I’d never liked being the center of attention. When I was eight, my parents threw me a surprise party and nearly invited the entire state of Pennsylvania. The cheers of my closest family and friends should’ve made me happy, but I was mortified. Every picture taken of me that day, my eyes are blood-shot red and almost swollen shut. I cried an entire ocean.
Becoming the alpha somewhat broke that fear, but I still get the urge to vomit and hide under a rock on some occasions. However, as Arlo’s luscious lips landed on mine, I didn’t think twice about the shoppers’ judgmental stares.
I expected something hot and intense, but this time his kiss was slow and passionate. His tongue slowly collided with mine as he gently held on to my hips, leaving me wanting so much more. I followed his lead, but a part of me wanted to wrap my arms around him and deepen the kiss. But I refrained from doing so and just enjoyed his gentleness.
I kissed him until my lungs demanded air and pressed my palms on his chest to push him back a little. He rested his forehead on mine as we caught our breaths.
“Excuse me?” Someone interrupted the moment from behind me. I peered over my shoulder to see a worker looking irritated as she pushed a shopping cart. She rolled her eyes, “I don’t mean to interrupt this love fest, but I need to pick these up, and you’re in my way,” She huffed, pointing at the mess I made moments earlier.
I sheepishly mumbled a ‘sorry’ and turned to leave with Arlo trailing close behind me. Multiples times, I asked him to go away, but he kept following me like a lost puppy following its mother. Stopping
“What do you want from me?” I growled at him as he followed me to the registers.
“I want to talk to you, Astrid,” He said, reaching out to grab my waist. I swatted his hand away and put a reasonable distance between us. He frowned, unhappy with my reaction.
“We still have unfinished business to discuss,” He reminded me. At this point, I was so fed up with his games. One minute, he insisted we reject each other and move on with our lives, and the next, he’s kissing me and breathing down my neck. My wolf didn’t deserve the heartbreak he was causing her. I didn’t deserve it…any of it.
“Who understands you!” I dramatically slapped my hands down to my sides, “We were kissing seconds ago, and now you’re coming back with this rejection bullshit again. I’m tired of dealing with this mate bond, and I’m tired of you. Leave me alone and don’t speak to me again after this.”
I could tell from the frown on his face he was very hurt by my words. My wolf cursed me out for speaking to him like that, but he needed to realize I wasn’t a play toy he could use when he got bored and then threw me away like nothing.
His shoulders dropped as he watched me walk away from him. Fear slowly crept up in my chest as I made it to the check out line without him chasing me down. I looked back several times to find gone from there. He disappeared.
I felt so guilty for speaking ugly to him as the cashier checked me out. What if he took me seriously and left me alone after this? Was this truly the last time I’d ever speak to him? I would regret it forever if he rejected me and never showed his face again. That’s not how I wanted to end things.
The sudden commotion at the end of the line had everyone moving out of the way. My eyes widened as Arlo appeared and demanded the cashier to stop her work. She mirrored my confused expression but did as she was told.
“I’m sorry to keep you people waiting, but this is important,” He announced to the long line of people before he motioned towards me and explained, “Recently, I had the opportunity to take this beautiful woman on a date, and I screwed it up. She’s perfect and everything I could have hoped for in a mat…girlfriend,” Arlo corrected himself. Meanwhile, the fear was back, and my face flushed a deep red. Everyone stopped to watch this mortifying moment go down.
“W-what are you doing?” I croaked with embarrassment. Despite the uncomfortable look on my face, he continued pouring his heart out.
“I understand that she’s angry with me and doesn’t wish to see me anymore. I accept her rejection,” He said. All the women stared at him in admiration, completely hypnotized by his demon charm and not fully understanding his words. Even the cashier seemed happy to be interrupted by him. Although I knew it was an act, it still made my heart skip a beat.
He continued, “Her happiness in life means everything to me, and if she chooses to walk out of my life forever, my heart will be shattered, but I will let her go. I’m only asking for one more night to spend with her to make up for my wrongs,” His words earned an ‘aww’ from the ladies gazing at him. They’d believe anything that came out of his mouth was golden.
“Astrid,” He held my hands as he asked me, “Will you please make me the happiest man and have dinner with me tonight? I’m not leaving from here until you say yes,” He insisted, crossing his arms.
The crowd of women eagerly anticipated my answer as I stood there baffled by the scene. I pondered over the weight of his offer. I couldn’t help but feel like there were some truths behind his words. He accepted my rejection but wanted to spend one more night as mates before the bond no longer existed.
“If she doesn’t say yes, then I will,” An elderly woman spoke up. Like the smooth man, he was Arlo placed a gentle kiss on her hand and thanked her for the offer, making her blush.
“You’re a real piece of work, Blackburn.”
“Is that a yes?” He asked keenly, grinning.
“Hell no!” My denial only hung the fakest frown on his face and nasty looks from the women. He was making himself look like the knight and shining armor in front of them to manipulate me. Little did they know how dangerous he was underneath the blanket of his kindness.
“I understand,” He shrugged, “I guess we’ll just have to stand here all day and waste everyone’s time,” At this point, everyone began chanting and demanded I say yes. Had he not dragged me out of my gallery a few days ago, then I wouldn’t have believed him now. He indeed would continue to stop the line if I didn’t agree to go out with him.
One dinner with him wouldn’t hurt, right? What’s the worst that could happen.
“Fine,” I grumbled, throwing daggers at him with my eyes. He grinned mischievously and helped me carry out the groceries to my car. With a smile on his face, he told me that he’d have his beta come and pick me up from my house. I tried to tell him this was unnecessary, but he insisted on having someone pick me up.
The afternoon dragged on as I continued to run my errands. I found myself continually checking the time, waiting for it to be night. Again, I met up with Derek and Nicole to discuss some pack business, hoping that the distraction would magically make the hands on the clock speed up.
By the time I reached home, it was finally time to start preparing for dinner. It wasn’t a date, but I felt the need to put on makeup and dress in a tight-fitting black dress after I had a long shower. I didn’t care to impress him, but I wanted to look nice if we went somewhere fancy. This is what I kept telling myself.
With shaky hands and a growling stomach, I flipped through the tv channels, impatiently waiting for his beta’s text. He seemed to be running a few minutes late, adding to my anxiousness. However, the chime on my phone soon came, alerting me he was close by. I leaped from the couch and snuck out of my house without being spotted or the patrollers becoming suspicious.
It was fairly late at night when I hopped into my car and drove a couple of blocks out of sight from the pack-house. I didn’t want to alarm any of my pack members with the presence of a Blood Rose member on our property. It would definitely raise some suspicions if someone caught me leaving with the beta of our enemies. I’d be forced to tell them about Arlo, which I didn’t want to happen anytime soon.
I parked on the side of the road and waited for his beta to show up. The black escalade pulling up behind me along with another text confirmed his presence. His beta I pre-judged earlier turned out to be a female. A woman with long blonde hair and a biker-style came out of the driver’s side and opened my door.
She keenly greeted me with a smile and a firm handshake, “My name is Kiera. If there’s anything I can do to make you more comfortable, just let me know. We should be there in an hour,” She informed me, making sure I was buckled in the backseat before she took her place on the driver’s side.
“Do you know where we’re going?” I asked, watching the passing cars and buildings out of the tinted window.
“Of course,” She glanced at me in the rearview mirror, “Arlo has dinner plans for the two of you back at his place.”
I didn’t ask any more questions after that. My palms began to sweat while this jittery feeling took over my body. When he asked me to dinner, I expected to go out somewhere outside Silverhill like last time, but he had other plans for us.
We’d be alone together in his house.