No she hadn’t. He’d have been able to scent someone if she had. She was still untouched by anyone but him. But the hurt and pain in her pale blue eyes were crystal clear. He didn’t understand it and he didn’t have the heart to contradict her. She was the one who’d walked away from him. She’d broken things off, then left town as if what they’d had together meant nothing. He’d called her so many times afterward it was embarrassing.

“Katarina.” He reached for her, but she swatted his hand away.

“Don’t touch me!” Her voice rose with each word as she sidestepped him toward the door. The agony she projected tore at his gut. He didn’t understand it but he wanted to take it away.

Kat had never hidden her emotions from him when they’d been together. Anger, lust, heat, passion, love—she’d projected everything freely. But never hurt. Not like this. She yanked open the door and practically sprinted away from him.

He pressed a hand to his chest. Something foreign and uncomfortable made his chest ache. For months he’d waited for her to reach out, to explain why she’d left. He’d thought she’d finally woken up and realized she was too good for him. If he hadn’t been so busy with Council matters, he’d have tracked her down long ago. He knew they didn’t have a future together because he couldn’t bond with her, but that didn’t mean they couldn’t spend more time together. Just a few more years. That’s all he wanted with her. A little more time. He snorted to himself. He sounded fucking pathetic. No wonder she’d left him.

Chapter 5

“We should go after her.” December slid her nearly full vodka tonic away and stood up.

Liam shook his head. Even if Kat had been sucking drinks down faster than December and was likely buzzing, he knew Jayce wouldn’t take advantage of her. “No. Jayce won’t hurt her. He…cares for her.”

“Who is that guy? He’s scary.” She shuddered.

That was an understatement. When Jayce’s eyes had changed color, Liam knew December would have had no doubt he was also a shifter. She’d seen it happen to him after he’d stopped that guy from trying to kidnap her from her store, so he’d explained that he’d been trying to control his wolf. From the confusion he’d witnessed on her face, he guessed she still didn’t understand what he meant, but he had plenty of time to introduce her to his world.

As December started to go after them, Liam placed a hand on her forearm, stopping her. She kept fidgeting in her seat and playing with her straw as she stared in the direction Kat had gone. “This is stupid. Kat’s my friend and I want to go after her.”

He scrubbed a hand over his face. It had been obvious Kat and Jayce needed to clear the air about some things and Liam didn’t want to get in the way of that. “He’s the enforcer.”

She frowned. “What does that mean?”

Liam shifted uncomfortably, trying to find the right words. “He’s sort of, ah…He quells any problems that packs can’t handle on their own.”


“If one pack encroaches on another pack’s territory or if a pack is into illegal activities and it’s affecting our relationship with humans, Jayce comes in and cleans house.”

“Why does that sound bad?”

“Because it is.”

“And he’s here to ‘clean house’ for your pack?” He could see the pulse point in her neck jump and even above the din of noise he could hear her heart rate increase.

“No. His visit isn’t about that. After the poisonings on our ranch and after Taggart’s death—”

“He’s dead?”

Damn it. Liam hadn’t meant to let that information slip. His brother, Connor, hadn’t told the sheriff yet that he’d killed Sean Taggart, their old neighboring Alpha, in a sanctioned nex pugna. A death fight. Liam figured the sheriff probably already knew Taggart was gone, but even so, Connor hadn’t told anyone except the Council. And it wasn’t Liam’s place to tell anyone, even if December was his mate. Or intended mate, as it were. Pack business stayed pack business unless the humans got curious.

The Council and the human government were still trying to find a way to integrate their laws. So far, the humans let shifters take care of problems internally. If shifters died or were murdered by other shifters, the human government saw fit to let them handle things on their own unless it directly affected humans. And that wasn’t often. Shifters and humans didn’t exactly run in the same circles.

“Ah, yes, but it’s not common knowledge.”

“Meaning my brother doesn’t know.” It wasn’t a question.

This was what hanging around females did to males. Now he understood why his brother got so distracted around his own mate sometimes. “No, he doesn’t.”

“Well, I’m not going to say anything, if that’s what you’re worried about.” She started to say something else when her eyes widened.

Liam turned and tracked her gaze. Kat was hurrying toward them with tears streaking down her face and from the way she stumbled, he guessed she’d had more to drink than he’d realized. They hadn’t even been there that long.

“Shit.” He didn’t know Jayce well enough, but if he and Kat were fighting, that was not a good thing. Jayce’s eyes had started to change earlier and if he was near his breaking point…Well, a pissed-off enforcer in a room full of humans was bad for everyone.

“Are you okay? Did that bastard hurt you?” December asked as Kat stopped in front of them.

“I’m fine. I’m going home but wanted to let you know so you wouldn’t worry.” She grabbed her purse from the bar.

“Why don’t you stay with me tonight?” December asked softly.

Kat shook her head. “No. I just want to get out of here and sleep in my own bed, but you two should stay and enjoy yourselves.”

December looked at Liam and he shook his head. It was obvious December wasn’t letting Kat leave on her own, and he didn’t plan to let her go by herself either. He wrapped one arm around December’s shoulders and the other around Kat’s—mainly because he was afraid she’d trip and fall. “Come on. We’ll walk you back to your cabin.”

She tried to shrug off his arm but tripped and rethought her plan. “This is stupid. I’m perfectly capable of—”

“We’re not letting you go by yourself, so just deal, Kat.” December’s voice was surprisingly haughty.

“You sound like me,” Kat said, a slight slur in her voice.

December chuckled lightly. “Not so fun when the roles are reversed, is it?”

As they exited the bar, Jayce was walking back in. When he saw the three of them, his gunmetal gray eyes flashed dangerously dark.

If Liam didn’t understand the primal need to protect what was his, he might have rolled his eyes at the glare Jayce shot him. “We’re taking Kat home.”

“You don’t have to explain yourself to him,” Kat snapped, all rage and anger bubbling to the surface.

Liam sighed. Getting in between a male—who also happened to be the enforcer—and his female ranked right up there with the top five dumbest things Liam had ever done. But he didn’t exactly have a choice. Kat was December’s friend and she was a female. It was in his nature to look out for her.

“Damn it, Kat. We need to talk.” Jayce took a step toward them.

Instinctively Liam dropped his arms from December’s and Kat’s shoulders and stood in between them and Jayce. “Not tonight, Jayce. She’s upset and—”

“Not tonight and not ever. I already told you I don’t have a fucking thing to say to you,” Kat interrupted from behind him.

“Good Lord, girl, how much have you had to drink?” December asked, her soft voice a soothing balm that almost made Liam forget the situation he was in.

Liam didn’t turn around but instead kept his focus on Jayce. “She’s obviously upset. Do you really want to do this here?”

Jayce’s jaw clenched furiously. Finally he shook his head and took a step back. “I’ll see you tomorrow, Liam. And…thanks.”

It appeared to actually pain Jayce to say the word, but Liam nodded and turned back to the two ladies. December had her arm wrapped around Kat’s waist, steadying her. Liam motioned toward the front lobby. “Come on.”

Barely ten minutes later Liam stood on the front porch of Kat’s cabin with December, who was leaning against the railing of the porch. The small cabin was clustered among at least a dozen others just like it. From what Kat had told them, most of the ski instructors and other staff lived on-site during the winter months.

“I don’t like leaving her by herself,” December said.

Liam fished her car keys out of his pocket. They’d picked up her car from the valet to drive Kat to her place and now he was ready to go. All he could think about was peeling off December’s knee-high boots and formfitting sweater dress. Her coat might be covering it, but he remembered what it looked like and he wanted to see more of her. A lot more. “She said she’d set the alarm after we left.”


“So, I heard her set it.”

“You heard…Oh. I forgot you can do that.”

His extrasensory abilities allowed him certain advantages. Like hearing the alarm code being punched in from outside Kat’s house.

“Still, what if that weirdo comes by to harass her?”

Liam sighed. December’s protectiveness of her friend was admirable, but all he wanted to do was get her back to her place and work on convincing her that sleeping in the same bed was a very good idea. Especially since he knew Jayce would be watching Kat’s place tonight and she’d be more than safe. “He’s not a weirdo, December. If I had to guess, I’d say he loves her.”

“I still don’t like it. I’ve never seen Kat so upset before. And I don’t think I’ve ever heard her curse before.” December crossed her arms over her chest and shivered. Despite her wearing a thick, fitted jacket with a fur-lined hood over her sweater dress, the cold temperature had to be bothering her.