A shudder wracked my body just thinking of Garth and remembering how he’d choked my dad to death in front of me. The icy chill grew inside me even though the house was toasty warm with the fire. I jumped off the counter and walked to the fireplace, placing my palms open to the roaring flames.
Being n*ked in front of Titus didn’t matter to me now that he’d claimed me, but talking about what I was running from was a different n*kedness. My wounds were raw.
They hadn’t healed over the years of my running.
Titus followed me. As I knew he would. He draped a fluffy gray blanket around my shoulders. I tugged the corners together as he gave me a moment of staring at the flickering orange flames before demanding more from me.
“What’s his name, and what did he do to hurt you?”
His voice came out with a threatening growl. The hairs on the back of my neck stood on end.
“Garth.” I spat out the name that tasted foul. If I could kill him myself, I would.
“And?” he snapped, having lost all patience with me.
“He killed my dad.”
“Why?” he demanded.
I spun from the mesmerizing flames to his hard expression. All tight angles, ruthless alpha energy, and unrelenting dominance.
“Does it matter why?” I tugged the blanket tighter around me.
His gaze flickered over my face. “What else did this Garth do?”
I glanced at the front door. To run again would end his questioning, but I was tired. And now I’d experienced what it was like to mate with Titus, I found the need to run draining from me.
“Kara.” He grabbed my shoulders in a firm grip. “Stop running and tell me.”
“It was little things over the years.” I forced back my shoulders. “Nothing most people would consider bad.”
“But you did.” A muscle ticked in his jaw.
“He made me uncomfortable. He was always hanging around. Touching me when I didn’t want to be touched by him.” I shook my head. “Never by him. He always felt evil. Tainted.” The words tumbled out in a rush to this man. Titus. My mate.
“He’d make snide remarks about me to other kids in the school. They all thought they were real. Later, when I was older, he coerced me into taking a job as his receptionist at his construction firm.” A shudder ran down my spine. “One night…”
“I’ll kill him.”
“He didn’t r*pe me, if that’s what you’re thinking.” I placed a hand on his forearm, experiencing the tightness of his muscles under my fingertips.
“Not that I’d put rape past him.” I dug my fingernails into his arm. “One night, he said something to me that made me wonder…”
“My family died in an avalanche. All except me and Dad.” I scrubbed the back of my hand over my eyes. “It was a few years after Mom died, and they’d all helped Dad raise me. It was hard when they all died together like that.”
“I’m sure it was.” He rubbed my shoulders in a soothing car*ss.
“Garth made me wonder if he’d caused it.”
His dark brows dropped into a frown.
“For what reason?”
Her soft voice as she said me would have broken anyone’s heart with the amount of pain in that one word. But I was an alpha for a reason. I was harder. More powerful. Her mate. Her protector. Dangerous. Even more so to anyone wanting to harm what was mine.
“Is Garth who you are running from?”
I didn’t need her to answer to know, but I wanted her to say it. To admit she needed my help.
“Yes. Dad—” She swallowed. “After the avalanche, he lost himself in gambling. Luna, it hurts to say it, but he gambled me away to Garth.”
I let go of her before I crushed her bones with the intense rage lurching inside me at her dad and Garth. They both deserved an as*s-whooping. I couldn’t give her dad one since he was dead, but I sure as fvck was going to give Garth what he had coming to him for terrorizing my mate for what sounded like most of her life.
I ground my teeth before saying, “I’ll take care of Garth.”
“No.” She grabbed both of my arms, letting the blanket fall with her instant distress. “I mean, yes. I mean, no. Sh!t.”
“Kara.” I cupped the side of her face. “I’m strong. I won’t let him hurt me.”
She placed her hands over the top of mine. “You don’t understand how depraved he is.”
“I don’t need to.”
“Your arrogance will get you killed.”
I choked on a laugh. “Love, I may be arrogant, but I have good reason to be.”
Her icy blue eyes narrowed into slits.
Damn, she was adorable when angry.
I k!ssed her then. Because I could.
She opened to me, all heat and passion. Fire and ice. Luna, she was delicious and made for me. A soft moan filled the back of her throat and entered mine through our open-mouthed k!ss.
I swallowed the sound, triumphant in the ease with which I could get her to submit to me. Our mating would be absolute.
First, I had to take care of this Garth.
I broke the k!ss and left her standing by the fireplace before I walked to my bedroom to dress. I returned moments later.
Kara was still standing where I’d left her. Without a care, she was n*ked, and I could feast my ravenous gaze on her curves.
“Where are you going?” she asked, a tinge of panic in her voice.
“I need to talk to my second. I must organize a meeting with Garth.” Before I gave in and grabbed her again, I grasped the doorknob. “If he thinks he has a claim to you, then I’ll have to fight him for you.”
The color leeched from her face, leaving her as pale as the snow.
“It’s our laws, Kara.” I flung open the door. The blowing gale whooshed inside. “You know it. It’s why you let me claim you.”
“Titus, wait,” she cried.
But I’d already shut the door and locked her in. As*sh0le of me, I know, but she was safe in my house. Sheltered and warm from the storm, but more so, she was secluded from the wolf shifter who was hunting her. She was safer with me than she had been all her life from what she told me about Garth and his torment.
I sprinted through the snow. The storm had blown a thick blanket over the landscape, but I knew every secure place to step from my house to my second’s house. I raced up the stairs of his timber cabin and pounded on the door.
Palmer flung the door open and asked, “Titus, where have you been?”
I grinned. “I found my mate. And she’s in trouble.”
“Well, fvck.” He grinned in that bloodthirsty way I knew him for. It was the reason he was my second, plus, we’d been best friends our entire lives. I couldn’t think of anyone better to have my back.
“How many heads do we need to r!p off?”
I met his feral grin with one of my own. My thirst for blood was more than his for once. “I may only need to rip off one head.”
“Whatever you need, boss.”
I’d sort out this Garth. There was no question I’d succeed.