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“I’ve been wanting to leave my mark on you since first I saw you at the coffeehouse,” he said. “You can’t imagine how hard it was to walk away from you that day. It never gets easier.” And Trick was done with it. “No more nights apart, Frankie. I won’t pressure you to give me what you’re not ready for, but I need something. I need what you can give. And now that you know we’re mates and that this is heading somewhere, I don’t need to tread so carefully around you. You’re not going to be confused or weirded out by me turning up here whenever I want and spending whatever time I can get with you. We’re both busy people, but we can at least spend our nights together. Yeah?”

Frankie swallowed and said softly, “Yeah.”

His face smoothed out and went all lazy with satisfaction. “That’s my girl.” He gave her a light kiss. “Now sleep.”

CHAPTER EIGHT

There was no rational reason why four kids could so easily freak her out, but Frankie found herself fighting the desire to squirm in the armchair as they sat on the rug, staring at her. They weren’t snarling or anything, but their expressions were weirdly blank. It was a good thing that Trick was currently in a meeting with Trey and some other males from the pack, because he’d probably laugh his ass off at her discomfort—then she’d have to hurt him.

Trick’s tongue lapping at her pussy had certainly been a hell of a wake-up call. Just as she’d been on the verge of coming, he’d thrust his cock inside and fucked her hard and deep. He’d also been sure to leave a very visible brand on her neck. When she’d called him on it, he’d just smiled and said, “But it looks so pretty there.”

It hadn’t been long after their shower this morning that he’d received a call from Trey, summoning him home. Trick had persuaded her to come with him. Honestly, it hadn’t taken a lot of effort on his part. She’d liked her last visit with Iris, and she thought it would be good to see her again.

At the moment, though, Iris was enjoying a visit from some relatives who were part of the Bjorn Pack. Well, honorary relatives. Apparently Clara had been Iris’s best friend since childhood and they considered each other family.

Frankie wasn’t quite ready for a big reunion with others from her old pack, so she’d decided to wait in the living area with Lydia, Taryn, Jaime, and Makenna.

Her wolf was pushing her to track Trick down. It was odd. Now that he’d branded her, her wolf wanted to be around him more. As though the bite had linked them. Not mentally, but metaphorically. Like the wolf had half accepted his claim on her. Maybe. Probably. Frankie couldn’t really make sense of it.

Cuddling a sleeping Sienna, Makenna cleared her throat. “Kids, why don’t you pick a DVD to watch?” At that, they scrambled over to the large rack of DVDs.

Jaime eyed the bite on Frankie’s neck. “That’s quite a brand you have there. Nice and visible.”

“I was clear that his claiming mark better not be so damn obvious,” said Frankie, but she wasn’t holding her breath.

Lydia stilled. “Claiming mark?”

Frankie felt her brow furrow. “He hasn’t told you that we’re mates?”

“He didn’t need to,” said Taryn. “We know him well; we could see that he was incredibly protective and possessive of you. That kind of thing is unusual for Trick.” Her mouth twisted. “He said he’d hold off on telling you, though.”

“He didn’t tell me.” Frankie shrugged. “I guessed.”

Jaime’s brows lifted. “You guessed?”

“It wasn’t really that hard to figure it out,” said Frankie. “My body’s reaction, my wolf’s reaction, the way he settles my nerves, his possessiveness, how much more tactile he is with me than I’ve seen him be with you guys . . . It just made sense that we could be mates. He confirmed that I was right.”

Jaime looked at Taryn. “Don’t you just love the way she put the pieces together and just accepted it? She didn’t stew on it, didn’t worry on it, didn’t leap into a pit of denial. That’s just awesome.”

Taryn nodded in agreement. “I didn’t guess that Trey was my mate, because I’d believed that I lost mine when I was a kid.”

“I’ve had a crush on Dante for as long as I could remember,” began Jaime, “so my strong reaction to him didn’t seem weird or anything to overthink. I was used to it.”

Makenna spoke. “I knew Ryan was right when he said we were mates. I did, but I didn’t want to fully believe it in case I was wrong. The way you put it together reminds me a little of Ryan. He just added the facts, looked at it logically, and decided we were mates.”

Frankie didn’t believe it was logic that had helped her work it out. She had a creative mind and lived in a world full of possibilities, and that made her open to things.

“And you accept his claim on you?” Lydia asked.

“I’m not ready for the bond yet—Trick agrees with me on that—but I do accept that we’re mates,” said Frankie.

Lydia smiled, but then that smile faded as she asked, “Have you told the Newmans yet?”

“No.” And that was not a conversation that Frankie was looking forward to having. She didn’t have the slightest idea how she was going to break it to them that not only would she mate with a wolf, she would move to Phoenix Pack territory one day. They’d see it as abandonment, as her choosing a side, no matter what she said.

“Let’s face it, they’ll probably never accept Trick,” said Lydia. “But he won’t be the only one around here who has problems getting along with their mate’s family.”

“That’s true,” agreed Taryn. She flicked the kids—who were currently arguing over what DVD to watch—a quick glance before lowering her voice to add, “Trey would happily rip out my father’s throat.”

“And I’d eagerly beat the shit out of Dante’s brothers,” said Jaime, her voice just as low.

Makenna’s mouth flattened. “Ryan’s parents are total assholes—I let them know exactly what I thought of them.”

“And we’d all kick Greta’s ass if there wasn’t a risk that her brittle old bones would shatter,” said Taryn, at which the other females nodded firmly.

“Not that one!” shouted Kye, who was trying to snatch a DVD from Savannah. The little girl opened her mouth and screamed in his face. Kye howled at her.

Shaking with repressed laughter, Taryn clapped her hands to get their attention. “Kids, enough.” They hushed, shoulders slumping.

Stifling a smile, Frankie asked, “Don’t they spend their time with Riley?”

“She’s taking a shower, since Dexter got jam in her hair,” explained Makenna.

“Ah.” Frankie started to speak again, but then she noticed that all four kids were staring at her yet again. “Someone make them stop.”

“Have you chosen a DVD?” Taryn asked them. Like that, they turned back to the rack.

Hearing voices in the tunnels, Lydia spoke. “Seems like Iris is done talking with her visitors.”

Moments later, a plump, gray-haired woman walked in with three identical adult males. Spotting Lydia, the woman smiled. “There you are. We have to leave, I’m afraid.” As she caught sight of Frankie, her face lit up. “Oh, you must be Francesca. Iris has just been jabbering on about you.”

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