Savage Alpha by Eve Bale
As I’m standing with my face pressed against Target’s glass front entrance, the lack of lights and lowered shutters tell me I just made a wasted journey.
It’s a mystery how I failed to realize on the hour-long drive from Hardin to get here that at nearly one in the morning the store would be long closed.
That I got out of the car I hastily parked in an empty parking lot and still crossed over to the entrance is something I’m still struggling to understand. And as I marvel over my brainlessness, that’s when the biggest failing on my part hits me.
I peel my face off the glass long enough to ask a question I should’ve asked myself long before I got in my car and left Marshall and Jenna’s mating ceremony. “Does Target even sell handcuffs?”
The answer to a question you should have been asking yourself all along, Hallee, is no, Target would not sell handcuffs because it’s a grocery store, not a sex shop.
Though if this town had a sex shop, I have no doubt it would’ve been my next destination. But, while Wexler is a town a little bigger than Hardin, it’s no city, so I’d likely strike out there as well.
A strike of inspiration hits. “The joke present.”
One year, I think it was my twentieth birthday, Nathan had the bright idea of buying me pink fluffy handcuffs. As he was my closest friend, I wasn’t pleased to get little more than a joke present.
It wasn’t until the morning after my birthday that he turned up at my cottage with my real gift, a delicate rose-gold bracelet that, over three years later, I still wear almost every day.
In that time, the handcuffs have lived in a drawer of random things in my kitchen, along with other things that I lack the will or the energy to deal with. At least I think that’s where they are. It’s a drawer I do everything in my power to avoid if I can help it.
I try to remember if they came with keys, but then I realize it doesn’t matter. It’s better if there are no keys because I don’t intend on letting Kier go until he comes clean about why he’s determined to end things between us, or even better, I convince him that he doesn’t want to end things at all.
I take a moment to envision handcuffing Kier to his bed, which is the way I see things going. Once I have him where I want him then we’ll talk, hopefully for not too long before we move on to other more fun activities.
But, as it’s far too distracting thinking about having the rugged, dark-haired, and blue-eyed alpha Kier Savage handcuffed to his bed, I try to think of something else, namely my mental state.
What it comes down to, I tell myself, is that I’m crazy. Any normal person would accept that the relationship was over when one half says there’s no future for them.
Not me. I go looking for handcuffs. At midnight.
I lean my head against the glass. “But he liked me,” I murmur. “I know he did.”
The way he’d study me with his super intense bright blue gaze when we were having sex as if he cared—like really cared—about how it was for me wasn’t the way a guy who was only interested in mindless sex would behave.
“And he always called to make sure I got home okay. And he…” My voice trails off because there’s no point in dwelling on all the many, many signs that we were leading somewhere because they were there. All of them.
As someone who’s jumped from one hopeless relationship to another, I know all the signs when one is on its death march better than anyone. Trust me.
Sure, he hadn’t told me he loved me or spoken about us mating, but from the very first moment I broke down and he pulled over to help me get my car started, there was something there.
It was something so special that went beyond the instant attraction that flared up between us. So I spent a month sneaking around to see him, because if there’s one thing that would scare a guy off who’s moved to Hardin seeking an isolated existence as a carpenter, it would be Nathan.
Not just Nathan, but everyone in my pack. They’d mean well, but Talis would be nosy, Marshall would want to check him out, Dayne would probably warn him not to hurt me. And Nathan would just be Nathan.
Worst of all, they’d all want to know when we were mating, and if nothing else, that would spell the death of things between us. He’s not ready for that level of commitment, and I’m… not sure.
Or maybe he is ready, just not with me.
Jenna said there was a girl, a pretty dark-haired shifter, hanging out near Kier’s cabin. A girl Kier denied knowing when I went to speak to him.
“But he broke up with you two seconds later, so maybe it was her. And it’s not like he’s ever been an open book, has he?”
But something else is going on. It has to be.
"So, if not the girl, then what? The shifters?"
Marshall said Kier dealt with the strange shifters who kidnapped Jenna, which means he killed them. If he did, then why is he pushing me away?
“Are you okay there, miss?”
I startle at the voice behind me and spin around. Confronted by the sight of a police car with two cops peering at me through a lowered window, I mentally groan. As a wolf shifter with a nose second to none, two human cops in a freaking car shouldn’t have been able to surprise me like this.
Girl, you must really have it bad.
I force myself to smile. “Yeah, I’m just disappointed it’s closed.” Within seconds, my false smile slips off my face. “I’m sorry, I’ll go home now.”
To my relief, the two cops don’t tackle me to the ground and snap handcuffs on me, which would be pretty ironic considering what brought me to Wexler.
Still, I count myself lucky since they found me with my face pressed against the front entrance of a store in the middle of the night. If that isn’t suspicious, I don’t know what is.
“You sure you’re okay? People don’t usually drive to Target to cry at one in the morning for no reason.”
I’m not ashamed to admit some tears were shed on the way here. It was a long drive, and I had a lot of thinking time.
It’s harder to find a smile this time, but I manage a weak one. “I’m okay, thanks, I should…” I’m walking away when it suddenly hits me that I have an opportunity here.
I spin back around, shaking off my despondency. "Actually no, I’m not. Would you break up with a girl you’d been seeing for a month for no reason?"
It doesn't occur to me that this is something you don't ask cops who probably suspect you of scoping out a closed store until they stare at me for several seconds without speaking.
"You know what, sorry. I just realized it's not the time for this. Good night, officers."
I turn to leave, grateful beyond measure that Nathan, my closest friend and occasional enemy, isn’t here for this ultimate humiliation. He’d be rolling around on the ground laughing himself to death if he were.
One of the cop's voices stops me. It sounds like the younger-looking one. "Maybe if she'd gotten clingy, I might."
I shake my head. "No, it isn't that. I’ve never been clingy a day in my life.”
The older cop removes his hat to scratch his balding head. "Maybe if there was another girl I liked more."
I consider the strange woman who Kier denied knowing. "Maybe, but not likely. This was out of the blue. He had a little trouble—uh, nothing illegal or anything like that, but I think it might’ve had to do with something in his past."
Before I’ve finished speaking, both cops are nodding with knowing expressions stamped on their faces. "Ah, the dark past. You got a big family? Happy? He a loner?"
I nod with increasing force. "Yes, yes. All of that, yes."
They shake their heads in unison. "Yeah, it's over. Probably thinks he's keeping you safe by walking away before things get serious."
I feel my hope growing by the second. "You think?" I can work with this. This means Kier is trying to protect me, which means he cares.
They shrug. "Could be."
I spin around, excited to get back to my car and form a plan of attack.
"We see that a lot of that with drug dealers, people like that. If he's trying to end things, you may not want to get involved. Usually means things are about to get bad. Bad enough you should probably run and not walk."
"But why wouldn't he just ask for help? My family wouldn’t say no if he needed it."
I’m sure Dayne would help. He agreed to let Kier settle in Hardin, and he commissioned him to make furniture for Regan and Jackson. Why would he do any of that if he didn’t like him at least a little?
"Not all people know how to. And if I were you, I'd consider if it might not be in your best interest to walk away, find someone less complicated.” The warning in the older cop’s eyes makes me think he knows what he’s talking about.
Maybe he does, but deep down, I know Kier isn’t one of them.
"No, he's the one I want, and he likes me too. I'm sure of it. I'm not going to walk away if he needs me. I can't. No, I'm going to find those handcuffs and—" Again, I remember who I'm talking to, a little too late. "Uh, I mean..." My voice trails off.
The younger cop interrupts me. "You realize you can't force someone to want help? That they have to ask for it?"
"If he doesn't know how, then that's not going to work, which means I'm going to have to convince him. Whatever it takes." I clear my throat. "Uh, within strictly legal channels, of course, officers."
I'm sure I catch their lips twitching. "Of course. It's late, go home. And no more midnight trips to Target. Or any store."
They wait for me to get back to my car, and I return to it with renewed purpose.
“Kier isn’t going to know what hit him,” I mutter as I start up my car. “He doesn’t stand a chance.”