Chapter 9: Progress
It was the next morning and I had awoken bright and early. Well, sort of.
I’ve never been a morning person, but when Knox mind-linked me at eight the next morning saying he’d be finished with my new drywall in about an hour I was far too excited to even think about sleep. I immediately shot up from my bed and threw on a pair of clothes with Knox’s sweater overtop and rushed out of the pack house. I was going on day two wearing it, but I couldn’t care less. It was warm and comfortable, and I liked it.
Throwing my front door open, I was absolutely shocked at how different the place appeared. It already looked 100 times better than it did the day before. An involuntary giggle of happiness bubbled from my chest as I continued turning in circles to inspect every inch. I was caught off guard when Knox joined me in the living room, looking tired and dirty. I gasped at the bags under his eyes but blushed furiously when my own traveled downward to take in his naked chest.
How in the world was he not freezing to death??
“This is incredible, Knox. I have no idea how to thank you!” I gushed before charging him and enveloping him in a hug without even thinking. Well, it was the version of a hug I could actually manage without him leaning down. His entire body tensed up at my embrace, so I started to pull away. He stopped me almost immediately by wrapping his massive arms around my frame and pulling me up and into his chest.
I felt a little uncomfortable for a few passing seconds before giving in and relaxing into his hold. The hug carried on longer than could be considered friendly, but I didn’t mind. It almost felt, dare I say it, nice to be in his arms. I let my head angle to the side and rest against his upper chest as his smell - musk and rain - overwhelmed my senses.
I was enjoying the moment until his face maneuvered into the crook of my neck - a highly intimate embrace that I’d only ever seen fully-mated couples engage in. My body froze before I abruptly shoved him away from me with a little difficulty. He didn’t seem to want to drop his arms from my waist, but I wasn’t giving him an option.
“U-um, how much else needs to be replaced before I can start painting?” I asked, a quiver to my voice as I avoided eye contact.
“I replaced everything that needed to be last night and this morning, but the roof needs to be completely redone. In hindsight, I probably should’ve done that first,” he gruffly replied. My shock at his statement caused me to forget my discomfort as my eyes snapped to his.
“Everything? How?” I blanched.
“I worked through the night,” he stated simply, confirming my earlier suspicion about his exhausted eyes.
“Don’t do that again,” I reprimanded, thinking about his health.
“I’m fine,” he replied curtly, brushing off my concern.
“No, you’re not. Your body can’t function properly without at least some sleep,” I shot back, not backing down from the matter. I felt horrible knowing he was probably bone-tired because he was helping me.
“I’m fine!” he snarled, a deep and feral growl reverberating from his chest due to his anger. I backed off instantly, taking an unconscious step back from fear. His eyes had taken an animalistic hue. That combined with the intense waves of power he was giving off was enough to really scare me.
I didn’t speak, afraid to anger him further. I kept my head down in a show of submission, hoping he’d calm down enough so I could nicely tell him to leave. When the aura around him didn’t change, and instead he took a step closer to me, I had to fight to keep my whimper of fear from escaping. Just from the tension in the room, I could tell that his wolf had taken over his human form and was now in control. I squealed when he grasped my hair in his hand before roughly yanking my head back and to the side to expose my neck. I felt my chest begin to rack from withheld sobs of terror.
I thought I was going to pass out when he made an abrupt move and buried his face within the crook of my neck for the second time. My body was shaking like a leaf but I was trying to stay as still as possible. Any quick movements could be interpreted as a threat to his wolf and result in me being buried six feet under.
It felt like hours had passed before his body’s slight tremor disappeared and his wolf seemed to be at peace, though I knew it had only been a maximum of ten minutes.
“I’ll be back later,” he huskily growled out before removing himself from my body and quickly retreating out my front door. I stood in the middle of the room in shock, not knowing how to process what the heck just happened. I’d never been touched or handled in such a way by a man before that I wasn’t entirely sure what I was supposed to feel.
I wasn’t supposed to be turned on...was I?
Despite my fear of him, I couldn’t help but be somewhat attracted to him and his intense nature and manliness. I must be crazy.
I released a deep puff of air from my lips before pushing the thoughts into the back of my mind and deciding to focus on the task at hand that I wanted to complete; painting. I was about to mind-link Grace and see if she wanted to ride into town with me to pick up the supplies I’d ordered online, but she burst into my house seconds later.
“What are you doing up so early? And how come you stayed at the pack house last night-woah," she gasped while taking a look around. I couldn’t help the proud smile as she examined the new look to the house. My baby is coming along very nicely.
“Who? What? How?” Grace floundered for words with a shocked expression.
“I had someone work on it!” I exclaimed in excitement. She opened her mouth, probably to ask who, but I cut her off. “Will you ride into town with me to get my stuff? I want to start painting the walls today so I can hurry and replace the flooring!” I squealed, bouncing on my feet.
“Why not? I just need to tell Jason where we’ll be. C’mon,” she said while jutting her head towards the door. She stopped abruptly in front of me before trying to discreetly sniff the air. I teasingly nudged her shoulder before bounding around her and basically running to the car. I chose a radio station seconds before she slid in next to me. The somewhat long car ride wasn’t boring, as Grace and I talked the entire ride about anything and everything - though it seemed as if there was something bigger playing on her mind.
“Slow down, you’re going to turn right up here and if their sheriff catches you speeding you’re guaranteed a ticket,” she grumbled.
“Why does it sound like you know this from experience?” I asked with a giggle.
“Because I do,” she sighed, sounding like she was somewhere else recalling the memory. After quickly getting my things loaded into the car, Grace and I decided to stick around town and do a bit of shopping. We looked around the various boutiques, picking up a few cute things here and there before heading to the sporting goods store. We got me a more substantial pair of shoes and a winter coat. Our final stop before picking a restaurant was a furniture store where we got an idea of what to fill my living room and bedroom with once it was ready to be furnished.
We ate at a quaint Mexican place, consuming our weight in chips, salsa, and fajitas. Grace knew the man who owned the place, so we got complimentary drinks on the house - even though neither one of us was 21 yet. I made the mistake of ordering a second margarita when the first one hadn’t hit me. By the time I was halfway through my second, I was incredibly intoxicated.
“My God, these are strong," I said before releasing a hysterical giggle. She nodded before agreeing.
“HOLY GUACAMOLE, POPPY! I’m plastered,” Grace yelled before laughing her head off when I half-heartedly shushed her. We were getting death glares from the other customers, but neither one of us was sober enough to care.
“Shit, Poppy. I’m going to have to call Jason to come and get us. We’re both too gone to drive anytime soon,” she sighed before struggling to pull her phone from her purse and call her mate. I laughed at her failure before she flipped me off and pressed her phone to her ear.
“Hello my heart and souuuuul, I need a ride. Poppy and I got piss drunk on margs and now we can’t drive home. You’ll have to bring someone with you to bring home Poppy’s car as well....shhh honey it’s fine, there’s no need to be mad....I know what day of the week it is!” she growled back. I giggled, knowing that Jason was going to end up backing down and would be coming to pick us up. I also knew that she was going to more than make it up to him as she’d been telling me about the nasty sex she wanted to have with him when she got home after she’d finished her first drink.
“I looooooove you,” Grace dragged on before snickering and hanging up. I finished off the last of my chilled drink before placing way too much money on the table and dragging Grace from the restaurant.
I gasped dramatically before yelling, “oh my God, Grace!”
“What?!” she demanded, her entire body on alert.
"Pet store,” I stated while pointing towards a shop a little ways away. She didn’t say anything in reply, just began dragging me towards the store with vigor.
Entering the shop, we both almost started crying when a hoard of golden retriever puppies jumped up on the little enclosure that was caging them in and began yipping for our attention.
“I’m getting five,” Grace exclaimed seriously before marching over and beginning to coo and pet them. I followed her lead, going even farther and picking one up so I could cradle it in my arms.
I didn’t think it was more than ten minutes, but before I knew it Jason - along with two other guys I’d never seen before - pushed the door to the shop open and shot us annoyed glares.
“I told you this is where she’d be,” Jason grumbled before coming over to Grace and coaxing the puppy out of her hands. He was whispering in her ear, negotiating with her it sounded like before she eventually put the dog down. They herded us like cattle out of the store, apologizing to the owner as they went.
“I’m so sleepy. Will someone please carry me?” I half-asked, half-whined. Jason was already dragging Grace along while supporting all of her weight, so I swiveled my gaze to the two men he brought with him. Both of them shared a look before glancing back at me with unease.
“Please?” I begged pathetically before holding my arms out like a child. The shorter of the two sighed before coming towards me and picking me up bridal style. My body drooped in his arms as I lost all voluntary control of my muscles.
The drive back to the pack was a blur of giggles from the backseat courtesy of Grace and me, and annoyed sighs from the front seat. They grumbled the entire time about how lucky “Nathan” was for being the one alone in my car following behind us. The men released a collective sigh of relief when we pulled into Grace and Jason’s driveway as they were now free from the both of us.
I had sobered up the tiniest bit but was still struggling to walk straight up instead of sideways with a stumble here and there. Grace and I said goodbye before Jason helped force me into the passenger seat of my car.
Pulling into my own driveway, I was surprised to see Knox on my roof, clearly finishing up whatever project he was working on. Had I not been plastered, I would’ve noticed how tense and afraid the man driving my car became.
A large smile enveloped my face as I flung the car door open and stumbled out of my car. Knox walked to the edge of my roof before kneeling and jumping off, landing swiftly on his feet. I picked up my pace as I was walking towards him before launching myself at his body. He caught me easily as I wrapped my arms around his neck and gave him a big hug. He didn’t hesitate before returning my embrace, but after he began sniffing at my skin his body grew tense as slight tremors rippled under his skin.
Confused, I pulled my head back and followed his murderous gaze towards the man who’d driven me home.
"Get. Out," Knox growled menacingly. The man nodded frantically before shifting into wolf form and darting away faster than I’d ever seen, his tail tucked between his legs as he went. My processing and response time was greatly slowed by the alcohol in my system, causing me to take a few moments to realize Knox’s rude behavior and smack his chest.
“Knox! Why did you do that? That was horribly impolite! I didn’t even have a chance to thank him for getting me home safe,” I scolded, furrowing my brows in anger at him. He huffed before directing his glare at me instead of the direction in which the man had disappeared off to.
“Why were you even with him in the first place? Where did you go?” he husked, his words coming out more like a reprimand than a question.
“Grace and I went into town to get my painting supplies and do some other shopping, so while we were out we decided to have lunch as well. I didn’t think the drinks we had at the restaurant were that strong, but they hit me and Grace pretty hard so we had to call her mate and his friends to come and pick us up and take us home,” I explained, my slurred speech having gone away.
“Next time, you call me. I will come and take care of you,” he demanded. I narrowed my eyes at him before shrugging my shoulders and nodding my head. It was nice to have someone who seemed to genuinely want to take care of me and make sure I was okay.
“What were you doing on my roof?” I asked as he guided me into the house with a hand on the small of my back.
“I replaced it,” he grunted out.
“Replaced, or you’re replacing?” I asked apprehensively.
“Replaced,” he said. I gasped, unable to comprehend how he would have already gotten it done. Not to mention that that means he hasn’t slept since he showed me my new walls this morning. Darn him!
“Knox, you’ve got to let your body rest! You’re going to make yourself sick if you don’t!” I growled, angry at the mistreatment of his own body.
“It needed to be done,” he countered as if it were the most logical thing in the world. I huffed in frustration before quickening my pace. I entered my living room and pulled back the blankets on my bed before putting my hands on my hips and turning to face him as he entered the room as well.
“What?” he asked, his eyes narrowing at me after glancing at my stiff posture.
“You need sleep. Now,” I ordered, moving one hand to point at the covered mattress that was still resting on the floor.
“I’m fine, Poppy,” he said dismissively, waving away my concern.
"I wasn’t asking,” I shot back, my tone hard and unwavering.