“Aren’t you worried at all, Killian? I mean, she’s staying as a wolf and isn’t exactly social. She kind of just sits there and stares at you as if inspecting her next meal,” Aurelia asked from Killian’s side. They had all finished dinner and come to sit in the living room to drink a glass of wine. The fire roared in the fireplace, keeping the chill of the transition from fall to winter at bay.
“Actually, Lia, no, I’m not. I believe she’ll come around eventually. I think you can understand what she’s going through…as a previous lone wolf yourself?”
Aurelia touched Killian on the shoulder, and he had to fight the uncomfortable urge to move away from her. Aurelia’s obvious affection didn’t bother him; he just had no desire to lead her on.
“I just worry maybe you’ll take on this one and not be able to save her. She seems damaged.”
“Exactly why I need to help her, Lia. What do you think?” Killian turned to Jamie, taking a sip from his wine.
Jamie tilted his head to the side in contemplation. “Honestly, I don’t know what to say. You’re the strongest Alpha I’ve ever met, and she stands up to you. Not many can claim they can do that. How do you know she’s not here to mess with us?”
Killian couldn’t even explain it to himself exactly but didn’t want to seem uncertain to his pack. “I feel that it’s all a front. Like she’s really just a big old marshmallow underneath all that white fur, but she’s scared.”
Jamie snorted at the thought and took a sip of his own wine.
Killian heard the sound of feet coming down the stairs at the same time Jamie did, but it didn’t click in his mind who it was until he saw his friend’s jaw go slack. Everyone else turned toward the bottom of the stairs. Aurelia let out a soft gasp of surprise. Killian slowly stood and looked at the woman standing with her hands clasped in front of her.
He knew it was the she-wolf from the enticing scent of cherry blossoms and sugar, but in no way had he imagined she would look like this. She was tiny, only standing at about five feet but definitely no taller. Any hint of curves was hidden beneath the baggy clothing covering her slight limbs, but that was not where the appeal lay. Her pale skin glowed in the firelight, and long streams of white-blonde hair that escaped from the tight braid behind her head framed her heart-shaped face. The little upturned nose, bow-shaped lips, and large arctic-blue eyes finished off her surreal appearance.
With Jamie looking at her like she was an angelic apparition, all he wanted to do was cover her up and hide her from the world. His wolf growled in approval, and the man almost did too before he caught himself. What was wrong with him? Relief flooded him when she spoke through the awkward silence.
“I want to learn to fight.” Determination burned from her eyes and her clipped tone.
Jamie coughed on his mouthful of wine. Lia’s face had not transitioned from her shock, mouth slightly open and eyes wide like silver dollars. Killian continued staring at her. He imagined her tiny body fighting in the ring and instantly didn’t like it. When everybody maintained their heavy stare, she continued with a stutter, her previous facade faltering.
“I-I know you’ve just met me, but I saw what you did…in that gym. I need to learn how to do that. All of it.” She walked closer and stood in front of the group, keeping her eyes on Killian. Her back was ramrod straight, and she was trying to seem strong, but Killian watched the tremble of her fingers and the way her eyes seemed to water beneath dark lashes. He coughed past the lump in his throat preventing his speech, which he decided had nothing to do with his desire to hug her, and raised an eyebrow.
“You? Fighting? And why would you want to do that?” Killian questioned.
“I have my reasons. I just need you to teach me how to do it.” She lifted her chin in defiance.
Killian cocked his head to one side and regarded her. She was firm on the idea of learning to fight. He could see it in her fierce gaze, the set determination of her chin, and the way she had clenched her previously trembling fingers. This princess with her beautiful body and face was tiny enough he could snap her with one hand, yet she wanted to learn how to fight as rough as the people in his group. Kelly knew how to fight, as did all the other women, so why did he have such a problem with her training?
Looking away, he leisurely set his wineglass down on the coffee table and waited a second before responding. He ignored the palpable tension coming from his packmates.
“Have you ever learned to fight before?” At the quick shake of her head he continued, “It’s not a simple thing. There’s a lot of hard work. A lot of pain, emotionally and
physically, that you may not be able to handle.”
Killian looked back up at her face in time to see her grimace, and her gaze hardened.
“I’m sure I can handle it,” she insisted.
After a few seconds of contemplation, Killian nodded. This could make things better between her and the pack. Learning to fight wasn’t just about the physical aspect, but he would also have to implement different strategies involving the pack’s cooperation. She could integrate with them at a much better rate than she currently was. And that, after all, was his mission. Her integration was of upmost importance. He couldn’t let her be a lone wolf and risk that loss.
“All right, we’ll teach you how to fight.” She lit up with joy, but before she could say anything he continued, “But I have a few conditions.”
The way her face shuttered was almost comical, like a child getting a treat ripped out from in front of them, and he had to stop himself from laughing. She looked pissed.
“One: you listen to everything I say when we’re training. If you’re learning to fight, you will learn it the right way. We won’t go easy on you just because you’re a little sprite. If you don’t listen, then we stop things right away. You may not be pack yet, but this is still my home.”
Her jaw flexed, but she gave a sharp nod.
“And two: I want to know why you need to learn to fight. You say it’s not my business, but I think it is. If you turn around and try to fight against us, then there will be consequences
.” He stated the last word with a firm tone to make certain she understood the ramifications of the problems that could arise. Little did she know the thought of tearing into her creamy throat held absolutely no appeal. Nibble it…maybe. Lick it…definitely.
The she-wolf tightened her lips into a thin line, and indecisiveness flashed in her eyes. Trust was obviously still an issue for her, but it was for him as well. Although he wanted her to be pack, the threat of harm to his family was not something he took lightly.
“You can’t just take my word that it won’t be used against you?” she whispered.
At the shake of his head, she exhaled. “Okay. But I won’t tell them.”
She motioned with her hand toward the people at the couch, still staring at the new girl in the room. Jamie’s expression had become one of amusement as well as intrigue. That he was interested in the epitome of innocence before them had Killian cringing. He had no right to warn his Second off the new packmate, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t do his damnedest to make sure Jamie didn’t scare her off.
Killian turned to them and gave a quick nod. “Good night, then. I’ll see you soon.”
Jamie flashed him and the she-wolf a grin. “No problem. See you later, man.”
After standing, he clapped Killian on the back of the shoulder with affection and walked out of the house whistling. Aurelia, ever the tenacious one, brushed a hand on Killian’s arm.
“Are you sure you want me to go? I can stay. She’s still untrustworthy, Killian,” she whispered, as if the stranger couldn’t hear with her enhanced senses. He fought the urge to roll his eyes.
The imp next to him cast an angry glare at Aurelia, and she gave a growl of irritation. “I’m not going to do anything to your precious Alpha. The fact that you think I’m capable must be a compliment.”
Before Aurelia could reply from her open mouth, Killian held up a hand. “Just go, Aurelia. I’m sure we’ll be fine.”
With an ugly look of rage aimed at her apparent nemesis, Lia sauntered out the front door and slammed it behind her.
In the awkward silence, Killian and the she-wolf stared at each other. He couldn’t get over how attractive the woman standing in front of him was. The small crease between her brows gave away that she was worried about what she was going to tell him. Hoping to alleviate her tension, he swept his hand toward the couches.
“Want to sit down? Or would you prefer to stand here?”
The slight nod was almost undetectable as she dragged her feet to the couch farthest away from him. They both sat at the same time with Catrina keeping her eyes focused on the fire. It seemed like an hour of her sitting there, clasping and unclasping her hands. When he was about to question her, she closed her eyes and spoke.
“You have to understand. I haven’t talked to anyone in a long time. I’m so scared to trust you. I’m stuck in a world where I don’t know anyone anymore, but I want
to trust you. Do you understand that?” She glanced up at him in question. When he nodded, she continued, “You’re the only person I’ve told this to. It’s very hard to put into words.”
She paused and stared at the fire.
“Well. We can always start with your name. And how long were you a lone wolf? A year?” Killian leaned back against the couch, trying to force himself to relax in order to get her to do the same.
A bitter laugh shot out of her mouth. It carried in the empty room, and she rolled her eyes at herself. “Well, my name is Catrina Macintyre. And, umm, I was a wolf a lot longer than that. I shifted when I was seventeen and stayed that way for six years, according to the calendar I saw at the place you got me from.”
Killian kept a straight face as he digested this information, even though his mind spun with astonishment. Six years! He’d never heard of a Shifter staying in wolf form for that long. Most went crazy and lost themselves to the wolf after a certain amount of time. Even Brian had almost lost himself to his wolf after almost two years. That she was still lucid showed the inner strength of the woman in front of him. And the depth of whatever pain he saw flickering behind her eyes.
“I guess there’s no other way than to just get it over with, is there?”
She sighed in trepidation, fumbling with her fingers again. Her voice became very quiet, the spoken words causing her to relive the event. “A couple of days after my seventeenth birthday, my parents were murdered while I was locked in the basement. I need to learn to fight so I can find the people who did it, find out why they did it, and then kill them.”
Catrina turned her face toward Killian with fire in her eyes. Her anger and hurt reflected in them, and Killian’s heart panged with sympathy.
“Catrina, I’m so sorry—”
She cut him off with a pointed finger and a voice shaking with emotion. “Don’t do that. Don’t look at me with pity and feel sorry for me. I need you to make me stronger. I need you to make me a spectacular fighter who can fight against this animal that killed my parents. I will do whatever you say but only in the gymnasium. I’m not your pack. My pack is dead. I just need you to help me like you said when you took me from the cage. So will you?”
Killian sighed loudly and leaned back on the couch with his eyes closed. A lone wolf, stuck in his house, with so much dominance in her, and all the while learning to fight from him? How could he allow that? The pack would think he was crazy allowing such an act to play out. If he didn’t, she would probably end up leaving, and that could be even more dangerous. They weren’t in the middle of a vast countryside like Alaska; they were in California, with lots of towns and families close by. He couldn’t risk letting her loose around the area.
“Okay, Catrina. I get the need for vengeance. Though, I believe having a lone wolf in my house is going to be hard, with you very clearly being able to push away any commands I give you.” He shot her a sideways glance at his hint of humor, and the corners of her lips rose ever so slightly.
“I believe I can promise to try
to listen to you. That way all your friends will believe you’re still the big, bad Alpha.” Her lips softened a little, and she leaned over to lay her small, silken hand on top of his. “Thank you, Killian. I have been stuck as a wolf for too long, and you have given me something to do as both a human and wolf. I am grateful to you for making the choice to take me in.”
She stood up slowly and started to make her way back to the stairs, clearly done with the conversation. Killian watched her walk, her gait graceful and alluring. He was humbled by her apparent gratitude, and her sudden touch to his hand had been shockingly charming.
Swallowing his unfamiliar desire, he called out her name, and she paused at the bottom of the stairs. Her head turned, and she looked over at him with large eyes, innocence in a little human package. He smiled at her softly.
“Thank you. For trusting us.”
Nodding, she made her way up the stairs. He watched her the whole time until she was out of sight from his position on the couch. Those baggy sweats did nothing to hide slender legs and a tight rear end that sashayed up the steps. They were the type of legs he would be thinking about the rest of the night. At the moment, he cursed his promise to not mate within the pack.
After pouring himself another glass of wine, he leaned back against the couch and closed his eyes. Tomorrow was going to be quite interesting.