I saw her before she saw me. She was leaning on the pillows behind her, and her shiny, messy blonde hair lay spilled across the white cotton pillow casings. She wore a serious expression as she typed away furiously at her laptop. I didn’t bother to knock, the door was wide open, if she needed privacy she would have kept it shut, right? She was wearing cute pajamas and a matching loose t-shirt and looking super adorable. Her forehead was scrunched up in concentration and I wanted to kiss it easy.
Whoa there, killer. I had to take it slow. She was already so wary of us. So protective of her best friend and in her head we were the uncertain guys. She was so wrong, we would lay our life down for the Queen, and our mates. She could ask me anything and I would give it.
I coughed discretely and she all but shot off the bed.Her laptop nearly bounced off to the floor before she had the reflexes to grab it. Mental note: she startled easy. Although in retrospect I climbed up the apartment stairs like a creeper, hoping to catch her in her natural environment. Hoping not to disturb her. Wow I sounded like a predator.
“You scared the shit out of me!” She yelled, looking at me with alarmed eyes.
I should have rang the doorbell like a normal person.
“I’m sorry, Ms. Marin.” I tried, hoping to get her back to her adorable focused expression. She was clearly looking uncomfortable now. Looking around for something. Her cheeks were starting to get red.
But what? -Oh. The little minx wasn’t wearing a bra. A slow smile made its way to my face. She was really adorable.
“Don’t you know how to knock?” But boy, was she going to be fire. I couldn’t wait.
“The door was wide open.” I commented dryly, enjoying the red shade she had turned to. The woman thought I would apologize? For seeking something that was mine? No way. We didn’t knock. We didn’t ask for permission, we claimed. We took.
“Well next time, knock. And maybe ring the apartment bell. How did you get in here anyway?” She was now adjusting her pillows again to get comfortable, but she shut her laptop and put it to her right, on the bed. Just as she was done and she turned to look at me, I said, “Reece gave me access, to check on Flora.” I spoke curtly, enjoying her fumbling around looking for something to cover herself up. Eventually she seemed to give up and settled for crossing her hands across her chest - a good decision in my opinion.
There was still a slight red tinge, but she managed to sort her priorities as she spoke to me again, “Oh! Did the blood work come back? She still hasn’t woken up yet!” Now I had her undivided attention. She wasn’t concerned about her modesty anymore. I gave her a head shake, “No, it should still take a few hours, but I needed to ask you some questions about our, uh Flora so that we make a proper diagnosis. Patient history and that sort of thing you know?” I was lying through my teeth but she seemed to believe me.
“Oh, okay. Right now? Are we - uh, I mean is Noori going to come too?” She asked, as she finally decided to stretch and reach for a jacket that was lying on the other corner of the king size bed she was on.
I gave her a small smile, “No, my sister has gone to get some sleep, she was really tired and the results don’t come back till a while.” And I wanted you all to myself, mate. Xena nodded, and then paused. Then she nodded again and got out of bed. I really wanted to know what she was thinking, but that would have to wait.
“Let’s go downstairs then.”
Aaah, so she was debating if we should be here in the bedroom or be in a more formal environment. My little mate, she was already driving me crazy. However, I was no monster and so I nodded politely, spinning on my heel and silently bounding down the stairs. I would let her feel in control if that’s what she needed. But I would be damned if I didn’t let her feel the connection. The spark. The indication that she was mine. I was hers.
We both settled on the dining room chairs. I waited till she sat so that I could sit right next to her, my little traps to keep her close to me. If she thought that this was weird, and I should be on the opposite side, she didn’t show it. This was the fifth Wolf hotel basement that I had been to. Reece always let us stay here, but right now it was unquestionably fit for the two of them. She was looking at me through her lashes, almost as if she suddenly remembered how ridiculously attractive I was. I gave her a smirk and her eyes widened before they averted to an inconsequential lamp on the side of the room. I bit back some remark and tried to keep my giddiness from showing.
“So, how are you liking the stay so far?” You fool! Was that a medical question about our Queen? This woman would not let me think straight! My mate gave me a puzzled look but humored me anyway. “It’s good. This apartment is really amazing and so is the area. But honestly I haven’t explored much of the property yet.” I smiled at her elaborate reply, she clearly didn’t want to kill the conversation and that was a good sign. She chewed her lower lip and I found my restraints dropping. If only she knew what she was doing to me!
“That’s right. Reece told me about the lady in the woods. I am so sorry you had to see that.” At her mention Xena’s body language stiffened. I had touched a nerve. She looked troubled and I wanted to just go and hug her. Comfort her. Promise to protect her from every little thing. She was already my everything. She turned her attention back to the lamp and simply nodded. I guess play time was over. It was pretty late. Almost midnight now. Everyone else was still discussing our Queen and waiting for the elder to land.
Okay then, let’s play doctor.
“So, can you tell me more about Flora. Does she usually have these fainting spells?”
Just one spark. That’s all it would take to start the bond. My human mate, how oblivious she was to my pain. My stars were cursed because if she was a wolf, I could claim her right away - at least mark her immediately. But I wouldn’t ever want someone else. She was perfect. And it wasn’t just because we were paired. But I had noticed her. Her loyalty to her friends, her work. Not to mention how beautiful she was, how confident she was. Reece told me she had a huge interest in cars, her dad owned a garage or something.
She wasn’t a complicated character. She was simple, she didn’t have a messed up history, she had a happy childhood- despite her parents divorce and she had achieved a lot in her life already. I knew it wasn’t the best idea to background check your girl, but I couldn’t wait to know everything about her. I sounded like a stalker, and in all honesty all werewolf men did. But we weren’t obsessive, just possessive. We were part animals after all. I needed to know all the threats in her life, everything that bothered her. My need to start protecting her even though she had no idea that we were destined forever was already so strong that it didn’t matter.
I found just one kink in her life. Her ex, but she seemed to have dealt with him already. My strong girl. Man, I was already whipped.
So far, I’d been really careful not to touch her. We spoke of several things. Her and our Queen mostly. How old they were, what was their family background, where all they had traveled (I threw this one in by informing her of various parasites in some tropical climates, very genius I know) She grew more open as the night proceeded, there was always something about the night.
I noticed little things about her, like her constant lip chewing, her need to fiddle with something all the time, like some of my sheets of paper, the fork on the table, at one point she even started playing with her phone, just rotating it on the table. Adorable.
“So, is that all you need?” She asked me after an hour-long conversation and I nodded.
All I needed was forever. Damn that was cheesy. I made a mental note to growl at some rabbits to feel manly later. She stretched and gave out a cute little yawn. I could seriously kiss her right here right now.
You’d definitely get slapped. It’d be worth it. She’d think you’re crazy. It’d still be worth it.
I looked at the clock, it was 1:23 am. She looked tired and suddenly I regretted not letting her sleep. I should have just waited till tomorrow instead of finding these stupid excuses to talk to her. I already had all the information I needed on the Queen. Stupid stupid stupid. I’d let her sleep now.
“I guess so,” I couldn’t have sounded less convincing. She gave me a puzzled look, but didn’t question it and I was thankful. Both of us got up from the table. I had to activate the bond now. I couldn’t wait anymore. I was about to offer a handshake when she turned to me with a small smile and said,“Great then, I’ll get back to work.”
“Work?” I couldn’t keep the incredulity out of my voice. Her face fell and she gave me a defensive look. “Yeah, why?”
“Well, it’s nearly half past one and you look tired.” I was getting annoyed. Did she not care about her health? What was so important that it couldn’t be done in the morning?
“I assure you, I’m fine.” Even her stern voice seemed tired. I raised an eyebrow as if to say, ‘who are you fooling?’ but she just raised one back. I sighed. She was a grown up woman. she could do what she wanted. Till we mated. Then she would sleep on time everyday and I would make sure of that.
That’s not like a control freak at all. Shut up.
Xena was waiting for my response but I gave her none. I was tongue tied with my internal battle and we began to move towards the door. Well if she isn’t sleeping..
“Do you want some company? I anyway have to filter all this information you’ve given me.” Someone put a leash around my neck already. She whirled around, in her matching pajamas and all, giving me a hopeful yet slightly relieved look. Did she want me to stay too?
“Umm, alright. Let me just get my laptop from upstairs.” She moved without waiting for me to answer. It was weird how she didn’t shy away from me. Most people avoided us as a sort of instinctual action. Maybe the mating bond had already started? No, that wasn’t likely she was human, she’d need some contact.
Speaking of contact, I needed to start it. I needed to get her into my world. At that my will stopped. Did I want to? Reece once told me that if he could, he’d keep Flora out of all this. Protect her from afar because it was just far more safer that way. Far better for her. But as a king he didn’t get that choice. The kingdom needed a Queen, and she had to understand this world. She had to take responsibility. But what about Xena? She was indirectly wrapped into all this too. First by being such close friends with the Queen and now by being my mate. I would have to drag her into this dangerous world, but keeping her close would make it easier to protect her.
I heard a light bump and a curse from the room upstairs. My instincts made me want to run up the stairs in lightning speeds but there was no way a human would pick up that noise and so I had to patiently wait downstairs before I could check my girl for injuries.Ugh, I just wanted to spill the beans already so that we could be one.
She came down the stairs all normal, a laptop in one hand, a longer jacket on and the charger in the other hand, which was also clutching her phone. She had a slight limp but it was nearly gone as she reached the bottom.
She noticed me standing and let out a little laugh, “you can sit you know?” Her voice brought me out of my daze and I found myself turning my head away to hide my blush. What was this girl doing to me?!
I quickly settled on the couch behind me and she did the same after plugging her laptop charger to the nearest power outlet. Unfortunately that outlet was not near me, so nor was she. I needed to plan these things more carefully - my little traps.
She didn’t say much as she started her work, but I refused to let the conversation die down. Fifteen minutes into working, I couldn’t take it anymore and shot up from the sofa. She startled, “What’s wrong?”
“Oh, nothing. I just need some coffee.” I mumbled. She gave me the biggest smile then. “Oh? I was just thinking about that too!” And then moved her laptop to her side before getting up. And then the most wonderful thing happened. The laptop wire that I had been cursing, was low around her feet. She didn’t notice it and took a step forward. And just like that, I had the perfect excuse.
“Wait!” I yelled in a slower tone, before throwing my hands forward and pushing her back onto the sofa. She tumbled right into the soft cushion and I tumbled right on to her. A thousand sparks lit up my skin, running all around and buzzing me with an inviting thrill. If this was the case for me, then for her it had to be more potent. It was designed like that for human mates, to weaken them to prevent escape perhaps?
I moved behind immediately, but made sure to keep both my hands on her shoulders, making sure to touch the bare skin and finally looked at her face. Shock. Surprise. Awe. Confusion. Daze. More confusion. The bond had started taking its turn and confirmed her as my mate to me. I couldn’t be happier.
I pushed away and stood back up, having the decency to look away and act embarrassed. I could still feel her staring at me with those wide eyes, wondering what the hell happened. I bet she couldn’t speak either. I decided to test it.
“Your laptop - the wire was caught against your feet. It would have fallen right down and crashed to the ground.” I offered an explanation like the perfect gentleman. Her mouth formed a small ‘o’ and I could only stare at her as her pale face began to fill with color. Boy, that must have been one huge shock for her.
“Are you okay?” I asked again, concern flooding my veins at her lack of communication and just like that she was back. She looked down, making a good show of analyzing the wire she had almost tripped over with utmost interest and I schooled my features to keep them less cocky.
I extended a hand, offering it to her and she paused. I knew she would think it was too rude to just reject such a simple gesture, especially since I was the one who made her fall back down and was only offering to pick her back up. But she stared at the hand, her expression leaking alarm at the thought of the contact. Another one of my little traps. She knew she would have to take it.
“Actually, I changed my mind, I think I’m good, I don’t want coffee.” Ah. I hadn’t accounted for this and I should have. “Are you sure? I’ll make it for the two of us.” I would make her anything she wanted at this point. A seven course meal included.
She nodded warily and I nodded back with a small smile, nothing too predatory or smirk-y. I spun on my heel and walked to the open kitchen. I heard her release the breath she had been holding since I turned around and then take a few more deep breaths. She would be going mad trying to figure this out. This had been the perfect opportunity - it wasn’t a small handshake or a tap on the shoulder. It was full body on body contact and I loved it.
From the looks of it, she did too. But like any normal human she was too scared of what she didn’t know, and couldn’t explain. She hadn’t gone back to work yet and her laptop lay by her side. I took this opportunity to start another conversation as I poured some milk into the machine. “So, what interview are you working on right now?”
Her eyes met mine from across the hall and she responded immediately, “It’s on one of the upcoming CEO’s of this area. His name is Luca Deta.”
Deta’s being interviewed by her? I never liked that guy. He welcomed us when we came here a few days ago - all local Alpha’s were supposed to do that as a sign of respect. I didn’t want her near him.
“Oh, so what’s the interview about?” I couldn’t help it, I had to find out more.
“He’s been making a lot of progress in the field of animal healthcare and my company wanted someone to do a piece on him. His background and his goals and ambitions and all that. Decent guy. Cares a lot about the environment but..” She zoned out, thinking more to herself than me and I watched her for a minute, her brain turning gears before curiosity got the best of me. “But..?”
“But it felt like he was hiding something. I mean, he is a big man so he must have his own secrets I suppose..” She went off again, spacing out on me. The machine beeped and I got out two cups from a cabinet above my head. Gently pouring coffee into them.
“But you think there is something more to it?” I prompted and she nodded.
“Well, I’ve been doing some research about his latest travels, and I found out that he’s visited Europe seven times in the last year alone. His company website talks about groundbreaking research about a particular type of bird - the Magpie Goose - which is only found in Australia. I mean, shouldn’t he have visited that country at least once? If his major research is in that area?” I walk over towards her and place her cup right in front. I would give it in her hand but the last thing I needed was hot coffee spilling all over her because of the sparks. She gave me a guilty smile before picking up her cup and taking a large sip.
“So what do you think?” I asked her, wanting to keep listening to her speak. Truth be told I was least interested in what Deta did, he was just another local Alpha to me.
“Well, I think he’s trying to hide what he’s really experimenting. Probably so that none of the competitors know what is going on, you know? Companies that are big on R&D often do that - feed false rumors about themselves to throw the opposition off their scent.” I nodded, encouraging her to go on. I could feel her excitement as she voiced out her thoughts. Her trained mind trying to make connections and find a breakthrough.
“So I did some digging, I have a friend in Italy who gave me some information. He spotted Deta at one of their sanctuaries looking to buy some animals. Wolves to be exact.”
Boom! Hot coffee all over my laptop. “Fuck.” I swore, frantically keeping my mug on the table and moving my laptop to the side. “How clumsy are you?!” Xena got up swiftly, moving around the table to grab the laptop from my hand. I let her take it and watched as she quickly headed to the kitchen, grabbed a kitchen cloth and dabbed it gently. She then turned to one of the cabinets and removed a small packet of white colored grains.
“Rice,” She said without looking at me. I must have been staring at her longer than I thought. “It’s supposed to remove the liquid that may have seeped in so your laptop should be good as new. You’re lucky Flora went and bought it on her second day here. Apparently this type of rice has a different taste, we were supposed to try making it.” she explained, moving my laptop into a large container and generously drowning it in rice. “We better replace this before she finds out otherwise she’ll kill us both.” Xena added, as the last of the grains fell on my computer.
But I wasn’t listening. “I uh- I should go and get changed.” I told her, looking down at my pants. I hadn’t even felt the heat from the coffee. She gave me a once over and nodded, trying not to laugh and I would have been embarrassed myself in another situation.
“Are you sure about the Deta thing?” I asked her, knowing that this was out of the blue. It would no doubt raise suspicion in her detective mind. Her expression said it all, but she humored me anyway. “Yeah, I mean, I’m sure he’s a good guy and all. He’s just protecting his information you know? That’s why all the secrecy - it’s just business.”
No it wasn’t.