We’re coming to the end of this story, but it’s not quite done yet. 🙂 NOTE: This tidbit has a mild spoiler for Wolf’s Vengeance. I think that book’s been out long enough for the spoiler to be okay, but I wanted to give fair warning in case anyone has strong feelings about having a book spoiled. So, with no further ado, I give you the very raw and unedited Wolf’s Lady.
Amanda held her husband’s hand as they strolled through the streets of Omaha to her father’s house. He looked handsome in his charcoal grey trousers and brick red raw silk shirt open at the throat. She had combed his hair and fastened it into a sleek tail that hung between his shoulder blades to the skinny black belt around his narrow waist. She decided every man with a high tight ass should have a pair of well tailored dress pants to show off his assets. Any woman would be proud to walk hand in hand with Sand, but no one else would ever have the chance, because he was hers.
It was a beautiful afternoon for a walk, sunny and warm, but not hot, with a light breeze. She had her mother’s hand knit shawl tucked into her bag, since the walk home could be chilly. It was a lengthy walk from Sky’s House in what was called the Gold Coast to her childhood home in the poor part of Omaha. They arrived and she tugged him to a halt at the edge of the bare yard to look at the small house.
“I’m going to miss it,” she said. “I know it’s not a big place, or even very nice, but it was home.”
Sand lifted their joined hands to his lips and kissed her fingers. “If I could, I would bring it with us to the den.”
“I know you would. But then where would my father live?”
“He’d always be welcome to live with us at the den.”
Amanda shook her head slowly. “Since my cousin has been named his legal ward, they couldn’t leave Omaha without paying a huge fee. Well, he could, but she couldn’t, and of course he’d never leave her behind.”
He stared at her for a moment, a strange look on his face that morphed into disgust. “Of course the greedy city fathers of Omaha wouldn’t let a woman out of their grasp without being paid for it.”
Oh, God, she thought, looking around to see if anyone could overhear them. The City Guard didn’t patrol this neighborhood the way they did the more prosperous sections of the city, but anyone could inform on them. When she made frantic shushing motions at him he lowered his voice. “If she wants to leave, there are ways to smuggle her out of Omaha.”
She tugged his hand to get him moving to the house. “No, that would be too dangerous.”
He moved obediently toward the house. “How much is the fee?”
“I think it’s one hundred gold strips. I have a little money left, but not enough to pay that.”
Sand muttered something in Lakota and walked with her up the wooden steps to the front door. She knocked. He asked, “Why are you knocking? This is your home.”
“Not anymore. My home is with you from now on.”
Her father opened the door in the middle of her comment. “Now, that’s not quite true, little girl. Your home is with your husband, for sure, but this will always be your home. And Sand’s too.”
Sand shook her father’s hand and they all walked into the small living room. “Smells good,” Sand said.
Her cousin came in from the kitchen, wearing a smile and her novice uniform. Sand went to her and gave her a kiss on the cheek. “Supper smells delicious, cousin. Did you make some of your famous bread?”
Sara grinned. “No, but I made dinner rolls.”
Amanda went and gave her cousin a hug. “What can I do to help with supper.?”
“Supper’s ready, but you could help carry food into the dining room.”
An hour later, Amanda leaned back in her chair, feeling pleasantly full. Her husband and her father were deep in a discussion about rat control. Amanda made a face at Sara, and the girl smothered a giggle behind her hand.
“Let’s leave them to it,” she suggested. “I can help you with dishes.”
Sara accepted the offer. Amanda stood in the familiar kitchen, on the rug her mother had made laid over the section of worn out linoleum in front of the sink, and dried the supper dishes while Sara washed them.
“This is the last time I’ll do this,” she said quietly. “At least, for a very long time.”
Sara smiled at her as she set the last pan into the drying rack. “I remember how hard it was for me when my dad died. I haven’t seen our place in Kansas since.”
That was a reminder to Amanda to be thankful. Her father was still alive, and she hadn’t been sold to be a prize in a Bride Fight. “I’m sorry. That must have been so hard.”
Sara was quiet for a few minutes, her face furrowed with sorrow. “It was. But at least I’m safe here for the time being.” Her face brightened. “And I got a letter from my husband. It was only a few lines long, but it means he’s thinking of me. He hasn’t forgotten me.”
From the entry to the kitchen, Sand spoke. “He hasn’t forgotten you. No wolf would ever forget his mate.”
“Even if he wanted to?” Sara’s smile twisted. “Never mind. When you get back home be sure to tell Spot hi from me, and tell him I’m waiting for him.”
“I’ll tell him.” His voice softened when he turned to Amanda. “Darling, we need to leave.”
Amanda hung up the dish towel and sent a lingering glance around the kitchen. It was time for her to leave. She forced a spring into her step as she walked to the front door of the house. She would be on tomorrow’s train to go to her new home in Kearney. She was looking forward to that, but …
“Daddy,” she whispered, feeling the tears start. ”Daddy, I’m going to miss you.”
Her father’s arms closed around her, not quite as strong as they had been when she was a girl, but just as warm and loving. “I’ll miss you too, little girl. But I’m glad to know you’ll be away from Omaha with a fine man for a husband. Now, don’t cry. You’ll get me started.”
“You’ll come live with us someday,” she said fiercely. “In only a couple of years, you’ll be free to come west. There will be room in our house. Right, Sand?”
“Yes.” Sand put a hand on her father’s arm. “You’ll always be welcome in the Pack.”
Sara’s eyes were streaming, but she tried to stop. “I know you have to go, but I wish you didn’t. It’s a long walk back to Sky’s House and it’s dark. Will you be safe?”
“Sand is with me.” She hugged her cousin one more time. “Of course I will.”
But she was wrong.
Okay, you’ll all going to want to kill me. I promised the wedding night scene for this week’s teaser, but I didn’t finish it. I’m leaving you hanging here but I have a really good reason. I got so busy with Sky and Rose’s story, that I ran out of time. I promise I will finish it in a few days. Meanwhile, I am attaching the first 5 pages as a word docx. The first four pages could be posted here, but the last page is a teeny bit steamy. I don’t want young people to stumble over it on accident. If you are 18 years old (or the age of adulthood in your country) click below to read the next tidbit in Sand and Amanda’s story. It will take you to the download page. Thank you for your patience!
Hello! We’re heading down the home stretch of this little short story about Sand and Amanda. I think I’ll have this rough draft wrapped up by the end of July. But we’ll see. You recall we left Amanda telling Terry Askup he wasn’t man enough to handle a woman like her, and the only man who would handle her from now on was Sand? We pick up now from Sand’s point of view. Enjoy!
Delight and elation soared in Sand. My mate, he thought. My mate is magnificent. He said, “I love you too,” but the people in the room were shouting and laughing, and she was glaring challengingly at Askup, so maybe she didn’t hear him. That was okay. He’d tell her again later. He would tell her every day for the rest of their lives.
The judge stood at his desk, face red while he banged his hammer and shouted for silence. Since his desk was at the top of a few steps, he was taller than anyone else. Sand forced himself to look away from his mate and focus on the judge.
“Order! Silence! Order! If you clowns in the gallery don’t shut up and sit down, I’ll empty the courtroom!”
The judge’s threat was effective. The room quieted. The judge cleared his throat and pointed his wooden hammer at Amanda. “You may sit down, ma’am.”
Sand heard her settle herself back into her chair. The judge remained standing at his desk.
“It is clear to this court that the discord between Mr. Askup and Mr. Wolfe stems from their ardent desire to win the affections of the same woman. She has stated before this court that her affections belong to Mr. Wolfe. Based on the evidence and testimony heard today, I find that both the plaintiff and the defendant are at fault. They will each be fined two gold strips or one hundred hours of community service.”
Two gold? Sand’s heart sank. He didn’t have any money at all. One hundred hours of labor he could do, but he wanted to take Amanda home as soon as possible. He couldn’t wait to introduce her to the Pack by Kearney, and then take her out to the Clan on the plains to meet his father and brothers.
“That ridiculous!” protested Askup. He shook off his lawyer’s hand. “I am not at fault here!”
“I say you are, and since I am the appointed judge of the court, I think my word carries a little more weight than yours.”
Askup turned his head to look behind Sand, obviously at Amanda. “Amanda, I know you’re being coerced. You can’t want to marry that filthy, longhaired—”
“Oh, but I do,” Amanda spat.
“That’s enough,” the judge said with authority.
Askup gave the man a hostile stare. “This part has nothing to do with your court, so stay out of it. Amanda, if you actually marry this Indian, I will kill him and bring you home with me.”
Sand bared his teeth at the threat. He heard Sky’s voice urging him to calm down. There was only so much he could take. Counting each breath that hissed through his clenched teeth helped. So did the expression on the judge’s face. He didn’t know the judge, but any fool could see Askup had said the wrong thing.
“This is my courtroom,” Judge Case said coolly, “and I’m raising your fine another two strips of gold, for contempt of court! And one more, for threatening the life of a man within the hearing of the court.”
Could a man’s face get so dark without harming his heart? Sand was amazed and even a little worried. If Askup dropped dead it might upset Amanda. But his worry was swallowed by anger when Askup spoke next.
“I forbid you to marry him. Do you understand me, Amanda? I forbid it! A whore should be good at taking orders; why can’t you just listen to me?”
The judge’s roar cut through Sand’s growl. He could almost taste Sky’s suppressed rage behind him. Sand subsided, holding to a sliver of his temper with great effort. The judge waved a hand at Amanda behind him.
“Stand up, my dear, stand up and approach the bench. Bring your fiancé with you, please.”
Amanda’s soft hand slipped into his. Just the scent of her calmed him. They walked the few yards to stand in front of the judge’s raised desk. The judge leaned forward to look at both of them and spoke quietly.
“Do you have enough to pay the marriage fee?”
“Yes,” Amanda answered quickly. “And enough to pay his fine.”
“Good.” The judge straightened and raised his voice to a boom. “It is the pleasure of this court to unite Miss Amanda and Mr. Wolfe in the bonds of Holy Matrimony immediately. Mr. Wolfe, please take your bride by the ha— Good God. Bailiff! Unlock the shackles on this man.”
Amanda waved a shaky hand at the judge. “Johnny, I mean, Your Honor, right now?”
Sand’s heart plummeted to his stomach. “Have you changed your mind?”
“No!” Her hand, which had released him so the handcuffs could be removed, clutched his hand again. Her eyes looked into his with a smile, and he was ready to do anything so she would keep smiling at him like that. “I will marry you this second. But I want my dad to give me away.” She looked back up at the judge. “Please, I want my father here.”
“Very well.” The judge beckoned at one of the uniformed guardsmen. “Go fetch Mr. Nelson. Waste no time. We’re starting in a half hour whether he’s here or not.”
“And my cousin, if you see her!” Amanda called at the departing man.
Askup’s face was livid right down to his jowls. “Do I have the court’s permission to withdraw?” he asked, sarcasm dripping from his voice.
“No, you do not.” The judge’s smile was anything but friendly. “You will stay and witness this marriage. That way, I and all of Omaha, will know that you cannot be ignorant of the union. And you do recall, don’t you, that the punishment for interfering with a marriage can be anything up to death?”
Terry Askup subsided, his color now sickeningly pale. But Sand couldn’t care less about that. Amanda stood at his side, holding his arm with that brilliant smile on her face. In only a few minutes she would be his wife, and nothing else mattered to him.
There you go! Next week I’ll have to post a link to follow so you can read their wedding night scene. That will be for the over 18 crowd 😉
Hello! I’m back with an extra long snip from Wolf’s Lady to make up for missing last week. I’m also including a pic of the real Amanda, a friend that I’ve loosely based this character on. We spent part of Saturday doing pictures. When I’ve finished this story I will put it away until I’ve submitted Wolf’s Princess, then I will have it edited, and I’ll do a re-write based on the edits, then I will make it available for free on my website. I’ll get a cover made using one of the pictures from Saturday’s photo shoot.
Before we get to the tidbit, I wanted to let you know that I have officially started Wolf’s Princess. My soft goal to have the rough draft done is October 10. We’ll see how I do with that. 🙂 And now, with no further ado (I’ve always wanted to say that!) here is Sand and Amanda.
Amanda returned home from shopping with a box under her arm containing a lacy nightie that covered almost nothing, and a sheer robe that hid barely more. Cayla walked beside her in the light drizzle through the gates to Sky’s House. She nodded to Randy, the gate guard, as he swung the gate closed behind them.
“You should have had something made up special,” Cayla said, nodding at the package Amanda tried to shield from the rain. “I mean, that one special night with the one special man deserves something unique.”
“That would have taken at least a week.” Amanda smiled in anticipation. “I’m not waiting that long.”
Their hair was damp by the time they rushed into the house, laughing, but their laughter died when they saw Sky standing in the front hall, face set in harsh lines.
“Where’s Sand?” Amanda asked, heart jumping in her chest.
“Come back to my office.”
She gripped her box tighter for a moment before surrendering it to Cayla. The compassion on the other woman’s face hurt. She followed Sky to his office, noticing he had changed into jeans and a cotton button down shirt. He had been back for a while, then.
As soon as the door closed, she asked, “Where is Sand?”
Sky looked her right in the eye. “During the meeting, he attacked Terry. He was arrested for assault. He’s in the City cells.”
Turning away with fist clenched against her stomach, Amanda huffed, “That idiot!”
“He was provoked. Askup said some nasty things.”
Amanda whirled back with a swing of damp hair. “Not Sand. Terry! That asshole just won’t give up. Doesn’t he understand English? Is he stupid enough to think this will make me accept him?”
“Who can say what a stupid man thinks when he’s in love?” Sky’s voice was full of bitterness that he instantly banished. “I petitioned for a speedy trial. It’s going to be even speedier than I expected. Three pm today.”
That didn’t give them much time to plan a defense. “Where’s Joe?”
“He’s with Sand, coaching him in how to answer questions at the trial.”
“Good.” Joe Sullivan was a quiet man whose thin pale hair matched the rest of him. Shy and unassuming until he stood in a courtroom, Sky’s lawyer was passionate in pursuit of justice. “I’ll go get changed. Don’t leave without me.”
Sky caught her elbow. “No, you need to stay here.”
“Are you crazy?” She jerked her elbow free. “This is my fiancé we’re talking about.”
“Your fiancé?” Something lit Sky’s eyes to radiant blue. “You’re accepted him?”
“Yeah. He doesn’t know it yet, but yeah. I decided this morning that I would marry him.”
Sky was silent for a moment before nodding. “Get changed and have something to eat. We leave for City Hall in an hour.”
* * *
The courtroom was packed. That was unexpected, considering how the trial time had been rushed through. Amanda could see a
dozen of her usual appointments present, as well as quite a few young men, apparently expecting to see a show. If the trial went badly for Sand, she would damn sure give them a show. Terry was sitting with another man, probably his lawyer, at a table at the left in the front of the courtroom. She studiously ignored him as she let Sky’s firm hand guide her into a chair right behind the defendant’s table on the right. Joe Sullivan was already there, shuffling papers in a false show of nerves. Sky leaned forward to whisper in the lawyer’s ear.
She smoothed the skirt of her floral maxi dress over her knees while the men whispered. What to wear had had been a hard choice. She wavered over her one conservative suit, but decided to wear a dress Sand had admired. Her hair was brushed out, damp from the rain, over her bare shoulders. She wore less makeup than usual. As she’d feared, even with an umbrella, she’s gotten wet on the walk downtown. No way would she attend Sand’s trial with her mascara smeared over her face as if she’d been crying. Instead she put her shoulders back, slipped the skinny shoulder strap of her dress back up and put a mildly interested expression on her face.
It was hard to maintain that expression when the door to the side of the room opened and Sand was marched in. He was still gorgeous in Sky’s borrowed suit, but the handcuffs holding his wrists together in front of him made Amanda’s blood boil. His face, with eyes narrowed into black slits, looked barely civilized. The Guardsmen steered him to the table beside Joe, nearly within touching distance of her. When he saw herm, his eyes opened wide.
“Amanda,” he said, twisting around in his chair to stare at her.
“I’m here with you, Sand.” She kissed her fingertips and flicked her fingers toward him to throw him the kiss. “I’ll always be with you.”
He opened his mouth to say something, but Joe tugged on his sleeve, murmuring urgently. The reluctance was obvious when he turned around, leaving her to stare at his hair. It was still braided, with the watery light from the windows gleaming on the rain that wet it.
“All rise for Judge John J. Case,” the bailiff bawled.
Amanda relaxed a little and stood. Johnny had been one of her regulars until he married five years ago. And, more importantly, he wasn’t a friend of Terry’s. She made sure she caught Johnny’s eye as he mounted the steps to his seat. She gave him only the smallest of smiles, trying to convey thoughtful respect, no flirtation or sassy appeal. His answering smile and nod were warm, lifting some of the weight off her chest.
“Everybody, take your seats,” Johnny said, settling himself behind the tall imposing desk. “Bailiff, read me the charges.”
“Mr. Terrence Askup, plaintiff, accuses Mr. Sand Wolfe, defendant, of physical assault on two occasions, the first on the evening of September 10th of this year, and the second in the morning of September 30. That would be today, Judge.”
“I know what day it is,” the judge said, gazing at Terry with a cool expression before turning that same expression on Sand. “How does the defendant plead?”
Joe and Sand stood up. “Mr. Wolfe pleads not guilty to both charges.”
The back of Terry’s neck went red and he leapt to his feet. “Liar!”
Johnny cast him a narrow-eyed glare. “The plaintiff is not to speak unless asked a question. Sit down, gentlemen.”
Amanda couldn’t see Terry’s face, but she would bet he was scowling. The judge raised a sheaf of paper. “I want quiet in the courtroom while I review the complaint.” He muttered something about haste making waste, and began reading. After long minutes he raised his head again.
“It says here that Mr. Sand Wolfe is employed by Mr. Sky Wolfe in the capacity of Hall Monitor, which I believe is a fancy word for bouncer.”
Some of the men in the room laughed.
“Mr. Askup alleges Mr. Sand Wolf ejected him from the premises with no explanation and excessive force, causing bodily harm. Is that right, Mr. Askup?”
Amanda saw Sand twitch, and Joe lay a soothing hand over his wrist.
The judge read the paper again. “And this morning Mr. Sand Wolfe attacked you in the mayor’s home without cause or reason. Is that right?”
Terry’s neck reddened again. Shame? Amanda hoped so, but she doubted it. “Yes,” he said loudly.
“Do you have any changes you’d like to make to your statement or anything to add?”
Terry’s lawyer whispered into his ear. Terry shook his head as if irritated. “No, Your Honor.”
“Very well. Mr. Wolfe?” Johnny cast a quick glance at Sky and clarified, “Sand Wolfe?”
Sand and Joe stood up.
“The complaint states you removed Mr. Askup from Sky’s House without any explanation. Is that true?”
“No, Your Honor,” Sand said in a clear, level voice. “I told Mr. Askup that his appointment had been cancelled. That all his appointments with Miss Amanda had been cancelled. He said very insulting things about me and tried to push past me to go to Miss Amanda’s room. I had to lift him off his feet to stop him. I carried him down the stairs and pushed him outside. If he got bruised, it was his own fault. He should have left when he was told to.”
The gallery buzzed with whispered and chuckles. The noise stopped dead when Terry leapt to his feet.
“She’s my fiancée!” he yelled.
Noise broke out again. Sand fell into a half couch. Next to her Sky stiffened and said quietly, “Easy, cousin. Don’t make the change here.”
Incredibly, Sand seemed to have heard him even over the noise. He relaxed. “You asked her to marry you. She refused.”
Terry began to yell again, but the bailiff grabbed hold of his arm as Johnny banged his gavel on his desk. “Silence!” he roared. “You will have another chance to speak, as long as you stay quiet now! Mr. W—Sand Wolfe, what happened this morning?”
“My cousin Sky and I went to the mayor’s house to meet Askup because he was making trouble. An inquiry. Or an investigation?”
The judge lifted a page, scanned it. “Yes, it’s here. What happened? Did you assault Mr. Askup?”
“I wanted to pound his face in,” Sand said, “but I didn’t. I might have, if Sky hadn’t stopped me.”
More laughter from the gallery. Terry was not well liked in Omaha.
“The complaint states you attacked the plaintiff for not reason. Is that true?”
“I had plenty good reason!” Anger threaded liberally through Sand’s voice. “He said filthy things about Amanda.”
Joe spoke for the first time. “A man has a right to defend his fiancee’s honor.”
Amanda saw that Sand and Terry both stiffened, but probably for different reasons. Sand swung around to stare at her, confusion and hope on his face. She smiled at him and nodded.
Terry screamed, “She’s my fiancée!”
“The hell she is!” Sand roared back.
“Dear God,” Johnny growled. “Bailiff! Separate the plaintiff and the defendant.”
Actually, Sand hadn’t moved. He stood straight, fists clenched at his sides, but Terry was trying to get to him. The bailiff wrestled Terry back to his table. He stared, wild-eyed, at Amanda.
“I asked you to marry me!” he shouted.
“And I told you no,” she shouted back.
The gallery tittered like schoolgirls, staring at the front of the courtroom like it was the most fascinating play they’d ever seen. Amanda felt her cheeks flush. She sat back in her chair, trying to calm herself.
“Aha,” said the judge, like a man who had finally smashed the mosquito that had been buzzing around his face all night. “Both of you seem to think you’re engaged to marry the same woman. And here is the lady herself. Miss Amanda, if you would satisfy the court’s curiosity on one point, the court would be grateful. Yes, stand up, please, and tell us which, if either, of these two men you would like to be your husband?”
She stood up, feeling slightly wobbly, but Sky beside her and Sand in front of her, steadied her. “Your Honor, I am going to marry Sand Wolfe.”
The blaze of joy in Sand’s face made tears smart her eyes. “I love you, Sand,” she said in a low voice she hoped he could hear over the roar of the gallery.
“No!” It was a demented scream from Terry. He clawed at the bailiff to free himself. “You can’t marry that stinking Indian. He’s not good enough for you.”
The gavel thudded repeatedly while the judge shouted for silence. The roar had almost died to nothing when Amanda put one hand on her hip and glowed at Terry. “You think you’re good enough for me? Listen, sugar, I am way too much woman for a pencil dick like you to handle. From now on the only man to handle me will be Sand.”
First some housekeeping. On Wednesday morning I am leaving Fargo to drive to West Chester Ohio for Lori Foster’s Annual Reader & Author Get Together. I have been CRAZY busy getting ready for it, and as a result, the snip this week is rather short. And I will have just gotten home from RAGT next week so there won’t be a snip on 6/10. Sorry about that! I promise to make it up to you!
Also, you may notice some gaps in the story or it seems rushed to you. A reader emailed me to ask about that, so let me explain. You are not getting the entire story. For instance, at the time of this snip, Sand has been courting Amanda for about three weeks. Amanda has taken Sand home to meet her father and her young cousin, who has come to stay with him for a few years. Some things I’m leaving out because they could be spoilers for Wolf’s Vengeance, and because I don’t want to reveal some things for Wolf’s Princess yet. But I promise you’ll get to read the whole thing for free by the end of the year. I’m going to polish it up and post it on the blog in its entirety before Wolf’s Princess comes out.
A knock sounded on Amanda’s door and Cayla poked her head in. “Hey,” the younger business woman said. “Some of us are going shopping. Want to join us?”
No, she didn’t. She wanted to hear what was happening to Sand. But it could be hours before he and Sky returned from the mayor’s house, so she might as well keep herself occupied. “Sure. Give me ten minutes to change.”
When the ladies of Sky’s House went out en masse on what Sky called an assault on Omaha’s shops, men on the street took notice. Knowing they would draw attention, and thus more business, Amanda and the other ladies always dressed for it. Not sluttishly, no. They left that for the women who worked at Gabe’s Girls. Instead, they wore pretty clothes and made their faces up in a more dramatic style than Omaha’s married ladies did. Amanda put on one of her favorite prairie skirts and a loose top with a low scoop neck, some jewelry, a little more lip gloss and mascara, and went downstairs to join Cayla, Helen and Tasha.
Amanda walked down the road to the bus stop, Tasha and Helen in the lead, laughing and talking, with Cayla beside her, putting a comment in now and then. Amanda tried to join in, but her thoughts kept circling back to Sand. Cayla noticed. She was a loud woman, with a boisterous laugh and an off-color sense of humor, but a strong streak of empathy ran through her too.
“Are you okay?” she asked.
“Sure.” Amanda forced a smile. “What are you shopping for today?”
“I heard that a new shipment of winter dresses has come in from Lisa & Hannah. I’d like to get a few more things from that company. Everything they put out is so pretty. What about you?”
“I think I’ll just browse,” Amanda said vaguely. “Maybe something will catch my eye.”
Cayla’s smile was just a little wicked. “You should buy something for Sand. He looked good enough to eat in Sky’s suit this morning.” Her voice fell into a fake southern drawl. “Lawdy, Mr. Wolfe, you can huff and puff and blow my house down any old time you please.”
A tiny shaft of jealousy shot through Amanda, so she laughed to brush it away. “He does look good in a suit.”
Cayla tucked a lock of her brown curly hair behind her ear. “You could buy him a suit for your wedding,” she suggested in a very innocent voice.
Amanda sucked in her breath, imagining Sand waiting for her at the front of a church while she paced up the aisle, dressed in her mom’s wedding gown. A part of her was startled by how appealing that image was. The rest of her just felt comfortable with the idea. Very comfortable, like she felt when she walked into her dad’s house and knew she was home.
Cayla broke into her thoughts with a snap of her fingers. “You are going to marry him.” Her voice lifted in a teasing lilt. “Put the poor man out of his misery? Aren’t you?”
A roar heralded the approach of the bus. Amanda hitched the strap of her bag higher on her shoulder. “Yes,” she said firmly, peace and happiness flowing through her. “I am going to marry him.”
Ignoring Cayla’s dropped jaw, she mounted the bus with a flip of her hair over her shoulder. Now she knew what she wanted to buy. She needed a negligee for her wedding night. It had to be new, something no other man had ever seen her in, something for only Sand to see. She settled into a seat on the bus, smiling. She could hardly wait until Sand came back so she could tell him she would marry him.
This is, once again, almost late. Mea Culpa! I was crazy busy yesterday with Wolf’s Vengeance’s release. However, here it is. Again, please remember that this is raw, with absolutely no editing, so there will be typos and other errors. Enjoy!
Sand didn’t like the look of the mayor’s house. From what he could see above the thick wall that enclosed it, it was more of a stone fortress than a house.
Sky nodded at the man who came to the gate in the tall, thick wall. “Good morning, Arthur. This is my cousin, Sand Wolfe. We have a meeting with the mayor this morning.”
The man looked them over with no expression. “You’re expected, Mr. Wolfe,” he finally said, and directed two men to open the heavy gate.
It was habit that made Sand automatically catalogue how many guards there were at the gate in the tall stone wall, and how many more were positioned along the wall and in the grounds, and how they were armed. He figured there were at least twenty, but probably more, around the back where he couldn’t see, and they all carried heavy batons perfect for cracking skulls, as well as guns and knives. They could be trouble if he and Sky needed to leave in a hurry.
Sky walked confidently over the decorative gravel drive to the house. Out of the corner of his mouth he muttered, “Remember to keep quiet unless you are asked a question. Answer honestly, but do not mention your wolf.”
Sky had already said that several times during the half hour it took to walk here. “I remember.”
“And quit tugging on your tie like that; you’ll ruin the knot.”
Sand lowered his hand to his side, remembering his mate’s hands twisting the length of fabric into a complicated pattern at his throat, and her heady scent so close to his nose. Another guard answered the front door. This one wore a suit, but Sand saw the outline of a gun beneath the coat.
“Mr. Wolfe,” he said, with a little bow. “Please come in. Mayor McGrath is in the library.”
It was cool inside the house, but Sand began to sweat anyway. He followed Sky to the back of the house, past half a dozen armed guards into a room with a fireplace, a round table in the center, and books on the walls. Another time he might have liked to look at the books, but now all he saw was the smug, oily face of Terry Askup. Just as his lip began to raise in a snarl, Sky jabbed his elbow into his side. Terry, seated at the small table, tilted his head with a smile that made Sand yearn to punch his fat mouth. Sand subsided and watched the other man rise from the table to shake Sky’s hand.
“Sky,” he said warmly. His hair was brown with lots of gray, his body tall and going soft around the middle, his smile wide, with too many teeth showing. He reeked of cologne. Sand’s hackles, barely smoothed after sighting Askup, threatened to rise again. His wolf didn’t like this man, or his perfumed scent. “Thank you for coming.”
Sand shot a glance at Sky. They’d had a choice? His cousin took the mayor’s hand with a smile as falsely cordial. “Thanks for setting the investigation here instead of at City Hall.”
“I think we can get things settled a little more quietly, don’t you? There’s no need for formality.” The mayor sent Askup a quick frown before he turned the wide, too perfect smile on Sand. “And you must be Sand Wolfe.”
Sand allowed the mayor to pump his hand up and down and hid his distaste behind a cool nod.
“Let’s all sit down and make ourselves comfortable. Coffee?”
Sand declined, Sky accepted. He sat in the leather arm chair and forced a calm, polite expression on his face. Sky and the mayor wasted a few minutes exchanging pleasantries about the mayor’s wife’s delicate health, the weather, and some upcoming social event that Sand couldn’t care less about. Askup didn’t seem to care either. His stare was fixed on Sand with an unpleasant smirk twisting his lips.
The mayor set his coffee cup down. “So, let’s get down to business, shall we?”
“Certainly,” Sky said, leaning back in his chair with supremely relaxed smile. In the years he’d been away from the Pack he had become a fine actor. Sand thought that was sad. At the den Sky had never used a word like ‘certainly’.
“Terry has made a complaint about treatment he received at your house a couple of weeks ago. He tells me Mr. Sand Wolfe threw him out without explanation when he had a long-standing appointment with Miss Amanda. He incurred some physical injuries during the encounter.”
Sky just kept smiling. “Naturally the House regrets any inconvenience to Terry. We always have reserved the right to cancel appointments at the lady’s discretion. Amanda has canceled all her appointments for the foreseeable future.”
Askup sneered at Sand. “Because he threatened her if she didn’t?”
Sand barely controlled his wolf’s snarl, but forced himself to keep his mouth shut as instructed.
“Not at all.” Sky crossed lifted an ankle to the opposite knee. “Miss Amanda is taking some time to consider if she will accept Sand’s marriage proposal.”
Askup slapped a hand on the table. “Now, see? That’s just wrong. Amanda is my fiancée.”
Only Sky’s foot slamming down on his kept Sand and his wolf from exploding. Sky was still smiling, but the smile took on a fiercer curve. “I believe you are mistaken, Terry. You asked Amanda to be your wife, but she declined.”
Under the overpowering reek of the mayor’s cologne Sand caught a whiff of Askup’s self-satisfaction.
Askup waved that off like it was smoke irritating his nose. “Every woman wants to be pursued, especially a whore.”
Sand’s wolf nearly took over. He fought to keep the wolf back. Sky lost the smile and the relaxed posture. He shot up straight in the chair. “We never use that term for our ladies.” His voice was almost pleasant; his face was not. “I would appreciate it if you’d remove that word from your vocabulary.”
Askup laughed heartily. “We’re all men here. We don’t need to pussy-foot around the name. Speaking of pussies…” He leaned forward, his lips shiny with spit, to leer at Sand “Have you tasted Mandy’s? I don’t usually like to eat pussy, but Mandy’s is worth it. Just hearing her beg me to go harder when I stick my tongue up her–”
Sand’s control broke. With a howl he lunged over the table, hands closing around Askup’s throat. He’d barely begun to squeeze when Sky’s arms dragged him back, forcing his grip to break. Vaguely he realized a dozen men had poured into the room, but he didn’t’ care. He just wanted to feel Askup’s blood on his tongue.
“Let me go!” he growled.
“Calm down,” Sky commanded in Alpha tones. It took a few moments of hoarse panting for Sand to identify Askup’s scent. Gloating triumph didn’t show on his face, but the scent was clear. The townsman reeled out of his chair, clutching his reddening throat.
“See? He’s a dangerous, out-of-control criminal! I want him arrested for assault!” he demanded.
Was that regret on the mayors face? He gestured to the guards standing around Sand and Sky. “Place Mr. Sand Wolfe under arrest and take him to the city cells.”
This is a bit longer than usual, but I don’t expect you’ll mind too much. As always, please excuse the typos and errors. And I’m including a pic of what Sand looks like that morning. I can see why Amanda would notice him and want to play with his hair! Wouldn’t you?
Sand woke with the warmth of his mate’s back pressed against his front. His nose was buried in the wealth of her hair, and the scent of it was a comfort, a joy, and a call to arousal all at the same time. Waking with her like this for the rest of their lives was the most wonderful future he could imagine. His hand rested on her soft belly, just below the temptation of her breasts and it was all he could do to not caress her. His imagination supplied a vision of him cupping her soft breast in his hand while she woke and turned on her back with an inviting smile. He would push her tauntingly thin nightdress up past her waist and slide inside her. He always wanted her, but right now, his desire was like fire in dry grass.
The pinch of his jeans over hardening flesh reminded him that last night she’d required him to wear something to bed. She wouldn’t welcome his advances this morning. He shifted to ease the pressure of his jeans and relaxed against her. At least he had this. If the investigation didn’t go well, at least he’d have the sweet memory of lying beside his mate, her body lax and trusting in sleep against his.
The next ten minutes passed with him savoring the scent of her hair and the warmth of her body against his. She woke as he’d imagined, with a sleepy smile as she rolled onto her back beside him. He had to clench a fist and press it into the mattress to keep from caressing her.
“I’ve never done this before,” she murmured in a voice husky with sleep. The edge of her teeth showed in a small smile as she reached he palm to cup his cheek.
“Wake up with a man.”
That startled him almost enough to not notice the way she smoothed her hand over his cheek. “Never?”
Pride swelled his chest, mixed with awe. She had been with many men before, but he was the only one she’d slept beside. “Do you like it?”
Her smile was small and tender. “Yeah, I like it.” Her eyes looked closely at his face, obviously thinking of something else now. “You don’t need to shave, do you?”
It wasn’t really a question. “No. I pluck a few hairs sometimes, but I don’t use a razor.”
He hated to let her go, but when she squirmed to get out of bed he made himself lean back out of her way. In the thin cotton nightdress that hid nothing of her beautiful body, she scrambled past him out of bed and went to the door.
“I’m going to brush my teeth and wash my face. I’ll be back in a minute.”
After she left, he lay for another minute on the bed that smelled of her. Last night when she explained that she had more than one mattress he had been surprised and confused, but also vastly relieved and pleased that no man had ever been on this mattress before. Depending on what happened today at the mayor’s office, this might be the only time he lay in this bed.
Amanda was preparing herself for the day; he should do the same. He jumped out of bed and hurried down the stairs and outside to the bunkhouse where he stored his few toiletries. He used the facilities, washed his hands and face, and brushed his teeth, but didn’t waste time doing anything with his hair. It was still in the same braid he had put it in yesterday, rumpled and frayed from sleep. Leaving it a mess, hurried back to Amanda’s room. He tapped lightly, but she didn’t answer so he slipped back inside. The room was empty. She must still be freshening herself. How long did it take her to get ready? The women at the den didn’t take very long.
He was straightening the sheet and blanket on the bed when he heard her walking down the hall to her room. She came in, her hair damp, dressed already in a floaty skirt like the one he had first seen her in and a pale green blouse with puffy sleeves. Her nightdress was over one shoulder, and she carried a suit on a hanger in her hand.
“Look. Here’s the suit Sky sent for you to wear this morning. I think this dark charcoal gray will look good on you.” She lifted a couple of ties. “I think the red will look best for you, but do you like the blue one better?”
A tie too? Sand swallowed his inner growl. “Red is fine. If you like that one best, I’ll wear that one.”
She flipped a smile over her shoulder when she turned to hang the suit up on a hook over her door. “And now I finally get to play with your hair! Sit down.”
The chair she indicted was the frilly fragile-looking one at her vanity. He hesitated, then settled himself on the little seat. “No one has combed my hair for me before, not since I was a baby.”
Her hands were fumbling at the end of his braid, unfastening the twist of rawhide he used to tie it off. “So, this morning we both get to enjoy something new. Don’t worry. I’ll be gentle.”
Sand’s eyes closed in bliss while his mate carefully unraveled his plait. He had a few mats from sleeping on it, but Amanda was true to her word, and her hands were gentle when she untangled the clumps with her fingers before gliding her comb through the length
of his hair. With him sitting in this low chair, she had to kneel to comb the ends. She fastened it with one of her hair ornaments at the nape of his neck. Then, apparently deciding she preferred it loose, she unfastened it and pulled it over his shoulders.
“I love your hair,” she murmured, smoothing her hand over it in the wake of the comb. “It’s so smooth and shiny.”
He met her gaze in the mirror and a contented smile curved his lips. “Did you know that in the old days, Lakota wives took pride in their husband’s hair? It was their privilege to take care of it.”
“Oh, I see.” There was an oddly blank note in her voice. He wasn’t sure what it meant. “It’s 7:40. You better get dressed so you have time for breakfast before you have to leave. Here/ put on the undershirt.”
He did, then reluctantly accepted the pressed trousers she handed him. She turned her back so he could
slip his jeans off and pull Sky’s borrowed pants on. They were the right length, he supposed, but maybe a little loose in the waist.
“Turn around,” Amanda commanded, and he obediently turned. “Damn,” she sighed. “There is nothing like a male ass in a pair of well tailored trousers.”
Blushing, he rushed to put the coat on. His mate licked her lips when she looked at him. “Mr. Wolfe, you are yummy! But you need to put the shirt and tie on before the jacket.”
He blushed harder and took the coat off. Amanda touched his hand. “I’m sorry if I embarrassed you.”
He wasn’t sure if it was embarrassment. He felt ridiculous in the scoop necked undershirt that barely covered his nipples, and her blatant admiration of his butt had caused heat to rise in his cheeks. But it raised another kind of heat inside him. The trousers didn’t hide his erection.
“Oh, dear,” she said. “I’m sorry.”
“You don’t sound sorry.”
“Ouch!” She pretended to shake sting from her fingers, as if to imply his words had hurt her. “I am sorry, to have to send you off like that, without giving you relief. If we had more time…”
He groan a short phrase in Lakota.
Amanda seemed to have decided that going on to the next thing was best. “Here’s the shirt. Shall I help you with the tie?”
Her fingers looping the narrow silk around his throat did nothing to cool his blood. It took every ounce of self-control he possessed to stand still while her breasts brushed over his chest while she tortured the tie into a fancy knot at his throat. She held the coat for him and then stood back to look at him.
“You really are very handsome,” she told him, smoothing a bit of lint from his sleeve.
He scented Sky outside the door even before the knock came. “Thank you,” he told Amanda quietly, before he opened the door.
“Ready to go?” Sky asked.
“He hasn’t eaten yet,” Amanda said quickly.
“I’ll be fine,” Sand shrugged. “Wolves are used to going hungry.”
“You’ll need to be sharp at the mayor’s office,” she argued.
“I’ll be fine,” he said again, but the knowledge that she cared made him smile.
One of her hands squeezed the other hard enough for the knuckles to go white. “You don’t know that. This could be the last time I see you. I mean…”
He brushed a quick kiss over her cheek. “It will be okay, Amanda,” he whispered. “I’ll be back soon.”
He saw the uncertain glance she gave Sky, and the grave smile Sky gave her.
His cousin nodded. “Tom won’t want to disrupt the flow of our taxes,” he said, his tone encouraging. “Kiss your mate good bye, Sand. We can’t be late.”
Her kiss tasted of suppressed tears. “It will be fine, Amanda.”
She nodded briskly. “Of course it will. I’ll see to that myself, if I have to.”
His gaze lingered on her as he went out. Already he was anxious to get back to her. She cared for him. He was certain of it. All he needed to know was how much did she care?
This is almost –but not quite!– late. Thanks for being patient. It’s been a pretty crazy week. I wrote this quickly, so there are probably a ton of errors in it. Please be gracious and overlook my typos. Enjoy!
Amanda put another spoonful of ice cream and strawberries into her mouth, gaze lingering on Sky’s face for a moment before going back to Sand’s. Both of them had been silent during supper, almost grim. She directed her eyes at Sky again. “Is something wrong?”
She didn’t believe it. “Sand?”
The man beside her opened his mouth, but Sky sent him a commanding stare and answered. “No, Mandy.”
Sand frowned at Sky. “Amanda,” he said, in a pointed tone.
Sky frowned back at him.
“Her name is Amanda. Ah-Man-Dah. Don’t call her Mandy anymore, okay?”
With a blink, Sky nodded. “Okay.”
He remembered, Amanda thought, feeling warmth slide around her heart in a tender hold. Sand was so sweet. She took another spoonful of ice cream. “What’s got you so down, Sky?”
The smile he gave her was almost fake, close to the kind he gave visitors. “Nothing. It’s been a long day. Beautiful weather today. I suppose we should enjoy it while we can. Winter is only a few months away.”
He was lying. She knew it. Sand looked down into his bowl without speaking. She couldn’t say she knew him as well as she knew Sky, but except for the light that lifted his face at the sight of dessert, his face had been grave since he came to the table. She liked the expression of delight at the sight of the ice cream. Her suitor must have a sweet tooth. A wicked smile curved her lips. He liked ice cream. Maybe he would like to lick it off her breasts. Desire, so easily aroused when she thought of Sand, flooded her as she imaged cold ice cream and his hot tongue against her breasts…
His hand seized her wrist. She looked up into dark eyes staring at her with the same hungry delight he’d shown the ice cream. His nostrils flared as he inhaled deeply. He opened his mouth for the spoon she lifted to his lips.
“Oh, for pity’s sake,” Sky groaned. “Not at the table!”
Amanda glanced around at the others eating supper. Some studiously ignored Amanda and Sand, others watched frankly. Paint had an expression of stark longing on his face, but it vanished as soon as he saw her watching him.
Sand leaned close. “Are you done eating?”
She nodded, and followed him out of the dining room to her room upstairs. He slammed the door shut behind them and dragged her against his chest. He had showered before supper. She could smell the shampoo on his still damp braid and the scent of soap tickled her nose where she pressed it against his throat.
“What are you thinking of?” he growled.
“You,” she murmured, dropping her head back to look up at him under her lashes. “Licking ice cream off my breasts.” She felt his cock stir against her belly. “You like ice cream, don’t you, Sand?”
His voice was slightly hoarse. “Yeah.”
His lips were soft, gentle against hers. Chaste. That wasn’t the kind of kiss she wanted from him. She wanted him hot and demanding, and she got that for several long minutes before he pulled away and held her at arm’s length. His unsteady pants put a smug smile on her face.
“You can’t be done kissing me,” she pouted teasingly. “Don’t you want to kiss me again?”
“Only—” His voice broke and he had to clear his throat. “Only as much as I want to breathe. But we need to stop before I forget myself. Unless … Have you decided to be my mate?”
The hope on his face brought shame to hers. “No.” She made her tone gentle. “I haven’t decided yet.” To keep herself from pouring out excuses, she turned the subject. “What has you and Sky looking so glum? He wouldn’t tell me. Will you?”
He dropped his hands from her shoulders and looked her right in the eye. “Maybe Sky wants to protect you from worry.”
“But you don’t want to protect me?”
“From anyone who would hurt you, yeah. But you’re grown up. Keeping secrets from you seems wrong. Do you want to know, even if it’s something you can’t do anything about?”
He really seemed to want to know her feelings. “Yes.”
He nodded. “Peter Vann was here today. He says me and Sky have to go to an investigation of a complaint that Askup made about me.”
Hot rage welled and was chased off by cold fear. “Terry went to the Mayor to complain? That asshole.”
“Yeah. So tomorrow morning me and Sky go to the Mayor’s house for an investigation.”
“Oh, my God.” She couldn’t help but grip his arm. “Sand.”
“I have to wear one of Sky’s suits.” He sounded disgusted.
“You’ll look wonderful,” she assured him. She shoved alarm away with a forced smile. “You’re handsome in jeans, but in a suit you’ll be devastating. I’ll help you get ready. At last, I’ll get to play with your hair!”
Sand gave her one quick kiss. “You can play with my anytime you want.”
They shared her bed that night. He tried to sleep on the floor again, but she had a strangely fierce desire to hold him. Surely, the mayor would be kind. The tax Sky and his house provided the city was sizable, and the mayor liked Sky. He wouldn’t offend Sky, even to keep his friend Terry Askup happy. And, if worse came to worst, she had the promise the mayor had made her on her eighteenth birthday. He’d exercised his right to be her first lover, and afterward, when she’d cried, he had patted her head and told her she could ask him for a favor anytime and he would grant it. She had never used it.
But for Sky —and especially for Sand— she would claim his promise. How had he become so important to her so quickly? She burrowed her nose into the nape of Sand’s neck and breathed his warmth in.
Here we go! This section in Sand and Amanda’s story is meant to build tension and drama. We’re about two thirds to the end of the story. Enjoy!
Amanda left him at the door to Sky’s House, saying she had girl things to do until supper. He watched her go up the stairs with sadness. He wanted to spend all his time with her. With a sigh, he turned to go to the kitchen.
Paint was standing in the kitchen door. “There you are!” he said. “I could use another hand with the lawn.”
Sand followed willingly. Two of Sky’s men he didn’t know well worked on the lawn in the front of the house while he and Paint worked on the back lawn. He rolled the push mower over the grass, wondering why anyone needed to cut grass. All that did was make it fall in untidy heaps that Paint had to rake into piles and load onto a wagon to be taken away. The scent of freshly cut grass was so strong in his nostrils Sand couldn’t smell anything else.
They took a break on a low stone wall to eat the sandwiches Denise brought out for them. “Why are you still here?” Sand asked. “Aren’t you going home?”
Paint shrugged, swallowing half a sandwich whole. “I guess I’ll leave pretty soon. Snow wanted a few days to play tourist.”
“And you didn’t want to leave Sky short-handed. Where is Snow, anyway?”
One of Paint’s rare smiles flitted over his face. “Riding the bus, I bet. He’s fascinated with it.”
Sand made a face. He remembered the loud, smelly vehicle with distaste. “I wouldn’t ride that thing if you paid me.”
“Amanda likes to ride it.”
Gentle warmth curled around his heart. He had first seen his mate when she mounted the bus. “If Amanda asked me to, I’d ride the bus with her.”
Paint adjusted the patch over his missing eye. “How is your courtship going?”
“I don’t know.” Sand looked down at his sandwich. “I think it’s going okay. She hasn’t accepted my mate claim, but she says I’m still in the running. She wants me to give her something before she’ll be my mate.”
“I don’t know.” He spread his hands. “She wouldn’t tell me what it is, only that without it she won’t marry anyone. She said I had to figure it out myself.”
“Hm. That’s not fair. Maybe you could ask Sky. He’s learned a lot about women since he came here.”
“Yeah,” Sand agreed. “I’ll ask him.”
After they finished the lawn work, Sand went back into the house in search of Sky and found him in his office seated behind his desk. He wasn’t alone. A slender man in a black suit was in the plush visitor chair. Sand thought he looked familiar.
“Sand,” said Sky. “Just the man we needed to see. Peter, this is my cousin Sand Wolfe. Sand, Peter Vann, Vice Mayor of Omaha.”
Since the little man stuck his hand out, Sand shook it before folding his arms over his chest. Maybe he should have some said one of those polite, meaningless phrases that townsmen used when meeting a stranger, but Sand didn’t see the point in wasting words. He waited, saying nothing.
He didn’t have to wait long. Vann spoke in a quiet finicky voice, fussing with the cuffs of his suit rather than looking at Sand. “A complaint has been lodged against Sky and his House.”
Sand almost spat on the floor. “Askup,” he growled.
“Yes, indeed.” Vann did look up now, face cool. “Normally, the Mayor’s office wouldn’t concern itself. Sky has proven himself a savvy and supportive businessman. However, a formal complaint can’t be dismissed out of hand. An investigation must take place.”
Sky lounged in his chair, looking supremely relaxed. Sand wondered if the Vice Mayor knew how false that appearance was. Even with the scent of cut grass lingering in his nose Sand could smell Sky’s rage. Sky inclined his head with a lazy smile. “Of course.”
“Excellent.” Vann got to his feet and stretched a hand to Sky, who rose to shake it. “We will see both of you in the Mayor’s office at nine tomorrow morning.”
“Certainly,” Sky agreed. “Let me show you out. Sand, wait here for me, will you?”
It wasn’t a request. Sand watched Sky walk out of the office with the Vice Mayor, then took the visitor chair to wait for Sky to return. He should have done what he’d wanted last night and kicked Askup down the stairs instead of just taking him down them with one hand hooked under his arm.
Sky came back and closed the door so they were private. He slumped down on the corner of his desk and dropped his head into his hands. “Oh, lord, what a mess.”
“Askup already harassed me and Amanda in the garden this morning. The City Guard dismissed his complaint. Is this something else?”
Sky looked up. “Yeah. Looks like Askup doesn’t like to hear no. Did Amanda tell you she refused his marriage proposal?”
Sand nodded. “She said she refused him in two seconds.”
“I’ll bet he thought he could still get her to say yes. He was willing to keep trying. But she’s considering you, so that makes his chances of winning her darned slim.” He stood straight with a growl. “You have to stop hurting our clients.”
“I didn’t hurt that weasel! I was polite. I told him his appointment was cancelled, and when he tried to push past me to go to Amanda’s room I tried to be nice. All I did was block his way. Even when he tried to punch me, I only lifted him by his arm and walked downstairs with him. I could have thrown him down the steps.”
Sky rubbed a hand through his thick hair, dragging the locks that fell over his forehead back. “I can’t fault you. That seems reasonable enough. Normally, this kind of a complaint would blow over with no harm down. But Askup is one of the mayor’s best friends. This isn’t going to blow over.”
Sand lifted his lip in a derisive snarl. “What can they do about it?”
“At best, we’ll be let off with a fine.” Sky looked at Sand soberly. “At worst, we could both be condemned to death.”
Sand choked on horror. “What? I didn’t do anything wrong!”
“I know that.” Sky’s voice was grim. “The mayor will know it too, but Askup is one of his cronies, and one of his most generous supporters.” An ironic smile quirked the corner of his mouth. “Justice in Omaha is different than in Kearney.”
“Justice is justice,” Sand protested with a scowl.
“At the den, sure. Taye decides for us at the den, and he doesn’t play favorites. Even Mayor Madison in Kearney is hard but fair. But here, the mayor decides.”
Disgust climbed up Sand’s spine.“And he has favorites?”
His cousin nodded. “And guess who his top favorite is?”
“That’s right.” Sky strode to the door, pausing to glance back. “You’re a little thinner, but one of my suits will fit you well enough. I’ll have it sent to the bunkhouse for you.”
A suit? He had to wear a suit? “I’ll be with my mate.”
Sky nodded slowly. “Alright, I’ll send it to her room. Be ready to leave tomorrow morning by 8:00.”
I can’t believe I’ve been putting this serial out for almost 4 months now! After this there will be more action than emotions. I feel like we’ve gotten to know Amanda and Sand a bit more now, so we can get to the “good stuff”. What would make Amanda be willing to accept Sand? Does Sand love Amanda. or only want a mate? I need to bring them both to the point where they know their feelings are real and deep.
As always, this is rough and unedited. Hope you enjoy it!
Sand watched Askup and the Guardsman until they were out of sight and hearing. When he was sure they were away, he pulled Amanda back to the bench to sit. “That fat slug asked you to marry him?”
Her beautiful smile, the one that showed only amusement, curved her mouth. “Yes, he did. He’s rich, he’s close friends with the mayor, and he has a large mansion, so his wife would have a life of ease.”
He didn’t like that. “So why did you refuse him?”
She leaned close to speak in a voice hardly louder than a whisper. Her scent overwhelmed him. He breathed deeply of that precious scent. “He’s also petty, controlling, and mean in bed. Did you hear his threat? I won’t marry a man who won’t accept defeat gracefully.”
The threat didn’t bother him. The image of Askup in bed with Amanda lifted his lip in a snarl. When Amanda dropped his arm and stepped back he realized his mistake. He sniffed. Her scent had changed. “You’re nervous?”
“Of course not.”
Her scent said different, but her face lifted to his with a calm expression. Amanda was not only beautiful beyond his dreams, she was also strong and self-controlled. His wolf had chosen a superb woman for his mate.
“Sand, does my career bother you?”
“We already talked about this.” It took a little effort, but he kept his voice mild. “What you did before we even met is none of my business.”
“Hmmm,” she murmured in a doubting tone.
He clenched his teeth. “I’m jealous of the men who have been in your life before me,” he admitted. “I can’t help that, but I know I have no right to expect you to deny loving other men in your life.”
“They were in my bed, not my life!” she clarified, with a bit of a snap. “The only men in my life that I care about are my dad and Sky. I love Sky like my brother. And I’ve never brought Sky here.” She waved an arm around the clearing with the dead fountain. “Only you.”
Only him. Relief, and something close to wonder, melted his heart within him. “Will you accept my mate claim?”
She smiled and lifted one shoulder in a slight shrug. “I don’t know yet.”
Relief dissolved in disappointment. “Oh.”
Her smile grew to a laugh. “Don’t give up, Sand. It took me two seconds to refuse Terry. It’s been twelve hours and you’re still in the running.” She took his arm. “Let’s go back to Sky’s.”
She hadn’t denied him yet, at least. He just needed to figure out what would make her accept him. As they strolled through the gardens he noticed her pleasure in the flowers. “If you accept my mate claim I’ll plant all the flowers you like around our house. I’ll make you a garden, with a fountain, and a bench and anything else you like.”
She flashed him a quick glance. “That would be nice. But if I marry you, it won’t be for a house, or flowers or anything like that.”
He stopped and looked down at her, forcing desperation back. “Then for what? What can I give you to convince you to accept me?”
She stopped too, staring up at him with an unusually sober face. “What I want from my husband can’t be touched or put into a gift bag, and the price could be very high. But I won’t marry without it.”
“Name it.” Determination rose in him. “I’ll give you whatever you want.”
Amanda’s smile this time was misty, as if she were holding back tears. “It’s not that easy, Sand. I’ll be cheating if I tell you. You have to figure it out for yourself.”
A challenge! There was nothing a wolf liked better. His smiled fiercely at her, savoring the lovely lines of her face. “I will figure it out. Give me a hint.”
She bit her lower lip. “It’s only what most women want.”
If the Lupa were here he could ask her. Maybe he could write her a letter. “I’ll find out and I will give it to you.”
Her hand was soft and gentle when she touched his cheek. “I hope so,” she murmured. “Let’s go home.”