Zane had left her heartbroken once before, could Macy learn to love a man she didn’t trust? Even if that man was her mate?
As the younger sister of the Alpha, and the Beta of the Big Dog Pack, Macy James grew up surrounded by family and always knowing she was loved and safe. When she hit puberty it became clear she had found her mate in her brother’s best friend, Zane Ellis.
Zane grew up as an only child, in a family where his parents had married each other only after the loss of their true mates. They made every day a living hell for the young Zane and he craved the love and security of a true family.
When an unexpected injury leads to the discovery of a lifetime, a sister he never knew he had, Zane will do whatever it takes to keep his sister safe, even if it means abandoning his true love, and mate, Macy.
“Here you go ladies, two slices of peanut butter cream pie.” Becky sat the saucers with the pie slices in front of me, and Cassidy, my best friend and sister-in-law. My mouth instantly starts to water.
“Um, Becky, I think there’s a mistake. We didn’t order any pie,” Cassidy says.
“Oh, I know, honey, but you’re eating for two. It’s my treat. Enjoy.”
She doesn’t have to tell me twice. Becky walks away and I pick up my fork and dive into the creamy goodness in front of me. I’m not eating for two, but as a wolf shifter I burn a lot of calories and I really need this in my life right now. I glance up at Cassidy and she’s just staring at her pie with the saddest eyes I’ve ever seen. “What’s up with the puppy dog eyes? I know you like pie and peanut butter.”
Cassidy sighs, “Yes, but if my ass gets any bigger it’s going to declare itself a country and take over the world.”
I start to laugh, but quickly turn it into a snort when Cassidy shoots me an evil-eyed glare. “Come on, Cass. Becky is right. You’re carrying my future niece or nephew in there. I promise you that your ass is perfectly fine, and I happen to know my brother has quite the fondness for it.” Cassidy isn’t a wolf shifter like the rest of the family and I know how carefully she watches her weight. I reach across the table and grasp her hand. “Tucker loves you, and he especially loves your curves. He will love you no matter what. Now eat the damn pie.”
Cassidy pushes a strand of bright red hair behind her ear and blushes. Motherhood really does agree with her—she is practically glowing and has never seemed happier. My brother, Tucker, is madly, hopelessly in love. That he happened to find his mate in my best friend is just an added bonus. I couldn’t be happier for the two of them. Despite my best efforts, though, I still hold a pinch of jealously. Finding your one true mate is not an easy task, and getting that mate to love you back has proved an even harder one for me.
“Tuck does seem to like my rapidly rounding body,” Cassidy points out, eyeing the pie slice.
“You’re kidding, right? He can’t keep his hands off you. It’s quite nauseating at times. Gee, you’ve barely been married six months and you’re six months pregnant already. Talk about not wasting any time.”
“Okay, already.” I watch Cassidy scoop a bite of pie in her mouth and roll her green eyes heavenwards. She moans her pleasure before speaking. “This is sinful and should be totally illegal—much like my husband who is also yummy and a hot stud to boot.”
We both burst into laughter, causing several in the diner to turn our way and smile. We are still smiling as we talk and eat our pie, when the bell above the diner’s door dings and I see Cassidy’s expression change. She glances my way nervously. “Macy…”
My whole body tenses for the unseen blow I sense coming. His scent engulfs me and I can’t help but close my eyes and take a deep breath. Zane Ellis.
I look up to see him standing there, all six feet-three inches of glorious, blond, blue-eyed, walking, talking desire. Zane Ellis makes my heart speed up, my lady bits weep with need, and I forget to breathe when I’m around him. Damn him! He was my fiancé and Tucker’s best friend until the incident that ended both. I haven’t seen or heard from him since the yearly dance at our ranch seven months ago when he had hit on Cassidy and almost caused another fight between him and Tucker.
He pulls out a chair without being asked and joins our table. Cassidy and I stare at him, both of us in shock at his boldness. Not sure why I’m surprised. He has always been bold. Always done whatever the hell he wanted to do and damn the consequences, or who he hurts.
Like me. He hurt me and I have to keep reminding myself of that little fact, because he has this mesmerizing way around me, like some damn Jedi Knight trick that makes me want to strip naked and jump his muscles.
“Cassidy, you’re looking stunning as always. I hear Tuck’s done right by you. Congratulations on the marriage and the upcoming baby,” he says smoothly.
Cassidy’s eyes nervously flick to me. We both know if Tucker were to come in and see Zane at our table he would totally lose his shit. The animosity between the former friends runs deep.
“Thank you,” she mutters, dropping her fork and looking longingly at the remains of her pie.
I try and keep my face blank, like I’m not interested, but I know that he can feel right through me. He can feel that I still desire him. Damn it, he can probably smell it and there’s nothing I can do about my traitorous body and its response to his nearness. “What do you want, Zane?” He turns his clear, sapphire eyes on me and my insides turn to mush. The once delicious peanut butter pie sours in my stomach. How many? How many other women has he turned to puddles of goo, just with the look from those eyes, or that smile, or that spectacular body?
I still want him.
I still love him.
He is my true mate.
Nope. Not even going there. I hate him. I hate what he’s done to me. I hate the fact he broke my heart and a year later I still haven’t been able to tape it back together. I hate that my brother lost his best friend in the aftermath of the engagement ending. I hate that I still love him. I hate that he still has this power over me and that my body and my wolf still desire him. Mostly, I hate that we’re mates and there’s not a damn thing either one of us can do about it.
“Beautiful, please I need to talk to you. Just give me ten minutes…alone,” he pleads, giving Cassidy an apologetic glance.
He sounds so sincere, so desperate that I almost crumble like a Christmas sugar cookie. I know I must stay strong. I can’t let him get to me again. The damage that he is capable of doing…has already done…is immense. I can’t go to that dark place again. I refuse to let him hurt me again. I stand and so does he. Out of the corner of my eye I see Cassidy struggle to her feet. “I have to go.” I have to get away from him. I’m too vulnerable in his presence, too easily swayed. I have to stay strong. I have to remember what he’s done to me in the past.
Zane reaches out and grabs my elbow. “Beautiful, you can’t keep running from me forever.”
“Stop calling me “beautiful” like it’s my damn name!”
I let out a harsh breath. My wolf rages this close to her mate. She wants him, too. His touch heats my entire body and I feel tears threaten. I will not cry in front of him. Not ever again. I’ve shed enough tears over this man. I start to panic. “Let go of me, Zane.”
After what feels like hours but in actuality is only seconds, he releases me and leans toward me to whisper, “I’ll never let you go, Macy. You and I belong to each other. You can’t avoid me forever.”
“Watch me,” I hiss back and I storm out the diner, barely noticing the cheerful ding of the bell above the door, my dignity thankfully still in place. I don’t look back.
Cassidy catches up with me a few minutes later. She’s breathing hard and I feel guilty for making her rush, but I had to get away before I did something to embarrass myself, like throw my arms around Zane and demand he make me his.
“Wow! That was intense. Is it always like that when the two of you are in the same room?” Cassidy puffs.
I reach my vehicle and turn to her. “I’m sorry he ruined our lunch. Listen, it really is best not to mention to Tucker that we ran into him. You know how he feels about him. No need to stir trouble up.”
Cassidy nods. “I thought after the yearly dance he had left town. Tuck said River had spoken to him after the stunt he pulled that caused trouble between me and Tuck.”
I dig my keys from my purse. “Yeah, I thought he was gone as well.” I catch hold of my keys and pull them out. I need to be gone. I can still smell him and my wolf is pacing with excitement.
Cassidy touches my arm to get my attention. “Listen Macy, I know this isn’t really any of my business, but maybe just give the guy ten minutes of your time. Hear what he has to say. What’s ten minutes going to hurt in the grand scheme of things? I feel like you’re not going to be able to move on until you do. I want to see you happy. You deserve to have what Tuck and I have.”
I stare at Cassidy like she’s sprouted a second head. What the hell? What’s it going to hurt? Me, I want to scream, but instead I take a deep breath and remind myself that Cassidy is new to this life. She’s not a wolf shifter, but still I need her to understand. “You know our history. I just can’t, Cass. It still hurts too much. Being around him, smelling him, and feeling his heat. It’s different for us shifters. It’s like I’m at war with my own body.”
“Oh, honey, don’t you see? That’s even more reason to give him the time. You are the one who told me that nothing but death can ever come between true mates. Surely you owe him just ten minutes?”
My words come out harsh and pain-filled, even to my own ears. “I love you Cassidy, but let’s get something clear here. I owe Zane Ellis nothing. Yes, we are mates and I curse the fates that make that so. Nothing can, or will, change that fact until one of us is dead. But I can’t be with a man who I don’t trust, be he my mate or not. Zane has proven he can’t be trusted. He is the one who choose someone else over me after making a commitment to me.”
“Honey, I love you too. I want only the best for you. So, either be with Zane, or get some closure so you can move on. You may not be with your mate, but be with someone who makes you happy. That’s all I’m saying. Just think about it.”
I pull her in for a hug. “I’ll think about it. I promise.” She still doesn’t get it. Moving on and being with someone who is not my mate will never make me happy. There will be no closure for me or for Zane. He’s made sure of that by his actions. I release her and smile and quickly try to change the subject, “Hey, thanks for meeting me in town for lunch.”
Cassidy snorts, “Yeah, like I’m going to miss the chance to eat.” She laughs and lovingly rubs her baby bump. “I was in town for my check-up anyway.”
“Is everything okay?”
She smiles dreamily back at me. “Yes, she’s perfect. I was going to tell you earlier that we’re having a girl, but…”
My heart squeezes. A little girl. I’m thrilled about being an aunt, but a little piece of me is jealous that it’s not me who is pregnant. Swollen with Zane’s baby growing inside of me. If he hadn’t left when he did I could be the one carrying a new life. My eyes start to burn from my effort not to cry. “I’m so happy for you and Tucker and I can’t wait to meet my niece. Drive safely going back home.” I watch her pull herself up into her SUV, buckle in, and wave as she pulls out of the parking spot.
My gaze gets pulled back across the way to the diner and Zane is standing outside the door watching me. His hands shoved in his pockets he has slipped on dark shades to cover his eyes, and with his cowboy hat pulled low his face is unreadable from here. Was Cassidy right? Did I need to give him a few minutes to explain? For what, so he can lie to me? Make an excuse for his sorry behavior? He left me for another woman. He was in a motel room with her when Tucker caught them. Did I really need to put myself through that in order to be able to move on? I hit my fob to unlock my vehicle and climb in. I promised Cassidy I would think about it and I will.
I pull out of the parking spot and onto the road. Glancing back into my rearview mirror I can still see him. He’s standing as still as a statue. Maybe she’s right. My brothers won’t like it, but maybe I do need to put an end to this. One way or another, end this shit and just move on.
I am so lost in my own thoughts that I almost miss the dark vehicle that pulls out from behind a building on the outskirts of town. They are close to my bumper and that makes me nervous. Traffic on the outskirts of town is rare and usually someone I know from a local ranch. I don’t know this vehicle and I don’t like how close it is following mine. I breathe a sigh of relief when the sign above our gate leading to our ranch comes in view. Mahigan James Ranch is my sanctuary. I quickly make the turn and glance up in my review mirror and watch as the SUV hesitates before speeding away.
I don’t think it’s Zane’s truck, and no matter the situation between us now, I know in my heart he would never put me in danger like that. The windows are too dark to see who is behind the wheel. I tell myself I’m being silly and overly suspicious. It’s probably just someone passing through town and they got a little lost. With everything else on my mind, it is easy to forget the black SUV that rode my bumper until I was home. After all Zane is back in town.