabeth was pale and slender with blue eyes and blonde hair, her sister looked nothing like her.
She had long dark hair and crystal green eyes that were narrowed. It was quite obvious she didn’t like her attraction to him, but he couldn’t say the same. It had been a very long time since he’d felt this instant hunger.
“I am,” he answered her unnecessary question. “And you are Marissa.”
Marissa nodded, trying to swallow past the lump in her throat. His voice was deep and she could almost feel it wrapping around her. This reaction wasn’t good and she needed to get herself under control.
He was absolutely, positively the best-looking man she had ever seen. He was taller than she was—she’d guess over six-two. He wore black slacks and a button-down shirt with the sleeves rolled up.
“Is there something you needed?” she asked, crossing her arms over her chest, feeling defensive. She was too skinny, her hair was a mess, and she was tired.
Gage followed the gesture with his eyes, and Marissa blushed when she realized she had just brought more attention to herself.
“I came to welcome you to my territory as is proper for any Pack Alpha,” Gage said, taking a step closer. “And to go over some rules.”
Marissa stiffened at his words, although unsurprised by them. She could guess what rules he was going to make sure she knew. She’d heard them all her life.
“You were raised in a Pack?” he asked.
Marissa nodded a second time, though he was asking a question he already had the answer to. Elizabeth had already told her that Gage was aware of her secret. Marissa had not been happy with her sister but she could understand why Elizabeth had felt it necessary to tell him.
“I don’t expect things will be much different here,” he said.
Marissa didn’t either. “I understand,” she said, stiffening her shoulders and fisting her hands at her side.
“Do you have any questions for me?”
The pep talk she had given herself on the drive allowed her to speak calmly. “No, I don’t believe I have any questions about my behavior here. I assure you that I have no interest in your Pack. One week—seven days—I’ll be here. I think you can deal with it as I have to. Then I’ll be gone and you won’t have to worry about me corrupting your precious Pack.”
When she finished, something like surprise crossed his face briefly, and he growled. No one had probably ever spoken to him that way before. But Marissa wasn’t going to be intimidated.
When he took a step closer, she could sense the anger and confusion from him.
“I’ll warn you once about the way you talk to me. I don’t know how your Alpha reacted, but that kind of disrespect will not be tolerated here.”
Marissa didn’t tell him that she’d never been brave enough to talk to her old Alpha like that. Marissa backed up as the Alpha stepped closer.
“Also, I know how long you are here for. I know a selfish woman like you wouldn’t give up more than a week for the sister who loves her. Someone who has waited far too long to be happy because of you.”
His words stopped her retreat. “Selfish? You just called me selfish.”
Even with the smile that touched his lips, he didn’t look any less furious. “I did.”
“Well, let me tell you something, Mr. Wolf. I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t love my sister. I wouldn’t set foot in this territory if it had not meant so much to Elizabeth. I gave my blessing to her a long time ago.” Marissa took a deep breath as she wound down. She realized she was explaining herself to him and, not wanting to give him any information he could use on her later, she quickly tried to cover her outburst. “Not that it’s any of your business.”
Marissa backed up until she touched the wall and Gage closed the distance between them.
“You do know who I am. My status here?”
Marissa didn’t trust the smooth smile or easy tone. “Yes.”
“So are you trying to piss me off? Any intelligent person would know better than to tell an Alpha a Pack member wasn’t his business or make the comments you have.” When he reached forward and grabbed her arm, it was too fast for Marissa to avoid. “I feel sorry for the troubles you must have given to your Pack leader.”
The electricity that flowed through Marissa’s body at Gage’s touch drew a startled breath from her. He must have felt it too, because he immediately let go of her. Marissa stared at him as neither spoke for several minutes. She grasped at anything she could say to make him go away.
“I don’t have a Pack leader. But I do know how to address the Alpha of a Pack who has been kind enough to let me visit. I apologize. My attitude and disrespectful comments were uncalled for.” Fear and uncertainty had her lowering her eyes to the floor in a submissive gesture. It galled her to show any submission to him, but his touch unnerved her.
She could feel his stare even though she wasn’t looking at him and barely stopped herself from shuffling her feet. The urge to run coursed strongly through her body.
“I accept your apology,” Gage said quietly. “I might not know everything you’ve been through but I do understand that you haven’t always felt welcome with our kind. I expect you to tell me if you have any problems. I’ll get the Pack to give you some space but you will have to interact with them.”
When he’d finally spoken, she’d been so surprised that she’d lifted her eyes to meet his. Why would he even want her to talk to them? She was confused and it was really hard to concentrate, having him so close.
For a brief moment she regretted what she was. A shifter unable to change, an abomination, someone who should have been drowned at birth. She’d come to terms with it a long time ago but Gage was making her wonder what could have been if she’d been normal.
This was why she hung around with humans. They couldn’t hurt her with their words and the fact that none of them would truly accept her.
“I’ll be on my best behavior,” she said softly. Maybe she wasn’t as badass as she pretended but no one other than herself and Gage would have to know that.
“Very well then. Now, I believe your sister is downstairs about to have a fit with us up here arguing, so I suggest we finish this another time.”
Marissa dipped her head in acknowledgment, relieved that he would leave now. Maybe he was just as unsettled as she was.
Gage walked out without another word to her. Marissa sat on her bed and thought about what had just taken place. She looked up at a sound in the hall and saw Elizabeth standing at the entrance to her guest room with wide eyes and a frown.
“Don’t start,” Marissa warned.
Elizabeth shook her head. “Gage is a nice man and a good Alpha.”
Marissa smiled even though she felt her face wanting to crack. “I’m sure he is,” she lied.