Drew’s eyes shifted to that brilliant, wild copper. “Don’t do this to us, Indy. Don’t shut me out.”
Her hand clenched on the door, but she kept her composure, aware of packmates walking by in the corridor outside. “Was there anything in particular you wanted?”
“I messed up.” Blunt words, unexpected and raw. “I’m sorry.”
Her resolve wavered, the strength of the bond between them pushing at her to open the door, to invite him in. But—“What you did, it was a dominance challenge.” She held up a hand when he would’ve interrupted. “You can’t help it.” He was a dominant, one hell of a strong one. “It’ll keep happening, and I can’t afford to let it.”
“No, Drew. For the health of the pack, the hierarchy must be explicit.” They were too strong, too wild at heart to accept anything else. “If we continue being lovers . . . you won’t be able to stop yourself from challenging me again.” As a predatory changeling male, Drew could no more have stopped himself from doing what he had than she could’ve stopped her instinctive antagonistic response.
Drew didn’t immediately respond, but there was a set to his jaw that she recognized all too well. Then he said, “So that’s it? You won’t even try?”
Her wolf peeled back its lips, all hope of a rational discussion going down the proverbial drain. “What the hell do you think I’ve been doing all this time?”
Drew pressed his palms against the edges of the door frame, blocking out the outside world. “But when push comes to shove, you’re choosing the easy out.”
Gritting her teeth, Indigo stared straight into those eyes of wolf copper. “I’m choosing the good of the pack. It’s what a lieutenant does.”
Drew bent until his breath whispered over her lips, a sweet, hot, angry caress. “Yeah? Well, since you know predatory changeling men so well, you know exactly what I’m going to do next.”
She shoved a hand against his chest. “Touch me and I’ll slice you to shreds.”
Instead of continuing on his set path as any other male she knew would’ve done, he gave her a faint smile she didn’t trust an inch . . . and pushed off the door. “Until next we meet, Lieutenant.”
He was gone a second later.
Indigo stood there stupefied until a passing packmate called out a hello. Muttering back a response, she closed her door. Her wolf shook its head, attempting to figure out what had just happened. It had no idea, but it did know Drew was up to something.
She fisted her hands. Whatever it was, she’d handle it. Because no matter how much he pulled at her, no matter how deeply interwoven he was in her heart, she’d taken an oath to protect the pack when she became a lieutenant, and it was time to uphold it. That was what drove her.
Steeling her spine, she tried to ignore that voice, but it wouldn’t shut up. Because it wasn’t only about the pack. It was about her. Her pride . . . and her heart. He’d hurt her. She’d made herself vulnerable, opened up her heart . . . and he’d hurt her.
Andrew managed to keep himself under control only by sheer force of will as he walked away.
“Dominance challenge, my ass,” he muttered under his breath as he stalked to his room. He had no desire to fight for a higher rank in the hierarchy. He was exactly where he needed to be. So he’d lost his temper—everybody lost their temper now and then. The situation had been highly stressful. Was it any wonder he’d spoken before he’d thought?
He was so involved in his internal monologue that it took a packmate three tries to get his attention. When Andrew finally looked up, the woman said, “Er, Drew? You can’t go to the nursery looking like you want to shred someone with your claws and then eat the bloody, dismembered pieces.”
“Nursery?” Shaking his head, he looked around. “Shit.” He turned on his heel, throwing a “thanks” over his shoulder.
But the interruption had reset his mind. Getting angry, he realized, would achieve nothing. Yes, Indigo was being stubborn in refusing to talk this through with him, but what he’d done . . . yeah, okay, she was right to be pissed.
And hurt, his conscience whispered, remembering the pain he’d glimpsed in the shadowed violet of her gaze. He’d hurt her, and it made him feel like shit. He wanted to stalk to her apartment, bully his way in, and argue with her until the ice cracked enough that he could hold her close and convince her to listen. But of course, he thought with another flare of temper, she wouldn’t fight with him like every other dominant female he knew did with her man when she was mad or hurting. No, Indigo had to go all dignified and silent, her emotions rigidly contained.
“Fine,” he muttered, pushing through his door, “then I’ll just make it so f**king difficult for her to ignore me that she’ll have to fight with me.”
Indigo found the first rose the next morning—in the locker she used to store her gear when training indoors. It was a deep, deep red. Scarlet, she thought, that was the right word. And it smelled like heaven. But beneath the lush floral bouquet lay the scent of male—wild and playful.
Heat uncurled in her abdomen, but she doused it with cold reason. This wasn’t some lover’s tiff that could be smoothed over with a rose and an apology. This went to the heart of who they were, the choices they had to make.
Dropping the rose back inside the locker, she closed the door and went out to whip her current group of eighteen-year-olds into some kind of fighting shape. “All right, boys and girls, I want two reps of the set we practiced last time. Go!”