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Cam lifted a brow. “Even though it will upset the people who’ve raised her?”

“Even though,” said Trick. “Her wolf is very dominant. I’ll bet her grandparents have had a damn hard time trying to get any compliance out of her.” His mate was no pushover, he thought proudly.

She was not at all what he’d expected his mate would be like, which just seemed typical of fate, really. It wasn’t only that she was very different from his usual type, it was also that she was human in many ways. She might have spent the first few years of her life in a pack, but she had no memories of that time. She’d lived as a human. Probably didn’t know much about the ways of shifters. In fact, it was unlikely that she knew much about true mates either. He hadn’t been prepared for a mate who knew so little about their kind.

Even more shockingly, he knew her. He’d once had her so close to him, yet he hadn’t known she belonged to him—or at least he hadn’t consciously known it. Now he wondered if he had in fact sensed she was his on some level and if that was why he’d lived with a drive to find his mate all these years—it had been more of a need to recover what he’d lost. And he hated that he couldn’t do exactly that. Hated that she wouldn’t be receptive to him yet. Hated that his long-standing plan to quickly claim his mate as his own wouldn’t work.

That didn’t mean he’d back off. It just meant he’d have to revise his plan. He would slowly but surely insert himself into Frankie’s life until she couldn’t imagine not having him in it.

He knew himself well enough to know that he wouldn’t be tactful about it. No, he’d be intrusive. Full of unwanted advice. He’d question her under cover of polite conversation. Insist on doing things for her. Turn up unexpectedly at her home. Yep, he’d be a pain in her ass. And that perversely made him smile.


As Led Zeppelin sang about the stairway to heaven on the radio, Frankie flexed her hand and winced. It was starting to go numb and stiff from all the metal grinding. She didn’t want to stop working on her sculpture, though. She wasn’t ready yet.

Grabbing her water bottle from the shelf, she unscrewed the cap and took a long swig. She heard someone knock on the front door, thanks to her enhanced shifter hearing, but she ignored it. She figured it was Brad, who’d tried calling her several times that morning. He’d left a voice mail saying he just wanted to talk about the Lydia matter before Frankie made any rash decisions.

In other words, he hoped to talk her out of meeting with Lydia.

That would be a pointless conversation, considering she’d already done so. He wouldn’t be mad—he respected that she had her own mind and would make her own decisions—but he’d be disappointed in her. His lectures were long and boring, and she had no time or patience for one.

Besides, she hadn’t yet decided whether to go see Iris, and she didn’t want anyone else’s opinions to influence her decision. Making said decision was proving hard while she was feeling emotionally off balance and as if she were being tugged in different directions.

Iris’s deathbed request was fair. The old woman had lost her son and, if what Lydia claimed was true, had then also been denied access to her grandchild. Iris didn’t deserve to be punished for another person’s actions, even if that person was her son.

But stepping on pack territory could open a can of worms. Iris would no doubt be pissed at the people who had kept her grandchild from her, and Frankie didn’t want to listen to someone bad-mouth her grandparents—people who’d be upset that she’d paid Iris a visit.

Would Frankie then be forced to choose between the two sides of her family? Would the pack expect answers from her about what had happened that night long ago? Did she have extended family within the Bjorn Pack that would want contact with her too?

Frankie could also admit to being hurt that no one from either the Bjorn Pack or the Phoenix Pack had tried hard to see her. Brad had made a good point when he’d said that shifters were protective of their young. If what Lydia said was true, they had tried when she was a kid. But Frankie hadn’t been a child for a very long time, and she didn’t feel that Lydia’s “I was worried you’d hate us and it was more comfortable not to know” claim was really a valid excuse.

In fact, it seemed more likely to Frankie that Iris and Lydia saw her as a reminder of what Christopher had done and—on a level that could be subconscious—didn’t want that reminder around. Maybe Iris and Lydia, just like Marcia and Geoffrey, had wanted to push the truth aside so that they could more easily move on.

Frankie couldn’t even blame them for that, but it still hurt. And that hurt part of her resented the pack for walking back into her life when they’d avoided her for so long. What right did they have to request anything of her when they’d let her go and then stayed away? She owed them nothing.

Still, she couldn’t help wanting to know about her father, her family, the people who would have been her pack mates. Was it bad that, despite everything, she was curious? Would her mother judge her for that and see it as a betrayal of her memory? Frankie didn’t think so, but the guilt crept up on her all the same.

Yeah, well, that guilt could just add to the pile she was already carrying. Her mother had been murdered. She’d seen it happen. Yet she didn’t remember a thing.

It was unsettling enough to know she’d witnessed her father kill her mother and then himself. But to have no recollection of it? How could a person forget something like that? Okay, yeah, she understood it was rare for people to recall early memories. Still, she’d witnessed a murder and a suicide. Yet nothing.

She wondered if those nightmares she’d had as a child were actually replays of the event—an event that her mind had seemed intent on burying for her own sake. She didn’t remember the nightmares either. Only snippets of—

The music suddenly lowered, and Frankie spun. And there was Trick, who’d seemingly rounded the house and entered through the open side door of the studio. She shoved up her protective goggles, annoyed that—odd as it was—she was glad to see him. Her wolf sat up, instantly alert and pleased that he’d come.

Trick raised his hands in a gesture of innocence. “I knocked. You didn’t hear me.” His eyes cut to the sculpture. “Wow.”

“I heard the knocking. I just ignored it, since I’m busy and all.” She hoped that was a clear hint for him to leave, but he wasn’t listening to her. His attention was on the sculpture. Standing on a workbench, it was taller than he. He circled it, studied it, and absorbed it, looking genuinely awed.

Frankie blushed, self-conscious all of a sudden. She wasn’t used to people other than Abigail and those within her field taking such a close look at her work. It made her feel exposed.

“I’ve seen some of your pieces on the interactive gallery on your website, but it’s a whole other thing to see one in person.” Trick backed up a little. “I wouldn’t have thought I could ever find anything scary about a horse. How can something look beautiful, powerful, yet scary as fuck at the same time?”

She put the cap back on the bottle and returned it to the shelf. “It’s a hellhorse.”

“It’s fucking amazing, Frankie,” said Trick honestly—he wasn’t simply trying to please or flatter her. The sculpture was genuinely super impressive, and he found himself in awe of her.

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