Authors: Kathi S. Barton
Alistair shook his head. “What century
were you born in again? Women are not brought to heel; they are loved and
nurtured. Maybe if you got our ass out of your office once in awhile you’d know
“I know what I expect from her and if
she doesn’t like it…” Ryland took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “I don’t
have a clue what women want or need. Especially one like her.”
Alistair sat down and stared. “What do
you mean ‘especially one like her’? And you can stop with the falling shit. If
I tell you my story, you’ll tell me yours. Deal?”
Ryland nodded, almost afraid to hear the
real story of what had happened that day. “She isn’t human, is she? She’s
“More would be a good starting point. She…
Christ.” Alistair looked at the window in his room before continuing. “She
didn’t use a bat. There wasn’t one there. She told me there was and I wanted to
believe her, so I said there was one. She lifted him up without touching him.
And when he smashed…yes, that’s what she did, smash him against the wall, I
heard the bones break. She looked at me afterwards and I could feel her
touching my mind, but there had been no connection between us. Not like we have
as tigers; it was just a touch. Then she told me to go away.”
“She couldn’t make you see it her way,
so she had you leave the scene.” Ryland wanted to find her and asked her if
that was true, but needed to get out of here first. He tried to stand and told
Alistair to get him signed out.
“You’re going to find her?” Ryland
nodded. “Then you might want this. It’s her jacket. She left it in my office
when she left yesterday. I think it has her scent, as well at the other woman. It
might not bring us to her, but the other one will know where she is, you can
count on it.”
Yeah, and Ryland had a bone to pick with
her too. She had warned him to back off, but had never said why. She had to
know that he’d be hurt…well, she had told him that it was his funeral, but he
hadn’t realized she wasn’t kidding. He wondered now why he was still living
when he looked at Alistair.
“She couldn’t kill me.”
“No, I mean, she wanted to. And I think
that other woman knew she was going to as well. But she didn’t. Why? Is it
because on some level she knew that she couldn’t?”
“Or you were just lucky. I’ve seen her
in action too, remember? I think if she wanted you dead, there would be no
stopping her. She’s amazing. And I bet she can do more with it. So much more
than maybe she knows.”
Ryland thought Alistair might be right. He
limped to the bathroom to strip down and shift. He would have done it at home,
but he had a feeling that he needed to find Bronwyn now. When he closed the
door behind him he heard his brother talk to someone. Shifting, he felt his cat
take him and he moaned at the feeling.
It had been a long time since he’d
shifted because he wanted to and not because of the waning moon. And when he
did it then, it was to satisfy the cat in him and not much more than that. He
put his paws up on the counter to look at himself in the mirror.
His fur was golden and his black stripes
stood out boldly on his coat. His white chest was full and thick, and he
twitched his tail to look at it. He wanted to snarl at himself, but knew that
he’d bring down a whole shit ton of trouble and end up in the zoo if he did. Hopping
back down, he shifted again, glad now that his kind had no time restraints on
how long he had to remain a cat before he could shift again. Looking at his
ribs, he was still bruised, but no longer sore. His leg was better as well. One
of the many wonderful things about being a were.
He came out to find his brother talking
to his mother and Brock. He looked at them when they frowned at him. “What is
it? Did you find her?”
“Not Bronwyn, but we do know where she
lives.” Brock looked at his mom then back at him. “You’re not going to like
Ryland didn’t think he would like a
great deal of what she did, but was going to try and keep an open mind. Where
she lived, he thought, was going to be the least of his problems. He began
pulling on his shoes as he asked his brother to explain.
“She lives in one of the buildings on
Western.” He stopped in the middle of tying his shoes and looked at Brock.
“Yeah. Those buildings. At least that’s the address she put on her paperwork at
the courthouse when Alistair represented her. She supposedly lives in one of
the ones that’s been condemned. I looked it up; there are nine other people
using the same address.”
“We own those, don’t we?”
Ryland nodded at his mother’s question.
“Well that should make it easier for you
to find her. I still would like to know what you plan to do with her once you
do. The girl was back at work and when she left, she was hurt. What happened in
that space of time?”
Alistair cleared his throat and looked
at him. Ryland rubbed his hands over his face in frustration. This was not
going to go well. “She’s my mate. And she ended up here because I grabbed her
when she tried to leave. I hadn’t meant to hurt her, but she was bleeding and I
could smell it. When she went to Alistair’s office I lost my…it didn’t go well
and she was leaving. I didn’t want her to.”
“So you bullied her. And she tried to
leave you and you decided that you were bigger and meaner so you simply used
your brute strength to get what you wanted.”
Ryland didn’t even try to argue. What
she said was true. “Yes, ma’am. And when she was here, the same thing happened.
She wanted to leave and I tried to stop her. But she…she left, and now I need
to find her.” His mother sat in the chair across from him. “Mom, I’m so—”
“Don’t you dare tell me you’re sorry. I
don’t want to hear how sorry you are. You hurt the one woman in the world that
is supposed to love you, and you tell me you’re sorry.” She stood up to pace.
“I swear to you, I’ve never been so… If you were younger I’d beat you with a
belt. That poor girl has saved your brother’s life and you treat her… I’m going
home. I don’t want to speak to either of you until you both fix this.”
Alistair looked at her when he realized
she was talking about him too. “I didn’t do anything to her. He’s the one that—”
He shut up when their mom simply raised
her finger to him. Both of them had fucked up. Ryland more so than his brother,
but he had as well. They looked at each other when their mom left the room.
Brock went with her to drive her home.
Bronwyn woke with a start. She heard a
voice and moved quickly to get away from it. Then Sindy came into focus. She
laid her head back down on the pillow and assessed the damage to her body.
“You’ve been here for two days. I was
beginning to worry. How are you feeling?”
She nodded at her friend.
“Good. We might want to go when you get
dressed. I think that male is looking harder for you and I think he has his
streak looking too.”
Bronwyn stood up, but wobbled. If she’d
been here for three days counting the first day, she’d hadn’t eaten in all that
time either. Going slowly, she asked Sindy if she had a candy bar or something
she could eat until she got home.
“I brought you some clothes that you’d
left at my house and a sandwich. I also brought you a cooler full of juice. You
need to have the liquid.” Bronwyn took the offered bottle and drained it and
the second. “I guess you needed that.”
“Yes.” Taking the clothes, she went into
the bathroom, searching the hospital for the nurse. She told her that her
services were no longer needed and thanked her. She dressed slowly and with
care. She might feel better, but she was still hurt. By the time she came out,
she was exhausted and drank two more bottles of juice.
“I borrowed a car from someone at work. I
hoped you’d be up and about today and, if not, I was going to try and wake
you.” Before Bronwyn could tell her not to do that, Sindy continued. “I know
it’s dangerous to wake you, but it’s getting harder and harder to come and go
in here. There are cats everywhere.”
She pulled on her shoes and laid back. “Do
you think you can take me home? I will be okay if I can get there.”
“I don’t know, Bronwyn. You’re still
pretty weak. Are you sure you don’t want to stay with me a few days? Just in
She wanted to more than anything, but
even though she was a widow she still had to abide by the laws of the streak. Bronwyn
knew that the male wouldn’t stop until he found her or until she killed him. Either
way, she was not becoming a “thing,” as her friend had been to her mate. And no
man would hit her and live to tell about it. She didn’t give a shit how good-looking
“I’ll be fine. I just need a little more
rest and then figure out how to pay that lawyer back. I might need you to run
interference with him when I make a payment.”
After eating the sandwich and the chips,
Bronwyn polished off two more juices. It was really good if she had pure juice
and not the fake kind, but she was simply grateful that Sindy had thought to
bring her any. They left the room and Bronwyn kept searching for any cats.
Sindy was right. There were a lot of
them around. Each time one would look their way, she’d distract them. It was
easier at first, but by the time they got to the car Bronwyn was lucky she
could give Sindy directions to where she was staying.
Once there, she got out and searched
again, but she was beyond exhausted and couldn’t do much more than look to see
if any were in her part of the building. Going inside, she sat down on her only
chair and told Sindy to go on home. When she reached her car and started
driving, Bronwyn erased her memory of where she’d been and why. Sindy knew she
did it and knew it was because, if asked, she wouldn’t be able to tell them
anything. She went to her bed and lay down and passed out again.
The next time she woke up it was
daylight. She moved better, but not well enough to leave the building. She was
just getting out of the shower and dressing when she felt the cats nearby. Standing
still, she held her position and closed off anything that would lead them to
her. The door wouldn’t be there and there would be no scent of her. She waited
a good thirty minutes until they left before she moved again. She moved to the
kitchen and nearly screamed when the male was sitting at her table.
She didn’t even bother asking him how
he’d found her. She didn’t care, but as soon as he left she was going to as
well. She started a mental list of things she would take, and she would leave
the rest. She reached into the cooler on the counter and pulled out the last
juice that Sindy had brought her. He spoke from behind her.
“This place is slated for the ball next
month. Where will you go then?”
She didn’t answer.
“I’m assuming there’s a reason why
you’re hiding out and not getting a real job like most people.”
“I have a job. It’s real and pays what I
need. I don’t buy up people’s homes and businesses to make money, but I get
by.” She leaned against the counter and ate the last half of the sandwich she
had. It wasn’t enough to replenish what she’d used, but it would do her for
now. She moved toward the other room, pulled out one of the many first aid kits
she’d put together over the years, and opened it.
“Do you need help?”
She didn’t answer him, but pulled up her
shirt to look at the dressing that Sindy had put on her before they’d left the
“Christ, how are you even walking around?”
“I use my feet just like most people
do.” She took out clean padding and put it against her skin. She was wrapping
gauze around her when he told her to stand up, that he’d help her. She didn’t
move, but continued to care for herself. She’d have to go out soon and hoped
that she’d be able to get somewhere and back before she was too tired to care.
“I’d like to talk to you, but somewhere where
there is electricity and running water.”
She looked around her place and noted
that while there was a little dust, it was clean and she had running water. It
was freezing cold, but she had it. “I’d like for you to leave, but it looks
like neither of us is going to get what we want.” She put tape on the end of
the gauze and pulled her shirt down. “Say whatever you came here to say and get
out. I don’t want you around me.”
“I got that at the hospital.” He sat on
her chair and she on the large crate she used as a sort of all-purpose table. “I
wanted to tell you to…ask you to come back to my place with me. You need care and
you won’t get it here.”
“You just saw for yourself that I am
getting care. So that shoots that argument all to hell. Next?” She watched him
fight for control and not lose his temper. “What do you think you’re going to
be able to do? Bring me to your home and rape me? No, thanks. I won’t be a
whore for any male, human or otherwise.”
“I wouldn’t rape you.” He sounds so
indignant that she nearly smiled. “And you wouldn’t be my whore, as you called
it, but my mate. If I wanted a whore I’d find one. But you’re my mate.”
“Whatever you want to call it, it’s all
the same to me.” She stood up and began putting things in a pile she was
taking. It wouldn’t be much, but there were things she wanted near her. She
turned to him when she heard him stand.