My Highland Mate

Page 6

This Is Not Happening
EverymuscleinAnita’s body locked. She elbowed the aberrant yearning away and locked it in a mental safe. She added an internal danger sign and wrapped a chain around the closure. That should do the trick.
This wolf was not for her.
He’d rejected her when she was eighteen years old. His grandmother had confirmed Rory and she would never be lovers, never become partners.
Never. Never. Never.
The ugly scenes burst to life like ignited fireworks, flickering in fast-moving pictures through her mind. She recalled the embarrassment, the silence in a Great Hall much like this one. She could still remember the stares and sneering laughter. The ridicule that came from Rory’s pack because she—a feline shifter with the physique of a child—had dared to claim the heir apparent as her mate.
Did fate hate her this much?
Before the gathering had even formally started, destiny had tossed her in Rory Henderson’s path, seating her right beside him for dinner.
Talk about unlucky.
Her right hand trembled noticeably when she reached for her wineglass. The despicable memories kept repeating like a horror movie on constant replay. She’d been so young back then and full of confidence. So convinced that announcing Rory was her destined mate would click everything into place.
Of course, her grand plan had derailed almost straightaway.
As well as being a late bloomer, she’d possessed terrible skin thanks to her chocolate and sweet habit. Homemade sweets had been her biggest vice, and she’d loved to create variations of classic fudge recipes.
Anita’s behavior had appalled Rory’s grandmother, and two senior bodyguards had escorted her back to the house on Henderson Castle grounds where she and her parents lived. The house came with her father’s gamekeeper job. The bodyguards had locked Anita in her bedroom, and Rory’s grandmother had summoned Anita’s father to the castle.
A week later, she’d been en route to New Zealand and married to an older man, a widower with two girls. She hadn’t expected to encounter Rory on this first visit to Scotland.
She’d decided a spot in Saber Mitchell’s group to attend the gathering held little risk. Anita had agreed because her life had become routine and stagnant, and lately, she’d thought about having children. She’d seen Saber’s suggestion as a sign.
A delusion, she realized now. She gulped more wine and coughed when it went down the wrong way.
Rory cocked his head. “Shouldn’t you drink a little slower? We haven’t had dinner yet. If you keep gulping alcohol like that, you’ll end up drunk.”
Anita winged a glare in Rory’s direction without catching his eye. He had no right to her obedience. He’d lost that power the instant he’d refuted her mate claim.
“Here, have some water.”
The temptation to toss the liquid in his handsome face almost overwhelmed her. The years had treated him well. His dark brown hair held a red tint that grew more evident during the height of summer, and his blue eyes reminded her of a Scottish loch on a cloudless, sunny day. Five years older than her, he’d grown into his lanky limbs, and his golden skin told her he spent time outdoors.
Rory set the glass of water down, and a silent warning blared through her on seeing the interest, the speculation in those lake-blue eyes.
Interest was the last thing she needed.
“What do you want of me? You’re a wolf, and I’m a feline. I am not interested in an inter-species marriage.” Her lips pressed together, and since Rory seemed disinclined to refill her wineglass, she asked the man sitting beside her if he could pass her a bottle.
He did and offered her a charming smile while he topped up her glass.
“Thank you.” Her smile grew more genuine, even though he was a wolf, too.
Rory’s grandmother had set out strict conditions when she’d spoken to Anita’s father. She expected her grandson to mate with another wolf. There would be no bloodline mixing in their pack.
Another thought occurred, and pique struck like lightning, leaving her stunned once she saw the truth of this idea. Rory didn’trecognize her. While she’d changed radically in appearance, he hadn’t blinked on hearing her name. His current smile was one suitable for a new acquaintance. Friendly. Open. Slightly flirtatious.
His regard churned her stomach, but her feline basked under the attention. Silly cat. Rory Henderson would not stomp over their feelings again.
“Are you ignoring me?” The low voice held a trace of amusement.
Okay. Snubbing Rory wasn’t working. Time to suck it up and converse with him like an adult. Once this dinner ended, she’d avoid his company. She’d speak with the organizers and request no matches or face time with Rory Henderson. Edwina or Suzie, the other two Middlemarch women, would swap with her if necessary. Yeah, that’d work.