“Either you have food poisoning or you’re pregnant.” Kat’s voice from the doorway startled her into looking up.

Broom in hand, her friend stared at her knowingly. Pregnant? December couldn’t even think about that right now. Unable to respond, she just shook her head and shooed them away. If she was going to do this, it was going to be in privacy.

A couple hours later, December munched on a plain unsalted cracker and stared at the small boxes on her coffee table.

“You’ve got to take it sometime. And I’m sorry but it’s the one thing I can’t do for you. Considering I put on clothes and went out in public for you, you’re doing this tonight.” Kat’s voice was wry and slightly amused.

After her brother had left, Kat had gone to the local pharmacy and picked up a couple pregnancy tests. Well, more than a couple. She’d gotten every brand.

The thought that she was somehow pregnant was crazy. Liam had always used condoms and it should be too soon to tell anyway. Sighing, she set the packet of crackers down and grabbed the box on top. “Fine.”

She wasn’t pregnant. She just couldn’t be.

Chapter 21

Liam scrubbed a hand over his face and collapsed onto the couch. Only ten minutes until the next pack meeting and he wished it were already over. After almost four entire days without talking to December, Liam was ready to hurt someone. Namely himself. This self-induced torture was killing him. It was as if liquid silver were slowly eating away at his flesh and his insides, but he just wouldn’t die from the pain. Even though he’d been working with the pack chasing down leads on the APL in surrounding areas, all he’d been able to think about was her. What was she doing? Was she thinking about him? And if she was, just how pissed was she? This foreign, twisting ache in his chest was something he could do without. He’d assumed that after a couple of days the distance between them would be easier. But it had only gotten worse. He couldn’t sleep and even shifting and running in his animal form brought him no pleasure.

He hated how they’d left things. Well, how he’d left things. She’d called him a coward and now he wondered if she was right. Not contacting her was the hardest thing he’d ever done. And it was obvious she wasn’t going to leave town. Not that it was fair he’d ever asked her to in the first place. This was her home. She’d been here for a lot longer than he’d known her. On a logical, human level, he knew that. It was just that—

“Uncle Liam!” He turned at the sound of Vivian in the doorway. With a chocolate-covered cupcake in her hand, she smiled broadly and raced toward him. As the little she-cat started to dive for the couch, she froze, then climbed up next to him using her free hand. “Ana would not be happy if I got chocolate on her couch,” she said seriously.

Liam bit back a grin. “You could probably blame it on me and get away with it.” Vivian’s dark eyes lit up and Liam shook his head. “Don’t get any ideas, cub.”

She crossed her legs and twisted on the couch to face him. “What are you doing here? I thought Ana said you were out patrolling.”

“We have a pack meeting soon.”

“Oh. That’s probably why Noel made all those cookies. Where’s your girlfriend? She’s pretty. I thought she was going to start living with us. I know she owns a bookstore and I wanted to ask her something.” Vivian shot words at him like machine-gun fire while staring intently.

Liam tried to wade through everything Vivian had just said. “She’s not my girlfriend anymore.”

“What did you do wrong?”

He smiled wryly at her assumption he’d done something wrong. Not wanting to have this conversation with a ten-year-old jaguar cub who would surely repeat every word to Ana, he cleared his throat. “Shouldn’t you be in school?” While Vivian and Lucas, the other wolf cub who lived with their pack, didn’t go to regular school, they were homeschooled by Esperanze, a sweet beta female recently mated to one of their warriors. Ryan used to homeschool them, but since they’d moved to the ranch, the beta female had taken over the duties, since she was more qualified and genuinely seemed to enjoy it more.

She rolled her eyes. “It’s Saturday. Duh. So what did you do to make your girlfriend mad?”

“It’s complicated.”

Vivian snorted loudly in the same manner he’d seen Ana do when annoyed with her mate. The little she-cat was definitely taking after Ana.

He raised an eyebrow. “That’s funny, cub?”

“Whenever Connor says something is complicated, Ana calls him a bad word. Well, I don’t think it’s really bad. It means a donkey’s butt, but I’m still not allowed to say it. I tried once and Ana took away my horse-riding privileges for a whole day.” She shuddered and scooted off the couch, cupcake still firmly in hand. “I hope you and your girlfriend work things out.”

“Me too.” As soon as he said the words, he realized he meant it. He couldn’t live like this. Not without December. It was like living without a limb. Since it was obvious she wasn’t going to leave town, staying apart didn’t really make her any safer, and it drove him crazy worrying about her. He wanted to be the one protecting her instead of other wolves from his pack.

Vivian looked longingly at her cupcake, then at him, as if fighting a decision. Finally she shoved it in his direction. “It’s the last one. You need it more than me.” When he didn’t take it, she sat it on his outstretched leg before running out and yelling for Noel that she needed a cookie.

Smiling, he picked it up and shook his head as Erin strolled into the room. Her eyes widened when she saw what he had. “Are there cupcakes?”

“Last one.” He grinned and took a bite of it.

“Figures.” Sighing, Erin sat on the love seat opposite him.

“I think there might be cookies in the kitchen.” Before the words were out, she had jumped up and was heading in that direction.

Liam ate half the cupcake, then set it on the coffee table. It was good but it might as well have been cardboard going down his throat. As other pack members and Brianna, the fae warrior they’d found the same night as Kat, filed into the room, he grunted acknowledgments to them but otherwise didn’t talk.

Even though he wanted to sulk in his own pathetic thoughts, he tried to shake visions of December and her last parting words from his head.

“You okay?” Brianna, the soft-spoken fae, surprised him with her question. She sat on the opposite couch next to Noah.

“Yeah.” He managed a half smile for her, but by the way she drew back from him, it probably came off as a snarl.

He rubbed a hand over his face. Brianna had filled them in about her time with Adler and the other APL members and today they were supposed to get updates from her boss—or bosses—or whomever—on what their next step was. He knew they weren’t happy she’d failed her mission to ferret out Adler’s boss, but from what he could tell, she hadn’t had much of a choice. What little he knew about the fae was that some of them had powerful psychic gifts, and her powers had been so drained from keeping that evil psycho Adler under her control that she’d passed out after killing him. And she couldn’t have known she had backup in the form of shifters on the way. The two other humans there could have killed her while she’d been unconscious. Since it had taken her almost an entire day to recover from her comalike trance after expending so much of her energy, she’d clearly been prepared to die for a stranger. It was hard to ignore that kind of bravery.

Liam and his brother had every reason in the world to hate the fae considering they’d killed their father and original pack, but if he and his brother lumped all of them into the same category, they’d be no better than the APL. And as far as Liam was concerned, Brianna had proved herself by risking her own life to try to save Kat. Because of that, she had the full protection of the pack until she decided to leave the area.

As everyone around him chatted, Liam tuned them out until he saw Ana in the doorway. “Connor’s on his way,” she murmured to him. Thanks to his extrasensory abilities he could hear her over the dull roar of conversation.

He nodded. “Thanks.” At least the meeting would be starting soon. Maybe then he could tune out thoughts of a naked, writhing, willing December underneath him. Though he seriously doubted it. While he missed the sex, that wasn’t the only thing he missed. He missed everything about her. Her calming spirit, her undying loyalty to those she cared about, even the way she fought with him. She wasn’t afraid to stand up to him and he loved that. Hell, he loved everything about her. Now he was afraid he’d screwed everything up.

After a full night’s sleep, December was only more pissed than she’d been last night. When her first pregnancy test had come back positive, she’d been sure it was a fluke.

Ten positive tests, however, were not a fluke.

Ready to face the inevitable, she steered her car up to the closed gate at the Armstrong ranch. A lock was in place, but she didn’t let it stop her. Slamming her car door, she marched up to the fence and climbed it. As she dropped down onto the ground, she spotted Connor jogging across the yard toward her from the direction of the barn.

“December? Is everything okay?” He asked as he stopped in front of her.

“That’s a loaded question,” she muttered. “I need to see your brother.”

“He’s out on patrol right now.”

She crossed her arms over her chest. “Fine. I’ll wait for him.”

“He’s going to be gone for a while. I can tell him you stopped by.” His voice was placating and annoying and she wasn’t having any of it.

Behind her she heard another vehicle pull up. Without looking, she knew it was her shadow, one of Liam’s packmates. She hadn’t recognized him, but he was huge just like the rest of the Armstrong pack. And she hadn’t been surprised when he’d started following her from her house to the ranch.

Reaching into her purse, she pulled out one of the many pregnancy tests she’d brought with her and held it out for Connor. When he looked at it, his entire face softened. “Shit.” He winced, then met her gaze again. “Come on. Liam’s at my place.” He tried to place a gentle hand on her elbow, but she shrugged him off.