“What!” I exclaim, unable to wrap my head around this idea. “But I’m not ready!”
“You will be.” He promises. “Aileen will keep working with you tomorrow, and then we’ll go shopping so
you can look the part. It’s only a meal, no one is going to be quizzing you on werewolf politics.”
“I don’t know.” I fret, “what if I say the wrong thing?”
“I’ll be with you the whole time.” Sinclair vows. “Don’t worry, I won’t let you put your foot in your mouth.”
This does make me feel better, but I’m still woefully far from feeling confident in my ability to pass as a
completely different species. “Can’t we wait a little while?” I request anxiously. “I promise I’ll never miss
another event, I just need a little more time.”
“Ella, the elections are in three months.” Sinclair says softly. “We don’t have much time to waste. Very
few people change their minds at the last moment. My image has been marked with controversy from
day one because I don’t have a family.”
“I don’t understand, why is that so controversial if the King is something people vote on. It’s not like
having an heir is going to decide the future of succession.”
“Because it’s not about succession. It’s about personal stability. Unmated Alphas are viewed as being
more temperamental and aggressive. If I have a mate and a pup however, people will view me as more
grounded and cautious.” Sinclair explains.
“Is that true?” I ask, “that unmated alphas are wilder?”
Sinclair grimaces but nods, “To a degree, yes. Some men are more or less aggressive naturally, but it
makes a difference when you have someone to take care of – someone who might be harmed if
anything happened to you.”
“Okay, so you’re saying it has to be tomorrow?” I surmise, “the sooner you turn your image around, the
“That’s right.” Sinclair agrees. “As long as you’re well enough, I need you there.”
“And you promise you won’t leave my side?” I question.
“You have my word.” He vows.
“Okay then.” I concur, not feeling half as confident as I sound.
The doctor – who by now has finished his exam – steps out, leaving me with Sinclair to change clothes
before we check out. However Sinclair doesn’t leave, he stays in the exam room as if he expects me to
change in front of him.
“Aren’t you going to…?” I trail off, hoping he’ll pick up on my train of thought without me saying more.
“To what?” He asks, a knowing smile on his handsome face.
“I can’t change in front of you.” I protest, my cheeks going bright pink. “I’m only wearing underwear
beneath this thing.”
His brow furrows, but there’s a devious glint to his intense eyes which makes me think he knows
exactly what I mean. “Human modesty.” He clucks his tongue and shakes his head. “So prudish, you’ll
see soon enough, wolves aren’t nearly as repressed.”
“I’m not a prude! Or repressed!” I defend hotly, climbing down from the table and regretting it instantly.
A second ago I was equal to Sinclair in height, now he towers over me. .
“The Goddess made our bodies perfect as they are, why would we hide them?” He questions silkily, the
same devilish smile on his face.
Narrowing my eyes at the big man, I grumble, “fine.” Whipping the gown off over my head, I stomp over
to the corner where I left my clothes neatly folded. I tug them on quickly, but not so quickly that Sinclair
will think I’m embarrassed about being exposed before him. When I turn back, he looks mildly
“I didn’t think you’d actually go through with it.” He confesses. “But I’m sure glad you did.”
I notch my chin up defiantly. “I don’t back down that easily. You might have seven senses or whatever,
but it will take more than that to figure me out.”
His smirk only grows as he closes the distance between us, invading my space with his powerful
presence. “I can’t wait.”
“What do you think?” I ask a few hours later, as I stand in front of a full length mirror in a gown which
costs more than my apartment.
“I prefer the green one.” Sinclair responds thoughtfully, his penetrating gaze running up and down my
body as I try on yet another dress.
I don’t know how to feel about this shopping trip. I’m enamored by the stunning clothes around us, but it
seems so extravagant to spend so much on material things. I’m only too aware that orphans are
starving in this very city, wouldn’t the money be better spent on charity?
I say as much to Sinclair, but he only smiles at me. How has our relationship changed so quickly? A
couple of days ago he only glared at me, now he always seems to look at me fondly. “Did you find
nothing about my finances when you were snooping?”
“Research is not snooping.” I answer tritely. However then the memory rises, and I recall that he gives
at least half his fortune to the less fortunate. “If you still have this much to spend on mere clothes after
giving away so much, maybe you should give more.”
Sinclair shocks me completely. He nods thoughtfully. “Maybe I should.” I can only blink, Mike never
listened to my advice – or indeed anything I said – with so much attention. It’s only now that I see what
true consideration is like, that I realize just how deficient he was as a partner.
Trying to shake myself out of my thoughts, I change the subject. “So the green one?” I confirm,
knowing precisely the dress to which he’s referring. It’s the same emerald shade as his eyes, and
studded with gemstones and rose gold accents that precisely match my hair.
He nods. “It suits you, besides, it covers your shoulders.”
“Why should that matter?” I question in confusion.
“Because I haven’t marked you, and I don’t want people to notice.” He explains.
“Marked me?” I squeak, not understanding what this means.
“I take it Aileen didn’t get that far?” He guesses, rising from the dressing room chair and prowling
towards me. My pulse spikes as he approaches, and suddenly I realize why I’d felt like a rabbit facing a
wolf when I went to plead Cora’s case with him. That’s basically what we are, he could snap me up in
one bite, and I’d be helpless to stop him. “A mark,” He begins, hooking his finger under the spaghetti
strap of my gown and tugging it off my shoulder, “Is the way a wolf claims his mate.”
I gulp, too focused on Sinclair to fully process his works. “Mark how?”
“It’s a bite, right here.” His traces a finger over the spot where my neck meets my shoulder. “A deep
bite, one that leaves his scent permanently on her skin.”
“I – doesn’t that hurt?” I fret.
Sinclair laughs, a dark, husky sound. “No sweet Ella, not if you time it right.”
“Time it right with what?” I inquire innocently, furrowing my brow.
The next thing I know, Sinclair’s eyes are glowing with his wolf, and my knees go weak. “Maybe I’ll
explain it to you one day. In the meantime I’ll just scent mark you.” He remarks cryptically. “Now stay
there, I’m going to fetch one more dress to try.”
When he steps away, I realize just how attuned I am to his presence. I wasn’t aware of any of my other
surroundings when he was near. He consumed my attention completely, barring all else.
Once he’s gone I notice a pretty blue frock on one of the racks just outside the dressing room. I move
to examine it, but as soon as I take the dress from the rack, a second set of hands lands on the hanger
and tries to yank it out of my hands. “Hey, I saw that first!”
The woman in front of me is blonde and pretty, but sneering with an awful expression. She pulls so
hard on the hanger that I start to lose my balance. She must be a shifter, I think, she’s too strong to be
a human. At this point, I’m only hanging onto the dress because it’s the only thing holding me upright,
but the woman is soon trying to pry my hands free. “I said let go!”
I’m about to simply give up and fall to the ground, when a pair of powerful hands catch my waist,
guiding my feet back to the ground.
“Take your hands off of her, right now!” Sinclair barks, his snarling voice silencing everyone in the store.
The petty woman releases me quickly, seeming to shrink into herself in the face of the infuriated alpha.
“I’m so sorry, Alpha.” She apologizes. “I didn’t know she was with you.”
“That shouldn’t matter.” He declares, coming to my side. “Are you all right?”
“I’m fine,” I insist, but before I can say more, another man speaks from behind us.
“Brother, don’t tell me you’re attacking defenseless woman now.” The shifter speaking turns his
attention to me now. “And who’s this?”
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