The Lost Slipper Page 9

“Okay.”

The word is barely a whisper, but it’s a step in the right direction.

I probably shouldn’t press my luck, but I want her to know that I choose her. That she’s the one I’ve always wanted, and she’s the one I’ve always watched.

I lean down and gently sweep my lips across her cheek to her ear. “Tonight, I want you to bring your camera and show me the pictures you took last week of the lake.” I feel her stiffen under me, and I smile. No one knows she takes pictures. It’s her hobby, but she doesn’t share it with anyone. I only know this because I know everything about Winnie.

“Stone,” she whispers.

I move my lips back across her cheek and to her mouth, barely grazing my lips against hers. It’s not a kiss, but a promise of what’s to come.

Pulling back, I touch her chin with my thumb before turning to walk out of the bakery. It aches to be separated from her, but knowing that she’ll be with me tonight makes it a little easier to bear.

Now all I have to do is learn how to cook.

5 Winnie

I watch as Stone retreats out the front door of the bakery, taking his delicious smell with him. My hand goes to the mate mark that seems to have its own pulse. When his lips grazed my chin, it was like my whole body came alive. I’ve smelt Stone a million times before, but something is different now. Maybe it was there yesterday but I was so angry and upset that I didn’t notice until I caught it today. Desire? Lust? Smells I’m not accustomed to. Even less so when they’re aimed at me. I’ve caught similar smells before when humans have come into the bakery, but it was always aimed at my sisters.

Not only was Stone’s scent different, but he seemed almost shy. The thought makes me want to laugh. Stone, who’s always so sure of himself as he issues commands, was shy. I bite my lip to keep the smile from spreading across my face.

I watch him through the front window as he almost collides with Trish. She runs her hands through her hair, which looks like it hasn’t been brushed. She doesn’t quite look her best at the moment from what I can make out, but I try to listen to what they’re saying. My hearing isn’t as great as wolves’ though, so I don’t catch it. I’m not sure if they have better hearing than me, or if I’ve lost too much contact with my bear.

Stone says something, and Trish reaches out to touch his arm at the same time his head turns towards me. His eyes lock with mine, but they snap away when Trish’s hand finally makes contact with his arm. I turn, not wanting to watch the rest of the exchange.

I know he’s alpha, and he has to be friendly with everyone, but I can’t help but remember all the times I’d try to talk to him and he’d always be too busy to listen. He always had the time for everyone, including my stepsisters.

Moments later, I hear front door open and I glance over my shoulder to see Trish stomping in, Stone no longer outside. The look in her eyes says it all. She knows. The question is, did Stone just tell her, or did she already know. I’m guessing she already knew. Why else would she be here when I was covering her shift to begin with?

“So it’s true!” she growls. She looks like she’s been out on an all-night bender at one of the local bars. Which is normal for her. Male shifter wolves can’t have sex before they find their mates because they can’t get hard. Female shifters don’t have that problem. I hear they can’t get off, so I don’t see why they bother, but that doesn't seem to stop my sisters from going down to the bars and getting it on with humans on a weekly basis. Trish once told me after she caught me making dreamy eyes at Stone last year that she slept with humans so that when she and Stone finally mated, she’d know how to please him. “You think you can have our alpha? You’re not even one of us.”

Another growl fills the room, making Trish’s eyes widen. It takes me half a second to realize the sound came from me.

Her shoulders square, and her eyes turn a darker blue as they narrow at me. I think I may have just bitten off more than I can chew. I haven’t shifted in years, and there’s no way I can take on a wolf shifter in human form. I don’t even know where that growl came from.

“Oh, yeah. The word’s out that the alpha mated, and not one of us seemed to have triggered it,” Trisha says, taking a step closer to me.

I am sick of not belonging and having my own little one-woman pity party. I decided that last night as I stared up at the ceiling. I want something for myself, and I am going to have it one way or another. Whether that’s with Stone or the Gray Ridge pack, I don’t know, but change is in the air, and I’m not going to take things lying down. I’m going into this new day head first. I’ll probably stumble, fall on my ass, and die of embarrassment, but at this point what does it matter? I’ve spent that last four years trying to fit in. Hell, I busted my ass trying to get any kind of approval from the makeshift parents I had, and that got me nowhere. It only left me in a pile of self-doubt with one too many kicks to my self-confidence, which I’m sure I’ll have to fight through for a long time.

I take a step towards Trish, thinking that no matter what, it’s time I stood up for myself and what I want.

The front door to the bakery opens again, pulling both our gazes to it. Gwen enters with X hot on her heels, taking in the scene. The scent of anger must fill the air because I see Gwen’s nostrils flare. X goes to grab her, probably to pull her behind him, but she bats away his hand and her growl fills the room, putting both mine and Trish’s to shame.

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