The Forgotten Claim - The Claim: Book 1

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Chapter 20 - Cameron (Part 1)

Cameron watched her momentarily fade away into her memories on the balcony. He studied the way she leaned over the metal railing, the way her green eyes gazed out at the water and the beach below. He wondered what images passed through her mind. What thoughts she had about the past and about him.

He wasn’t sure what to expect from her when he ventured out onto the balcony. How many lines did he have to toe around? Which lines could he challenge and cross to get her to open up to him?

He wanted to know everything; he wanted to understand her better.

So much was at stake with this visit, he could feel it. It crept under her skin. The smell of it peppered him with the same feelings of anxiety. He wanted to pull her into his arms and steal away all doubts that clouded her mind. He didn’t because this was her battle to fight. The war waged within her and his interference would be a double-edged sword that could strike them both and tear them down.

The progress they had made in the last week couldn’t be thrown away with any recklessness of an over-protective mate—even if his instinct demanded it.

She was strong. He needed to trust her judgment and instincts and let her lead the way through the battlefield.

She took his hand and led him out of the hotel and onto the boardwalk that ran along the beach. Silence followed them for a few minutes until she drew her eyes up from her feet and turned her gaze forward.

“You want to know something funny?”

“What’s that?” he asked.

A grin tugged on her lips as she chanced a glance his way. “You called me Sunshine.”

Confusion pulled at his brows. “I did?”

“Five years ago.”

He thought over the nickname and smiled. “I like it. Sunshine. What does that make Chloe? My little star?”

She laughed. He couldn’t get enough of that sound. He needed to make her laugh more. Lifting her hand to his lips, he kissed her knuckles.

He’d like to have a few more stars with her. Create an entire constellation around them and praise the Moon Goddess.

“You like that?”

Her smile was infectious, the way it lit up her face. Her eyes danced as they crinkled in the corners. She nodded. “It’s pretty cute.”

Pausing in his tracks, he drew her close and brushed his fingers across her cheeks. “How could you ever doubt me?”

A flourish of heat bloomed beneath his caress, bringing with it a rosy shade as her heart danced within. “I thought you just used me. Gave everyone pet names like that.”

“Never. Not even once. Only you. It has always been you,” he whispered, making her shiver.

Her scent grew sweet like honey, drawing him closer to kiss the nectar of her lips.

He needed to show her what she meant to him.

And he needed to show her the truth of what he was.

It was aching within his bones to show her the truth. To take their bond to the next level. To fully claim her and unite their souls the way it was intended.

He broke the kiss and leaned his forehead against hers. His breath came in ragged as fear constricted his heart. “Have you seen the waterfall yet?”

She pulled back and shook her head. “No. I didn’t even know there was a waterfall here. No one told me about it.”

“Some of the locals don’t even know about it. It’s a bit of a hike if you’re up to it, but it’s worth it. It’s beautiful.”

He would show her his wolf there. In the privacy of that secluded place that only his pack knew about.

And if she screamed, no one would hear her.

He stroked her cheek, memorizing the look of contentment on her face. The way her cheeks reddened under her freckles. The way her lips curved up and the lines in her forehead smoothed. The way her green eyes closed before opening slightly and exposing her dilated pupils.

She was so fucking gorgeous when she looked at him that way. His world was never the same after that look. It solidified the gooey parts of him that were fluid and unclear. Strengthened his resolve and clarified his purpose in life.

His shorts became tight as a barely audible rumble of desire vibrated within. While she recovered from his caress, he readjusted himself and reached for her hand. He kissed her knuckles again and flashed her a smile. “To the waterfall, then?”

“Sure.”

He led her back to the hotel parking lot. “It’s a bit of a hike from here. I’ll take us to the edge of town and park outside the forest. Sound good?”

“How far is it?”

“From here, a 45-minute hike, but if we take my car, it will be about a 30-minute hike. You up for it?”

She eyed the black BMW as they approached at the back of the lot. “What happened to your bike?”

He grinned and glanced down at his flip-flops before meeting her gaze again. “Can’t drive a motorcycle in flip-flops and I didn’t want to bring my boots to the beach.”

“You still shouldn’t drive a car in flip-flops.”

She was teasing him, even though he knew she was right. “What can I say?” He flashed her a devilish grin. “I like to live on the edge.”

“You should be more careful. You have me and Chloe to think about now.”

His grin stretched across his face at her pointed words. “I like the way you think.”

She blushed as they stepped up to the slick black vehicle and paused.

He leaned against the car. “So, do you want to see the waterfall or not?”

She shrugged before smiling. “Okay. Sure.”

He kissed her lightly on the forehead before reaching for the passenger-side door and holding it open for her. She ducked her beet-red face as she climbed in and he closed the door. After getting into the driver’s seat, he reached for her hand and brought it to his lips again. The redness in her face only grew another shade deeper and he loved how easily he affected her.

Still grinning, he held her hand during the brief drive to the shack at the edge of town, where packmates would leave their clothes before shifting into wolves. When he parked the car at the opening of the forest, Olivia expressed her uncertainty about parking on private property.

“Don’t worry about it,” he assured her. “I know the people who own this land. If it will make you feel better, I’ll send them a quick text to let them know we’re here.”

He pulled out his phone and texted Alpha about being at the falls with his mate, so he could alert any wolves nearby not to come close.

Putting his phone in his back pocket, he reached for her hand and entwined their fingers. “Ready?”

She grinned. “Yup.”

The path was narrow, only used by wolves, and wove around the trees and thick undergrowth. By the time they reached the small pool and thirty-foot tall waterfall, they were hot and sweaty from the hike.

Olivia looked around in awe at the lush green foliage and the jagged rocks at the bottom of the falls. The water was clear, crisp, and inviting.

“Wow. I can’t believe I didn’t know this was here!” she exclaimed as her eyes scanned over the glistening water with awe. “It’s so beautiful!”

“I know,” he said next to her. “I could have said something super cheesy like, ‘you’re more beautiful’ but I’m not the stinky cheese man.”

Laughter greeted his ears, the sound of it vibrating within him at his core.

“I might be a little stinky after that hike, though,” he mused, making a face at her.

“Tell me about it,” she pulled at the damp fabric around her armpits as she chuckled. “I didn’t think it would be this far, though.”

Without much of a breeze, the thick canopy overhead and around the forest held onto the summer heat despite the shade it offered.

“We can go for a dip.” A crooked grin spread as he pulled his shirt over his head.

Her eyes snaked up his chiseled chest as his muscles bent and flexed. He knew she couldn’t help but be hypnotized by the movements. The matebond lured her to him like a moth to a flame. Her breathing became more labored as heat rushed through her.

“Want to join me?” he teased.

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