Chapter 3 - House rules
Avery woke up to discover a pair of blue eyes that were stalking her. She swatted his snout off her pillow and away from her face. It was still dark in her room, confirming her suspicion - it was goddamn too early to deal with him. Surprisingly, his stench had not followed him inside her bedroom. She sniffed the air and smiled as his scent registered in her mind – black bamboo… or something equally manly and grounded. Memories of last night came to her mind – he had indeed taken a shower, which made her feel proud of supplying him secure environment for him to actually shift and tend to his needs. That and outsmarting him to do so without flat out insulting his manly Ego by telling him what to do!
His choice to shift back to his wolf after he had cleaned himself up, gave her more answers than he would have volunteered had he stayed in human form. He felt more in tune with his wolf, which also meant that he was trying to avoid speaking about his past. He must have assumed that her outgoing personality would actually express itself into nudging him to reveal more than he was ready. Little did he know that although Avery could volunteer a lot of the information of what her past had been; she would never poke her nose in someone else’s painful past!
The way that people dealt with their past was different and she respected that. She also respected the right to privacy, even if she would gladly give hers away in order to have her mind preoccupied and not reverting back to the horrors of her own past. Talking seemed to be her therapy but she had witnessed how others coped with their past. And then there were some pasts that were so gruesome that forgetting them was the best way to start over.
But why was he in her room?
The crispy air greeted her and she rolled her eyes, turning to her side. He had not fed the fireplace and just as she had warned him the temperature inside the cottage had fallen drastically. It was more than chilly! It was freezing cold. This was so not the way that she envisioned her morning!
His snout laid on her hip as his massive body was curled close to hers, sharing some of her warmth! At least he had had the decency to stay furry and over the covers! She would have definitely kicked him where the sun doesn’t shine if he had tried something funky with her.
“Make yourself useful and go light the fireplace”, Avery’s sleepy voice suggested. His reply came in the form of a growl that started from deep within his chest. As his head lay over her hip, she could actually feel the vibrations of his throat. “Great. I am stuck with a snarling brat!” she huffed at herself, pretending that she didn’t notice the menacing growl that echoed from him. “Didn’t your mama teach you to use your words?” Avery questioned him without so much as glancing his way.
His head shot up from her hip and this time the growl came too close to her face for her liking.
“You should know your morning breath is a killer. There’s a spare toothbrush and toothpaste in the cabinet in your bathroom”, she informed him, gently nudging him to go as she pressed her palm to his snout swatting him away. He snarled at her laying back at his place, resting his head over her blanket covered hip. This time his left paw remained on her leg, in what seemed to be a very possessive and domineering stand. If he thought he was establishing dominance over her by doing so, he was up for a rude awakening. Avery closed her eyes and nestled in her bed sheets, mumbling, “When I wake up, I better not find you sprawled naked on my covers!”.
He snarled, poking her waist with his snout.
“And if you know what’s good for you, you wouldn’t move an inch lower, or you will live to regret it”, she announced referring to her butt and nestled in her pillow, readying herself to fall back to sleep. He slid his paw over her hip and tapped her hand with his snout, demanding her attention.
“What do you want? Can’t you see I am sleeping?” She roared back at him to which he replied with a snarl. “Fine, I am up. If you go fetch me some coffee, I would go start the damn fireplace”.
He repeated the growl against her effectively stopping her attempted negotiations.
“Listen, buddy, I don’t know how you came to be, but if you are living under my roof, you will have to follow my rules”, Avery snapped at him and sat in her bed. “First, you work for your stay. Pick a chore then do it. As long as you put in your two cents, I will tolerate your skinny, growling ass! Secondly, this” she pointed at him and her and then the bed, “ain’t happening. So forget about it. I chose my men and you aren’t making the cut. And FYI, I ain’t buying what you’re selling there with the growling. Now scoot and remember if you treasure your package, don’t sneak up on me ever again or let’s say you won’t like the feel of the consequences that shall follow.” She promised him.
He growled at her again.
“And thirdly, take a hint and use the freaking toothbrush. You morning breath is almost as bad as the stench you brought in last night. Oh, and thanks for bathing!” She beamed a big smile at him.
Alternating critics with praise was an effective psychological tactic to solidify a desired behavior, or at least her books for raising kids claimed. And boy did she read a lot on the subject! The plan to help battered she-wolves raise their cubs in almost entirely she-wolf environment was overly ambitious. Avery quickly figured that out the moment that she realized that the pups outnumber the adults 5 to 1.
The wolf yawned at her, letting her bathe in his morning breath.
Avery could swear that he was doing it on purpose and that pissed her off.
“That’s it! Get out!” Avery shouted at him and pointed to the door. He didn’t move a muscle which only made her roll his eyes at him.
“That’s what I get for taking in a stray!” She huffed and snatched a pillow from her bed and hit his snout away from her face. His surprise at the insult was priceless, making her victorious smile so much more enjoyable. She softly shifted on the bed as if she just hadn’t assaulted it and turned her back against him.
She was tensed. It was now that he would either attack with one swift bite at her defenseless neck or he would just accept his situation. She stretched as the minutes passed and then rolled her eyes as she headed towards the master bathroom. The last thing she saw before she closed shut the bathroom door was the way that he sprang off her bed onto the floor, landing gracefully and reluctantly accepting his predicament.
Avery unwillingly got out of the bathroom. She was sleepy and still couldn’t believe that he had awoken her up in this ungodly hour. Eight freaking a.m! Her eyes were heavy of sleep. Even the extra crispy air in the cottage was not able to make her start her day! Nor was the shower that was supposed to be refreshing! Miss Devenheart’s book had kept Avery up all throughout the night, until she had finally succumbed to a deep slumber. One thing was for certain, Avery was not a morning person!
Since the wicked werewolf had not allowed her to sleep in late today, she had to resort to her secret weapon - coffee.
She needed it!
She craved it.
Until she had that first taste of goodness in her system, she all but felt in her zombie like state.
Preferably kick his ass to move away.
Coffee at last.
As the first sip touched her taste buds, the exhilarating rush ran down her system. It was as if her senses were waking up for the very first time. She nestled into her sweater, letting the coarse fabric rub against her skin, bringing memories of long lost happiness to her mind.
“I swear if you moan, I will throw you out to chill in the snow!” the gruff voice brought her back to reality.
“My house, my rules. If you don’t like it, take your skinny ass outside”, Avery replied and continued ignoring him, enjoying the pearly white view through the French doors. The scenery seemed so peaceful…
“I am well-knitted, not skinny, girlfriend” his voice intruded her peaceful time with her coffee.
Avery rolled her eyes. She must have irritated him more than she realized if that had sprung up his desire to shift and exchange few words with her. She had seen it before. Her humble experience told her than weres choose either their human or wolf form as a form of confrontation. It was as if the spilt between a human and an animal was actually helping the person to accept and deal with whatever nightmare they were currently battling with.
In his case, he had tried to intimidate her with his wolf and even had gone so far as invading her privacy and when that hadn’t worked he had resolved to good old human “barking”.
Avery smirked as that has been her goal from the get go.
Avery 2: Rogue 0.
Her smile grew wider as she kept her back to him. It wouldn’t do him any good to see her gloating!
She was winning him over and he was following her lead, accepting his human personality back.
There was hope for him after all!
Now she only needed to cement his resolution to stay human.
“Aren’t you a ray of sunshine! I think I preferred when you were growling. Feel free to shift back!” She told him fully expecting him to defy her order and unintentionally do her bidding. Staying in a wolf form was dangerous for both of them. He could lose his person and she was nowhere a match to his strength even in his battered state. A human she could reason with and properly handle between her own training and the stashed shotguns and knives that were hidden around the cottage.
On the other hand, his wolf was unpredictable. Even if she had defied him the night before, she knew he had allowed her to do so. She wouldn’t be able to go toe to toe with him for much longer.
Therefore it was essential for him to stay human.
“That ain’t happening”, he coldly informed her.
I still got it, Avery smirked at her own thought. She was definitely on her way to make him compliant with her house rules.
“Oh, whatever!” She pretended to be uninterested in his decision and took another sip of her coffee.
His steps told her he was moving across the kitchen, fetching coffee for himself. Maybe she could hope that the hot liquid will refresh his mood, too?
“How does this even qualify as a coffee?” He questioned.
Nope, apparently not.
Even a good cup of coffee was not enough to combat his sour mood.
“That’s how I drink my coffee. If you don’t like it, then by all means feel free to make yourself a cup!” She said and turned around to walk towards the sink. She was about to wash her own mug when she noticed his tall frame and well-knitted muscles that compiled his fully naked body. A really NUDE body that he was parading in front of her as he made himself a new cup of coffee.
His smug face said it all – he caught her staring and knew he was anything but skinny! She had to give him that. He looked quite athletic and judging by the scars on his torso, not always on the winning end of the fights he picked. Even the scar stretching diagonally from below his collar bone to his left ear did nothing to undermine the raw energy and confidence that he was projecting. He arched his eyebrow urging her to speak.
“Put on some clothes”, she retorted and locked her eyes on his face. His blue eyes had an earthy color to them, which make her think they are a shade of grey or green interlaced with that muddy blue.
“Unique wolf”, her wolf supplied.
Before she could snap at her own wolf, he winked at her.
Oh, no, he just did not do that!
She fumed, crossing her hands in front of her chest, assuming a more arrogant stand that mirrored his cocky expression and snapped at him, “What?”.
“I am waiting for the apology. I am not skinny!” He smirked at her as he served himself some coffee. She kept her eyes on him and noticed that he was drinking his coffee black. She should have known that the razor sharp persona of his would like things neat, organized and simple.
“That…” Avery circled his muscular frame with a finger “is supposed to impress me?”, she questioned. Of course, his physique was impressive, but she would rather die than let the smug pig know how much he affected her in all his naked glory. She couldn’t help but notice the coiling muscles of his hands as he sweetened his coffee.
Damn, it’s been a while since she had felt so uninhibited around a male shifter. The isolated cottage and the weather were getting into her head. She was not a hormonal bitch that her wolf was so eagerly portraying her to be. She knew better than to fall for the same mistake twice. Tall, dark strangers equaled bad boys, and they were just that – BAD NEWS.
“Your heartbeat says otherwise”, he told her steadily, taking his spoon out of the mug.
“I’ve seen better!” Avery said and then finished off her coffee never bathing an eye away from his eyes. If he wanted to assert his dominance on her, he had another thing coming. Long time ago she had vowed to be her own person, her own boss, never taking shit from anyone ever again.
“As if”, he snorted and walked closer to her, daring her to submit and lower her eyes.
The very same moment Avery realized two things. One, he was no ordinary rogue. Rogues did not expect submission to this level. How had she missed it last night? Oh, yeah, she was busy staying alert and not being chewed off by his wolf! Maybe she was even more involved into reading her book than into paying attention to him after he had ultimately broken her plate.
Was it childish to hold him responsible for breaking her china?
But in her defense, he deserved it. That plate held memories that she actually wanted to keep.
Moreover, he had interrupted her reading. Devenheart’s book had been captivating from start to the point where Avery had dozed off. She had been too exhausted to continue reading it! Speaking about the book, it only served to distract her from the real problem at hand, allowing her to successfully hold her stand in their staring competition.
Adhering that closely to the hierarchy of strength and authority was a trait that only Alphas or weres of power possessed. She now gave account to all the growling and fussing – he had to be pissed that she tried to push him around and he was set in proving his dominance and masculinity to her. That’s why the bastard shifted in front of her and was currently trying to stare her down and make her lower her eyes. The second thing that flashed in her poor mind, that was trying to warm up and start working again, was that if she did lower her eyes in submission (as he was expecting her to do), she would irreversibly glaze a specific part of his anatomy that she was so avidly trying to avoid.
No need to inflate his self-esteem more than it already was!
Avery held his eyes for as long as possible, which only brought entertainment to him. They both knew that it was just a matter of time before her wolf exposed her neck to him. She-wolves were genetically predisposed to accepting males as more powerful. Bowing to the authority of a male was customary. It didn’t matter what his position was. He was a male and therefore stronger than a she-wolf!
That presumptuous assumption alone infuriated her to no end!
Moreover, he was proving his point – it might be her house, but it would be his rules for the duration of his stay. He was exerting his dominance and claiming her as his dependant, which her wolf was gladly going to comply with.
Despite her anger, Avery couldn’t blame her wolf for wanting some protection. They both needed someone to rely on. But he was definitely not that person.
Rogue wolves with power were even more dangerous than the ordinary Rogue. Unlike other Rogues, those that once held power in the hierarchy of a pack, comprehended Rules and Laws but chose to ignore them. That made them unpredictable and spoke much more than they usually did. Those were the Rogues that you should be on the lookout for, that you are warned out for.
And Avery had unknowingly taken one in!
Apparently taking in strays was coming to bite her in her ass much quicker than expected.
But what was the chance of meeting a high ranking wolf so deep in the woods? In no man’s land at that?
Slim to none!
That was how low!
But what was he doing here?
Her curiosity was going to get her killed. She knew it from before but right this very moment she fully comprehended the situation. Curiosity and compassion were her ultimate flaws and weaknesses!
Sure, the proximity to the Palace and Pack Law Headquarters was an annoyance that she always had to consider even before settling in this land, but it was not enough to intrude in her privacy. Isolation was the remedy that she needed and she prescribed it in heavy doses to herself quite regularly since that dreadful day.
“Why are males such pigs?”.
Her lips mumbled the words before she registered it. His reaction startled her. A deep and quite loud gleeful laugher erupted from deep within his chest, while his head rolled back, allowing her to glance at his neck, effectively releasing her of their staring competition.
He was exposing his neck to her, allowing her to win their argument.
She used the moment to push past him and put the kitchen island between them, obscuring the view to his private parts. Not that she hadn’t wanted to give him a more detailed once over, but she had manners! Moreover, she would never willingly give him the satisfaction of knowing how much his stature seemed to affect her.
“Fine. Message received loud and clear.” He chuckled and headed to the spare bedroom.
Avery stole a quick glance at his retreating figure. Broad shoulders and toned behind! Damn it! Why did she have to look at him? More importantly why did he have to shift all of the sudden?
Because you pushed him, her wolf supplied.
How was this her own fault was beyond Avery!
She could live with him as a furry pet, but now that he had shifted, she felt attracted to his masculine body. Damn werewolf genes! Why did he have to have such a perfectly chiseled body? Why couldn’t he be skinny and unattractive as she first assumed he was?
She needed to keep her cool or else he would smell her arousal. And then there will be no end of jokes he would surely make for her frailty!
Avery reluctantly took a deep breath and busied herself in the kitchen. By the time he came back to the kitchen, she had already started preparing breakfast. The moment that he neared her, her nose picked up the unmistakable fresh Colgate scent that lingered with him. Her eyes snapped at his lips that pulled into a friendly smile, revealing a row of pearly white teeth. With so many things going for him – his overly attractive figure and masculine stand, why did the Goddess have to give him straight teeth? Couldn’t he at least have a couple of crooked ones? Did he have to be so perfect?
She quickly peeled her eyes off him and continued working on their breakfast silently. He had actually left to properly dress himself. Oh, well, as properly dressed as one could be in the size intended for another and style that was modern a whole decade ago! The red-and-white square shirt left from her uncle was a size or two too small for him. He actually had to roll over the sleeves of the shirt to hide that the sleeves were barely reaching his mid forearm. The material was stretched snugly against his bulging muscles, proving that he was bulkier than the average male shifter. And if that was not enough indication for his raw power, it was apparent that he had seen better days and obviously lost some weight going through whatever ordeal left him battered and blooded at her doorstep.
“Snap out of it already! It’s not the first time you see a male!” Avery scolded her own mind for all the thoughts she was having.
“Anything else that you wish to roar about?” He asked entertained.
“Fireplace”, Avery promptly responded, earning a frustrated growl from him.
“Check the damn thing, girlfriend, before you start issuing orders!” He winked at her and flopped down the bar stool opposite her. Avery rolled her eyes, not bothering to hide it. It would serve him right to know that she didn’t think of him as the sex-god she knew he would be.
A what now?
Where did that come from?
“Call me girlfriend once again and you will live to regret it”, Avery snapped angrier at her own mind than at him.
“Sure, thing, sugar”, he teased her, keeping his eyes on her hands as she was preparing their breakfast.
“Has your mama never told you that biting the hand that feeds you can be bad for your health?” Avery issued her own threat.
“I can smell poison”, he smirked, touching his nose with a bit of excitement that she would even try to threaten him. It was true; werewolves could smell poisoned food and therefore would not eat it. Not that she would ruin any of her dishes with such ingredients! At her indignant face, he retorted, “And since you brought my mama to the conversation multiple times now, hasn’t yours never told you that taking in strays is the stupidest thing a she-wolf could do?”, he inquired.
“I must have dozed off at that lesson”, Avery waved him off and then applied “Plus, are you seriously going to complain that I didn’t leave you to fend for yourself last night?”
“Thank you for that, but that was beside the point”, he said in a serious tone and grinned as she pushed the plate with his breakfast a little bit more forceful than needed. It slid across the table and he swiftly stopped it.
“Careful now, I would hate to have to clean up after you smash another plate again!”
“You ungrateful mutt”, Avery roared at him and threw the water bottle at his face, hoping to hit him square in his face with it. Unfortunately for her, he managed to snatch it with his long fingers and brushed her off with a smile that irritated the heck out of her.
He was good.
If she had managed to compel him to do her bidding the night before, he was quickly evening the field this morning.
“So why did you take me in?” He asked impatiently.
“I didn’t want to be responsible for your skinny ass freezing like a popsicle on my porch”, Avery replied emotionless.
“There it is again. I thought we sorted out my ass situation. Or do we need a repeat?”
“Exhibitionist!” Avery mumbled before she dismissively waved him off. Not paying him any mind had to hurt a lot more than any smart retort that she could muster at this point.
“So where’s your mate?”
“When is he coming back?” He asked while she continued to eat her food as he was not talking to her. How were you supposed to tell a complete stranger that might as well turn into a serial killer that you were all alone in a very secluded, private location with him? That was a plain invitation for him to chop your head off or even worse! Avery had seen too many movies to be that trusting. She might be naive to open her house to a stranger, but she was not unnecessary suicidal.
Moreover, the conversation of how badly she hoped that she never crossed paths with her True Mate ever again was much more than personal and difficult for her to discuss, even with a person who she had known for years.
And she knew him for less than a day!
“Wouldn’t you like to know!” she thought and shoved more of the food in her mouth.
“Careful now, hon, or else if you choke I might not come to your rescue… on time”, he attempted to lighten up the mood, failing miserably at it. He must have realized that she was using her food as an excuse not to answer him, as he waited impatiently for her retort.
If the silence was getting him out of his comfort zone, then she would keep her mouth shut.
Suck that, jerk face!
Nah, his face was too pretty for that nick name. Hearing him try out different endearments to substitute the he had obviously forgotten her name was amusing and provoked her to come up with a whole series of names for him, none of which flattering!
Damn it, she was never good with authority figures. And she could bet her cottage that he had Alpha blood. It was showing in the way he handled himself… in his manners…. In that irritating smirk that flashed on his lips the moment he recognized he was getting to her. Who else, other than an Alpha mutt would be interested in establishing his own rules in a household that did not belong to him?
And what was he doing on her land anyway?