This is almost late! But better late than never, right? As always, this is unedited, not proof read, and new! I hope you enjoy it!
“He’s a —“ She looked at Sky, then turned to stare at Sand. A trickle of fear soured her scent. “You’re a werewolf?”
Sky shook his head. “Just go with it,” he advised Sand. “It’s easier.”
His mate’s acrid scent of fear hurt. “I have a wolf, but he wouldn’t hurt you.”
The fear scent faded into something confused but cautiously curious. “That’s kinda cool. Kinda.”
“Whether or not you decide to be his mate is your choice. If you don’t want him, I’ll send him back to Kearney.”
Amanda was staring at him. “I don’t know. I don’t even know him. I just met him an hour ago.”
Sand’s breath was hot in his chest, hot with urgency and yearning. “We can take time to get to know one another. We can talk, or do whatever you like.”
“The thing is,” Sky said, leaning forward on the small chair to take her hands, “our wolves are very jealous. If they see another man too close to our mates, they don’t like it.” Corner of his mouth puckered sourly and Sand wondered if he was remembering the man who sat far too close to his mate, Rose, back in Kearney. “So while you decide whether or not you want to accept Sand, you can’t make appointments.”
“You’re touching me,” she pointed out.
Sky waved that away. “I’m Pack. His cousin. Pack doesn’t count. So what do you say? Will you give Sand a month to court you? To try to persuade you to be his mate?”
Sand felt his mate’s gaze burn over him as she examined him carefully. For the first time in his life he wondered if his clothes were good enough. His jeans and blue cotton shirt were clean but rumpled from days in a saddlebag, his moccasins worn. His gaze went to Sky’s stylish suit and shorn hair before he straightened his shoulders proudly. His mate would be accepting or rejecting him, not his clothes or hair.
Amanda stared at him wordlessly for long minutes. Sand forced himself to not twitch, determined to let her make up her own mind, but it took so long that he finally blurted, “Do you want me to cut my hair? Get other clothes?”
“Don’t you dare cut your hair!” she answered immediately, looking genuinely horrified. “I like your hair. As for clothes…” She trailed off to look him up and down again. “I’d love to see what you look like without them. And,” she added hesitantly. “What does the wolf side of you look like?”
Relief at being able to keep his hair loosened his shoulders. “I hate wearing these tight clothes,” he said with a smile, reaching to undo the buttons on the shirt.
“Wait a minute!” Sky said quickly. “There are still two more things for Mandy to know. One, we can’t let our wolves out where anyone can see them. No one can know. You have to promise to never tell anyone.”
Amanda smelled of confusion. “Okay, I promise. What’s the other thing?”
“If you have sex with him, you’ve accepted his claim. You’ll be his wife.”
Her face fell almost ludicrously. “I can’t sleep with him?”
Sky laughed softly. “Sure you can sleep with him. You just can’t have sex with him.”
Her face still looked unhappy. “But what if I want to have sex, but don’t want to be his mate?”
Sand’s heart twisted violently in a knot of such pain that his knees almost hit the floor. Having her would be bliss. Losing her after he’d known the delight of her body would leave him a useless shell around a broken heart.
“No,” Sky denied. “For wolves, it’s all or nothing. It’s your choice. Do you want to allow him to court you, or should I send him back to Kearney?”
Amanda licked her painted lips while she stared at him. He could count her breaths sliding in and out of her lungs. “I want Sand to court me.”
Sand threw his head back and screamed a howl of victory.