Maybe I’m hallucinating again? Maybe my wolf finally had enough of the distance. She somehow manifested this replica of him right in front of our eyes.
At the thought, my hand hastily reaches out and grabs his tattooed arm. Explosive sparks run from the tips of my fingertips, straight down to my toes. He’s real.
For a moment, as I stare into those silver eyes, it’s like I’m standing in front of that scared little pup who wanted love from his father. I remember how much I wanted to comfort him and wipe those tears away and tell him everything would be okay in the end. I couldn’t do it then, but what’s stopping me now?
“Oh, you really did miss me,” Arlo remarks as I throw my arms around his broad shoulders and damn near squeeze the life out of him. He’s not bothered by it one bit. His movements are gentle as he drops his backpack and wraps his muscular arms around my waist like I’m a porcelain doll he doesn’t want to break. He sighs in contentment and buries his face in the crook of my neck, his hot breath fanning my sensitive skin. Instant chills.
I can’t fight the smile as he gives my hips a light squeeze and whispers in my ear, “I sure as heaven missed you.” And it’s now that I wish I had the power to freeze time. Standing here in his arms, feeling the warmth of his skin and smelling the musky scent of his favorite cologne. Nothing about this relationship has ever felt right. But this, me and him, embracing like two lost lovers who’ve reunited after a century. This feels right.
And that feeling is what scares the hell out of me.
I let my hands slide down his back out of whim. My body and wolf are telling me to hold on, but my conscious screams warnings.
Despite the pull of the bond, I muster enough self-control to put on the fakest small smile and back away from him. As if understanding my predicament, he slightly nods and leans his back on the wall. He clenches his hands and keeps them glued to his sides.
“How’s it been here?” He says, trying to hide his disappointment. “Nicolas says you’ve been helping in the gift shop.”
I roll my eyes and let out an exaggerated breath. “I’ve considered asking Ms. Hattie for full employment. The paperwork is endless, classes with the seniors are long, and sometimes the guests can be a little bitchy. I hardly have time to breathe when I’m there. As a matter of fact, I think I’ll ask for a raise since the place is haunted.”
Arlo laughs, and the deep rumble sends tingles to my thighs. I shift on my feet and stand there in an awkward cross-legged pose. The dimples in his smile don’t help any. Fuck, don’t make him smile or laugh.
“Already asking for a raise before employment,” He shakes his head, and even that small movement look sexy on him. God, what is wrong with me.
I clear my throat and avert my gaze from his face. “I mean, it’s not illegal, and working at the gift shop is the only thing I have going for myself. Going home to my pack isn’t an option.” I mean to say that with sarcasm, but the truth behind it has both of us sighing and slumping our shoulders.
“We chased Cassandra out of the state and then she disappeared again. I swore I had her this time, but I underestimated her. She was so close,” He grumbles, walking over to the small kitchen window and leaning against the counter. I don’t know why, but I feel the sudden need to comfort him again.
“We’ll find her,” I assure him as I make the stupid decision to walk closer to him. He keeps staring out of the window, unconvinced. I touch his arm and the sparks create that tingle in my thighs again. This makes him look up at me. “She can’t hide forever.” Arlo still doesn’t speak. He just keeps staring at me with lust simmering in his eyes.
My breath quickens as he places his palm over my hand and beckons me closer. My feet follow against my will and our faces are now inches apart. All I’d have to do is raise up on my tiptoes and we’d be kissing.
“Astrid,” He speaks my name and I forget how to breathe, “I want to talk to you about something.”
I shift on my feet and enjoy the warmth of his hand for a little longer. Breathe, Astrid. Inhale, exhale. “About what?”
Arlo raises his hand and tucks a strand of hair behind my ear, and I have to clench my fists, digging my nails into my skin. I’m about five seconds away from jumping this man and shoving my tongue down his throat.
“I wanted to talk to you about us-“
The front door swings open, and I flinch out of his grasp. “Asshat!” Carson jeers, waltzing his way into the guest house like he owns it. If looks could kill, he’d be six feet under from Arlo’s death glare, but Carson doesn’t seem to care. He gives Arlo a manly slap on the back and smiles sweetly. “I knew you couldn’t resist staying away from your favorite brother.”
“Is that all you came here for?” Arlo mutters, his eyes darkening. I’m torn between slapping the shit out of Carson or falling to my knees and thanking him for the interruption. I’m not sure I’m ready to have the us conversation yet. Besides there’s only one outcome- there is no us.
Carson looks at the short distance between the two of us. “Oh, I’m sorry. Am I interrupting?” He says mockingly.
Arlo isn’t amused. “What do you want, Carson?” He growls.
“Nicolas is asking for you. He said to meet him in the study at the shop. And you- “Carson waves his finger at me, “Ms. Hattie needs your help with dinner.”
My brow creases. “Dinner?” Ms. Hattie has never asked for my help nor cooked dinner for everyone. Blair and Louisa have a personal cook. An amazing one at that. I requested a grilled cheese with tomato soup twice this week and she prepared it for me with no complaint. Brenda is outstanding, but me? I burn toast!
“Ms. Hattie wants to make a big dinner for the packs. Kinda like a welcome home for the warriors. She said it would be an excellent opportunity for everyone to socialize.” He uses air quotations on the latter.
I can think of a million other things I’d rather be doing. Hell, I’d prefer working in the creepy shop alone than helping Ms. Hattie plan this disastrous dinner.
When it comes down to business, my wolves might act friendly on the field, but playing friends with the Blood Rose and Silver moon members is another story. They hate each other and aside from keeping me safe, our wolves have no interaction with each other. It’s the reason Blair assigned them rooms on opposite sides of the earth.
“Perfect timing,” Ms. Hattie chirps when I later walk into Blair’s kitchen. The witches are already zooming from each end of the kitchen, helping Ms. Hattie prepare the recipes. The distinct scents hit my nostrils, and it makes my stomach rumble, but I refrain from picking out of the endless dishes.
“This is a terrible idea.” I keep replaying different scenarios as I help Brenda mix salad dressing.
Brenda nudges my arm and smiles. “This is a great idea. Before you know it, everyone will be best friends.” A mirthless snort leaves my lips, and Ms. Hattie shakes her head at me.
They want us to sit together and pretend like everything is roses and daisies. But I can already imagine all the arguments Arlo and I would have to break up. Ms. Hattie is a lunatic. Tonight, is going to be a long night.
I’m proven right when 7:30 rolls around and it’s time to sit down for dinner. Blood Rose and Silver Moon on one side, River Ash on the other.