A WOLF ON A MISSION Part 9
A long, hot shower helped smooth the rough edges of Vivian's temper. Stretching out in a surprisingly comfortable bed pretty much finished the job. She knew that both Declan and Logan were hardwired to take charge and protect those in their care, thanks in large part to their Alpha personalities. Sharing that duty was clearly hard for them.
While she appreciated their willingness to risk their lives to help her, she knew better than to allow them to run roughshod over her or each other, for that matter. Her need to be in charge of her own life, to make her own decisions, was why she'd found the strength to run from Rolf in the first place. Granted, Logan and Declan were far better men than Rolf ever dreamed of being. She still wasn't going to kowtow to any male even if her inner wolf kept insisting she should accept Declan as her mate for real, not just as a pretense to fool Rolf.
But that was a discussion for tomorrow. Right now she needed sleep. Unfortunately, she had one more problem to deal with before that could happen. Kicking back the covers, she padded across the room to stand by the door. Resting her ear against it, she listened hard for several seconds. Nothing but silence. That didn't mean there was no one out there. Both Logan and Declan were predators at heart, and stealth was second nature to them. The only question was if it was the wolf or the vampire lurking out there in the hallway. Only one way to find out. She drew a long, slow breath before she turned the lock and then jerked the door open.
For a second, she thought she'd been wrong, but then a small movement from over by the ice machine caught her eye—a huge wolf stared back at her, his golden eyes unblinking and unapologetic. Truth be told, she was glad Declan was there.
"Rather than prowling the hall, why don't you come inside where you can curl up in front of the door and sleep. I'm not the only one who needs to be rested tomorrow if we're going to face off against Rolf and his buddies."
Declan immediately used his teeth to pick up a small pack and trotted into her room. After shutting and locking the door, she took an extra blanket down off the closet shelf and arranged it into a small pallet on the floor in front of the door. Declan set his pack back down and then circled the room, nose to the floor as he gave everything a good sniff. Evidently he didn't find anything suspicious, because he returned to his makeshift bed and sat down.
Vivian crawled back into her own bed and pulled the covers up to her chin. "Good night, Declan."
He answered with a small woof, which made her smile. Not that she'd admit it, but she would sleep better knowing he was nearby. It was hard to know what to make of that, but she wasn't going to worry about it now. Instead, she closed her eyes and slept.
Declan waited until Vivian was sound asleep before shifting back to his human form. Taking his pack with him, he headed into the bathroom and closed the door to avoid waking her while he made a quick call to Logan. He didn't bother putting on his sweats. The vampire wouldn't know he was naked, and he would shift back to his wolf as soon as he hung up. He suspected Vivian was more comfortable sharing her room with Declan, the wolf, than she would be with Declan, the man. Although he hadn't pressed her to accept his mate claim for real, she knew he was taking it pretty damn seriously.
They'd settle the issue eventually, but now wasn't the time. Meanwhile, he dialed Logan's number and waited for him to pick up. It didn't take long. The vampire answered on the second ring, sounding groggy and not happy about having his sleep disturbed. "It can't be my shift already."
"That's why I'm calling. Vivian caught me."
"How mad was she?"
"Not as much as you'd think. In fact, she suggested I sleep on the floor inside her room in front of the door."
Nothing but silence coming from the other end of the line. It wasn't hard to guess what was running through Logan's mind right then. There was no way the vampire liked the idea of Delcan being alone with Vivian, especially near her bed. Declan decided to put him out of his misery.
"I'm only human right now because my wolf can't talk. I just wanted to let you know that you don't have to take a shift. She's worried we won't be up to full strength if we spend hours guarding her door from the hallway. This way all three of us can get a full day's sleep. I'll shift back to wolf as soon as we hang up. I'll be sleeping on a blanket by the door."
"So you'll park your furry ass on the floor and stay there."
Declan wasn't sure if that was meant as an order or a question. He chose to answer it anyway. "Word of honor, that's the plan. So hang up and go back to sleep."
Logan mumbled something that included the words "you'd better" and "kick your ass." Declan didn't quite catch the rest of it, but he got the message. He kept his own response simple. "Fang-toothed jerk."
Grinning, he hung up and dropped the phone back in the pack. After opening the door, he shifted back to four feet from two and carried the pack back over to set it down by his blanket. His wolf did one last patrol of the room and then insisted on checking on Vivian one last time. He was tall enough to see her without having to put his paws up on the bed. Breathing in her scent, he studied her quiet beauty. Her hair was spread out across the pillow, her expression relaxed and peaceful. It was tempting to give her a quick lick, but he didn't want to disturb her.
Satisfied all was well for the moment, he returned to his lumpy blanket. He pawed at it several time to arrange things to his satisfaction. Turning in a circle a couple of times, he curled up and drifted off to sleep with Vivian's scent still filling his head.
Declan jerked awake, his ears pricked up and all of his wolf senses going on full alert. Sniffing the air, he tried to make sense of what had jarred him out of a deep sleep. Two seconds later, he had his answer. His would-be mate stirred restlessly in her bed as she kicked off her covers and flung her arms as if defending herself against an enemy. Then she gave a heartbreaking cry and curled up in a tight ball.
Declan immediately shifted to human. Pausing only long enough to yank on his sweatpants, he cautiously approached the bed. Unsure how Vivian would react if she awoke to find a man hovering over her, he called her name and then took a quick step back. When that didn't break her free from whatever nightmare held her captive, he crept closer again. This time he repeated her name more forcibly and shook her shoulder. "Viv, wake up."
This time she came up fighting, managing to pop him a good one on the nose before he could get out of range of her fist. "Damn, that hurt."
She froze and blinked up at him in confusion. "Declan, what's going on? You promised to stay wolf."
He gently squeezed his nose to make sure it was bruised and not broken. "You were moaning in your sleep. I needed to wake you up and figured poking you with a cold nose or licking your face wouldn't go over well. I tried calling your name, but that didn't work. Then I shook your shoulder,"—he paused to glare down at her—"and got punched in the nose for my efforts."
Her dark eyes flared wide. "Sorry?"
Declan waved off her apology. "Don't worry about it. I'll be fine, but how about you? Do you remember what had you all stirred up?"
"I'll be fine." She sat up, the blankets still pooled around her legs. "Well, mostly anyway. I was dreaming about the day Rolf killed my father."
A few tears trickled down her cheek as she continued. "Dad knew he was no match for a wolf of Rolf's years and strength. He would have conceded the fight if he'd been given the chance. He never wanted to be Alpha in the first place, but Rolf insisted that tradition required a fight to the death."
She lifted her gaze to meet Declan's. "But in my dream, Dad's image abruptly faded away, and it was you getting your throat ripped out. The blood…it sprayed everywhere, and I could see the bright gold of your wolf's eyes fading until there was nothing left but death."
Those last few words were little better than a whisper as she started to sob as if her heart had shattered. He'd promised Logan that he would remain in wolf form and sleep on the floor, but neither of them had foreseen this situation. There was no way he could let her suffer when holding her close might ease her pain.
"Scoot over, sweetheart."
That she followed his order without protest spoke to how badly the dream had affected her. He stretched out on the bed and tugged her down beside him before pulling the blankets back up to cover them both. Gathering her close, he pressed a kiss to her forehead. "I'm just here to offer comfort, Viv, nothing more. If you'd rather cuddle my wolf, just say the word."
She shook her head and snuggled in even closer, resting her head on his shoulder and putting her hand over his heart. It took some time for the tension in her body to fade away. While he let her find her way back to calm, he thought about what she'd just confessed. She'd sounded as grief-stricken about him dying in her dream as she had her father. While he tried not to read any special significance into it, his wolf had no such qualms. A she-wolf should care what happened to her mate even in a dream. It was as simple as that.
He should probably offer to return to his pallet on the floor now that she was once again calm. Unfortunately, he'd waited too long and would have to wake her to ask if that's what she wanted. Instead, he listened to his inner wolf and followed her into slumber.
Logan woke up angry. Declan was supposed to trade off shifts guarding Vivian while she slept. Instead, that sneaky wolf had claimed she'd caught him lurking out in the hallway and insisted he sleep on a blanket on the floor of her room. His explanation about how it had all happened made sense, and his voice had carried just the right note of apology when he'd called.
It had taken Logan an hour or more to get back to sleep. He kept picturing all the wily ways that damn lupine could have talked his way into her bed. It wasn't that Logan didn't trust Vivian, but he couldn't help but be jealous that it was Declan sharing her space and not him.
A sound at the door interrupted the continuous merry-go-round of angry thoughts whirling through his head. He reached over and turned on the bedside lamp and waited. A second later Declan stepped into the room.
"Vivian is just now waking up. I thought I'd grab a quick shower and get dressed. I told her to give us a call when she was ready to go."
That made sense. What didn't was the scent of guilt wafting in Logan's direction from where Declan stood pulling clothes out of his duffel. What had he done that had him avoiding looking in Logan's direction?
Only one way to find out. Logan threw back his covers and leapt across the room to get all up in Declan's face. The wolf tried to jerk free of Logan's grip, but froze when Logan let his claws dig into Declan's skin just enough to let him know he meant business. As he made a quick study of Declan's face and hair, he growled. Wolves didn't get bed-head, which left only one explanation of what had happened.
"You slept with her, didn't you? Even knowing how fragile she is right now."
The flash of guilt in Declan's eyes was all the confirmation Logan needed. If Vivian didn't need the wolf to eliminate the threat Rolf presented, Logan would have ripped the bastard's throat out with his fangs and buried his body in the woods. Since he couldn't do that, he did the next best thing—he punched Declan right smack in the middle of his face with every ounce of vampire strength he could muster.
Declan stumbled back several steps before catching his balance, but he made no effort to retaliate. His nose was already swelling, and from the way he was cursing, it hurt like hell. That immediately improved Logan's mood.
There was a chill in the wolf's eyes that stared back at Logan and a distinct growl in Declan's voice when he spoke. "Vivian had a nightmare that left her sobbing her heart out."
He prowled forward a step to jab a finger into Logan's chest. "There is no way you would have stayed on the floor and let her cry herself sick. I held her until she calmed down and went back to sleep. I couldn't move without waking her up again, which would have defeated the whole purpose of holding her in the first place. Bottom line—she slept, I slept. That's all."
Logan didn't really want to apologize, but maybe he had overreacted. "How's the nose?"
"Considering Vivian also punched it when I finally managed to wake her up, it's sore. I hope that makes you happy."
Smothering the urge to laugh, Logan held up his hands in surrender. "Sorry I punched you."
Declan rolled his eyes. "No, you're really not, but don't sweat it. I would have been ticked off if the situation had been reversed. Now, I'm going to take the shower I mentioned."
Logan got out of his way. "We'll finalize our plans over breakfast. I can't wait to make that bastard suffer for what he's done to Vivian."
The wolf only nodded and disappeared into the bathroom.