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Authors: Eve Langlais

When a Beta Roars (9 page)

BOOK: When a Beta Roars
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“Where did you put your clothes?”

She pointed a yew yards from them. Hayder stared at Dean, who didn’t move.

“Gonna fetch it?” he asked.

Dean arched a brow. “I am not a dog.”

“You might not have heard. I’m pride beta.”

“My condolences. All that responsibility.” Dean shuddered. “I wouldn’t want it.”

“It’s got its perks though, like I get to give people orders.”

“Other people maybe. I’m visiting the pride, not part of it. You don’t control me. So if you want the clothes, fetch them yourself.”

“Don’t make me revoke your visitor status.”

“Over some broad’s jeans and sweatshirt?”

“Men.” Arabella sighed before wiggling out of his grasp and stalking to her stashed clothing herself.

A much-too-interested set of green eyes followed her march.


Hayder stepped to the left and blocked Dean’s line of sight.

A smirk tugged the tiger’s lips.

Ignoring it, Hayder focused on more important things such as the news Dean brought. “Tell me more about this security failure.” It obviously was linked to the attack on pride land. It was also unheard of. Arik would not be pleased at this grievous breach, and that meant Hayder might get his war after all.

“Before we play one hundred questions, why don’t we move to the ATV first? I can tell you the details once we’re back at the farm. While I care not a whit for your carcass, it might behoove the woman if we got her somewhere safe just in case there are more gunmen.”

The mention of gunmen struck him, and he grasped his idiocy.
Am I trying to get her killed?
Here they both stood, out in the open, perfect targets.
Might as well paint a bull’s-eye.
Like a teen with no control, he’d let his irritation and jealousy with Dean cloud his common sense.

Time to get his furry mane back in the game.

Loping toward Arabella, he scanned the area.

“Good god, Hayder. Put some fucking pants on before jogging around balls naked. It’s just not right.”

Funny how a woman prancing about naked, her luscious tits bouncing was attractive, but a man with his mighty johnson—and yes, the whole johnson nickname started with his line due to impressive girth—had to suffer a lip bitten to prevent mirth.

Before he could slap a hand south to hold it still, she ducked her head. And he’d allowed himself to get distracted again.

Since he saw nothing, he inhaled deeply but didn’t sense anything amiss. No unexpected scents. Then again, people with scoped rifles didn’t need proximity. The wolves had shown themselves to lack honor when it came to fighting.

As Arabella struggled to pull on jeans over damp skin, he reached her.

“Do you know what’s happening?” she asked.

“Not entirely, but enough to know we have to move. There’s been a breach on ranch land. The guy shooting at us has been taken care of. However, there could be others. We need to get you to safety.” She opened her mouth, but Hayder forestalled her by growling, “Don’t you dare say I told you so.”

“I would never tell you that.”

“But you’re sure as hell thinking it.” At his words, she couldn’t prevent a small smile. “This should have never happened, and when I find out who slacked on the job, my living room will have a new rug.”

Clasping her hand once she’d managed to yank on her shirt, he tugged her back toward Dean, who gestured them to where the path through the woods wound. While most of the ranch remained untamed, they still had dedicated trails, perfectly sized for ATVs to get around quickly when out on patrols.

The large machine, red bodied, with big black wheels, a chrome push bar, and mud-spattered side waited, the seat on it perfect for two.

Two people and they were three. Which meant one too many. Ha, and his math teacher said he couldn’t mentally solve problems.
See that, Mrs. Klinger. I do not always have to use my fingers.
“There’s not enough room on the ATV for all of us.”

“Well, isn’t that a bit of a pickle. Whatcha going to do? Are you gonna trust me to guard your flank while you drive, or are you going to let your precious lady take a
with me?”

Jealousy screamed at him to take the controls of the vehicle, to have Arabella seated behind him, her arms clamped around his waist. Yet, at the same time, if he shifted to lion form, then he could guard their retreat because, while Dean was good, pride said he was better. And only the best should have the job of keeping his baby safe.

Duty won over jealousy. Barely.

He just gave one low-voiced warning to the wily tiger before shifting. “Try anything and I will kill you.” Blunt and lacking elegance but hopefully effective.

As Dean straddled the ATV and gestured for Arabella to clamber on the back, Hayder swapped skin.

Instantly his senses sharpened. Everything became clearer, more defined. His nose twitched as it sorted the myriad scents. His eyes roved constantly, searching for motion. His tail swished, more because he liked the feeling than for any true purpose. The ATV rumbled off, Arabella gingerly perched on the back, hands clasping Dean’s shirt, but holding herself away from his body.

It appeased the beast.

Still gonna rub on her.
His beast’s solution when it came to ensuring she wore the proper scent. But at least rubbing was better than peeing. Yeah, he’d heard the story of Luna’s ex and his weak bladder.

Keeping the glimpses of Arabella’s shirt within sight, Hayder shadowed their retreat, all senses on high alert. His ears pricked forward, straining for sound. When he encountered shadowy concealed pockets in the forest, he plunged into their hearts, seeking out possible enemies. They proved empty and harmless, although he did scatter bunnies in one instance, big, fat, fluffy ones that tempted his feline side.

Not the time to hunt for dinner. Hunt for intruders.

Ahead he ranged, in search of danger, but other than the peril Dean posed if he laid a hand on Hayder’s woman, they made it back to the farm safely.

Such a shame.
His poor disappointed lion sulked his way back to his spot inside Hayder. Feline shifters had it so much easier than others, their cat sides fairly mellow creatures who didn’t mind quick jaunts out to play followed by long periods of rest—rest atop a soft pillow bathed in sunshine.

A few other all terrain vehicles were parked in front of the farmhouse, and Dean pulled his alongside. Arabella immediately hopped off, and though bodies milled, her gaze sought him out. Was it conceited for him to believe he could see relief loosening the tension in her body once she spotted him?

“Hayder. Dude. You seem to have lost your pants,” said one of the guys hanging out. Given the gathering of shifters, this comment didn’t draw as much attention as it might elsewhere. He took a moment to scan the crowd. Dean, of course. A few of the ranch caretakers—Polly, Ken, Horace. Then there was Lawrence, still straddling an ATV, sporting a very unconscious wolf slung over the back of the machine.

Given the entertainment he’d provided earlier with his johnson and jumping jacks, Hayder took a moment to grab his clothes and dressed before joining everyone. He sidled up alongside Arabella who stood just outside the group discussing what they’d found—not damn much.

To his irritation, she didn’t stand alone. Dean purposely flanked her. Did he hip check a little harder than needed—and used both hands for propulsion—to shove Dean out of the way? Yeah. And it worked.

He took the spot beside Arabella, his manhood appeased.

And then torn to shreds as Arabella erupted into sneezes. Great big, body-shaking ones. She moved away, and they subsided.

Dean dared to laugh. Hayder gave no warning. His fist moved of its own volition and somehow found its way to Dean’s face.


The uncontrollable spasm barely budged the big tiger, but Dean did rub his jaw and shoot him a baleful glare. “What the hell was that for?”

“Muscle twitch.” Hayder shrugged in apology and almost laughed as Dean growled. But the other man knew better than to start shit with the pride’s beta, especially in front of witnesses.

“How many teams are still out in the field?” Hayder asked as he counted heads and realized a handful were still missing.

“We’ve got three more teams out. One was chasing another pair of wolves but ran into problems when Darcy got tranquilized.”

“The intruders were shooting darts? Even the one Lawrence captured?”

Still sitting astride his ATV, Lawrence held out a rifle in one hand, a pair of tufted missiles in the other. “This is what I found on the guy I caught. I used it on him, and it knocked his ass out hard, but he’s still breathing.”

“So they didn’t want to kill you.”

“Hey, do you think those sorority girls are back in town?”

And before anyone think he changed the subject, it should be noted a few years back that he’d caught the eye of a few tigresses. Aggressive young ladies who had drugged him, and when he awoke, let’s just say their idea of pain and torture involved feathers and edible oils.

“Use your head, Joey. Why would those gals send in a wolf to do their job?”

Poor Joey had to ponder that one.

Hayder almost sighed aloud. “The wolves are here because of Arabella. There’s some kind of thing going on with her old pack. I’m surprised you hadn’t heard.”

Dean frowned. “We did but didn’t think much of it. What kind of idiots would come after a girl and provoke a war?”

“A pretty fucking brazen bunch of Lycans if you ask me.” Lawrence didn’t mince words.

“So what does this mean?”

Hayder might have stared at their prisoner when he spoke, but all he saw was his baby, in danger.

Not happening.

“This means it’s time we showed them they chose the wrong pride to mess with.” The hunt was on.

Chapter Fourteen

The urge to hide persisted.

Hide. Before you get hurt. Protect yourself.

Instead of bolting off, Arabella hugged herself, but it couldn’t stem the trembling inside.

For a moment, with Hayder in the water and field, she’d let her guard down. She’d allowed herself to frolic as if she didn’t have a care in the world. She should have known better. Karma didn’t use a gentle hand when she slapped her for her temerity.
How could I have forgotten the drama that follows me? The violence.

A violence that threatened Hayder.

Don’t hurt him. Or else…

How aggressive her thinking when it came to his safety, and yet, when hers was threatened, she wanted to run, or hide, anything to avoid the possibility of pain.

She should have been on guard, not frolicking.

But it felt so nice.

It had. So nice to run and play. But nicer still than that was the kiss she’d shared with Hayder. A kiss so scorching, so right, it would have led to them making love, of that she was certain.

She could protest all she wanted that she wasn’t ready for any kind of relationship. Yes, it was too soon. And yes, her life was a mess. It didn’t matter. When Hayder touched her, all she wanted was more. More of him. His touch. His affection.

I want it all.

The attack put a stop to that foolishness.
No happy ending for me.
The pack showed a determination even she hadn’t expected. Their tenacity also appeared to surprise Hayder, who took in the evidence of their planned attack with brows that kept inching upward until they practically disappeared under the hair flopping over his forehead.

“What do you mean they managed to knock out our fucking cameras?”

“They blew the transformer up the road. We lost all power.”

“What about the goddamn generator?” Hayder asked.

“It didn’t kick in like it was supposed to. We’re taking a look at it now to see what’s wrong with it.”

Hayder scrubbed a hand over his face and made a growl of frustration. “They planned this attack out well. Too well, which makes me wonder if you had no eyes and ears, then how did you know to come to my aid?”

Dean cleared his throat. “We didn’t, but I figured something fishy was afoot when both systems went down at once. I volunteered with Lawrence and the others to do a perimeter scout. That’s how we found you pinned down by that wolf.”

“His name is Sam,” Arabella offered.

“You recognize him?”

Uneasy at the focus of so many eyes, Arabella fought an urge to flee. Hands clasped tight and forcing herself to keep her chin up, she nodded. “I don’t know him well, but I have seen him before. He’s pack beta to the High Hills Pack.” What she didn’t understand was his motive.

Hayder obviously wondered as well. “What the hell is the beta from the High Hills Pack doing here? He’s far from home. And pretty fucking ballsy attacking us on pride land. When he wakes up, Sam’s going to have some questions to answer. Any chance he’s working with your old pack, baby?”

“Baby.” Dean snickered and also danced to the right when Hayder did a side lunge where his arm shot out, fist closed.

He missed and, much like a cat, pretended nonchalance as his extended arm rose and Hayder mimed a stretch.

She fought a smile. “I guess these guys could be working with my old pack. But I don’t see how. They’ve been rivals for years.”

“Maybe your pack asked for help?”

“I doubt it. My pack isn’t the type to ask anyone for help.”

But as it turned out, help wasn’t why Sam attacked. While Arabella was tucked in a kitchen being fed and regaled with stories by some of the resident lions, Hayder and some of the other felines were questioning their prisoner. By what means, she didn’t ask.

Sympathy was for victims, not strangers who attacked her.

Whatever the answers, Hayder emerged grim faced and his order to, “Get in the car. We’re heading back to the city,” emerged clipped.

Tires spun gravel when he took the sharp right turn onto the main road back into the city. She kept quiet, hands gripping her seat. Hayder practically vibrated in the grips of emotion. Not just any emotion; anger.

Not good. Not good. Never good.

She knew what happened when men got angry and needed an outlet.

Hayder growled. “Don’t be afraid.”

“I’m not,” she lied.

“Those guys won’t get close to you again. I’m sorry. I fucked up earlier. It won’t happen again.”

“You’re apologizing?” Her mouth rounded into an O, and that easily, all her fear melted. How could she ever think Hayder would hurt her? He wasn’t Harry. He wasn’t like the men in her old pack. “You’re not the one who has to apologize. I am. For a moment, I forgot what you’d shown me so far and lumped you in with the jerks from my pack.”

His lips tightened. “Don’t ever compare me to them. I am nothing like those honorless curs.”

“I know, which is why I apologized. Next time you look that pissy, I’ll tell you to chill.”

“Pissy? I was raging. Incensed. Nothing so emasculating as pissy.”

“You are a very strange man, Hayder.”

“It’s called fascinating, baby. Just think of all the cool levels of me you still get to learn about.”

“I don’t suppose there is a modesty one in there somewhere?” She couldn’t help but tease, especially since his answering grin sent such a warm feeling through her.

“Honesty is one of my virtues. No point in hiding the truth. I am awesome.”

Again, he made her laugh, but the light mood between them couldn’t last, and she was the one to wreck it by asking for more of the truth.

“Why were you so angry?” she ventured.

His expression was hard to read, and not just because the shadows in the car draped him, with only the occasional other cars on the ride illuminating him for an instant. He drove one-handed, his left hand casually gripping the steering wheel. His right arm shifted from the armrest, and his hand landed firmly on her thigh. He squeezed the leg, nothing sexual, but more of comfort. A, ‘Hey, I’m here, so don’t freak out’.

“I need you to not get scared if I tell you.”

“That bad?” She waited for a tremor, but with Hayder’s warm hand on her, she remained relaxed.

“Depends on what you think is bad. Seems that Sam fellow attacked us by order of his alpha.”

“Are they insane?” The exclamation burst from her, but she didn’t worry that he would punish her. She was beginning to understand Hayder wasn’t just a different breed of shifter, but of man too. One who welcomed dialogue and opinions, even from a woman.

“Obviously they’re a few screws loose, but it seems their bigger motivation is greed. Or more accurately, a hunger for money and power.” He turned his glance from the road to fix her with a golden stare. “Just how much are you worth, Arabella?”

Shifting in her seat, she couldn’t hold his gaze and, instead, stared at the twisting fingers in her lap. “Let’s just say that the lawyer said I’d never have to work and I could live as lavishly as I wanted and probably not make much of a dent.”

A low whistle came from him. “Add to your wealth the role of alpha for your old pack and you’ve become not just a prize for the males in the Northern Lakes but just about every pack for several states around. The Lycan Council”—a separate group from the High Council that ruled all the shifter groups—“has declared the Pack Challenge open to all contenders.”

“Why would they do that?”

“They cited a need for a different direction in leadership. Apparently they don’t think the pack had anyone suitable for the position. By making it open to all, they’re hoping to bring in new blood and perpetrate a shakeup.”

“That’s all good and well, but what does this have to do with me?”

“The Lycan Council wanted to sweeten the pot, so they tossed out the fact you were an heiress.”

“They made me a freaking prize?” She’d gotten used to being treated as a possession by Harry, but to actually have a band of people condemn her like that, as if she were no more than an object for bartering? It hit her hard.
I mustn’t let them hurt me.
She must have uttered the words aloud because he answered her.

“Don’t take it as an insult, baby. Yes, you are a prize, a priceless, precious one. I’d do all manner of things to keep you safe. And I wouldn’t do it because of your wealth or the alpha position. You are the most valuable thing.”

Was it hot in the car because she was suddenly melting. Never had someone said something so utterly beautiful to her.

“You say all the right things.”

“I don’t just say, baby. I act. You’ll see over time.”

“If I have time.”

“You’ll get that time. Don’t you worry.” The tight squeeze of her thigh provided some reassurance, but it was his vehement words that warmed her most of all. “I won’t let them take you, baby. I’ll tear them apart, barehanded, if I have to.”

“For how long, though?” How long would she have to live with this threat hanging over her? Would the Lycan packs stop once a new leader was chosen on the full moon, or would they keep coming after her, determined to get their grubby paws on her wealth? “I don’t want to spend my life hiding or flinching at shadows.”

“We could end it all right now.” His words, spoken as he rounded the curve of the road bordering a cliff, didn’t prove reassuring.

Arabella’s hands clutched at her seat as she stared at the dizzying height.
Surely he’s not implying…
“I don’t think I’m ready to die.”

Laughter filled the car, low and husky, and she wanted to hope not the evil kind of cackle before he jerked the wheel and sent them soaring off the cliff. “Oh, baby, not that kind of end. I meant we could end wolf business by making you unavailable. If you’re already claimed, then they’ll have to ditch their efforts.”

“Claimed? By who?”

He snorted. “You really have to ask? I told you this morning, and I’m telling you again. You’re my mate.”

How right it sounded when he said it, but wasn’t she the naïve girl who’d once believed another smooth-talking man? “How can you be sure? We’re not even the same species.”


“I’m allergic to you.”

“But already getting better. Look at us, together in a car and you’ve yet to sneeze once.”

How quickly he’d forgotten her fit earlier when he hugged her before going off to question Sam. She noted he no longer wore the same shirt—a result of too many sneezes or blood from the interrogation?

“Mixed matings have problems with infertility.” Children, something she’d worked hard to not have with Harry. Unbeknownst to her dead mate, she had an IUD inserted. While she had resigned herself to her fate, she refused to subject an innocent to it.

“So we’ll adopt. Or live vicariously through other people’s kids. The pride has an abundance of ankle biters for us to spoil and borrow. I know Aunt Hilda would love to dump a few of her progeny for a while so she could get a break.”

He made it so simple. Tempting. “You have an answer for everything.”

“Except for the one thing I’ve asked. Will you be my mate?”

A firm nip of her tongue allayed the Yes! She shouldn’t jump into this. She needed time to think. “What if I say no?” Would he force her?

“Then I shall yowl outside your door and haunt you with big kitty eyes until you break down and scream yes. Which, by the way, you’ll also scream when we finally get alone and I finish what we started today.”

Way to remind her about the kiss. That decadent, scorching kiss. Oh my.

“I—I—” The proper answer to his question of ‘Will you be my mate?’ was no. She could enumerate so many valid arguments about why she should refuse. And yet…she wanted to say yes.

He’s ours. We should claim him.

As if she’d listen to the half of herself that chose to hide from the world.

I must hide. Better that way. Everything is my fault.

Arabella might have questioned further, but they slowed to a stop in front of the condo, and a valet in uniform held open her door.

Then she was surrounded by cats. Excited cats who pounced on her with questions.

“Is it true someone attacked you at the ranch?”

“Has anyone laid dibs on the wolf they caught?”

“Does this nail color make my fingers look fat?” That question wasn’t thrown at her specifically but in general. But it was the only one Arabella had an answer to.

“I think it’s pretty.”

“Ladies. If you don’t mind, Arabella needs to rest after her harrowing escape. But be on your guard. Patrol vigilantly. The wolves have declared war, and we need to show them why that was a stupid fucking idea.”

Cheers met his announcement.

Hayder wrapped an arm around her waist and steered her through the curious crowd. The noise, friendly as it was, reminded Arabella how different the pride was from the pack.

“Are the women always like this?”

“Like what? Loud? Meddling? Violent? Yes to all three.” How proud he sounded.

BOOK: When a Beta Roars
9.23Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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