15 Cat got your Tongue?
Unexpected as it was, Jude’s visit lifted a weight off my shoulders I didn’t even realize was there. Coupled with dinner with Claire and Xavier, I was feeling a lot more relaxed.
Part of me is still trying to come to terms with werewolves being real, but the other part of me has already accepted reality. It’s hard to argue with something you see with your own eyes and Claire had an answer for every question I had.
All at once, the day seemed to catch up to me, so I called it a night. I reflected on everything they had told me as I drifted into a deep sleep.
By the time market day came around, I had come to terms with most things. I sat chatting with Jude. As we talk about maybe doing dinner tonight, I pause remembering Claire’s invitation. I had never agreed, so I tell Jude lest he sells me out again, but make plans to have him over for a quiet dinner.
Just as I’m getting up to go, the pack’s SUV pulls up. Xavier and Claire are here for their order.
“Hey, just the person I wanted to see,” Claire declares, walking over with determination but smiles. “Hey Jude.”
“Hey, looks like you found me,” I laugh, rubbing the back of my neck nervously.
“Jace wants to know, chicken or ribs?” she asks as Xavier proceeds to load their order. He’s back to being the strong silent type.
“Oh sorry, I kind of already locked her in for dinner plans,” Jude says, coming to the rescue.
‘Finally, he can be taught!’ ‘Enough.’
“You were invited too Jude, nice try, but good effort,” she teases, flashing him a mischievous grin.
Jude just gives me his best ‘I tried’ look and shrugs, leaving the ball in my court. “Are you sure it’s not a problem? I can just come another day,” I ask trailing off.
“Bite the bullet and get it over with, you’re getting worried over nothing,” she reassures me, to which I nod. “Great! So what will it be?”
“Um, dealer’s choice? What can I bring?” I ask.
“Jude, that’s all. Just show up and have a good time,” she beams, waving as she takes off before I can protest. “Don’t be late!” Jude just starts laughing like a mad man.
“So what time do you want me to pick you up?” he asks when he finally regains his composure.
I can’t help but frown. I’m feeling like I got played, clearly Trish is rubbing off on him too.
“Four pm it is,” he says before another fit of laughter takes him.
I flip him the bird as I head back to my truck.
At a quarter to four Jude rolls in, a goofy grin plastered on his face. “Ready to go yet?”
“Almost.” I frown as I pack up some appetizers and whiskey.
Jude grabs the bottle and cocks a brow. “Liquid courage?”
I snatch the bottle and drop it back in the box. “Shush, thought we were heading out,” I say disapprovingly. He laughs as he opens the door for me and loads the box in the back seat before heading out.
“Would you stop with this,” he says, tapping my temple. He gives me a sad smile, then says, “You’re your own worst enemy sometimes, you know?”
“Well aware,” I grumble.
I can’t help the images that spring to mind as we get closer to the pack lands. This is my first time back since the attack, and I didn’t leave on the best of terms. Based on Xavier’s description Chris was beyond pissed; livid didn’t even sound like a strong enough description. I shudder at the thought; I’m not sure how I will face him today.
As we pull up, Claire exits the front door and walks towards us. “Thanks Jude, I knew if anyone could get her here you could,” she teases. He rubs the back of his neck as he flashes her a sheepish smile.
She leads us around the side where Jace is playing with fire, literally. He stops instantly when he sees us and quickly makes his way over, stopping an arms length away. He just stares at me, waiting for me to make the first move. I can’t think of anything to say, so I just give him a sheepish smile. Faster than I can blink, he sweeps me up in a big bear hug.
“Oh my god!” I wheeze, “can’t breath,” and tap out. He carefully sets me back down, just staring at me with his signature stupid grin.
“Welcome back my little elf.” He beams. His energy is over the top as his joy washes over me in waves.
I can’t help but grin at his infectious exuberance.
I missed this.
“Hey Jude.” He shakes Judes hand with a nod. It warms my heart to see Jude being accepted. “Oh what did you bring me?” he asks, taking the box.
Xavier offers up beer, which Jude graciously accepts, while Claire grabs the whiskey and makes us a couple of mixed drinks. Before long, we are talking and laughing like old times.
The evening’s entertainment is watching Jace tend the fire while trying not to catch himself on fire. Eventually Xavier and Jude come to the rescue and help him set up the grill and coal bed. A new round of laughter breaks out when Jace pulls out a ‘Kiss the Cook’ apron.
“Wow!” I can’t even keep a straight face for that.
I spot Ethan by the woods and head over. He’s sitting on a log but doesn’t say anything as I take a seat, trying to decide what to say. “Jace is making chicken and ribs, you hungry?”
“We’re supposed to give you some space and not bug you,” he grumbles, kicking the log.
“Says who?” I challenge, then his golden eyes snap up to look at me.
“Well, I was distinctly promised you were one of the guests at my welcome back dinner and yet you are here and the party is there,” I nod. His face brightens instantly as a smile creeps across his face.
“But Alpha said-”
I cut him off before he could continue. “It’s my party after all. I think we’ve been through enough together to get you on the guest list, ” I say with a wink. He gets up smiling and heads back to the party with me.
“Thank you,” he says, pausing.
“Don’t thank me kid, Jace is cooking tonight,” I deflect.
“No. Thanks for coming for me, I thought they were going to get me this time,” he trails off as his breath hitches.
“I will always help you kid! When I saw them dragging you out I couldn’t help but try. I’m just glad it all worked out in the end. But come on, this is a happy dinner, no more about that,” I say smiling, passing him a pop and appetizer. Jude comes to the rescue and starts chatting away with him.
“You’re really good with him you know,” Claire states.
“It’s odd, I usually avoid kids like the plague, but he’s alright,” I say, smiling to myself. “He’s easy though, just feed him and he’s happy,” I laugh.
“Doesn’t that apply to all males?” Claire questions with a mischievous glint in her eyes. The guys just grumble, but don’t deny it.
“So, no Sara either eh?” I ask, scanning around for my number one fan.
“She’s on patrol with Chris.” I stiffen when Claire says his name. She gives me a reassuring smile and I know she says not to worry, but it’s hard wired into me. “They’ll be by closer to dinner.”
Before long, Jace is in his glory grilling a feast when Sara walks up. I casually look around for Chris but he’s nowhere in sight.
“He went to shower up,” she chimes in.
“Who?” I fake ignorance, which she meets with a smirk.
“Chris, I assume that’s who you were looking for as everyone else is already here,” she replies, narrowing her gaze. Sara doesn’t even try to hide the disdain in her voice.
“I never had a chance to say thanks for bringing me those meds,” I say tossing out an olive branch.
“Well if you died it would have made for some inconvenient questions, seeing as you were too stupid to stay here,” she challenges.
‘I see she took your olive branch.’ ‘Yeah and set it on fire; fuck she’s got it out for me.’
“Enough!” Xavier booms. “Keep it up and you’ll be running northern border patrol for the next two months.” She scowls but drops it, opting for a drink and better company as she heads over to Jude and Claire.
Okay, large and in charge Xavier is a little scarier than I expected, but apparently quite effective.
“Making friends again I see,” Jude teases.
I flash him my biggest and fakest smile as he walks over leaving Sara and Claire. “What can I say, I just have that effect on some people. She has barely tolerated me at best since day one and after the club, she’s flat out hostile,” I mumble with a shrug.
“Don’t worry about her,” Xavier simply states as he walks over. “She’s always been a bit rough around the edges. If she wasn’t as good as she is, she wouldn’t have her position. When it comes down to it she will always follow orders,” he says, flashing her a warning glare.
“Except the ones she doesn’t.” He raises a brow when I say that. “When I left the hospital she beat me home with a doggie bag from doc.”
“She is excellent at loopholes. Keeping you alive trumped giving you space.” He frowns. “Overall she isn’t bad, she’s very loyal to the pack, just blunt.”
“What is her position?” I ask, my curiosity piqued realizing they didn’t mention it at the last dinner.
“Head warrior,” she chimes in, clearly having eavesdropped. “Uncommon for a shewolf to hold, and yet I won it fair and square.” I did not miss the subtle warning. I knew she was dangerous, I just didn’t realize how dangerous.
She turns back to her conversation while Xavier goes back to help Jace. I turn to Jude. “I was feeling better about this and things were going smooth, but after her, I don’t know if I can handle Chris tonight.”
Sara’s open hostility has shaken my resolve. Here I thought she was just being nice in her own way bringing me the meds mean while it was just to prevent the inconvenience of my death.
“Relax, she’s one person. Jace, Xavier, Claire, Ethan and myself are all happy you are here,” Jude says as he gives my hand a squeeze.
“Sure has a way of sucking all the fun out of it with their mere presence,” I trail off with a nervous laugh.
A low growl snaps me out of my conversation. Xavier’s ahead of me offering a beer, but before I say anything, I look behind me to see Chris’s back as he heads for the woods.
‘Smooth, you’re on a roll tonight.’ ‘Oh my god cut me some slack, will you?!’
“Chris wait,” I call to no avail. I grab the beer from Xavier and jog off in the direction Chris went.
“Where are you going?” I keep shouting at him but he keeps walking away, just out of sight. “Chris stop! I’m going to get lost,” I pout, trying to reason with him.
I’m too busy watching where my feet are going as Chris has picked a difficult path, to notice he stopped. In my haste I slam hard into his back, falling on my ass and spilling my drink.
“Fuck,” I practically growl out. I sit there, defeated on the ground glaring at my feet as my own temper flares up dangerously.
“What do you want?” His hazel eyes are hard as he glares down at me.
“Has anyone ever told you you’re a hot-headed, temperamental ass?” I challenge with a glare of my own.
‘You trying to die tonight!?’ ‘Nope, trusting Claire and I’ve had enough.’
In a flash he grabs my shoulders, lifting me up before roughly pushing my back against a tree. I hiss at the contact; it’s rough enough to mean business but not meant to hurt me.
“Care to repeat that?” He asks lowly.
I swallow hard. He’s moved in very close and the proximity is clouding my ability to think straight. I snap my eyes to his holding the challenge, but simply reply, “You heard me.”
“Ever think you bring that side of me out?”
That was a low blow.
His words hit with an unexpected force that I can’t help but flinch at. I drop my gaze, trying to hide the effect he has on me but my cheeks still flush.
I struggled to get free for a moment before I feel his hips against mine, pinning me tighter against the tree. I gasp at the sudden contact.
“What’s the matter? Cat got your tongue?” He growls. His face is inches away from mine, so close that I can see his hazel eyes flashing to brown.