Authors: Marisa Chenery
The rope now in a neat coil, Haven shrugged off the backpack she wore and put it inside. She then proceeded to take off the harness and it too was packed away in the same place along with the metal spike she’d driven into the ice. Once she was done she shouldered her pack again.
She looked at him. “Well, thanks for helping me.” She turned and walked away.
Ketah caught up to her and pulled her to a stop. “That’s it? You’re going to just walk away?”
“So me calling you beautiful and kissing you meant nothing? And I might add that you enjoyed it and kissed me back.”
Haven sighed. “Look, Ketah, I think you’re really good-looking, but I doubt it will work out.”
so gorgeous. I know it will never last. You’ll eventually get bored with me and move on to the next pretty face. I’d rather not get involved with you and take that chance. I know I’d be the one who ends up getting hurt—badly.”
“You talk as if you have firsthand experience of this.”
“I do, all right. My dad is just as gorgeous as you. I watched him use my mother and then throw her away when someone a little prettier and younger came around. My mom died still hoping he’d want her again. Sorry to say, but I won’t go through what she did.”
“I would never do that to you.”
“You say that now, but your good intentions might not last.”
“That’s a pretty negative outlook on life.”
“Not on life, only when it comes to men.”
“But what if you’re wrong about me? What if I’m the man you’re supposed to meet and spend the rest of your life with? Would you want to risk that chance and walk away?”
Haven chuckled and started walking again. Ketah fell into step beside her. “You have a lot of confidence in yourself,” she said. “Some people might think you’re conceited.”
“They may, but I’m not trying to be. Don’t you believe in love at first sight? I could be that to you.”
She laughed. “That really sounded conceited. And no, I don’t believe in falling in love with someone I just met. To be honest, I don’t believe in love at all. It makes you stupid and allows others to take advantage of you.”
Ketah groaned to himself. It was not going to be easy to win over his mate. Forget about having to tell her what he was. Getting her to agree to see him again was the biggest obstacle he had to overcome.
“I know for a fact that isn’t always true,” he said. “I’ve seen it, friends of mine who are in committed relationships that will last forever.”
“Forever, huh? Nothing lasts that long.” They’d reached the parking lot. Haven kept walking until she stopped at a black SUV. “Look, it was nice meeting you, Ketah. And thanks for helping me out of the crevasse. I think it would be best if we go our separate ways.”
“I want to see you again.”
She unlocked the driver’s door and shrugged off her backpack. She threw it into the passenger seat. Haven then sat in the driver’s side and took her crampons off her hiking boots. She placed them on the floor opposite her before she faced him once more.
“Well, you don’t always get what you want. I want to have a father I can depend on, one who isn’t a deadbeat whose only interest in me is how much money he can get out of me. But that isn’t going to happen.” Haven lifted her legs into the SUV and pulled the door closed, causing Ketah to step out of the way.
“Can you at least give me your number so I can call you?”
She rolled down the window and smiled. “No. Maybe I’ll see you around sometime.”
Haven started the SUV’s engine, then drove out of the parking spot and onto the highway. Ketah stood there, not really understanding what had happened. His would-be mate, the only woman in the world who’d been able to set off his mating urge, had just outright rejected him. It wasn’t supposed to be like that. Haven had to feel something for him or she wouldn’t be his.
Feeling as if he’d had his most prized possession taken away, Ketah slowly walked toward the crossover. He’d go home and tell the others he’d found his mate, then turn around and say he had his doubts as to whether or not he could win her over.
Haven arrived at the small two-story house she’d shared with her mother. It had been her family home since she’d been in her teens. Her mom had been so proud when she’d saved up enough money to afford it. After her mother had gotten sick and could no longer work, Haven had taken over the mortgage payments. Now it was all hers.
She managed to make it all the way inside before she thought about Ketah. God, he really had been a beefcake. A native, he’d had gorgeous longish black hair and bronzed skin. He’d also had a body that was all hard muscle, and she had felt almost all of it when she slid down his front. Her pussy clenched as she remembered how hard, and big, he’d been in a certain part of his anatomy. It had taken almost everything she had not to react to it.
With a sigh, Haven walked to the hall closet and placed her backpack inside. She’d need it when she went to work the next day. And thinking about that had her thinking about Ketah again. She’d done the right thing by telling him she didn’t want to see him, even though his kiss had left her almost forgetting her own name. He was too good-looking. It would never work. Haven wasn’t sure whether she was trying to convince herself of that or only going over what she’d told Ketah.
No, she’d made the right decision. She headed to the kitchen to see what she’d make for dinner. Even though she stood by her choice not to see Ketah, Haven knew she’d probably passed up an opportunity to have some great sex. The way he kissed her, there was no way he’d have been horrible in bed. He could have ended her dry spell. The last time she’d slept with a guy had been a little over a year ago. She’d had a two-week fling with a man she’d met at work when her mother had been nearing her end. He’d been a tourist, and once he’d left, that had been the end of it. Haven had needed that closeness then, though. Once her mom was gone, she’d been too lost in her grieving to even think about sex or getting to know a man well enough to hop into the sack with him.
Now Ketah had awakened that need in her, but he wasn’t the one she wanted to scratch that itch. He was too risky to take a chance on. Plus, after her two-week fling, Haven decided the next man she slept with would be one with whom she could have a committed relationship. For all intents and purposes, she was alone in the world. Her mom had gone to Alaska to be with Haven’s father when he’d decided to move to this state. Her mother’s family back in Seattle hadn’t approved and had stayed out of the picture ever since.
Her phone rang as she stood with her head in the fridge to see what leftovers she could throw into the microwave. Haven crossed over to the counter and picked up the cordless that sat there. She debated not answering when she saw it was her dad’s cell phone number registering on the call display. But in the end she did, figuring he’d only keep calling until he got her.
“Hi, baby girl.”
“I already told you no. I’m not giving you any money.”
“I’m not calling about that. I thought maybe you’d like to go out for dinner with me.”
“Why would you want to do that?”
“Can’t I see you without you thinking I have another reason besides seeing my daughter?”
“No. You’ve never spent time with me unless you wanted something.”
“I think I’m a little hurt by that.”
Haven put her head in her hand and shook it. That was just another thing her dad liked to play—the poor-me card. He liked to remind her of how worse off he was compared to her. He’d never quite figured out the reason why was because she held down a steady, well-paying job whereas he only worked when he had no other resource to go to.
“You’ll get over it,” she said, feeling more exasperated by the minute. “Look, I don’t think dinner would be a good idea. Let’s be honest, we both know it would be a ploy for you to try to wear me down enough to give you some money. So why don’t we leave it at that.”
There was a long pause before her father spoke again. “I’m desperate this time, Haven.”
Here it came, the sob story he’d try to bullshit her with. “It always is,” she said in a bored tone.
“It really is. I sort of got into something that kind of backfired on me. Now I owe someone a lot of cash. You know I wouldn’t come to you if I hadn’t tried everything else.”
“It’s called get a job, Dad. You know, earn your money like you’re supposed to, not from all these so-called schemes you swear will make you rich. They always backfire in the end, leaving you coming to me for a handout.”
“I don’t need a lecture from my daughter.”
“Then stop acting like a dumbass and be more like my father.”
Right then, Haven heard a young-sounding woman tell her dad to get off the phone to pay attention to her. Her father told her to give him a couple of minutes, then proceeded to tell her exactly what he’d do to her once he ended the call.
Haven saw red. Her dad was pushing fifty, but she bet the woman he was with was younger than Haven’s twenty-four years. No longer able to stand talking to him, she said, “Have fun sleeping with your slut.” Then she hung up on him.
She might have wavered on her decision to not see Ketah again, but now she knew she absolutely had made the right choice. Her father had reaffirmed her stand on not being able to trust gorgeous men. They were all snakes in the grass and needed to have their heads cut off with a shovel.
* * * * *
Ketah stepped into the house he shared with his five wolf brothers and two of their mates. There was one other wolf brother, Carson, but he was newly turned and had chosen to stay living on his own. But that didn’t mean he didn’t spend a lot of time there. They were still in the process of teaching him all it meant to be a werewolf sentinel. Carson was also the true brother to Wachei’s mate, Eryn.
He sniffed, then put his hand over his nose to try to block out the most disgusting thing he’d ever smelled. And given it came from the direction of the kitchen, it could only mean one thing—Durlach was cooking again. His wolf brother thought he had a real culinary talent. He had a talent, all right. It was for making the strangest concoctions that made everyone feel as if they’d be sick to their stomachs if they ate it. Durlach thought everything he cooked tasted wonderful.
Ketah headed toward the kitchen when he heard Durlach’s and Carson’s voices coming from there. He really didn’t want to see what Durlach was whipping up as a “masterpiece”, but he couldn’t exactly leave Carson to be one of Durlach’s victims.
He stepped into the room, feeling about ready to gag. The smell was so much more intense. Ketah looked at Durlach and Carson, not sure how they could stand it. They both sat at the table, eating some kind of congealed-looking slop. Much to his surprise, Carson appeared to be enjoying the food as he shoveled it into his mouth.
“You’re actually eating that?” The words tumbled out of Ketah’s mouth as he did all he possibly could not to breathe through his nose.
Carson looked up and smiled. “I know it smells really bad, but it tastes a hell of a lot better. I think it’s the Limburger cheese Durlach added to it.”
“That cheese is beyond gross.” Ketah had no idea why Cassidy had let Durlach buy the Limburger. It smelled like really stinky feet. And it was so bad it had to be kept in an airtight container inside the fridge or it would contaminate the rest of the food around it.
“Do you want to try some?” Durlach offered.
Ketah shook his head. “No way.”
“You might be surprised,” Carson added.
“I highly doubt that.”
His new wolf brother stood with a forkful of the slop that looked as if it could have come out of the back end of a mammoth and walked over to Ketah. Carson held the fork up to him. “Come on, just give it a taste.”
“No, thank you,” Ketah replied while keeping his mouth closed as much as possible, afraid Carson would try to shove it past his lips. He wouldn’t put it past the man. Carson liked to do things to drive everyone crazy. He and his older brother, Noah, had perfected the art on their sister while they’d grown up, and continued to this day.
“You really do have to try this,” Carson said as lifted the fork closer to Ketah’s face. “I’ll admit most of Durlach’s experiments don’t turn out to be appetizing, but this is the bomb.”
Ketah jumped back. “You mean it could blow up? Why would you eat it if that’s the case?”
Carson burst out laughing, the fork wobbling, threatening to dump the slop onto the floor. “You guys crack me up when you don’t understand a modern-day saying. You take everything so literally. What I meant is the food is really, really good.”
He scowled at Carson. “Then speak normal English. And I don’t care how delicious you think that is, it’s not going into my mouth.” Ketah looked over at Durlach. “I don’t mean to offend you, but there is no way I can get past the smell.”
Durlach gave him a nod. “It’s all right. I understand. Limburger cheese isn’t for everyone.”
It definitely wasn’t. And after this, Ketah was going to make sure any more of it that came into the house would somehow mysteriously disappear. He doubted he’d be able to get the stench out of his nose for days to come.
But Carson wasn’t about ready to give up. “Oh don’t be such a baby, Ketah. One mouthful, that’s all. I can guarantee you’ll want more after you’ve tasted it.”
Ketah backed up and Carson followed. That led to his new wolf brother basically chasing him around the large kitchen table, fork held out as he threatened to tackle Ketah, sit on him and shove the food into his mouth. Durlach continued to eat his slop as if nothing else was going on around him.
Eryn and Wachei came into the room. It didn’t take Carson’s sister long to see what was going on and to step in. Instead of helping, she made it worse for Ketah. She grabbed Carson by the ear and pulled him to a sudden stop. That caused her brother’s hand that held the fork to fly up, which sent the disgusting substance on it onto Ketah’s face. It hit him right on his cheek. The stench was almost overpowering and did nothing for his belly. He froze in place as he fought to keep the contents of his stomach down. He still gagged, though.
Eryn nailed Ketah with a hard look. “Don’t you dare. There will be no puking in the kitchen.” He gagged again. “Ah-ah. You will
She rushed over to him, grabbed his arm and towed him to the sink. Eryn turned on the water, then forced Ketah to bend over. She practically drowned him as she washed the smelling mass off his face. Once she released him, he came up coughing and choking. Between brother and sister, Ketah figured they’d worked him over pretty good.
Ketah held Eryn off when she tried to dry his face with the tea towel that hung from the handle of the stove. “I can take it from here.” He took the piece of terrycloth from her and patted the water that dripped down his chin.
“What’s going on here?” Cassidy asked as she and Edensaw entered the kitchen. She scrunched up her nose. “And what is that foul odor? We could smell it all the way upstairs.”
Ketah answered. “Durlach’s cooking. The main ingredient is Limburger cheese with who knows what else mixed into it.”
“I put—” Durlach started.
“I don’t need to know. I’m sure it will make my stomach worse.”
Durlach shrugged, not appearing overly upset by what Ketah had said. Carson went to Durlach, and said, “Don’t worry about it, buddy. I love it. Let’s take it out to the back deck and finish it there.”
After the two men left, Edensaw turned to his mate. “Under no circumstances are you allowed to buy that rancid-smelling cheese for Durlach. As the alpha of this pack, I’m going to make it an order. It feels as if all the hair in my nose has been burned away from the stench.”
Cassidy chuckled. “It wasn’t necessary to make it an order. After seeing what he did with it, and having to put up with the smell through the whole house, I couldn’t agree with you more. Limburger cheese is now off-limits.”
“Good,” Edensaw said. He turned to Ketah. “How did your trek across the glacier go? And did you head out to the cave?”
He hesitated for a few seconds then answered. “It sort of went well, and no, I didn’t make it to the ice cave.”
“What do you mean by ‘sort of’?”
“I had to stop and rescue my mate, who had fallen while rappelling into a crevasse. She ended up pinned between two tall pieces of ice, all tangled up in her rope.”
“Did you just say she was your mate?” Cassidy asked. At his nod, she smiled. “That’s fantastic news, Ketah. Soon there will be another new member in our pack.”
“I don’t know about that.”
She gave him a questioning look. “Why? I thought all you guys wanted to find your mates.”
Ketah sighed. “It’s not that. I’m more than happy to have found Haven. It’s the fact she doesn’t want anything to do with me that has me feeling that way.”
Eryn’s eyes widened. “She outright rejected you?”
“Yes. And that was after we’d kissed, which I knew she liked. She basically said I was too good-looking and that it would be best if we didn’t see each other again.”
Cassidy and Eryn looked at each other, then laughed. Ketah scowled at them until they stopped. Eryn stepped closer and gave him a kiss on the cheek before she returned to Wachei’s side.