“Where’syourshadow?”Edwina asked in a whisper.
The Middlemarch six were sitting in Ye Olde Hawk, one of Glenkirk’s pubs, each with a beer.
Anita glanced over her shoulder, an instinctive move she couldn’t have stopped if she’d tried. Her stomach lurched, but thankfully, he wasn’t there. The man discombobulated her, despite the years since she’d last seen him.
“He’s not my shadow.”
Anita turned to face her friends while fighting to maintain an impassive expression. Her breath whooshed out on seeing every one of them sported a broad grin.
Ramsay picked up his beer and leaned closer. “I don’t know. Every time we turn around, he’s there. I think he likes you.”
“It’s your imagination,” Anita said, quashing her feline’s inner purr of pleasure. Time to change the subject. “Has anyone met a potential match?”
“Not yet,” Suzie said. “But it’s only been one day. We shouldn’t have sneaked off this afternoon. We owe it to Saber and London and the council to at least take part and represent Middlemarch.”
“Let’s make a pact to do that from tomorrow,” Liam suggested. He was a newer resident of Middlemarch and worked on a local farm owned by a feline shifter family. “We agreed to give this a try because we like and respect Saber.”
“Let’s enjoy the evening, and tomorrow, we’ll do everything expected and search for those fictional fated mates.” Anita lifted her beer glass in a toast. “To tomorrow.”
Each of them lifted their glasses and clicked them together. “Tomorrow.”
“Your shadow has arrived.” Ramsay spoke in an undertone after his gaze swept the crowded pub.
“You’re teasing me.” Anita snuck a glance over her shoulder and discovered Ramsay spoke the truth. She groaned. “I don’t believe this.” She tried to tell herself she wasn’t pleased, but that was a lie. Each time she saw him, talked to him, hugged him, or rather he hugged her since they’d won second prize in the scavenger contest, it became more challenging to maintain her resentment.
It was difficult to recall why she disliked him and tough to blame him for the abrupt changes in her life and the break with her parents.
He drew her, attracted her, but stubbornly, she wanted this gathering to finish so she could return home with a clear conscience. She’d tell Saber she’d tried, but if fated mates were real and she had one, they hadn’t been in attendance.
And that would be a lie.
Rory might’ve rejected her, but he was still her mate. She knew it, and it seemed as if Rory knew it too—given his behavior.
She drifted back to the past, the memories still sharp enough to hurt. Rory had stared at her while his grandmother’s guards had closed ranks and pushed her back. Elizabeth Henderson had taken umbrage and burst forth with her outrage. The cheek of a scrawny feline. Anita was obviously after money since she didn’t have two pennies to rub together. Rory would never lower himself to accept a nobody. Her.
Rory hadn’t commented. He’d lifted his head, his nostrils had flared, and he’d turned away from her.
Anita recalled the scalding hot tears pouring down her cheeks. Silent tears that obscured her vision. Every one of Elizabeth’s scathing barbs had cut deep, flaying Anita’s confidence. She’d ordered Anita to leave and not show herself within the castle grounds ever again. At the time, Anita and her family had lived within the castle walls. She’d gone straight home and hidden in her bedroom, but her father had still lost his job that day.
The start of Anita’s banishment.
Anita straightened, determined not to linger over past bitterness. This entire situation confused her because he’d rejected her, yet he didn’t seem to think it was a big deal. He hadn’t mentioned the bust-up. She absently took a sip of her beer and thought back. Actually, his behavior was weird. He was still acting as if he’d never seen her before.
Granted, she hadn’t joined the dots for him, but he hadn’t clicked on hearing her name.
Perhaps the way he and his grandmother had treated her family embarrassed him, and he was uncertain of how to broach the matter.
Gah! Here he was, screwing with her thoughts and making her believe in the impossible all over again. Nothing had changed. Nothing.
They had no future.
Anita finished her beer.
“Want another one?” Ramsay asked.