The Lost Slipper Page 8

“You know you can talk to me.” Dominic’s footsteps follow softly behind me as we make our way back to my house.

I give up trying to get away from him, and we fall into a comfortable silence on the walk back. I decided against driving, needing to be outside and not caged in my truck. Especially after waking up in a cell.

“I’ve failed her,” I finally admit after a few minutes have passed.

“No, you haven’t. You did what you thought was best. She needs time to understand what being mated means. We all know how she’s felt about you for so long. I think she feels as if you were backed into a corner and you had to choose her.”

Anger rushes through me, and I turn, pushing Dominic into a tree, my forearm on his throat. “I always wanted her,” I grit through my teeth.

Dom pulls against my arm, and after I see him start to turn blue, I let him go. “I’m sorry, brother. I’m not angry at you, I’m angry at the assumption that I was indifferent to Winnie, when all along I struggled daily not to take her as mine, even if we weren’t mated.”

Dominic leans over, putting his hands on his knees and coughing. “You’ve got a funny way of showing it. You sent her away and then kept her at arm’s length for the past four years.”

“I’m the leader of this pack. What was I supposed to do? I have to take care of everyone and everything. The safety and protection of this place falls on my shoulders.” I stand there with my hands stretched out, searching for a better solution. “What was I going to do? Run away with Winnie and leave everyone behind? Because that’s what I wanted to do. And what would have happened if I would have mated with someone else while I was on the run with her? Or she with someone else? Where would that have left us? I had no choice, Dom.”

Dominic stands up and looks me in the eye. He’s my best friend and my beta of the pack. If anyone can tell me what to do, it’s him.

“You have a choice now, Stone. If you want Winnie to be your mate, then you’ll have to work for it. She deserves to be chosen above everything, including the pack. Even if it was for her own protection, you need to make her see that and show her that you’re a good mate.”

I nod my head, understanding what he means. This won’t be a traditional mating, and I need to do whatever it takes to make her mine.

As I walk back to my house, I come up with a plan. I need to make it impossible for her to say no. And I need to make it clear that I choose her, not because I have to, but because I always wanted to.

I run my hand through the long hair on the top of my head, trying to push it out of my face. Squaring my shoulders, I give myself a little encouraging push and walk through the doors of the bakery.

It’s early, and the bakery hasn’t opened yet, but I saw Dom go by to check on Winnie this morning and he left the front door open for me.

Ruby’s Goodie Basket smells of freshly baked cinnamon rolls and my mate. She must have been the one doing the baking this morning, and both scents are making my mouth water.

The bell attached to the door jingles as I walk in, and I watch as Winnie comes out of the back room, still wearing her apron. “Sorry, we’re not open ye—”

She stops in her tracks when she sees me standing in the front of the store. I feel my cheeks heat a little as I stand there, holding a bouquet of wildflowers I picked for her.

“Good morning, Winnie.”

She blushes and looks away before her eyes come back to lock on mine. “Good morning, Alpha Stone. We’re not quite open yet. Can I help you with something?”

She nervously bites her bottom lip, and I have to keep my growl in check. She’s wearing an old, baggy, gray sweatshirt, a pair of baggy jeans, and a baby-blue apron over it. She’s got her chocolate-brown curls piled up on top of her head and a smudge of flour across her rosy cheek. All of her curves are hidden behind her clothes, but I still see the most beautiful woman I’ve ever laid eyes on. I thought it the first time I saw her, even as a cub, that I’d never seen anything more perfect. Nothing changed as time went on. I just never allowed myself to look at her that way. I knew that if I went down that road, no good could come of it. But now that I know she’s mine, I’m looking my fill.

My eyes travel up and down her body, and I can see her hands move in front of her to fidget nervously.

“I picked these for you.” Her blush deepens, and she tucks her chin as she whispers her thanks. I walk over and stand just a few feet from her, holding them out until she nervously takes them from me. My fingers brush against hers, and I feel the charge between us. It takes everything in me not to pull her to me. I just allow that simple touch until she pulls back. “They’re from the meadow where I first saw you, the day Dominic found you. I go there sometimes and look at them, remembering that day and what it felt like the first time I held you.”

She looks up at me, smiling, and then leans back down to smell them. “Thank you, they’re beautiful,” she says, breathing in their scent.

“You smell much sweeter,” I say, reaching out the tip of my finger and tracing her rosy cheek. I can’t help myself, needing the slight contact. “Will you have dinner with me tonight?”

Her eyes pop up to mine, and she hesitates. She starts to look everywhere but at me, and I assume it’s to try to think of an excuse.

“Please, Winnie. I want to cook for you. Come to my house and let me take care of you. Just dinner.” I hold my breath, hoping for the best, and after a second she takes a deep breath.

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