Streaks of sunlight brushed over the thinned loveseat as they reached to skim over the wooden door. Apart from its empty promises, daylight at least proved to ease part of her shot up nerves. Though, no false comfort could embrace her completely. She knew a locked door and a new day wouldn’t solve her newfound reality.
Mate, bonding, the claiming... Kara’s lungs constricted at the suffocating words churning in her mind. What kind of sick joke was the Moon Goddess playing at? Last evening’s incident resembled more of a nightmare come to life than anything lovely at all.
“Third time’s the charm.” She scoffed. Hadn’t she lost enough in her life?
The cabinet’s handle dug unto Kara’s huddled form, distracting her from the numbness spreading through her bottom. No doubt, her spine would be bruised for a couple of days. As she finally ripped her gaze from the bronze doorknob, her stiff fingers released the frying pan with a resounding clang over the tiled floor.
The Moon Goddess had put her between a brick wall and the end of a pitchfork. Rejecting the mutt seemed like the most reasonable choice, but to what extent? Lena would mourn the loss until her spirit succumbed to the pain and faded into nothingness. If she accepted the mate bond, her panther would come to know another kind of unbearable pain when their so-called mate showed his true colors.
What the hell am I supposed to do? She gnawed at her already abused lip. Both options promised to hurt Lena. Kara couldn’t do that to her panther, the most important and beloved piece of her life.
Well, since you’re asking, the answer to your stupidity is simple. Get your lazy ass up and find our goddamn mate before I come out and rip you a new one! Lena ended with an earsplitting roar. Her playful panther was out the window, replaced with a nonstop pacing ball of clashing fangs and razor-sharp claws.
Dammit, Lee. Kara clambered out of her cornered position leaning against the kitchen island. Her panther’s nonstop arguing had encouraged a rising beat in her brain. Cold fingertips probed at her temples in an effort to soothe the merciless pounding.
Half of her wanted to pack everything and hightail it out of town damning everything to hell, while her other half, the sane part, kept searching for any sensible solution. Every time her eyelids drooped amber eyes awaited her in the dark, jerking her away from any possible snooze.
Lena, sweetie, it’s only the mate bond talking. You need to fight it. That wolf will never be able to make us happy. Yet no matter how many times Kara reasoned, Lena couldn’t understand it and wouldn’t accept it. Her panther awaited unconditional love at their mate’s embrace, as cliché as it may sound.
Why didn’t he chase after us? Lena demanded with an anguished whine. Kara’s chest tightened, leaving her with a turmoil of emotions she couldn’t begin to understand. A heaviness had settled in her stomach while she forced herself to take deep and even breaths.
Kara, he’s not dad. He’s not dad. Lena mewled dejectedly.
We don’t know that, Lee. I’m sorry, I need to think.
A shaky exhale left her chapped lips as she made the first decision of the day. Lena’s enraged growl echoed through her head as Kara locked her panther at the very back of her mind. A confined space resembling a blue-colored padded safety room would contain Lena’s presence until Kara could form any coherent thoughts regarding the ditch-the-mate plan.
Leaving me with a mateless life would have been too perfect, wouldn’t it? You sadistic Goddess. Her meticulously filed nails dug into her palms, bringing a welcomed sting to her roiling senses as her bare feet carried her to the bathroom.
Kara’s arms braced her stiff body against the cold ceramic basin while her neck rotated in slow circles. The joints gave out satisfying pops as pressure seeped out of her aching muscles. Determined eyes inspected the dark circles the hellish night had formed while her fingers tugged at the rat nest that was now her hair.
The wolf had turned her into an anxiety mess overnight, but that ends now. That amber-eyed, sexy as sin muscle-packed hex would not dictate her life. After grinding the toothbrush to flaking bristles, Kara tugged on a random hoodie and deemed herself presentable.
If the mutt thought I would prowl around town to find him, he has another thing coming. She called the shots.
With that last thought, Kara strode out of her apartment leaving the door to slam shut behind her. She deserved to be happy, to have the reigns of her life, and be free. Given, happiness had been an enigmatic goal and she didn’t have any sense of direction.
The cool morning air caressed her bare legs as she strode along the block in search of breakfast. A few morning joggers trotted by the sidewalks without so much of a glance towards her. It was a great difference from yesterday’s overall hostility.
Lena kept clawing at the walls of the safety corner in her mind, sending a jolt to Kara’s chest. I’m sorry Lee. I’ll let you out as soon as I can.
The panther had found her mate and would do about anything to claim him. Her human form couldn’t think of a rational explanation that could counteract her panther’s instincts. There had to be something she’d missed, something that could convince her panther a mate wasn’t as great as the tall tales described.
As Caleb’s bakery came into view, a slight breeze tickled her neck from behind and loosened a few stubborn tresses from her ponytail. The soft draft was enough to bring her back into alertness.
A mixture of scents assaulted her sensitive nose, one of which triggered the memory of blondie’s bloody face being slammed over the bar. Her eyes narrowed as she casually shoved her hands inside the hoodie’s pocket, pretending to be cold.
She counted at least four different scents trailing behind her. There was no doubt one of them belonged to a certain wolf from last evening’s event at the tavern. Her so-called mate hadn’t chased her overnight, instead, he put up his goons into following her. She should have seen this coming. A wolf never gives up the pursuit.
Surprisingly enough, Lena had gone completely quiet, waving her tail in a slow pattern displaying her curiosity at being followed. Kara had to remind her panther this wasn’t a game of cat and mouse. A group of trackers was on her tail to either keep an eye on her or herd her into an ambush.
Just lovely. The sun is shining, the birds are singing, and wolves are going to get mauled by the end of the fucking day.
Kara maintained her relaxed strides as she entered the cozy bakery. At the very least, she didn’t think the wolves would try anything on her in public.
The mouthwatering aromas of sweet pastries enveloped her, ridding her of the slight chill from the streets. A handful of patrons occupied a few booths placed by the establishment’s large windows. Their light chatter accompanied by the warm notes of caffeine in the air followed her to the front register.
Short auburn hair peeked out from behind the glass counter. A closer look revealed the owner’s squatted form, his large hands expertly handling the delicate cupcake display. Red velvet, chocolate chip, and salted caramel were the tempting front line of the sugary display. This is why she couldn’t work at a bakery. All those pastries were in line to seduce her tongue. What a weakness, she mentally moaned.
“Are the truffles placed in the back?” She curiously searched the various trays, but couldn’t see any of the round sweets. If anything could make her feel better, it was the addicting rush of a chocolate truffle. Okay, yeah, it took more than one truffle. Death by chocolate couldn’t sound more perfect.
Leaning a hip against the counter she arched an eyebrow in the werebear’s direction and received complete silence. Minutes ticked by and the werebear continued to shift and rearrange one display of sweets after another.
“Look,” Kara grated out, “I’ve had a shitty night. I’ll gladly be out of your way as soon as I’ve had some coffee so I can deal with the rest of the living nightmare. ”
A forced smile stretched over her lips just as the tinkling of bells at the bakery’s entrance announced the arrival of new customers. Don’t hiss, Kara. Don’t hiss. The unmistakable scents of her stalkers filled the space.
Her pocketed hands tightened around her cellphone while she took a quick survey of the two passing men on the glass counter’s reflection. Lovely, the big bad wolf thought I needed babysitters. What is he playing at? Kara’s glaring eyes locked on Caleb’s dark gaze as he stood to his full six-foot towering build.
The werebear’s thick arms crossed over his chest and his piercing black eyes flicked over the red and white booths before narrowing back at her. “What do you want?” He snapped out.
“I’m not in the mood for a fight Pooh bear,” she sighed, “I’ll have a number four with a cup of coffee, black with three sugars. And add to that a box of truffles.”
“Truffles don’t come out for another three hours.”
“What?” Her strained smile fell altogether. A peek behind the towering oaf revealed a clock placed beside the chalk-written menu. Its ticking hands read 7:40 AM.
“No one eats those in the morning,” he stated bluntly eyeing her from her wild curls to her converse shoes, “Your order will be out shortly. Now get out of my sight, little cat.”
Kara swallowed a retort while shoving a twenty at him.
“No need. It’s been covered.” Caleb grumbled before disappearing behind a pair of white double doors. She could have sworn the bear had muttered under his breath something between the lines of: “You should have eaten enough truffles to kill a pride of lions.”
That wolf. Kara crushed the twenty in her palm and searched the booths for a particular werewolf who started to sour her morning. The glass counter hadn’t provided a detailed reflection of the wolves that entered following her but she could always trust her nose.
With a couple of strides, the invisible trail placed her in front of the owner of the somewhat familiar scent. A light sprinkle of gray in his dark hair lightened stern brown eyes. Although, the man’s bulky form did nothing but make him look out of place in the tight cornered booth.
To an outsider, it would seem he was engrossed in a furious Instagram hearting spree with the constant swiping and tapping over the cellphone’s screen. But to the trained eye, it was quite obvious his attention was on something else. A runaway mate to be exact.
“Let me guess,” Kara plopped her ungraceful self onto the opposite side of the booth, “A beta maybe? He must be a high ranking wolf in the pack to send out a group of wolves on my tail.”
Strangely enough, her words caused a blush to spread over the wolf’s neck and rough stubbled cheeks, his eyebrows reaching his severe buzz cut.
“Who are you?”
He cleared his throat and inclined his neck in a form of respect, “It’s a pleasure to meet you, ma’am. My name is Joseph.”
“Ma’am?,” Kara frowned avoiding the usual greeting, it wasn’t a pleasure to her, “You can call me Kara.”
“Very well. I’m truly sorry, but I will not be answering any questions pertaining to information about your mate. He… wishes to do so himself.”
Kara scoffed. Didn’t she have a right to know about her mate? Well, she did, but to these wolves, she wasn’t in a position where she could demand things. Kara was a new shifter in their territory, possibly mated to their beta. Even that didn’t give her many points in the wolf hierarchy. The Alpha and Luna were the ultimate rulers of the pack.
Caleb placed a plate of eggs and toast, accompanied by a hot mug of black coffee on the table before leaving to attend other customers. As Joseph kindly put it, the information about her mate was being ‘delayed’ by the very so-called mate himself.
Of course, the wolf probably questioned Lulu and would be waiting to ambush her at her scheduled training. A quick glance around the bakery led her gaze to the second wolf sitting at the other side of the bakery, talking with a blonde waitress.
“How’s blondie?” Taking a sip of the strong coffee she contemplated what she could ask this wolf, and how much information she could get out of him. Joseph had tucked his phone away and was gazing at her curiously.
“The lion shifter. How is he? He was bleeding quite a bit over Lulu’s bar.” Well, he was bleeding quite a lot if she were being honest. The cub was cocky, but that wasn’t reason enough to kill him. Her insides tightened with a sense of guilt over leaving blondie to fend for himself. What had he done to trigger furball?
Joseph cleared his throat again and adjusted the collar of his shirt, “Ma’a- I mean Kara. Might I suggest you veer out of the topic of the young lion? Your mate won’t be pleased to hear you’ve been asking about another male who, might I add, was covered in your scent.”
“Just lovely,” she sighed, stabbing the innocent eggs at the mention of what would or would not please the stupid wolf, “Is he alive at least?”
“Yes, the young lion is alive. A bit...sore but alive nonetheless.”
The memory of blondie’s bloodied face being slammed over Lulu’s bar made her stomach churn, threatening to let up part of her breakfast. It was very clear her mate was a jealous and possessive beast. Just the thought made her skin prickle with goosebumps.
Joseph probably noticed the change in her mood at the sickening thoughts the memory brought and tried to comfort her, “I can assure you your mate would never harm you. Wolves can be very possessive over their females, but they would never harm their mate on purpose.” His lips twitched forming a small smile as he continued in a gentler tone, “It must have been a rough night for you by the looks of your tired eyes. Is there anything I can do to alleviate any of your worries?”
It seemed the dab of concealer didn’t do much in covering the dark circles under her eyes. “There is nothing you could say that could possibly calm me. Unless you knew how to break a mate bond,” Joseph’s ashen face was answer enough, “I thought so.”
Kara dipped a piece of toast in her coffee and continued to stare at him as he quickly recovered, “Why would anyone want to severe a mate bond? It is one of the most precious parts of a shifter’s life. It completes us. I’m sure you must be frightened by last evenings ordeal, but I assure you, Kara, your mate loves you and-”
“Hold it right there,” Kara raised her palm, narrowing her eyes at the wolf, “To be complete? Love? You’re a delusional wolf. I do not need to be completed by someone else, I’ve been whole since the day I was born. And I assure, Joseph, that wolf doesn’t love me, he barely knows me. Furball is in love with the idea of a mate and nothing else.”
Kara quickly sipped the last of her coffee before tossing a few bills on the table, but before she could stand out of the booth, a firm hand gripped her arm.
“Wait,” Joseph quickly removed his hand, his pleading eyes searched her glaring gaze, “Kara, if I may speak freely. I do not pretend to comprehend who you are or what lies in your past. You are in an alien territory where your instincts demand for you to run. That I can see clearly. I envy your mate for having been blessed by the Moon Goddess, I trust he will protect you fiercely. I am begging you to hear him out, to give Moore a chance. You are very needed here.”
His words tugged at her insides, leaving her with a new wave of questions. Why was she needed here? Give Moore a chance? She was a simple shifter and a mate to a possessive wolf with petty jealousy tendencies. Right? I don’t think there’s anything I could do for Moore. Her legs seemed to work on autopilot taking her back to her apartment while she ignored the wolves following behind.
She stayed inside the shower until the pelting water over her back started to turn into cold rivulets prickling at her skin. If she planned on going to her training at Lulu’s Tavern she would need a quick power nap. Kara still hadn’t formed a plan to ditch the mate bond, meaning she will have to improvise if furball appeared at the tavern. Sighing, she turned off the shower and wrapped herself in a fluffy towel hoping her training didn’t turn into a war zone.
Not even two steps into her room, the addicting scent of musk and cedar invaded her senses before she found herself pinned to the door by a very angry werewolf. His large hand held her wrists over her head, while his other arm tightened around her waist. The wolf had a determined glint in his amber eyes, but Kara could see his restraint slipping away. His hooded eyes took her in, assessing her state of undress.
A satisfied rumble vibrated through his chest as he pressed himself further into her, rubbing his hard length against her pulsing core. “No.” She moaned, struggling against her base instincts. Yet, her core practically wept and would no doubt leave a wet spot over his jeans.
Finally, he better tie you up. Lena purred content with her mate’s attention. Shut it, Lena. Kara was panting, her mind battling against the mate bond and her insufferable panther.
“Planning to run away again little mate?” Her mate growled nuzzling her neck.
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