Authors: Elizabeth Kelly
Dani frowned and then turned to Kaden. “I’ll see you at dinner?”
She hesitated and before Kaden could step back, she stood on her tiptoes and kissed him lightly on the cheek. Blushing a little, she hurried towards Leta who stepped out of the way but didn’t follow her out of the barn.
She kept a careful distance from Kaden and stared at him warily. “I still don’t like you.” She said suddenly.
He grinned. “No? Why not? I’m not taking Bree away from you.”
She glared at him. “I know! Bree would never leave me – she loves me. And my brother.” She added as an afterthought.
His grin widened. Despite the fact that she was half-Lycan, he liked the girl. Other than Sophia, she was the only Lycan who had made no effort with him at all in the last two weeks. Although she refused to leave Bree’s side the first few days, she had spent most of the time glowering at him as he visited with his sister.
After a few days she had mysteriously disappeared and he had questioned Bree about it. His sister had smiled a little. “She’s in trouble for being rude to you. Avery and Tristan aren’t allowing her to spend time with us until she learns better manners.”
He had laughed. “How long before she cracks and starts being nice to me?”
Bree had giggled. “You have no idea how stubborn Leta is. When her parents told her what they expected of her, I guess she vowed she would never be kind to you, and that she couldn’t wait until you left and she never had to see your ugly human face again.”
He had snorted laughter as Bree poked his side in a friendly way. “She lost horse-riding privileges for a week and was sent to her room without supper for that little outburst.”
“So that’s why I haven’t seen her glaring at me in the barn lately.” He had grinned.
Now, he crossed his arms across his chest and arched one eyebrow at her. “Why such a dislike for me, young Leta?”
She pursed her lips together and stared silently at the ground. He had decided she wasn’t going to answer when she suddenly blurted, “Because you’re making Bree sad.”
He frowned. Bree hadn’t said a word to him about leaving. She had seemed to make her peace with the fact that he wouldn’t stay and she had not appeared upset to him. Her acceptance had hurt his feelings and in a way, made it easier for him to leave.
“It’s true.” Leta mistook his silence for disagreement. She forgot herself and moved deeper into the barn to stand in front of him.
“She cries when you’re not around.”
“What do you mean?”
“She cries! She cries to mama and to James almost every day. She’s sad because you won’t even stay for the wedding.”
She gave him a cautious look. “I wasn’t spying. Don’t you tell papa that I was spying because I wasn’t. I just – just happened to hear them when I was playing in the closet in papa and mama’s room.”
“I won’t.” He promised.
She stared gravely at him. “You’re not a very nice person. I thought you would be nice like Bree but you’re not.”
Surprisingly, her words stung him a little. “I am a nice person, Leta.”
“No you’re not.” She insisted. “You won’t even stay for your own sister’s wedding. That’s mean. You’re mean!”
The young girl whirled around. Sophia had entered the barn and she frowned at her younger sister. “What did mom and dad say about being respectful to Bree’s brother?”
“He’s mean!” Leta was starting to cry. “He’s making Bree sad and he doesn’t even care!”
Sophia started towards her and Leta backed away until she bumped into Kaden. He steadied her with a hand on her back, and she turned and growled at him.
“Leta!” Sophia snapped again and the young girl slumped to the ground and began to cry. Sophia sat beside her and gathered her into her arms.
“Hush, Leta. Don’t cry.”
She glanced up at Kaden. “I’m sorry, she isn’t usually like this. The thing with Draken frightened her very badly, and things have been different around here lately. She’s excited about the wedding, and I think she’s overtired and overstimulated.”
Leta crawled into her lap and continued to sob weakly. “Please don’t tell papa I was bad, Sophia.”
Sophia stroked her dark hair. “Honey, you know that dad told you specifically to be respectful to Kaden. You weren’t. There are consequences for your actions.”
“They won’t let me ride again for another whole week!” Leta wailed. “I’ll die, Sophia. Die!”
Kaden sighed. The girl’s dramatics would have been funny if it hadn’t been so obvious that she was truly upset. He crouched down beside them and touched Leta’s shoulder lightly.
“It’s okay, Leta. I know you didn’t mean to be rude. You were just being honest right?”
She sniffed and nodded. “Yes.”
“I’ll make you a deal. I’ll ask Sophia not to tell your father if you promise to help Ian brush the horses after I’m gone. There are too many for him to brush by himself.”
She eyed him carefully for a moment and then nodded again. “I promise.”
“Good.” He straightened as Sophia kissed Leta’s cheek gently and then stood up, pulling the young girl to her feet.
“Dinner is ready, my love. Go and wash up.”
Leta left the barn and Sophia turned to Kaden. “Um, dinner is ready.” She said awkwardly. “Will you be joining us tonight?”
It was the first time they had been alone together in days, and his gaze flickered to the wall where they had kissed. He cleared his throat and glanced back at Sophia. She had followed his gaze and was staring at the barn wall. Her cheeks were pink and her tongue darted out to flick nervously at her upper lip.
She looked at him and her blush deepened. He stared silently at her and after a moment, took a step towards her. She backed up a step and smiled uncertainly at him.
“Is it true what Leta said? Is Bree upset?” He asked.
She gave him an odd look. “Of course she is. You’re her brother and she wants you to stay.”
“For what? She has your brother now. She has no need for me.” Even he could hear the jealousy in his voice.
She gave him an impatient look. “Loving my brother does not mean she doesn’t need you, Kaden. You don’t strike me as a stupid human but you’re certainly acting like one.”
He glared at her. “I’m not being stupid. I’m being realistic. Bree no longer needs my protection so why would I stay?”
“You stay because she loves you. You stay because it’s foolish of you to leave when you have no money, and no place to go. My parents are willing to hire you to work with Ian in the barn. You could earn a wage, be a free man, and have protection from Draken.”
He scoffed lightly. “Another reason Bree should be leaving with me. I know you believe that your family can protect us from Draken, but you don’t know him the way that we do. His pack is large and he’s crazy. And now,” he stepped closer and took her arm in a firm grip, “it’s not just my sister and I he wants, but you as well.”
She swallowed nervously as he began to rub her arm with his thumb. “You think you’re safe. You believe that Draken cannot harm you but you’re wrong. Your family has no idea what he’s capable of.”
“All the more reason for you to stay.” She replied. “You can help us. You know what he’s capable of.”
“Aye, I do.” He whispered. He was standing so close to her now she could feel his chest brushing against her breasts.
“Do you want me to stay?” He suddenly murmured.
She nodded and there was a flicker of emotion in his eyes that she didn’t understand.
“I – what?” She stammered.
He lowered his face to hers and she parted her mouth for his kiss. Instead of kissing her, he rubbed the ball of his thumb across her lower lip. She moaned, her breath warm against his face, and he stared mesmerized at the hint of her straight, white teeth.
“Why do you want me to stay?”
“Because Bree wants you to stay.” She whispered.
“Is that the only reason?” He slipped his thumb between her lips and she closed her mouth instinctively around it and sucked gently.
He made a quiet groaning noise. His eyes had darkened and he slipped his other hand around her to cup the back of her head. He slid his thumb back and forth in her mouth, feeling the wet heat of her tongue and lips holding him firmly inside of her.
His cock was rock hard, his breath coming in harsh pants, and he couldn’t look away from her dark eyes. They were changing, flecks of green appearing, and he watched as the dark brown changed to a light, clear green.
“Is there another reason you want me to stay, Sophia?” He asked again. He tried to pull his thumb from her mouth and she tightened her lips around it, stroking it roughly with her tongue until he groaned again.
“Tell me.” He whispered as he pulled his thumb free.
“Kaden, I – “
“Gods be damned, it’s cold out there tonight. You sure you want to leave when it’s – “ Ian came ambling through the doors at the far end of the barn, and stopped short when he saw Kaden and Sophia locked together.
Sophia, her face flaming, pulled away from Kaden and ran to the door. “Dinner is ready.” She called hoarsely before disappearing into the darkness.
Ian stared shrewdly at Kaden. “Sophia’s a pretty girl.”
“Aye.” Kaden grunted. He started towards the barn door, ignoring the grin on Ian’s face. “Are you coming for dinner or not?”
“Aye, I am.” Whistling softly, Ian followed him out of the barn.
“Are you awake, Kaden?” Ian’s voice drifted up the ladder of the hayloft.
“Aye, come up.” Kaden called.
He had been uncomfortable staying in the house with the Lycans, and he wondered if Avery had sensed it. After only a couple of days she had brought him out to the barn and showed him the hayloft.
“Ian used to stay here.” She said softly. “He moved into the house a couple of years ago. I know it isn’t much but you’re welcome to use it if you like.”
He had stared around the loft. She was right. It wasn’t much, just a bed, a dresser and a couple of overstuffed armchairs, but he had grunted his thanks and moved in that night.
Ian climbed the ladder and stood in the middle of the room, a small grin playing on his lips. “I haven’t been up here in years.”
“Why did you move into the house?” Kaden asked curiously.
Ian sat down in one of the armchairs. “When you get to be my age, you’ll understand the importance of having a bathroom close by.”
He laughed. “It’s a lot easier in the middle of the night to walk down the hall to a bathroom with running water, than it is to scale a ladder and use the outhouse behind the barn.”
Kaden grinned and settled his large body into the armchair opposite of Ian. “Aye, you have a good point.”
He shifted in the chair and waited for Ian to ask him exactly what he had been doing with Sophia in the barn before dinner.
“Still planning on leaving tomorrow?” Ian asked bluntly.
Kaden nodded. “I am.”
“I imagine your sister is upset about you leaving. Maybe some other people too.” Ian said quietly.
Kaden didn’t reply and Ian stared down at his hands. He picked at one dirty and broken nail thoughtfully for a few moments. “I have a sister.”
He smiled sadly. “She was a real firecracker. As a child, Sophia reminded me quite a bit of her actually. Melinda was very,” he paused, “strong-willed and opinionated.”
“Sounds more like Leta.” Kaden grunted.
Ian laughed. “Aye, Leta definitely knows what she wants. Of course, Sophia was quite the strong-willed child herself. Still is, as I’m sure you’ve noticed.”
“Aye.” Kaden said shortly. “Where is Melinda now?”
“She died just after her eleventh year.”
“I’m sorry, Ian.”
“Aye.” The old man sighed heavily. “She drowned. We weren’t much for swimming, but it was a hot day and she wanted to cool off. She was supposed to have someone go with her when she went to the river, but I guess she couldn’t find anyone. She went off by herself and the current was stronger than she thought.”
He stared at the floor, lost in thought for a moment, before looking up at Kaden. “It’s been years since her death, but I still wonder what would have happened if I had been with her that day instead of off causing trouble with my friends.”
“You can’t blame yourself.”
“Aye, I don’t. She knew the rules.” Ian stared at him. “I still miss her. I think about the woman she would have become. When I married my Anna, I hoped we’d have a little girl first. Thought maybe she would be like Melinda. But Anna never took with child. The gods didn’t see fit to bless us that way.”
Kaden nodded. He knew that Ian’s wife Anna had died many years ago. He had been spending quite a bit of time with the old man, and Ian wasn’t much for staying quiet.
“The point I’m trying to make is that you’re making a mistake.” Ian said firmly. “The odds of both you and Bree surviving Draken’s pack were nearly impossible, yet here you both are. If you leave now, you’re throwing away the precious gift the gods have given you.”
“Lycans beat us and nearly killed the both of us, Ian. I can’t stay with them.”
“You’re not a stupid man Kaden, but you sure are making stupid decisions.”
“Why does everyone keep saying that to me?” Kaden gritted out.
“Perhaps because it’s the truth.” Ian grinned at him before sobering. “I lost my sister and never got the chance to see her grow up, to marry the man she loved, and to have children. You have that chance. Bree is the only family you have left. Why would you walk away from her?”
“I told you Ian, the Lycans – “
Ian held up his hand. “I know what the Lycans did to you, Kaden. But it wasn’t these Lycans who whipped you and chained you and hunted your sister. Tristan and his family are good people and they respect humans. They believe that everyone is the same, no matter if they’re Lycans or humans. You could try giving them a chance to prove that to you.”
Before Kaden could reply, Ian stood up and stretched stiffly. “I know you have your mind set on leaving, but do me a favour and think hard tonight about your decision. At the very least consider staying for your sister’s wedding, alright?”