He stared out the large glass window, keeping a lookout for Francesca. It was almost noon, but there was no sign of her.
Cam laid a hand over Lydia’s, stilling her tapping fingers. “Breathe, you’re going to be fine.”
Leaning forward, Lydia braced her elbows on the round bistro table and took a centering breath. “I don’t know why I’m so nervous.”
“Of course you’re nervous,” said Trick. “You want it to go well. This is important to you.”
“If she didn’t initially know the truth about her paternal family, I’m guessing her grandparents will have told her everything by now.” Lydia worried her lower lip. “She might not want anything at all to do with us.”
“If that’s the case, we’ll find out soon enough,” said Ryan. He and Trick had accompanied Lydia and Cam for their protection. And, yes, because Trick was curious to see how Frankie had turned out.
Massaging his mate’s nape, Cam asked, “Do you think she’ll bring someone along?”
Ryan leaned back in his seat. “In her position, I would. To her we’re strangers. Shifters too. The fact that we were once all part of the same pack probably won’t make her any less wary.”
Lydia nodded. “If she doesn’t remember me, she probably won’t remember any of you.”
“I don’t know about that,” joked Trick, rolling his shoulders. “I’m pretty memorable.”
Lydia snorted. “I can’t even deny that.” After a moment the amusement faded from her eyes. “She’s not coming, is she? Damn, I should have just left well enough alone.”
“She’ll come,” said Trick.
Cam tilted his head. “You sound real sure of that, but I’ll be surprised if she does. Maybe it’s best if she doesn’t, considering it’s pretty likely that she’ll be a snob. Her grandparents are serious snobs.”
“Caroline wasn’t,” Lydia pointed out. “She was a total sweetheart. Fragile, though. And very pliant and eager to please. Caroline’s parents have very strong personalities and insisted on compliance.”
Ryan straightened in his seat, eyes on the view outside. “What are those little bastards doing?”
Following his gaze, Trick noticed a group of teenagers checking out their SUV. Admiring the new model, or gearing themselves up to plant a GPS tracker? Whoever had planted the trackers originally might want to replace the ones that had been removed.
“I’ll deal with it.” Trick chugged the last of his coffee and strode out of the coffeehouse. He didn’t speak to the boys. Just stood near the hood of the SUV, arms crossed.
One of them spotted him and froze. That got the attention of the others, and they all looked at Trick.
He gave them a toothy smile. “There a reason why you’re hanging around my vehicle?”
The tallest lifted his chin, belligerent. “We didn’t do anything. We were just looking.”
“Now you’re finished looking. Move on.”
Muttering harsh, derisive words under their breath, they swaggered away. Trick kept his eyes on them . . . right until a silver Audi whipped into the space beside the SUV. A female slid out, and Trick stilled. He knew instantly that it was Francesca—she just looked so much like her mother. Cute with her big eyes, round face, flawless skin, spiral curls, and the sprinkle of freckles across her nose.
He raked his gaze over her. Designer clothes. Healthy skin. Good posture. Aura of confidence. It wasn’t hard to tell that she’d grown up in a family that had a housekeeper, skied once a year, ate at Michelin-starred restaurants, and sent its kids to private schools.
He’d bet she’d also strained against whatever confines that lifestyle put on her, because the signs of a rebel were all there—rose-gold hair dye, smoky-eye look, dream catcher tattoo on her upper arm, and multiple ear piercings. He liked the piercings; the tiny diamond studs dotted the outer edges of her ear. He wondered if she had them anywhere else.
As a kid she’d always looked so delicate. Not now, though. Cute and sweet, yeah, but not fragile. She was slender, but she had soft curves and an incredible rack that made his palms itch. There was a fierceness about her that would have caught his wolf’s interest if the animal’s focus hadn’t already been locked on her like a laser beam.
Her Persian-blue gaze met Trick’s, and his surroundings just seemed to fade away until there was only her. Something inside him roared to life, and a strange possessiveness began to viciously claw at his gut and tighten his chest. It was as primal and basic as the need that twisted his stomach. His cock twitched, thickened, hardened—until he was full and aching like a bitch. The word “mine” pounded around his skull over and over. And that could only mean one thing.
There you are, Trick thought with an inner smile.
His wolf froze the way a predator would as he eyed his prey, watching it closely, looking for weaknesses, raring to pounce. Raring to claim what was rightfully his.
Her gaze held Trick’s with a boldness that surprised him, considering she was truly the most harmless-looking thing he’d ever seen in his life. Trick was highly dominant, but she didn’t cower from his scrutiny. No, she returned his stare. Pride flared inside him and his wolf. Their mate was strong. A match for them.
Trick saw a raw need in her eyes, knew she’d felt the same powerful snap of elemental attraction, but he didn’t think she knew what it meant. Not yet. Especially since he wasn’t feeling the tug of the mating bond. No, something on her end was jamming the frequency.
Her head slanted, making her long, glossy curls slide over her shoulder. One brow imperiously arched. “Do I have something stuck between my teeth?” she asked drily.
Not quite as sweet as she looked, apparently. But that wasn’t why he blinked in surprise. He just would never have suspected a voice like that could belong to someone who looked so innocent. It was . . . He didn’t really know how to describe it. Smoky. Raspy. Gritty. Like she’d spent a night doing nothing but smoking cigars, chugging whiskey, and screaming in ecstasy. His cock jerked. Yeah, that voice packed a hell of a punch.
Trick gave her a lazy smile, like she hadn’t just turned his world upside down and changed everything for him. “Actually, there does seem to be a little something wedged between your two front teeth.”
“I’m saving it for later.”
His smile widened at the wry response. “Been a long time, Francesca.”
Her eyes narrowed. “Do I know you?”
“You did, once upon a time.” Trick inhaled, taking her scent inside him. He inwardly groaned. She smelled like mango, lime, and lemon fucking sherbet. When they were kids, he’d found it comforting. Now there was a “zest” to her scent that hadn’t been there before—the zest of a fully mature female. A low rumble of arousal trickled out of his pacing wolf, who wanted to surface and claim what belonged to him.
Trick was in no better state. All he himself could think of doing was pinning her to the nearest wall and driving deep inside her. He didn’t just want to fuck her, he wanted to completely possess her. Wanted to keep and protect her.
Oh yeah, she was his all right. There wasn’t a doubt in his mind.
She pointed a finger at him. “Wait . . . you’re the guy on that video who saved a human girl from being mugged, right?”