“Are you sure you’re okay with this?” I asked. “We haven’t been apart since I found you.”
“I’ll be with my parents.” Kraig sounded confident, but he was tapping his claws against his leg. “You go be the alpha.”
“Do I have to?” Clearly I was having a much harder time with the impending separation than Kraig was. My face heated.
Kraig snickered. “I won’t tell anyone you just whined like a five-year-old.”
“Thanks.” I glanced over my shoulder. His parents didn’t live that far away, but Kraig wasn’t up to walking any distance so they left together to get the car. “Follow me, quick.”
“What? Where are we going?” Kraig got up and followed me inside.
“Not far.” I shut the door and pushed him up against it. My instincts were screaming at me to refresh my scent so no one would be able to miss who Kraig belonged to, and I needed his scent on me just as much. Our bodies fit together just like I knew they always would; I leaned down and pressed my cheek against his, enjoying the way our stubble rasped together.
I ripped my shirt over my head and then yanked his up to his armpits.
“Shh.” I pressed our chests together, and he sucked in a ragged breath.
Kraig rubbed his cheek against mine, and then pulled his head back. “My parents.”
“Don’t worry. Not starting something we can’t finish. Just need this.” I was tempted by his soft lips, but I didn’t want to break my word. I rubbed one hand up and down his back. His skin heated. Dragging my nose along his neck, I took a deep breath of his scent and relished the way it mixed with mine.
He began to purr, the vibration making me far too interested in things I’d promised him I wasn’t going to start. Car tires ground against the gravel driveway, and I sighed. “Your parents are back.”
I didn’t want to let him go, and Kraig had to be the one to step back. He pulled his shirt down, and then bent over and picked mine up. “Here.” Once I had it on, he smoothed it down. “It won’t be too long.” He pulled my head down for a quick kiss.
Outside again, I stood at the foot of the stairs as Kraig got into the backseat. Henry gave me a somber nod. He’d protect his son, not just because he was the alpha’s mate, but because he loved Kraig no matter what had happened to him.
At first, it’d been strange for older members of the streak to come to me for advice, but I’d spent enough time at my father’s side to fake it until I became more confident in leading. It came naturally now, and I didn’t waste any time making judgements as I visited the people I considered mine. We were a prosperous group overall, and major conflicts were rare. That was a good thing because I couldn’t settle and focus like usual.
“Are you okay, Alpha?” Bethany asked. “Can I get you a drink?”
My skin was crawling, and the hairs on the back of my neck were up. I rubbed a hand over my hair, and Bethany and her partner both flicked glances at my nearly bare head and then looked anywhere else. “No, thank you. I understand you want to organize the gathering this fall?”
“Yes. The summer gathering was great, but Cassidy and Owen are expecting, as I’m sure you know.”
That had been my last stop, and I’d given them my sincerest congratulations. Every birth was precious, and helped our group grow. Plus, I was good friends with Owen since he was only four years older than me. “Yes, they mentioned they would be taking a step back. I’m happy you’re willing to volunteer. It can be a lot of work, and I know you have the twins.”
Zoe waved a hand. “They’re not so hard to take care of now that they’re back in school. We’ll do the planning during summer break and then do the actual work when they’re in class with the other streak children.”
“You’re not teaching this year?” I asked her.
“No. My part-time medical transcription job has been upped to full-time, so I’m not going to have any free mornings.”
I made a note to check in with the organizers of the streak’s homeschool classes. Maybe that would be something Kraig could do, if he was up to it by then. Just a single thought of my mate sent an ache through my heart. My stomach flipped.
“I’m sorry, but I have to go. Thank you again for volunteering to organize the gathering, and let me know if there is anything you need from me.” I stood and barely handled the brushing of their skin against mine as we touched.
Maybe that was it. The many scents of the streak members who all wanted a touch overlaid the scent of my mate. It’d been two hours, and I’d planned on doing a few personal errands too. Not going to happen.
Heading out, I drove a little faster than I should. I needed Kraig, and the longer we were apart, the worse I felt. Was something wrong? I parked crookedly and slammed my door behind me. I was running by the time I hit the front door and burst into the living room.
“Deke? What’s wrong?”
Henry stood up and flexed his fingers, claws popping out from the tips. He stood in front of Lydia. Kraig was nowhere to be seen.
“Where is he? You promised to keep him safe,” I hissed.
“Kraig?” Lydia pushed Henry. “He’s upstairs sleeping. What’s wrong?”
I tried to calm my breathing. “Nothing... Everything.”
My skin was crawling, like it would split open. A hoarse shout broke the tense tableau. Kraig!
Our souls had bonded, and this was the echo I’d heard about. I pounded up the stairs to his room.
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