I knew. Before my mind blinked awake, I knew he was there, beside me in my bed. Well, my borrowed bed. He was so warm, and his breath lightly tickled the small tendrils of hair on my neck as he still slept. I stayed still, relishing in the moment, his arm thrown over my hip, making me feel safe. Since the second night staying in his house, after learning what I was a week ago, he stayed with me. The nightmares that followed the revelation of not just being Druid but wolf as well, was too much to process on top of recovering from the Hunters abduction. Grayson was passing by my room, restless and after a drink of water, when he heard me cry out in my sleep. He raced in, my shirtless knight, and woke me, saving me from reliving the vampire’s torture.
We still didn’t know what he was ultimately after, but it most definitely had to do with myself and Gearden. Brianna assured me he was dead, though. Apparently, its standard practice for wolves to burn their enemies’ bodies. No evidence, no snooping cops. Still, no one said anything, but I knew they all thought it; there’s bound to be more. And, again, what the hell did they want.
“It’s too early to be thinking so hard.” His voice, even in my head, was gravelly, making the corner of my lips tug up just a little before I turned around, his arm still in place, if not a little more securely now. He gave me a soft kiss on the forehead and we both closed our eyes to have one last doze before he had to go. The beginning of dawn’s light was just starting to peek through the blinds, which meant his mother, Jolleen, would be getting up soon. Once she did, it became harder for him to return to his room unseen. We didn’t do anything but sleep when he came to my room, but it would be hard to explain that to his parents. Of course, there were some kisses, but nothing we didn’t already do in front of his family. After a few moments, he pressed his lips to my head again before sliding out from the covers and heading for the window. Pulling the blinds back, he shoved open the window and climbed out. I could barely hear when he closed the window behind him, but saw his shadow move to the side of the house, the small bit of roof was all he needed to walk around to his own room.
I took a moment to stretch before I climbed out of bed and started to get ready for school. I could hear the rest of the house stirring as I pulled my hair up into a messy ponytail. Double checking the light mascara and soft pink eyeshadow I applied earlier in the mirror I grabbed my backpack and headed out.
I didn’t see her at first as I was busy zipping up the small pouch, but when Gearden’s little sister, Rowen, grabbed onto my back pocket, giving it a small tug, I stopped and smiled down at her. “Hi, sweetie,” I said, stooping down.
She smiled and waved, saying nothing. Then slung her arms around my neck to give me a quick hug before releasing me, but not before I was able to bury my face in her hair and smell the strawberry scented curls. Beaming up at me, she announced, “I’m going to the kid’s museum today with my class!” With that, she trounced down the stairs ahead of me, entering the kitchen with a bright smile. At the counter, mixing creamer into her coffee, Jolleen turned to smile at us both, saying, “Good morning!”
“Morning,” I said, moving to pick up an orange from the fruit bowl, snagging a slice of already buttered toast she’d prepared for everyone. She didn’t cook breakfast for anyone, but Gearden’s mom made sure everyone had something to eat before they left the house. There was always fresh fruit available, toast or Eggo waffles and hot coffee ready for those who drank it.
Sitting at the table, I helped pour juice into the small cup in front of a squirming Rowen. Glancing up, I spotted Gearden enter the room saying something to his mom as he did, then bending down to peck her on the cheek. Stuffing a slice of toast between his teeth, he held it there as he poured a cup of coffee and added a splash of creamer before sitting down beside me, his thigh pressing against mine. We weren’t shy with sharing our affection in front of his parents, but we were respectful. He winked at me over the rim of his cup as he took a slow sip. Setting it down in front of me, he tucked into his toast and rustled Rowen’s hair affectionately. She laughed up at him, milk dribbling down her chin. Chuckling at her, he quickly grabbed a napkin to wipe her up.
I knew, again, right then, that I could love him. Seeing how he loved his family, cared for his sister, made my heart flutter and my breath hitch for a second before returning to normal. But it was enough for his wolf senses to catch on. His head snapped around, pinning me with his steely gaze, concerned.
And just like that, my damn heart fluttered all over again. Seeing my reaction, understanding now, he relaxed and smiled softly. To distract myself this time, I reached for his mug and took a hearty sip of the too hot liquid. Not enough to scald, but just enough for me to regret how fast I swallowed from the burning feeling it made all the way down. Setting it down, I finished peeling my orange and began to tug wedges off, handing one to him. We did this, sharing our breakfast, every morning, since I took up residence in their home. After Dad revealed he’d been keeping secrets from me. Secrets that turned my world upside down and lost my trust in him. I was staying in one of the many guest rooms at the McIntire pack alpha’s home. They had a handful of them for when they had council members from other territories visiting or pack members who needed it. What I thought of as their extended family, the estranged cousins at first, I learned where so much more than that to Gearden and his family. They were family; aunts, uncles, siblings and cousins. Ro finally made his appearance, looking more-or-less ready for the day. He pecked Jolleen on the cheek, like Gearden had, but only poured himself coffee, chugging it straight away, without a care to the heat it still packed.
Later, coffee gone, toast and fruit devoured, we headed to his Jeep. As soon as we were seated, Gearden reached over, cupped the back of my neck to draw me in and kissed me. Surprised, it took me just a split second to catch up, opening to him. His tongue didn’t hesitate, plunging deep to meet my own. My blood warmed so quickly at contact, it relished in it. As I savored the taste of him, he gripped my hip with his other hand, fingers digging into my flesh. It was borderline pain, and I loved it. Not hurting me, but needing to feel me close, to hold me. Just as I reached up to grab a handful of his shirt to pull him closer, he dragged himself back, letting go of my hip and relinquishing my lips. Looking up at him, I saw the desire in his eyes that no doubt was equal to what I’m sure he could see in mine. Squeezing my nape one last time, he slowly let it go, deliberately dragging his blunt nails on the sensitive skin there, making me shiver.
Settling back into his seat, he buckled up as he turned the engine. I did the same, though a little more shakily. Nothing like that ever happened in my room. Gazing over at him, I thought how much restraint he must have to not do anything like that when we shared the same bed at night.
Turning briefly, stopped at the end of the driveway, he said, “You have no idea.”
My eyes rounded at his words. Then, as he pulled onto the small drive towards Bri’s house, he explains, “You’re projecting.”
Ugh. Of course, I was. How the hell was I supposed to guard my thoughts when he muddled my brain all up and turned it to mush like that?
He chuckled which earned him a punch to the shoulder as he pulled up to allow Bri, his best friend and beta to his alpha, to climb into the back.
“Morning!” She said, signing to me as well. She was a quick learner; I’ll give her that. She was even picking up some slang here and there. I waved and gave her a smile.
Locked in, she stilled, sniffing the air for a moment as Gearden waited for cars to pass and pull onto the street. Watching her, I frowned and shook an open hand, palm up, “WHAT?”
Looking up at me, she smoothed her features and shrugged, giving me a fake smile, saying, “Nothing.”
I let it go. It was hard to talk to her from the front seat. I’d have to ask her later what was up.