“Yeah. Did he say why he’s in Fontana early?”

“No, but I think it has more to do with Kat Saburova than us.”

Connor’s eyebrows hiked even higher. “Probably should have seen that coming.”

Liam and Connor had saved Kat from two asshole kidnappers/would-be rapists a few weeks ago. Since then, they’d kept in touch and looked out for her when they could. Even though Jayce was her ex, male shifters were very territorial about their females. They had a burning need to protect females. It made sense that he was here now a week earlier than he’d told their pack he’d be arriving.

Liam cleared his throat and broached a subject he wasn’t looking forward to. “You think he knows Ana jumped into the middle of the nex pugna?”

During the sanctioned death fight between his brother and their old neighboring Alpha, Ana had tried to attack the other wolf. While it was stupid and she’d done no harm to the dead wolf, she’d simply acted on instinct. She’d thought her mate was injured and the animal inside her had reacted. Still, interfering in a nex pugna was punishable by the Council.

“No.” Connor shook his head, but a frown carved deep into his face.

Liam didn’t envy his brother being Alpha. Connor had all the responsibility of taking care of not only his newly blended pack but also the welfare and happiness of his new bondmate. Finding a balance between everything had to be hard. Hell, Liam could barely balance his own responsibilities. He wanted to be here for his brother, but lately he’d been consumed with the need to protect December, and he’d been shirking his duties. He’d been a virtual ghost at the ranch, but so far no one had a problem covering for him. Probably because most males understood what he was going through.

December was almost like an addiction. Finding a mate was bad news for a male in that sense. The need to protect a mate was overwhelming. For him, it felt even worse because of her resistance to what he was and the type of relationship they could have. If she’d been a shifter, she’d have felt the pull like he did. He knew she was attracted to him, but he didn’t know what the effect was for humans. Not to mention she was female. No matter the species, they were so damn different and confusing. He shook his head. He had more important things to worry about. “December’s brother stopped by her place earlier. They lifted some prints from the BMW.”

Connor’s expression darkened. “Did they find that asshole who tried to hurt her?”

He shook his head. “No, but I got a name. Mike Taylor. It’s common enough but he did some time in prison and he’s got ties to the APL.”

“I’ll see what Ryan can dig up,” Connor said.

Ryan, their oldest packmate, could hack almost any system. The rough-looking cowboy didn’t seem like the type, but computers were his thing.

“The sheriff made it clear we’re to stay away from him.”

Connor’s lips curved into a hard smile. “Right. Just like we’ll steer clear of the APL.”

Good, at least his brother wanted the same thing he did. Not that he’d been worried about his response. The human who’d tried to hurt December was going to pay. “I’m gonna get some shut-eye, but I’ll be here for the meeting in the morning.” At Connor’s nod, he let himself out and headed back to the cabin even though it was one of the last places he wanted to be.

Right now all he wanted was to be wrapped up in December’s arms.

Chapter 7

Edward was careful to stick to the speed limit as he drove into town. The sun was peeking over one of the mountains, but it was still mostly gray outside. Since it was Sunday, the roads were quiet.

He glanced in the rearview mirror. Brianna was right behind him, driving his truck because he was driving Tony’s. As he passed the sheriff’s station, he automatically slowed so that he was a mile under the limit. With a dead body in the back he couldn’t afford to get stopped now. It was covered with a tarp, but if a cop got suspicious enough, it was easily discoverable. And killing a cop brought too much heat.

Edward steered into one of the main gas stations in town but was careful to avoid the video camera pointed at the front door. Instead he parked on the side of the building and Brianna did the same.

As he got out, he glanced around, but the streets were empty. He glanced at Brianna through the windshield and motioned for her to stay put. Then he quickly removed the tarp and shoved it into the nearby Dumpster, but left the body right where it was in the back of the truck. Since it was cold out, he likely wouldn’t begin to smell too soon and Edward needed him visible sooner than later.

He looked at the body one last time and smiled. The son of a bitch had been ripped to shreds by his dogs. His face was gone but he’d be easily identifiable by his dental records and prints. Dumb fucker had a record. For sexual assault or some shit. After he’d recruited those other two morons who couldn’t keep it in their pants, he’d made a point not to recruit any sexual deviants with records. Unfortunately Tony’s father had wanted him down here working with Adler. And Adler wanted to keep his boss happy for now.

“That’s it?” Brianna asked as he slid into the passenger seat. Clutching the steering wheel, her knuckles were stark white.

She must be worried. “It’ll never be traced back to us.”

“What about Tony’s father?” she persisted.

“Once the cops run his dental records or fingerprints, they’ll notify the family. I’ll probably get a call from his father. Or they might even send someone down to speak to us. We just have to act surprised and stick to the story. He left after the meeting and that’s the last time we saw him.” Lying was easy for him but he worried Brianna might break under the pressure.

Surprisingly his words seemed to have a calming effect. Her shoulders loosened as they continued driving. “Do you think his father will come see you himself?”

Edward hoped not, but he shrugged. “Maybe.”

She bit her bottom lip but kept her eyes on the road. He stared hard at her for a moment. She was edgy, nervous. He didn’t like it, but she wasn’t used to getting her hands dirty. Not this way. It explained her behavior.

When she glanced at him, he quickly looked away. No sense in getting her more upset by his scrutiny. Not when things were finally starting to fall into place.

Kat opened her eyes and groaned in misery. It tasted like something had died in her mouth. She’d had beer, vodka, and shots of…something sweet last night. What had she been thinking?

Struggling to sit upright, she tried to clear her mind. She hadn’t been thinking and that was the problem. She’d been pissed at seeing Jayce in the flesh. Well, hurt more than anything. She glanced down and realized she wore a pair of Jayce’s old jogging pants. She’d snagged them when she left Miami. His smell wasn’t on them anymore, but she still liked to wear them. Pathetic.

Once she made it to her bathroom, she brushed her teeth and washed her face. The cool water splashing against her skin did little to make her feel better, but at least she’d gotten rid of the foul taste in her mouth.

When she opened her bedroom door, she paused. The scent of rich coffee lingered in the air. She knew she hadn’t preset the pot the night before. Maybe December had done it before she’d left.

Kat froze in the entrance of the kitchen. With his back to her, Jayce stood by the stove. A jug of orange juice, two cups, and two plates sat on the center island.

“About time you woke up,” he said without turning around.

She glared at his back as she strode into the room. “What are you doing here? And how did you even get in? I know I set the alarm.”

“You have the same code you did in Miami.” He shook his head and finally turned to face her. When he did, she could see the scrambled eggs in the pan.

Her place was warm enough, but with Jayce in the same room, her nipples instantly hardened. God, she felt like Pavlov’s dog or something. The man just brought out a certain response in her no matter how much she wanted to deny it. Her body simply came alive when he was near. She crossed her arms over her chest. “That still doesn’t explain what you’re doing here.”

“I’m cooking for you.” His explanation was so matter-of-fact, as if that should explain why he was at her place completely uninvited. As if this were a normal occurrence.

Pain throbbed in her head and his presence only made it worse. It was a little after seven, though, and she didn’t want to argue. Not before her coffee. Bypassing the orange juice, she went straight for the near-full pot of coffee. After adding a little cream, she took a sip and sighed. Perfect.

“I love seeing that smile on your face.” She looked up to find Jayce staring at her. He never said anything he didn’t mean and hearing those words on his lips was too much.

His dark, penetrating gaze was also too much to take this early in the morning. He was trying to ambush her. That was the only explanation for him being in her home. Feeling her knees weaken, she hurried to the other side of the center island and sat on one of the stools. “I thought you said you were here to see Liam. So why are you at my place?”

“I have business with the Armstrong-Cordona pack, but I arrived early to see you…to spend time with you.”

Her spine stiffened. “I can’t imagine why.”

“Oh, can’t you?” More than sarcasm, there was a deadlier edge to his voice. Not directed at her exactly, but she knew his moods well enough.

“I’ve moved on, so I don’t know that we have anything else to say to each other.” When he didn’t respond, she sighed and pushed her mug away. The hot liquid sat heavy in her stomach. “What do you want, Jayce?”

“To have breakfast with you.” He turned the stove off and moved the pan off the burner.

She relaxed a little at his words. Breakfast she could deal with. Anything else, not so much.

“And to figure out why the hell you left. I thought we were…” He trailed off in an uncharacteristic manner. Jayce never had a problem saying what was on his mind.


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