Sunlight streamed in large windows while my bare feet relaxed against the supportive chill of a well-maintained tile floor. When last I’d entered the Pinnacle kitchen, I’d been playing hide and seek with my now-deceased cousin, trespassing where I didn’t belong. The resident chef’s brows had risen as a much younger me slid into the cavity beneath the sink, and the long knife in his dominant hand waved like the swaying hood of a cobra.
“What is a pup doing here?” the shifter had demanded, a hint of alpha bite invading his tone. And even though no one else had initially noticed my approach, chopping and chattering now ceased throughout the kitchen as every gaze arrowed in on my huddled form.
“Hiding,” I whispered, less concerned about the chef’s thinly veiled threat than about my cousin’s imminent approach. Malachi had found me the last four times I’d been the pretend prey and he’d teased me mercilessly as a result. This time, I resolved to beat him at his favorite game no matter what it took. Which meant the chef needed to get off his high horse and quiet down.
“As well you should be,” the chef answered, misunderstanding my one-word reply. “Every alpha in the Pinnacle would eat you for breakfast then use your finger bones as toothpicks if they found you here. Skedaddle, pup. Go home to your mommy.”
The male finished off his speech with a broad smile, exposing teeth that had sharpened ever so slightly with the rise of his inner wolf. Both animal and man were enjoying this showdown, were looking forward to the first whiff of urine as I peed my pants in terror.
But I was the beloved child of Wolfie Young. There was nothing for me to fear even when surrounded by the strongest alphas the country had to offer. One high-handed chef definitely wasn’t going to get a rise out of me.
So I merely rolled my eyes as I spat out a reply intended to annoy. “Are you really such a bad cook that your customers have to eat little children instead? Maybe you should use a recipe next time.”
Triumphantly, I curled my lips back off teeth just as sharp as those of my opponent. And as undercooks and dishwashers gasped in surprise, Malachi ruined my moment of triumph. Slipping in the door, my cousin murmured, “Gotcha,” and watched me wilt back down to the pup I really was.
Now, my adult self shook off the haze of memory and pondered the irony of the now-empty kitchen before me. I was back in the Alphas’ Pinnacle, hiding away in the massive retreat complex’s kitchen once again. Only this time around, the alphas who had fondly overlooked my childhood games were hunting me with blood in their eyes.
Time, I decided, for cake.