Several sharp raps sounded on the front door and Phil looked around the room. No one moved or said a word. It had been a few hours since Portia had mentioned a guest coming over, so who could it be?
“Anyone want to grab the door?”
Three more knocks sounded. Finally, Phil got up to answer the door, only because Mason, Dani, and Portia had gotten deeply involved in Cal’s story. The doctor was making grand hand gestures and was speaking loudly.
“No problem. I’ll just get it,” Phil grumbled as he swung the door open.
Alisha stood there, looking sexy though a bit nervous. “Can we please talk for a minute before I come inside?” She bit her lip, clearly upset about something, then motioned towards the porch with her head.
Phil opened the screen door and moved past her. He sat down on the small bench furthest away from the house and set his hands on his thighs. “Sure.”
Alisha joined him on the bench, though she appeared unsure about where to put her hands. Finally, she folded them in her lap and took a breath. “Look, I was awful to you in the store.”
“Uh-huh.” He glanced over at her, really wanting to let her have a piece of his mind, but resigned to hear what she had to say.
“I don’t know why I said what I did, or did what I did.” Her hands wrung together in an uncomfortable looking manner, and he put one of his on top of them.
“Relax. Just tell me what’s on your mind.”
Alisha took another quick breath. “I’m like, ridiculously attracted to you.”
“Well, yeah, have you seen me?” Phil cocked his head to the side. “I am ridiculously attractive.”
“I’m serious! It took a lot for me to beg Mason to come over here so I could apologize to you!” Alisha yanked her hands out of his. “You promised we could talk, but you aren’t even listening.”
“Talking implies two people having a conversation. Listening means only you would be talking.” Phil leaned back against the bench. “So, I’m engaging in verbal strings of nonsense with you as requested.”
“Are you even the least bit interested in me?”
“I’m very interested in you, or I wouldn’t be giving you the time of day,” he scoffed as he remembered the way her body had reacted to his. Her pheromones had literally spiked when he’d walked into Dani’s store. That usually didn’t happen, as most human women stayed away.
“I want to properly apologize to you.” Alisha dropped her head down after she spoke the words.
“Do you know what ‘properly apologizing’ around here means?” Phil stared at the side of her face in awe, then took a hold of her chin. He raised it until her eyes were on his. “Do you really? Because I don’t want to hear later on about you not understanding my rules.”
“It means your method of punishment, whatever you decide. I’m just making things worse at the moment, and I don’t want to. I really need to make things right.”
Her eyes looked sincere, but she’d pushed so hard back at the store. He decided to give her the benefit of the doubt and see what happened.
“Okay. Let’s go upstairs.” Phil stood and motioned for her to walk in front of him.
She did as she was told, now appearing even more anxious than before as she quickly made her way up the stairs without a word. She hadn’t been in his room before, and he’d never allowed many women in.
Phil opened the door and gestured for her to enter. She did so and stood awkwardly in the center. Alisha didn’t seem to know what to do with herself so he quickly shut the door. There were a few ways he could punish her, but he wasn’t completely sure which was the best way to get through to her.
Each woman he disciplined had her own unique needs and reasons for needing the correction, and he had yet to figure out Alisha’s. He thought over his options, then sat on the edge of his bed. “Take off your jeans and get over my lap.”
Alisha blushed, but nodded and hurried to pull down her pants. She unbuttoned them, then slid them over her hips and legs until she could step out. He raised an eyebrow as her dark red panties came into view, and he wondered if she’d chosen them for this scenario. She hesitated a moment when she saw him staring, and then she took several hurried steps to the bed to clamber over his knees.
Phil admired her perky little bottom presented to him in the silky panties. He took his time grasping the waistband and slowly edging it downwards until it decorated her knees.
She took in a sharp breath, as if preparing herself for his hand. She really meant to take a spanking, he realized. There was something about her which attracted him immediately and now with her draped over his thighs, he knew it had been her desire to give up a tiny bit of control. He didn’t know her story yet, but her begging Mason to let her come over seemed like more than just lust.
“I, uh, really didn’t think I would see you anytime soon. You kind of threw me off base by coming to the—ouch!” She bucked as the first smack landed on her right cheek.
Before she could continue her thought, he let his hand fall swiftly against the other side. He brought his hand up quickly, more so for effect than for actually smacking her butt, and then brought it down again with a resounding slap.
She had been rude and overly nasty in her comments, but they weren’t in anything that resembled a relationship. She wasn’t his to keep in line, and so he had no business correcting her as if she were. But he did want to remind her that he was in charge in case things progressed.
In case things progressed?
He paused a moment as the thought sank into his brain. He couldn’t pursue a relationship with her. She was a human! And her being human was only part of it. He couldn’t do it because he was expected to find a mate and claim her. A beta didn’t go around claiming a human.
“Why… did… you… stop?” Alisha’s voice was strained. “Did I mess things up so badly? Now, you don’t want to waste—ow!” Her legs kicked out as one sharp slap met the top of each thigh.
“No more talking.” Phil growled under his breath, more so to collect his thoughts than to prevent her from speaking. He started up again and quickly found a steady rhythm as he smacked her beautiful mocha cheeks. They were now blushing a lovely shade of pink that he stopped to admire before continuing the lesson. She whimpered with every spank until her breath caught and he heard her choke back a sob.
He carefully eased her panties back into place, then turned her over and pulled her up against his chest. She looped her arms around his neck and pressed her head against him.
“I’ve had some things on my mind too.”
“Like what?” Alisha’s reply was muffled by his shirt.
Phil nuzzled the side of her head until she looked up at him. “Things.” He couldn’t think about anything else other than Alisha, such a tiny little thing, while she stared up at him expectantly.
She shifted slightly so she could see his whole face. “Have you been thinking about me?”
If she knew he had literally been thinking of her since the night they’d met, she would probably get all high and mighty. No, it wasn’t fair to assume that of her. He studied her for a moment without speaking. How the hell do I get out of this one?
“Maybe.” He kept his real feelings away from almost everyone that such a direct question left him speechless.
Alisha pressed her lips to his, hesitantly at first, and then she deepened the kiss when he responded in kind. She tugged on his bottom lip, but he stopped her by pressing a finger to her mouth. She hadn’t used her teeth, but he didn’t want to risk his blood mixing with hers. Even after Cal had assured him it shouldn’t be a problem.
“I’m sorry,” she pouted. “I couldn’t help myself.” Alisha blinked her gorgeous hazel eyes at him, and he nearly melted.
He was in so much trouble. That’s what it came down to. She was breathtaking in so many ways and she was making him feel all kinds of jumbled inside, which wasn’t something he’d felt before. If she were a werewolf, he’d have claimed her right here on his bed, right now, but she wasn’t.
“Did I make you upset?” Alisha suddenly trembled under his hands.
Fuck. His eyes. That had to be it. They scared most people—human women more than any others he’d met in his life—and he shut them tightly. “No.” Phil slid her off his lap onto the soft mattress, then stood up. “Anger is only one emotion which makes them glow. I’m not angry at all.”
He heard the creak of the springs as Alisha stood, and then her hands yanked his shirt over his head. His eyes flew open, and he meant to tell her to cut it out when she licked a long line down his neck and across his chest.
“What else makes them do that?” she nearly purred as she trailed up to his mouth.
He reached behind him, captured her body in his arms, and brought her in front of him. He pulled her up, forcing her to link her legs around his waist, and eagerly began exploring her mouth with his tongue. Never had he wanted someone the way he wanted this human. But she was human. He needed to be careful.
Phil had been careful his whole damn life, never letting his temper get the best of him, especially in matters of discipline or pack politics. Now he wanted to devour Alisha, all of her.
“Arousal,” he whispered against her ear. Phil threw them onto the bed, holding her on top of him and continuing to kiss her hard. She responded just as eagerly but kept her teeth very well covered. He growled as her nails raked down over his stomach, loving the sweetness and roughness of it all at once.
“Really? Let’s see if I can make them glow again,” Alisha teased as she reached for his belt buckle and undid it. Her fingers found their way inside his way too tight jeans, and her mouth dropped open in a small ‘o’ when his lack of underwear became apparent.
“Are you sure—”
A loud knock banged against the door, and Dani’s voice filtered through. “The pizza is getting cold! Come on! You can’t stay in there all night! We’re wondering what’s going on.”
Dani would probably bless a relationship between them, but without one in place, he didn’t need her to see her best friend feeling around in his pants.
A relationship, is that what I’m back to?
“Thanks! We’ll be down in a few.” Phil sighed as Alisha got the message and maneuvered her hand out. He frowned when she zipped his jeans and buckled them. “Damnit. Sometimes I hate living with a group.”
“I’m really sorry for what I said in the store. All I wanted you to do was push me up against the counter—”
“Stop… stop!” Phil held his hands up in defeat. “Seriously, if you keep going the pizza will be long gone. Then it will be a parade of wolves up here.”
Alisha drew her lips into a straight line, but a tiny smile peeked through. “What sort of ideas have you been thinking about?”
“Darling, if you only knew the sort of ideas I have.” He winked as he helped her off of him so they could stand. “But for now? I forgive you. But I won’t hesitate to spank you again. Just so you know, what I did tonight was mild. If you and I take things further, there will be rules.”
Alisha swallowed hard, and he realized what had just slipped out of his mouth. Was she really getting him so worked up that he had just mentioned something more serious?
“I have something I have to confess to you first. If we do embark on that road,” she took a deep breath, “I used to be in a pack.”
“I’ve never heard of that sort of arrangement. Did Dani know this whole time?”
“No, I never told her because I didn’t want her trying to find out more information. I left on bad terms.” There was a pregnant pause as he waited for her to go into detail, but she shook her head. “Ugh! I can’t explain it right now. There is a lot to tell you. Listen, please know I loved being in a pack. I love functioning in one, but I’m just a weak little human.”
In a flash, he took her around the waist and bent her over the bed. “If you ever use your species as a putdown in front of me, or if I hear you did, relationship or not, I swear you won’t sit comfortably for a week.” Phil punctuated his statement by two sharp smacks to her sit spots.
“Sometimes I think Mother Nature got it all wrong! I was supposed to be a wolf.” She let out a string of curses as he landed two more sets. “I’m sorry! I won’t do it again!”
Phil hoped he’d gotten the message across. He needed to know how she’d found herself in a pack to start with. Did she want to be a wolf? He tried to think back on a time when he had pondered the differences between being a wolf and a human. What types of things would he have done if he were just human?
Well, he certainly wouldn’t be beta, but then he wouldn’t have the family he did now. Or at least, used to have.
His childhood had been a mess. His father was a piss-poor alpha of a small pack who for some reason, never got challenged. In later years he found out that the reason his family lived in mostly destitute conditions was because his father paid off mostly everyone he met. It left little for the family, including his three younger sisters, and Phil had dropped out of high school to take care of the responsibilities his father ignored.
Eventually, his father could no longer use money to appease the wrong doings he was involved in, and someone burned their house to the ground. His pack had just let it happen. Not one of them had stepped up to do anything about it—a terrible, poignant fact that showed just how badly their alpha had failed.
His mother and sisters had died in the fire, and his father had been overthrown. The beta and gamma hadn’t given him the chance to fight for his pack. They’d accused him of crimes against them, including neglect, abandonment, and misuse of joint funds.
The night of the fire had happened while Phil was out of town, but he’d returned in time for the trial. But instead of standing up for his alpha, like the old man thought he’d do, he’d voiced his true feelings. His father hadn’t protected his family or his pack and deserved whatever he had coming.
That same night, Phil had moved up the ranks to gamma—an honor considering the wake of tragedy that had befallen the pack in his father’s reign.
Afterwards, Phil chose to never get too close to anyone again. The loss of his mother had left a gaping hole in his heart, but losing his three sisters had nearly destroyed him.
He’d channeled all his anger and grief into protecting his pack. He fought for them until the day he left in ways his father never had. They didn’t believe in the old school mindset that the only way to leave a pack was death, so they’d allowed the alpha to choose a new third in command so that Phil could leave to join Mason as his beta.
He blinked as he realized Alisha was crying again. He’d stopped spanking her when he’d gotten lost in his memories, but he hadn’t helped her up again.
“I believe you,” Phil said, finally replying to her apology. He took her hand and guided her back to her feet. “We can talk about all of that later. Come on, everyone is waiting for us.”
“Will you explain all the rules to me? Even if we don’t—”
He interrupted her with a kiss on her cheek “Yes, I promise I will explain them. Don’t put yourself down like that again. Come on, let’s go.”
“We ate almost all of it,” Portia called out as the two of them descended the stairs.
Alisha brushed her eyes, worried they knew exactly why they had been in Phil’s room for the better part of an hour, and forced a smile. “That’s okay. I’m sure there’s something left.”
Phil poked her side with his free hand and led her to the dining room. This one was off to the side of the living room and had a small round table containing eight boxes of pizza stacked in the middle. He pulled a chair out for her and she sat hesitantly. She glanced over at Portia, who gave her a sympathetic, ‘I know why you don’t want to sit’ grimace.
“Did you apologize?” This question came from Mason, and he raised an eyebrow as she faltered for an answer.
She waved her hands around and mumbled. Gosh! He was super intimidating when he locked his eyes on her in person. Granted, the last time they were this close she had thrown a shoe at his head to snap him out of a crazy cycle. It did make for a slightly awkward reunion.
“Oh! Are we playing charades?” Dani giggled, and Portia threw out random answers.
“Movie? Sport? Two words! Sounds like?” The blonde wolf giggled even harder when Mason focused on her. “Dancing with wolves!”
A ghost of a smile appeared on the large alpha’s face then materialized into a full grin. “Really? That’s the best line you can come up with?”
Portia snickered, then playfully nuzzled against his hands. “I’m a fantastic dancer!”
Alisha relaxed at the distraction. She glanced over at Phil, wondering why he hadn’t answered Mason. Of course, the question had been directed at her, and if she was going to be around more often, she needed to get used to Mason. She took a big bite of pizza and chewed thoughtfully.
That thought nearly sent her down a spiral. She did want to be here, and she loved the way everyone looked out for one another, but where did she stand with Beta Blue Eyes?
“If I have to ask again, I’m going to need to see proof of your apology,” Mason demanded.
Alisha snapped her head up. “I did,” she spoke around a mouthful of food, then swallowed. “You wouldn’t actually…. at the table… I mean….” Her eyes darted around the table, but no one offered an answer.
Mason let out a deep laugh. “You think I’m that much of a brute?” He laughed, and finally the rest of them broke into laughter as well. Soon Dani was nearly crying with laughter. Finally Alisha gave in to it and laughed as well.
“No, I suppose not. You were nice enough to let me come over here.” Alisha smiled genuinely at the larger man.
Phil leaned over and offered her a bottle of beer. “Do you want one?”
She nodded, accepted it, and took a swig. Her eyes caught Dani’s and she saw how happy she was, her eyes shining as she smiled at Mason. She did want this. They both did. The feeling that she was with family trumped everything. “Thank you.”
Portia had stopped giggling at some point, and Alisha saw her staring at Cal. He cocked an eyebrow as he caught her, and she quickly turned towards Alisha. “You, me, and Dani need to have a girls’ night. Like sappy movies and wine. Lots of wine!”
Dani clapped her hands together excitedly. “Oh! This needs to happen like as soon as possible. There isn’t a threat right now. Can’t we do something fun?”
Mason grumbled as his mate tugged on his arm. “You’re not going to stop until I allow it, are you?”
Dani gave him an innocent grin then nuzzled playfully up his arm.
“Please? We’ll go to my house. Everything has been made safe and secure there. We won’t go anywhere. It will just be the three of us!” Dani upped the sweetness in her voice. “Please, Mason?”
Phil snorted. “I’ll supervise. No one will get in,” he dropped his tone lower, “or out.”
As if connected mentally, Portia and Alisha put on their biggest, cheesy grins and blinked their eyes up at Mason.
“Ugh. Fine.” Mason reached over to pat each of their heads. “But Phil stays all night. And no funny business.”
Dani wiped the smile off her face. “Portia, you have to call back that clown stripper and tell him he can’t come over,” she deadpanned, which caused another uproar of laughter.
“And the parade of miniature poodles you had lined up to do tricks,” Cal offered. “Good thing Mason didn’t say anything about monkey business.”
Portia snorted. “I’d have to return those fifty pounds of bananas to appease the gorillas I’m shipping in from overseas. Man, I’m glad that’s still happening.”
“Aw, I thought you had other plans for all that fruit.” Cal winked, and she watched Portia lick her lips in response.
What the hell was going on between those two? Had they always teased each other this much?
The others looked at Portia expectantly since she usually made a smart ass retort, but she had gone quiet, her eyes still fixed on the doctor.
“Wow! I’ve never seen anyone render Portia speechless,” Mason stated, though there was warmth there, as if he also saw something brewing between her and Cal.
They were all silent a moment, until a terrible crash sounded from the living room. She glanced over to see a huge white and gray werewolf standing near the couch. Behind it three others had shifted and were advancing into the house. Before Alisha could ask what was going on, Phil grabbed her and shoved her under the table.
“Stay here. Do not come out until I come get you. No matter what you hear.”
She opened her mouth to protest when several growls boomed over her head and clothing quite literally exploded in pieces to the floor. Portia, the prettiest wolf she had ever seen, shifted the closest to her, but remained near the table. She had the most interesting shades of white and beige throughout her fur, but her eyes were incredibly green. Real wolves didn’t look so stunning.
Alisha shut her eyes tight, as the noise increased, and she tried to block it out. What the hell was going on?
A terrible whimpering sounded over her head. She blinked her eyes open and saw that something had knocked Portia unconscious and she’d shifted back into her human form before going still.
Alisha, disobeying Phil but not feeling like she had another choice, carefully wriggled herself out from under the table. Wolves only shifted back when something awful had happened. She wrapped herself around the unconscious woman and tugged her under the protection of the table. One of her legs nearly ran the length of Alisha’s body.
Before she got back under the table, she saw a larger black werewolf growling at Phil. He was facing away from the other wolf—clearly a bad idea, but she realized something serious must have happened in front of Phil to cause him to turn his back.
Alisha picked up a chair and advanced very slowly until she was within arm’s length of the creature. It crouched down, like it was about to leap, and she broke the chair over its head.
Phil, alerted to the issue behind him, turned around and attacked the other wolf.
Unfortunately, Alisha couldn’t move out of the way fast enough and got caught in the momentum. She landed hard against the floor, shaken but other than a few cuts, she miraculously seemed to be in one piece. Her arms felt like they weighed a hundred pounds though, and rather than getting up to check on everyone, she simply stayed put.
Concerned voices floated around her now, but she still didn’t move. She felt sick to her stomach. Where had the other pack come from?
“Are you okay?”
Alisha blinked up at Cal. He was dressed in sweats and a tee-shirt already.
How long have I been lying here?
She’d expected Phil and Cal’s question confused her. “Portia got knocked out.”
“Portia and Dani were shot with tranquilizer darts. They’re both okay and will wake up soon.” Cal knelt down so he could be at her level. “You hit the floor pretty hard. May I see if anything is broken?”
Alisha didn’t respond and he took her silence as permission to run his hands down her body, starting at her head. She could feel him pressing lightly, checking for damage, but she honestly couldn’t bring herself to respond. She felt hollow and empty, and she didn’t know why.
“Did you get scratched?” Cal touched her sleeve, but she jerked her arm away.
“I want to go home!” She hung her head, wanting to cry but too shaken to do so. Cal nuzzled against the side of her face, a gesture she wasn’t used to from him, but it immediately helped her nerves. “I’m so tired.”
“Is she okay?” Phil’s voice sounded over their heads.
Cal straightened and helped her to her feet. “She’s in shock, and I’d really like to clean out those cuts.” He handed her to Phil. “If it’s deep or jagged, she needs a tetanus booster. She should stay the night at least.”
“I’m not in shock,” Alisha said, but she didn’t sound convincing even to her own ears.
Phil cradled her close to his chest, and she closed her eyes. “Let me know when Dani and Portia wake up.”
“I’m not getting a shot. I just want to go to bed,” Alisha stated firmly, but her voice sounded miles away. Why had they been attacked?
Cal sucked in a breath. “You and the other wolf knocked her over. If she’s got a scratch or—”
“I’m fine!” Her eyes flew open as she snapped, “I don’t need anything!”
“Easy. Cal’s right. If you—” Phil started to agree, but she scrambled out of his arms only to lose her balance completely.
Luckily, Cal caught her and she finally stopped fighting. She didn’t know why she felt so odd. It was probably just the tension in the air and knowing another pack had come there and attacked without warning.
Cal carefully set her back on her feet but didn’t let go of her. “If you need me, I’ll be around. I’m hoping the drugs will wear off in a few hours, but I don’t know what dose was used.” He released his hold as Phil picked her up again.
Some part of her knew the smart thing would be to get checked out, but she just didn’t want to be poked and prodded. Alisha curled up against his chest once more.
“I’ve got to talk to you and Mason about something important. As soon as we can,” Cal mentioned. “After this is over.”
“Of course. Tomorrow. I’ll make it a point to find you,” Phil assured him.
Phil walked upstairs while cradling Alisha in his arms. She’d attacked one of the opposing pack members to protect him! This little human had turned out to be the bravest out of all of them.
“I have a lot to tell you…” Alisha babbled. “I was adopted and beat up all the time by my foster parents. My brother was a shifter and they threw him out.”
“Is he a blood relative?” Phil walked into his room and set her down on the bed. He wanted to see her injuries for himself without making it obvious. “Out of curiosity.”
“No, and I’m not a shifter. He brought me to live with a pack of wolves, but some things went sour. I can’t explain more… I’m… I’m not really okay.” Alisha let out a shuddering breath. “You had your back turned to this huge wolf, and he… he…”
“It’s okay. Don’t get worked up again.” Phil reached for the hem of her sweater to slyly remove it, but tears suddenly broke over her cheeks, distracting him from his intent. “Talk to me. Please?”
“I don’t feel great. I just want to fall asleep in your arms and not worry about anything else.”
“When we were downstairs you said you wanted to go home, so I’m confused.”
“Being here, in your room with you, is the closest I’ve ever felt to being home.”
Phil stared at her for a long moment without speaking, which was odd for him, then finally he ran his hand through his hair. “All joking aside, I’m a little off my game. I’ve never had the sort of feelings I have for you towards anyone else. But wolves and humans don’t usually mesh so well. If you’ve been in a pack before, you already know—” His words died on his lips as she kissed him gently. “Alisha,” he tried again, but she ignored him.
“Then follow your instinct.”
“No. Not tonight. We need to talk about this when we wake up and are clearheaded, okay?”
“I’m… I’m… sorry.”
Phil tucked her inside his arm so he could hold her. “It’s okay. Go to sleep. I won’t let anything happen to you.”
“Okay.” She rested her head on him, then let her arm loop around him. “Thank you for letting me talk to you tonight. It meant a lot.”
“Mm-hmm. I hope you remember how grateful you are.”
“I hope you’re kidding,” Alisha grunted.
“We’ll see.” Phil felt her relax in his arms and finally let himself do the same.
The other pack of wolves had seemingly pre-planned their attack since they’d drugged Portia and Dani to keep them out of the fight. It showed a very old school, dominant, and oddly considerate mindset. The other wolves hadn’t wanted to hurt any of the females and had sedated them instead. It made it seem more personal though, which worried him. He thought about what Cal had said to him, and all the things going on with Portia. Could the doctor’s request have had something to do with her?
Lastly, he thought back to what Alisha had said. Her words, along with the look in her eye when she’d spoken them, haunted him.
Then follow your instinct. What the hell did she mean?
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