Roryhadtoforce himself to let Anita leave the pub without his interference.
“Your grandmother expects you to mate with a wolf,” Hugh, his head bodyguard, said, his voice mild but his expression stern.
“I’m aware.” Rory clenched his fists to the point of pain and quelled the pithier retort trembling at his lips. “Beers all round? A pint of bitter?”
“We shouldnae be here,” Hugh said. “It’s not safe.”
“The pub is full of shifters from the gathering,” Rory said, keeping his tone mild.
The overprotection was unnecessary. His grandmother loved him, but he was no longer a child. He was an adult who’d steered the pack into the future. By any standards, they were wealthy now, and they were making a name with their furniture. He didn’t need his grandmother to micromanage him. “I doubt anyone will attack me here. The confrontation happened years ago, and grandmother’s elite guards caught the man who tried to kill me.”
The idea of Anita at his side thrilled him. Her presence felt familiar and perfect.
It was as if he’d known her for years. Fleeting images dashed through his mind, but they were gone before he could decipher them. When he’d been in his early twenties, the strike on him had left him injured and bedridden for three months. Gradually, he’d recovered, but the head knock had left him with missing memory.
Their healer had informed him this was his body’s way of coping with the shock, and his memories might never return. Not that this hampered him. His grandmother had told him he’d missed nothing of import—merely days of helping her with the sheep and cattle and the eating of a delicious joint of beef their cook had roasted. Everyone in the pack had mentioned the tasty meat.
“We’ll have one beer and return to the castle. I want to speak to other shifters. It’s interesting to hear how their species manage this modern world. It’s not silly to listen to them because we require new markets for our furniture.”
The bodyguard gave a reluctant nod, but his expression remained unhappy.
Rory gritted his teeth and struggled for patience, but it wasn’t Hugh’s fault. It was his grandmother’s for butting in where she wasn’t wanted and doing the overprotective thing. When he returned home, he needed to speak to her again and repeat that he would choose his life partner. Not her or anyone else.
Rory waited for his turn at the bar. When the barmaid turned to him, he said, “Four pints of bitter, please.”
“Rory, isn’t it?” a man asked. Anita’s friend.
“Aye. You’re Anita’s friend.”
“Ramsay. Don’t hurt Anita. She has gone through enough, and she is happy now.”
“I don’t intend to hurt her,” Rory snapped.
“See that you don’t.” Ramsay turned his back on Rory and smiled at a blonde woman standing beside him.
Rory sucked in a quick breath to calm his anger. Although it appeared Ramsay and Anita were close, he sensed nothing romantic between them. Anita had left while Ramsay had stayed and was talking with the blonde.
When Rory returned to the table where his bodyguards sat, Hugh was on the phone.
“I’ll do that,” Hugh said, his gaze on Rory before he slipped his phone into his sporran.
Rory sighed. “How is Grandmother?”
“In her usual fine form,” Hugh said.
“I see.” Irritation flashed through Rory as he slid onto a wooden chair. This spying on him had to stop. However, there was no point in taking his anger out on Hugh when this was his grandmother’s doing. He should’ve been firmer before he left. Hell, attending this gathering was a compromise. He’d backed down during their recent discussion instead of letting his temper rip. While he respected his grandmother and everything she’d done for him, it was time for her to butt out and let him live his life.
The pack was thriving, and several young men and a few women had taken up apprenticeships. Word of mouth had helped the business flourish, and with the advertising he’d arranged before he left his castle, this growth should continue.
“Is the bitter drinkable?” Rory managed an even tone.
“The beer is equal to the batches our brewer makes,” his youngest guard said.
Rory’s phone rang, and he snatched it off the tabletop to glance at the screen. His grandmother. He hit ignore and let the call go to voicemail.
“She’ll keep calling until you speak to her,” Hugh said, his gaze watchful.