Authors: Kimber White
Kendra Fletcher had the kind of scream that could curdle blood and
shatter glass. When she let loose in the courtyard after our last exam, I swear
I heard tires screech and cars crash. She threw her Con Law casebook in the air
and planted a slobbering kiss on Darby’s cheek as he caught it.
“I think I could fuck you right here, my love. I’m that excited.”
Darby laughed and kissed her back. Then, Kendra stepped in front of me
and tried to kiss me too.
“Oh no. Back off, banshee. We’re strictly platonic.”
She hugged me anyway. It was hard not to let her enthusiasm seep in.
Except, I was just plain exhausted more than elated. But, we’d done it. No
matter what happened when grades were posted next week, we’d all survived our
first year of law school together. It was cause for celebration no matter how
tired I was.
“You sure you’re okay to drive?” Darby asked. “I’m late for a job
interview. I don’t have Daddy’s money like you do, Miss Fletcher, or a cushy
congressional internship like Abby. I still have some pavement to pound.”
Kendra squeezed Darby’s cheeks. “You better have some energy to pound
something else later.”
“Man! Gross, could you not?” I held up two fingers and made a cross
with them to ward Kendra off. She laughed and smacked Darby on the rear end as
he raised a hand and darted across the quad to his car.
“Ugh. I’m going to miss him,” she said as she blew him one last kiss
when he turned and waved.
“When do you have to be back home?” Home for Kendra was just outside of
Atlanta. She was going to spend the summer clerking at her father’s patent law
firm. Darby was right; as long as she actually graduated, Kendra had it made.
“Tomorrow morning, I’m afraid. Dad’s gearing up to go to trial on a
major infringement case. He wants me jumping in to help right away. I’m kind of
“That’s fantastic. You’re going to learn so much.”
Kendra put her arm around me. “What about you? You’ve been awfully
quiet for the last few days. Everything okay with Foster’s office?”
She drew out the syllables of her last sentence. It wasn’t hard to read
what she really wanted to know. The same thing she’d been asking ever since the
scene at the Stacks. She’d left me alone once exams started, but now that we
were clear, her nose was back on the scent about Bas. The truth was, I didn’t
know what to tell her. It had been a week and a half, and I hadn’t heard from
him. On the one hand, it was a good thing. It gave me a chance to come up for
air and try to think logically about everything that had happened between us.
Dale’s words and threats still nagged at me. On the other hand, I couldn’t stop
thinking about Bas. His touch. His whispered words. The power of his wolf and
the brutal beauty of his shift. I missed him. At night, I still craved his
“Come on, Abs. Give me something. I’ve been good for a week. I haven’t
pressed. But anyone can see how miserable you are. Did something happen with
Bas Lanier? Did you hook up? You
to tell me now.”
“There’s nothing to tell.” But, as soon as I started talking, even that
little bit, a dam burst inside of me. We’d made it to the stone benches
overlooking the apple orchard on the north side of campus. We picked a shaded
spot and Kendra put a hand on my arm. When I looked back up at her, she had me
completely figured out.
“I don’t know,” I finally said. “We had an amazing time together. And I
haven’t heard from him since. And it’s complicated as hell. I met him through
work, and there’s some . . . I don’t know . . . stuff between him and the congressman.
It could get messy.”
Kendra whistled low. “Wow. You never do anything the easy way, do you?”
I had to laugh. “Apparently not.”
“Well, I don’t know what to tell you. But I know you. Whatever’s going
on, this guy’s got you spinning, hasn’t he?”
My breath hitched as I tried to figure out what to tell her. It was
hard not to let her in on what Bas and I shared. But how could I? How could I
explain how quickly it seemed I understood that I belonged with him? It barely
made sense to me.
“I don’t know. Yes. Of course he does. But, God. Maybe this is just
like every bad relationship my mother has ever been in. She’s all hot and heavy
and thinks these guys are the moon and the sun. And then they aren’t. I can’t
be like her. I can’t afford it.”
Kendra had her chin in her hands, and I swear stars filled her eyes.
“Negative. You can’t compare Bas Lanier with any of Lori Winslow’s losers. I’m
sorry to be so harsh, but you know I’m right. This guy might still end up being
an epic douche, but he’s in a different league. That doesn’t mean he’s worthy
of you. Because, you’re pretty fucking incredible, Abby. You know that, right?”
I smiled and shook my head. “Yeah. I do, actually. Still doesn’t mean
epically bad taste in men isn’t part of my birthright.”
“Well, let’s give the guy a couple more days. If he doesn’t call, then
cross him off the list. His loss. If he
call, then you immediately
call me and give me every single detail. I mean it. I’m going to need something
to distract me from the mountains of discovery materials I get to sift through
and engineering schematics. I’m counting on you.”
I laughed in earnest and we walked toward the parking lot together. It
killed me that I wasn’t going to see Kendra for four whole months. I’d met her
less than a year ago, but we’d just survived one of the hardest years either of
us had ever lived through. I knew she’d be my friend for life.
Later that evening, we said our goodbyes at the airport and Kendra took
off for home. She gave me the keys to her apartment and told me I could crash
there whenever I needed to. Her lease ran through the end of the year and she
hadn’t wanted to sublet it while she was home for the summer. I didn’t know if
I’d need it, but having the option of a hideout sounded more than a little
appealing. I tried to give her money, but she said she’d take her payment in
the form of spying. It was my job to keep tabs on Darby through the spring and
summer to make sure he didn’t get into any trouble while she was away. It was
more than a fair trade. I swallowed past a lump in my throat as I watched her
plane pull away from the gate.
The next morning, I headed into the office. Grace was waiting for me
with a worried look on her face as soon as I stepped off the elevator.
“Thank God you got here in time,” she said through gritted teeth. Her
eyes darted sideways toward the conference rooms.
“In time for what?” I tapped my phone screen. It was only eight thirty.
I wasn’t technically supposed to be here until nine.
“They moved the congressman’s meeting up to eight forty-five. Dale just
stormed through here asking for you. He wants you in on it.”
“Well, he could have told me.” Shit. Little things like this had been
going on ever since our meeting a few days ago. He’d moved up deadlines with no
warning, changed assignments mid-stream. I think it was his version of hazing
and making sure I knew just how much power he had over me. So far, I’d been
able to bob and weave and keep up with his demands.
“Conference room A,” Grace said. “Hurry.”
She took my messenger bag from me and handed me my laptop. I’d been
issued a secure one on the government server. I gave Grace a two-fingered
salute, mouthed thank you, and headed into the room. Foster already sat at the
head of the table with Dale on his right. Dale gave me scowl as I walked in and
tapped his non-existent watch.
“Cutting it a little close there, Miss Winslow.”
Fucker. He was trying to make me look bad in front of Foster. I smiled
and slid into the seat across from him. Foster looked up from his newspaper; the
guy still liked the traditional paper kind with his morning coffee. He didn’t
seem to register Dale’s dig at me. I fired up my laptop as Grace walked in with
a pot of coffee. I put up a hand to stop her when she offered to pour it. It
irked me to no end that Dale made her serve him like that. I poured my own
I wanted desperately to figure out what this meeting was about. I
looked for an email from Dale but found nothing, not that that surprised me.
Then, I heard the elevator doors open down the hall, and the hair on the back
of my neck stood on end as it always did when he first came near.
I didn’t have to see him or hear him to know he was near. Gooseflesh
covered me and my heart seemed to flare to life anew. Dale stared hard at me
over the monitor of his own laptop. I spread my hands flat on the table and
focused on keeping my breathing steady. God, he planned this. The corner of
Dale’s mouth twitched as he watched me struggle to get a hold of myself. I felt
like a bug under a microscope with Dale’s cold eyes penetrating mine. Bas’s
presence loomed behind me, and the air in the room seemed to crackle as I
him grow closer. I didn’t have to turn my head to know how quickly he
Grace came back into the room. “Congressman, Mr. Lanier and the others
are here. Are you ready for them?”
Foster smiled and crumpled his newspaper, setting it on the credenza
behind him. He flicked two fingers at Grace, gesturing for her to let the men
in. I let out a breath and tried to keep my composure as the air shifted behind
me and they filed into the room.
“Gentlemen,” Foster said in a bright, booming voice. Though he smiled
wide, I knew it was all for show. Bas had taken the upper hand by making him
wait. I turned, trying to keep my posture as casual as possible even though my
nerve endings felt shredded.
Bas leaned across the table, just inches from me, and shook the congressman’s
hand. His eyes flicked to mine, and I watched his pupils narrow to pinpoints.
As much as I was trying to control my physical reaction to being this close to
him, it seemed equally difficult for Bas. Except he had the advantage of
preparing for it.
“You remember my associates, Mr. Brogan and Mr. Martel?”
“Of course,” Foster said. “Good to see you again. Have a seat. My girl
brought in some coffee.”
I bristled in indignation for Grace. Foster at least at the decency to
turn a little white when he remembered I was in the room. He cleared his throat
then plastered his smile back in place. Then, Bas took the seat next to mine.
The world became the few inches of space between us. I was drawn to him like a
magnet and had to sit on my hands to keep from reaching out to touch him.
Mr. Brogan sat next to Dale, and Mr. Martel opposite Bas. Brogan looked
at me, and I couldn’t help my escaping smile. He gave me a lightning quick wink,
and I recognized him immediately. This was Eli from the other night. His golden
wolf eyes had settled to a warm amber, and he brushed an errant lock of dark
brown hair away from his face. A hint of silver colored his temples.
Martel was simply breathtaking. Nearly as big as Bas, he had jet black
hair with a shock of white at the crown. He fixed his cold, blue eyes on me and
I shuddered at the intensity with which he stared. There was something
different about him, more feral than Eli. He was more like Bas. He adjusted his
silk tie and seemed to bristle and chafe at the fabric, as though his wolf
strained to get out. My blood simmered as he reached across the table and shook
my hand, holding it a beat longer than I would have.
Bas made a low noise. To anyone else, it may have sounded like throat
clearing. But, it was a sharp command. Alec went instantly still, let go of my
hand, and sat. He folded his hands together on the tabletop.
“I appreciate your coming on such short notice. I’ve just gotten back
from the Hill and have to leave again in a few hours. I’ll cut right to it.”
On cue, Grace came back into the room bearing a stack of blue
portfolios. She placed one in front of each of us, then left again. I didn’t
wait for the others to open mine. Partly because I was apparently the least
informed about what the hell we were doing here. Also, I needed something to
occupy my mind and hands with Bas so close to me.
My eyes blurred and the words ran together. I squeezed my lids tight
and tried to shake off the buzzing in my ears. Bas took a breath. When he let
it out, it tickled the tiny hairs on my wrist. Then, his foot slid under the
table. I coughed to muffle the involuntary gasp I made when he touched his toe
Bas and the others flipped through the portfolio. It was the same
language from the conservation bill Thorp had me bring to Bas a few weeks ago.
As far as I could tell, none of the changes Bas had asked for had made it into
this draft. He slammed his shut and slid it a few inches away from him.
“Sebastian, hear me out before you lose your shit,” Foster said. “This
is a good bill. It has the best chance of passing in this form, and we need it.
“What I need is for you to give up the idea that any part of Wild Lake
is yours to do anything about. There is no federal interest here. These are
state lands and private property. I don’t need another layer of bureaucratic
bullshit in my backyard.”
Foster slammed his fist against the table. Dale sat back and threaded
his fingers behind his head.
“Bas, let’s be real,” Dale said. “Do I need to remind you what the congressman
had to go through to get the last bill passed that
wolves would have lost federal protection if it weren’t for Landon.”
Foster choked on his coffee. He looked from Dale to me and back again.
“Do you really want to discuss that right now?” Foster didn’t seem to want to
let the cat, er, the wolf out of the bag. He thought I was in the dark about
who Dale and Bas really were.
Dale shot me a sinister smile. “Oh. This isn’t mixed company,
Congressman. Miss Winslow has lived in Wild Lake most of her life. She is well
aware of what’s at stake. Aren’t you, Abby?”
I didn’t like the attention one bit. I didn’t care that Foster knew I
knew about the wolves, but Dale certainly seemed to think I should. Foster
leaned back, his lips parted slightly as he looked from Bas to me and back
again. A slow blush crept up his neck that horrified me. His look turned
lecherous, and Dale’s smile widened. I sat back hard in my chair and slammed my
own portfolio shut.
Bas put his hand on my knee. It had the unsettling effect of both calming
me and stirring my blood all at once. But, Dale was trying to bait me, and no
matter what else I knew, this was a fight between them.
“I don’t know why the hell you called us out here. If you try passing
that bill you’re going to lose my support. I don’t know how much clearer I can
make my position. If you think you can survive the next election cycle without
me, go ahead and try. Wild Lake Outfitters pretty much provides the tax base at
the local level here. You can’t hold the district if I choose to throw in with
someone else, Landon.”
“Sebastian, you have to compromise. You know I have to serve other
interests besides yours. And this is a
bill. Surely you don’t want
to risk coming out against conservation so close to home. Going against me on
this is going to cause you more of a backlash than it will me. Surely you can
“You let me worry about my own backyard. This isn’t about saving
wetlands or spotted owls or anything else. This is you trying to control
home. You know it and I know it. And don’t you dare try to throw the endangered
list at me. I’m well aware of your
in that regard. And you
aren’t the one who made it happen. We’ve got sensible judges on the bench I can
thank for that. But, make no mistake, when it comes down to it, I can and will
protect my own. You keep thinking you are in some position to get in the way of
that. There is no amount of legislation or paperwork that is going to matter to
me if you come after me, Landon. My people have been here since long before you
got here, and we’ll be here long after you’re gone. How soon that happens is up
Bas rose and jerked his chin toward Brogan and Martel. As they rose, so
did I. I couldn’t help it; whatever unspoken command he gave to the others
seemed to transmit to me too. Dale’s eyes turned to cold steel, but I didn’t
move. Bas hesitated. His pinky finger brushed the side of my hand, and just
that slight touch set off a starburst behind my chest. I gripped the edge of the
table and swallowed hard. Then, Bas turned and walked out of the room with his
pack members close behind.
Dale slammed his portfolio shut and rubbed his hand hard across his
mouth. “He’s bluffing,” he shouted as soon as the conference room door shut. He
took a breath, about to launch into a tirade, but Foster put up a hand to stop
“Not another word, Dale. You have grossly mismanaged this entire
could have done a better job handling Lanier.”
“Landon, you have to trust me.” Color drained from Dale’s face. He
tugged at his tie and leaned forward, slumping at the shoulders. “This isn’t
over with him. Just give me a few days and I’ll put something together.”
“Enough. I don’t want to hear anything you have to say.
though.” Foster pointed a finger at me. “I’m beginning to think I’m going at
this guy all wrong. From now on, I want Abby involved with every meeting and
discussion we have on this project. If you’re incapable of handling Lanier,
let’s see what she can do.”
The air in my lungs seemed to have physical weight and dropped straight
down. Dale’s wolf eyes flashed and a corded muscle in his neck jumped. I read
danger all over him again and had to keep my fingers curled around the table
edge to fight off the urge to run. That same sick feeling settled in my bones
as if Dale were giving off some kind of toxic signal. I knew now it had
everything to do with Bas and whatever growing connection we shared. Dale meant
danger. Bas meant safety.
“I’ll look over the bill language again,” I said. “See if there’s some
common ground we’ve missed.”
Foster seemed placated for the moment, and I gathered my things and
left the conference room. Dale gritted his teeth. I knew he didn’t want to
leave it at that, but I wasn’t about to stick around long enough to let him get
me alone again.
I blew past Grace’s desk and headed straight for the elevators. “I’m
going to down to the library,” I said, waving the portfolio. Grace gave me a
nod as the doors closed. As I got distance from Dale with each passing floor,
my heart started to ease. Until finally, I almost felt normal again as I
stepped off the elevator and headed into the parking lot. I didn’t really need
to go to the law library. I could have done my research at my desk. But, I
couldn’t fathom spending another second near Dale.
I made it half a block toward the bus stop before a black SUV pulled up
alongside me. As the dark window rolled down, my heart raced again.
“We need to talk,” Bas said, his eyes flashing both fire and ice.