Hugh cleared his throat. “I gave your grandmother an oath.”
Rory inhaled and sought calm. Of course, his grandmother stood amid this fiasco. “Anita Gatto nee Lennox says she is my mate, that I publicly rejected her. I have questions. Why the hell do I not remember this? I don’t recall the moment, nor do I know what Ross and Blair and their daughter Anita looked like. It’s funny, but Anita drew me from the moment we met, and she vomited over my favorite kilt. Sometimes I thought she was familiar, but I couldn’t grasp the memories.”
“I didna recognize her at first,” Hugh said.
Now we’re getting somewhere. “So what Anita told me is true?”
“I canna talk to you about this.”
Rory straightened. “Right. You tell my grandmother this. Anita is my mate, and I will do my best to sway her to my way of thinking. And if Grandmother argues, please inform her I am the alpha wolf, and what I say goes.”
Hugh’s face paled, and his mouth worked several times before speaking. “It might be best if you spoke to your grandmother and asked your questions. Please don’t make me break my oath. A man’s honor is important, aye?”
“What about my honor?” Rory asked. “Years ago, I rejected Anita. I don’t recall the circumstances, and now she’s gun-shy because of my past behavior.”
“Ask yer grandmother.”
“If you won’t tell me anything further, I have no use for you. Hugh, you and the security team, can return home. I don’t need you here spying on me.”
Heat crawled into Hugh’s cheeks. “Is that an order?”
“It is,” Rory said. “Things will change once I return home. I refuse to put up with my grandmother micromanaging me. I was the one who single-handedly clawed the pack back from the point of ruin. It is my furniture-making hobby that helps the pack thrive now. I care for those in our pack, but I realize the pack’s allegiance isn’t to me.”
“We show you loyalty,” Hugh snapped.
“Not true. You show my grandmother loyalty. You answer to her and sneak around behind my back. It’s she who makes the decisions, and because I’m busy organizing our business and working, I let her have her way. I see now I’ve blundered in allowing this. Now, get out of my sight. Go home.”
“But what if you need us?”
“If I get into trouble, one of the hundreds of shifters at the gathering is bound to show charity and offer aid.”
Hugh’s shoulders slumped, and he left the room. If he’d been in his wolf form, his ears would’ve drooped, and his tail would’ve tucked between his rear legs. Rory had never pulled rank in this way. He was easygoing and did his best for the pack, protecting the weak and keeping the strong in check. Everyone had plenty of food, and Rory ensured they were financially secure. He’d hired teachers to educate the young wolves and gave each shifter in his pack a chance to develop their strengths and gather knowledge. He’d improved conditions and took pride in that fact, yet it appeared his hard work had gone unnoticed and unappreciated.
Rory left his room, not bothering to pocket his phone. He’d find a group of shifters to keep him company. He didn’t care what they were as long as they were friendly, which was how he ended up drinking shots in the late afternoon with seven bear shifters and some of the male contingent from Middlemarch. Anita’s friend Ramsay wasn’t there, but Rory liked the other two felines. Scott and Liam were farmers and new to Middlemarch, but they enjoyed the friendly locals and took part in the many functions and activities their feline leaders organized for them.
The bears came from Canada in the main, but one or two Russians filled out the group.
“Anyone found a mate yet or someone they’d considering spending more time with?” a Canadian bear asked.
Rory shook his head, but his wolf growled low and menacingly inside his mind. His fingers curved to claws, and tension slid across his body.
“I’m convinced these gatherings do nothing. I mean, what is their success rate? My alpha insisted I attend, convinced I’d find the one,” a Russian bear said.
“The alpha wanted a week of peace,” one of his friends shot back.
Rory didn’t add to the conversation, his mind slipping to Anita. Hugh’s reaction told him Anita hadn’t lied. She and her family had lived with his pack for several years, and then they hadn’t. He sighed, facing the indisputable truth. It was time to face down his grandmother, and he needed to do it in person. This internal power struggle had to cease. His pack didn’t respect him. Hugh’s behavior had proved this. Rory was alpha, yet Hugh remained loyal to Rory’s grandmother.
This had to stop. It was time for a change, but his first obstacle was Anita. He rose abruptly and left in search of the lovely shifter. Time to meet her wrath.