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In that moment he had her undying gratitude. She looked away from the beast and watched as he struggled to drag it away from her. His eyes glowed bright red and thanks to the large fire she could clearly make out the two long white fangs in his mouth and knew that it didn’t matter that the man before her wasn’t human. He saved her life and she wasn’t such a bitch that she’d look down on the man or whatever the hell he was because he wasn’t human. Now the rest of them…..

Scared the ever loving hell out of her.

“Son of a bitch!” Ephraim yelled as the beast broke free.

No, not exactly broke free, Isabella realized a second later. It bit off Ephraim’s entire hand, she realized as bile rose up in her throat at the site of his bloody stump.

He reached out, ignoring his injury, with his other hand and tried to grab the wolf by the fur, but by that time the beast had already lunged towards her, intent on finishing what he started. She fell back on the overgrown grass, holding her hands up as if it would do any good in stopping the crazed beast from ripping her to shreds.

“You’re f**king dead!” Chris snarled as his foot shot out in front of her, connecting with the beast’s face, sending him flying backwards. He didn’t even spare her a glance as he stepped over her and went after the large animal. As he moved away from her she noticed that his clothes were ripped and stained with blood, his or the beasts he’d fought, she had no idea.

She watched as Ephraim quickly dropped to his knees and reached out and grabbed the beast by the hind leg as it turned to run away and yanked it back, tossing it at Chris’ feet. The beast reared up and slashed out at Chris, but missed him as Chris easily ducked out of the way.

The animal growled viciously, slashing at Chris as it tried to back away only to be shoved back towards Chris by Ephraim, who seemed more pissed than in any actual pain.

As she numbly watched the men take down the large beast her head began to spin with everything she’d learned and seen tonight until she could hardly hold her head up and her body began to tremble. She forced herself to look away, unsure she could take another moment of this new reality.


She needed some space, she decided as she somehow managed to stand up on her legs as they shook violently. This was the perfect time to escape, her hazy brain reminded her. They were busy with….

Well, she didn’t want to think about what they were doing or the fact that the thing they were killing was once a man. All she wanted to think about was going home and crawling beneath her warm teal comforter and forgetting any of the past twentyfour hours had ever happened.

She made it several feet before her eyesight dimmed and her legs gave out, dropping her like a sack of potatoes onto the uneven terrain.

“Izzy, are you okay?” Ephraim asked with a loud grunt.

“Y-yes,” she answered even as her vision began to dim, “I-I’m just a l-little discombobulated here, but I’ll be okay.”

“Maybe you should-“

Whatever he was about to say was lost to her as blissful darkness overtook her.


“I hope this doesn’t set Madison off,” Ephraim said as he gingerly flexed his newly formed hand around the steering wheel.

“That your hand was torn off because my mate didn’t do her f**king job?” Chris said evenly as he leaned back in his seat, refusing to look back and see if his little mate was okay.

His father sighed long and loud and Chris didn’t have to be a f**king genius to know his father didn’t share his opinion about his mate.

“You’re being too hard on her, Chris,” he said softly before he said a few choice words that would have his grandmother scowling.

“What’s wrong now?” Chris asked, rubbing his uninjured hand down his face and pointedly ignoring his father’s comment about his mate. He knew from what he’d heard and seen on that little battle field back in the woods that his father already saw Izzy as one of his own simply because she was Chris’ mate.

“That prick swallowed my f**king wedding ring,” his father said, the glow from his red eyes lighting up the dashboard of the SUV.

“Well,” Chris drawled, trying not to wince when his right arm brushed the door when they hit a bump, “we could always go back there and sort through the ashes.”

His father shot him a thoughtful look before he shook his head and looked ahead. “The stomach acid probably already destroyed it,” he muttered, sounding truly unhappy, which Chris could understand. The man did have an overly hormonal wife to go home to after all.

“You never know, the fire might have stopped the acid from destroying the ring,” he said, knowing it was probably bullshit. The stomach acid in shifters was f**king frightening. It devoured whatever the shifter ate within minutes. Skin, fat, bone, clothing, and jewelry were all vulnerable in a shifter’s stomach and for good reason. If all that shit remained when it shifted back to human it would either rip the shifter internally to shreds or kill them instantly.

His father’s ring was long gone and he had absolutely no idea how Madison was going to react in her current state. Normally she’d get pissed at the shifter that hurt Ephraim and probably a little sad at the loss of the ring, but this new hormonal Madison……

Hell, he didn’t even want to think about what she was capable of and was glad that he wasn’t in his father’s shoes.

“No,” Ephraim said, sighing softly, “it’s long gone.”

“Probably,” Chris agreed easily.

His father shot him another glare and he simply shrugged it off. He knew he was being an ass**le, but he couldn’t help it. After waiting all these years for his mate to show up and help protect his family and what he got was a f**king coward, he thought bitterly as his eyes once again sought out her form in the rearview mirror.

He snorted with disgust when his eyes landed on her.

Even in her sleep the little coward curled up. Of all the things he’d expected her to do, lying down on the ground while several werewolves circled her was not one of them. At least if she had tried to run he could have understood that. He would have tackled her ass before she’d gone too far, but he would have understood that reaction. The fact that she’d just given up and hadn’t even tried to fight back or defend herself in any way let him know all he needed to know about the mate he’d been destined with.

She wasn’t good enough.

The realization had him chuckling darkly as his father pulled into their driveway and parked behind Madison’s old Jeep that she refused to trade in. After all those years of sleepless night and constant worrying that he’d be the one lacking in his mate’s eyes and she was the one who came up short.

Now he was stuck with a woman who not only couldn’t do her job, but probably wouldn’t even do it if she could manage to tap into her skills. She was a f**king coward and his responsibility, a responsibility he didn’t need or want.

“What do you want to do?” Ephraim asked, slowly turning the car off and pulling out the keys, but made no move to get out.

“About her?” he asked casually, biting back the bitter disappointment that threatened to take over.

“Yeah, about her,” Ephraim said, dropping his head back against the head rest.

He shrugged, forcing himself to treat this like any other problem he needed to fix to keep his family safe.