Finding Love Ch. 05bydurablue©
Thanks to my editor sleeplessgurl for the hard work and the fast turnaround. Thanks to ~L for beta reading; damn glad you're back! You ladies are the best.
I want to take a second to thank everyone for the comments and emails on chapter 4. They are always deeply appreciated and what keeps me going.
Jade hid her smile. He was the cutest thing! Her body certainly agreed. She couldn't ever remember being this attracted to a male so quickly. Her heart was beating fast and she wanted to kiss him. Just wrap her arms around his neck, pull him down to her and lay a lip lock on him that would curl his toes.
Then nibble over to his ear and... Lord have mercy. She was about to melt right here in the store. From the looks of the bulge in his jeans, he was in the same condition as she. Finally he managed to get the packet of bulbs she wanted. He stood there, holding them.
"Ah... thanks for getting those," Jade said, and motioned to the packet he was holding tightly.
"What? Oh. Oh! Yeah, sure no problem... here you go."
"That was very sweet of you..." Jade trailed off, hoping he would snap out of it enough to tell her his name. She wanted this guy with a passion that surprised her.
"Oh man. I'm making an idiot of myself," he laughed slightly. "You're welcome. And my name is Kern."
* * * *
"What an interesting name," Jade said. "Mine is Jade. Yours is nearly as unique as mine."
"You have a beautiful name," Kern gushed even as he mentally cringed at what was coming out of his mouth. Honestly, could he sound any lamer? Damn, he felt like a gawky teenager, bedazzled and tongue-tied around a beautiful girl. What the hell was happening to him? He wiped his sweaty palms on his jeans. And to add to his misery her perfume was driving him stark... raving... mad with pulse pounding desire. Whatever it was should be outlawed. She smelled sinful.
"Thank you," Jade said softly, and moved a step closer, compelled by some strange yearning. Did this guy have any idea how hot he was? Her wolf bobbed her head up and down, agreeing. Those tight jeans, the t-shirt that stretched over his shoulders so nicely...
Damn, Kern thought as she stepped closer, is it hot in here, or what?
"You need anything else from up there?" Kern asked.
"No, I only needed these light bulbs," Jade said.
Conversation stalled while Kern racked his brain, desperate to find something to talk about. The good old stand-by popped into his mind...
"Nice weather we're having," Kern said, and his wolf rolled his eyes. Really, that's the best you got? his wolf asked.
"Yeah, I love this kind of weather," Jade replied.
Once that topic was exhausted Kern floundered around again. He never had trouble talking to chicks or asking them out. That was what he really wanted... a date, a chance to see her again. No way was he letting her walk out of his life. What he needed was a smooth line to ask her out. Something that would impress her, show her how cool he was.
Kern thought for a moment. Nothing... he had nothing, zip, zero, nada. Where had all his famous pick-up lines gone to all of a sudden? Throwing caution to the wind he decided to just ask her out, no smooth lines or catchy phrases, and prayed she wouldn't laugh at him.
"I-I'd like to – that is – I'd like to see you sometime," Kern said. "If you'd like that, I mean, if you're available."
Jade struggled to hide her joy. She was so tired of the same old worn out, lame pick-up lines. How refreshing for a guy to just ask... and not try to be all cool and stuff. He didn't strike her as a player. Maybe Holland wouldn't want to strangle this one.
"I'd like that," Jade said, a soft smile lighting up her face.
Kern rubbed his hands over his face. What was wrong with him? This blabbering idiot wasn't him! Normally he just told the chicks what time to be ready. He didn't ask, he told them they were going out with him. No fuss, no muss... just get their ass in his truck, shut up and look pretty. Since when did a female turn him into a wuss?
Okay, maybe wuss is a bit strong of a word, Kern thought as Jade's smile cut thorough him like lightning.
She smiled and watched his pupils dilate. Man, he was sexy and his embarrassment was so cute. She had never rendered a guy speechless before. Something told her this was a first for him, too. She did sense there was a fighter inside him, and knew by his smell he was a wolf.
"Ah, ah, yeah... good. I mean great! So, can I have your phone number?" Kern asked.
His wolf actually put a paw over his eyes and ducked his head; this was almost too painful to watch. Oh, smooth move there Romeo. What are you? Thirteen? his wolf asked, shaking his head.
Jade smiled, and pulled her phone out of her pocket. "What's your number?"
Kern went blank for a moment, staring into her eyes. Will you get a grip! His wolf lay down and covered his eyes with both paws.
Kern snapped out of it, repeated the number to her, and she called him.
"There you go," Jade said. "I'd like to do lunch sometime."
Suddenly Kern's nose twitched... the smell of danger, a ripe tart scent that burned his nostrils, filled his sensitive nose. Then another scent caught his attention; a musky scent, one that reminded him of sandalwood, drifted to him. He knew this scent; the last time he'd smelled it he'd nearly ended up with his throat ripped out.
That scent, the strength and purpose of it belonged to the Wolfland pack Alpha. Chill bumps broke out over his body, and sweat gathered at his brow. Oh shit, he did not want to run into that bastard here, and all alone. The damn smell was getting closer. Kern knew he had to leave, and leave now.
"I have to go," Kern said, backing up. "I'll call you, promise."
"What's the big hurry?" Jade asked. Kern had suddenly turned pale and was sweating. "Are you okay?"
"I'm fine," Kern said. "I just really have to leave. I'm sorry, but I have to go."
Kern turned and strode down the aisle, never looking back.
* * * *
Daylon stood looking at the hardware when the hair on the back of his neck stood up. Glancing around, he scanned the aisle, looking for the threat that was triggering his need to protect. Several humans were down the aisle from him, shopping. One was a bit drunk, and the other was hung over. Daylon frowned; this wasn't what was causing his hunter's instinct to trigger. He looked up the aisle at the human female and two small children. Nothing there either.
There was a faint scent in the air–one that stood out above all the other scents, one he had smelled before. A vague memory surfaced in the back of his mind, then slid away. Where had he scented that smell? Being off their territory heightened Daylon's lupine aggression, making him edgy. The need to protect the females of his pack became stronger, and he growled slightly. His wolf agreed, snarling softly, and demanded to be let loose to prowl, to hunt for the scent; to protect, to... ravage, if necessary.
Daylon denied his wolf's desire, explaining silently what a mess a werewolf on the prowl would cause in the middle of Lowe's. His wolf shrugged, damn humans shouldn't be so sensitive. Why they got so freaked was beyond him. So what if a big ass werewolf ran around sniffing crotches, what was the big deal?
His wolf's upper lip curled back... where had he smelled that damn scent? Daylon's hands clenched into fists by his side. Both wolf and man wanted to tangle with something, beat it down and show it what happens when his pack and his mate were threatened.
Immediately Holland was by his side, all business.
"What?" Holland asked.
"Danger. Don't know who or what, but there's danger. Where are the females?" Daylon asked. "Where's Ivy?"
Sam appeared next to Holland. "Several aisles over looking at the home décor."
"Find them, now," Daylon said, the need to protect pounding at him. Danger, danger, danger. "Be cool about it, but find them immediately."
Holland, Sam and Daylon spread out, searching for Ivy, Mary and Holland's sisters.
A couple of aisles over Jade watched Kern hurry off. She was confused by his abrupt departure. "What the hell—"
"Jade? Jade, damn it, where are you, you massive pain in my... Oh, there you are," Holland said, coming around the corner.
Jade jumped slightly, startled by Holland's sudden appearance. She swallowed the smart-assed remark she was about to make when she noticed how worried he looked. Right now Holland wasn't her irritating brother, he was a seasoned warrior. Two steps behind Holland were Ivy and Daylon.
"What is going on?" Jade asked.
"Daylon sensed a threat, but couldn't pinpoint who or what kind," Holland said. "Are you okay?"
"I'm perfectly fine," Jade said.
If their Alpha said there was a threat, then there was a threat. No more questions needed to be asked.
"Everyone here?" Daylon asked.
"Yes," Sam said, keeping Mary near him.
"Let's finish this, then. No one leaves, understand? No going to look at pretty baubles; I want all of you where I can see you," Daylon said, his voice hard.
"You still feel like there's a threat?" Sam asked.
"Not as much, but I'm not taking any fucking chances. We stay together," Daylon said.
Ivy was tempted to say something about 'pretty baubles' but the tension rolling off Daylon persuaded her otherwise. He had acted like this after he saved her and found out she had been starved. Daylon finished gathering his supplies, and they went to check out. Ivy didn't know what set Daylon off, but whatever it was had all three males uptight.
No one noticed the figure hurrying out the sliding doors off to the right.
* * * *
Kern hurried to the parking lot. His hands trembled as he unlocked his truck, and taking a second to calm down he took a deep breath, held it, then released it slowly.
"That was too close, damn it," Kern said to his reflection in the rearview mirror. "What the hell was Daylon doing in the middle of Lowe's? God, talk about bad luck!"
Kern rested his head against the steering wheel. The lovely Jade probably wouldn't take any phone call from him now. Could he have acted like a bigger ass? Kern ran his hands through his hair. To make matters worse, he still hadn't bought what his father wanted, and no way in hell could he go home without those supplies. That thought led him to more unpleasant thoughts about what his father planned, and how Caleb had reacted.
His childhood ran through his mind, seeing how his father had treated their mom. Then Kern thought of Jade. The very thought of raising his hand to her made his stomach roll. What was happening to him? Males of his pack were taught the man was the ruler, the one who had the final say in all things. But the mere thought of seeing bruises on Jade's lovely fair skin sickened him.
Remembering how his father spoke to his mom made him cringe. He'd rather tie his tongue in a knot than speak to Jade that way. Was everything he had been taught a lie, was his whole belief system a sham? More importantly, was how they treated their females abusive? Shoving all these distasteful thoughts out of his head, Kern made up his mind he would call Jade, first chance he got.
He'd have to find out who her pack was, also. He was happy with that decision until a nasty little thought crossed his mind... Daylon was at Lowe's. Jade was at Lowe's. How coincidental was that? Oh fuck, surely she wasn't... please god, she couldn't be part of the Wolfland pack! Kern shook his head frantically; she couldn't be part of Daylon's pack!
If she was part of Daylon's pact she probably would have ripped his head off as soon as she saw him, then called Daylon to finish the job. Kern breathed a sigh of relief. It was just a coincidence, nothing more. Besides, why would Daylon be off his territory? There was no reason for him to here in the middle of Lowe's.
Shaking his head, Kern started his truck.
"To hell with this, I'll go to Home Depot. Surely to god I won't run into him there."
Happy with his decision, Kern pulled out of the parking lot just as Daylon and the rest of his group walked out of Lowe's. Mere minutes separated the two seeing each other.
Neither one of them noticed the other person sitting in the parking lot... watching.
* * * *
The ride home was uneventful. No one was lurking around the next corner waiting to ambush them, no one was following too closely. Once they were back on their territory Daylon relaxed. Whatever had triggered his instincts hadn't followed them home. His pack was safe, his mate was safe. They followed Jade and Tara to their family home. Once they were inside Daylon drove home. Finally he began to calm down.
"We're going to have a meeting," Daylon said as Holland pulled in behind him. "Ivy? Could you and Mary order us some take-out while I talk to Sam and Holland?"
"Sure. Then, after dinner, you and I can have a meeting," Ivy said as they walked inside. "I want to know what's going on."
"Sweetheart, I don't know what to tell you," Daylon said. "I had this feeling of danger, that's all. I want Sam's and Holland's take... nothing more."
"You really have no idea what started all this?"
"No, I really don't. I wouldn't hide that from you."
"Okay then. I'll order pizza. How's that?"
"Sounds good," Daylon said.
Daylon, Sam and Holland went into his office while Ivy ordered the pizza.
"Did any one of you notice anything?" Daylon asked.
"I picked up on your reaction," Holland said. "But no, I didn't sense a thing."
"Damn. Not knowing what threatened us is making me crazy... and there was this scent, but I can't place it."
"You want me to read you? Maybe I could help your memory," Sam said.
"No, not yet, not unless this happens again," Daylon said. "I don't particularly like you walking around in my head."
"Then try this... stop focusing on it, and it may come to you later," Sam said. "So what do you want us to do in the meantime?"
"There's not much we can do," Daylon said. "Just be on guard."
Thirty minutes later the pizzas arrived. Ivy had ordered enough for all of them. Holland and Sam ate dinner with them. Later Sam and Mary went back to Sam's house and Holland went home. Daylon was still tense and restless.
"This really bothers you, doesn't it," Ivy said.
"Yeah, it does. I don't like not knowing where a threat is coming from," Daylon said.
Daylon stood at the windows, staring out across the lawn. Night had fallen and the solar lights lit up the darkness. Ivy could see the reflection of his face in the windows, and there was worry in his eyes. Emotions flickered across his face, the unease and annoyance of not knowing showed clearly. Every instinct Ivy had urged her to go to him, to care for him. Ivy took a breath, and stepped up behind him. Rubbing his shoulders, she watched as her reflection joined his.
"You've done the best you can do," Ivy said, "with no more than what you had to work with."
"I know, sweetheart. It's just... I'm missing something. I know it."
"Well, let's see if we can't take your mind off 'it' for a while."
"Hmm, what do you have in mind?"
"How about we run for a bit, let our wolves out and stretch our legs," Ivy said. "It's a nice night, the moon is bright... perfect."
"That sounds like exactly what I need," Daylon said. "You go first, and I'll track you."
"Ah, a little game of hide-and-seek? You're on!"
Ivy sat down, took off her tennis shoes then slipped out of her clothes. She stretched, and felt her muscles begin to warm up and loosen. Daylon's eyes heated as his gaze caressed her body. His eye followed her as Ivy stepped out on the back deck. The pale moonlight illuminated her body, making her skin glow. His body stirred and Daylon had to remind himself about their run.
Daylon watched Ivy transform, awash in the pale moonlight. A sudden wave of heat swept through Ivy, blurring her vision for a second. Power raced through her body, a sweet feeling of freedom. Then the sounds started; loud snapping noises as her body assumed the shape of a wolf.
Blackness edged her vision for a moment. Her coat grew quickly, her snout lengthened while her tail formed. The fog began to lift and Ivy noticed that everything was just as clear at night as it was in the daylight. A small, delicate dark brown wolf sat waiting for her mate to change. Ivy yipped at Daylon, wanting him to get a move on.
Quickly, Daylon transformed. The huge, black wolf stalked toward his mate, tail wagging. Ivy waited patiently as Daylon moved toward her. Less than a foot away, she stood up, gave another loud 'yip' and raced off the deck, throwing a very human look over her shoulder that plainly said 'catch me if you can'.
Daylon waited as long as he could stand it, then jumped off the back porch. A lone howl cut through the air, warning his mate that he was on the hunt. He ran toward the woods, darting through the trees, nose near the ground, searching for that one special scent. Around him the night was alive with sounds.
Crickets chirped, frogs croaked, and owls hooted. Off in the distance he could hear the honking of geese. Daylon could hear small woodland creatures scurrying through the underbrush looking for a meal or trying to avoid being the meal. Daylon stared at the image of the moon trickling through the trees. Again he sniffed the air, searching... searching for her.
Ivy heard him land heavily on the ground as she raced toward the trees. She shot into the woods, already panting breathlessly from excitement. Her heart was thumping as she glanced wildly around, trying to figure out where to run. She took off, determined to put as much distance between them as possible.
There was little doubt Daylon would catch her, but by god, he was going to have to work for it. Off in the distance she heard a lone howl, warning her that Daylon was on the hunt and closing in on her. She shivered in anticipation. As he stalked into the wooded area he focused on the trail she left, his eyes shining with desire.
The big black wolf followed the trail, enjoying the hunt, having... fun. He raised his head and eyed the trail that lead off into the woods, toward the waterfall. His lips pulled back in a human like grin... so that was where she was headed. Ivy ran toward the waterfall, searching for the path and hoping she had gained enough ground to keep him from catching her immediately.
She planned to cross the small stream, putting it between them, and hopefully throwing him off her scent. Daylon howled again, a deep, sexy rumbling noise that was close, much too close. With a surprised yelp Ivy took off again, darting around trees in an effort to lose him. Daylon moved through the woods, slowly tracking Ivy.
Someday soon he would have to speak to her about how to travel the woods and leave no clues... but not right now. Oh no, this was much too fun. He howled again, hoping she noticed how close he was to her. Ivy veered off to the right, finally finding the path lead to the falls. Every once in a while, a twig snapped, sounding close by.
Off in the distance, Ivy heard the sounds of water. She was near the falls, but Daylon was closing in on her. Hurrying, she broke into the clearing and started transforming. Standing there, nude in the moonlight, she waited for her mate. One minute there was nothing and the next he came loping into the clearing, nearly silent.
Daylon transformed quickly while Ivy took off again. She might be able to see as well as he could, but she didn't have the experience hunting prey he did. With a breathless laugh she ran toward the pool.
Daylon ran after her, laughing. "No escape, my lovely!"
"You haven't caught me yet!" Ivy yelled over her shoulder.