Be sure to read the first part of Chapter 2 before diving deeper into Fen’s story!
Chapter 2 Scene 2
When Hunter and I first met, I was a happy-go-lucky member of a different clan entirely. Our alpha was kind but firm, our pack was quite capable of protecting its weaker members from all comers, and my wolf spent nearly all of her time asleep.
Despite that pastoral tranquility, though, half of my days involved patrolling the pack’s boundaries to make sure potential dangers didn’t encroach. So when I discovered the aforementioned uber-alpha in lupine form nosing through trees half a mile from our village, I immediately bared my human teeth and shouted out a challenge.
“Stop there!” I demanded. Never mind that I couldn’t back up my posturing with any alpha dominance of my own. I’d learned that simply lifting my chin in challenge and speaking like I meant it usually did the trick. And, sure enough, the huge wolf slinking through the undergrowth paused and cocked his head in response.
Without the sensory assistance of a rampant inner wolf, I’d just assumed the stranger was an over-zealous drifter trying to decide if our clan was open to new members. We generally were, but we also preferred supplicants to come in through the front door rather than sniffing around behind our backs. So I was terse when I stalked over, grabbing his ruff with one hand and clenching down on the top of his muzzle with the other. “Rude,” I growled, shaking the stranger as if he was a puppy and I was his alpha. “Come with me.”
Hunter obeyed easily enough, letting me drag his furry butt back to my alpha without complaint. Only when I saw the latter’s tense body language did I realize the error of my ways. It seemed I’d misread the stranger’s crooked grin as submission and had invited a predator into our den by mistake.
A den into which a young pup soon ambled, throwing us all into a tizzy of over-protectiveness. Any shifter who got my alpha’s hackles up was one I didn’t want hanging around youngsters. Unfortunately, my weak lupine nature meant that I wasn’t able to physically protect the kid in question or to boot the stranger out the door. So I resolved the issue in the only way I knew how—by continuing to pretend like I was far more wolf than I could ever dream of being.
“Family matters,” I told the stranger as my pack leader turned his attention to the pup. Grabbing the uber-alpha’s newly materialized hand, I pulled him over to a chair in the corner and away from the kid who had caught his eye. Perhaps if I was able to sidetrack our guest for a few minutes, my alpha could shuffle the youngster back out the door and then take this explosive bundle of handsomeness off my hands.
This time around, though, my playacting was a little less confident than usual. After all, if my alpha—who possessed the strongest inner beast I’d ever seen—was concerned about this stranger, then Hunter could likely bark and I’d offer up my finger bones to be used as toothpicks. I shivered, but still put pseudo-command in my voice when I spoke. “Talk to me.”
The uber-alpha feigned obedience once more, but I got the distinct impression that he was only humoring a shifter who he found intriguing. “Talk about what?” he asked. His voice was so deep it seemed to rumble through the air and into my belly like heavy bass, and I had to clench my jaw in order to ignore the tantalizing sensation.
“How about your name?”
I was definitely in over my head but the stranger seemed to enjoy my spunk. He took one of my hands between his much larger paws, sending yet another tremor through my body. “I’m Hunter.”
“Is that your name or what you do?” I couldn’t resist asking. And now Hunter’s smile finally reached his eyes. The uber-alpha was obviously impressed by my perspicuity, even though he really shouldn’t have been. I had no choice but to be alert to the subtle cues of body language since I couldn’t depend on my inner wolf to clue me in. And it wasn’t as if the stranger was trying to hide his thoughts either.
“Both,” he confirmed. “And you’re Lost Wolf.”
“No, I’m Fen,” I answered, ripping my hand out of the stranger’s grasp before my brain caught up with my mouth. I knew I shouldn’t be antagonizing a shifter so strong he gave my alpha heart palpitations, but it offended me that Hunter had so easily seen into the core of my being.
Okay, so “offended” probably wasn’t the right word. It scared me to death. It made me mad as hell. And, yes, it also pleased me no end that someone had finally seen what none of my pack mates had cared to notice during the last twenty-one years of my existence.
While I was trying to work through all of those contradictory emotions, Hunter elaborated on his analysis. “You’re different and lonely. You’re looking for a place to fit in.”
“Oookay.” I did my best to brush off his words even though each one struck like a dart into my soul. “Did I accidentally sign up for a therapy session?”
I feigned checking the planner on my cell phone, but fumbled the device instead since I wasn’t able to tear my eyes away from the shifter in front of me long enough to complete the pretense. The phone hit the ground with a clatter that made me jump but didn’t seem to affect anyone else in the room.
“You’re uncomfortable,” the stranger said after a moment of silence. “You don’t want to talk to me.”
True and true. But the kid who Hunter wasn’t supposed to interact with was still in the room and my alpha continued to radiate distress. So I shook my head. “No, I’m dying to have a pleasant conversation with you.” And that was, unfortunately, true as well. “But we’ve just met. Ever hear of small talk?”
“Sounds trivial and inconsequential.”
“And you sound like you swallowed a thesaurus.”
I couldn’t feel the effects, but I’d gotten used to the glassy eyes and clenched jaw that signaled a shifter exerting his or her alpha dominance. So I wasn’t surprised to see the kid flinch on the other side of the room as Hunter’s gaze bore down on me.
In response, my wolf stirred groggily awake deep within my body. And for the split second that she was less than completely comatose, I was able to fully understand the power of the werewolf before me. My nostrils flooded with the intense aroma of cold, wet sassafras, as if I’d been immersed in a vat of chilled root beer. And I felt an overwhelming urge to lunge forward and kiss the uber-alpha on the lips.
Then I pushed my wolf so hard she was flung backwards into the dark recesses of my mind and washed off her feet by the flood of my subconscious. As her presence faded, so did Hunter’s compulsion.
“You know it’s sexual assault to force a woman to kiss you against her will, don’t you?” I snarled. Then I whispered under my breath: “And pretty darn desperate too.”
What I really wanted was to punch the guy, but I had a sinking suspicion he wasn’t human enough to respond chivalrously to a blow from a lady. And if Hunter decided to fight back, I’d be dead. So I stuck to the defense that made me feel strongest—verbal sallies.
The uber-alpha cocked his head to one side curiously, then responded. “I only asked you to let your wolf do what she wanted to do,” he rumbled, and I flushed beet red. “Surely that’s not against two-legger rules?”
Yep, he’d definitely won that round.
But I wasn’t ready to roll over and show my belly just yet. When in doubt, ignore the facts and go for the jugular.
Finish Chapter 2 here…