Parker shrugged. “Maybe. Maybe not. There’s more to it than that, but that’s all I’m willing to tell you.”
“Why are you telling me all this?”
Parker’s eyes darkened. “With all the bullshit happening around here and rumors of the APL, I can’t afford not to. This is a peaceful town and if some assholes think they can start anything here, they’re dead wrong.”
Liam nodded slowly as Parker’s words sank in. If the APL members couldn’t exterminate them all, going after their reputation was a good way to get the rest of the town to hate them. It didn’t take much to get people riled up, and he’d seen firsthand how quickly humans could turn on shifters if they had enough fear in their hearts. Not to him personally, but he watched the news enough and he had friends who’d been driven from towns because of simple human fear. “I’ll tell Connor.”
“Good. And make sure everyone in your pack stays out of trouble.”
Liam bit back a sharp retort, mainly because Parker was December’s brother. It’s not as if his pack had gotten into any trouble since they’d moved to Fontana. Connor was a good Alpha and he looked out for all of them. Anything that was pack business stayed that way. They didn’t involve the humans in anything they didn’t have to. He cleared his throat. “Of course.”
“Listen, I’ve got to work late tonight—”
Liam knew where he was headed, so he cut him off. “I’m staying at her place.”
December cleared her throat. “Excuse me. ‘Her’ is sitting right here.”
“December, not now,” Parker said absently as he grabbed his hat. He kept his attention on Liam and nodded once.
Liam knew Parker hated depending on him for anything. Mild distrust rolled off him in both his scent and his expression. But the man obviously knew Liam would never hurt December and would do anything to keep her safe.
As the sheriff left the diner, December elbowed him in the side. “I hate when you do that. I’m sitting right here. I think he’s just as bad as you.”
Under normal circumstances it wouldn’t have hurt, but she hit him directly where he’d been stabbed. He gritted his teeth. For such a small woman she had some serious strength behind her. Or maybe he’d just been stabbed deeper than he realized.
Her gaze narrowed on his face. “Tell me that didn’t hurt.”
“Then why’d you flinch?”
“Don’t lie to me.”
“I didn’t flinch, but…I might have gotten stabbed earlier.”
Immediately her eyes widened and she reached for him. “Stabbed? Are you okay? What happened? Why didn’t you go to a hospital?”
As she took his hand in her smaller one, his entire body warmed. Shit, he wasn’t above playing the sympathy card. Not if it made her want to touch him. “There’s nothing anyone at a hospital can do and I’m fine. I’ll be healed completely by tonight.”
Her expression was still worried. “Who stabbed you?”
If he told her, she’d tell her brother there were fae warriors in town, and that was the last thing they needed. More involvement from law enforcement. “It’s not important.”
“Was it one of those APL members?”
“Are you going to tell me who it was?”
Her ivory cheeks flushed an angry red. Even if he couldn’t scent the changes in her, he was coming to learn the small nuances of her body and expressions. Plus she wore her emotions right out in the open. Those blue eyes of hers gave away everything. “You just expect me to accept everything you say without asking any questions.” Her voice was heated but at least she hadn’t pulled away.
Slowly, he rubbed his thumb over her open palm. He needed to change the subject. Fast. “Did you wear that sweater to drive me crazy?”
The abrupt switch in topic made her blink. “What?”
He let his gaze travel down over her breasts. She wore a green sweater that wrapped around her waist with some sort of tie thing. All he’d have to do was pull the bow free and it would fall open. Just a hint of cleavage peeked through the V-neck cut. “You know how fast I could take that thing off you?” he whispered.
Her breathing became shallower as he continued rubbing small circles against her skin. “You can’t use sex to distract me.” Her voice came out raspy and sinfully low.
“I’m not doing anything.” He was touching her in a completely nonsexual spot, but it was obviously affecting her.
Her mouth slightly parted and her eyes filled with undeniable heat. When her tongue moistened her lips, it took all his restraint not to crush his mouth over hers.
Slowly, he started to lean closer to her. He was fully aware there were eyes on them, but he didn’t give a shit. Apparently she didn’t either. As she leaned toward him, her eyes started to drift shut. And his cell rang in his jacket pocket. “Son of a bitch.” Even though he wanted to ignore it, when he heard his brother’s unique ring, he simply couldn’t. Brother or not, Connor was his Alpha and he always had to be on call for him.
December’s cheeks flushed a deeper crimson this time and it was definitely because she was turned on. And embarrassed. She stared at her glass while he fished out his phone.
“Yeah?” he practically barked at Connor.
“Is Jayce with you?” his brother asked.
“No, but he’s not far.”
“Ryan got a hit on a possible address for a Mike Taylor. Could be nothing.” Connor’s voice was cautious.
“But it could be that asshole.” If Liam got the chance to kill the bastard who’d dared to touch December, he was taking it.
“I need you and Jayce to check it out.”
“Text me the info. We’ll head over there now.” At his words December’s head snapped up, but he ignored her curious stare.
As soon as he disconnected, December asked, “What’s going on?”
“I’ve got to take care of some pack business. I’ll have the waitress wrap up your food.”
“Oh, will you?”
Shit, what had he said? Her tone had gone from concerned to annoyed in seconds. “Uh, yes?”
“Just because you’re leaving doesn’t mean I’m not going to stay and finish my meal. And if you give me some line about walking me back to my store for my protection, I swear, I’ll scream.” Her chin jutted out mutinously.
She was right. He knew it. Even if he didn’t want to admit it. The walk back to her bookstore was less than thirty seconds. Barely a block down the road. But his inner wolf didn’t care. Pick your battles. His sister-in-law’s voice sounded loudly in his head. This was one of those times he needed to restrain his protective nature. If he didn’t, he was going to drive an even bigger wedge between him and December. “You’re right.” He grabbed a few bills from his wallet and laid them on the table. “Will you get my food to go and I’ll meet you after work to take you home?”
For a moment, she looked shocked. Then concerned. “Where are you going so suddenly?”
“I…I can’t say.”
“You just got stabbed today. What’s the matter with you? Is this something dangerous?”
He couldn’t be sure, but he wasn’t going to tell her that. “No.”
Apparently he paused too long for her liking because she glared at him. “You’re so full of it.”
“Okay, I don’t know if this will be dangerous.” He shifted uncomfortably in his seat. Answering to someone about his daily business wasn’t something he was sure he could get used to.
“And you’re not going to tell me what ‘this’ is?”
“I’m sorry, December.”
Her lips pursed as she looked away. “Fine, do whatever it is you’re going to do. Just don’t think you can keep pushing me out of your life and think we have a future together.”
“I thought you said we didn’t have a future. Are you saying if I open up more, we will?”
She opened her mouth, then snapped it shut. Seeing that combination of confusion and annoyance on her face soothed every part of him. He wasn’t sure why, but it did. Before he could stop himself, he leaned forward and brushed his lips over hers. A soft, almost chaste kiss that made him want to turn off his phone, forget about what he needed to do, and find a secluded place where they wouldn’t come up for air for days.
Without glancing back at her, he hurried from the restaurant and tried to catch his breath. While he wanted to dominate and make love to her every way possible, the woman had such a stranglehold on him it scared the shit out of him. Mated males could turn into fools because of their females, and he and December weren’t mated or even bondmates yet.
Liam zipped his jacket up higher as he and Jayce strode up the walk to the place his brother had sent him. It was a run-down mobile home in a trailer park on the outskirts of Fontana. The bottom half of the home was rusted and pieces of siding were completely missing. The entire park was quiet and Liam didn’t scent too many people around.
As they neared the blue and white structure, he didn’t sense that anyone was inside, but he didn’t plan to take any chances. “I’ll take the back door,” he said quietly to Jayce, who only nodded.
Without pause he veered to the left and rounded the home. Keeping an eye on his surroundings, he noticed the curtain in a neighboring trailer flutter. The movement was slight, but if the people here were nosy, they’d have to get in and out fast before someone called the cops.
If he’d been seen, it was too late to worry about hiding now. At least they’d parked off the side of the road in the trees about a mile down the dirt road leading to the trailer park.
Pressing his back against the side of the structure, he peered around the corner to the rear. The grass was wildly overgrown and there weren’t any neighbors to the back of the place. Just woods.