An Unexpected Claim by Elle Christensen

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I never thought I’d see her again after our primal, passion filled night together. But finding Peyton’s nearly lifeless body on my land sends a shock to my system. She’s on the run from a serial killer and looking for an ally… not a mate.

 
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“Nathan—” 

“Shut it, Peyton,” I snarled. “I swear to all that is holy; if you talk right now, I will lose my shit. And your ass will pay the price.”

She closed her mouth and sat back in her seat, but her expression made it very clear that she was silently cursing me. 

“I don’t understand how this happened again. What did you not understand about our last discussion on your safety and leaving the house alone?”

When she didn’t answer, I stopped in front of her and waited with a deep frown.

“Oh, can I speak now?” She asked sweetly.

My eyes narrowed in warning, but I gestured for her to go on, then crossed my arms over my chest. 

“First, I never agreed to stay inside; you just assumed I would obey your order—frankly, I’m a little surprised you haven’t figured out that I don’t follow anyone’s rules but my own.”

My mouth flattened from repressing the urge to cut her off because I wanted to hear what she had to say for herself, and if I pushed too hard too fast, she’d close herself off, and I’d get no-fucking-where.

“Second, I wasn’t alone. And, we didn’t go far. The fact that I considered your demands at all is rare for me. Take the win, Nathan.” 

I swallowed hard, repressing my desire to shout at her, and instead spoke in a cold, even tone. “You really thought Samantha and Emerald were sufficient protection, Peyton? Samantha is a submissive wolf, not a fighter. And yeah, Emerald was a vampire hunter once, but she’s been out of the game for a long time.”

“I can take care of myself,” Peyton insisted again. 

I ran a hand through my hair before pinching the bridge of my nose in an effort to stave off the growing ace in my temples. “You wouldn’t have just been protecting yourself—and I’m not just talking about the pup,” I spit when she opened her mouth. “You would have ended up protecting Samantha and Emerald too. Do you not fucking remember what happened the last time you fought this motherfucker?” By the time I finished, I was shouting.

Peyton was quiet for a while, and I wondered if I’d finally gotten through to her. Until she muttered, “I remember every time I get a glimpse of my back or feel the scars pull. I remember every time I close my eyes. I remember all the damn time, Nathan. But I can’t live my life in fear. I refuse to let you coddle me and treat me like a child.”

“Then stop acting like one!” I yelled before picking up my pacing again. I was filled with energy, and the pacing didn’t help free it, but it kept me from taking Peyton to the ground and releasing my aggression by fucking her long and hard. 

Peyton stood and walked over to her clothes. I turned my head when she bent to pick them up because it only pushed me closer to the edge when her sexy body was on display. After a few seconds of listening to the fabric rustle, she appeared in front of me. “What’s the solution here, Nathan?”

“Other than chaining you to my bed and wearing you out, so you don’t have the energy to be a pain in the ass?”

Her contemptuous glare made it clear that if I tried to follow through with my suggestion, I’d be risking my life, or at least my balls. “Other than that,” she hissed.

“I’m going to put a couple of enforcers on you,” I decided. My wolf wasn’t happy about other men watching our mate, but he understood the necessity when we couldn’t be with her. And we couldn’t catch the killer if we were with her all the time, especially with what I’d learned the day before. I needed KBO’s supercomputer and other resources.

Peyton played with the ends of her hair for a minute. “Okay,” she agreed before turning and walking back to the hallway.

My wolf nudged me, wanting me to go after her, but I just watched her, wondering if I should be worried about how easily she’d accepted my decision.  

When the enforcers called the next day to report that she slipped her tail and I had to track her ass down, again, I had my answer.

“Why won’t you stay where you’re put?” I demanded after returning to the cabin and dumping her onto the couch. 

She snorted and rolled her eyes, jabbing a thumb at her chest. “Panther.” Then she pointed to the butterfly tattoo on her inner wrist. “I’m a free spirit, Nathan. Nobody ‘puts’ me anywhere. When are you going to accept that I don’t fit in the damsel in distress box you keep trying to shut me in?”

“I’ll stop treating you like a helpless damsel when you prove you have some sense of self-preservation,” I grunted. 

“Is that so?” she asked, her gold flecks glittering suspiciously.

A warning sign flashed in my head. It’s a trap! It’s a trap! But I foolishly stepped right into it. “Yes.”

“So you’ll tell me what the hell is going on with the investigation into my situation because I’m pretty fucking confident that in all the time I’ve been here, you have to have discovered something.”

Yeah, I’d stepped right into that. “Baby…”

She jammed her hands on her hips and aimed a deadly glare at me. “Don’t ‘baby’ me! Turnabout is fair play, Nathan. If you don’t want me to lie to you, don’t lie to me.”

“I haven’t lied to you,” I stated firmly.

Her green eyes flashed gold—both she and her cat were calling bullshit.

 
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