My Highland Mate

Page 34

Anita ignored this to ask more questions. “What happened? Why did your parents leave?”
“My grandmother.” Rory ran a hand through his hair, leaving the damp strands sticking up in tufts. “She organized a bride for me. This was years ago. It can’t have been long after you left because I was barely twenty. The she-wolf came from a European pack, and I disliked her on sight. Her scent was wrong, and she was a carbon copy of my grandmother in attitude and behavior.” He shook himself. “I haven’t thought about this for years. The memories are blurry.” He paused again, appearing to consider something, and his brow furrowed. “I can’t remember much, but I refused to go ahead. My parents stood up for me, and my grandmother was furious. She was offering a way forward for the pack, a way to increase our finances and survive, and couldn’t understand why I didn’t jump on her plan. She and my father went off for a walk, and when they returned, my father told me he was giving me control of the pack. I could make my decisions and do what I wanted, what my grandmother wanted because he was done. He couldn’t continue living this way. I didn’t speak with either of my parents for two years.” He rubbed his hand over his face. “The entire situation has a dreamlike feel to it, and my memory of events in the prior weeks is blank. Evidently, I was sick after the attack, and it took me a long time to recover.”
Anita’s stomach gave a loud rumble. “Pardon me.” She rose and pulled her handbag out from under the bed. After several minutes of rifling through it, she pulled out a sad-looking chocolate bar. “Want some?”
Rory laughed and donned his kilt. “I’ll order from the kitchen. Want a bottle of wine as well?”
“You drink white, right? A sav blanc?”
“You pay attention.”
Rory drew nearer and cupped her face with his hands. An instant later, he was kissing her with tenderness. He lifted his head and stared into her eyes. “Of course, I pay attention. You’re a beautiful woman, and I wanted to get to know you better. I’ll grab clean clothes from my room before I organize our meals. Won’t be long.”
Rory let himself out the door, and it clicked shut behind him, leaving Anita time to think over everything he’d told her or inferred about his life in the Highlands.
His hazy memories seemed strange, and his confusion when it came to her was apparent. She believed he didn’t remember her and wasn’t playing games. But she didn’t understand. He’d known her. Not well, but enough to say hello or share a smile.
The first time she’d seen him, she’d been fourteen. Small and scrawny, but a feisty fighter. She’d rescued a wild kitten from a group of older boys tormenting it. Rory had come along to stop them from beating her. That had been when she’d fallen for him. She’d been shy with boys, but with Rory, she’d stammered her thanks and taken the kitten home.
It’d been hero-worship. She understood that from the distance of time.
But after that meeting, she’d watched for Rory. She’d observed him running in his wolf form and flirting with the she-wolves. She’d spotted him toiling alongside the pack carpenter. He’d worked hard, and when she’d spied on him, he’d been undertaking pack duties. Obviously, his grandmother and father had groomed him to take over. Had Rory known? From what he’d said, his parents’ defection to Italy had come as a surprise.
Anita ate the chocolate bar and straightened the bed. On impulse, she called Ramsay, but his phone clicked to voicemail. She shrugged and left a message, telling him she was spending time with Rory. Her friend would be happy for her.
A quick tap came on her door, but before she reached it, Rory entered. He carried a bottle of wine and two glasses.
“The cook told me she’d get two meals delivered.”
“Aren’t they busy with the formal night?”
Rory shook his head. “They have extra staff.” The rattle of a trolley had him poking his head back out the door. “Here it comes now.”
“That was quick,” Anita said.
“What can I say? I used my charm.”
Anita smiled, but it didn’t feel natural. Rory possessed great charisma, and Anita feared she wasn’t immune to it. Already, they’d made love twice and that knotting thing. That was beyond crazy and so hard to wrap her head around. No, she had nothing to fear. Just a few more days of friendship and enjoyment and hot lovin’, then they’d part forever.