Alpha instinct, p.9
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       Alpha Instinct, p.9

         Part #1 of Moon Shifter series by Katie Reus
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Page 9

 

  Letting him touch her and hold her was stupid and she needed to stop it now, before he got used to it. Who was she kidding? Before she got used to it. As they headed toward the waiting pack, she looked over at him to find him staring at her hard. As if he could read her innermost thoughts. And he wasn’t trying to hide his. He wanted her in a bad way, and she suddenly wondered if he’d keep his end of the bargain and give her time. Even more terrifying, she wondered how long she could keep her distance.

  Chapter 4

  Liam cruised down Avalon Street but stuck to the speed limit. He’d had to hike back to the turnoff on Ana’s property where he, Connor, and the rest of the pack had left their vehicles. He was thankful to have his Ford back. Connor had told him to do a little recon on the townspeople of Fontana, and from what he could tell it was a quaint mountain town that probably depended on tourism to survive the off-season. From a few of the bustling ski and snowboard shops he’d passed so far, it was obvious the local ski lodge didn’t hoard all the business in that area.

  All the shops were decorated for the holiday season. Garland wreathes and lights adorned most of the poles lining the main street. The town was an odd mix, though. Half Mayberry and half something else. Not exactly small town, but not big city either. Something in between. Clara’s Ice Cream shop, which had probably been there for thirty years, was nestled next to Sala’s, a high-end art gallery he’d seen featured on national television a couple years ago.

  There was a huge ski resort not far up the road and Fontana provided the lodging the resort didn’t. From what Ana had said, that was a lot.

  Ana didn’t seem to have much interest in assimilating herself in the town and he knew his brother would agree, but Liam thought that attitude was archaic. If anything, they could bring a lot of commerce to the area. He and Connor had done well in real estate, but if they expanded the ranch, built more stables and opened some of the land to the public for riding and lessons, it would be a smart move on two levels. The Cordonas made a huge profit off their beef sales, but it never hurt to expand and it really wouldn’t hurt to make friends with humans. Wasn’t his decision, though. But that didn’t mean he couldn’t meet with a local real estate agent and look at a few commercial properties. Getting to know the townspeople would only help them.

  As he steered by a cluster of shops directly off Avalon, he pulled into a parking spot right in front of a bookstore. December’s Book Nook.

  When they’d left upstate New York, they’d kept their property and homes but had left most of their furniture and other belongings. Including his book collection.

  A little bell jingled overhead as he entered the bookstore. The scent of butterscotch immediately accosted him. A few candles lined the window, probably the source of the delicious smell. There was a section roped off in one of the corners with a sign that read THE STORY LADY, EVERY THURSDAY AT 10

  “Can I help you?” A woman stepped out from behind one of the shelves with a smile on her face. Soft red curls framed her face. And not that dark auburn that was so typical, but bright, beautiful red curls. The kind of color a woman couldn’t buy from a bottle.

  His breath caught as he drank in the sight of her. She couldn’t be more than five-four—if that—and with her luscious curves, bright blue eyes and ivory skin, he felt as if he were staring at a bit of his homeland. He wasn’t sure where the thought came from but his heart quickened just the same.

  When she took a small step backward he realized he was staring a little too hard.

  “I was wondering if you had any new releases from Michael Connelly or Jonathan Kellerman. ” He kept as still as possible when he spoke. He was big and knew that could be intimidating. From what he could scent, she was alone in the store, and he was practically ogling her like a deranged pervert. It was a wonder she hadn’t backed farther away.

  Her face relaxed slightly and she motioned toward the first aisle. “We just got a shipment of books in last Friday. ”

  She picked a couple books off the shelf and stacked them in her hands as she talked. He tried to listen to what she was saying but all he could focus on was her mouth as it moved. Full, pink and shiny. As if she’d just put on gloss or whatever women used for their lips. He wanted to suck them, nibble them…. Her lips stopped moving. Shit, he was staring again.

  He focused on her eyes. Regardless of species, women were the most complicated creatures on the planet, but even he knew to listen when they spoke.

  “Were you listening to a word I said?” There was a slight trace of amusement in her voice.

  “No. I’m sorry. ”

  “You don’t sound sorry. ”

  “Probably because I’m not … Have dinner with me tomorrow night. ” He sounded like an imbecile, but at least he’d managed to string a couple coherent sentences together.

  Her eyebrows rose and she laughed. A loud, throaty sound that went straight to the ache between his legs. Immediately she covered her mouth and shook her head. “That was rude—I’m sorry. You just took me by surprise. I don’t even know your name. And you don’t even know mine. ”

  “I’m Liam Armstrong. ”

  She chewed on her bottom lip and he desperately wished his mouth was on hers. Covering and devouring it. Liam wasn’t sure what had come over him when it hit him. Mate.

  He jerked back at the word and tried to reject it. No. Impossible. She was human. That he was sure of.

  Mate.

  There it went again. The word resounded in his head so loudly he was surprised she hadn’t heard it. “Fuck,” he muttered.

  “Excuse me?”

  “Wha … nothing. I’m still waiting on your answer. And your name. ”

  “I haven’t decided, but my name is December McIntyre. ”

  “I knew you were a Scottish lassie. ” Over the past century he’d learned to cover his brogue, but he laid it on thick at the moment, hoping it would earn him a smile. He wasn’t disappointed.

  Grinning, she tugged on one of her curls. “You’re a bright one. ”

  She was a smart-ass. Absolutely perfect. And he was absolutely screwed, because she was human. Matings between shifters and humans weren’t exactly accepted in all circles. On either side. For all he knew, she hated his kind anyway. His inner wolf didn’t care, though. It recognized her on a primal level. When he’d been barely seven, he’d asked his father how he’d known his mother was his intended mate. His father’s green eyes had sparkled as he’d explained that some shifters knew immediately but most didn’t. And males almost always knew before females did. Liam guessed it was something innate that boiled down to biology. He really didn’t care about the science of it; he just wanted to know more about the redhead in front of him.

  “So, are you staying at Fontana resort? I haven’t seen you around town before. ”

  Resort? Oh, right. “No. ”

  “Not much of a conversationalist, are you?”

  “No. ” And he’d never cared before either. Talking was overrated. It had been a long time since he’d been with a woman, but all his lovers had been shifters and they’d all wanted one thing. Brief companionship. No fuss or complications. December had complication written all over her. With a capital C.

  She tucked a strand of her bright hair behind her ear. “You’re not giving me much to go on here. ”

  If he didn’t start acting like a normal person she was going to kick him out on his ass and he wouldn’t blame her. “I saw an Irish pub up the road a ways. I could meet you there tomorrow. Unless you have to work late. ” Under different circumstances he’d offer to pick her up, but considering the way he’d been acting, he didn’t want to spook her by asking for her address. He could guess how well that would go over.

  “Are you talking about Kelly’s?” she asked.

  He nodded. Kelly’s Bar and Grill. That was the place. It looked nice but not too upscale. A place they could relax. He held his breath as s
he weighed her options.

  Finally she spoke. “I’ll be there tomorrow at six, but if you don’t manage to carry on a conversation, I’m leaving. ”

  A surprising burst of relief jarred him straight to his core. “Fair enough. ”

  She started to say something else when the bell to her store jingled again. She peeked around the shelf, then smiled. “Excuse me,” she murmured to him before hurrying away. “Parker! What are you doing here?”

  Liam hung back and picked another book off the shelf. According to his brother, Parker was the name of the sheriff who’d come to the Cordona ranch earlier. He continued browsing the shelf but wasn’t really seeing anything. As he listened to December’s conversation his stomach muscles clenched. It was the sheriff and he was warning her about the new Armstrongs who’d settled on the Cordona ranch. Great.

  He waited until he heard the bell jingle again before stepping out from the short aisle. December’s previously warm gaze was darker, shuttered. She still clutched the few books in her hands but hovered near the door as if ready to bolt.

  It shouldn’t surprise him, but this time it did. He hadn’t thought she’d care about what he was.

  Finally she spoke. “Are you … one of them?”

  Instead of anger, something different settled in his gut. He wasn’t sure what it was but it was damn painful. “If by them you mean a shifter, then yes. I’m a wolf. ” He specified because there were so many different species. Not that it would matter to her. To most humans, shifters were all the same. A feline shifter was the same as a lupine shifter.

  She swallowed hard. “Did you want to get these books or …”

  “Yeah,” he muttered.

  She was silent as she rang him up and the fear rolling off her was starting to piss him off. What the hell did she think he was going to do—bite her? Under different circumstances that might not be such a bad idea.

  As she put the books in a plastic bag, he broke the silence. “Whatever you think you know about my kind, I would never hurt you. ”

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