Sondrae Bennett - Alpine Woods Shifters 4 (8 page)

BOOK: Sondrae Bennett - Alpine Woods Shifters 4
11.92Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Misty bit her inside cheek to hold back the smile, even as her lips twitched. “I’m mad at you,” she stated.

“What did I do?” He put his hand against his heart in a wounded pose.

Her pulse leapt. They were actually flirting. “You’ve been avoiding me. How am I supposed to learn how to fight when my teacher runs away from me? Aren’t you supposed to be throwing me to the ground or something?”
And kissing me senseless
… A girl could dream.

“You’re right. I haven’t been a good teacher. What can I do to make it up to you?” It was impossible to stay mad at him when he smiled at her.

“Bring over dinner for tonight’s movie night.” Misty paused as Cody closed his eyes and grunted. “You are still coming for our monthly movie fest, aren’t you?” It was a long-standing tradition. Every third Friday of the month, they’d take the night off and hang out, just the two of them.

Emerald green eyes pierced her. “We could always train tonight instead,” he offered. If she agreed, they’d train, but would never reschedule to see the movie. But if she said no, she’d get two nights with him instead of one. Easy decision.

“No way. It’s
Rocky IV
tonight, and you know what that means. Ivandrago. Hot, half-naked, blond Russian, or getting my ass kicked?” Misty put her hands out as if they were a scale and moved them up and down before raising the side symbolizing the hot blonde. “Besides, maybe I’ll pick up a few moves.”

The possessive gleam in Cody’s eyes shocked Misty as he glared at her raised hand symbolizing the hot Russian. Maybe she was making more headway than she’d thought. To give him a moment, she signaled the waiter and placed an order to go. As much as she wanted to spend the rest of the day sitting across from him in this booth, she’d only come in to grab a quick bite. Already she was running behind.

When she looked back at Cody, the strange emotion had vanished. An easy smile curled his lips, lighting up his face.

“You really think Rocky is going to teach you about self-defense, huh?”

“Yeah, because Bruce Lee worked so well for me, right?” she joked, swiping her hands through the air in mini karate chops, similar to the ones she’d used when he’d asked her to show him her skills.

Rich laughter spilled out as he reached forward and grabbed her hands, lowering them to the table. The sound made her stomach clench, even as her heart jumped at his touch.

He didn’t even realize how sexy he was. All he had to do was smile at her, or laugh, and she was a goner. Who was she kidding? All he had to do was look at her.

“Okay, we’ll stick to the movie tonight. I’ll come over tomorrow night and undo whatever ‘lessons’ you take away from Rocky.” He laughed again.

This time she joined in. “So what are you doing here in the middle of the day?” she asked. Her hand tingled where he still held it against the table. Holding her breath, she turned her hand around and twined their fingers together. Hopefully he wouldn’t pull away. Would assume the gesture was meant in friendship. Which it was. No matter how much she wanted Cody, she would never trade what they had. But the potential for them to be so much more compelled her. She wished he saw things the same way she did. Saw what a perfect couple they would be together. It was as clear as a cloudless day to her.

“Old man Jacobs smelled some strange scents when he was out hunting this morning. Asked me to check it out.” The Jacobs farm was technically located outside of the skulk boundaries, but Cody had never let that stop him from helping the old man out. When the man had sprained his ankle last year, Misty had brought over a couple casseroles for him, only to find Cody already there, mowing the lawn.

Misty worried her bottom lip. She’d called to check on Julie the other day and gotten the rundown of events leading up to the abduction. Brendan had mentioned a strange scent in the woods around Julie’s studio before she was taken. But he’d also mentioned how her kidnapper had sought her out and tried to seduce her before resorting to kidnapping. The two strange scents could be unrelated.

“Do you think it’s linked to the events in Alpine Woods?” Misty asked.

He squeezed her hand. “I doubt it. But if it is, we’ll take care of it before anything happens.” He paused and stared at her. Adoration shone from his eyes, causing the butterflies in her belly to flutter with renewed vigor. “Don’t you know I will always keep you safe?”

The breath she’d been holding came out in a whoosh. No wonder she loved the man. Everything inside her wanted to join him on his side of the bench and curl against his side, taking shelter in his strength. She might have given in to the impulse if the waitress hadn’t chosen that moment to come over and give her the bagel she’d ordered.

“Wait. What are you doing here?” he asked as if suddenly realizing they weren’t in town.

“I teach a couple classes at the dance studio here two days a week. There’s not enough business in Vulpes Creek to keep me gainfully employed. Speaking of–” She glanced down at her unadorned wrist and sighed. “I really need to get a watch.” His laughter caused her stomach to do another slow roll. “I’m running late. I should get going.”

“Okay. I’ll come over around eight tonight. Pizza or Chinese?”

She wrinkled her nose. Neither sounded appealing. What she really wanted was a big juicy burger. “How about I call The Watering Hole and have Jarrod grill us up a couple burgers. You can pick them up on your way. He cooks a mean burger.” She thought she saw a flash of the same possessive heat from earlier, but it disappeared so quickly she couldn’t be sure.

“Sounds good to me,” he said with a wide smile.

With a small wave, Misty turned around and left the diner. A giggle escaped as she walked the two blocks to the dance studio. They hadn’t been able to have a movie night in a few months. In fact, the last one she remembered had been the night she’d tried to seduce him with alcohol. Or rather, the night she did seduce him but had run up against an alcohol overload wall. The night Cody didn’t remember, thank God.

She wasn’t stupid enough to try that again, had realized the mistake the next morning. But spending the night alone with Cody, good food, and a movie–however terrible that movie might be–sounded like a perfect Friday night. Especially if he kept looking at her like he had a few minutes ago.

The memory of the proprietary gleam in his eyes, and the way he gazed at her as he told her he would keep her safe, brought a smile to her face. She burned it permanently into her brain, never wanting to forget. He was wearing down. Soon, all her dreams would come true.

* * * *

Cody looked down at Misty as she rested her head against his shoulder. At some point during the movie, she had fallen asleep, and now unconsciously snuggled closer. It was his heat, he was sure, that made her cuddle against him. Nothing more. But the knowledge didn’t stop desire from burning through him.

Raising his hand, Cody hovered it over her shoulder, debating whether or not to wake her. The way her scent enveloped him brought his protective instincts screaming to the surface. Her essence filled him with every breath he took.

What he really wanted to do was wrap an arm around her and cuddle her closer. Panic bubbled to the surface at the thought, and his hand moved closer to her shoulder, intending to shake her awake, but something stopped him before he made contact.

She’d looked so tired when she opened the door tonight. She’d mentioned her day had gone downhill since seeing him this afternoon, but hadn’t gone into any details. Some rest would do her good. And if she was more comfortable using his shoulder for a pillow, who was he to push her away? They were friends, after all, and friends were meant to be leaned on when the other needed support. How did that Bill Withers song go?
Lean on me, when you’re not strong, and I’ll be your friend.
Reaching for the remote, Cody turned down the volume so it wouldn’t disturb her.

She shifted against him. Her forehead nuzzled his throat, fitting perfectly between his shoulder and chin. Her skin was so soft, he couldn’t resist running a finger down her cheek.

A sigh slipped past her lips, and he gritted his teeth. It took every ounce of willpower he possessed to not lean in and take those lips with his.

He turned back to the movie, but it no longer held his interest. It wasn’t as good as he remembered. Years ago, when he’d first seen it, the fight between Rocky and Ivandrago had seemed…epic. He supposed he’d seen too much in the last few years to find the boxing match as exciting as it had once been. But Misty had been sweet enough to rent it, even though he knew she’d rather have seen something else. Whenever she chose a movie for them to watch, she always took his preferences into account. Usually she chose a zombie movie or a comedy, since they both enjoyed those. But every now and then, she’d slip in an action flick for him. Yet, never did she make him sit through a chick flick for her.

He frowned at the realization. She was always doing things for him and all she asked for in return was time. Even her self-defense lessons had been his idea. If he hadn’t suggested–no, demanded–them, she would never have asked.

Looking down at the woman in his arms, he tried to analyze his rioting emotions. While she slept, he could study her without ruining their friendship. Indulge in the overwhelming desire to touch her. Whenever she was around, he thrust his hands in his pockets to keep from grabbing her.

He didn’t understand why his feelings had changed, but somewhere along the road, they had. Misty was no longer one of the guys. All of a sudden, he saw her as a woman. A tempting one.

Guided by instinct, he leaned down and brushed his lips against her forehead. The skin was silky smooth against his lips. He closed his eyes and, for a moment, let his imagination run wild. Brushing his lips against her skin once again, Cody fantasized about kissing her everywhere. The images running rampant through his head had him half-hard in arousal. He couldn’t resist repeating the caress, but as he did, he heard her breath catch on a moan.

Unsure whether the throaty sound was reality or part of his fantasy, Cody opened his eyes and raised his head to look down at her. With dread, he stared into wide-open hazel eyes. She sat up, turned toward him, and reached for him. He stood in a rush even as she leaned into him. The abrupt movement didn’t give her a chance to brace herself and she fell face down on the couch cushions. It should have been comical, but the laughter he pushed down was borne of panic, not humor. He needed to get out of there. Now.

“I have to go.” He rushed toward the door, ignoring her as she called out behind him. It wasn’t until he got into his car and drove off that he realized she must have seen his erection. And wasn’t that just peachy?

After he got home, he would have to rub one out in the shower. And, even though he knew deep down it was a lie, he told himself he would not be envisioning Misty as he did it. Lately, she had starred in all his fantasies. No matter how hard he tried to think about someone else, anyone else, the image always transformed into her.

He needed to pull it together and get a grip. Tonight, he would take Misty in his imagination, and tomorrow, he would lock her back into the friendship box. Then he would throw out the key. Next time he saw Misty, he would have his emotions under control.




Chapter 6


Misty grunted as she fell to the ground, Cody falling hard on top of her. That had hurt. Still, she took a moment to savor the feel of his front pressed up against her back before he jumped off as if she’d burned him.

Sweat ran between her breasts as she rose onto her hands. She needed a puff of her inhaler. Being thrown repeatedly to the ground was hell on the lungs. Air whooshing in and out against their will over and over again…yeah, that was good for the asthma.

“Damn it, Misty. You’re not doing what I’m telling you.” The curt tone, more than the words, had her back going up. Cody had been in a foul mood since they’d started the lessons, being impatient with her and downright rude most of the time. She’d about reached her limit.

“It’s not like I’m not trying,” Misty said as she rose and dusted off her hands.

“Not hard enough. It’s not rocket science.”

Shocked, her gaze flew to his. Never in the fifteen years she’d known him had he spoken to her in such a condescending tone. What had gotten into him today? Last night he’d been so tender, kissing her forehead as she’d rested against him. It seemed almost impossible the man with the dark frown standing in front of her and the man from last night were one and the same.

“What the hell crawled up your craw?”

“Crawled up your craw? Do you even know how stupid that sounds?”

Misty recoiled as if he’d slapped her. Her throat felt tight and she swallowed threatening tears. This wasn’t the man she’d known most of her life. The man she loved. It couldn’t be. Because that man would never be this cruel.

“That’s twice now you’ve called me stupid. This is new to me. I just need some time to learn it.”

“You know, I don’t have forever. You aren’t the only thing I have to do today.”

The words
have to
jumped out at her. After all they’d been through, he saw her as a responsibility. A chore he had to finish before he popped open a cold one and enjoyed his weekend. While she’d gloried in every minute, he’d been watching the clock until he could go home.

BOOK: Sondrae Bennett - Alpine Woods Shifters 4
11.92Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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