“The pack doesn’t need to accept my mate. What happens in the future is between Anita and me. No one else. Grandmother, tell me the truth. What did you do back then? Why don’t I remember?”
Hugh’s jaw set, his focus on Elizabeth determined. “He deserves the truth.”
Elizabeth sniffed. “I have nothing to say.”
“Your grandmother threatened me.” Anita bore no loyalty to the woman. “She orchestrated the shooting this morning and advised she’d make sure the next bullet drilled my heart or head. Elizabeth informed me this was my last warning.”
Rory noticeably flexed his fingers, not removing his focus from his grandmother. “Anita is my mate. Nothing will change the truth. Threatening her won’t do you any favors.”
Elizabeth cursed. Several vicious Anglo-Saxon expletives turned the air blue. “What about your loyalty to your pack? You owe them. They require security and for the pack to remain pure.”
Rory’s snort echoed through the bedroom. “This modern world comes with challenges. The old ways no longer work, and we must become flexible.”
Elizabeth ignored Rory’s comment and sneered at Anita. “You shouldn’t have returned to Scotland. You should’ve stayed in that isolated little town with your filthy brethren.”
Anita released a hiss. “I didn’t know Rory was coming to the gathering. For all I knew, he had married and had six children. I tried to avoid him and keep to our pact, but Rory is determined.”
“Which is why I had to take action,” Elizabeth snapped. “I can’t let you enter our pack.”
“Who would want to join your pack?” Suzie demanded. “You’re not smiling and bringing out an enthusiastic welcome.”
“No one asked you. This is none of your business.”
“Grandmother, what did you do back then?”
“I don’t know what you mean.”
But Anita caught the rapid flicker of her eyes before Elizabeth controlled her body language. Anger flooded Anita, but she forced it back. Best to use her words rather than her fists. Beating up an older woman wouldn’t win Anita points, even if the wolf was a conniving bitch. This grannie forced her parents from a secure position and caused a rift in their family. Anita still felt guilty because her father had loved his job. It had been his passion, and Anita’s actions had stolen that from him. Thankfully, her parents enjoyed their new life with its continental excitement and challenges. But in between had been challenging with depression and hardship. She would never forgive Elizabeth Henderson for inflicting that suffering on her parents.
Hugh stepped forward. “I’ve had enough of the lies. All these years, I’ve kept your secrets because I believed you told me the truth. As a child, I saw the damage the feline clan did to your family, and I was glad when our pack drove them from the Highlands. Elizabeth, like you, I saw Rory as the future of our pack and believed we needed a she-wolf at his side for the pack to prosper. Rory has ignored every woman you’ve set in his way because, on some level, his wolf remembered he had a mate. Now, through a twist of fate, they’ve discovered each other again.”
“It’s a setup.” Elizabeth sneered. “That cat did her research and inserted herself into Rory’s path.”
“No,” Hugh said before Anita could stand up for herself. “I recognized her straightaway. It was her scent. It’s distinctive. Anita still tilts her head when considering a matter. She was shocked to see Rory, and to her credit, she tried to stay away from him. Once Rory spotted her, he wasn’t interested in anyone else. It was her he wanted, even though she kept trying to avoid him. He made sure he was close to her, and she continued to fight while he wore down her defenses.”
Elizabeth snorted, her icy gaze flashing contempt at Anita. This woman refused to bend—that was clear. Anita might admit Rory was her mate, but his grandmother would never accept her. The wolf pack would suffer and split into factions—those who supported Elizabeth and those who followed Rory.
Anita closed her eyes, exhausted by the situation.
“Grandmother,” Rory’s voice held steel and an underlying power that had Anita’s eyes opening. He’d never released his alpha power with her, but now he compelled obedience. “Grandmother,” Rory repeated himself, the command in it snapping every wolf in the room to attention.
“Aye.” The reply hissed through Elizabeth’s clenched teeth. Her shoulders were straight, and she stood tall. Her gaze connected with Anita’s, and it was full of disdain. Loathing.
Anita refused to glance away. No longer was she a young, untried feline. She didn’t need to prove a thing since she’d survived two stepchildren and created a new life for herself.
As if he could read her strident thoughts, Rory stepped closer and picked up her hand. He squeezed lightly.
“Grandmother, why don’t I recall Anita declaring herself my mate?”
Exactly what Anita wanted to learn. At first, she’d thought Rory had been lying, but he’d never slipped once nor betrayed knowledge of the event. Hugh had been a witness.
Elizabeth pressed her lips together and lifted her head. “I ran off an upstart cat who had ideas of infiltrating the pack and making us a laughingstock. Rory, if you insist on taking this woman as your mate, you’re not welcome at the castle. Don’t come home because I shall bar the castle gates.”
Anita felt Rory’s jolt of shock and barely restrained her gasp at Elizabeth’s effrontery since Rory was the alpha and in charge.
Elizabeth slid a mocking glance at Anita. “You will never rule at Castle Henderson while I have breath in my body. Enter, and danger will follow you. You’ll need eyes in the back of your head to stay alive.” On that declaration, she sailed to the door every inch the Highland queen.
There was a shocked instant when everyone in Anita’s room stared after the departing wolf.
“Rory, you can’t leave things this way with your grandmother. You can’t lose your home because of me.”
Rory didn’t reply but stared at the open door.
The guards who had arrived with Rory’s grandmother trailed her down the passage. Hugh and his team remained.
Hugh cleared his throat. “Rory, I’ll tell ye. It will cost me because your grandmother is a stubborn and unbending woman. She’ll not change her mind, but ye deserve the truth.”