Jayce shook his head. What had happened to the Alpha of the Gomez pack and his second-in-command had been a tragedy. Ambushed by rogue vamps—who’d since been put down by Jayce—they’d been brutally killed, but at least they’d put up a vicious fight. “Not everyone, but now that the females are pregnant they’re all looking to put down roots.”
Connor’s lips curved up slightly. “So technically it’ll be eight new additions?”
Jayce couldn’t hide his smile. “Nine. One of the females is expecting twins.”
Another long silence. Finally Connor scrubbed a hand over his face. “We’re already hiring a local crew to build you guys a house—might as well build a few more. It’ll put more money back into the local economy. And it’ll be nice having more cubs around.”
Jayce knew that wasn’t the reason Connor was saying yes. He was an Alpha, a protector. It was in his nature to take care of others and he was a better Alpha than most of the ones Jayce had run across.
Before Jayce could say anything, Connor continued. “I’m going to check them out first and interview each of them individually. If for any reason I think they’ll be a threat or a bad fit for the pack, no deal.”
“I understand.” And he did. Once Connor made them part of the pack, there was no going back. He wasn’t the type of Alpha to kick anyone out without a damn good reason, and he took his position very seriously. Once in, they were in as long as they wanted to remain members. Jayce had a feeling that would be for life. Sensing that the topic was settled, Jayce moved on. “You wanted to talk about the trafficking of vamp blood?”
Connor nodded and glanced toward the door. “Yeah. Liam should be here in a sec. I want him to be part of this conversation.”
Jayce knew the two brothers could communicate telepathically in human and wolf form, a gift that not all related shifters possessed. Moments later, the tall shifter strolled in, a giant smile on his face and the scent of his mate all over him.
Instead of sitting, Liam headed to the fireplace and leaned against the mantel. “You got a plan for finding the fuckers trafficking that shit?” Liam asked, jumping right into the conversation.
Jayce nodded. He’d been waiting until the APL mess was settled in Fontana before moving forward with finding the source of this operation. “If you’re willing I want Ryan’s help running down some of the financial information from the names we got the other day.” He was referring to the drug dealers that he and Connor had practically hand-delivered to the cops.
Connor nodded. “He’ll help.”
Liam snorted softly. “You could just ask Leila; from what I hear she’s pretty skilled.”
She was also only sixteen. Jayce didn’t want her involved in any of the shit he planned to investigate. Connor shot Liam a sharp look and his brother just shrugged.
“The Council will pay your pack for using Ryan as a resource.” Jayce had been very insistent about that when he’d informed them that he would be staying down here on a semi-permanent basis.
Connor nodded. “Fine. They can double Vivian’s and Lucas’s college funds.”
“Fair enough. Unless something’s changed in the last hour, Ryan still hasn’t cracked the encryption of that laptop I gave him, but he did have something interesting to tell me earlier today.” Very interesting.
Connor’s mouth was set in a grim line, as if he already knew, which didn’t surprise Jayce. “You mean about those dealers?” the Alpha asked.
Jayce nodded. The very same guys who’d turned themselves in were all dead. “I guess you already know they were killed their second day in holding.” All of them had been gutted. He was still having Ryan run their financials in addition to the names that the dead guys had given. The fact that they’d all been killed so quickly said a lot about whoever was behind this vampire blood trafficking business. And there was no way in hell Jayce believed the two things weren’t connected. His former contact Ned Hartwig had vanished, as if he’d never existed, and now four other people connected to the trafficking were dead. It wasn’t a coincidence.
They continued talking about his investigative plans, but Jayce was only half focused, something he had no problem admitting to himself. The majority of his attention was on the woman in the other room.
All he could think about was getting her home, stripping her naked, and losing himself in her for hours. Considering they wouldn’t be able to take much of a honeymoon, especially with this vamp blood business, he wanted to take advantage of every second he could spend with her.
* * *
Kat set the third dessert plate on the kitchen table, then sat, picking up her glass of wine as she settled across from Leila. Jayce had decided to cook for them—his cooking talent was something she was still trying to come to terms with—and now it was time for dessert.
He had spent most of the day training Erin, then going over some sort of business with Ryan, which he’d promised to fill her in on later. Kat had spent the majority of her day with her dad. It still stunned her that he was in town, but he’d been really worried after seeing her on the news. That made her happy, considering that they hadn’t talked in so long. Unfortunately he’d had to leave because of work—she didn’t even want to think about what that might mean—but he promised to come back to visit when he could. She’d kept her distance from her father for the past year because of her issues with his illegal activities, but in the end he was her father. She might not agree with what he did, but she could deal with it. After seeing him again, it had hit her how much she’d missed him.
“You think I could have a glass of wine?” Leila asked quietly, as if Jayce couldn’t hear them from where he stood by the stove a few feet away.
“Uh, no.” Kat had begun developing more of a big-sister relationship with the young shifter, but that didn’t mean she would let her do whatever she wanted. “So have you decided what you’re going to do about school?”
Leila shrugged and absently pulled on one of the blue-highlighted pieces of fake hair she’d clipped in. “I was thinking I might take a few months off until I figure everything out. Maybe I’ll apply and sign up for some online classes, but for now, I . . . don’t want to leave the ranch.”
Kat breathed a silent sigh of relief. She didn’t want her to leave either. Even though she already had more college credits than most kids her age, she was still too young to be out on her own. “Good. Speaking of, Jayce and I were thinking, uh . . .” She trailed off, unsure how to continue. She didn’t want to overstep her bounds. She worried that maybe Leila was perfectly happy where she was and Kat didn’t want to ruin that. Or put her in the awkward position of saying no. Kat glanced at Jayce, who was pulling tiramisu out of the refrigerator. Freaking tiramisu.
He set the glass bowl on the table and slid into the seat next to Kat, facing Leila. “Kat and I want you to live with us. We’ll be moving back to the ranch in a month, and if you want, you have a place in our home.”
“Not that we want to take the place of your parents or anything; we know we won’t. We’d just really love it if you wanted to stay with us.” Kat forced herself to stop talking, knowing that if she didn’t, she would end up just rambling.
A sweet, pure scent rolled off Leila as her eyes widened. “Really? That’s awesome. I mean, I love Ana and Connor’s place, but Vivian is constantly in my stuff. Not that I mind really. She’s a sweet kid, but . . . I’d love to. Unless . . .” Suddenly her shoulders drooped. “What if you have kids?”
Kat shrugged, surprised by the question. She definitely hadn’t thought that far ahead. “So what if we do?”
“Well, will you still want me there?”
Kat glanced at Jayce, then back at Leila. “I’m pretty new to pack life, but I can tell you one thing: When Jayce and I open up our home to you, it’ll be for life. If we have kids, you’ll be their big sister.”
Taking her by surprise, Leila jumped up and launched herself at Kat, wrapping her arms around her neck in a tight embrace and then doing the same to Jayce.
Jayce looked more stunned than Kat, and gently patted Leila’s back, as if he was afraid he might hurt the young shifter. When she pulled back she smiled almost shyly. “I guess that means I can’t tell people you cook tiramisu, huh?”
Jayce’s sharp bark of laughter warmed Kat from the inside out. “Not if you want more of it,” he said.
For the first time in her life, Kat felt whole in a way she’d never imagined. Yes, she loved her father, but growing up with him had been hard. Add to that the fact that she was also a seer who’d been able to see paranormal beings about a decade before they came out to the world, and it was understandable why she’d always felt like a bit of a freak.
She knew their lives would never be normal as far as human society went, and that was fine with her. Normal was overrated. But their lives would be full. Looking at Jayce as he scooped tiramisu onto Leila’s plate, she watched his sinewy muscles flex, and didn’t bother trying to control the flush of heat that swept through her. Whatever happened from here on out, she had a pack to stand by her. And she would have the man she loved more than life itself by her side every step of the way.