Logan glared at Sarah as he jabbed a steak off the platter. “Why didn’t you tell me her name last night?”
“You only told me her first name.”
“I couldn’t pronounce her last name. She said it too fast, and it was in some weird language. Alyson was the only part I caught.” Sarah glared right back.
Normally, he’d be ecstatic seeing the scarred girl stand up for herself, but not this time. Not when it came at his expense with a large political price tag. “First of all, French is not weird. Secondly, her father, René Tribideaux, is the packmaster of New Orleans. Third, do you have any idea have much shit would be stirred up if he knew I was within a hundred miles of his daughter?”
For the first time, Aaron looked worried. “I wasn’t aware there a blood feud between the San Antonio and New Orleans packs.”
Logan was sure the disgust he felt was reflected on his face. “Not per se. Mainly two alphas and their super-huge egos.”
“What did your father and René get into a snit fit about?” Esther prompted.
He didn’t want to go into family history with the Goldsteins, but all three looked at him expectantly. “They fought over my mom.”
“Like, literally, fought over your mom?” Sarah’s eyes widened.
“Yep.” He forked a baked potato onto his plate.
“That’s so romantic.” She sighed dreamily.
“No, it’s not. Especially not with werewolves. One of them should have wound up dead. My dad didn’t want to take on the New Orleans pack as well as his own. That’s the reason he let Tribideaux live. For us, getting your ass beat and being allowed to trot off with your tail tucked between your legs is embarrassing as hell.”
“Logan,” Esther said softly. “Language.”
He slammed down his fork. “She needs to understand how the world works.”
“You think I don’t know.” Sarah yanked up the sleeves of her sweater. Under the dining room chandelier, long white scars glistened along the length of her forearms. Even Aaron and Esther’s skills as healers could only do so much on the months-old damage once Augustine’s team had pulled the survivors out of that hell hole.
Sarah bared her teeth at Logan. “Tell me again how the world works, Mr. Polk.” She shoved back her chair, the pine feet screeching against the oak floor, and she raced from the room. Pounding on the stairs was followed by the slam of her bedroom door.
A lump burned in his throat. It had been a while since he’d screwed up that badly with Sarah. “I’m sorry,” he whispered.
Esther laid her hand over his fist. Only then did he realize the tension thrumming through his body. The rapid pulse in his ears.
“She pushed. You pushed back. Which is a switch in both of your behaviors.” Esther’s smile was sad, weary even. “Dr. Plinkman said we all needed to be patient with each other. I’ll take this as a positive sign.”
“It’s been almost four years,” he murmured.
“You can’t set a time limit on emotional damage, Logan.” Aaron rested his utensils on the side of his plate. “My daughter makes a good point though. Maybe you’re not using your parents as an excuse with Ms. Tribideaux, though it is a good reason to keep your distance. However, you’ve also avoided any were that’s passed through Tuttle Creek for the last four summers. Sarah’s making plans for school next fall. She’s moving on. As much as we love having you here, it’s time for you to move on with your life, too.”
As much as he hated to admit it, Aaron was right. Hell, even Alyson Tribideaux was right. He was hiding in Tuttle Creek. He had a choice to make. Find a mate and start a new pack.
Or go home to Texas and take a lower-ranked place under his father because he wasn’t about to fight his sire for pack dominance.
But if he was going to be a fucking beta, maybe fixing the old feud between the Polks and Tribideauxs was a good place to start.
* * *
Alyson jerked awake, unsure of what had roused her. She checked her recharging phone. Three a.m. local time.
She scanned the small bedroom. Nothing. Not even the proverbial mouse.
Flinging the comforter aside, she slid out of the high mattress and padded over to the door. There wasn’t any sound in the main part of the cabin.
Hinges squeaked when she pulled on the lever and peered through the opening. Moonlight spilled in silver squares along the rugs and hardwood floor. It was still two days before the full moon, but her skin tingled at the sight.
She crossed the living space. Embers glowed dully under the grate, but no burning scent indicating one had escaped through the screen guarding the fireplace.
Outside, the few remaining patches of snow gleamed. But there was nothing—
A shadow shifted near the pines that served as a windbreak on the west side of the cabin. The silhouette of a wolf stepped from behind a trunk, as if it knew she was watching. Branches provided enough gloom that she couldn’t make out the coloring.
Was it a wild wolf? Or was it the same were that had darted in front of her Jeep last night? Was it Logan Polk?
Alyson cracked open the front door, and a burst of frigid air blew past her along with the odor of the stranger. From his scent, he was the same wolf who’d nearly caused her accident last night. The same scent of the man who’d sat beside her at breakfast. The shadow wolf darted to the ridge, then looked over his shoulder, daring her to follow him.
Francine’s warning blared in her mind. While the urge to shift and run under the moon with him was tempting, something deep inside her said to listen to her aunt. She closed the door and locked it, waiting to see what he would do.
The wolf stood on the ridge for an hour. Or it could have been merely a second. His tail wagged once before he trotted off and disappeared from sight.
She sagged against the door. Was Francine right? Was Logan Polk so damaged he could only be friendly in his animal form? Had he been spying on her the whole time? She hadn’t bothered closing the curtains because she believed she was isolated from everyone up here.
Maybe there was another problem. Maybe the reason she clung to her romantic fantasies was from her own emotional damage. Maybe she was so damaged thanks to her mother and her father’s problems she would never be a suitable mate for anyone.
Maybe she was the one who was far too broken for Logan Polk.