MAN TROUBLES (part 9)
a short story by Alexis Morgan
"Wow. Just wow."
What else could Lydia say? Silas's flat declaration that he'd never before taken one look at a woman—in this case, her—and known she was the one for him.
She stared into his ice blue eyes and saw nothing there to make her think that he was kidding. Instead, he stood there just out of reach so calm and patient, as if he'd wait all day for her to respond if that's what it took.
She settled for stating the obvious. "I'm not twin-souled. My life expectancy is maybe another fifty years if I'm lucky."
Then she waved her hand in his direction, starting at his head and down to his toes and back up again. "You're over two centuries older than I am, but we look to be more or less the same age. Even if by some stretch of the imagination we were meant to be together, I don't relish the thought of watching myself age while you stay the same. That would give a whole new meaning to being a cougar."
He immediately snickered. "Sorry, but I'd never hook up with a cougar. It's the whole dogs and cats thing, you see."
"So not funny."
Although it was, at least a little. It was nice to have at least something to laugh about, because right now her heart hurt. The simple truth was she wanted him, too. But if they gave into temptation, he'd never get his life back.
"What about your pack? I'm guessing if they weren't happy when you wouldn't choose one of the females for a mate, picking a human woman like me wouldn't help the situation."
He shook his head, "I no longer have a pack. I thought I'd made that clear."
For a brief second, his face took on that same inhuman look it had that first night. While it didn't scare her this time, it also only strengthened her resolve. "You did, but I'm not convinced you don't want it back. They must think so, too, or they wouldn't be hunting you right now. If you'd walked away with no intention of coming back, why wouldn't they have just let you go?"
He sighed as he clenched and unclenched his fists several times, clearly frustrated. "It's the only life I've ever known. Even before I had to take over the pack, I'd been training for the job. Even if I could make peace with my brother and the others, I'm not sure what simply walking away would look like. I'm not sure he'd trust me to stay gone."
She stepped close enough to place her hand over his chest, liking the strong, steady beat of his heart and the warmth of his big body. "You would be free to pick your own path. There has to be something you'd like to do with your life without the burden of having to watch over the pack."
He wrapped his hand around hers. "I haven't known a moment's peace until I showed up at your door. Walking into the restaurant and meeting you felt as if I'd come home."
Then he brought their hands up to his lips and brushed a kiss across her knuckles. "That doesn't mean I can stay here. I can't let my problems become yours."
"So what does that mean?"
Because if it meant he was going to disappear for good, she wasn't sure she could stand that. Age differences and all, she wanted him to stay.
"It means I'm tired of running. Tired of hiding. I'm going to go on the hunt myself. It's time to end this."
Once again, that flash of something not human peered out of his eyes, letting her see that special quality that defined him as an alpha. And right now he was in full protective mode.
"If you're doing this for me, Silas, I don't want you to put yourself at risk. For one thing, they haven't threatened me."
She gave his hand a soft squeeze. "Surely you can find someplace to build a life where they won't find you. Maybe your friend Haakon can help with that."
At least he didn't immediately reject the idea as ridiculous. "He didn't offer, but then he also didn't tell me to get the hell out of his territory. I suspect he was going to send his trackers after my brother and the others. They've been prowling his territory without showing him the courtesy of asking his permission. Haakon isn't the type to appreciate another pack bringing its problems to his doorstep without talking to him first."
He tugged her closer, pulling her into the strength of his arms where she rested her head against his chest. "But to address your earlier comments, being twin-souled means more than simply being both wolf and man. It also means we can share our…I guess 'essence' is the best way to describe it. You already know that Joseph became a vampire by choice, one he seems to have some regrets about. This is similar but with out the fangs or having to develop a fondness for blood."
The smile that accompanied that last part made it clear that he was trying to lighten the tone of the discussion a little. She tried to follow suit.
"So continuing in that vein, pun intended, does it come with fur and a tail?"
His laughter was a soft rumble next to her ear. "Sorry, but no. I'm sure you'd make a beautiful wolf with your coloring. There's a ceremony that does involve an exchange of bodily fluids which would tie your life force to mine. Our hearts would literally become as one. The good news is that you would live as long as I do. The reverse is also true, so the bad news is that we would also die together."
He used his fingertip to tilt her chin up and stared down into her eyes. "I've given you a lot to think about, but right now it's all theoretical. Until I'm clear of the mess with my pack, I can't make any long term commitments. But even if I succeed at that, I promise I won't rush you into a decision or pressure you to join your life with mine if that's not what you want."
"The protective streak of yours runs bone deep, doesn't it?"
"It's who I am."
Her heart did a slow roll. "Then we'd better figure out what to do about your brother and his buddies."
"I plan to."
His words were accompanied by a low growl that shouldn't have come from a human throat. Instead of being weirded out by the sound, she found it sexy as heck.
"Kiss me, Silas."
His eyes glittered down at her. "Yes, ma'am."
When they finally came up for air, she decided it was time to throw the dice and see what he'd do when she issued one more order.
"Take me to bed, Silas."
The silence that followed was deafening.
Silas was torn between sweeping Lydia up in his arms and carrying her off to the nearest bedroom and demanding to know if she'd been listening to him at all. Seriously, a man could only resist so much temptation.
Evidently he stood there stalled in indecision too long, because a flash of hurt crossed Lydia's face just before she turned away.
He caught her arm and spun her back around. "I want you so damn much I can hardly think, but are you sure you want this?"
The hurt in her dark eyes remained, but this time it was accompanied by anger. "Did I sound indecisive to you? I couldn't have made what I wanted any clearer."
Okay, then. When he tried to draw her into his embrace again, she dug in her heels. "Maybe I'm not the one who is unsure here. The last thing I want is to talk you into doing something you're going to regret."
She stepped back and crossed her arms over her chest. "So, answer me this. Which one of us are you really trying to protect here?"
Before he could respond, his phone started ringing. As he pulled it out of his pocket, he gave Lydia his best alpha stare, trying to hold her there with him. She didn't look all that impressed, but at least she stayed close by while he answered.
"What's up, Haakon?"
"I just got word that they're coming for you, Silas. I'm on my way with my lieutenants, but we may not get there in time."
Silas's pulse kicked into overdrive. "Thanks for the warning. And Haakon, if this doesn't go well for me, make sure my woman is okay. Lydia might resist your efforts to keep her safe, but I don't want her hurt."
Haakon stopped to talk to one of his wolves. "We're about five miles out, Silas. For the record, I've got a kickass mate, too. So damn stubborn, but so worth it. One way or another, I'll make sure your mate stays safe."
Then the phone went dead, and Silas prepared for battle.