Deadly Mates Excerpt


~ JADE ~

I shuddered as flares of hot adrenaline shot through my limbs.  My legs crunched and snapped, a hollow, echoing sound, as they twisted and reformed.  It was weird shifting; I could feel each bone in my body bend and break, but it was also a rush — electric.  My face was numb and tingly as my snout became a nose.  I still expected it to hurt.  It sure sounded painful.  But it wasn’t.  The adrenaline that came with the shift was invigorating, coursing through my blood and sending each nerve ending into a breathtaking current of delirious heat.  God, how I love this feeling.

The cool fall breeze prickled along my bare skin, littering it with goose bumps, but I hardly noticed. My heart was thrumming against my ribs, and my breath, short and fast.  I lay on my back, the cold grass tickling my sensitive skin, as I gazed up at the canopy of trees overhead, catching my breath. The leaves danced in the wind, a mixture of pumpkin and cherry and lemon.  A few fell from the branches, floating to the ground around me.

The sound of a wolf’s whimper and grunt flitted through the air, and with a groan, I pushed myself up to my feet, feeling each achy muscle in my body as I rose.  I pivoted in place, scanning the small clearing for the wolves I knew were close by, keeping my muscles tight and ready.

A rumbling growl filled the air and I swiveled to the right.  There wasn’t much light in the small clearing.  The sun was just starting to rise; the sky, peeking through the trees, was a deep denim blue with soft veins of gold.  I strained my eyes and senses, keeping my stance ready.  It took me a moment to find the wolves, but when my eyes landed on them, I couldn’t stop the burst of laughter that erupted from me.

Jared and Beck were heaped together in a tangled mess of paws and legs, nestled at the base of a thick oak tree in a pile of leaves.  I may not have been physically stronger than they were, but I was by far faster.  I laughed again.  I just couldn’t help it.  I’d only been a werewolf for a week and already, I’d managed to outsmart and outmaneuver the big, bad enforcers.

Beck poked his gray snout out from underneath one of Jared’s paws.  His eyes shimmered with flecks of gold, and he gave me a big doggy smile and let out a playful yip, before squirming out from underneath Jared.  They both managed to get back on their feet, and as soon as they did, Jared’s deep brown coat started to ripple as he began to shift.

I shook my head and smirked, swallowing the giggle that bubbled up in my throat, and darted into the trees to fetch my clothes before Jared could finish his shift.  It was one thing to stand stark naked in front of them as wolves, but I still wasn’t all that comfortable doing it while they were human. Well, okay, to be honest, it was more that I wasn’t comfortable standing in front of Jared naked.  I didn’t trust my inner-wolf to behave.  She was pulled to Jared, enthralled by his dominant scent more than I liked or cared to admit.

I had just made it behind the broad pine where my clothes were stashed when Jared called, “Where are you running off to, kitten?”  The huskiness of his voice made my inner-wolf squirm and my spine straighten.  I sucked in a breath, trying to calm the beast within me.  Darn it!  I loathed the effect he had on her.  Even the sound of his voice made her perk up, sending excited shivers along my skin.

“To get clothes on,” I called, snagging my underwear and bra from the pile and yanking them on hastily.

“We’ve seen you naked before,” Jared said, chuckling.

I bristled, seriously not needing the reminder of Jared seeing me naked.  It had happened yesterday after seeing Aidan for the first time in two days.  My inner-wolf had been crazy worked up.  She’d been furious at me for walking away from him — her mate — and when training started, Beck and Jared had gotten the brunt of her fury.  I’d had them both cowering at my feet within five minutes. When I’d shifted, my stomach was growling.  I couldn’t get the food-like clouds that Aidan had pointed out, out of my mind.  And my inner-wolf couldn’t let go of the way rubbing against his hand made her feel.  The contentment, the tingling skin, the frantic need to get closer to him, to have him.

After we’d shifted, Jared had tried to use his scent to soothe her.  It didn’t work.  She’d gone wild, taking me over.  If it weren’t for Beck, I would probably be mated right now, and it wouldn’t be with the wolf that I knew, without a doubt, was mine.  No matter how pissed I was at Aidan, my inner-wolf and I both knew that he was my mate.  It was a feeling, something deep within my bones.  My inner-wolf recognized him as hers — as mine — even if I wasn’t ready (didn’t want) to claim him.

Jared’s chuckles echoed in my ears, and I felt my heart beat a bit faster.  I huffed and shouted, “Doesn’t mean I have to stand there and let you gawk.”  I didn’t mean to shout it, he probably would have heard me at even a whisper, but right then I couldn’t control my tone.  A blush flared along my skin; it started at my toes and spread all the way to my cheeks.

“I don’t gawk, little girl,” Jared growled.  He was trying to sound fierce, but I caught the humor and something that sounded a whole lot like longing in his tone.

I rolled my eyes.  Jared didn’t exactly gawk, but he also didn’t hide the fact that he looked.  And that appraising gaze he gave me after I shifted yesterday, well, it made my inner-wolf shudder.  But the thing was, Jared was a dick, plain and simple.  Other than his enthralling scent and the undeniable strength he had within the pack, there was nothing about him that I really liked, well, at least nothing that would make me want to take the mating jump with him.  He was friend material, loyal beyond sanity, but nothing more, and each moment that passed, I regretted it a little bit more that I hadn’t asked Beck to pretend to be my mate.  Beck was hot, but nothing about him made me, or my inner-wolf, sing.  It would have been a safer choice.

“Uh, yeah, you kind of do,” Beck said, laughing.  “Why’d you shift, Jade?  It was just getting fun.”

I grabbed my jeans, tugging them on, and grinned.  Fun.  I had to admit, learning to use my scent and manipulate them with it was kind of fun, but no matter how much fun it was, I was exhausted and achy and I’d had enough for the day.  “Because I’m freakin’ tired, is why,” I said, as I buttoned up my jeans.  “We’ve been at it for hours already and besides, I have school.”  And you guys haven’t let me get a full night of sleep since I became alpha female, I thought, not bothering to remind them. Each time I did, they only insisted that it was all part of my training.

“Your dad’s coming home tomorrow and you’re going to school?” Beck asked, amusement clear in his timbre.

I cringed a little at the mention of my dad.  I wasn’t ready to see him or talk to him.  I sucked at lying to him, and I had no clue how I was going to act as if nothing was wrong.  I still didn’t want to believe the video Erika showed me.  I had watched it at least fifty times since the first time I saw it, and each time I watched it, I wanted to throw up.  How didn’t I know he was a shifter?  How didn’t I notice that he was like an evil spawn of Satan?  I sighed and said, “Yep, Aidan said …”

“When were you talking to Aidan?” Jared’s breath was hot against my neck and his voice, a low growl.  I stiffened and my breath caught in my throat.  He pressed against me, his skin warm against my bare back, and I cursed myself.  I needed to pay more attention.  I couldn’t let them sneak up on me like this.  I couldn’t let down my guard.

“He sent me a text message last night when you were in the shower,” I said, hating how raw my voice sounded, and how crazy guilty I felt all of a sudden.  I cleared my throat.  “We are the alpha pair.  It’s not like I can ignore him forever.”  Except, I had kind of planned on doing just that.  Well, at least until the whole werecougar mess was dealt with.  He didn’t need the complication, and honestly, I already had enough to deal with.  The last thing I wanted to think about was whether or not I could get over all of his lies.  He may feel like home to both me and my inner-wolf, but I just wasn’t ready to forgive and forget.

Jared placed a hand on my bare shoulder, letting his fingers trail down my arm.  My inner-wolf stirred restlessly as his heady scent engulfed me.  “Stay home with me.  I promise it’ll be a hell of a lot more fun.”

“Why in the world would I want to do that?” I asked sweetly, stepping away from him, and yanking my T-shirt over my head.  I didn’t give him time to snap out a response before I started to walk away. The hot, salty scent of sweat and anger spiked in the air, and my inner-wolf fought me with each step I took away from him, trying to force me to stay.  I didn’t think I would ever understand that part of me.  Why my inner-wolf reacted to him so strongly, I still didn’t know.  Sure, Erika had said it was because she recognized a dominant male — a potential mate — but as far as I was concerned, Jared had no potential, not as my mate at least.  And my inner-wolf had already picked her mate; we just hadn’t claimed him yet.  Shouldn’t knowing that her mate was close by change her reaction to other males?

I’d only made it a few steps before Beck’s rumbling warning reached my ears.  “She’s his, Jared.  She has been from the day they met.  You’ve got to back off.  Let all this shit go before you have both of them out for you, man.”

For about half a second I thought about spinning around and telling them that I wasn’t his; that I didn’t belong to anyone, but I didn’t.  The truth was I belonged to Aidan just as much as he belonged to me.

Jared and Beck followed me, keeping their distance, but I still caught their murmurs as they discussed what the plan was for tomorrow when Dad got home.  I was dreading it.  Dreading all of it, and I hated how glad I was that Jared would be with me, staying in the house, helping me deal with it all.

When I stepped out of the forest into my backyard, the scent of Belgian waffles and bacon frying drifted around me and my stomach growled.  Mom hadn’t been working since Jared moved in and to my dismay I really didn’t think his presence bothered her much.  She doted on him like crazy, always cooking for him and cleaning up after him.  They chilled out, watching movies together and joked around — a lot.  I knew the mouthwatering scent wasn’t for me.  It was for him.  Not that it really bothered me, it was just something I noticed.  If I knew anything about my mom, it was that she loved to take care of people.

But Jared on the other hand … He’d only been living with me for three days now, but he was already getting on my last nerve.  He was taking our little act way to seriously, and he was enjoying it far too much.  Especially when Aidan was watching.  I didn’t know how Aidan could stand to watch Jared and I together.  I was certain that I wouldn’t be able to do it.  And God help the wolf or human that tried to move in on him.  Yes, it had been my idea to make the act look real.  Yes, I knew that in order to actually fool my dad, we needed to successfully fool the pack and the town.  The more people that knew it was an act, the more of a chance my dad would catch wind of it.  It had been Dad’s idea to mate me to an enforcer when he thought I’d lost the games, and if we had any chance of figuring out exactly what he was doing, playing along with his suggestion seemed like the best way to do it.  But honestly, I was beginning to think that Jared believed I was, or soon would be, his mate.

“Mmmm, she made me waffles again,” Jared said, coming up beside me and draping a loose arm over my shoulder.

“And bacon,” Beck added.

“That’s what it smells like,” I said dryly, shrugging off Jared’s arm.  “Way to point out the obvious, guys.”

I rounded the house and I wasn’t surprised to see the driveway full.  The team hadn’t missed a meal time since Jared had moved in.  I climbed the porch steps and reached for the doorknob, my arm stiff and heavy, my muscles screaming at me to rest.  I clenched my hand around it, and yanked the door open.  And then I heard it, a light, bubbly laugh that really shouldn’t have been coming from within my house.

Marcy was here.

For about half a second I stood in the doorway, frozen, before forcing myself to follow the sound.  I didn’t know whether to be thrilled, because well, I’d been missing my best friend like crazy, or pissed off because she’d actually come by.  She might be like a sister to me, but she had gone too far.  I couldn’t help but wonder if things might have played out differently between Aidan and me if she’d just stayed out of it all.

“Jade, look who finally came home,” Mom said, waving a hand toward Marcy as I padded into the kitchen.  By the look of her, it was a cleaning day.  Her thick, dark hair was tied up in a messy knot at the top of her head and she was wearing faded jeans and a bleach-stained T-shirt.

The team, plus Erika and Marcy, were all gathered around the table.  Landon looked well, hungry, but then he usually did.  His tall and lean frame was hunched over the table, his chin resting in his hands.  His bleach blond hair was gelled and spiked, and his baby blue eyes met mine for a brief second and he winked.  Beside him was Mark, the youngest member of our team, only seventeen.  He was leaning back, slouching in his chair, a thick arm draped over the back.  He had on a light grey hoodie, the hood pulled up, covering his mop of curls.  A few of them were poking out, framing the hard lines of his face.  And then there was Craig with his soft features.  Out of all of them, he looked the most unthreatening, sweet even, but his smaller size and warm smile was deceiving.  When he was on, he was deadly, but right then he was too involved with trying to get Erika’s attention to even notice we had come in.

Over the last few days, meal times had become a bit of a circus with them all here.  Our house wasn’t really small, but it also wasn’t big enough for this many people.  We bought another table, a bigger one that barely fit within the kitchen, but at least it was big enough for us all to sit down at.

I finally let my gaze drift to Marcy.  “Hey,” I said, giving her a little nod.  She looked awkward sitting with the team.  Her cheeks were flushed, and deep crevasses marred her forehead.

“What are you doing here?” Jared questioned, stepping past me.  He hadn’t bothered putting on his shirt, instead draping it over his shoulders.  He gave Marcy a bored once over before sliding into his chair.

“Jared!  Marcy lives here, too.”  Mom scolded, cutting him a disappointed look.  It didn’t even faze him.

“I thought maybe we could walk to school together,” Marcy said, or I guess croaked would be more like it.  “Aidan said you were going back today.”  She made sure to keep her eyes on me, as if she were trying to imagine that it was only us and that she wasn’t really sitting at a table with the pack enforcers.

I didn’t get a chance to answer before Jared said, “No,” as if he actually had the right to answer for me.

I pursed my lips and rolled my eyes at him.  “Oh, shut up, Jared.”  I didn’t care what game we were playing, I was still one of his alphas, even if he didn’t want to acknowledge it.

“Now, kitten.”  Jared’s voice was a low growl.  He didn’t bother looking at me, but his shoulders tensed and I was sure his eyes were a nice shade of gold right then.  “Is that any way to talk to your mate?”

“Will you shut up, please?” I said through gritted teeth, biting back the reminder that I wanted to spit out.  I wasn’t his mate — never would be — no matter how much my inner-wolf craved him.  This was an act.  Something to fool my dad.  Nothing more.

My response earned me a few chuckles from around the table, a long, drawn out groan from Erika, and an annoyed huff from Mom.  She pursed her lips and cut me a dirty look.

I rolled my eyes.  Mom had always wanted me to hook up with one of the pack members, and to say she disapproved of the way I spoke to Jared was definitely an understatement.

Jared looked up, meeting my eyes.  His flared brighter, and he said, “No, I don’t think I will.  You’re not walking to school.”  And then as if it were settled, he grinned at my mom and said, “Breakfast smells delicious, Pam.”

I watched him in stunned silence for a moment, my jaw dropping a little.  My blood was boiling.  It was a serious effort to calm down and not blurt out all the nasty things I wanted to say, but after a few deep breaths, I managed to shimmer down.

I glanced at the table; Jared and the team were already digging in and although my stomach was rumbling, I turned, heading out of the room.  Right then the last thing I wanted to do was sit down with my so called mate and play the sweet girlfriend part.  “Come on, Mac,” I said, waving a hand.

I hadn’t even made it to the doorway when Jared’s growled command reached my ears.  “Jade, sit down and eat.”

“I want to talk to her,” I said, turning toward him like an obedient mate would do, loathing myself for doing it, and if Mom hadn’t have been there watching us, I wouldn’t have, or at least that’s what I tried to tell myself.

Jared dropped his fork, letting it clatter to his plate, and pushed his chair back.  His expression was lethal.  “I don’t like the idea of you walking alone.”  There was an underlying threat to his tone.

“I won’t be alone,” I said.  “And besides, we’re just going up to my room for now.”

He opened his mouth to say something else, but I didn’t want to hear it.  I channeled my scent, feeling the burn of my imprint as it heated beneath my top, sending out a clear warning for him to back the hell off.  He stiffened, and his jaw started to tick.  He tried to hold my glare, but he couldn’t, and I watched as his eyes started to drop.

Marcy didn’t miss what was happening.  She scrambled from her chair and darted over to me. “Come on, Jade,” she said, nudging me with her elbow, “let’s go.”



It took five minutes for my head to clear enough to realize that the insistent knocking sound was actually someone at the door, and by that time the knocking had turned into a head-splitting thud, thud, thud.  And even then, I stayed in bed, staring up at the ceiling.

Slivers of light streamed through the cracks along the edges of my blackout blinds as the sun began to rise.  I shifted my pounding head; the glowing red numbers on my alarm clock read 6:05.  I knew I should probably get up, see who the hell thought banging on my door at sunrise was a good idea, but honestly, right then I didn’t really care.

I felt like hell.  My head was throbbing as if it had its own pulse, and my eyelids were sore, heavy.  I’d only been asleep for about fifteen minutes and that fifteen minutes had been the longest I’d managed to sleep at once in the last three days.  Between the pack, the threat of the werecougars, and the constant, relentless urge to run out, find Jade, and drag her — kicking and screaming, if needed — away from that damn enforcer, sleep had become a luxury; a luxury that I was seriously craving.

I groaned and snagged a pillow, putting it over my head, hoping to drown out the banging.  Maybe if I ignored it, whoever it was would just go away.

It didn’t work.

The thudding came again, loud enough that it felt as if it were shaking the entire house.  Where the hell was Dominic?  He was supposed to be dealing with the pack and their petty issues.  He was supposed to be giving me time to sleep.

I heaved myself out of bed, stumbled over a pile of clothes, and banged into my dresser.  “Dammit!” I growled, kicking the pile of laundry out of my way.  The room I now called my bedroom was small, cluttered, with a king size bed and a worn mahogany dresser taking up most of the space.

I sucked in a deep breath, trying to calm my sour mood.  It helped — a little.  Gritting my teeth, I headed downstairs, not bothering to get dressed.  Whoever it was wasn’t staying.

The banging came again, hard enough to make the windows rattle.  I took the last few steps two at a time and crossed to the door in a few long strides, throwing it open.  “What the hell do you want?” I growled, before it was even fully opened.

“Missed you, too, pup.”  The deep, grumbling voice made my entire body stiffen and the temperature around me rocketed up at least twenty degrees.  My inner-wolf woke up, clawing at my chest, itching to break free, and I swallowed hard, fighting him back.

I looked up, slowly.  I didn’t want to.  I wanted to slam the door shut, but I couldn’t make myself do it.  The two men standing on the deck were people I had wished to never have to see again.  Chris and Tommy, my dad’s most trusted enforcers, the ones that had helped Dad teach — torture — me as a kid, looked almost bored standing in front of me.  My eyes swept over them.  They looked the same as I remembered: Chris, tall and thick, with a chiseled face and goatee, and Tommy, short, stocky, and bald.  They were twice my age and had been with my dad since I was born.

“Get the hell off my deck.”  My tone was calm and controlled, masking the blazing anger that filled my core.  I moved forward, filling the doorframe, rolling my shoulders back and lifting my head, keeping my hard glare fixed on them.  My nerves were already fried, my patience at a breaking point, and this unwelcome visit only managed to send my stress level sky-rocketing.

Tommy smirked.  “Your parents sent us.”  He held out a hand, a folded piece of paper clasped between his fingers.

I narrowed my eyes, glancing down at the paper, and my skin shuddered as my inner-wolf tried to push free.  It took a moment for my groggy, pounding head to catch up, but when it did, I groaned. Mom.  I knew I shouldn’t have called her yesterday.  And I sure as hell shouldn’t have told her where I was or about the pack I had taken over, but after seeing Jade, the way Jared touched her, the way she smiled, that damn kiss … I’d caved.  I needed advice.  I needed …

Tommy waved the paper in front of me, waiting for me to take it.  “You going to just stand there, or let us in, kid?”

“Haven’t decided yet,” I said, snagging the paper and unfolding it.  I scanned the simple note, my jaw tightening with each word I read.  Your mother filled me in.  Use Tommy and Chris however you see fit.  They are there to help and they will stay as long as you need them.  I know I haven’t said this enough but I’m proud of you, son.

It wasn’t signed, but I would have known my father’s sloppy scrawl anywhere.  I read the note twice before crumpling it, balling it in my hand.  Proud of me.  What a joke.  My father didn’t even know the meaning of that word, I was sure of it.  I lifted my glare back up to theirs.  “Turns out I don’t need you guys.  Go home.”  It was a command.  They heard it.  They felt it.  For a quick second, I saw surprise pass across their faces, but then their wolf nature took over.  Their shoulders started to sag and their gazes started to drop.  I channeled my scent, giving the command a bit more punch and as I did, their eyes fell to the deck.

“Your mom filled us in,” Chris said, his voice hoarse, strained.  “We’re here to help, kid.”

I didn’t budge from the doorway.  It wasn’t that I didn’t need the help, because I did; it was the principal.  My father had absolutely no right to send anyone from his team.  Not without speaking to me first.  I hadn’t asked for his help, and the last thing I wanted was to owe him anything.  My jaw clenched and my face heated.  This is my pack — my territory.

Chris snuck a quick look at me and jammed his hands in his pockets.  “Come on, Aidan.  We’ve been driving all night and I’m starved.  At least let us eat and grab some sleep before you throw us out.”

I wanted to stand firm, slam the door, and kick them out of town.  But even if I wanted to, I couldn’t bring myself to do it.  Guilt wormed its way through my stomach.  I knew it was stupid.  I shouldn’t have felt guilty about sending them away.  It wasn’t as if I’d ever been close with either of them; my feelings for them had always been a tossup between sparks of admiration and all out hatred.  And the last thing the pack needed right now was two more hard-headed enforcers hanging around.  As it was, I was already struggling to keep control of the fragile balance I had attempted to create here.  But even if I knew that having them stay, even for a quick bite, wasn’t a good thing, I still felt my resolve slipping.  The idea of having someone that I knew, really knew, close by, even for a short time started to eat at me.  I was pretty sure I was going to regret it, but I stepped back from the door, letting them in.  Really, what harm could a little food and sleep do?

They stepped into my house, keeping their gazes tight to the floor.  “I’m going to take a shower,” I grunted, shutting the door and nodding towards the kitchen.  “Food’s in there.  Don’t leave the house.”

I didn’t wait for a response before heading upstairs, taking the steps two at a time.  I went straight for my bedroom, grabbing my cell phone from the dresser, and fired off a quick message to Dominic telling him to get here, now, and then I scrolled through my contacts.  When I found the number I was looking for, I started to pace the narrow length of my room, glaring at the phone in my hand.  I attempted to rack my thoughts, organize them, sort them, and line them up, but it was a useless effort.  The only thing that kept surfacing in my exhausted brain was that my father had no right to send anyone to me.  This was my pack, not his.  My territory, not his.  My life.  I let out a frustrated growl.  I knew part of the anger that was building in my chest was from a lack of sleep, but I couldn’t seem to stop it.  I glared at his name again and the anger burned red-hot.  I sucked in another breath, let out another growl, and scrolled down a few more names.  I found the one I wanted, tapped on it and brought the phone to my ear.

She answered on the first ring, most likely waiting for my call.  “Hi, sugar.”  Her voice was soothing and warm, so warm that I could actually hear her smile.

“Is there something you forgot to tell me, Mom?” I asked.  I tried to sound firm, but I couldn’t, and before the full question was out of my mouth, I felt a grin tugging at my lips.  Being annoyed at her was impossible, even if she was out of line.  I dropped down, taking a hard seat on the edge of my bed.

“I’m going to assume my gifts showed up this morning,” she said with a wicked giggle.

“Gifts?”  I chuckled, but there was no humor in the sound; it was more stunned than anything.  “On what planet are Chris and Tommy considered gifts?”

She laughed at that, the throaty sound rupturing through the speaker.  “Be nice, Aidan.  They volunteered.  Believe it or not, I think they missed you.”

For a second, I was taken aback.  I couldn’t imagine Chris and Tommy volunteering for anything that involved me.  “Yeah, sure they did,” I said, disbelief thick in my voice.  I paused for a second, pulling in a deep breath, trying to pick my words carefully.  Letting the breath out with a long sigh, I said, “Look, I know you mean well, but you can’t just send me your enforcers.  I’m an alpha now, Mom.  I have my own pack, my own team.  You and Dad need to respect that.  You can’t just butt in, trying to fix everything.”

She made a tsk sound.  “Oh, Aidan, I think you’re forgetting that you’re also my son.”

“They can’t stay,” I said adamantly.  “I’m feeding them, letting them sleep, and then they’re leaving.”

“You can’t send them back,” she countered, her voice losing all motherly compassion, taking on the firm tone of an alpha.  “Trust me.  Chris and Tommy are exactly what you need to fix that pack of yours.”  She paused for a second, inhaling a deep breath that sounded like static in my ear.  “And they’re what you need to get that mate of yours back.”

My grip on the phone tightened, the casing digging into my palm.  “She’s not my mate.”  I felt myself say it, except I couldn’t hear my voice.  The words sounded like a wave crashing in my ears — reality trying to drown me in my own stupidity.

Mom sighed, a gusty sound.  “She’ll come around.  I don’t know a single female that can run from her mate.  Believe me; I tried to run from your dad.  I couldn’t run from him anymore than I could run from the alpha in me.”

I swallowed hard, trying to fight the uneasiness that squirmed within me.  I wasn’t so much worried that Jade would run from anything, it was more that she would do something stupid just to spite me — to get even.  If I knew anything about her it was that she was the kind of person that held a grudge.

The thing was, most alphas never found their true mate, or if they did, they couldn’t act on it.  My parents were one of the few.  I had always believed that my mom won the games simply because she couldn’t walk away from Dad.  Her inner-wolf wouldn’t let her.

And I knew — my inner-wolf knew — Jade was my mate.  The feeling was profound, unexplainable, and undeniable.  I felt it with every fiber of my body.  I hadn’t truly understood the feeling until she walked away.  I’d known I liked her, hell I’d even known that I could love her, but I didn’t understand how much, how deep the feelings ran until I’d stupidly pushed her to the point that she turned her back on me.  I knew she felt it, too, even if she was hell bent on fighting it.  And just like that, another piece of my resolve snapped and broke.

“You couldn’t have sent Lance with them, could you?” I asked, hating how bitter I sounded.  Damn, was I really even considering this?

That earned me another laugh.  “If you needed a father figure I would have.  It sounds to me like you need brute strength and discipline with that pack of yours.”

“Yeah, you’re probably right,” I said, running a hand through my hair.  I hated to admit it, but maybe, just maybe having some help wouldn’t be the worst thing ever.  Surely it would give me a bit more time to try and fix things with my mate if nothing else.

“So you’ll be letting them stay.”  It wasn’t a question.  The certainty of the statement was as if she knew she had already won.

Shit!  If Jade was pissed at me now, what would she be like with Chris and Tommy here?  But even knowing that she would probably kill me for bringing new members into the team without asking her first, I found myself relenting and I said, “For now.”