Anita grinned at her disappointment while Saber pretended to glower at his wife.
“Why are you back early?” London asked.
Anita sighed and started talking. She told them about her early life in Scotland, her claiming Rory as her mate and her subsequent expulsion from the pack lands. She left nothing out and didn’t make excuses.
“Wow,” London said. “We wouldn’t have sent you if we’d known your past would return to haunt you.”
“It’s okay,” Anita said. “It wasn’t all bad. Our group of six has become tight, and that’s a plus. I’m sorry I failed.” She paused before asking the question that burned her. “Do you think every shifter has several potential mates?”
“I don’t know,” Saber said. “I like to think we each have several possibilities, and it’s about choices. Did the others discover a possibility?”
“Ramsay disappeared, and I hadn’t seen him for a while. The guys told me they saw him briefly, so perhaps you might have more luck with him. Suzie and Edwina hadn’t come across anyone interesting before I left.”
“It doesn’t matter,” London assured her. “Finding a mate is a long shot. It was more about giving you experience with other shifters and the opportunity to learn and absorb ideas. It’s better for us as a community if each of us grows.”
Saber picked up a portion of scone and took a healthy bite. He chewed and swallowed.“What London said. Gathering attendance is an investment in our shifters and community.”
“Despite the drama, I had fun,” Anita said. “And I guess I’ve also put a lid on the past. I understand now why Rory never came after me or even demanded an explanation.”
“Will you be okay?” London asked.
“Yeah, I’ll be fine. I had a few hours’ stopover in Paris and shopped in Dubai. That’s definitely on the plus side. Getting shot—not so much.”
Saber’s brows drew together.“Did they catch the shooter?”
“Not that I know of, but Rory suspected it was one of his pack. An ex-army sniper. My impression was Elizabeth Henderson forced the man to shoot me. It would’ve been convenient if I’d died.”
Saber drank his tea. “Have you checked in with Gavin?”
“I intend to,” Anita said. “My shoulder is itchy, and it’s driving me crazy.”
“Was there anything else you needed to tell us?” Saber asked.
Anita thought back over the days and shook her head. “No, but I would like to thank you for sending me. As I mentioned earlier, now I have closure, I can move on.”
Famous last words, Anita thought four hours later. Her feline was a mopey ball of fluff and full of the sulks. Anita had already deep-cleaned the kitchen and attacked the bathroom and toilet with the same vigor. No matter how hard she tried, her thoughts kept returning to Rory. She couldn’t stop her pining, and even worse, she craved his touch.
After only a few days, she missed him. She’d shunted Rory Henderson to the past once, and she could do it again. There was no other alternative.
WhenRoryarrivedat Castle Henderson and analyzed the current situation, he realized he’d been fooling himself. Placing his loyalty for his only remaining family ahead of the pack had resulted in these dire consequences. They were existing, and aye, they were doing well financially because he made sure everyone received equal shares of the wealth, but it wasn’t enough. Stupidly, during his absence, he’d allowed his grandmother access to his accounts. A mistake since the nest egg he’d accumulated and invested was no longer in the bank.
Rory left the castle and climbed the hill to their main workshop.
“Marcus, what happened?” Numerous bruises in colors ranging from blue to purple and a few yellow covered his friend’s face.
“Your grandmother’s goons,” Marcus said. “They planned their attack well and struck when I was the only one working.”
“What did they want?”
“The safe key. I tried to tell the guards I didn’t have it, and they’d have to wait until your return. Your grandmother appeared and told me she’d gut me if I didn’t hand it over, but she’d start on the pups first. When I was slow to obey, she ordered her bodyguards to hack off Toby’s right arm. They refused, so she did it herself.”
“She what?” Rory asked in a hoarse voice.
Marcus swallowed hard. “Then she called for the next pup. She was laughing. God, Rory. I disliked your grandmother and considered her cruel, but I never thought her capable of this vindictiveness. Toby’s parents heard the commotion and came running. The guards held them back, but when Oliver punched Elizabeth, she turned the broadsword on him. She killed Oliver and his wife without hesitation, and it was obvious she intended to keep her word because she ordered her men to line up every male pup. I surrendered the key.”
“Where is she now?” Rory asked. “She’s not at the castle.”
Marcus swallowed hard. “She muttered something about arranging your wedding.”
“Not going to happen unless it’s to Anita,” Rory said without hesitation. In that heartbeat, he understood what his wolf had tried to tell him during their homeward journey. Castle Henderson was no longer home because Anita wasn’t here. “Where’s Toby?”
“Albany took him to the medical team. We’re hoping they can reattach his arm.”
“I’m going to hunt down my grandmother,” Rory said. “How many men does she have?”
“The usual four, but her behavior sickened them. That was easy to see. I don’t think they’ll protect her if she waves her sword around again.” Marcus shook his head, tears welling in his eyes. He swiped them away. “It was as if she’d snapped. She kept talking to herself and cackling. A lot of the families have packed their things and left. I don’t blame them. Honestly, I doubt I can stay now.”
In that instant, Rory’s decision was straightforward. Once he punished his grandmother and stopped her from damaging the pack any further, he’d leave and start over with Anita—if she’d have him.