Finished with Chapter 2, Scene 2? Read the rest of the chapter…
Chapter 2 Scene 3
“You’re a bastard.” I ground out the words while leaning subtly forward and shoving myself into his personal space in a shifter provocation. Take that, you uber-asshole. How often do you get challenged by a wolf you can’t smack down with your voodoo powers?
And Hunter chuckled. In fact, he laughed so long and so hard that tears streamed out of his eyes in rivulets, making his chiseled jawline glisten.
I should have taken the opening I’d been given and run with it. At least the uber-alpha hadn’t immediately responded to my not-so-witty comeback, which gave me a momentary advantage.
But, instead, I found myself using every iota of self-control I possessed to refrain from reaching out and drying my companion’s cheeks. There was just something about seeing the uber-alpha cry that didn’t sit right with me, even if the tears were those of mirth instead of pain. And even if his laughter was, apparently, at my own expense.
But drying his eyes would be nearly as stupid as kissing him, I reminded myself, the latter possibility still niggling at the back of my mind. Actually, swiping my finger across his perfectly proportioned face would be considerably more stupid since I couldn’t chalk the action up to his earlier compulsion. Nope, not gonna go there.
While I’d been squashing my baser urges, Hunter had been getting a handle on himself as well. And now he was the one to reach out and very gently run one calloused finger across my cheekbone and down the side of my jaw in an unconscious mirroring of the gesture I’d just imagined.
“You…are…intriguing.” He paused between each word, so the short sentence lasted until his fingertip drifted across the sensitive skin surrounding my mouth. A fragment of rough callous caught on my softer flesh and pulled my bottom lip very subtly open.
Immediately, my unruly brain offered up the mental image of sucking Hunter’s finger into my mouth to taste. Would his skin possess the same root-beer flavor that imbued the air when my wolf was awake and Hunter was within range? Or would he taste even better?
Let’s not get carried away, I told myself. He’s an uber-asshole. The pup is in danger. Eyes on the prize.
So, instead, I snapped my teeth together aggressively, only realizing after the fact that the missed bite could just as easily be construed as flirting rather than giving warning. In response, Hunter cocked his head to one side again before returning hand to lap without continuing the caress.
And I don’t regret that. Nope, not one bit.
“You’ll never fit in here,” my companion said at last, the words grim and spoken as if from hard-won personal experience. “But I know a place where you’ll belong.”
“This is my pack,” I shot back. Now I wasn’t just pretending to banter. I was honestly angry that this uber-alpha who knew nothing about our clan would insinuate that my friends treated me differently just because I was a half-werewolf instead of a pure-breed.
Okay, sure, so my ex had recently dumped me for that very reason. But it wasn’t as if I’d find a better situation out in the cold, hard world. Former boyfriend aside, most of my current pack mates were willing to embrace my differences and accept me for who I was. That level of tolerance wasn’t the case in 99% of the shifter clans out there.
“You’re willing to throw away the possibility of true acceptance due to fear of the unknown.”
It wasn’t a question, but I answered it anyway. “I’m not afraid.” I bared my teeth as if my wolf was rampant behind my eyes and was itching to tear out my opponent’s throat.
Which wasn’t so far wrong, except that my human self was the aggressive one. The uber-alpha didn’t need to know that my wolf was currently and would in the future continue to be nearly always asleep.
Hunter just smiled, this time with his lips alone. “The offer’s open.”
And then the wolf pup we’d been protecting scurried out of the room, allowing me to hand that combination of eye candy and impending train wreck back over to my alpha to deal with. Hunter was far too enticing for his own good, and I was glad to see the back of him even though he seemed to have my best interests at heart.
“Seemed” being the relevant word. Because less than twenty-four hours later, the uber-alpha returned to our territory just in time to cast me out of the only pack where I’d ever felt safe. It turned out that the bastard was not only powerful, he was also an enforcer for the regional governing body known as the Tribunal. In other words, Hunter harnessed enough clout to keep even my scary-strong pack leader in line.
Unfortunately, my entire clan and I had all been knowingly breaking the rules for the past few months. We’d chosen the morally correct decision over the legally correct one, keeping that little pup safe rather than returning her to a sadistic father who—by shifter law—owned the kid as thoroughly as he owned his fancy new car.
The Tribunal was responsible for resolving inter-pack altercations, so they’d sent Hunter out to pass judgment on our sinful ways. And rather than exploring all the shades of gray in the situation, the uber-alpha had decided to stick to the letter of the law. Which meant we got to keep the pup…but either my pack leader or his mate would be put to death to even the score.
So I’d stuck my nose in where it didn’t belong and had caught the backlash in their place. The upshot? My alpha would continue to run his pack as a haven for oddball werewolves like myself…but I would no longer be included in the family photos. Instead, I was set adrift to wander through outpack territory with only my weak inner wolf to protect me.
Or so Hunter had mandated. But my previous pack leader had one last trick up his sleeve. Ripping away part of his own alpha dominance, the shifter who I’d always looked up to presented me with that shred of power plus four underlings to back up my claim to pack-leader status. The thin veneer of danger settling around my shoulders might possibly be enough to keep lawless shifters from chewing me up and spitting me out…or at least from swallowing me whole.
Unfortunately, we all knew my chances of survival as a halfie female in outpack territory still weren’t worth betting on. The presence of companions just meant I’d be dragging more innocents down with me when I inevitably crashed and burned.
And the whole mess was Hunter’s fault. He’d acted so cordial and interested in me when we’d first met. Then, even after ostracizing me from my former home, he’d continued to reel me in. Taking my face between his huge hands, he’d promised: “You’ll thank me later.”
Even then I thought he’d kiss me.
But he didn’t, the bastard. Just left me yearning and lonely on the edge of what he clearly thought was a brave new world and what I knew was a death sentence for myself and for my new pack.
I hadn’t seen him since.