“You keep lookin’ at me like that, chère, and we’ll never leave this apartment,” Beau warned on a chuckle as he bent to brush his lips against her cheek, pressing a large bouquet of fresh cut flowers into her hands.
Looking down at the mixed bouquet, Alexa lifted them to her nose and inhaled. “Mmmm, these smell divine. Thank you, Beau.”
“My momma taught me that pretty ladies deserve pretty flowers,” he declared with a shrug of his shoulders.
“Your momma taught you right, and I can’t wait to meet her,” she returned with a wink. “Let me just get these in a vase and we can go,” she said over her shoulder, hurrying toward the small kitchenette on the other side of the living room as Beau followed her.
Reaching over her head to open the cabinet above her head, she giggled when Beau’s hand beat hers to the handle. “I want the tall cut glass one,” she said as his hand disappeared into the cabinet. Grinning when he handed down the exact vase she’d requested, she quickly filled it with water and added an aspirin to it.
“Does the vase have a headache, Lexie?” Beau laughed at her.
“No, smartass. The aspirin helps the flowers last longer,” she informed him. “I don’t get them very often and I wanna enjoy them as long as I can.”
Beau’s smile dissolved at that remark. “The days of you not getting flowers very often are over, sugar. I’ll make sure you have them every day of our lives if you enjoy them that much,” he offered solemnly. “You should always have what you want.”
Damn, she thought silently. If this man got any more perfect, she was gonna melt into a pile of goo before they ever got out the door. “You don’t need to do that, Beau. Every once in a while is fine by me,” she declared with a quick smile as she finished putting the blooms in the vase.
Turning her to face him, Beau’s arms enfolded her. “I know you’re trying to blow off the fact that getting those flowers meant something big to you, but I see it, Lexie. I see you, sugar. And from here to my last breath, I’m gonna do everything I can to see your eyes light up with the happiness I just saw when I handed you a simple bouquet of flowers. You can count on that.”
Swallowing past the lump that was lodged in her throat, Lexie could only nod. Because she knew if she tried to speak she’d burst into tears. So instead, she buried her face in his chest and let those strong arms of his soothe her for the seconds it took for her to regain control.
Lifting her head a few moments later, she smiled up at him. “You are almost too good to be true, Beaumont LaForte.”
“No, bébé, I’m just a man holding a woman who means everything in his arms.”
Shit, cue the frickin’ waterworks, she thought as she tried to blink back tears.
“You cry and I’m carrying you to bed and burying myself inside you until I’m convinced you know what you mean to me, Lex,” Beau warned seriously as his hand lifted to caress her cheek.
Sniffing, Lexie shook her head. “That will not be necessary, sir. I want the date you promised me. I’m going to get to see where you live, right?”
Beau grinned and nodded. “Yep. And mom commandeered my kitchen early this morning so that there’d be edible food for dinner, too. Unfortunately, my cooking leaves a lot to be desired.”
“You can’t be that bad,” she tried to comfort him as he ushered her to the door.
“Chère, the last time I boiled water, I scorched the pan. Trust me, I am that bad.”
Laughing, they kept up the easy chatter all the way out the door and on the short drive to his place. Shortly before they reached his driveway, however, Beau pulled his long truck off the road and turned to look at her, his eyes shining with regret.
“I have to confess something before we get there, Lexie. I thought I could just play it off as a surprise, but that just doesn’t seem fair. I know I should at least warn you.”
“What?” she asked suspiciously, her brows furrowing as she felt a surge of panic hit her.
“It’s nothing bad,” he said quickly, reaching for her hand and squeezing it. “It’s just… this isn’t going to be quite the family dinner I’d hoped.”
“Oh? Could your mom or Marc not make it?” she asked, disappointment coloring her words.
“I wish,” Beau muttered, grinning when she swatted his chest. “Nah, this family dinner…. It’s… well, it’s gonna be a bit bigger than we expected. In fact, dinner might be the wrong word to use for it. It’s more of a ‘Welcome to the Family’ party. Mom might have invited twenty or thirty of her closest friends to brag on the fact that her son and pack alpha finally found his mate. She was so happy that I didn’t have the heart to stop her, but if you really don’t wanna go now, I’ll…”
“Beau, stop,” Alexa interrupted him. “She’s being a mom. She’s doing what a real momma does. I’ve never had that. Not ever. So, yeah, we’re going. There’s no way I’m disappointing a woman that’s been cooking for thirty people. Let alone the mother of my new potential mate.”
“There’s no potential to it, sugar. I am your mate. My panther and I agree and we outvoted you by a 2:1 margin.”
Giggling, Alexa rolled her eyes. “Just drive, kitty cat. We’ll talk about the mate stuff later.”
A few minutes later, Alexa could feel every eye on her – and there were A LOT of eyes – as Beau helped her down from his truck. Gratefully latching onto the hand he held out to her, she pasted a bright smile on her face as they turned toward the large group waiting on the massive log cabin’s wraparound porch.
Holding her breath as they got closer to the porch, Lexie whispered through barely moving lips, “They’re all looking at me, Beau.”
Grinning, Beau nodded as he looked down at her, some of his black hair falling boyishly over his eyes. “They are,” he agreed. “Because you’re beautiful.”
Feeling the malevolence in a few of the gazes leveled at her – mostly from a few of the women, Alexa shook her head. “Don’t think so.”
“Well, I know so,” Beau returned easily before coming to a stop a few feet from the steps and pulling her close to his side before wrapping an arm around her. “Pack!” he shouted, raising his voice. “It is with great pleasure that I introduce to you my new mate, Alexa Renee Davidson. I know you will all help her feel both welcome and comfortable among us!”
Alexa jumped against Beau as a huge cheer went up among the assembled group, the majority of the faces beaming with happiness. Smiling as an older woman hurried down the steps followed by a man that looked so much like Beau it startled her, Alexa yelped when the woman enfolded her in surprisingly strong arms, pulling her from Beau.
“Oh, sweetheart, it is so good to finally meet you. I’m Sophie LaForte, Beau’s momma. It’s so wonderful to finally have you here with us. Beau threatened to disown me if I tried to get to know you before now, but I don’t mind telling you I snuck into that coffeehouse where you work to sneak a peek more than once. And he was telling the bald faced truth. You are a beauty, my lovely girl. A true beauty!”
Humbled, Alexa returned Sophie’s embrace. “Thank you so much, Mrs. LaForte. I’m honored to be here.”
“Oh, hush with that Mrs. LaForte nonsense, darlin’. You call me Momma just like my boys do,” Sophia ordered firmly, giving Alexa another squeeze. “I’ve waited a long time to have a daughter, sweetie,” she whispered for Alexa’s ears alone.
“Thank you so much,” Alexa replied, her eyes shining with tears as they sought out Beau’s. “I’ll try to be everything a good mate should be to your son.”
“Oh, honey, I’m not worried about that at all. Fate knows what she’s doing. I learned that when she deemed I was for Beau’s daddy. I had thirty-five wonderful years with that man before he was returned to the Earth from whence he came. And there wasn’t a single hour of it I didn’t know how much he treasured me. And Beau, there,” she continued with a nod to her son, “He’s cut from the same cloth as his father. It’s the one standing behind me I worry for,” she moaned.
s, Momma,” a deep voice grumbled. “Way to make a kid feel the love. I’m beginning to miss being on a boat in the middle of the ocean.”
“Oh, hush, you,” she ordered over her shoulder. “You make a momma despair of ever seeing you paired off with a good woman.”
Giggling as she watched the man exchange a beleaguered look with Beau, Alexa knew she had to be looking at Marcel.
“Well, are you gonna turn loose of her so somebody else can meet her, Momma, or are you gonna take root?” the man teased.
“You see what I’m dealing with?” Sophie asked, finally releasing Alexa and stepping to the side. “If you haven’t figured it out, this is my other son, Marcel.”
“Momma… we’ve discussed you callin’ me by that name,” Marc growled, glowering at his mother.
“And I told you she who labors for thirty-eight hours gets to decide the name she shall call her children by, Marcel,” Sophie returned sweetly.
Looking at Alexa and offering her a genuine smile, Marc held out his hand for her to take. “Please, call me Marc,” he said, his golden eyes beseeching her to have mercy on him.
“It’s a real pleasure to meet you, Marc,” Lexie greeted. “Please call me Lexie. Both of you,” she added with a friendly look at Beau’s mother.
Nodding, Marc looked at his brother. “You always did have all the luck, man. She’s lovely.”
“She is,” Beau agreed with a pleased nod.
Taking Alexa’s arm, Sophie grinned. “Well, let’s introduce you around, sweetheart. I know you’re gonna love it here. Beaumont, Graham wanted to discuss a couple of things with you. He’s waiting for you in the kitchen.” Seeing the confusion on Alexa’s face, she patted her hand. “Pack business, dear. He’ll be back soon.”
Merely nodding at Sophie and waving at a disgruntled Beau as his mother led her away from the two brothers, Alexa prayed to do and say the right things. And for the next several minutes, she did a pretty good job, meeting and greeting the various gathered members of her mate’s pack. There were a few that looked at her doubtfully, but for the most part everyone was friendly and amiable.
Until Beau’s mother was called away by one of the older women and she was left standing beside a busty blonde that had been glaring at her since the moment she’d arrived. Pasting what she hoped would pass for a sociable smile to her lips, she nodded at the woman leaning against the porch railing, silently appraising her as if she were a head of cattle. “Nice weather out here, huh?”
Rolling her blue eyes, the blonde sidled closer to her. “You can save the chit chat, human. You should know nobody wants you here.”
“Pardon?” Alexa asked, raising her eyebrows at the blatantly rude attitude of the other woman. “I’m fairly sure both Beau and his family want me here. He was pretty adamant last night that my place was at his side,” she retorted stiffly, her smile never faltering as she stared at the woman intent on making her feel unwelcome. Fat chance, bitch, she thought silently.
The other woman scoffed. “He has to say that, but trust me, the last thing our alpha wanted was to be mated to a human woman that could never understand him.”
“You mean like you can?” Alexa returned smoothly, lifting her chin. “I’m not sure what you think you had with my mate before, but I can assure you it is over now.”
The blonde woman smiled at her, her white teeth straight and sharp. “Oh, please. He might be promising you fidelity now, but he’s a shifter, little human. An alpha shifter. He has needs and desires you’d never be able to handle. Desires I’ve handled for him countless times before and will handle many more times to come. Just know your place around here. You might be his mate, but I’m the woman that can see to all his needs,” she informed Alexa snidely before tossing her long blonde hair over her shoulder and walking away, putting an extra sway in her hips that drew several sets of male eyes to her ass.
Watching as the bitch blended into the crowd, Alexa struggled to get her temper under control, and that was no small feat since she wanted to rip every strand of hair out of that slutty cunt’s head. Her emotions must have shown clearly on her face because seconds later Beau had his arms around her and was leading her away from the party.
“What’s wrong, chère?” he asked, his voice dripping with concern.
Jerking from his grip, Alexa took a step back from him, bumping against the railing surrounding the porch. “Why? What makes you think there’s something wrong with me?”
“For starters, I’m not blind. Your face is red as a tomato and you’re shaking. Something’s obviously got your riled up, little one. Tell me what it is so I can fix it and we can get back to enjoying our evening together.”
Crossing her arms over her chest, Lexie shook her head and turned to stare out over the open field beside Beau’s cabin. It was beautiful out here. Peaceful in a way she’d never experienced, and that witch he’d had in his bed before her had ruined that for her. Now, all she wanted to do was go home and climb in bed with a carton of ice cream, a voodoo doll of Shifter Barbie, and a few straight pins.
“Lexie, tell me what happened,” he urged again, brushing her hair aside to rest his chin in the curve of her neck. “I can’t repair what I don’t know is broken.”
“Can’t you just leave it alone, Beau?” she asked wearily, hanging her head in defeat and closing her eyes.
“Fuck, no, I can’t. Not when I know it’s something that’s hurting you. Something that leaves you looking like you’ve been gutted. Forget the fact that I’m your mate for a second. I couldn’t do that with a woman I barely know, let alone one that means everything to me. If something hurts you, it’s my job to make it stop.”
“You’re not my keeper,” she bit out, growing angrier. Wasn’t it bad enough she’d been forced to deal with one of his fuckbitches? Did he honestly think she wanted to give him a blow by blow of how it happened?
“No, I’m not. I’m the man that cares for you…the one who’s been falling a little more in love with you every fucking day without you knowing it! The man who would do anything to keep your from a split second’s pain,” he declared vehemently.
“Yeah? You’ve been falling in love with me, have you?” she asked bitterly as she whirled to face him.
“Yes, Lexie, I have,” he replied sharply.
“Hmmm. Tell me, were you fucking one bitch or multiple bitches while all this was going on?” she questioned waspishly.
Jerking his head as if he’d been slapped, Beau’s eyes narrowed dangerously. “What did you say?”
“I asked you how many she-cunts you’ve been sticking your dick in during these months you claim to have been falling for me,” she spat, slapping a hand against her own chest for emphasis. “One? Ten? A hundred?”
“You need to tell me what the fuck brought on these accusations. Especially since someone has been feeding you grossly untrue information,” he seethed, his face carved in stone as his hands fisted at his sides.
“So you can pop them on the nose with a newspaper?” she scoffed.
“No, so I can have them shunned from the pack,” he returned icily. “No one lies to the alpha’s mate and is allowed to continue living their life in my jurisdiction.”
Taking a deep breath as she considered the seriousness of his words, Alexa bit her lip. Shit! She hadn’t meant to push Beau that far? That little whore had made her wonder about Beau’s loyalty to her and she’d automatically believed the worst. But that witch had never actually said when she’d slept with Beau. Only that she had. “No, Beau,” she denied softly. “You can’t do that to her,” she said even though the jealous bitch inside her wanted that slut banished to Outer Mongolia. She couldn’t, however, have that kind of thing on her conscience. No matter how much that self-righteous twat deserved it.
“Why the fuck not?” he roared, drawing a few stares their way.
“Because I might not have gotten what she said exactly right,” Lexie half-fibbed as she watched her mate breathe deeply and struggle to restrain his o
wn ferocious temper.
“Lexie, I’m trying harder than I have ever tried in my life not to throw every single person in this house out and kiss the truth out of you. It’s only because I adore my mother I’m not evicting people right now. Please, chère, don’t test me further. Just tell me who the asshole was who hurt you by inferring I’d ever be anything less than completely devoted to you.”
Alexa remained stubbornly silent, averting her eyes and smiling stiffly at one the older women in Beau’s pack.
“My panther does not like to be ignored, sugar,” Beau advised in a low voice.
She tried to wait him out. She really did. But when he clipped out a terse “Fine!” and turned away from her, she knew he was going to make good on his threat, end the party, and break his mother’s heart. And that – THAT, she definitely couldn’t live with causing. “Wait, Beau,” she hissed, catching him by the shirt and yanking him to a stop. “I’ll talk!”
Freezing in place, he slowly moved his head on his shoulders, cracking his neck. She knew he did it in an effort to relieve some of his sudden tension and not to be all manly and sexy, but the naughty side of her still found that incredibly hot. And the look in his eyes when he turned to face her again? So scorching she was surprised she didn’t go up in flames.
“I’m listening, mate,” he growled, his jagged voice giving her the good kind of chills.
“It’s just I met one of the girls here, and evidently you two have quite a past together,” she murmured, her stomach sinking as she remembered exactly what that ho had said to her.
Beau jerked his head around to face the group again, his livid eyes searching the group until Alexa watched those gold orbs connect with the woman who had nearly ripped out her heart earlier. “April,” he snarled in a scary voice she’d never heard before from him.
“Is that her name?” Lexie muttered. “I’ve just been thinking of her as Cuntface.” Alexa couldn’t help wincing when Beau turned back around to stare at her with apologetic eyes.
“You’ve fucked her, haven’t you?” Lexie croaked painfully, her eyes watering as the watched the voluptuous blonde throw her head back and laugh at something the man beside her said. Even with the distance between her and Beau’s ex-slut, she could hear the other woman’s amusement. Likely, she was sharing a laugh with her packmates over how very inept and worthless their alpha’s new mate was.
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