THE LONE WOLF'S LADY Part 6
Tamara didn't suffer from claustrophobia, not normally anyway. That she was having issues right now felt pretty ridiculous. It wasn't as if Rand's house was particularly small, especially considering its open design with the ceiling vaulting high overhead. She suspected her apartment would fit inside the place twice over with room enough for part of another one.
She hovered near the window as she stared out into the surrounding forest. Maybe she'd feel better if she could see beyond the trees. Anything that would help her shake the feeling she'd been locked away and left out of the action.
Out in the real world, her friends and co-workers were under attack if not already dead. But instead of being on the front lines, hunting down the culprits, here she was doing nothing at all. The feeling of helplessness wasn't a familiar one, and she hated it.
"Babe, are you okay?"
The question was accompanied by Rand's strong arms slipping around her waist and pulling her back against his chest. She resisted for all of two seconds before giving into her need for his comfort. "Would I be an ungrateful guest if I admitted I really need to get out of here for a while?"
He huffed a small laugh. "Honestly, I'd be surprised if you didn't feel that way. Neither of us is hardwired to sit on the sidelines, but we promised we'd give Ambrose today without us getting in his way. I know you need to find out what's going on and figure out who's gunning for you and your friends. That doesn't mean I want you putting a target on your back unnecessarily. One way or the other, I promise tomorrow we'll be on the move."
He was right, of course. That didn't make the waiting any easier. Besides, even if she did want to bolt back to New Eire to join the hunt, she didn't have any way to get there without Rand's help. After a hard fought battle with her on one side facing off against both Ian and Rand, she'd reluctantly agreed to let one of Ian's men return her rental car for her.
She wanted to believe they were being a bit paranoid that someone could hunt her down using the tracking system in the car. However, after a rather heated discussion, they'd managed to convince her that it wasn't worth the risk finding out she was wrong about that. Once they put that ugly thought in her head, she also hadn't wanted Ian to put his people at risk just to keep her safe. He'd reminded her that they were professionals and knew what they were doing.
Not only did they have the expertise to shut down the tracking for the time it took them to drive the car back to the city, they would make sure that no one else could retrieve the data the system would've stored from the time Tamara picked the vehicle up at the airport until she parked it at Rand's house the previous evening. They'd also wiped down the car, inside and out, to destroy all evidence that any of them, including her, had ever been in the car or where it had been.
That didn't keep her from worrying from the minute they drove the car away from the estate until they'd dropped the car off at a different location from where she'd rented it. It had been a huge relief when the driver had called her personally to tell her that he was safely back at the office. Another of Ian's people had followed him the entire trip at a discreet distance to make sure the driver had never picked up a tail. The same was true when they left her rental and drove away.
They'd waited another hour before calling the rental agency to tell them where the car was and that they'd locked the keys inside. She might end up paying a surcharge for the rental agency's inconvenience in having to retrieve the vehicle, but she didn't care as long as everyone was safe. It was one less thing for her to be worrying about right now.
It also helped that she had a handsome wolf holding her close. He brushed a soft kiss on her temple. "Would you like to go for a run? It's a bit misty outside, but I have a rain jacket you can borrow."
She turned to face him. "I'd love to as long as Ambrose can still reach us if something breaks in the case. My cell service is a bit unreliable this far from the city. It's one reason I didn't call ahead to warn you that I was coming."
"Not a problem. I'll send him a message to call my satellite number if you don't pick up when he calls."
That was a relief. It was hard enough to be out of the action without being out of touch on top of it. "I'd love to see more of this estate."
Then she pressed her hands against his broad chest, loving his heady combination of hard muscle and warm strength. Lifting her gaze to meet Rand's, well aware there was a fair amount of heat in her eyes right now, she said, "I have one question, though."
He caught one of her hands in his and kissed her palm, sending a tendril of hunger swirling through her. "And what's that?"
"Will you be running on two feet or four?"
From the way he blinked and then frowned, he might be worried that she wouldn't be comfortable around his wolf. "Any preference?"
She cupped the side of his face, hoping the simple touch would reassure him that she liked him in either form. "Well, it would seem like four feet would give you an unfair advantage, say for example in a race."
A wave of amber washed across his blue eyes, his wolf checking in. This time when Rand kissed her hand, he gave it a soft lick first, fanning the flames. "And you don't like the idea of me taking advantage of you?"
Her voice sounded husky to her own ears when she shook her head and said, "I never said that, but I think we should hold off on continuing that particular discussion until we get back to the house."
His eyebrows shot up, clearly both surprised and liking that idea. "Okay, then, back to the original question—do you want to see my wolf in action?"
Although he smiled as he asked the question, she sensed her answer was really important to him. The least she could do was be totally honest with him. "I'd like to spend some time getting to know your wolf, Rand, but all that really matters is that you're with me."
Then she kissed him, hoping to convince him that she meant every word of what she'd just said. Yes, she was still new to his people and his world, but then the wolves had kept their existence a secret from the world for a long time. There had to be a reason that his pack felt the need to do that, and she would honor their need for secrecy. Now wasn't the time to ask for details, though.
He gave her a quick hug and then took a step back. "If you're sure, I'll shift when you're ready to go. If you wouldn't mind carrying a small pack, I'd better take some sweats and flipflops with us in case I need to change back before we return to the house. Some bottled water wouldn't be a bad idea, either, and we'll need my phones, too."
He returned a few seconds later with the loaded pack and the jacket he'd promised her. At least she wasn't having to spend the day wearing the suit she'd worn to work the day before. She'd already pressed the jacket and slacks in case she and Rand needed to take off to join Ambrose sooner than expected. She'd also washed her underclothes and blouse last night so they'd be dry this morning.
Knowing Tamara had arrived on Rand's doorstep with only the clothes on her back and her purse, Ian had stopped back by to bring her some of his wife's things earlier. His mate was evidently a little taller than she was, but otherwise the jeans and sweater had fit pretty well once she rolled the cuffs up several turns on both. On the other hand, Rand's jacket absolutely swamped her. He made a valiant effort to smother a laugh when she presented herself for his inspection. But then she caught her reflection in the front window and understood why his effort was less than successful.
Rather than sulk, she did a three-sixty turn, holding her arms out as she twirled. "Quite the fashion statement, don't you think?"
His grin took on a little more intensity. "I can honestly say that you look gorgeous to me, no matter what you're wearing…or, I suspect, not wearing. I hope to test that last theory at some point in the very near future."
She looped her arm through his as they headed for the front door. "That would only be fair since I already saw everything you have to offer last night."
Ramping up her own heat level a little, she waggled her eyebrows. "And might I say, the display was pretty impressive."
He looked pretty happy about her assessment. "Well, you're about to see it again unless you want to turn around."
Last night's viewing had been an accident. It had never occurred to her that he'd been out running as a wolf and wouldn't be dressed when he walked back into the house. This time, she decided to afford him a little privacy. She didn't know for sure, but she suspected he muttered "Chicken!" under his breath when she offered him her back.
Not wanting to give him the last word, she spun back just in time to catch only the briefest glance of Rand before he transformed between one heartbeat and the next into an enormous wolf. She dropped to her knees and held out her hands, letting him come to her. Sinking her fingers into his thick fur, she slowly dropped her forehead down to rest against his. Despite his incredible transformation, her heart recognized that Rand and the wolf were one and the same. Her head might have more of a problem with the concept, but that didn't mean being face-to-face with this particular apex predator scared her at all. He nuzzled her softly and then hit the button by the door that allowed him to go in and out without the use of opposable thumbs.
As they walked across his front yard into the surrounding woods, she drew great comfort in the knowledge that Rand, no matter which form he was in, would ever be a threat to her.
Unfortunately, she wasn't so sure she could say the same for the snarling wolf who had just stepped out of the trees to block their path.