Moonstruck: Awakening

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Chapter 6

The next morning I woke early again, just as the sun was rising, and I felt restless. I contemplated going down the hall to use some of the gym equipment. Then I remembered the horror of my training session with James and figured that I wouldn’t be restless for long, so I grabbed the book on the bedside table instead.

Thankfully, Laura had shown me the second living area upstairs they treated as a library, three of the walls home to several bookcases that held everything from cookbooks to accounting textbooks. There had been a pretty good section with some crime thrillers and after reading the back of a few, I found one that tugged on my interest and had read a few chapters before I’d fallen asleep the night before.

A few hours and a couple of chapters later, there was a light tapping at my door and Laura stuck her head in when I called out.

“Morning. Hope I didn’t wake you,” she said, coming into the room and sitting on the side of the bed again.

“Nope,” I said, marking my page and putting the book aside. “Looks like I’m an early riser. Considering you’re up and dressed already, I’m guessing you are too.”

“Yeah. It’s great for work days, not so great on weekends when I want to sleep in. Still, at least I’m not late to anything. So are you up for a little outing this morning?”

Stretching out the kinks, I sat up in bed. “Sure. It might be nice to see something of the outside world. What’d you have in mind?”

“Well if you can stand getting back into last night’s clothes, I have to go down to the post office to pick up a parcel. I thought you could come along. We can have a look at a few of the boutiques in the strip mall, for some nice stuff. Then we could head over to one of the chain stores to pick you up some necessities.”

Again, I could feel the embarrassment at having to rely on the charity of these people. However, having more than two pairs of underwear sounded like heaven to me, so I figured I could just swallow my pride and accept the help when I needed it. There was no question in my mind that I would find a way to pay them back in the future for their generosity. Hey, who knew, maybe it would turn out I was independently wealthy and I’d be able to pay them back as soon as I remembered just who the hell I was. Then again, with my luck, I was probably some professional student with a useless degree and a mountain of student loans. But that was a worry for another day.

“Sure, that sounds great. If you want to give me fifteen minutes, I’ll meet you in the kitchen for breakfast.”

“Great. I’m thinking pancakes.” With that, the perky brunette hopped off the bed and bounced out of the room. Yeah, she was definitely a morning person.

After a quick shower and another game of ‘try to spot something familiar’ as I stared in the foggy bathroom mirror, I headed down towards the kitchen, already smelling the cinnamon Laura must’ve added to the pancake batter. As I pushed through the door, I paused, experiencing a déjà vu moment.

Both Laura and James were already in the kitchen, except instead of Laura being bent over the breakfast bar, this time she was trapped in the corner of the kitchen, chin tilted back at a stubborn angle, looking at James, who was standing way too close, invading her personal space. It looked to be a rather intense moment between the two of them and I was about to excuse myself, when James seemed to shake off the moment, stepping back and throwing a cocky grin in my direction. But the careless expression didn’t quite reach his eyes, which still had a hint of grim seriousness to them.

“You trying to avoid another day of being alone with me, darling? Afraid you won’t be able to control yourself?” James leaned back against the counter near the stove where Laura once again focused on flipping the pancakes that were cooking in the frypan.

“Don’t call me darling,” I said absently, trying to meet Laura’s eyes to see if she was ok. But the other woman was intent on her cooking and wouldn’t look up, so I gave up and focused on the cocky SOB standing in front of me instead. “And I’m totally understanding why Gabe set you up to train with me and be my guinea pig. I’m pretty sure there’s no one quite as deserving of being a human pin cushion as you.”

Slapping a hand against his chest, James pouted. “Honey, you wound me.”

“Not yet I haven’t. But you keep calling me pet names and I’m going to maul you, that’s for sure.” I wasn’t feeling too friendly towards James, what with the grueling training session from the previous day, and the tension I’d walked in on just moments before wasn’t helping me feel any more accommodating towards him. “Besides, I doubt we’ll be out all day, we’re just grabbing some essentials. I’ll be back soon enough for your sadistic ass to start trying to work me to exhaustion.”

“Yeah, well I’m just going off to have a chat with Gabe about that now. I’ll leave you ladies to it.” With that, he pushed off the counter with an easy grace and sauntered out the glass door, heading into the backyard.

Laura’s shoulders dropped as soon as James left the kitchen and I went over to take his spot at the counter.

“You know, it may not be my place to ask, but I figure, I’m already wearing your underwear, so what’re a few more boundaries pushed between us? What’s up with you and James?”

Laura snorted, looking at me with amusement, as I’d hoped. “I may have purchased the underwear, but I never wore it and you know that. Your blatant attempt at trying to make me laugh to forget that egotistical asswipe is as see-through as this window.”

“So is your attempt to deflect the question,” I shot back with a smirk. “Spill. What’s the deal? You and James? There’s enough sexual tension between the two of you to be seen from space and just as much animosity. Gabe said you’ve been like that for years.”

Laura sighed and flipped a pancake out of the pan and onto the stack, pouring another dollop of batter into the pan to go golden brown. Unable to resist, I reached over and snagged the freshly cooked one, tossing it from the fingers on one hand to the other until it had cooled enough for me to hold. Biting into the cinnamon sweetness, I moaned in appreciation. So damn good.

“As much as I hate to say it, James and I are complicated. There are some times, only a few, when I’m with him and he’s not putting on that stupid charming bullshit and it’s like I see the real him. In those moments, I get lost in him and it’s amazing. Then something will happen to break the moment and I just want to slam his head with the nearest blunt object!” Slamming the pan back down after flipping the pancake, as if in demonstration of what she’d like to do to James, the words seemed to pour out of Laura’s mouth. Like she’d broken the damn on her feelings and couldn’t stop the torrent of words even if she wanted too.

“Most of the time he’s like the annoying brother I never wanted. He goes out of his way to harass and torment me, seems to take such joy in making me angry. God, most days I just want to obliterate him from the face of the Earth!”

“Is that before or after you push him down and have your dirty way with him?” I asked calmly, popping another bit of pancake between my lips.

With a harsh groan, Laura buried her face in her hands. “I can’t deny it. The things I want to do to that man, damn, it’s the stuff of pornos. That body and that face, there’s this incredible chemistry between us, a stupendous attraction, then the idiot opens his mouth and starts talking and I go from imagining him staked out naked in my bed to imagining him naked and staked out over an anthill at midday, covered in honey.”

She turned, a defeated expression on her face. “But what can I do? He’s Gabe’s best friend and has been for years. It’s not like I can just sleep with him to get him out of my system and never have to see him again. And I don’t think I could stand to see him day in and day out knowing that I was just another notch on his very impressive bedpost. So this is where we are, rubbing each other wrong like two cat’s in a burlap sack.”

“Wow, now that’s a lot of visual imagery. I’ll see what I can do about smacking him around some on your behalf during training. I have to warn you though, it’ll probably be a while before I actually manage to land a blow because I pretty much suck right now. But I’ll definitely put some intent behind my tries.”

Chuckling, Laura flipped the final pancake onto the stack and turned down the stove, placing the pan on the back burner.

“Thanks, I appreciate that. Now let’s have these while they’re warm and if anyone else wants some, they can cook their own damn pancakes.”

Moving over to the table, we ate in companionable silence, occasionally making a comment, but otherwise just enjoying breakfast. We’d finished and had been about to clear the table when James walked back in through the glass door, followed by a sweaty Gabe clad in an old raggedy t-shirt and running shorts.

His eyes shot straight to me and his welcoming grin shot shivers of lust down my spine. “Morning,” he said in that deep gravelly voice of his.

“Morning,” I answered back in a voice that was way too breathy for my liking.

“What, no pancakes for us?” asked James.

“Make them yourself,” Laura said shortly.

Not reacting at all to the venom in her voice, James shrugged. “Okay,” he said affably and moved to the stove to turn the hot plate on again.

Gabe came around to lean on the back of the chair he usually sat in, so he could talk to his sister. “James said you want to take Em into town this morning.”

“Yeah, that’s right I do,” Laura shot back defensively. “The poor woman has nothing, no clothes or personal effects to call her own. And while I’m more than happy to lend her some of my stuff, Emma needs to go shopping to pick up some things and I need her there so she can try stuff on. Women don’t have a magical ability to automatically know everyone’s clothing and shoe size, not to mention preference. So yeah, we need to go shopping this morning. It’s not like we’re going out for a frivolous female outing.”

Gabe reared back at the verbal assault. “Jesus, Laura, calm down. You don’t have to bite my head off, I agree with what you’re saying. All I was going to say is that under the circumstances, it’d be wise to take someone else along with you for protection.” Gabe’s voice was as grumpy as his expression as he glowered at his sister.

“Well, good then,” Laura said back, looking a bit lost when Gabe gave in so easily.

“Fine,” snapped Gabe as he pushed off the chair. “I’m going to have a shower.” He detoured past James cooking at the stove and smacked the other man in the back of the head.

“Hey,” complained James, as his head shot forward from the impact and hit the range hood above the stove. “What the hell was that for?!”

“I’ve told you not to piss her off first thing in the morning,” Gabe said, stabbing his finger through the air in a short, jabbing motion to emphasize his words. Without looking back, he continued through the door, letting it swing wildly behind him.

“Well this is going to be a fun trip,” I said dryly, to no one in particular.

Perhaps Laura hadn’t immediately understood the implication of what Gabe meant when he said he wanted to someone to come along as a guard, er, wolf. Otherwise, she may not have agreed so easily. Because her reaction when she realized that it was going to be James going with us was almost comical. I probably would have laughed if I hadn’t felt a little bad for her.

It seemed fairly logical that James was the obvious choice to come along. I didn’t know what Gabe did all day, other than it was something to do with accounting and since James had already been slated to work with me that morning, his schedule was free. It just made sense. But Laura apparently hadn’t made those connections herself. When it was time to leave she went to her room to get her wallet and keys, coming back downstairs to find me waiting at the front door. We walked outside and around the front of the house, where there was a large two-story double garage adjacent to the house.

“That’s impressive,” I said, motioning to the building.

“Yeah,” Laura murmured absently as she looked around for our assigned guard. “Our parents had it built when Gabe came finished college, sort of a granny flat, so he could have his independence but still be close enough to train as the next alpha. When our parents died, he converted it into an office and that’s where he works from now.”

“Huh,” I said as I looked up at the second-storey windows. Seemed like a nice setup.

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” spat Laura in a foul tone, bringing my attention back to her.

“What?”

“James is coming with us?”

I followed Laura’s gaze to where James lounged against the side of a dark green SUV, watching us approach with a smirk on his face. He’d obviously caught Laura’s reaction and was going to enjoy it.

“Don’t you ever stand up properly?” I asked. Seriously, every time I saw the man he was lounging or leaning.

“Nope. Slouching just a little emphasizes a man’s physique. You girls have your high heels. Men have The Slouch.” With these words he raised the front of his t-shirt, demonstrating the crunched abs. He let the t-shirt fall and crossed his arms over his chest, making his biceps bulge. While he was not wrong, his complete and unabashed vanity was so self-involved, I could only shake my head at him as I moved towards the car. Laura stopped dead a few steps behind me.

“You’re the one going with us?” she asked, her tone icy.

Spreading his hand and shrugging his shoulders in a ‘what are you gonna do’ gesture, James pushed off the car and opened the front passenger door. “I suddenly had an opening in my schedule.”

Cursing under her breath, Laura otherwise ignored James as she stomped towards the car, wrenching open the back door, angrily getting in, before slamming the door closed behind her. Turning to James where he still held the door open for me, I gave him a look.

“You could at least try not to be so much of an ass around her you know.”

“And she could try not being so much of a bitch to me, but this is what works for us,” was his flippant response. When I just continued to stare at him, he sobered a little and shot a look over my shoulder to where Laura sat in the back of the car, apparently lost in her own thoughts. Lowering his voice as he spoke, I actually saw a moment of true emotion from the man and it made me have hope for him yet. Because I saw true regret shining behind those eyes.

“I would give almost anything for things to be different between us, but it is what it is. And if this is all that I get, well then I’ll damned well take it,” he said quietly.

With nothing to say in response, I raised my hand and cupped his cheek. It was the first time I’d had the impulse to touch any man other than Gabe, but this was about comfort which was what James truly needed at that moment, perhaps even more than Laura.

Getting into the car and clicking on the seatbelt, I studied the car. It was a manual transmission, the gear lever sticking up between the seats on my left and I studied it, idly wondering if I could drive. If I had to guess my age, I’d estimate at least in my mid-twenties, so surely at some point in my former life, I would have learned how to drive. Would I have to learn again? Or would it be like muscle memory and come back to me once I started. Guess I wouldn’t find out till I was actually behind the wheel, but that could wait for now. Another thing to add to the list of stuff that would wait until after I’d had my vengeance.



Authors Note:

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