"I was completely absorbed into all their stories and didn't want to stop reading!!" Valerie, Goodreads
A flare of something eerily close to jealousy burns hot in my chest at the thought of Isa on a date with Zheng fucking Liu. No. Scratch that. I’m not jealous. I’m pissed. Who the hell does Liu think he is?
I told him to stay away from her. Jordy made it public knowledge that she belonged to the wolves. He saw us together at Shadle Creek. He knows she’s mine. And he’s still sniffing around.
It’s like the guy has a death wish. After what happened that summer before junior year—when the asshole nearly got all four of us killed—you better believe I’m not taking his shit anymore. I can’t believe I was ever friends with that asshole. He might be in my Clan, but he is not Pack. Not in the way it matters. Not after what he did.
I pull Isa closer to me, conscious of my mounting anger. My arm wraps around her narrow waist as I lead her to our usual spot. Lust stirs and my dick twitches as I take in her slim legs and narrow waist, breathe in the strawberry scent of her shampoo. She isn’t wearing a lick of makeup, exposing a faint sprinkling of freckles on the top of her nose. God, she’s so fucking beautiful.
And she was here with him. The get-up she’s in is all for him.
I grind my teeth together as we take our seats. Penny returns, takes our drink orders, and slaps a few menus down on the tabletop before retreating to the counter. She isn’t trying to flirt with Des anymore and that’s fine by me. Every chick in this place is team Liu. Even knowing what he did. Where his loyalties lie. His aunt owns the place, so I shouldn’t be surprised. But neither man nor wolf understand how they can forgive him.
For a while there we stopped coming to Suzy’s, but my pops isn’t a fan of the rift in our Pack. He doesn’t want us making it any bigger and refusing to go to one of the few shifter-run businesses would do exactly that, so, once a week, we make an appearance. We do our part. For the good of the Pack. But I don’t trust Zheng. He put his old man’s wants above the needs of the Pack. And I have zero doubt he’d do it again.
She’s quiet as the guys jump right into talking about the Hellbound Summit. It’s the biggest event of the year for the school and we’re all a little on edge for it. All Pack, Clan, and Coven leaders will be there along with prominent members from the Human community. It’s a way for the adults to mingle. Get a feel for how this little experiment of theirs is going. It’s risky as hell. Putting that many power players in the same room at once. But it’s also a chance for me to show my pops that when the time comes for him to step down, I’m ready. Students are only allowed to attend their senior year so this will be my first opportunity to show him I’m capable of navigating paranormal politics. That I can keep a level head in a high-stress environment.
He has his doubts. He might not have voiced them, but I know he questions me. Questions whether I’m ready, and if I can tamp down my wolf’s impulses. I’m one of the most dominant wolves in our Pack. More dominant than our Clan betas, but he refuses to let me challenge them claiming I’m still too young. Too hot tempered.
He wants me to transfer to another Pack for a few years. It’s common for a shifter to take some time to find themselves and to test their strength against others. To see how high up the ranks they can climb before returning home. But I don’t need to do that. I don’t need to discover myself. I know exactly who I am and what I’m meant to do.
My entire life is here. I was born to lead our Pack. And becoming Clan Wolf’s beta is one more step that will get me closer to that.
Mom does the whole I don’t want to see you hurt bit, but really, she agrees with my pops. She doesn’t think I’m ready. I’ll always be a scrawny pup in her eyes, always getting into mischief.
It’s hard to go against my parents’ wishes. Especially when my pops is my Alpha. But he doesn’t always know best. Not where my life is concerned. I love my old man, but he doesn’t know me. He’s married to the Pack. All he ever does is work. And I get it. As the Southwest Pack Alpha, he’s got time for little else with all of the Clans vying for his attention. Parenting has to take a backseat. I don’t begrudge him for it.
But he doesn’t know me the way he thinks he does. And the Summit is my chance to prove to him how ready I am for the next step. How much I’ve grown.
It’s a chance to prove to my pops that this is what I was born to do.
Isa’s quiet as the guys talk until Jordy asks what we’ve all been secretly wondering. “So, you and Liu a thing now?”
She stiffens beside me and swings her head toward him, frowning. She better not say what I think she’s about to because no, no fucking way is she going to date that douchebag. She’s way too good for a tool like him.
I brace myself for the admission, not that it’ll matter. Isa Romero is mine. She can like Liu all she wants, I’ll wedge myself right in the middle if I have to.
But instead of confirming their relationship, she says, “We’re just friends.”
I raise a brow and she sighs, shaking her head.
“Why is that so hard to believe?”
Our waitress drops off our orders before making a hasty retreat.
Jordy pops a fry into his mouth before saying with a grin, “Because Zheng wants to bone you.” He chews, swallows, then eats another. “Can’t say I blame him. You’re hot as hell, Isa.” She blushes. “But I know who you belong to. Liu does, too, and he’s still making his plays.” He taps his temple with his index finger. “Not smart on his part, but Liu never was the brightest crayon in the box.”
“I don’t belong to anyone.”
I snort, leaning back in the booth and spreading my legs to get comfortable. “Yeah, you do.” She frowns, looking from Jordy to me. “Time to get with the program, vanilla. Admit you’re mine. It’s not nice messing with a cat’s emotions like that. You know how we shifters get. Letting Liu believe he has a chance is cruel.”
“I’m not,” she snaps.
“Yeah, you are. Admit it.”
She scoffs before hissing, “You don’t own me. I don’t belong to you. I am my own person with my own autonomy.”
“Keep telling yourself that but look where I am and look where you are. This is a thing between us and I for one do not fucking share.”
She sets her jaw, turning away from me. Gripping her chin, I force her to meet my gaze, fully aware of Desmond and Jordy’s interested stares. “You. Are. Mine. Got it?”
She jerks away with a snarl that has my wolf jumping to attention. The bastard likes when she gets feisty. If it weren’t for the fact that she’s trapped beside me in the booth, I’m sure she’d have already stormed off and he’d gladly give chase. “Screw you.”
“Already have. And I’m happy to make a repeat go at it, too.”
She makes a sound of disgust in the back of her throat, but it’s all for show. I can smell her desire and it’s giving me one hell of a hard-on.
“Don’t pretend you’re anything but flattered. You don’t want Liu. You don’t want anyone else. Just admit it already. I want you. You want me. Stop being a child and we can all move on.”
Swallowing hard, she swings her glare back to me. Her eyes narrow and her expression is considering before she bites out, “Fine.”
Woah. Pump the brakes here. “Fine?”
A shrug. “Yeah, fine. I want you. You’re hot and the first time around the sex was good.” Her nose crinkles. “Not so much the second time but we all have our off days.”
“Burn.” Desmond gives a rare chuckle.
“Right to the cojones,” Jordy adds.
“That wasn’t very nice,” I bite out.
“Neither is being left without an orgasm. And just so you know, I’m all about second chances in life, but don’t expect a third.” Her smile is slow as it morphs into a warning, her upper lip curling to showcase her bright white teeth. There’s that fire I knew was buried inside her.
A slow grin stretches across my face. “Alright. I’ll try and remember that.”
“Be sure that you do.”
I demolish my food. Shapeshifter metabolism has me burning through fuel faster than I can replace it and within minutes Des, Jordy, and I have all cleared our plates, but I notice Isa has barely touched hers. Maybe half a chicken strip and a few fries. She catches me staring and looks away.
“I thought you were hungry?”
She shrugs. “Yeah. It’s not really sitting right with me.”
That doesn’t sound right and it sure as hell doesn’t smell right. I can scent the lie on her without even trying. I haven’t known Isa long, but she looks thinner than she did when she first arrived at Hellbound High, but I brush it off. I’m not her mom and I’m not her Alpha. She can take care of herself, though even as I think that, my wolf rakes his claws beneath my flesh, angry that we’re not making sure she’s fed.
“So, Isa, you coming to the Hellbound football game this weekend?” Jordy asks.
She perks up in her seat and when Penny returns to clear our plates, Isa passes her unfinished food to her with little concern. I frown but don’t comment. The girl needs to eat, but maybe she’ll grab a bite when she gets home? She might be one of those girls who doesn’t like to eat in front of people. Usually shifters don’t care about things like that but, I don’t know, maybe she’s different.
“I wasn’t planning on it…” she begins.
“You have to come. If you’re one of us, then you gotta represent. No excuses. The game is Friday night at seven. Plan on being there.”
She worries her bottom lips then freezes when my thumb pulls down on her abused lip, my eyes meeting hers. “Come to the game.”
“Is that an order?” she quips.
I run my tongue along my teeth. “If it is?”
She shrugs, tearing her napkin into small little squares. “I might have other plans.”
I growl and pull her against me. I don’t know why it’s suddenly important that she be there, but it is. “You don’t have any other plans. You’re coming. End of discussion.” She doesn’t say anything else, but I catch the small smile playing on her lips and triumph floods through me. She’ll be there.
Author's US Giveaway: