Alpha instinct, p.20
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       Alpha Instinct, p.20

         Part #1 of Moon Shifter series by Katie Reus
Page 20


  He closed the distance between them until he’d caged her in against the railing. It was dirty to use his size against her but he needed her to be a little off balance. The thought of her backing out of their deal was enough to rip a hole in his chest. “I know you consider this arrangement temporary. I can see it in your eyes. None of this is temporary to me or my pack. We want to be here, and I want to take care of you. I thought if I dumped too much on you at once you’d have more ammunition to say no to the whole thing. And I wanted to ease you into the idea of letting a jaguar join our pack. ”

  “Why?” Her dark eyebrows knitted together. Most of the anger had left her voice, only to be replaced by confusion.

  “We were already bringing in a new female with Erin, and Vivian is a jaguar. I thought …” He shrugged as he let the unspoken words hang in the air.

  Big mistake.

  Her eyes flared again with anger and something worse: hurt. “I get it now. You thought I’d actually care that she’s a different species. Do you really have such a low opinion of me? You think I’d abandon a little girl because of what she is? Why would you even want to mate with me if you think so little of me?” Her voice cracked on the last word.

  Shit. When she said it like that, he knew she was right. He wished the floor beneath him would split open and swallow him. He reached for her, but she jerked away. His inner wolf howled in frustration. Every part of him wanted to comfort her. “I hadn’t seen you in fifty years, Ana. I thought if there was a chance you’d …” He sighed. Any excuse was pathetic and she deserved better. “You’re right. I shouldn’t have lied and I should have had more faith in you. I made a stupid choice, but damn it, Ana, I really am sorry. Please don’t let this come between us. ”

  Her face deadpanned. “Where did you find them? Vivian told me her mother is dead, so I’m assuming her father is too. ”

  He was surprised by the abrupt question but he answered truthfully. “Vivian’s parents were killed in Colombia. I was friends with her father, and when I found out she was going to be placed with her maternal grandfather’s pack, I … liberated her. ”

  “You kidnapped her?”

  He shifted his weight. “Not exactly. Her mother left her pack for a reason, and I made a promise to Roberto—that was her father—that if anything ever happened to them I’d take care of Vivian and any future cubs they might have. I’ve got the necessary paperwork if anyone comes after her, but I doubt it’ll ever come to that. ”

  “That’s a pretty big responsibility to take on. ” Despite her stony stare, her voice softened.

  He shrugged, mainly because he didn’t want to get into the details. Asking a wolf to take care of feline offspring was almost unheard-of, but Vivian’s grandfather was a piece of shit who liked to abuse little girls, and Roberto hadn’t had many friends. Hell, Connor hadn’t had many friends around the time they’d met either, but he’d been doing business in South America and Roberto had helped him out on more than one occasion. Even if they hadn’t been friends, he’d respected the feline shifter for his honesty and wouldn’t have been able to say no to the request anyway.

  “What about Lucas?”

  “Ryan found him in Montana a few years ago when he was barely four. He’d been abandoned as far as anyone knows, though I find that hard to believe. It’s possible his parents were killed, but either way, we don’t know who his parents are—or were—and Lucas doesn’t remember anything. Lucas has been with Ryan since before joining my brother and me. ”

  She was silent as she digested his words. More than anything he wanted to wipe the hurt off her pretty face. Ana was completely right. He should have trusted his instinct when it came to her. He should have come clean about the cubs right away. Instead he’d acted like a coward.

  A lead ball sank into his stomach. If she decided to back out of their arrangement, he couldn’t stop her. They hadn’t mated and he had no claims on her. But he wouldn’t let her go without a fight. Even if he had to play dirty. After having a taste of her last night, walking away was unthinkable. “You promised to give us a shot. ”

  “Says the man who’s been lying to me,” she shot back immediately.

  The dominant animal in him wanted to throw her over his shoulder and simply claim her, making it impossible for her to kick him off the ranch. His humanity won out. “Where does this leave us?”

  She paused, but finally spoke. “I’m staying here tonight. I need some space. ”

  Every primal instinct inside him wanted to argue with her, but the human voice of reason told him to shut the hell up. He’d already pissed her off enough. Forcing her to stay at their place would only make things that much worse between them. “I’ll see you in the morning. ”

  “You’re not going to fight me?”

  “You’d prefer I did?”

  She eyed him warily. “No. You just seem to be accepting this too easily. ”

  “I fu— messed up. I can take responsibility for that. ”

  She paused for a long moment, then nodded. “Okay. ”

  Without touching or kissing her—even though he desperately wanted to—he headed back in the house. As the door shut behind him he couldn’t shake the feeling of dread that settled over him. He might have ruined their relationship before it ever had a chance to start.

  He opened the trash bag and pulled out his camouflage jacket. He’d kept it in the plastic bag with a bunch of pine boughs for two days to mask his scent. There was no way of knowing how many of those abominations would be patrolling the Cordona land but he knew they’d be out there. And they’d be able to smell him if he didn’t cover his tracks.

  Their security would be better, but he’d gotten onto their land undetected before and he’d do it again. Soon the Cordonas would be dead and so would the Taggart pack. They were trickier to get to, but he’d recently come across some information that would help him deal with that problem soon. If he couldn’t kill them, he was going to make sure they got locked up and kicked off their land for drug running. Unfortunately the Cordonas were above reproach, so he wouldn’t be able to pin any illegal activity on them.

  After slipping on his jacket and skull cap, he shoved the bag under the seat of his truck and got out. He’d turned off the dome light so he wouldn’t attract any more attention than necessary. Staring at the edge of the woods, he glanced around, but didn’t feel like he was being watched.

  He patted his jacket pocket even though he knew what he needed was still there. The bulge underneath his hands reassured him. His boots made minimal noise as he skirted through the woods. He’d grown up here, knew this land as well as the animals. It was simply a matter of making it—and getting back to his truck—without being caught.

  Once he traveled a few miles inland toward the ranch, his heart started to pound mercilessly against his chest. He was so close. Despite the cold, he wiped sweaty palms against his pants, then cursed himself. He couldn’t afford to emit too much body odor.

  Even in the dark he could see the cluster of homes surrounded by fences. Their garden was dormant now so he couldn’t poison their fresh food, and he couldn’t poison their wells like he had last time. They wouldn’t be using them so soon after the poisoning. But he could break into one of their storage sheds and contaminate their bottled water and canned foods.

  Keeping low to the ground, he inched his way until he reached the shed farthest from the barn and parking structure. Right in the middle of enemy territory, he’d never felt more alive in his life. Terror forked through him, but so did an exhilarating sense of power. Their lives were in his hands and he planned to make them suffer and die. With his glove-covered hand, he tried the metal knob once, but it was locked. He picked the lock as quickly as he could.

  Once inside the small storage facility, he glanced around. Cases of bottled water, flavored water and juices were stacked against one wall, and a small amount of canned food was on the other. Not bother
ing with the food, he headed for the beverages instead. He pulled a syringe from his pocket, bypassed the plain water and bent to the first case of flavored water. Quickly and carefully he injected bottles in each case with colloidal silver. The colored liquid covered any traces of the color of the silver. As he continued injecting, he kept his focus on the cases closest to the door. Those would get used first.

  Now all he had to do was wait for them to get sick again. Once their defenses were down he’d be able to strike harder. This time he wasn’t going to stop until every one of them was dead.

  Connor gritted his teeth as he faced off with the older wolf. “No disrespect, Alpha, but—”

  “You disrespect me by even coming here. I see the way you carry on with my daughter. It is disgusting. Now you dare ask to mate with her. Unthinkable!”

  “I’ve shown her nothing but the respect she deserves. ” And restraint. He hadn’t even kissed the innocent she-wolf, though his inner wolf howled at him all the time, demanding just a small taste. A little nibble. But he knew he’d never stop once he’d held Ana.

  “She’s promised to another. ” The man’s words sliced through the air with arrogant finality.

  Connor’s eyes narrowed. “She’s never said anything to me about that. ”

  “And why would she? You’re a passing fancy. You will be nothing but a small memory to her soon. ”

  Did Ana even know her father had promised her to someone? She would have told him, wouldn’t she? “I think she has the right to make that decision, sir. ”

  “Fine. I’ll allow her to decide. You or her pack. If she chooses you, I’ll banish her forever. You and your mutt brother have no place in my pack. I’ve given you shelter, and this is how you repay me? You go too far coming here tonight. ” The truth of the old wolf’s words hit Connor square in the chest.

  He meant everything he said. He’d banish sweet Ana from the only family, the only life she’d ever known. Her sisters and mother were her entire world.
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