Tess stepped into the bar. It was louder than the night before. Every seat at the bar was full and only a few tables were open. Her eyes immediately found Eden. Xander was talking to her, and the waitress seemed relaxed.
“Is that the guy from last night?” Nate asked. His breath tickled her neck as he leaned into her.
Tess shivered at his close proximity wanting to both move away and closer at the same time. Nate reached over her and pointed to the far right corner. His arm rested against her shoulder, causing a delicious friction. She ignored the heat building in her and followed his finger.
“Yes,” she answered as soon as her eyes fell on the greasy haired man. The creep was openly staring at Xander and Eden. His interest in them was unnatural. He was completely fixated on the pair, and gross, he was drooling.
“He definitely looks like someone we need to keep our eye on,” Nate growled.
“Yeah,” Tess agreed, turning to Nate. Her breath caught as she realized how close he actually was. His lips were mere inches from hers. Her chest grazed against his, causing her nipples to harden. He feels good.
Thankfully, Nate seemed unaware of their proximity. He watched his sister for a long moment before focusing on Tess. He swallowed thickly before averting his gaze. “Come on, let’s get a table. I think Xander has this covered for the moment.”
Nate’s hand fell to her lower back. Tess instinctually leaned into him as he guided them to a table. He paused at the first chair and pulled it out, motioning for her to sit. A smile slid across her face at the action. It was cute.
“You hungry?” Nate asked as he pulled a menu out from between the napkins and the wall. “I interrupted your dinner. It’s my treat.”
Tess licked her lips. The bacon burger she’d had last night had been delicious. “Sure.”
Nate raised his hand up and motioned for Eden to come to their table.
Eden beamed as she approached, placing a hand on Tess’ shoulder. “I’m glad to see you’re okay. How do you feel?” she asked with a gentle squeeze.
“Much better. Thank you for helping me out,” Tess responded genuinely. If Eden hadn’t of acted she could be dead, or worse in a hospital undergoing countless tests because of her uniquegenetic makeup.
“Good,” Eden grinned. “You want the same thing as last night or do you want to try something new?”
“Hmmm,” Tess thought out loud as she browsed the menu. “I think I’ll try the black and bleu burger tonight. And can I get a Coke with that?”
“Sure thing. That’s my favorite burger,” Eden admitted. “I’ll put that in and get it right out to you.”
“You’re not going to ask what I want?” Nate asked, setting his menu down.
Eden rolled her eyes and shook her head. “No. You always order the same thing.”
Nate tucked the menu back away. “I guess I’ll try something different next time.”
“Right,” Eden scoffed. “I’ll be back in a few.”
“Hey,” Nate said, clasping Eden’s wrist in his hand. “Everything okay?”
Eden nodded as her eyes darted to the bar then back to her brother. “Yeah. Xander has it taken care of.”
“All right,” Nate exhaled. “I’m right here if you need me.”
Tess watched as Eden hurried back to the counter to put in their order. Eden patted Xander’s shoulder as she slipped past him.
“Does your pack take into account love?” Tess asked.
“You think they are in love?” Nate frowned.
“Sure. Why not? Look at them. He’s over protective of her. They can’t take their eyes off each other. I imagine they think about each other constantly. And I think she eluded to something last night,” Tess explained.
“It doesn’t matter,” Nate said. He slammed his fist down on the table. The salt and pepper shakers clanked together, rattling against each other before tipping over. A sprinkle of black pepper puffed out onto the table. “Even if they were soul mates, which there hasn’t been a true soul mate pairing in my lifetime, I don’t think anyone on the council would care.”
Tess wriggled her nose as the pepper assaulted her senses. She covered her mouth, sneezing several times before the offensive smell left. She cocked her brow in question as Nate bristled in his seat. Why was he so mad? Did the rules affect him in some way too?
“Sorry,” he sighed, righting the condiments. “All pack members must choose a suitable mate by the first full moon after they turn twenty-five.”
Tess’ brows dipped down into a scowl. “That’s ridiculous.” It was absurd. What rock did these people crawl out of? It was the twenty first century for crying out loud.
“The way our enemies pick us off, it’s important that we continue the blood lines from an early age,” he explained.
“I’m guessing Xander’s birthday is soon?” she inquired.
“Oh,” she whispered.
Tess turned back to watch the pair at the bar. Eden’s eyes lit up as she spoke to the wolf. Her hand reached out, taking Xander’s calloused fingers into hers. The movements were effortless, thoughtless, but it was obvious they both needed the touch.
A warm hand landed on top of hers. Warmth crept up her arm and heat pooled in her belly. Her fingers entwined with Nate’s before she could think better of it.
“Try not to think about it too much. I’m sure they’ll both move on.” He squeezed her hand, allowing it to linger on hers.
The gesture was nice. Too nice. Crap. No. No. No. He is a wolf. You can’t allow anything to happen between the two of you. It would start a war. His parents would kill him, and you. Crap.
She recoiled away from him so hard that she jammed her elbow on the edge of the table. Pain charged up her arm and she cursed under her breath. I need to get to Ohio.
“Sorry,” Nate cleared his throat. “I forgot. You don’t like to be touched.”
If he only knew. Or did he? Surely he felt something too. Don’t think about it.
“And when’s your birthday?” she blurted. Yeah. Great way to change the subject, Tess.
“About four months,” he mumbled.
She’d be long gone in four months and they both could live their lives…apart. The last time two shifters of different breeds were suspected of falling for each other it had ended badly. Nate’s pack was weary of her because of the fall out. But their information was clearly wrong. The wolves had refused to listen to the truth. Instead, a rift had been created between the two species, both sides refusing to speak or help the other. I need to keep my distance. I won’t put him in danger for a silly physical attraction.