Read Primal Bonds Online

Authors: Jennifer Ashley

Tags: #Romance, #Paranormal, #Fiction

Primal Bonds (10 page)

BOOK: Primal Bonds
3.64Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Andrea was aware of the glances in her direction. Ely had been dying, and Andrea and her Fae magic had ensured that he’d live to eat another double cheeseburger.

“Good for Ely,” Ronan said.

“Don’t worry, he’s milking it for all it’s worth.”

The Shifters laughed, happy that tragedy had been dodged.

“The point, my friends,” Liam said when the laughter trailed off, “is that we have someone targeting Shifter establishments—that is to say, human establishments that have a large Shifter clientele. Is their goal to punish the human owners or to frighten Shifters away from said establishments?”

“Does it matter?” Kim asked. She moved her hand to her abdomen. “They’re shooting and maiming people. Killing them but for luck and Andrea.”

Sean rested his arm across the back of Andrea’s chair. “And Andrea can’t be everywhere.”

“The question is what are we going to do about it?” Kim continued. She had been a courtroom lawyer, and though she was seated, in a loose dress with her Shifter mate at her side, her voice was still crisp and lawyerlike. “Stay home and lock the doors? Or figure out who is doing this and put a stop to it?”

“That’s my girl.” Liam grinned at the others. “Didn’t I pick out a fighter?”

“We’ll just have to convince the police this is serious,” Kim went on.

“Good luck with that,” Ronan muttered.

“I know people,” Kim said.

Annie’s human boyfriend, Silas, spoke up for the first time. “So do I. I can put a word in with my police contacts if you want.”

Andrea leaned in to Sean. “Who is he?”

“Friend of mine,” Kim answered for him. “He’s a journalist.”

“A reporter?” Andrea stared in disbelief. “You let a reporter in here?”

“Silas likes Shifters.”

Andrea met Silas’s gaze—briefly; he had to look away.

Andrea’s experience with reporters had been all bad. One had once come out to the Colorado Shiftertown to nose around, and the next thing they knew, the reporter had hinted that the Shifter males, because of a lack of females, kidnapped human women and made slaves of them. This told to the reporters by a human Shifter groupie who’d been dumped by her Shifter boyfriend. Humans had been so outraged, they’d wanted Shifters rounded up and shot, and Shifters had to scramble around to prove that wasn’t true. That had been ten years ago, but the worry of it still hung like a pall.

“Silas is fine,” Sean said, with a glance at Silas that told the tall man he’d better be fine.

“I don’t mind you trying,” Liam said. “Not that I have much hope for your chances, but it can’t hurt. In the meantime, the bar is open for business. I’ve convinced the owner to hire a second bouncer to help out Ronan.”

“The café in San Antonio is now barred to Shifters,” Dylan said. “I couldn’t convince them not to do that. But I can’t really blame them. They’re scared.”

“I’ll keep the bar owner as calm as I can,” Liam said. “If we can find the perpetrators, so much the better.”

“I disagree.”

Sean’s voice was so quiet that Andrea almost missed it. But at his words, the bar went silent.

“Sean?” Liam looked over at him, eyes still. “What do you want to say?”

All gazes turned to Sean, sitting strong and quiet beside Andrea with an air of power that matched Liam’s.

“It’s fine for us to find these gobshites and stop them,” Sean said. “And by all means, we will. But you’re saying you’d risk lives—the lives of Andrea, Kim, the life of your unborn cub—to prove that you’re not afraid of humans? I’m thinking that’s not wise, Liam. We shut the bar and find the bastards, while we keep our families safe.”


he room got very quiet. Andrea saw Kim start to speak but one look at Liam made her close her mouth again. Dylan’s hands tightened on the chair he leaned on, but even he kept his lips firmly together.

Liam’s tone was light when he answered. “So, should we show the humans that we scramble into our holes the minute they make a threat?”

“No.” Sean said it emphatically. “We find them and make the bastards pay. But we also shouldn’t encourage Shifters, especially the cubs and the mates, to be in a position to take more bullets.”

Liam and Sean studied each other across the table, neither giving way to the other. Liam’s eyes flicked to Shifter white, cat pupils slitted, before they snapped back to human. “I never meant that we should dance in front of human guns in our altogether, Sean.”

“I know.” Sean’s words were flat. Simple.

Liam couldn’t be seen looking away first. He was leader, the alpha of this entire community. Sean had to drop his gaze before Liam did or risk his gesture being taken by the others as a challenge. If Sean challenged, especially in public, he and Liam would have to fight. And watching them now, Andrea understood that the fight would be close. Too close to call.

Sean knew this too. He held Liam’s gaze a little while longer before he gave his brother a faint nod and looked away. Liam blew out a breath.

“I think we’re done here,” Liam said. “Business as usual, but extra security, extra caution.”

It was a dismissal. The Shifters drifted away from the pulled-together tables; Silas went with Annie. The others were talking together, Ellison laughing about something with Glory.

Sean rose and silently left the bar. Andrea followed him out.

She easily caught up to him at the field that was the shortcut to Shiftertown. Sean wasn’t walking fast but contemplating the world with a slow stride. Andrea knew he heard her, even though he didn’t look at her. He’d scent her, feel her warmth at his side.

“Liam is different from any pack leader I’ve ever known,” Andrea said, sticking her hands into her pockets.

Sean still didn’t look at her. “Is he?”

“Of course he is. He let you have an opinion. Not only that, he let you voice it in front of everyone. My pack leader in Colorado would have been across the table clawing out your throat for challenging his decision.”

“Good thing Liam isn’t a bloody self-centered Lupine then.”

“He didn’t like what you said, but I think he agrees with you.”

Sunlight glistened on Sean’s silver sword. “Maybe.”

Andrea walked a few more paces in silence, hands digging farther into her pockets. Shifter males
challenged their dominant in front of others, unless they wanted to be used to wipe the floor, but Sean had fearlessly said what he thought, disagreeing outright. Once again, Sean was proving himself different from any other Shifter Andrea had met.

“You’re not a coward, Sean.”

“I’m not? Whew, good to hear that.”

“But I think Liam’s right. If we give in to the shooters and hide, they’ll just keep coming. They’ll know they can win.”

“I never said anything about letting them win.” Sean finally looked at her, and she suddenly understood why Liam had backed down from him in there. Yes,
had done the backing down, she knew, and probably Dylan had understood that too. Sean had shielded his eyes first, sure, but he’d let Liam know he was breaking eye contact on purpose, so that Liam wouldn’t lose face.

“Do you think I want to see my nephew bloodied up like Ely?” Sean asked. “Or my father? Or you? Especially not you.” He stopped and faced her, his breath streaming like fog. “It’s a damn scary thing claiming a mate. I want to protect you all the time, and never stop.”

Andrea tried to smile. “Maybe you should have considered that before you claimed me.”

“I did. I’ve thought about it a lot. For ten years I’ve pondered it.”

His gaze was intense, but Andrea looked back at him in surprise. “Ten years? You only met me a few weeks ago.”

“Ten years ago, my brother Kenny died. Ten years before that, Kenny lost his mate, Sinead. Both of those nights were the worst of my life, together with the day we lost our mum. All three of those times, I thought I’d die from the grief.”

Andrea knew what he meant. She’s been tiny when her mother had died, but the loss still pulled at her heart. “I’m sorry.”

“When Dad arrived the night Kenny died, when he and Liam saw that Kenny was already dead, Dad just folded up on himself. Right there on the ground, curled into a ball. I’d lost my brother, but he’d lost a cub, a child he’d made with my mother. The mate bond between Dad and my mum was strong. And now Dad had lost another link to her.” Sean cupped Andrea’s shoulders, his fingers points of strength. “Is that what taking a mate is, ultimately, Andy-love? Nothing but loss?”

A lump formed in Andrea’s throat. “I don’t know.” The mate bond, that almost magical quality, had nothing to do with the mating ceremony itself, but made mates live and die for each other. “My mother and stepfather were mate blessed but never formed the bond,” she said softly.

Sean raised his brows in surprise. “I’m sorry, lass. If they didn’t, that’s a tragedy.”

“I was little, but I could tell. My stepfather adored my mother, but she didn’t love him the same way. She was grateful to him, fond of him, but there was no bond. She’d never got over my real father, you see. The Fae.”

Sean’s eyes flickered. “That so, love? I thought ...”

“That he raped her?” Andrea’s smile was wry as she shook her head. “That was the official story. Less humiliating for the Lupines if she didn’t go willingly to a Fae, isn’t it? But she loved my real father. She never stopped loving him.”

“Damn. That must have been hard on you.”

“My stepfather is a kind man, and I love him. My mother knew he’d not harm me when I was born, even knowing I’d been sired by a Fae, and he didn’t. He loved me for her sake. But she accepted his mate-claim out of expediency, not love.”

Sean touched the curls at the base of her neck. “That doesn’t mean
need to accept out of expediency, lass.”

“I know. But it made me not want a mate pairing without the mate bond, which was why I said no to Jared.” Andrea grimaced. “Well, that, and he’s an asshole.”

“Even though the mate bond can tear us up in the end?” Sean slid his hands around her waist, under her coat. “In there, thinking of you being shot, falling at my feet, me having to stick my sword through you, like I had to with Kenny.” He swallowed. “I don’t ever want to have to do that, love. Never, ever.”

So that was the difference between Sean and Liam. What Liam saw as giving ground and retreating, Sean saw as keeping loved ones safe. Because Sean was the one who’d have to look at those loved ones last.

The thought made Andrea want to hold him. She slid her hands up his arms, loving the feel of the firm biceps beneath his coat, and locked her fingers behind his neck. Such strength and such compassion rolled into one male.

“Then you’ve changed your mind about wanting me as your mate?” Andrea had the right to walk out of the mate claim, but then, so did Sean. But the thought of him turning away from her made her heart suddenly ache.

“I should. To save myself from the hurting.”

“Can we ever? Hurting is part of life, isn’t it? So is happiness.”

Sean caressed the small of her back. “When did you become the wise one?”

“The day I told my whole Shiftertown I wouldn’t mate with that sorry excuse for a Lupine, no matter how much he and his friends terrorized me.”

Sean’s touch became stronger, his mouth relaxing. “I’d have given a lot to see that. I bet some wolf jaws dropped.”

“They didn’t exactly applaud me.”

“And you knew they wouldn’t. But you did it anyway. That’s my girl.” He sounded proud, which warmed her.

“Scariest thing I’ve ever done.” Well, that and meeting Sean for the first time, but the fear had been markedly different.

Sean’s mouth softened even more. “But you being brave doesn’t mean you’re strong enough to take a bullet through your body. Liam’s determined to keep the bar open, but I don’t want you working there for a while. Not until we get this thing solved.”

Andrea stepped back. “Wait a minute. Not go to work? Screw that.”

Sean looked at her in surprise. What, he was expecting her to meekly say, “Yes, Sean,” and obey? Looking into his eyes, she saw that he did. Oh, he did, did he?

“Andy-love, if I hadn’t thrown you to the floor that night, you’d have been hit. You were right in the line of fire.”

Andrea planted her hands on her hips. “If Liam can hire more guards and keeps the damn door closed, we’ll be fine.”

“Right. You’ll be fine walking home alone at night from the place. Fine stepping out in the dark to empty the trash. You don’t need to work; you’re provided for. Dad made sure this Shiftertown was filthy rich. The jobs are to give the human social workers something to put in their reports.”

“I know that. It’s not the point.”

“Waiting tables at a bar isn’t freedom, love. It’s showing humans what they want to see.”

Just because Sean was sexy, and she hoped they could form the mate bond, didn’t mean he couldn’t drive her crazy. “No, it’s helping out Liam. It’s the side bet I have with Annie on who can get the best tips out of the humans. It’s me with a bit of money of my own so I can buy myself a car and not have to depend on Morrissey handouts. It
freedom. To me.”

“But it isn’t safe.” The growl came into Sean’s voice. “Let Liam and me find these bastards and stop them first.”

BOOK: Primal Bonds
3.64Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Other books

The Alpha's Desire 3 by Willow Brooks
Cancelled by Elizabeth Ann West
Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine
Murder in the Marais by Cara Black
Blaze by Nina Levine
PacksBrokenHeart by Gwen Campbell