AnitastaredafterRory, and the pain in her chest stole her breath. Was he leaving? Just like that?
The bodyguard cast her a sympathetic glance before exiting the room.
“The bastard,” Edwina muttered. “How could Rory leave like that?”
“Maybe he’s coming back,” Suzie said.
“It doesn’t matter,” Anita said. “Us together wouldn’t work. We want different things. He has his pack to look after while I want to return to New Zealand. It’s my home now. I don’t need a mate. I have friends in Middlemarch and through my job—shifter and human.”
“You deserve better,” Suzie snapped. “You have honor and integrity, and you’re a good person. I didn’t know you well before Saber picked us to attend the gathering, but I’m proud to call you a friend.”
“Seconded,” Edwina said.
“What are you going to do?” Suzie asked.
“I might fly to France and visit my parents. We’re not close, but it’d be nice to see them. Then, I’ll travel home.”
“We’ll come with you,” Edwina said.
“No, stay and wave the flag for Middlemarch. Saber and London worked hard to persuade the rest of the Feline Council this gathering would benefit us. I’d hate to give the other council members ammunition to stop other shifters from receiving the opportunities we’ve had.”
Suzie and Edwina shared a glance before the two friends turned back to her.
“You’re right. Our grandmothers didn’t want this. Saber and London fought for us,” Edwina said.
Suzie nodded. “I admire our youngest Feline Council reps. They’ve been incredible and decent. They stood for us when we behaved like idiots and created trouble for everyone. We’ll stay. How is your wound?”
Anita prodded the bandage with a ginger touch. “It’s better. Not as painful. The flesh feels as if it has knitted together. I’ll be fine by tomorrow. Why don’t you join in the activities? I won’t leave until tomorrow because I’ll need to book a flight to France and try to change my one to New Zealand.”
“Maybe Rory will come to his senses,” Suzie suggested.
Edwina snorted. “And maybe Middlemarch felines will sprout wings and soar over the Southern Alps.”
There was a brief pause until they broke into laughter.
“I’d pay to see that,” Anita said with a companionable grin. The five Middlemarch shifters who’d come to Scotland with her had become a solid unit, and she didn’t think that’d change once they returned home. One good thing that had come from the gathering.
ApartofAnita hoped Rory might come to see her, but he’d left the castle before her. Anita sighed and strode into the local Middlemarch café—Storm in a Teacup—where she was meeting with Saber and London. The rest of her group wasn’t due home from Scotland until the end of next week.
Tension and a strained welcome had greeted her when she’d visited her parents, but she felt happier and lighter now since she’d made an effort. She hadn’t informed them about her recent meeting with Rory and had merely said she was in France on business and returning to New Zealand.
Saber and London were already waiting for her. The temperature had dropped with the promise of snow in the air. Anita had donned a woolen coat and a colorful scarf, even though she didn’t suffer the cold as much as the typical human.
“You spent time in the sun, didn’t you?” London said, peering at her.
“I did,” Anita said. “Summertime in the Northern hemisphere, remember?”
“How did it go?” Saber asked, his intense green gaze searing through her. “You’re home early.”
Before Anita could speak, Emily, Saber’s mate, arrived bearing a tray with a large pot of tea and three cheese scones fresh from the oven.
“Thanks, sweetheart,” Saber said.
The doorbell dinged, and Emily muttered under her breath. “Bother, I wanted to eavesdrop.”