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Authors: Jessica Sims

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Single Wolf Female (Midnight Liaisons) (5 page)

BOOK: Single Wolf Female (Midnight Liaisons)
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Chapter Six

 

Holly was the first to arrive back at the house. It wasn’t a surprise - if there was such a thing as a good egg, it was Holly. Sweet, kind, caring, thoughtful, and utterly delightful to be around, she was more mature than most sixteen-year-olds I knew. She also brought baby Eddie with her, as I knew she would. She loved that child and had taken over as his de-facto mother when Joanne had abandoned him, and that suited me fine. There were a lot of times that I couldn’t juggle the baby and the pack, so I was grateful to Holly for stepping in.

She arrived through the kitchen door just as I was tossing a load of laundry into the dryer. I smelled her surprise, and bolted out of the washroom before she could panic.

When I re-entered the kitchen, she was standing in the center, baby Eddie on her hip, several plastic bags of groceries dangling from her other hand. And she was staring at Jackson, who was under the sink, long, strong legs sticking out as he did something to my garbage disposal.

“Hi,” she began, and then stopped at the sight of me, her gaze dropping to my neck. “I…oh.” Hope lit her features, almost painful to see. “A new alpha?”

I gestured at Jackson, who was even now sliding out from under the sink, and I took the groceries from her so I’d have something to do. “Meet Jackson Wilder. He’s going to be our new alpha.”

“Oh gosh. Hi,” she said, her voice sweet and utterly thrilled. She smiled at him and bounced the baby on her hip. “I’m Holly, and this is Eddie.”

I wanted to turn and put the groceries away, but I found myself transfixed to their interactions. I was curious how Jackson would treat Holly. She was sixteen and pretty. Would he leer at her like Roscoe did? Size her up for mate-hood?

But he only gave her a friendly smile and ruffled her blonde hair. “Pleased to meet you.” And he held his arms out for Eddie.

I watched as Holly handed the fat baby over to him. Jackson bounced him a little, smiling. Eddie’s arms and legs flailed and kicked for a moment as he watched Jackson, and he gurgled.

Then, he sprouted dark gray wolf hair everywhere.

Holly giggled as Jackson’s eyes widened in shock. He looked over at me, helpless. “Did I do something wrong?”

I couldn’t help the chuckle that escaped my throat, and I moved forward to take the child from Jackson. “I’m pretty sure he just challenged you for dominance.”

Jackson grinned at me, handing Eddie over. “He’s a little young to take over the pack, I think.”

“He is,” I said, cooing as I pulled Eddie into my arms. Immediately, the hair began to recede, and within a few moments, the baby looked normal again.

Jackson offered a finger to the baby’s waving fist, and Eddie latched onto it. “Does he do that a lot?” Jackson asked. “My last pack had no small children, so I’ve never been around pups.”

“He’s too little to help his reactions, so we have to watch him. Just don’t make any sudden moves around him when we’re in public and you should be fine.” For a man that hadn’t been around children much, he seemed to be fascinated - and pleased - by Eddie. I recalled how he’d been with Dan - patient, kind, understanding. Like a father.

He’d make a great alpha, I realized. I just had to get over my skittish responses to him.

I bounced the baby to distract myself even as Holly moved toward the groceries.

“I brought a bunch of food,” she said in a cheerful voice. “I wasn’t sure if there was anything left in the house, and you mentioned breakfast, so I thought I’d make pancakes just in case.”

I grinned at Holly. “We sent Dan out to get fast food.”

“Dan?” She asked, pulling groceries out of one of the sacks.

As if on cue, the van roared down the gravel path and skidded to a quick halt behind Holly’s beat up little hatchback. Dan hopped out of the car, arms laden with bags, and began bounding toward the kitchen door. “That’s him right now,” I said. “Jackson brought Dan with him.”

“Oh,” she said, straightening curiously. Her nostrils flared, and I could tell she was picking scents out of the air. Or trying to, anyhow. The smell of burger joints and grease entered the kitchen about two seconds before Dan did.

The teenage boy jerked to a standstill at the sight of Holly and her blonde hair. His face went beet red and his throat worked. He looked at her, then at me desperately.

I handed the baby off to Jackson again. “Let me help you with that, Dan.”

“I… thank you.” His voice cracked and I could have sworn he got even redder. I took bags from him and set them on the counter, starting to go through the food he’d gotten. Lots of breakfast sandwiches, lots of breakfast tacos. Smart boy. “This is perfect, Dan. Thank you.”

“Of course. Anytime.” He looked awkward and yet happy, his gaze sliding over to Holly repeatedly, and then back to me.

“Holly, this is Dan St. James. He’s in Jackson’s pack, which means he’s now part of ours.”

“Hi,” Holly said in a soft, shy voice. She looked like she was turning red, too.

Dan immediately thrust his big hand at her.

She giggled and took it gently, shaking it. “Do you, um, want to help me put away the groceries? There’s some more in my car, but I couldn’t get them because I had the baby.”

“I’d love to,” he said, looking at me again.

I nodded at him. “Thank you, Dan.”

The two of them went out of the kitchen, Dan holding the door open for Holly.

I glanced over at Jackson, amused. His mouth was curled into an equally amused smile, and he patted the baby on the back, jiggling him. “Well, I think those two will get along well.”

“He’s not going to be…pushy with her, is he? Holly’s a good girl.” And I really didn’t want to have ‘the talk’ with her. Sixteen felt so young to me. Then again, I was twenty four, and no one had ever had the talk with me.

He shook his head. “I’ll make sure that he treats her with respect, though I don’t think that will be a problem. Never met a more straight-laced kid than Dan.”

I nodded. Everything I’d seen said the same. “I’m just being protective.”

“I’d expect no less,” he said, and patted the baby on the back some more. “Where are the others?”

“Should be along any minute,” I said. “Trina will be with Spence, and Spence went to go get Len out of jail.”

“Jail, huh?”

“Probably just general rowdiness,” I told him, pulling food out of the bags and sorting it by types of breakfast meats. Breakfast tacos with sausage, ones with no sausage, ones with bacon, no bacon. Ones with both bacon and sausage, etc. “Len’s been struggling since Cash died. He’s acting out.”

“I understand,” he said. “But it stops today.”

“Sounds good to me. I don’t want to have to bail him out again.” Though I knew Len wouldn’t like Jackson’s new position. Not at all. And if Dan tried to set himself up as beta? It’d get even more messy.

Jackson played with the baby while I unpacked food and Holly and Dan made short work of the groceries. We pulled out glasses for orange juice (that Holly had brought) and made a watered-down sippy cup for the baby and set out breakfast for the rest of the group.

As if on cue, Trina, Spence and Len showed up just as I’d finished setting the last paper plate on the table.

Trina was the first one through the door, cellphone in hand. Her dark hair was pulled into a thick French braid, and she wore a trendy neon tank top under a cutoff jean jacket and matching shorts. On anyone older, it would have been a risqué outfit, but Trina was thirteen and her figure was coltish and slim, so she simply looked young. Spence came in after her, dressed in a wrinkled t-shirt and dirty jeans, his hair rumpled. Len was behind him, and looked even worse for the wear, several days growth of beard on his jaw.

They stopped at the sight of Jackson, still holding baby Eddie, and Dan, seated next to him. Holly sat next to Dan, her eyes wide as her gaze flicked from me to the others. Watching for reactions.

They weren’t long in coming. Len pushed forward, scowling at Jackson. “Who the fuck are you?”

I pointed at the table. “Sit. Eat breakfast.”

Len sat, glaring. Spence and Trina did too, their eyes wide.

I started to toss wrapped breakfast food in front of each person. “We’re going to eat breakfast, and while we do, I’m going to talk. And you’re all going to sit and listen, got it?” I turned to glare at each one in turn, exerting my will on them. “We’re going to behave like a civilized pack.”

Silence. I looked over at Len, the most vocal of my small group. He was staring at my neck, his jaw clenched in a mutinous scowl. Oh great. He’d seen the mate mark and he wasn’t pleased. His gaze swung to Jackson and I admit, I looked over at Jackson, too.

My mark was plain as day on Jackson’s tanned throat. For some reason, that embarrassed me. It was like advertising to the world ‘Hey, I’m going to shack up with this guy.’

“You all know the problem we’re having with Roscoe. And you all know that the last thing I want for us - for all of us - is him stepping in and taking over. The girls won’t be safe with him at the lead.” I looked at Trina and Holly’s pale faces. Spence pulled Trina closer to him, hugging his younger sister. The scowl on his face echoed Len’s. “And you know that since Cash died…” A knot formed in my throat and I swallowed hard. Grief threatened to choke me again.

As if sensing my distress, Jackson handed the baby off to Dan and stood. He moved to my side of the table and placed a hand on my shoulder.

The unfamiliar touch made me jump, startling me.

Len’s eyes narrowed, watching us.

Jackson’s hand rubbed my shoulder, comfortingly. One might almost say possessively. It was expected, especially with a new alpha stepping in. But I’d made things awkward by flinching away. Even now, I stood next to him, stiff as a board.

“My name is Jackson Wilder,” he said, and gestured at the other end of the table. “That’s Dan St. James. We were passing through Texas when Alice called and suggested we pool our resources. I liked what I saw and that’s why I’m here.”

Trina’s nose wrinkled. “I don’t get it. We don’t know you. How’d Alice get your phone number?”

“There’s an Alliance agency,” I began, not mentioning that it was a
dating
agency. I had some pride left.

Spence and Len groaned. “Alliance? You serious?” Len asked. “Those nutjobs? That’s for packless freaks.”

“The Alliance is made up of a lot of different shifters,” Jackson said, clearly unruffled by the tension at the table. No one was eating. They were just staring at the mountain of wrapped sandwiches. “And it’s good to have allies when you’re down on your luck.”

“We’re wolves,” Len sneered. “We don’t need allies. We have the pack.”

“We also don’t need their dating agency, then, do we, Len?” I glared at him.

He slouched lower in his seat, scowling.

“So anyhow,” I continued, clenching my hands on the table so I wouldn’t start wringing them. “Jackson is our new alpha and he’s my…mate. It’s going to take some time for everyone to get used to each other, but as of today, I want you all back in the house. You know the rules, too. No changing to wolf unless on Savage territory. No pack runs without clearing it through an alpha first. No interaction with other wolf packs without clearing it first, for the protection of everyone.”

“What about Jackson’s rules?” Holly asked, her voice whisper-thin. “Doesn’t his pack have rules?”

Jackson’s thumb caressed my nape again. “We’re going to go with Alice’s rules for now. She knows you better than I do. If anything needs changing, we’ll discuss it.”

Len snorted.

“What?” I snapped at him.

He shrugged his shoulders, glaring up at me and Jackson. “I can’t believe you picked up a stranger on the internet.” He wouldn’t look me in the eye, though. That would have been a challenge, and male wolves never challenged female wolves.

“We needed an alpha,” I told him, my teeth gritting. I could feel the growl rising in my throat. “Another alpha was the only way to keep the girls out of Roscoe’s grasp—“

“Yeah, well, he doesn’t seem very alpha,” Len said, getting to his feet. He was a yard away from me, in the seat closest to mine at the table. I’d noticed that he’d picked that spot - probably very deliberately. When he stood up, he towered over me. “You should be with me.”

BOOK: Single Wolf Female (Midnight Liaisons)
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