Alpha instinct, p.7
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       Alpha Instinct, p.7

         Part #1 of Moon Shifter series by Katie Reus
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Page 7

 

  “Not yet. I saw one of her cousins heading to her place about an hour ago. ” Tension hummed through him, but he tried to ignore it. Ana wouldn’t go back on her word. She was only five minutes late. He wouldn’t read into it. Hell, he couldn’t afford to. If his pack sensed any sort of reserve or tension between him and Ana, it could hurt all of them in the long run.

  Before apprehension had a chance to set in Ana, her twelve packmates and Erin walked through the entrance of the barn. His guys straightened when they entered, but he had eyes only for Ana. She smiled tentatively and hovered in front of her group as if she weren’t sure what the next move was.

  All his protectiveness kicked in. He never wanted her to feel insecure when she was with him. He crossed the short distance between them and put his arm around her shoulders as he led her to the front of his group. For a split second she tensed, but it was fleeting. The gesture was meant to be protective, but, more important, territorial. The animal in him didn’t care that his pack knew she was his. He still needed to claim her.

  Soon enough he’d mark her so that everyone would have no doubt about whom she belonged to. When she wrapped her arm around his waist and moved in closer to his embrace, the most primal side of him immediately calmed. He craved her submission and acceptance, whether he wanted to or not.

  Keeping his arm around her, he began. “I know we all had a long night, so I won’t keep you longer than necessary. My brothers and I are very grateful to you for welcoming us into the Cordona fold. I’m not sure how much Analena has told you, but starting today you’re all under our protection. As I’m sure you can tell, we’re all part of the warrior class and we take our jobs seriously. The Council will be made aware of the changes, and from this point forward we’ll be known as the Armstrong-Cordona pack. ” A ripple of unease rolled over the females.

  “What will this protection cost us? We’re not whores!” A dark-haired woman from the middle of the group stepped out. She looked like she was barely eighteen and had the attitude to go with it.

  Connor didn’t recognize her, but if she was that young it made sense that she wouldn’t yet have been born when he’d stayed with them. Before he could speak Ana stepped slightly forward and out of his embrace.

  “Bite your tongue, Natalia,” she growled. The unexpected heat from Ana surprised and soothed him. “Your sister and I already told you there would be no forced matings. Don’t be stupid enough to think all packs are like Taggart’s. Are you calling us liars?”

  Teresa grabbed the girl’s arm and tried to pull her back, but the young she-wolf shrugged out of her embrace. He guessed she was one of Teresa’s younger sisters.

  “I want to hear him say it,” Natalia shot back.

  Ana growled again, likely at the show of disrespect, but he didn’t blame the young she-wolf. Changes were happening overnight, and these females had been sheltered by their former Alpha for a long time. If all they had to go on as another example of pack life was Taggart’s pack, no wonder they were worried. Even if they knew they needed protection, Connor and his brothers were still strangers.

  He looked pointedly at the young wolf who had challenged him. “You’re too young, but I lived with your pack half a century ago. I’m sure any of the older females can attest to my character. The Cordonas of Girona have a rich history and your heritage won’t be forgotten or ignored. It’s obvious Ana has been a good leader and she would never let anyone join her pack that she didn’t trust. If you doubt that, then I doubt you know her well. ”

  The young she-wolf paused for a moment, then bowed her head submissively and fell back in line with Teresa.

  His words seemed to have an immediate calming effect on the rest of the females. Even Ana’s fingers relaxed. At least he was headed in the right direction. Connor had thought he was prepared for anything, but facing all these she-wolves was more intimidating than anything he’d ever done. The dark-haired women were smaller, slimmer than most wolves he’d come across, but it was obvious their pack was strong and organized. He’d seen that firsthand last night. “There will be changes. It’s unavoidable. For now, the living situations will stay relatively the same, but the day-to-day operations around here will change. It’ll be up to Ana who pairs off with whom, but my men will be following some of you around and learning the ropes starting today. And from now on, the males will be in charge of security. That is one thing I won’t bend on. You’re now mine to protect. ”

  Ana still hadn’t loosened up much next to him. Her back was stiff, and even though he couldn’t scent anything, her posture gave away a lot. He briefly glanced down at her. Her eyes were like the ocean. A deep, dark abyss. He could drown in them if he let himself. He could feel his canines start to lengthen and his body prime for sex, so he forced himself to look away. “I want everyone to know they can come to me with any problems, but Ana and I are to be mated. If I’m not here or if you’re more comfortable, Ana is my second in command. To everyone. ” He looked pointedly at his men. They already knew it, but he wanted it to be clear. According to pack rules she would be his second in charge the moment they mated, and while the warriors would know that on an intellectual level, all of them had been loners for many years before joining him. Sometimes they had a hard time coming to him with problems, so he knew there would be a learning curve for all of them.

  Finally Ana relaxed next to him. After he went through the introductions, the pack started mingling, giving him some private time with her. There was a lot they needed to talk about and he knew she had questions. He could see them running through her head every time he looked at her.

  Taking her hand, he maneuvered around everyone until they stood just outside the barn. He refrained from touching her further because it was impossible to tell if she’d welcome it and he didn’t want to face the rejection. He nearly snorted at the thought. He was now her Alpha and would soon be her mate, and he worried about rejection like an inexperienced cub. Still, he itched to reach out and hold her. “Did that go as you’d hoped?”

  She nodded and tucked a dark strand of hair behind her ear. Even though she didn’t say anything, when she nervously tucked her bottom lip between her teeth, alarm jumped inside him.

  “What’s on your mind?”

  “You said the living arrangements were going to stay relatively the same. What exactly does that mean?”

  “I don’t think you want to stay in the same house as your sisters, do you? I figured you’d want some privacy. At least … in the beginning. ” Intentionally lowering his voice, he reached out and cupped her cheek to make his meaning clear. A shudder rolled through him as he stroked his thumb across her soft skin. He’d had so many sleepless nights, dreaming about what it would be like to stand in front of her like this and be able to touch her freely. In his fantasies there was a lot less clothing involved.

  Her pink lips parted, and for a moment he got a peek into her thoughts. Confusion and lust flared in her eyes but she quickly masked it.

  She took a step back from him and cleared her throat. “I guess … you want to mate right away, huh?”

  He frowned at her words. Doesn’t she? He actually ached to be with her. The feeling welled up inside him and had only gotten worse since he’d laid eyes on her. “Are you so surprised?”

  “No … I don’t know. It’s not that. I just … I agreed to the temporary mating, but I wondered if …” The Ana he’d known had never stumbled over her words. She’d been so sure of herself. So sure of her place in the world. Nothing had seemed to faze her. Despite her innocence, he’d always felt out of his depth around her. Another reminder that he wasn’t good enough for her.

  The realization of what she was saying hit him. “You want to wait to consummate things. ”

  Wordlessly she nodded, but her cheeks tinged bright pink.

  A vise tightened around his chest. Of course she wanted to wait. The rational, human part of him understood why she wanted to.
The most primitive part of him roared in disagreement. He wanted all of her, and his inner wolf did not care about reason. “How long?” He managed to squeeze the question past his constricted throat. For so many years he’d lived with the knowledge that her family had deemed him unworthy of her. That he wasn’t good enough. Some primal part of him he didn’t understand and sometimes feared needed the union.

  “I don’t know. It’s not like I have a time frame. Maybe until we get to know one another. ” There was an unmistakable edge of sarcasm to her words. The fire and attitude he’d missed flared to life.

  He bit back a smile at her heated tone. “We already know one another. ”

  She shook her head vehemently, her silky dark hair swishing seductively around her face. “No, we don’t. Not really. I thought we did; then you left, Connor. Without. A. Word. ” Ana stared at him expectantly as she gave him an opening.

  Her dark eyes seemed to see right through him. She wanted an answer. Deserved one. But he couldn’t give it to her. Not now. Maybe ever. Instead he gave her an impassive, bored look. One he knew would annoy her.

  She just glared at him even harder. The look sliced through him. She opened her mouth, and he was afraid she’d push him further about why he’d left. He couldn’t give her the answer she wanted, so he cut her off before she spoke.

  “I’ll give you time. But I can promise you that by this time next week, you’ll be begging to mate with me. ” His statement had the intended effect.

  Her eyebrows rose in surprise. “Lord, I’d forgotten what an arrogant bastard you were. ”

  “Not arrogant; confident. ” More like terrified that she’d reject him.

  Mating with a female who didn’t return his feelings would likely rip him apart from the inside out one piece at a time. But he’d rather be with her than watch her mate, or, God forbid, bond with someone else. That thought made something dark and fierce burn within him. It was completely primal, completely his wolf side, and it was terrifying. If he’d ever met Ana’s former mate, Connor didn’t like to think about how he’d have handled it. Somewhere deep inside, he knew he’d have challenged the wolf for Ana. Those practices were ancient, some would say archaic. He didn’t care.

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