I waved over to the wolf sitting under the hedge across the road. Dipping its head, he caught on that I was relieving him for the day and he and his hunting partner could go home. My eyes scanned the hills as he ran off, but thankfully, they were empty of anything but sheep and cows. Gossip had apparently been rampant the last few days about Kelly’s return, and by accounts, the Ellis pack to the North seemed particularly interested in the whispers of the red wolf’s homecoming.
But so far, the bastard reputation Deian Maddock had cultivated for hyper-violence against his competition seemed to be holding good and none of them had come snooping around. Yet.
I looked up to the house, opening up the gate, and found Iona’s stony face staring down at me from the second story. I returned it, but at the last second, guilt stole across mine and I had to break our stare. Shit. I had no idea how to make this right with her. We were more than neighbors in the last ten years, we had been good friends, and I owed a large part of my ‘coming good’ to her tutelage. She was enraged and reamed me out when I came to her the morning after Kelly had been taken. In her eyes, I had just stolen her newly acquired family and was just like my father.
Kelly was so engrossed in her book in the back garden, she didn’t hear me close the front gate as I walked around the side of the house. I stood on the opposite side of the roses, observing her in the lawn chair facing the house. The sun was out and for springtime in Coastal Wales, it was hot. She must have thought so too as she had a small camisole on and her jeans were rolled up to her knees. Lass could have been sunning herself on a Californian beach. I hungrily eyed the top of her breasts, peaking out of that small top.
For the first time since she had strolled into my life, I had purposefully stayed away. I seemed to gravitate to wherever she was, whether on a hill looking over the ocean, in a maze, in her bed, it was almost unconscious. But for two days since kissing her in bed, I had kept my distance and my fingertips still tingled with the slight touch I gave those creamy breasts.
I was almost mad at myself for letting her shy away from me not once, but twice. I wouldn’t let her do it again. She was attracted to me, wanted me or at least her body did. It screamed at me every time I was near. Her pulse quickened, her breath bated, that heart of hers almost jumped into my hand when I hovered over her chest. But then her brain would catch up and make her remember whatever was holding her back.
I pursed my lips together, leaning on the fence and taking her in. What was holding her back? Of course it was the whole situation. My quick internet search of ‘Kelly Devon Jones’ led mostly to a university website, showing an announcement and picture of her at her Doctorate presentation, and then another smiling at the same event with friends. From what I knew about her, she was an independent, educated, and very opinionated woman. No doubt she felt like a prisoner after what Deian pulled off the other night, totally cocking up my own courtship plans. Shit, Red, get in line, we all felt like prisoners here in the Maddock pack. Myself more than anyone.
A prisoner to my father for eighteen years in that goddamn joke of a home. Where his closest ‘friends’ took it upon themselves to toughen me up. Vincent more than anyone took his liberties, right up until I was bigger and meaner than he could handle. Without a mother around, my sense of decency really took a hit until I moved out of Wolf’s Castle and met Iona.
But then I was back to square one and found myself a prisoner to my Alpha’s demands of claiming my birthright. To take over the pack you had to take over the business. All of them. Every time I got near that fucking castle and him, I felt the hostile wall start to go up and I itched to destroy everything he had and kill everyone in the place. I knew Kelly saw the mean kid who grew up there come out more than once. The roughness with how I treated her, the unkind words used for my father’s benefit. I hadn’t helped my cause at all.
Kelly stretched out on the lawn chair, reaching her hands high above her head and pointing her toes until they lifted off the seat. Arching her back and elongating her body in such a way that my dick immediately took notice. Jesus, she had to know I was here to do something like that, just to tease me into stop ogling her. Those long lines of that torso melded into strong thighs. You could almost see the regality of the Jones’ wolf coming through and for once I didn’t blame my father for coveting any wolf that might come out of that woman.
When she finally resumed reading, I figured she was still clueless to my presence and I sank into my lean against the fence, enjoying the silence and the view.
I just couldn’t figure this enigma out. The morning we had met, I could have sworn if she hadn’t just seen my ex picking up the last of her stuff after our break up a month ago, I could have asked her back into the farmhouse for a tumble and she would have come with a smile. Then by the evening in the pub after I asked around and had worked out who she was and what it all meant, she was giving me the cold shoulder, talking about other guys’ cocks, and lying to me that I wasn’t her type.
I smirked at the memory, what a terrible little liar she was. It might have hit home if I wasn’t able to smell her arousal even through her jeans. Not her type, what horseshit. I knew she was my type, regardless of being promised to me thirty years ago. And once I took her to bed, she would never want to be anyone else’s type ever again. We might not have been mates, but we would be together for a long time, so it didn’t matter. Getting there however, was going to be a long road, thanks to fucking Deian.
How to get there? I was a farmer and planned on showing her some of my softer side this afternoon with the lambs. I knew she had a doctorate in Earth Studies, and from the pictures on her phone, she was a nature enthusiast. So that was something we could bond over eventually, when she cooled down and let me act like a normal man trying to woo a woman. Then there was the other issue of how to get her to stay long enough for her to accept it.
I truly regretted the Iona threat, but every time I looked at Kelly, she looked like a bird about to take off and I was stuck on the ground, about to slip through my fingers. The obvious answer was to use her bodily desire against her and make her married and pregnant, which was always planned, but hopefully planned together.
She suddenly lifted her head and lowered her sunglasses to see through the house windows, looking to see if anyone was around. I watched with amusement as she started to roll her camisole up so she was sitting in simply her bra and unbuttoned jeans. My eyes narrowed at the sight and the moral quandary that came over me won out. I stared for a few more moments, trying to engrave the image of near naked Kelly suntanning in my brain before I coughed in my throat and made my way over to her. Kelly hearing it, quickly pulled her shirt back on as I stood over her.
“Having a relaxing day?”
She sat up straighter in her chair and looked me up and down. I had my working clothes on and had been with the cows before coming up here. I was not the image of sex, at least not in the city boy way she was probably used to. But that didn’t mean women didn’t usually imagine it with me.
“Yes, thank you. Where have you been?” She asked, feigning boredom and I had to smirk.
She scoffed at my suggestion but looked me up and down as if I had guessed right.
“Those lambs were late coming, and I thought I would give you and Iona a little space and time together. Some time to adjust to...Wales.”
She smirked and turned off her e-reader to give me her attention.
“What a diplomatic way of phrasing my situation. What are those?” She motioned to the Wellies I had nearly forgotten I was holding in my hands.
“Well, there is still a week till your debut, so these are your work boots, with some thick socks stuffed inside.”
She looked up at me sourly.
“You’re putting me to work? After forcibly keeping me here?”
I waved her complaints away,
“Cut that out now, Red. I know for a fact you love this place and the land. So, yea, after two days of being a lady of leisure you’re going to get off that tight arse and help me do some chores your Da was happy to do when he was a teen.”
Her cheeky mouth snapped shut at the mention of her father and I dropped the boots by her chair.
“Do you have a sweatshirt, or something warmer than those Henleys?”
Kelly conceded and swung her legs over, unrolling her jeans and pulling the socks with boots on. Standing, she replied, “Nope, still very nearly out of clothes.”
“Shit, sorry, I forgot about getting you some more. Come on then, I have something in the truck.” I walked over to the house doors and called out inside,
“Omar, Iona! I’m taking Kelly down the road. We will be back for dinner.”
From somewhere deep in the pantry, Omar replied, “Okay!”
Smiling at Kelly, I grabbed her hand and led her around to the front gate and to the truck. Her hand remained limp in mine, and I squeezed it to try and bring it to life, to make it feel something. But she didn’t respond and I inwardly sighed. This girl’s hard shell was going to be tough to crack.
Rummaging around the back of the cab, I found the white corded wool sweater and watched while she pulled it on. A few sizes too big, but with her red hair down and the boots, she looked the picture of Wales. My own wolf inside voiced himself for the first time since she came to town, fucking preening himself with the sight. The girl could have been on a billboard advertising my country.
There was no doubt that Kelly would be a red wolf. I had no idea why I insisted on waiting until her first night just to see it. More just to goad my father, to insert my own demand in there and make the situation something I would control. Sure, her red hair was the clutch, but it was in the lines of that body and I watched her arse as she climbed in the truck and followed suit. The lines of that body, fuck me, not an hourglass, not a petite and fragile female. Strong, agile, desirable no matter how you looked at her. Even if she turned out to be a muddy brown with none of the benefits of the Jones’ lineage, I was sure I would still want Kelly in my home and at least my bed.
Driving down the lane, her smell of lavender perfume was potent in the cab and I briefly wondered how she came across such a smell. I usually only smelled it on older ladies these days or in gardens. After a minute, we pulled off to my house and parked in the back yard when she finally asked.
“What are we doing?”
I nodded over to the large hay shed a few hundred meters away from the house.
“Those lambs? They all came on the same day. Two of them are sickly and not taking to teet well. So you’re with the lambs while the mothers are taking a break. After, we are finishing up some tilling.”
She came around the front of the truck, giving a broad smile that nearly floored me.
“I’m on baby lamb duty?”
I smiled back, “No need to thank me,” and I bumped our shoulders together while we walked across the muddy yard, “but you always can if you like.”
She gave an eye roll but kept the smile as we trudged into the shed. The lambs had been put inside an enclosed area surrounded by hay and I could practically hear Kelly’s ovaries scream at the sight of them as they were just now starting to really move around.
She let out an uncharacteristic ‘cooo’ before stepping into the enclosure and two of the four soft and delicate lambs immediately went to her.
“Right, I’ll be back in a few, their bottles have to be heated up inside the house.”
She absentmindedly nodded, already under their spell, and I left to usher the Ewes outside into their own enclosure then moving to the house for the lamb’s formula. A few minutes later, I came back out to the yard with four warm bottles and looked around the yard, wondering where Kelly would like to put a garden. She would probably want a greenhouse for the colder months, but she didn’t seem the type to want to farm her own food.
Doing the math in my head, I realized she would probably be pregnant around Spring next year, or even with a very small babe. But we could probably get the start of one and a frame up this summer in the next few months.
I came back into the shed, hearing a new giggle and stilled at the sight inside. Kelly was laying on the ground, hay tangled up through her hair and three lambs now leaning over her face, looking for food. She was trying to fend them off gently, but was obviously not caring if they ended up kissing her face.
I stepped over and they changed their tactic, and got off her to tenderly walk over to me. I handed her a bottle and demonstrated how to handle one. After a minute, she settled in and her eyes grew dreamy as she stared down to the lamb greedily suckling. For all the fire and stubborness in her demeanor, she made the picturesque maternal sight.
After a few minutes in silence, Kelly looked up from her lamb and studied me with mine.
“You’re so different away from the Castle. I can’t reconcile the image of a man who would take time to feed a baby lamb with one that is okay with his father’s ‘other business’.
I let out a deep sigh and leaned my head back on the hay. Maybe this was a good sign. She wanted to know more. Wanted to understand more about how the business worked, I still hadn’t figured out what I was going to do when Deian eventually wanted to hand over the reins, but I knew how much money that side business brought into the town, to my friends and their family.
“I’m not okay with all of it, but I understand how it came around.”
She pursed her lips, incredulously.
“Do you know much about the fishing business, Red? Do you know that even with a fleet of trawlers, most people in this town would just be able to get by? Wouldn’t be able to send their kids to college, build houses. With Deian’s little transportation every month or so, a lot of our friends don’t just live, but thrive.”
She blew some hair out of her face and leaned back, looking down to her lamb, but I pressed on,
“Seriously, without that little side business, this town would be empty except for when people wanted to use the ferry. So no, I don’t approve of some of it, but I understand it. Can you say the same?”
Her hand kept stroking the lamb, her eyes glazed over in thought. Leaving her to them, I studied my own lamb, enjoying the soft wool under my fingers. Eventually she asked, “Do those work?”
I looked up to what she was mentioning, finding her eyeing the two dirt bikes in the corner.
“Like two little dreams.”
“What do you use them for?”
I shrugged, “Taking them to the coast, riding around the farm. Mostly for checking the fences though.” She was staring at them, and I switched out one of the lambs for another, picking up a new bottle while Kelly did the same.
“Do you ride?” Her eyes flicked over to me, and she gave a little nod with a slim smile.
“Not as well as I would like.”
She eyed the bikes again from her seat, almost longingly.
“We can take them out when we are finished.”
“Not afraid I’ll jump on one and take off?” She said with a smirk that hinted with maliciousness. She was still sore at me and I aimed a dark look her way. We sat in silence for a few more minutes while the lambs finished. Once mine had, I jumped the barrier and went over to the bikes, still ticked off.
Enough of this shit. I was not going to be her punching bag forever over something I didn’t start. I was getting fucking sick of paying for Deian’s mistakes, always paying, like an endless ATM.
Kelly was mine. Clear and simple. Her father had taken two of our family from us. The softer side, the side that could have actually made my father into a loving man instead of the cruel, crazy, son of a bitch who’s wolf would chase preteen Rhys down just to prove he could.
Ewan promised to replace that side, to make up for the love lost. And that was her. That was the sons and daughters from her who would be strong and healthy and carry the Jones’ longevity under the new Maddock image I would make when the pack was mine. But she was a stranger in a strange land and I knew I had to go slow with her. I swallowed the anger and turned around to her now exiting the lamb’s enclosure.
“What do you want, Red?”
She looked over to me like I had grown another head and I still felt a little bit of bite in my words.
“Really, tell me what you want. You came to Fishguard by yourself. I know you love the land and Iona, so I assume that you would like to stay in this area in some way. You came looking for help with the new wolf side of you, and I’m offering that.” She bit her bottom lip and looked out the shed doors to the rolling endless hills. She knew I was right but hated me saying it aloud and calling her out. She would have stayed here even if Ewan hadn’t promised her to me. I rolled out the bikes from the corner and out the doors.
I looked back to her, a new emotion on her face I couldn’t place.
“I admit, I hadn’t wanted you dragged into this like you were, but I’ll not deny that I want you. All of you. For everything. Wanted you ever since you sassed me back on my own country lane.”
She squared her shoulders for a fight.
“I want a choice.” I gave an exhale and kicked my boots into the dirt. She knew what I would say. If I didn’t grab her with a little bit of force, someone else would take her with violence. But she pressed on,
“To be told to marry someone because of your father guilted and strong armed mine thirty years ago, it’s insulting. Also, to live in fear for my grandmother, really not okay.”
I looked at her, the Iona part was right and I knew it.
“I already apologized for that, but if you need my promise, Iona will come to no harm by my hand or any others I control. Swear it.”
“And the rest of it?” She challenged.
I opened the fuel tanks to see they were both half full and ready to go.
“Red…,” trying to think of how to word it without raising her ire was tricky. I didn’t want to let her know how much she meant to my future or past and certainly didn’t want to frighten her off by telling her about the surrounding packs gunning for her. They didn’t care about the woman, just the wolf. She cut me off though, suddenly bitter at my silence.
“What if I didn’t want to stay here, what if I wanted to live somewhere else, be with someone else?”
My anger reared with the mention of someone else, the memory of her moaning another man’s name in her dreams, someone taking what had been rightfully mine for so long. I had missed out on so much when Ewan Jones foolishly pranced across my mother’s car and stole them.
I grabbed her upper arms with force, pulling our bodies closer until our faces were close that she could feel my breath. Close enough that the only thing she would be able to focus on was me. As before, her breath wavered and her heartbeat grew frantic but not in fear, in heat. After a moment she relented and her eyes focused on my lips at her eye level.
Surprisingly, her fingers came up and gently touched the scar that dominated my face, her fingers brushing lightly through my beard.
“Do you like what you see? Did you know your dear ole Da gave me this? Right as my mother was taking her last breath in the cold water, right as my sister was fighting her seatbelt and clawing the windows to escape.” Her fingers on my face paused and landed close to my mouth and I twisted my head slightly to kiss them, the anger leaving my voice.
”You were always meant to be with me, I know you feel it cause I can feel you all the time.”
I clasped our bodies together again so my erection pressed through my jeans at her hip. Her breath returned with a gasp and she brought her eyes up to meet mine and I had to drive the thought of me, forever, into her brain.
“There is nowhere in this world you can go that I won’t find you. Remember that, Red.”
Her somber face quickly contorted with resentment at the future I was laid out and she struggled in my grip again. I let go and was surprised when she suddenly hopped on the bike, her own rage growing and she was electric with it. Jumping onto the starter, she brought it to life, and without a second look back at me, she revved it and sped out of the gate and into the hills. Holy shit, my girl could ride, and well.
But she ran, from me.
When I was hard.
She was fucking delusional if she didn’t think I would give chase.