THE LONE WOLF'S LADY Part 5
The first sounds of someone stirring in the other room brought Rand's consciousness closer to the surface. A short time later, the click of the bedroom door opening followed by the soft shuffle of bare feet had him at full alert. He kept his breathing slow and steady as Tamara paused by the sofa, probably checking to see if he was awake. When she moved away without say anything, he remained motionless with his eyes closed.
She headed for the kitchen and quietly began opening the cabinets. It seemed odd to have a woman puttering around in his cabin, but he rather liked it. Soon the scents of fresh coffee and bacon frying came wafting his way. Yeah, he could get used to this. He might have lingered a little longer on the sofa, but a heavy fist pounding on the front door spoiled that for him.
He rolled up to his feet and grabbed the gun he'd left on the end table. Tamara was already heading for the door, but he deliberately blocked her path. "You hang back while I see who it is."
She retreated a couple of steps but didn't look happy about it. "Why? It's bound to be Ian. You said he'd be here first thing."
"Yeah, but just in case I'd rather err on the side of caution. Let me handle it."
When she finally nodded, he sidled closer to the door with the gun at the ready. Before he reached to undo the deadbolt, the pounding resumed. "Come on, Rand, get your lazy ass out of bed."
Tamara laughed as Rand growled at his brother. "I'm coming, you big jerk."
Then he paused to listen more carefully. Ian wasn't alone. Damn, this was bound to be interesting. He undid the lock and opened the door just far enough for him to see who else had come calling. Just as he feared, both his oldest brother and their father had decided to poke their noses in his business. It was tempting to slam the door shut again, but that would only make the situation worse.
He stuffed the gun in the waistband of his jeans and stepped out onto the porch. After pulling the door closed behind him, he crossed his arms over his chest and said, "I don't suppose you two would leave and let me and Ian do our jobs."
His father's eyes flashed with the deep bronze gold of an alpha wolf exerting his authority. Few wolves could hold his gaze for more than a second or two before backing down. This time, though, Rand calmly stared right back into his father's eyes, his own wolf refusing to cower when defending his own territory. It took every bit of determination he could muster, but Rand wasn't the first to blink. Not this time.
He wasn't sure who was more surprised by what had just happened, his father or his brothers. His father wasn't happy, but at the same time there was a glint of pride in Tobias's eyes. Judging by Ian's expression, he found the whole episode entertaining. Of course, his own growing dominance was one of the reasons he'd left the estate to start his own business. He'd grown tired of butting heads not only with their father, but also with their older brother.
Meanwhile Declan, the pack's current beta, growled deep in his throat. Clearly, he saw Rand standing his ground as a challenge to the combined authority of the pack's two leaders. Fine. Ian wasn't the only one who had issues with playing second fiddle to their big brother all the time. Rand was tired of the established pecking order. It was time that Declan figured out that he wasn't the only Lyell brother who'd come equipped with a full complement of alpha genes.
He widened his stance met his brother's gaze head on. "Get over yourself, Declan. This is my territory, and I'm entitled to decide who is allowed to come inside. If your fragile ego can't handle that, then bring it on."
When Declan made a lunge toward Rand, Tobias stepped between them and snarled, "Stand down now. Both of you."
Declan growled one more time, his eyes a bright shiny gold. Finally, though, he took a small step back. "This isn't over, little brother."
Knowing a fight was inevitable, Rand wagged his fingers in a come-and-get-it motion. "Like I said, bring it on."
Ian shoved Rand back. "Not now, dammit."
With his teeth clenched, Rand snarled, "We both know I can take him."
"Yeah, I know you can, but Tamara needs you right now more than you need to kick Declan's ass for him."
He was right. Rand took a long, deep breath. "Dad, you can come in so you'll know what's going on. Ian and I need to call Ambrose for an update so we can make plans."
It was no shock that once again Declan bristled as if ready to shove his way through the door if Rand tried to stop him from crossing the threshold. Tobias moved in to stop him. "This is his territory, Beta. If he wants you to leave, he has the right."
Declan glared at Rand over their father's broad shoulder. Turning his gaze back to Tobias, he tilted his head to the side to indicate he'd gotten the message loud and clear. "I'll check in with the patrols to make sure everything is quiet and that these two haven't brought trouble to our doorstep-again."
Rand stood in silence with the remaining two men until Declan disappeared into the woods. Rand might not get along with his brother, but he trusted that he'd would stay gone for now. Opening the door behind him, he walked into the cabin ahead of his brother and father to see how Tamara was handling the testosterone-laden encounter that had played out just now.
She stood at the far side of the living room by the entrance to the kitchen. He wouldn't be surprised if she'd sensed he would handle the presence of his brother and father better if they didn't get too close to her right now. She looked a bit skittish, but at least she didn't fight him when he immediately pulled her into his arms. He breathed in her scent, letting it calm him.
Stepping back, he kept her hand in his. "You already know Ian, but this is the alpha of our pack, Tobias Lyell. Dad, this is Tamara Fagan."
She offered Ian a quick smile as she held out her free hand to Tobias. "Mr. Lyell, I apologize for bringing my troubles into your territory. I didn't mean to cause problems for you and your sons."
Tobias briefly clasped her hand in both of his. "Don't worry about what happened out there. A wolf's temper tends to run hot when someone he cares about is in danger. Rand and Declan know to put their differences aside while we figure out how to keep you're safe."
It was hard to guess what Tamara thought about his father's comments, but they could discuss that later in private. Meanwhile, she gave Rand's hand a quick squeeze before walking away. "I made breakfast, so we'd better eat before it all gets cold."
The three men followed her into the kitchen. She'd set the table for five but made quick work of clearing what would have been Declan's spot. "Rand, if you'll pour the coffee, I'll set out everything else."
Ian's eyebrows shot up, no doubt surprised to see how comfortable Tamara was at giving Rand orders in his own kitchen. Personally, he rather liked it.
First, she set out a large platter of crisp bacon and a stack of toast. Finally, she brought out a huge bowl of fluffy scrambled eggs and handed it to Tobias. It appeared she'd added sliced mushrooms, fresh spinach, bell peppers, and feta to the mix. Boy, if she cooked like this all the time, he'd have to add more time in the gym to work off the calories.
His father put a heaping pile of eggs on his plate and then passed the bowl over to Ian. "Tamara, this looks great. Thank you for doing this."
Her cheeks flushed a pretty pink. "It was the least I could do after showing up uninvited like I did. I'm sorry, but I didn't know where else to go."
Tobias responded with a strong dose of an alpha's authority. "I would have been furious if you hadn't come to us, Tamara. We will figure this out and make sure you're safe."
With that settled, Rand pointed his fork at Tamara's plate. "Now eat. You're going to need your strength to get through all of this. We both will."
She dutifully took a bite of her eggs and then washed it down with a sip of coffee. Once it was clear she was going to eat, the men followed suit. No matter how delicious the food was, none of them would have felt comfortable pigging out unless she joined in.
They made quick work of the meal and even quicker work of the cleanup. Once the table was cleared, Rand topped off everyone's coffee from the fresh pot he'd made. He tossed some pads of paper on the table along with some pens in case anyone felt the need to take notes. Ian had already brought Tobias up to date on what he knew about the case. Rand and Tamara filled in a few more details.
Tobias was looking pretty grim by that point. "So what do you need the pack to do?"
Ian gave Rand a small nod, telling him without words that he would be the one heading this up. "At the moment, just keeping up normal patrols should be enough. It's doubtful anyone would look here for Tamara since there's been no contact between her and us for a couple of months. For now, we need to find out what, if anything, Ambrose found out overnight. Once we know that, we'll figure out where to go from here."
"Ian, do you have anything to add?"
"Nope, sounds like you have it covered."
Knowing Tamara needed to feel as if she had some control over her life and the investigation, he handed her his phone. "Okay, lady, call your friend Ambrose and see what the man has to say for himself."
She quickly keyed in the number and waited until the chancellor picked up. "Hi, Ambrose. I'm going to put you on speaker phone. You'll be talking to me, Rand, Ian, and Tobias."
Ambrose's voice came through loud and clear. "Tobias, I'm glad you're there. It will save me a call. It's been a bad night, and it looks like things are only going to get more complicated. Have Rand and Ian filled you in?"
"Yeah, they have. Don't worry about Tamara. We'll take care of any threat that comes her way while she's here with us."
"That's great, Tobias. Tamara, you're not going to be happy sitting on the sidelines, but for now you need to keep a low profile. I'm sorry to tell you this, but both of the agents whose reports were altered have gone missing. I'd like to think they both figured out something is going on and took cover, especially if they heard about what happened to Steve. I'm not counting on that, though. That's why I'm asking you to stay right where you are."
She immediately protested, "But, Ambrose-"
"Oops, I've got another call. Hold on a second." The line went silent, which only ramped up the tension in Rand's kitchen that much higher. Ambrose wasn't the kind of man who panicked, but there had been no mistaking the note of grim determination in his voice. What had happened now?
He was back. "Sorry about that. I just got an update on the situation, and it's not good. One of the missing agents was just located. He was shot execution style."
Rand already knew how Tamara was going to react. He didn't like it, but he respected her determination to see justice done.
"Ambrose, I'll stay here at Rand's for today, but tomorrow I'll be showing up on your doorstep. I want to be part of this. I didn't start this trouble, but I will end it."
The chancellor was smart enough to know there was no arguing with her. If she was the kind to take cover and let others handle the dangerous situations, she wouldn't have been in law enforcement in the first place.
Rand took her hand in his. "I'll get her there safely, Ambrose, and I won't leave her side until we end this."
A deep sigh came across the line. "Fine, I'll see you both in the morning. If anything changes, I'll let you know."
Tobias was already up and moving. "I'll double the patrols. Call me if you need anything."
Rand followed him to the door where Tobias gave him a hard hug, alpha to pack member, father to son. "Stay safe, and take care of your lady."
"Will do, Dad. Thanks."
When he was gone, Ian stood up and walked around the table to where Tamara was sitting. He put his hand on her shoulder and gave it a quick squeeze. "Give Rand all the details you can about your boss and those two agents. I'll put my best people on doing background checks and see what we can find out. Sorry this is happening. I only met Steve a couple of times, but I liked him."
Tamara's eyes glistened with a sheen of tears. "He was good people."
Rand let Ian out and then locked the door, shutting out the rest of the world. Then he wrapped his arms around his woman and held her while she grieved for her friends.