Arrogant, Pompous Dog
Notevenstompingdown the mountain path at speed calmed Anita. Her nostrils flared as audible breaths heaved up from her chest and out of her mouth. Sweat coated her skin, and she was practically grinding her teeth by the time she flung open her bedroom door and clomped inside.
The arrogant, pompous dog!
She’d told him the truth, and he’d looked at her as if she was a talking head that had popped out of nowhere.
“Dirty fleabag.” She flung off her clothes and stalked to the en suite.
During her shower, she pondered the ways she could damage him. A fist to his pretty face. A punch in the gut. Or better, a swift kick to the balls. Her feline prickled beneath her skin as agitated as Anita with the uppity mutt who thought himself so far above them he’d rejected her. And worst of all—now he was pretending he didn’t remember the callous act.
She turned off the water and grabbed a towel to blot the water off her skin. That done, she pulled on one of the complimentary robes and strode out to the bedroom to collect her phone. Ramsay.
She’d call her friend. Maybe he could talk her down because she wanted to pack her bags and head for the airport right now. And that would disappoint Saber. Saber Mitchell was a feline she liked and respected, and the last thing she wanted was to renege on her promise to him and the Feline Council.
Ramsay’s phone went to voicemail.
She hung up with a frown. What was up with him? She hadn’t seen him since last night, and that was strange.
A knock at the door had her springing to her feet. She jerked the door open before using her senses to test the air and almost crashed into Rory.
“I don’t want to talk to you.” Anita attempted to slam the door in his face.
“Please, I won’t bother you for long. I want information.”
When Anita took a second to study him more closely, she noted his pale features, the way he fidgeted. But he met her gaze, and it was this openness and glimpse of his confusion that had her tamping down her anger and jumbled hurt. She inhaled and released the breath slowly while giving herself time to think.
“What sort of information?” Suspicion laced her tone, and she counseled herself to act with caution. She didn’t intend to make this easy for him.
“Can we talk inside your room? Please?”
Wordlessly, she stepped back, and Rory entered her room, the fragrance of soap and a freshly showered man floating in the air. His kilt swished with each purposeful step. The space shrunk with him in it, although he did nothing to ramp up her unease.
“Sit over there.” She pointed at her roommate’s bed, the one unused for the last two nights.
Rory backed up and gave her space. “First, I want to apologize. I know you’re telling the truth, but I don’t remember any of the events.” He swallowed hard. “I haven’t spoken to my grandmother yet, but I did question Hugh, who is head of my security team.”
“And?” Anita prompted, eager to hear what he’d say and learn how he’d twist the truth when he’d rejected her and turned her into an outcast in her home country.
“He refused to tell me what happened and told me to speak to my grandmother.”
“Your grandmother is a formidable lady. She made it clear no grandson or clansman of hers would sully themselves with a non-wolf shifter.” Anita snapped out the words, still feeling the sting of hostility all these years later. When Elizabeth Henderson had ripped Anita away from Rory, she’d broken something. Anita had tried to enjoy her new life and forgive those who’d separated her from her mate. She’d survived—barely—and didn’t think she was strong enough to repeat the ordeal.
Rory jerked upright and glared at her.“I am not my grandmother.”
They stared at one another, and hope and yearning broke in Anita, even though she tried to control the compulsion to comfort him. An instant later, Rory stood so close they were almost touching.
“I want you. All of you. I don’t understand any of this, and we’ll get to the truth, but know this. When I saw you in the Great Hall, you snared my interest. Every part of you fascinates me, and the layers I’ve uncovered so far tell me you’re an amazing woman. Any shifter male would be proud to have you stand at their side. You’re strong and compassionate. You care about your friends and community. I hope you have a corner in your heart for me because I intend to prove I’m worthy of the spot.”
A lump formed in Anita’s throat, and hope surged before she tamped it down. Words. They were just words. Empty promises that didn’t mean a thing. It was actions that mattered most.
“Please give me a chance to prove I’m not all hot air.”
Anita shook her head. “We have no future. You live in the Highlands. It’s your home. You’re the alpha of your pack, and they need you and your strength and foresight to survive. Your grandmother made it clear I’m not welcome, and the truth is I don’t want to return. The Highlands are no longer my home. I’ve fallen in love with Middlemarch and its residents. They’re friends and support me. If I ever have problems, I have help, and I offer aid in the same way. It’s a genuine community with a common purpose to stay safe in this modern world and to live rather than merely survive.”
“I love the Highlands.”
“That’s my point. We have no future.”