Not My Mate
ReliefstruckAnitalike hard, icy rain at Rory’s hesitation. She implored him with her eyes, trying to tell him without words they could never be together. He’d rejected her once, and he’d do it again in a heartbeat if his grandmother had her way. Rory might be the alpha wolf, but his grandmother held an extraordinary power of her own, and from the little Rory had told her to date, she assumed he took advice from Elizabeth.
Elizabeth Henderson would take one look at Anita and see beyond her carefully constructed mask. She’d discern the nobody feline girl—the one Rory had rejected and helped to cast from pack lands without regret.
Anita sensed the internal warring in Rory. Glimpsed his wolf, flicking in his eyes. Until the very last moment, he’d intended to kiss her square on the mouth. He’d planned to claim her, and no! No, that couldn’t happen.
He’d diverted his lips and kissed her on the cheek. Her heart leaped against her breastbone, her feline as edgy as her. She no longer paid attention to the music, her entire being focusing on Rory’s whereabouts. What was he doing? Why was he chasing her now when he’d rejected her in front of his pack?
The surprise element made her uneasy. Her hands trembled. Her legs, too, and she was glad she was sitting rather than standing.
The situation made no sense.
The game continued, and she received smiles but no more kisses.
“Well, that was a bust,” Edwina said once the game ended, and the competitors dispersed to the bar or the dining room for a late supper.
“That guy you vomited on,” Suzie said, her mouth pursed as if she were deep in thought. “I watched his expression when the music stopped. He was going to kiss you, then changed his mind. I could see the magnetic pull between you. Rory is your mate.”
“No!” Anita groaned because her instant denial fanned the flames of suspicion in her friends. They might be younger than her, but that didn’t make them stupid.
Edwina claimed Anita’s hand and towed her over to a private alcove, occupied by an old set of armor. “Right. Spill.”
“Don’t worry. The armor won’t tell tales, and neither will we.” Suzie offered her an impish grin.
Anita groaned again. “Long story short, I knew Rory when I was a teen. He’s ignoring that fact, or he doesn’t remember. I don’t know which is worse.”
Edwina’s neatly plucked brows drew together. “Why is that such a problem? It’s obvious he’s attracted to you, and you’re not immune. The two of you light up when you’re together. My bet is you’re mates.”
“No!” Anita snapped. “His grandmother disapproves of me, and it’s way better if I return to Middlemarch and forget about Rory. I’m hungry and craving something sweet. Anyone else want to check out the desserts?” A lie. She was in danger of choking if she tried to eat anything, given the apprehension lodged in her throat.
All she could think of was Rory and how much she ached for his touch. His kiss. His c— Anita cut that thought dead and barely restrained a sensual shudder. She lifted her head and strode to the bar without waiting for her friends. She’d have a drink at the very least—perhaps something containing alcohol to help her sleep.
The next morning, after a sleepless night, Anita crawled out of bed and took a cold shower. The slap of frigid water didn’t shock away her drowsiness. She’d only seen her roommate on the first night and presumed she’d found other accommodations. Not that the lack of company bothered Anita.
She chose casual black slacks and a short-sleeved red and white blouse since the outfit always made her feel vibrant and in control. A façade and one she was perfecting this week.
The truth—her mind refused to trot past Rory. She’d dreamed of him last night. A nice slice of happy slumber until the dream had morphed into a replay of the day she’d declared Rory her mate.
She recalled the horror on everyone’s face at the top table. The disgust and the fury displayed by Rory’s grandmother. The ridicule and jeering laughter that had come from the wealthy men and women, their daughters. Why would he show favoritism toward a scrawny, ugly feline shifter when he could have any one of the stunning, curvy werewolf daughters?
Even worse, Rory had remained silent and done nothing to defend her—a rejection in itself.
Yeah, she’d awoken with a scream and her heart pounding while tears poured over her cheeks. Today, she’d stay far from Rory. All she needed to do was get through the next few days.
When she could no longer dawdle, Anita sighed and left her room. The other Middlemarch shifters had secured a table, and she joined them, thankful she could be herself during breakfast at least.
“Coffee,” Anita croaked once she’d taken her seat.
Scott grinned at her. “Tough night?”
“Bad dreams,” Anita said, keeping it simple. “Where’s Ramsay?”
“He wasn’t there when I got out of bed. Either he had an early start, or he didn’t come home.”
“He was still at the pub when we left,” Edwina said.
Suzie took a long sip of her tea. “Should we worry?”