Sondrae Bennett - Alpine Woods Shifters 4 (9 page)

BOOK: Sondrae Bennett - Alpine Woods Shifters 4
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All her hopes about the future withered. Her instincts had been wrong to pursue him. They’d been wrong about a lot of things, apparently.

She bit her lip and ruthlessly thrust back the tears. No way in hell would she let him see her cry. With as much dignity as she could muster, she raised her chin and straightened her clothes, using the excuse of brushing dirt off to break eye contact.

“I didn’t realize you saw me as an obligation. These lessons were your idea in the first place.” She heard the tears in her voice, but was helpless against them. “But since your day is so busy, you’d better get on with it. I no longer require your services as an instructor.”

Her eyes itched with unshed tears as she crossed to her back door and let herself inside. Behind her, Cody said something, but Misty blocked it out. She’d heard enough from him to last a lifetime.

The door handle jiggled before she’d gotten half way across the room. Thank heaven she’d locked the door out of habit. Next came the knocking as he shouted her name through the pane. She ignored both.

Not bothering to turn on the lights in her bedroom, Misty sat on her bed and stared at nothing. Her thoughts whirled inside her head. One by one, her fantasies of their future together played through her mind, a final hurrah before dying a swift death.

She’d never been certain they would marry. But whenever she pictured the future, he was always in it. Sure, she wanted him as her life mate, but if he’d never returned her romantic feelings, she figured they’d still be friends. Had thought he cared for her at least that much.

But the things he’d said today…

Anger and hurt swirled within her as she replayed the words in her head. Damn him for taking that little bit of hope away from her. Damn him for making her feel unwanted and useless for the first time in her life.

The worst part was she still wanted him. Despite everything. She wanted to run after him and apologize–although for what, she hadn’t the faintest idea.

The fox inside her still longed for him, tried to push her toward Cody. She bit her lip as the tears threatened to fall again. Her fox was downright desperate, and she knew her other half would always long for him. The realization that she would never get over him punched her in the gut. Loving a man who viewed her as an obligation. All the times he’d avoided her in the past few months took on a whole new meaning.

Misty shook her head and thrust all thoughts from her head. A deep breath helped steady her nerves. When she felt she had a measure of control, she picked up the phone.

Right now, she needed to talk to someone she knew loved her unconditionally. But she would not cry on the phone with her dad. Last year, he’d gone to visit his sister who’d mated into a New York fox skulk. The trip was supposed to last for two weeks, but he’d met someone–not another mate, but a companion–and decided to stay. For the first time since her mother’s death, he seemed happy. But if he thought she needed him, he would come running back to town. Would put her above his happiness without question.

She wouldn’t let that happen. She wasn’t anyone’s obligation.

She thought she had control of her emotions. Was positive she could hold it together. But when her dad picked up the phone, his deep baritone saying, “Hi princess,” with such happiness, she lost it.

The tears rushed forth, flowing in an endless trail down her cheeks as the sobs poured from her soul. Somehow, she managed to confess everything between sobs. Her father remained silent the entire time, and didn’t speak for a long moment after the story had finished.

Finally, after what seemed like ages but was probably only seconds, her father said, “Pack up whatever you want to keep. I’m coming to get you.”

* * * *

Every time Cody closed his eyes, he saw Misty’s face, filled with pain. Pain he’d caused with his careless words. And the tears she’d valiantly tried to hold back.

An hour had passed as he stood on her back porch knocking on her door. After he’d given up, he’d called a dozen times and got her voicemail every time. Two hours later, he’d decided she’d had enough time to calm down, and had gone back, pounding on her door with no more luck than before.

Over and over, he replayed the cruel things he’d said. Even as he’d railed at her, he’d known how cruel he was being. But as if a demon had possessed him, he couldn’t halt the words. He’d been so determined to push her away, to keep their friendship intact, he’d been ruthless, hurting the one person who meant the world to him. And probably damaging their relationship anyway. He’d never been more ashamed. Misty had never been an obligation to him.

Snarling at the reflection in the bathroom mirror, Cody headed toward the kitchen to make coffee and plan his next course of action. No matter what, he would repair their friendship.

The phone rang as he poured over a list of things he could do to earn her forgiveness. Distracted, Cody grabbed the receiver and said hello, still staring at the piece of paper.

“Cody. It’s Bobby Alexander. How’s it going?” The name dragged Cody out of his musings as he focused on the conversation. He’d met Bobby a few times at various shifter functions over the years. If he remembered correctly, Bobby was Premier of a skulk operating out of New York.

“All right. What’s going on with you?” he asked, going into Premier mode.

“I’m looking for some information on a member of your skulk, a Misty Turner.”

Dread settled heavy on his shoulders as every muscle in his body tensed. Why was Bobby looking for information about Misty? “Why?”

“It’s procedure to ask the former Premier about a person before accepting them into the skulk. Normally I wouldn’t bother since her father is already here, but he’s pretty new, too. Figured I’d get some insight.”

“I gotta go,” Cody managed to bite out before hanging up. A strange buzz surrounded him as the world changed, taking on an altered hue that let him know his eyes had shifted to his fox’s. He was close to losing control. Deep breaths helped calm the beast within. Helped him gain a measure of equilibrium.

So, she was going to pick up and go, was she? Move away without a word? Without giving him a chance to fix this?

Like hell.

* * * *

It was pathetic how easily manipulated these people were. How much they yearned for a leader. But it had paved the way for Stella to slip into the role. In a couple of weeks, she had cemented her place among the hybrids.

Phillip, her enforcer, slapped down a map of Vulpes Creek. Post-it notes with scribbles displayed the information from various scouting trips they’d made over the past couple weeks.

“Here’s the safest place to strike.” Phillip pointed to a section on the map. “We can easily get in, do what we need to, and get out, before anybody knows we’re there.”

Studying the map, Stella reached the same conclusion. She’d chosen her second well. Brains and brawn. Although she’d still take on the greater strategizing. After all, her second was a pawn in this, just like everyone else. She was the one pulling the strings.

“Good. I want it done tonight.”

He nodded and left to round up the troops. Time for her first loyalty test. If the hybrids followed her in this, they’d follow her in anything.

* * * *

Misty stared around her bedroom. The boxes she’d bought sat open on the floor, the bottoms all taped together, empty inside. Her gaze snagged on things around the room she wanted to take with her, but she had no idea where to start.

This room had been her home, her haven, her entire life. She hadn’t even moved into the master bedroom after her father had left, deciding to stay in the room she’d grown up in. It was hers right down to the light purple paint on the wall. But it wouldn’t be hers much longer. Not if she went along with her father’s plan to move her to New York.

Misty looked back down at the box patiently waiting on the floor. She tilted her head as she studied it, trying to decide what she should do next. Looking inward, she attempted to analyze her emotions. What did she feel about moving? She should be angry, or sad, or maybe even happy. But she didn’t feel any of those things. Inside, her mind was like the surface of a lake on a windless day. Calm and quiet.

The lack of emotion should scare her, but summoning the energy for even that emotion seemed daunting. All she felt was numb. To her core.

How long she stood there in the doorway, her hands limp at her sides, she didn’t know. Furious knocking on her door roused her out of her stupor. What the hell?

Walking to the front room, she stared at the portal while the pounding continued. It could be Cody coming back. But this knocking sounded angry. Before when Cody had come by and knocked, it had been constant but subdued. With a small shrug, Misty crossed the room and opened the door.

Cody’s enraged green eyes met hers.

And there it was. The calm surface of the lake inside her came alive, the water bursting out in an explosion of anger.

“What?” She put one hand on her hip and the other on the door, ready to slam it in his self-important face.

“That’s all you have to say to me? Really?” He took a step back and closed his eyes, his chest lifting and falling as he took deep breaths. His lips moved but no sound emerged.

“What are you doing?” she snapped.

Would he answer? His jaw tightened as if he were clenching his teeth. “Counting,” he gritted out. “It’s supposed to calm people down.”

“Good luck with that.” She started to shut the door, but his hand slammed against it, preventing it from closing.

“We need to talk,” he said.

Anger built inside her. Now that it was convenient for him, he wanted to talk. This morning, he’d been too busy to deal with the nuisance of training her, but now he had some time and just expected her to let him in and make coffee.

“I’m busy at the moment. Thanks for stopping by.” This time when she tried to close the door, he stormed past her, pacing the hallway.

Rolling her eyes, she shut the door and stood in front of it with her arms crossed. If he wanted to talk, he could damn well start. She had nothing to say to him.

When he looked back at her, she almost retreated from the emotion in his eyes. It took all her willpower to stand firm. This was her house, damn it, at least for the next few days. She would not be pushed around by the big dumb alpha.

He shook his head, turned away, and continued pacing. Using his words from earlier, Misty said, “I don’t have all day.”

Anger flashed in his eyes, almost making her smile.
Misty, one, Cody, zero
. Maybe it was petty, but not even the tiniest amount of shame bubbled up.

“Damn it, Misty, I was frustrated and in a pissy mood this morning. I didn’t mean what I said. But this–” He broke off again, pacing away before returning. “Were you even going to tell me?”

She froze. Tell him what? He couldn’t have found out about her moving, could he? Determined to keep a cool facade, Misty raised one eyebrow. “What am I supposed to have told you, exactly?”

All of a sudden, he stood in front of her, gripping her arms above the elbow. He gave her one shake, staring down into her eyes before cursing and pushing away to stand with two feet of space between them.

“What, you were just going move half-way across the country without a word? Fuckin’ A. Pick up and leave when I’m not looking. You weren’t going to even give me a chance to apologize! You really think that’s a solution to our problem?”

“Based on our conversation this morning, I can’t understand why you would care.” Her lip only trembled a little as she said it. Shock reflected on his face, and Misty braced herself for whatever was coming next.

“Why I would–” He broke off with a curse.

Before Misty knew what to think, he swooped, his hands grabbed her as his lips captured hers in a heated kiss. One moment he’d been standing two feet away, railing at her. The next, he was suddenly flush against her, his arms surrounding her. Her brain struggled to grapple with the change.

When her lips parted in surprise, his tongue swept inside, taking control. This wasn’t a gentle kiss, but one borne of frustration. He didn’t ask for control, but seized it.

His flavor filled her senses. Everything fell away as she lost herself in his kiss. The entire world disappeared until it all that existed was the two of them.

Wiggling to free her arms, Misty reached up and circled his neck, rubbing the hot skin at the back before threading her fingers in his hair. The new position allowed his hands to slide down to her hips, pulling her forward until her front was plastered against his. Every inch of her pressed against him. He hardened as he pushed against her.

She moaned into his mouth, her hands fisting in his hair. The reality of the situation hit her, causing a shiver of pure pleasure to snake down her spine. Cody stood in her front entranceway, kissing her with such passion. This couldn’t be happening. It had to be a dream. But her dreams had never compared to this.

He broke the kiss to gently bite her lower lip.

Her breath hitched as he trailed his lips down her throat, stopping to nibble at her collarbone. Without thought, her body jerked forward into him, thrusting her breasts up in invitation. An invitation he seemed to understand as he reached his hands around her back, keeping her arched forward. His lips continued their descent, placing gentle pecks at the edge of her shirt. Blood pounded in her ears, drowning out everything but the sensations thrumming through her, his lips on her breast, his hands firm against her back, encasing her. Supporting her.

BOOK: Sondrae Bennett - Alpine Woods Shifters 4
13.62Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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