Length: 28,000 words
Author note: This novella is part of the Moon Shifter Series, but can be read as a stand-alone.
“You’re mad at me.” A quiet, intense statement.
“Not mad,” she whispered. That at least was the truth. “I’m frustrated and… hurt.”
He flinched at the last word, making her feel like crap. But he didn’t move off her, didn’t put distance between them. She wasn’t sure if that made her feel better or worse. “I just want you to be sure,” he said quietly, his scent wrapping around her. All shifters had a natural scent and his reminded her of the desert. It was just a little bit wild and untamed.
“I am sure.” They’d talked about it. More than once. He wanted her to be certain that she was ready and she was. She didn’t like the way he was acting as if she didn’t know her mind. Even though she looked like she was in her twenties, she was close to seventy years old and had been alive long enough to know what she wanted in life.
Now he rolled off her, falling onto his back next to her. The bed shifted slightly under his weight. “I don’t want you to regret anything.”
Before they’d started officially seeing each other they’d bickered all the time. All that hidden sexual tension, she now realized. Though at the time she’d just wanted to strangle the male. For the last three months they hadn’t argued or anything. Maybe it made her a coward but she didn’t want to start now.
Shoving up from the bed, she grabbed her discarded clothes and jerked her T-shirt over her head. Next she pulled up her jeans. She didn’t bother with a bra or underwear, knowing it would get Ryan riled up. Good. He deserved to be on edge as much as she was. Before she could grab her socks, a big arm snagged her around the waist, pulling her back to the bed.
Ryan sat on the edge of it, and kept her in place with her back pressed up against his chest. He nuzzled his face against her neck, his breath warm. A pleasant shiver rolled through her. “Don’t be angry at me, sweetheart.” She started to melt a little at his touch and words until he continued. “You just need to be sure.”
She snorted and wiggled out of his embrace, elbowing his rock hard stomach as she did. Like most of the Cordona women on the Armstrong-Cordona ranch, she wasn’t exactly blessed in the height department. If he didn’t want to let her go he wouldn’t have, but Ryan would never use his size against her. She knew it without a doubt.
Turning on him, she placed her hands on her hips, glad he was still sitting. “You keep telling me that I need to be sure, but I’m starting to think this is all your bullshit, Ryan O’Callaghan.” His eyes widened a fraction, but she continued, letting the steam that had been building inside her break free just a tiny bit. “I know what I want and I’m not going to beg you to mate with me.”
His jaw tightened. “Damn it, Teresa, you know why I’m concerned.”
“No, I know what happened with your parents, but we’re not them. Not even close. And if you think I don’t know my own mind or that I need some big, strong alpha male to tell me what’s good for me or to make decisions for me, then this is never going to work.” She knew she was probably being overly sarcastic with the ‘big, strong alpha’ comment but she didn’t care. Being on edge like this all the time, it was getting hard to function around the ranch without acting like a manic asshole. She’d even been snapping at her sisters, something she never did.
Her pack was her life and as the oldest in her immediate family, she’d been looking out for her sisters long before their parents had been killed in a mass poisoning last year. What she needed was some distance from Ryan. It would help clear her head. When she heard him moving behind her, she stiffened.
“I’m going to Ana’s. Please don’t follow me,” she said, her back to him as she headed for the door.
He didn’t respond, but he also let her go.