Adam didn glance to the side, but I knew that he was watching me from the corner of his eye.

I held my index finger against my lips, my eyes pleading. I hoped beyond hope that he would understand what I was asking him.

”Im sorry, ” I heard Adam say, and for a moment, I thought that he was talking to me. Then I saw his eyes return to the inspector. ”But I haven seen anyone tonight. ”

I felt relief and gratitude flood through me that he hadn said anything to the inspector. But it was just as quickly replaced by worry.

How had my fathers people found me so soon? Had they somehow tracked me to this house?

”Well, can you tell the rest of your pack that we are searching for her? If you hear or see anything, call me at this number. ”

I could see Adam holding The Investigators business card, flipping it around his hand several times.

”Youll be the first to know, ” Adam said authoritatively. I had to cover my mouth to keep myself from making a sound.

”Thank you, Sir, have a good evening. ” The Investigator made his way back to the rain-soaked path. I could hear his boots squish in the mud as he made his way to the next residence.

Adam closed the door and crumpled the investigators card as if it were a flimsy receipt.

He looked over at me, and I remembered I still had my hand covering my lips. I dropped it immediately and sighed in relief.

I knew how obvious it would look to Adam, but I was still surprised that I had been almost found so quickly. I couldn help but wonder what would have happened if The Investigator had got me back to my father and Walter.

”How was your shower? ” Adam asked as he walked over to the fireplace and tossed the crumpled card into the flames.

”Good. Thanks, ” I squeaked out. I saw the card curl in on itself like a wilted spider just before flecks of ash fell as if the card had never existed.

”Whens the last time you ate? ”

”Uh, ” I stammered and tried to recall when that had happened. Adams gaze shifted from the fireplace back to me, and I could feel heat dance across my cheeks.

”Ill get something started. ” Adam turned and headed out of the room.

”You don have to do that. Im fine, really, ” I spoke up as I tried to catch up to him. I felt like a puppy chasing after its owner.

”Any allergies? ” Adam asked as we entered the kitchen. He pointed at the table as he rolled up his sleeves and washed up at the sink.

”You don have to go out of your way for me, ” I said, hoping hed forget about prepping anything. It was so late, and even though I hadn eaten in hours, it was not as if I had an appetite.

”Don worry about it. Its not just you that Im cooking for. Theyll be here soon, ” Adam said as he put a pot of water to boil on the stove.

***

Adam POV

”Whos coming? ” Ella asked as a hint of hesitation crept into her words.

She must have been frightened at the thought of people joining us. Not that I blamed her. Whatever she had going on was enough for her packs lackeys to show up looking for her on my doorstep.

”My brothers. They live here with me, ” I said as I started cutting up an onion. I could see her relaxing in her seat after I answered.

”Oh. How many brothers do you have? ” Ella brushed her wet hair back with her fingers before tying it in a knot.

I found it more challenging to keep my eyes off her. Her presence radiated throughout the room, drowning me in notions I had long forgotten about.

”Just two. Allergies? ”

”Huh? ” Ella quirked her head to the side. It was a small gesture, but I had to suppress the grin that was trying to show itself.

”Do you have any allergies? ” I clarified as I washed off the excess onion from the knife, and just as the last of it left the blade, a faint aroma lingered close to me.

”No. No allergies. Thanks for asking. ”

”Just no point in adding stuff to dinner if you can eat it. ” I grabbed the basil and mushrooms and continued slicing. It wasn coming from the vegetables. The smell was teasing me, wanting to be searched for but not found. It was vague yet prominent. It left me wanting more.

”Do you want some help? ” I looked over at the voice that was suddenly at my side. At first, I was caught off guard, but then I became enamored by her presence. Her scent was intoxicating.

”Sure, ” I held the knife by the blade so she could grab the handle. My hands were shaking. Her smell flooded my every being.

Ella smiled as she took the knife. I had to get further away. I made my way to the freezer. I pulled out the steak I had marinated and started cooking it off.

”Have you ever cooked before? ” I asked as the steak sizzled, the smell counteracting hers. Although I wanted to be closer to her, I had to resist.

”First time. Its embarrassing to admit that, ” Ella said in a voice so quiet I could barely hear her.

”No need to be embarrassed. Thanks for your help. Dinners almost ready. Could you set the table? ”

”That I can do, and without help, ” Ella smirked as I pointed out the cabinets and drawers she would need.

”Thats a relief. So, is there a reason you never learned to cook? ” I asked as I dropped the dried noodles into the pot of boiling water.

Before she could answer, a loud bang sounded as the kitchen door flung open.

”Adam, dude, you missed it—oh. Whos this? ” Zane called as he stopped in the kitchen.

”Zane, do you have to be so damn loud all the— ” Anthon paused as he entered the doorway. ”My apologies. I didn know we had company. ”

I turned off the stove and snuck a glance at Ella. She was sitting at the table again, but her posture was stiff. Her smile was gone, and I could see a glimmer of worry.

”It was a surprise visit, ” I answered. ”Her name is Ella. ”

”Is it now? ” Zane asked as he walked closer to the table, ”So, Ella, what brings you here? ”

Just as Zane was about to pass me, I reached for his collar and stopped him in his tracks.

I didn use my mind-link often, but it did come in handy for moments like this. Especially given that Ella would have no idea what we were saying as she wasn a member of our pack.

Shes a runaway. You both need to back off and give her space. Shes gonna be here awhile.

How long is awhile? Zane did his best not to look in her direction.

As long as she needs, I let go of his collar, and he stepped back.

Should we be worried? Anthon was always the more cautious of the two, even though he was our youngest.

No. I got it.

”I bet you do, Adam, ” Zane laughed out before turning to Ella, ”Sorry for being rude earlier, my name is Zane, and the one lurking by the door is Anthon. ”

”Nice to meet you both, ” Ella kept her head lowered. I wasn sure if she was trying to minimize her appearance, given that she was being searched for, or if she was just nervous about new people being in the room with us.

”You
e cute, ” Zane said with a laugh, ”too bad you
e spoken for. ”

Ella cocked her head to the side and looked at Zane with a brow.

”Im sorry, but what did you mean by that? ” Ella looked toward the door as if she was going to bolt out any second.

”Zane, ” I growled out as low as possible.

”Anthon, can you grab me a plate. Ill get the video game set up. You still owe me that rematch, ” Zane said as he left the room.

I prepped the two plates Anthon passed me and handed them back to him.

”Thanks, Adam, ” Anthon said as he made his way out of the room. ”Nice to meet you, Ella. ”

”Nice to meet you too, ” Ella called out as I put her plate in front of her. ”Your brothers are nice. ”

”If thats what you want to call it. They are just behaving themselves. ”

I waited to see if she would start eating, but she didn touch the plate.

”Are you not hungry? ”

”No, I mean, I am. I just wanted to wait for you to start. You
e the Alpha, after all, ” Ella nodded toward my plate.

I quickly got a piece of steak into my mouth so she would start eating. She had manners; That much was clear. It had been quite a while since someone had waited for me to eat in an informal setting.

After all, Ella had been raised in the Manhattan pack, so I shouldn be surprised. They were known for being as classy as they were shady.

”I appreciate that you waited, but theres no need for such formalities in my home. Don wait for me to eat from here on out. ”

Ella nodded and took a bite. Her eyes lit up.

”This is delicious! Better than the cooks I had at home, ” Ella said as she quickly scarfed down her meal. Even though she barely took breaths between bites, she still ate like she was at a fancy restaurant.

”So, Ella, are you ready to tell me more about home? ” I asked as I looked up from my plate.

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