“Damn, woman. No. I . . . I’m grabbing a beer.” He scrubbed a hand over his face and headed toward the kitchen. Did she actually think he’d killed an innocent woman? Maybe that shouldn’t hurt him so much, but if she truly thought so little of him it pierced a part of himself he didn’t want to admit existed. He swallowed hard, shoving back the foreign emotion that pushed up inside him. He didn’t give a shit what anyone thought about him. Something he needed to remind himself. Most shifters had an opinion of him simply because of his reputation. That opinion being that he killed first and asked questions later. Maybe it shouldn’t surprise him that Kat would jump to that conclusion too. Unfortunately it did. He’d showed her a side of himself that he’d never showed anyone else. She should know better.
“Grab me one too,” she called out.
With two domestic beers in hand, he found her in the living room sitting on the couch. She had her feet tucked under her and her arms wrapped tightly around herself. “I didn’t mean to imply you’d killed that woman. Well, maybe I did, but I didn’t mean it as an insult. I just wondered what you meant when you said you’d taken care of her.”
Jayce took a long swig of his beer before collapsing on the other end of the couch. There was enough distance between them that he couldn’t reach out and cup her cheek or run his hands through her hair even though that was exactly what he wanted to do. “I called in a favor. A vamp friend of mine is going to scrub her memories.”
Kat blinked in astonishment and the sweet scent of shock rolled off her. “What?”
Now that she wasn’t simply human anymore, there were certain things he could tell her. “There’s a lot you don’t know—and it’s going to take more than one conversation to cover all this—but when vampires and the shifter Councils from around the world decided to reveal their existence, we didn’t tell humans everything.”
“Like the fact that vampires can apparently scrub people’s minds?” She arched a dark eyebrow at him.
“How do you think that would have gone over? First we reveal that we can turn into animals and that vamps drink blood to survive, then let the humans know that some vamps also have the ability to make humans forget things if necessary. Probably would have made our ‘acceptance’ a little different.”
Things were still tense in certain parts of the world even twenty years later and not everyone had accepted their existence—the APL was proof enough of that. Giving humans more ammunition would have been a poor tactical move.
“Good point.” She shook her head before downing half the beer. “Holy crap. I can’t believe that.” She bit her bottom lip for a moment and all he could think about was how he’d like to tug it between his own teeth. But then she continued. “I guess no one knows your blades can turn people to dust either?” There wasn’t fear in her voice or her scent, just a certain amount of wariness as she eyed him.
“They don’t turn people to dust. My blades were blessed by the fae about a thousand years ago. Without going into the hows or whys, my blades were designed specifically to kill vampires.” Long ago their species had been at war. Hell, all supernatural species had battled each other at one time or another.
“Really? I thought all the supernatural beings got along. There’s a she-cat and a fae living at the ranch.”
“That’s not normal. Neither is you living away from your own pack,” he added.
Kat scowled at that, but didn’t comment. “You said your vampire friend was doing you a favor. Why would you want something that can kill them?”
“It kills feral shifters too.” He kept his voice devoid of emotion.
“You didn’t answer my question.”
“No. I didn’t. I’d much rather talk about why you were at that bar tonight.”
She swallowed hard and glanced down at the beer in her hand. “I already told you.”
Even if he couldn’t scent the lie, he could tell just by looking at her that she wasn’t being truthful. Instead of calling her out, he decided to try a different tactic. “I know there’s a lot you don’t understand about pack life, but stealing something from anyone in your pack is grounds for punishment.” In some packs, the Alpha would have the right to whip a transgressor. Humans might view the practice as archaic or brutal, but shifters weren’t human and animals lived by a different code. In Connor’s pack, Jayce figured the Alpha would probably put Kat under lockdown for a couple of weeks.
Her jaw clenched, but she didn’t respond. Damn, he’d forgotten how she used to stonewall him. If she didn’t want to talk about something, it’d be hell getting it out of her. Tonight he didn’t want to argue or interrogate her to find out if she’d stolen information from Liam or December. He just wanted to be with her. So far she hadn’t kicked him out, and as late as it was, he wasn’t going back to the ranch. Something he wasn’t sure she realized. “You saw what happened to those APL members tonight?”
Kat’s head snapped up at the question. “Yeah.”
“The reason they disintegrated like that is because they were drinking vampire blood. They weren’t actually vampires, but they had enough vamp blood in their systems that my blades destroyed them.” Jayce had mentioned this intel to Connor, who oddly enough hadn’t seemed surprised. Now that he’d located actual people taking the stuff—and unfortunately killed all of them—the Alpha needed to know that humans in his area were getting hopped up on it.
“They were stronger than normal humans, weren’t they?”
He nodded. “Yeah. If you’d decided to go after them by yourself, you’d have lost. They’d have likely killed you. Probably worse.”
Her face paled and he hated himself for the pain and haunted memories he saw there, but she needed to understand that she wasn’t indestructible just because she was stronger now, and if she put herself in certain situations, the outcome would be bad.
“You’re not invincible just because you’re a shifter,” he said softly.
“I know,” she whispered, her voice wobbly.
Now he really felt like shit. Staring into her blue eyes, he opened his mouth but couldn’t find any words. Not when she looked at him like that. Not when he saw pain and agony there and knew he couldn’t do a damn thing about it.
His hands balled into fists almost subconsciously. He had to force himself to open them again and relax. Seeing Kat in any sort of pain made his animal side come roaring to the surface. It didn’t matter that the man who’d hurt her—in what ways Jayce still didn’t know—was dead. His beast wanted blood from someone. Anything to assuage Kat’s grief.
She was the first to look away. As she did, she set her beer on the coffee table and he knew she was planning to leave the room. Probably heading to bed. But he couldn’t let her go. Not just yet. He wanted to spend more time with her.
“What did you do with those clothes?” he asked.
“Left them in my Jeep.” She leaned forward slightly, as if she were about to get up.
His heart pounded mercilessly and he hated himself for the weakness. Around her, he always felt like a randy cub. So out of his element it was fucking embarrassing. “I’ll dispose of them later. You feel like watching a movie?”
She faltered and scooted back a couple of inches. “Uh, yeah?”
“Is that a question?”
“Yes. I mean, no. I do want to watch a movie.” Her cheeks tinged pink as she reached for the remote and turned on the television. She scrolled to the movie listings. When she hovered over the latest action release, she arched an eyebrow. “This okay?”
“Sure.” He didn’t care what the hell they watched as long as he was with her. It didn’t matter that he’d spend the next two hours fantasizing about holding her, kissing her, licking her everywhere until she moaned; he could deal with the discomfort if he could just be near her. “So how’s your father?” he asked as she leaned back against the couch and grabbed an afghan to wrap around her shoulders.
His fingers itched as he stared at the afghan and found himself jealous of an inanimate fucking object.
“Good, I guess, but I haven’t told him about what happened.”
Jayce’s eyebrows shot up. “Why not?”
She gave him a tart look that said he should already know the answer. “Because I don’t need him to bust in here and ruin the life I’ve started. If he found out someone hurt me he’d go after anyone he thought might be a member of the APL. It would get too messy. Hell, he’d probably want to hurt Aiden for turning me even though he saved my life.”
A low growl built up in Jayce’s throat. He had fantasies of hurting Aiden too, but for different reasons. “Maybe that wouldn’t be such a bad thing,” he said under his breath.
Kat narrowed her eyes. “What’s the matter with you? Aiden is a good wolf. If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t be here,” she snapped.
Even though she was right, the obvious protectiveness she felt for Aiden ratcheted up Jayce’s anger. Aiden had had the same protective scent when Jayce had told him he’d be the one training Kat from now on. Yeah, that hadn’t gone over well at all with the other wolf. But Jayce couldn’t think about him or even talk about him without getting pissed. Right now, he just wanted to spend a couple of hours with Kat without arguing. Well, he wanted more than that.
Sure, he missed sex with her. What sane male wouldn’t? Being celibate since she’d left him was damn near torture. But just sex wasn’t what he wanted right now. She needed to know he’d be there to support her no matter what came her way. That she wasn’t alone anymore. Yes, she had her pack, but more importantly she had him. Whether she liked it, or accepted him, didn’t matter. He might not have been able to protect her before, but that wasn’t ever happening again. By training her he was trying to give her the means to look out for herself in any situation. Even if they didn’t have a future together as mates, she was his to protect and he would do that at all costs. Instead of answering her, he turned toward the television and propped his boots up on the coffee table.