Home » , , , , , , » Libby (A Children of the Hunt Short Story) by Emme Wesson

Libby (A Children of the Hunt Short Story) by Emme Wesson

It wasn't a real problem in the traditional sense. No. Her problem was totally of her own making. Mostly in her own head...and her loins. If she wasn't careful, it could cause her to lose her job. Then where would she be? It was bad enough that she lusted after her boss. If she couldn't see him five days a week, it would kill her. Not to mention it would mean finding a real job. She loved working at Crescent Moon Books and she didn't want to give it up.
Libby (A Children of the Hunt Short Story)
Libby (A Children of the Hunt Short Story) by Emme Wesson
The problem wasn't so much that she had the hots for her boss. Women dealt with that issue all the time. No, the true heart of the problem was who he was. Liam MacKenzie was Alpha to the Lake Sunapee Wolf Pack. He was friends with her parents and her great-grandmother. He was old enough to be her father. In fact, he was a year older than her father. She even babysat his son, Malcolm, when he came for summer visits. He was as off-limits to her as any man could be. He was also the absolute hunkiest man she knew, and since most wolves tended to be good looking anyway, that was saying something. If it was just about him being a wolf, there were certainly other men available. Men closer to her own age. There were five in the Sunapee Pack alone, but they didn't have Liam's presence, or his black hair and blue eyes. No, the wolves of her generation didn't interest her at all. Since she was human and not wolf, that should have been the end of it. She should have found a nice human boy her own age, someone she could date, have sex with. But the truth was she'd been secretly in love with Liam since she was fifteen years old. Hell, he'd been part of her life since the day she was born. Her family had always been associated with the Sunapee Pack because of her great-grandmother's role as their Daughter of the Hunt. Gigi, as her great-granddaughters called her, was linked to the Sunapee Elder, Michael Cooper. She'd taken up with him after her husband had passed away thirty-five years ago. Gigi wasn't a full Daughter of the Hunt. She had the second sight, but she didn't have a true Daughter's ability to heal a wolf by bringing on their change. Libby's sister, Cory, could though, but Cory wasn't attached to the Sunapee Pack; not in a true sense. Being attached meant that you were in a relationship with a wolf from the Pack. But Cory wasn't interested in anyone from the Sunapee Pack. In fact, she'd found herself a wolf from California. Bodhi Cooper had given up his place in the Lake Tahoe Pack and was now a lone wolf so he could be with her sister. It was all very romantic and she didn't begrudge Cory the happiness, but she wanted it for herself too. So here she stood at the counter of the bookstore, watching as Liam helped a customer locate a book. Was it wrong that she was jealous of someone's grandmother for getting attention from the store owner? Libby sighed and went back to pricing the books that had recently come in. If she kept staring at Liam, he would start to notice and that wouldn't be good. He'd already caught her watching him a couple of times now, but she'd acted like she'd just spaced out and wasn't really looking at him. A little more of that and he'd probably start to question her competence. As she rang up the customer he'd been helping, Liam approached the counter and waited for her to finish before saying, "I need to go down to the Town Clerk's office for a bit, Libby. Do you want me to bring us back some lunch?" "Sure," she agreed readily. "That'd be great." They'd been working together long enough that he knew what she liked to eat, and it meant they'd eat lunch together, so she certainly wouldn't say no. As Liam left, she picked up the pile of books and carried them into the stacks to shelve them. The bell rang as the door opened and she called out, "I'll be right with you." Libby set down the books she hadn't placed yet and walked to the front of the store. A tall blonde man stood near the counter looking around nervously. He glanced outside, then at the register, then outside again. Libby slowed her walk, suddenly very wary of his behavior. "Can I help you?" she asked with more confidence than she felt. The man turned to her and Libby came to a halt. His hand was stuffed in the pocket of his sweatshirt, but she was pretty sure she saw the outline of a weapon. She looked up at his face and saw desperation in his eyes. It made her suddenly aware that she was very alone in the store. The man pulled the gun out of his pocket and showed it to her, not pointing it at her yet. "I don't want to hurt you," he stated, his voice strained. "I just want the money from the register." Libby swallowed down her fear and nodded. Liam had always told all of his employees not to play hero if someone threatened them. Of course, he'd only meant the human employees. Two of his Pack worked part time for him at night and would think nothing of taking the man down. He also told them all to stay calm, but Libby's hands were shaking as she approached the counter giving the man a wide berth. She moved to the register and punched in the code to open it, pulling out all of the cash. It wasn't much. It had been a slow morning and there was only about $300. She put the money on the counter and pushed it towards him. He looked at her blankly for a moment and then his face flushed. "Is that all there is?" he demanded. "There has to be more. It's not enough." "Why?" Libby asked before she could think it through. "What?" It seemed he hadn't expected her to question what he said. "You said it's not enough money. Why not?" she asked again. "That's none of your business," he told her, pointing the gun at her this time. "There's a safe here, isn't there?" "In the office," Libby squeaked out. The man moved to the door and turned the sign to say 'closed', then locked the door. Her heart started to pound in her chest. "Show me," he told her. "I don't know the combination," she objected. "Show me," he repeated harshly. Libby's legs were shaking as she led him to Liam's office. She opened the door and preceded him in, pointing silently to the safe that sat against the back wall. The man went over to the safe and tried the handle. While he was distracted, Libby tried to slip back out the door, but he noticed the movement and turned back to her, raising the gun in her direction. "Sit down over there on the floor," he told her. Libby complied hesitantly, knowing it wasn't good that he wanted to look at the safe. She watched as he tried the handle again, then started looking under things on the desk. He was probably looking for the code, but she suspected he wasn't going to find it. Liam wouldn't leave something like that just lying around. The man started muttering to himself and going through the drawers. "It has to be here somewhere. I can't leave here without more money. I can't do this again." As soon as he said that, Libby remembered reading about another robbery in Newport. Was this the same man? What did he need the money for? At least she definitely knew no one had been hurt that time. Finally, he looked up at Libby and asked, "Who has the combination?" "Only the store owner does." "Where is he?" "He's not here this afternoon," she told him, hoping he would believe her. He pushed the desk phone towards her and said, "Call him and tell him he needs to come here now. If you let him know what's going on, I'll shoot you." Libby could tell he wouldn't take no for an answer, so she went to the desk and dialed Liam's cell phone with shaking fingers. It went straight through to voice mail, which probably meant he was at the Town Clerk's office. She hung up the phone. "He's not answering," she said softly. "Call again and leave a message this time. Tell him to come here immediately." Libby dialed the phone again and when prompted said, "Liam, you need to come to the bookstore as soon as you get this message. It's very important." She put the phone down and asked, "Now what?" "You sit back down there on the floor." Libby moved back to where she had been sitting before, asking, "Don't you think it will be suspicious that the store is closed?" "You ask too many questions," he told her angrily. "Keep your mouth shut from now on." She leaned back against the wall to wait. Liam would be back eventually. She glanced at the picture he'd hung over the two-way mirror in his office. At least the man wouldn't know when Liam arrived and it would work in their favor. Hopefully it wouldn't all blow up in their faces. Liam checked his phone as he left the deli, only to realize his battery was dead again. The damn thing had been driving him crazy and he needed to visit the phone store to get it looked at. As he got into his SUV, he searched around for his car charger. When it didn't turn up, he suspected Libby has borrowed it again and forgotten to return it. She was a conundrum, was Libby Flynn. He was never quite sure exactly what she was thinking, but at times her emotions were clearly obvious. She wanted him, of that he was sure. He just wasn't sure why. He was old enough to be her father. She was good at hiding her thoughts, they never showed on her face. But her hazel eyes followed him around the store. That was why he'd noticed her interest in the first place. Once he'd noticed, he couldn't keep his eyes off of her. It's why he'd hung that picture in his office. He'd found himself staring at her through the two-way mirror for hours at a time. He hadn't been able to get any work done at all. Instead, he now had a mountain range to stare at with a pack of wolves in the foreground. It wasn't a fair trade, but it kept him on task; kept him from temptation. Libby was a temptation he couldn't entertain. It would complicate everything and it would be inappropriate on so many levels. If she had been anyone but exactly who she was, he wouldn't have thought twice about bedding her. Of course, if she hadn't been who she was, chances are he wouldn't have been interested. Wolves would always be attracted to the Daughter's line, it was simply the way it was. He'd had other human lovers, but they had been few and far between. Quick flings that had meant nothing. He would never view Libby in that light and that made the situation even more dangerous for him. When he got back to the book store, he was caught by surprise to find the front door locked. Libby's car was in the lot, but when he looked through the window she was nowhere to be seen. He slipped the key into the door and let himself in, scenting the air. Normally he would have called out for Libby if she wasn't near the registers, but something felt off. There was a recent male scent lingering near the door and he followed it quietly to the back of the store, right to his office door. He listened at the door for a moment, hearing movement inside. He could smell both Libby and the man strongly, so they were both in there. Was she hooking up with someone in his office? That thought made him suddenly angry. She'd known he'd be back with lunch. Would she have been so careless? Or was there something else going on? He considered for a moment exactly how he should handle the situation, then walked back to the front of the store. "Libby! Your lunch is here!" he called out loudly and waited to see what happened. "Who's that?" the man asked Libby. "How did he get in?" A hundred answers ran through her head, but the only one that popped out was, "My boyfriend. He works here too and has a key to the door." He gestured at her with the gun. "Open the door and tell him to come back here. Then move back from the door." Libby knew this was her chance to let Liam know something was wrong. She opened the door a little and called, "I'm back here in the office, Chip. Come on back." She left the door ajar and moved back against the wall where she had been sitting before and waited. Liam's hand appeared first, holding the bag with their lunch as he pushed the door open. When he spotted her against the wall, he paused briefly and she watched him pull in a deep breath, his blue eyes never leaving her. The gun was still trained on her and she didn't dare move or show any emotion. If Liam hadn't known something was wrong before, he should now. "Libby girl," he said softly in his Scottish lilt as he came all the way into the office. "What are you doing back here?" The robber put his gun against Liam's temple and said, "She's doing what I tell her to do and so will you. Do you know the combination to the safe?" Liam turned his head ever so slightly, his eyes taking in the man beside him before he asked, "Who the hell are you?" "Answer my question," the man insisted. "Do you know the combination to the safe?" "Only the owner knows it," he informed the man. "Jesus Christ!" burst from the man's mouth. "Go over there with your girlfriend and sit down." As Liam moved towards her, he mouthed Chip? with a distasteful look. She gave the slightest of shrugs, not daring more than that. Liam set the bag down carefully on top of the filing cabinet and turned to put his back against the wall beside her. His fingers found hers and he gave her hand a gentle squeeze before releasing them. She felt a little calmer with Liam beside her. She knew he wouldn't let anything happen to her, but she was curious to know why he hadn't acted yet. "Why do you want to get into the safe?" Liam asked calmly. "That's none of your business," the man replied as he started to pace. He looked at Libby and asked, "Why hasn't the owner returned your call or shown up yet?" "I don't know," she said softly. "Perhaps his cellphone battery is dead again," Liam offered. "Someone keeps borrowing his charger." Libby let out a small huff and said defensively, "Perhaps he needs a new battery." "Shut up, both of you!" The man held the cordless phone out to Libby and said, "Call him again." Libby took the phone and dialed. The man never noticed she dialed a different number this time. When the phone was answered she quickly said, "Liam, thank goodness you answered this time. I need you to come to the store immediately." The voice on the other end said quietly, "I'll be right there." "See you soon," Libby breathed in relief and disconnected the call. Not that she doubted Liam's ability to handle the situation, but it was good to know backup was on the way. She handed the phone back to the robber, saying, "He's on his way." "Good," the man said absently, taking the phone from her. "Good." "What's your name?" Liam asked the man. "Why would I tell you that? Do you think I'm stupid?" "No, but it would be helpful to have something to call you, other than 'man holding us at gunpoint'." He seemed nonplussed at that and finally said, "You can call me Ed, but I'd prefer both of you just keep your mouths shut." "So, Ed," Liam continued as though he hadn't heard the second half of Ed's statement and Libby sighed. "Why are you robbing the book store?" "I told you to shut up," Ed reminded him. "Do you need the money for something?" "I said shut up!" "Maybe we can help you," Liam offered. "Why would you want to help me?" Ed asked derisively. "You don't strike me as someone who would take up a life of crime for no reason." "You don't know anything about me." "That's why I'm asking," Liam told him. "You do realize that if you get caught, it will ruin your life? Do you want that?" Ed scrubbed his hair with his free hand, but didn't say anything. Libby wondered if Liam was going somewhere with this or just delaying until help came. She knew the Alpha could easily take the man out right now, but there wouldn't be much fun in that. Like all wolves, he liked a challenge from his prey. She'd find out eventually what Liam was after. "So what is it, Ed?" Liam asked him. "Is your house getting taken by the bank? Are the creditors breathing down your neck? Are you raising money to flee the country? What's the story?" "I told you to shut up," Ed said tiredly. "I'm not very good at following directions," Liam agreed. Libby snorted and Liam bumped her shoulder with his. "Do you think this is funny?" Ed asked them angrily, approaching with his gun pointed at her. He seemed like he was right on the edge and she sobered immediately; she didn't want to be the one to provoke him. She'd never liked guns and liked them even less now. "Do you?" "No," Libby told him softly. "Leave her be," Liam warned him with an edge of threat in his voice. "I'm the one who won't stop talking." Liam appeared to have no problems with provoking Ed and Libby hoped he knew what he was doing. "Maybe you'll shut up if I threaten to shoot her," Ed told him. "You don't want to do that," Libby rushed to say. "No one's been hurt yet, have they? In any of your robberies? If you start now, you can't go back from that." "How do you know about the others?" Ed asked, showing his surprise. Maybe she could use that to her advantage. "It was in the paper," she said gently. "You don't have any proof that was me," he told her with a hard glare. "But it was, wasn't it?" She asked and Ed shook his head, but she could see the denial was half-hearted, so she kept talking. "Please, Ed. I know you don't want to hurt anyone. Why are you doing all this?" "What do you care? You don't know me." "No, I don't, but I don't think you're doing this for the thrill of it. You don't have that look in your eyes." Libby make her voice as gentle as possible when she added, "So there must be a good reason. Why don't you tell us what it is?" Ed glanced away, then back at them, his voice breaking as he said, "It's my daughter. She has a heart condition and my insurance won't pay for the operation she needs. I need to get the money somehow." "That's why you said what was in the register wasn't enough?" Libby asked sympathetically. He nodded, resigned "It's going to cost thousands of dollars and I can't just let her die without trying to do something to help her." "What about her mother? Does she have access to insurance?" Liam asked softly. "My wife lost her job last year when the company closed and she's only been able to find part time work where they don't offer insurance." "So if she had a job that offered decent insurance, you wouldn't need to be robbing stores?" Liam asked him solicitously. Ed thought about that for a moment and said, "No, I suppose I wouldn't." Libby looked over at Liam, wondering what he was getting at when the door to the office burst open and Ryan Sandusky flew through it, tackling Ed to the floor with a very loud oomph. As Liam's second, Ryan took his responsibilities seriously. Those responsibilities included protecting the employees of the bookstore and when Libby had called him, he'd wasted no time getting his ass there. The gun flew out of Ed's hand and went skittering across the floor, where Liam bent to pick it up. Libby saw him open the chamber and shake his head as he saw it was empty. Somehow, that really didn't surprise her. "Ryan," Liam said wearily. "Let him up." "Boss?" Ryan looked up questioningly from where he had Ed pinned down. Ed didn't even struggle, just lay there like he'd been expecting something like this to happen eventually. "He's harmless," Liam assured him. "Let him up." Ryan climbed to his feet and stood over Ed as he got to his hands and knees looking defeated. "Do you want me to call the police?" Ryan asked him. "I think that will be up to Ed." Liam sat down at his desk and laid the empty gun down on top of it. Ed lifted his head in surprise. "Have a seat, Ed." Ed grabbed the edge of the desk to pull himself up and looked at all of them cautiously before sitting down on the chair that sat on the opposite side of Liam's desk. Ryan stood over him menacingly; which was his job. Libby finally moved from her place by the wall and came to stand behind Liam's desk so she could have a front row seat to whatever Liam had planned. She did love watching him be the Alpha he was. "This could go two ways, Ed," Liam informed him. "We can call the police and they can come arrest you, which would ensure your daughter would get no help. Or you can give up your life of crime, I'll offer your wife a job here at the bookstore, and the excellent benefits I offer my employees would ensure your daughter gets the help she needs." "I thought you were her boyfriend," Ed said, his confusion showing as he gestured his head towards Libby. "Who the hell are you?" Ryan choked on a laugh, which earned him a glare from Liam before he turned back to Ed. "I'm Liam MacKenzie, the owner of Crescent Moon Books." "I thought you said his name was Chip," Ed said, looking up at Libby. This time Ryan laughed out loud and stepped over to Libby, high fiving her. Libby's cheeks burned as Liam glared at both of them. Ryan said, "Good one, Libbs." He went back to stand behind Ed, putting his serious face back on. "Are you two done?" Liam asked them caustically. When neither one of them answered, Liam turned back to Ed and asked, "What would you prefer, Ed? Going to jail or helping your daughter?" "Are you serious?" Ed finally asked. "Why would you help me after I tried to rob your store?" "Sunapee is my adopted town and I've made it my purpose to give back when I can. I do have one stipulation though if you take me up on my offer to employ your wife." "What's that?" Ed asked cautiously. "I want you to give back the money you've already stolen. Anonymously of course. Can you do that?" Ed looked down and said softly, "I don't still have all of it. We had to pay for medication." "Well, I imagine with your wife's new job, you'll be able to make some payments?" Liam prompted. Ed looked relieved and said, "Of course." "Before you go, I'd like you to give Ryan your contact information." Liam took a business card out of the holder on his desk and slid it across to Ed. "Have your wife contact me in the morning." Ed took it and stood up cautiously, ducking his head slightly. He looked like he thought Liam was going to change his mind at any moment, but he said, "I don't know how to thank you for this." "Just pay them back and I'll be happy. Oh, and stop robbing businesses." "Of course," Ed agreed, then, "Thank you again." When Ed and Ryan had left the office, Libby moved to sit on the edge of Liam's desk so she could look at him. Liam leaned back in his chair and met her eyes. "That was a nice thing you did for Ed," she told him, feeling surprisingly emotional. Liam sighed and said, "The whole thing could have gone pear-shaped so easily. He was lucky Ryan only tackled him. And if he had hurt you..." When he didn't continue, Libby asked, "What?" "He wouldn't have walked out of here alive." Libby sucked in a surprised breath. "Are you serious?" "Aye. Never doubt that your life is as precious to me as any of my Pack, Libby. Any man who harms you will answer to me." Libby blushed under the ferocity of his gaze, not quite understanding where all of this was coming from. Did Liam view her only as someone to be protected or was there more to it than that? She broke eye contact with him and lowered her gaze, feeling self-conscious. She heard Liam's soft growl, but didn't react to it until he was suddenly in front of her, his fingers raising her chin. He didn't say anything, but Libby felt her body react instantly to the closeness of him. When he was this close, it was all she could do not to reach out and touch him or press her lips against his. Liam's eyes got darker the longer they stood like that and she could feel his warm breath against her face. She felt him move closer and licked her lips nervously, wondering if he was about to kiss her. The moment was broken by Ryan coming back into the office and clearing his throat. Liam stepped back and pulled his keys from his pocket, saying, "I have things I need to do. Ryan, why don't you watch the store so Libby can have her lunch?" "I thought we were going to have lunch together." Libby said softly, feeling suddenly disappointed. "I'm sorry, lass. This can't wait. I'll be back later." Liam was gone before Libby could say anything else. Ryan picked up their lunch bag from the top of the file cabinet and set it on Liam's desk, but Libby wasn't hungry anymore. "You don't have to stay, Ryan. I'm not really in the mood to eat now." Ryan gave her a sympathetic look and nodded. "Sure, Libby." Ryan turned to leave and stopped. "Do you mind if I take the food? I haven't had lunch yet." "Go ahead," Libby told him desolately as she walked back out into the store. Liam was sitting out on his deck with a beer in his hand when Ryan showed up. He sat down and put the lunch bag down on Liam's table. Opening it up, he took out Libby's sandwich and bit into it. Liam reached over and grabbed it out of his hands. "I bought that for Libby! What do you think you're doing?" Ryan took it back and held it out of Liam's reach as he took another bite. Only after he swallowed did he answer, "She told me she wasn't hungry and said I could have it." "Bloody hell," Liam cursed under his breath. Ryan took Liam's sandwich out of the bag and laid it in front of the Alpha. "You fucked up this time, boss." There were only three people who would ever tell Liam he had fucked up. Their Pack elder Michael Cooper, his cousin Jamie, and his Pack second Ryan. Of the three, Ryan was the one most likely to actually point it out to his face, with Jamie a close second. Michael would couch it in nicer terms. Liam sighed and opened his own sandwich, but didn't take a bite. Instead, he said, "I'm old enough to be her father." Ryan snorted. "That excuse hasn't stopped most men from dating younger women." "She's not just any woman." "No, she's not," Ryan agreed. "She's a woman with Daughters blood in her, with the potential to become a Daughter of the Hunt if she takes a wolf as a lover." "But she doesn't know that," Liam pointed out. "And there's more to it." "Look, I know you're expecting Bodhi to join the Pack, which will keep Cory with us, and Michael has Raelle, but the Alpha is always stronger with a Daughter of his own. We've had this discussion before, boss. There is obvious mutual attraction going on. Why are you fighting it?" Why indeed? It was a question Liam would never be able to answer without opening Pandora's Box. He had been seconds away from kissing Libby when Ryan had walked in on them. His resistance crumbled more each time they were alone together and he continued to tempt fate at every opportunity. He rubbed at his eyes tiredly and finally picked up his sandwich, taking an unsatisfactory bite. He'd had every intention of spending his lunch time with Libby, something he should stop doing if he was going to be able to maintain any distance between them. Liam sighed and said, "I am not going to have this discussion with you, Ryan." Ryan finished Libby's sandwich and rolled the paper wrapper up, putting it back into the bag. He stood up and looked down at Liam before he finally spoke. "Fine, don't talk to me. But you should talk to Libby. She deserves that, at least." Then Ryan walked away and left Liam there with his own thoughts. Libby was sitting behind the counter when Liam came back into the store. He gave her a strained smile as he went back to his office and she sighed sadly. Her shift was almost over and for the first time in a long time she was eager to leave. Perhaps it really was time for her to move on. It was becoming painfully obvious that he was never going to return her interest and she didn't think she had it in her to keep putting herself through this torture. Gino came in soon after, giving her a bright smile as he went to drop his things in the back room next to Liam's office. He was one of Liam's wolves and he'd been working the closing shift for as long as Libby had been working at the store; about five years. When Gino came back, he frowned at her this time. He came around the counter and bumped shoulders with her. "Why so sad, pretty girl?" Libby shook her head, not wanting to get into it with him. "Just a long day, G. I'm ready to go home." "Is the big man here?" "In his office." "Anything I should know about?" Gino asked her. "No." Libby shook her head again, thinking it probably wouldn't be good for the other employees to know that their newest employee's husband had tried to rob the store. Ryan certainly wouldn't talk about it. Libby gave him a wan smile and said, "Have a good night, G." "You too, Libby." She went into the back room to grab her purse, then paused outside of Liam's door. When she finally knocked on it, she knew what she needed to do. "Come in," Liam called out. Libby opened the door and slipped inside, closing it behind her so she could lean against it. Liam looked up at her, then at the clock on the wall before asking, "Done for the night, lass?" Libby cleared her throat and said softly, "I was thinking, since you're hiring a new employee…" She trailed off, finding she couldn't say the words. "Yes?" Liam prompted her. "I thought maybe…" The words still stuck in her throat and she cleared it softly. Liam raised an eyebrow and asked, "What did you think, Libby?" "I thought it might be time for me to move on," she finally got out, feeling miserable. "Excuse me?" Liam asked. "Did you just tell me you're quitting?" "Yes," Libby answered softly, looking down. "Why?" Libby shrugged and said, "I just feel like there's probably something better out there for me." "Something better?" Liam's voice suddenly sounded odd and she looked up at him. She hadn't expected the hurt look he was giving her. "I thought you loved working here?" "I did." "But not anymore?" She shook her head and he asked again, "Why?" She braced her back against the door, eyes downcast, and said, "It doesn't matter. I just wanted to give you my two weeks' notice." "No." Libby looked up at him again. "No? What do you mean, no?" Liam rose from his chair and stalked around his desk towards her before he answered, "I mean no, you're not quitting." "I think that's my decision to make," she informed him, suddenly wishing her back wasn't against the door. She felt like she needed to retreat and there was nowhere else to go. Liam stepped into her personal space and crowded her against the door. Libby's heart felt like it was going to beat right out of her chest. She'd never been this close to Liam twice in one day. He hardly ever got this close to her. She was torn between pushing him away and pulling him even closer. The decision was made for her when he lifted his hand to slide it along her neck and tangle it in her brown hair. "I'm going to go to hell for this," Liam whispered. "For what?" Libby asked uncertainly. "This." Liam leaned in and kissed her hard, his hand gripping the back of her neck to hold her in place. It was so much better than Libby had ever imaged. Liam took complete control of the kiss, tilting her head back to give him better access to her mouth. Her arms slipped around his neck of their own volition, wanting him closer. She was so focused on the kiss that she hadn't realized he'd closed what little distance there was between them, his body pressed against hers. His other hand slipped around her waist and held her in place, ensuring she felt his arousal against her stomach. At Libby's gasp, he broke the kiss, but kept his forehead pressed against hers. Both of them were breathing hard and she could feel his warm breath against her cheeks. Neither one of them moved or said anything for a few minutes. Finally, Libby drew in a breath and asked, "Why did you kiss me?" "Why?" Liam's voice held a note of disbelief at her question. "Why does any man kiss a woman, Libby?" She pushed him back and he let her put some space between them. She looked up at him, searching his face, looking for any hint of how he really felt. All she felt was confusion. Eventually, she asked, "Why me?" "Why you?" Liam's voice held just a hint of humor, which made her push him back even further. Liam stepped back even more of his own accord, running his hand through his dark hair. "I remember the first day you came to work here. You were here before the store opened, stocking shelves with Kyle and you had the music on. You were singing "American Pie". You were seventeen. I remember sitting in my office with my eyes closed, just listening to you, thinking how young you were." "Why were you thinking that?" "Because your voice called to me. Called to my wolf. In that moment, I knew I wanted you." Libby huffed a distressed breath. "That was five years ago." "Aye," Liam agreed. "You waited five years to tell me you wanted me? To kiss me?" Liam sighed. "Libby, I'm old enough to be your father." "So?" "So, how do you think your parents would feel about that?" "I don't think who I date is any of their business," Libby told him, even though she suspected he was right. They might frown upon it. But she knew they wanted all of their daughters to be happy. "I can assure you they won't be pleased." He was probably right, but she didn't want to think about that right now. Instead, she asked, "What happens now?" "Now? That's up to you, lass. I have just one request." "What would that be?" Libby asked him curiously. "That you hold off telling your family for now. I'd prefer your parents hear about this from me, but I'm not ready for that conversation just yet." "Okay," Libby agreed. The only one she would be tempted to tell anyway was her sister, Cory, and right now Cory had her hands full with a wolf of her own. "So, will you take me out on a date?" "I think that would fall under not letting your family know if someone saw us," Liam pointed out. Libby sighed, already regretting her agreement. How long would she need to wait for a real date? "How about takeout at your house then?" she suggested. "How about I cook you dinner?" Liam countered. "Really?" Libby had never had a man cook dinner for her. "Aye. It would be an honor." Libby smiled and said, "I'd like that." Two days later, with the whole Flynn family sitting on his deck for the annual 4th of July cookout, Liam watched Libby as she sat on the end of the dock with her sister, Cory. It wasn't the first time he'd seen her in a bikini, but it might as well have been. All he could think of was how much he wanted to find out what she looked like beneath it. He'd been a perfect gentleman the night he'd made dinner for her, but it had been close. Last night he'd already had plans with Ryan to stock up for the Pack party later tonight and it would have been suspicious to cancel, so he'd only seen Libby at the store. But tonight…tonight she would be all his when everyone else was gone. For now, he had to pretend that there was nothing going on between them, because when Libby's parents found out, there would be hell to pay. Having just finally accepted the inevitable, he wasn't willing to give her up yet. He might never give her up once he had her. They would cross that bridge when they got there. Right now, he just needed to get through the rest of this day without letting everyone know exactly how he felt. Libby was exhausted, mentally and physically. Keeping secrets was turning out to be harder than she thought it would be. She'd almost come clean to Cory just before lunch when they were talking about relationship issues. Then tonight when she'd been cleaning up and Bodhi had asked if she needed a ride home, Liam's reaction had surely made Bodhi suspicious. If Cory hadn't been asleep on his lap, she would have known immediately that Liam was the man she had been talking about earlier. Now, everyone was gone and Liam had taken the trash out to the garage, leaving her alone with the stars on the deck. She laid back on the chaise lounge and closed her eyes, listening to the lap of water from Lake Sunapee. Between that and the peepers, she hovered on the edge of sleep. "Libby?" Liam's voice and his touch against her hand woke her with a start. She sat up and rubbed her eyes, saying softly, "Sorry. Guess I was more tired than I thought I was." Liam looked down at her and said, "Perhaps I should have sent you home with Bodhi and Cory." "What? No!" she protested in mild panic. "I'm just teasing you, lass," Liam said gently. "You shouldn't do that when I'm half asleep," she told him. "Duly noted. Do you want to go inside?" "Can we stay out here a little longer? Now that it's finally cooled down, it's nicer out here." "There is AC in the house," he told her with a cocked eyebrow. "I know, but I like the fresh air. Come sit down." Liam eyed the lounge chair next to her, then the one she was sitting on, making her wonder what he was thinking. When he wiggled his fingers at her and said, "Move over," she knew. She scooted to the edge of the seat and made room for him. He settled himself down next to her and slipped his arm behind her neck, bringing her in against his body. Her heart kicked up a notch at the closeness and she heard him draw in a deep breath. "I think this is the closest we've ever been to each other, except for the other night in your office," Libby said nervously, her eyes still on the dark lake. "Hmmm," was Liam's only reply. Libby squirmed nervously and played with the hem of her shorts. The heat of Liam's body so close to hers was making her hyperaware of where their bare skin was touching. She felt his hand in her hair, twisting the strands around his fingers. She wanted to kiss him, but she was suddenly unsure of herself. "I've always loved coming to your house every year on the 4th of July," she said into the silence. "It's one of my earliest memories." Liam made a noise and she realized immediately that she had just reminded him of the difference in their ages. Could she be any stupider? "Jeez, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to-" "Libby, stop talking," Liam told her softly. That took her by surprise and she asked, "What? Why?" "Because you're babbling and I'm going to kiss you now." She looked up at him to find he had lust in his eyes and an intent look on his face. He leaned down to claim her lips with his, cutting off any reply she might have had. Not that she could think of anything when he looked at her like that. Or when he was kissing her. Then, it was just about the two of them and all she could think about was the feel of his body against hers and how badly she wanted more. Her body shifted of its own accord, wanting more contact with his. Before she knew it, she had crawled on top of him and was straddling his body. She ground herself against him, basking in the thrill of knowing what she did to him. Liam broke the kiss with a gasp and gently moved her back slightly. "If you keep that up, lass, this will be over before it starts." "Oh." Libby felt her cheeks heat in embarrassment, suddenly unsure of herself. Her arms circled her chest, hugging herself. Liam looked up at her quizzically, gauging her reaction. His hand reached up to cup her cheek tenderly and he asked gently, "Libby, are you…" Libby blushed even harder and looked down. "Still a virgin? Yes." "I wasn't expecting that." "I wanted to wait for the right man," she whispered. He lifted her chin so she would look at him. "And you think that's me?" He seemed bemused. "I'm twice your age, Libby." "I don't care about that. You're the one…" She caught herself before she could say something inappropriate. "I'm the one what?" When she didn't answer, he asked, "Libby?" "You're the one I've been waiting for," she admitted softly. "Ah, lass. I don't know what to say to that." She thought she'd see pity in his eyes, but what she saw instead was reverence. "You humble me," Liam whispered. "An old wolf like me doesn't deserve such a precious gift." "That's for me to decide, don't you think?" Libby asked him. "Aye, lass. Ultimately, it's your decision." "And I've already made it, Liam MacKenzie. I'm here with you. Right now. There's no other place I'd rather be." "In that case, you'd better hold on." Before she could ask why, he slipped his arms around her and stood up. Libby laughed and wrapped her legs around him, clutching his shoulders with her hands. As Liam carried her into the house, she realized everything was about to change and she couldn't be happier. Libby lay in the circle of Liam's arms, her body languid. She'd never felt so safe before. So loved by someone who wasn't a member of her family. So alive. Now she understood why Cory never fought fate about ending up with a wolf. It was a wondrous thing. Liam ran his fingers along her bare arm and asked, "Are you all right, love? You're awfully quiet." Libby smiled and said, "I'm marvelous." He chuckled and tightened his arms slightly. "Good. I was a little worried that your first time wouldn't be what you expected." Libby squirmed around until she could push herself up on her elbows and look at him. "Seriously?" She asked incredulously. "How could you even wonder that? You made it amazing." "You'll give a wolf a swelled head saying things like that." "The big one or the little one?" Libby asked with a giggle. Liam laughed and said, "You have a dirty mind for a recent ex-virgin, little girl." "You have no idea," she told him. He raised an eyebrow at her and said, "Really?" "I work in a bookstore and I'm a Flynn girl. It's a double whammy." "How so?" "I read lots of erotica and I grew up around wolves. How could I not have a dirty mind?" Liam shook his head and smiled. "I think I need to have a talk with my wolves about corrupting innocent minds." "No! There are still impressionable Flynn girls needing to be educated! You can't deny them the experience." "I'm not so sure your parents would share that sentiment." "My parents aren't as clueless as you think they are." "I think we need a rule," Liam said suddenly. "What?" Libby asked, suddenly confused. "That we won't talk about your parents while we're in bed together." Libby giggled and asked, "Does it make you uncomfortable?" "Only the little head." Libby snorted a laugh. "How about you corrupt me some more, old man?" "It'd be my pleasure, lass." "What's up, Liam?" Bob Flynn asked him as Liam sat down across from him in his office. "There's something I need to talk to you about. It has to do with Libby." "Libby." Bob's voice held a note of anxiety as he looked at Liam and asked, "Has something happened?" "You could say that." "What is it?" "Libby and I…" Liam trailed off, finding it hard to continue. But Bob had already picked up on what Liam had left unsaid and his whole demeanor changed. "Libby and you?" His voice grew angry as he asked, "Are you saying what I think you're saying?" Liam sighed and said, "Aye. Libby and I are involved." Bob rose from his seat and approached Liam. He forced himself to keep his seat, his wolf bristling at the hostility coming from Libby's father. "We trusted you with our daughter, Liam." "You always knew there was a possibility any of them could end up with a wolf." "But not you!" "I didn't go looking for this, Bob," Liam told him softly. "But you didn't discourage it either, did you?" Bob stood in Liam's space, making his wolf want to challenge him. Libby was theirs now and they wouldn't give her up. Liam stood, causing Bob to take a step back. "Step off," Liam told him. "Libby is an adult and she can make her own decisions. Just like Cory." Bob gave him a hard look. Liam was playing dirty by bringing Cory into the conversation, but he would use all of the resources at his disposal to make sure Libby's parents wouldn't stand in their way. They stared at each other for a long minute before Bob turned away and paced back to his desk. "What about Raelle and Trina?" Bob finally asked. "Michael will handle telling Raelle. I was going to talk to Trina next. I felt I owed it to you to see you first." Bob snorted. "Trina is liable to cut your balls off for this. I'm almost tempted to let you do it." "Trina—" "Is my wife," Bob reminded him. "I'll talk to her. I don't suggest you show your face at our home any time soon. She may not be a Daughter, but she's just as fierce as one. And she knows how to handle a fillet knife." Liam nodded. "I promise to take good care of Libby." "We'll hold you to that. Now get out of my office." Libby sat at the counter in the bookstore, counting the minutes until her shift was over. It had been a little over a week since the 4th of July party and she'd been avoiding her family, especially Cory. She really wasn't good at this secret-keeping stuff. She wanted to tell everyone that she'd finally got her man, but until Liam told her parents, she was stuck staying silent. Gino came in while she was helping a customer locate a book and by the time she had finished, it was past time for her to leave. She stood with him at the counter, her shoulder against his, basking in the familiarity. He wrapped his arm around her shoulder in a loose hug. "What's been up with you lately?" Gino asked her gently. "You seem melancholy." Leave it to a wolf to pick up on her mood. She laid her head on his shoulder and sighed. "It's been a long week, G. I'm glad it's over." "How's the new girl working out?" Ed's wife Laurell was a hard worker and Libby smiled. "She's doing great. I think she's a good fit for the store." "And yet, you're missing your usual spark. Is it anything I can help with?" "No," she told him softly. "I'll be fine." Eventually. "Well, if there is anything I can do, you let me know. I've got your back, Libbs." "Thanks, Gino." "Am I interrupting something?" Liam's gruff voice asked from the back doorway. Libby looked up to see him standing with his arms crossed on his chest, a scowl on his face. Gino released her and took a step away, reacting to his Alpha's demeanor. Wolves could be such Neanderthals at times. "Not a thing, boss," Gino told him. "Libby, can I see you in my office?" Liam asked her. Libby sighed and said, "Sure." Liam hadn't like finding Libby and Gino so close, but he'd heard their conversation. Libby was unhappy and it was his fault. He'd put off talking to Bob for too long, but now that he had, he had some reparations to make. He followed Libby into his office and closed the door behind them. Libby didn't offer him a kiss, which was telling enough, but when she simply went to sit in the guest chair across from his desk, he knew how bad it was. He touched her hair as he walked past her to sit in his chair. "I talked to your father today," Liam finally told her. Libby looked up at him and asked, "What did he say?" "He wasn't happy, but I was expecting that." "What about my Mom?" "Bob said he would handle telling her and it was probably best I don't come to the house for a while." Libby blew out a breath and said, "I guess I won't be spending too much time at home." "Well, you're always welcome to stay with me if you'd like," Liam suggested with a wink, trying to lighten the mood. Libby gave a little snort. "Of course you'd suggest that." "I'm a male wolf. We have one-track minds." She was quiet for a moment and finally said, "Gigi probably won't be happy either." "Let Michael handle that. She'll be fine." "Okay," Libby said, but she still sounded glum. "Do you have any plans for tonight?" "The only thing I'm thinking about right now is dinner." "Why don't we go to Bubba's and I'll buy you a lobster roll," Liam told her. Libby's head snapped up to look at him and he heard her heart rate pick up. He wondered why going to Bubba's Bar and Grille would cause such a reaction. It was just dinner after all. "Like a date?" she asked quietly. Now he understood. Kim worked at Bubba's as a bartender and if it was a date, then that meant they were coming out to his Pack as a couple. Well, that would be the next step. "Aye," he told her seriously. "Are you sure?" Her voice sounded like she was anything but sure herself. He needed to put a stop to that immediately. "Aye. Now come on, lass. I'm starving." Libby sat down on a stool at the counter of the Main Street Diner in Wickford, NH and watched as her sister Cory delivered food to a table before coming over to where she was. Cory smiled and sat down next to her. "Hey, sis. How's it going?" "Do you have some time to talk?" Libby asked her. "Sure, I can take a break. What's up?" Libby gave her a sly smile and said, "I'm here to talk about the wolf I'm dating."


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