I watch sadly as my mate pulls away from me. I make sure to hear her close my door before addressing the idiots at the table.
Why on earth after my hospital stay would they think now is a good time to tell her that the entire pack now views her as their Luna!?
“Really!? You had to go over that now!?” I seethe as I start to tremble.
“She kinda knew man,” Jace tries to defend. “She saw it and asked what was going on.”
“Don’t you think now was maybe a bad time!? Can’t you see she already had enough on her plate? Fuck man, what’s wrong with you!” I could just explode right now.
“Brother, she asked flat out, you would have us lie?” Derek asks, raising a brow.
“No, but fuck, did you have to lay it out like that!?” I say, pinching the bridge of my nose. “She was already upset, this will just make her panic more. With the rogue situation, I can’t have her on her own, and I don’t want her thinking I’m trying to force her into anything or trap her because she’ll run.”
“She’s stronger than you think brother, just be honest with her,” Derek reasons, giving me a knowing look.
“Right,” I scoff. “Hey baby, I need to keep you here so I can protect you because something’s going on. I don’t know what but I think you’re a target. Yeah, that’ll go over well.”
“Maybe don’t rush it, and fix your tone but I think he’s right,” Jace chimes in. “You’re right though, if you handle this wrong she’ll run and it’ll be harder to protect her.”
“Thanks for the vote of confidence,” I say, glaring at him.
I get up and head upstairs to my room. Jess is curled up in bed, sweater still on. She’s struggling, I can feel it. I carefully crawl in behind her, draping an arm around her, pulling her flush against my chest. She’s tenser then she should be, and has her knees pulled up to her chest. Just her contact has me falling asleep in record time.
A few hours later her stirring wakes me up. “Sorry,” she murmurs. “Go back to sleep.”
I stretch and sit up looking at her. She looks so far away. “What is it, baby?” I know she won’t tell me but I have to try. She shakes her head. “You know you can tell me anything, right?” I say lifting her chin.
“It’s just been a lot the last little bit, you know? I’ll be fine, just feel wore out,” she trails off.
I smile at her honesty. “It’s okay, just go back to sleep.”
“I can’t, I already tried.”
After a long pause I finally muster up the courage to broach the next topic.
“I need to talk to you about something,” I start as her concerned eyes snap to mine. “It’s not bad, I’m just worried it’ll upset you.” She frowns, looking away.
“Please don’t, this is important,” I say, taking her hands in mine. “I’m gonna be totally honest here and hope you understand it from my side.” That got her attention.
“The other day, Ethan didn’t run to your house when he was attacked. He ran into those rogues by your house.” I wait for that to sink in, that the rogues were there already.
“Between that and the other attacks we know that they are after something, we just don’t know what.”
“But I thought rogues were solo, that they don’t work as a pack?” The confusion is clear as she adds it all up.
“They don’t normally but these ones are too numerous and coordinated to be typical nomadic rogues.”
“What are you saying?” She asks, training her honey brown eyes on me suspiciously.
“That I need you here where I can protect you so I can focus on getting to the bottom of this.” She looks down, chewing on the inside of her lip, thinking about what I said.
“Okay,” she says quietly after what feels like forever.
I scoop her up in a hug. “Thank you.”
“I do need to go home though a couple times to do a bit of work,” she says with a skeptical look.
“Of course, I don’t want you to feel like a prisoner, but I’d like to send someone to keep an eye on the area while you’re there.” They clearly already know where she lives and will likely try something again if given the chance.
She shrugs, “Guess that makes sense. I need to go for a few hours today,” she half asks, half states.
“Just say when and Xavier will go with,” I say with a smile. She instantly tenses.
“Can Jace or Liam come instead?” There’s a guarded look in her eyes but after how understanding she’s been I’m not about to push it.
“Sure, whoever you want,” I say, giving her hand a reassuring squeeze. She smiles and sighs in relief.
The rest of the week goes by in similar fashion. She went home a couple times to keep up on work, and meet Trish to set her up for the market. Jace and Liam accompanied her each time. But the rift that started the day I ended up in the hospital only grew.
We sleep in the same bed, but she feels so far away. She talks less and less, it feels like the more I reach out, the more I’m losing her. She keeps saying she’s fine, but we all know she isn’t. Jace is at a loss of what to do, even Derek and Claire have nothing to offer.
I hate seeing her so withdrawn and subdued. I’ve come to love her laugh and that fire in her eyes and it’s been at least a week now since I’ve seen either.
I’m just starting the mountain of paperwork on my desk, looking at her curled up on the couch reading when it hits me. I reach for my cell without hesitation.
“Hello? How soon can you get here?” I pause for the answer. “Okay, see you then, in my study.”
She doesn’t even show any interest in that.
A half hour later, patrol links that he’s entered our territory and is heading to the pack house. I hope I’ve made the right move here, but at this point I’m feeling a bit desperate right now.
Moment of truth as he walks up to the door and knocks. Again, she doesn’t even look. “Come in,” I say walking towards the door.
“Jude,” I say shaking his hand.
Her head snaps up in shock. I smile and nod over at her. In an instant, she’s up and wrapped in his arms. I can’t help the pang of jealousy as I watch them.
“Hey, I missed you too,” he says, smiling. He catches my look and slowly releases her.
“Baby, why don’t you and Jude go grab some lunch and go for a walk or something,” I say.
She turns to me, wrapping her arms around my neck and gives me a kiss on my cheek before whispering thank you in my ear. Her smile isn’t forced for the first time in a week.
“I would have called him sooner if I realized that you missed him this much,” I say with a reassuring smile. “He’s your friend, if you want him over he’s more than welcome.” She beams at that.
God I live for that smile, I just wish it was for me.
“Go, I’ll catch up with you guys later.”
Jude nods as he turns and follows Jess. He doesn’t need a link to know that I called him here for her.
The rest of the afternoon goes smoothly, my mountain of paperwork starts to go down quickly now that I can put my full attention on it. Jace links me to keep me in the loop. Jess went down with Jude for lunch, now they are out in the back garden just talking.
I finish up just before dinner and clean up before heading down. Jess walks in followed by Jude with an added lightness. She walks straight over to me, wrapping her arms around my waist, setting her head on my chest. I kiss her head as I wrap my arms around her.
I look up smiling at Jude but his regular relaxed attitude is replaced by a brooding silence. Even when we’ve come to blows he’s taken it well, but right now he looks ready to start a fight. Makes me wonder what she’s said about me to get him this upset.
“Food’s up,” Claire announces, breaking up the room as people grab dishes to take to the table.
Jess sits next to me with Jude on her side, who still won’t look or talk to anyone.
‘The fuck did they get up to?’ I link Jace.
‘No idea, he was fine at lunch, and mid afternoon when I saw him. This must have happened in the last hour or so.’ Clearly Jace has also picked up on the brooding hostility.
“So Jude, how did you and Jess meet?” Derek pipes up.
I swear he chooses the most awkward topics to break the silence with.
Jude snaps out of his funk momentarily. “We met at the market, she has a way of making an impression,” he laughs as the light dances in his blue eyes. He smiles as he clearly remembers good times.
“Sure does, did she shoot you too?” Derek asks with a raised brow.
“What!? No!” He’s thoroughly confused then he turns to Jess. “You shot him?!”
She crosses her arms and pouts. “I winged him, he broke my bow and pierced my shoulder.”
Jude’s jaw tightens as he turns to glare at Derek while the table laughs. “Relax,” she says, laying a hand on his arm. “We’ve apologized, it’s all good now. He even replaced my bow with one ten times better. It’s fine, I promise.” He visibly relaxes at that, and dinner resumes.
Jace, Xavier, and Derek start talking about the rogue problem and Jude starts to get upset again. “No need to talk business at dinner guys, I for one could use a distraction,” I cut in.
Jess is holding onto his arm, whispering something to him but it’s clearly not working. He abruptly stands up, she’s grabbing and pulling on his arm now.
“Jude please don’t!” She begs, “Let’s just go outside, come on please.”
“What’s going on?” I ask, trying to keep my tone level. My gaze shifts between the angry man and my upset mate and I feel my own temper rising.
Her eyes snap to mine, the worry barely hidden. “Nothing, we’re just going outside for a bit, aren’t we Jude,” she says pointedly.
He grumbles, clenching his jaw but reluctantly lets her drag him out the back door.
I look around, no one is speaking up. Jace just gives me a confused shrug. I get up and follow them out back. I find them in the middle of the back lawn arguing.
“How the fuck am I supposed to just sit there like nothing happened Jess?” Jude fumes.
“Please just let it go. You wanted to know, I told you, and now you’re turning it into a big deal,” her frustration is clear.
“It is a big deal! He can’t just treat you like that-”
“I’m trying to protect her Jude,” I cut in. “I’m not trying to hurt her, I just can’t risk anything happening to her!” I’m barely containing my anger.
How dare he question how I take care of MY mate!
“Not you,” he snarls. “Him,” he says nodding at someone behind me. “You may want to reconsider who you trust your mate’s wellbeing to.”
His tone is low and dangerous and his words hit hard as the realization sinks in. I spin to see who dares to upset her, my blood boiling as our eyes lock. “Start talking,” I growl dangerously.