Rorytrottedtowardthe castle, his mind on the woman. Anita. He hadn’t meant to eavesdrop on their conversation, but once his wolf had caught their scent, Rory had lost control then given up. His wolf desired the dark-haired woman. He didn’t care she was a feline. He didn’t care his grandmother expected a she-wolf to join their pack.
No, his wolf had focused on taking the woman and marking her as theirs.
Rory hadn’t heard the start of the conversation, but he’d heard them arrange to visit the local pub. His wolf growled deep in his throat, his aggravation clear. They both disliked the closeness between the pair, their easy conversation.
But what should Rory do about it?
Did he ignore his instincts and coast through the week? He could tell his grandmother not one of the shifter women had attracted his wolf’s attention, which would leave him back at the start with Elizabeth’s plans. She’d attempt to force her friend’s daughter on him. She’d discuss ad nauseam and chip at his resolve, or at least she’d try.
Now that he’d met Anita, he refused to settle for his grandmother’s candidate.
He replayed the couple’s conversation in his mind. Anita had been married, and her husband had died. She had stepchildren. His grandmother wanted him to marry a virgin. While it didn’t matter to him—it honestly didn’t—he couldn’t help the snarl of displeasure that escaped him.
Neither he nor his wolf approved of her keeping company with the man who was a close friend, which meant Rory would visit that pub tonight. His security detail would tag along, but he could ditch them later.
As soon as he pried Anita from her friends, he’d start his seduction.
Three wolves joined him, but he didn’t flinch because he recognized their scents. He continued his fast trot toward the castle to give himself time to change. Although he and the other contestants didn’t know the rules of the scavenger hunt yet, the short blurb in the “What’s On” leaflet had mentioned everyone must hunt for their clues on two legs.
The line of contestants was far longer than he’d envisioned, and he frowned. How the hell could he finagle Anita onto his team?
The compere arrived. Rory blinked. What the heck was the man wearing? His kilt sparkled in the morning light, and a disco ball came to mind. A lone piper accompanied the flamboyant man. As the last notes died, the compere held up his right hand for silence. “Please, everyone. Line up. Males in one line and females in another. Ladies, you stay in your line for now and talk amongst yourself. Gentlemen, please move forward and speak to our three lovely assistants.”
Rory waited his turn. The shifters in front of him glanced at the women, and each walked the line and chose one. Rory’s heart hammered when a man paused in front of Anita, then continued onward when she scowled at him.
A challenge. Rory hid his victorious grin. She didn’t want a mate.
He had a tough job in front of him, but he could woo and win her affection. She was strong and mouthy and unafraid to speak her mind. That would stand her in excellent stead when coming face to face with his grandmother.
She had dark beauty, and intelligence shone in her golden-brown eyes. She dressed nicely but didn’t bare too much skin. At least she hadn’t last night. That wasn’t a deal-breaker, but he didn’t want other men ogling his mate. If she preferred to live in a town or city, that would be a problem. He couldn’t imagine living cheek to jowl with humans and other shifters because he loved the beauty of the mountains and the contentment he found making his furniture.
Something to consider once he spent time with the woman.
Rory reached the head of the line.
“Name,” the woman asked.
“You have two hours to find the items on your list. You can begin as soon as the starter fires his gun. Please choose your partner, then wait with the other teams. One point before you commence—partners must remain together. If we find you on your own, it will disqualify you.”
Rory accepted the list and stalked halfway along the line until he reached Anita. He stopped in front of her, and she glared at him.
“Go away. Pick someone else,” she said in a clear voice.
“I want you.”
“What if I vomit on you again?”
“You look healthy. We’re out in the fresh air. If you have the sudden urge to upchuck, you can aim for a bush.”
“Ladies,” the compere shouted, his voice hoarse with enthusiasm. “You don’t have the luxury of refusing an invitation. You will have your turn to pick a gentleman tomorrow, and of course, you’re welcome to spend time with any shifter during the other organized activities.”
“Anita.” Rory extended his hand. “You heard the man.”