On the bright side, Asher was no longer snarling and frothing out the mouth. The only caveat was that my fickle magic hadn’t taken away the rest of his anger, because without an explanation or apology, he turned around and grabbed Clint by the shirt a second time.
The battered but slowly healing Judge was thrown to his knees just a few feet in front of me. Even though his face was a mottled and swollen mass of flesh, he managed to hold onto the air of superiority that clung to him. Its strength surpassed that of the scent of blood, and was stronger than the expensive cologne he wore, that even now I could smell.
“Apologize to your Luna.”
When Asher spoke his voice resembled the endless pit I had seen in his eyes, the very one I somehow chased away using magic.
His hair wasn’t even disheveled from the fight–his heart rate barely elevated. His spine was made of pure steel, as rigid and unbreakable as his stance.
Clint Armstrong sucked in a deep, shaky breath and spat a wad of saliva and blood at my feet.
Before Maya could snarl in outrage, Asher moved. Without an ounce of hesitation he turned crushed his knee into Clint’s nose.
I remained stoic even though the sound of Clint’s nose shattering made me want to cringe. Even when fresh blood splattered across the tops of my white shoes, I remembered my title and who I was to these people.
I’d always be a warrior–a protector, but the honor of being Luna came first. I couldn’t openly challenge Asher, not in this way and certainly not after Clint disrespected me so badly, but I couldn’t let him m****r the man either. No matter how inexcusable Clint’s actions were, he had just lost his only son.
“I’m sorry.” He said through gritted teeth stained red with blood, eyes glittering with hate.
The crimson liquid ran down his nose, which was now bent at an odd angle and lightly swollen.
“Mean it.” Asher snarled, glowering down at him. He bent down to Clint’s level and tilted his head when the older werewolf flinched. “…and use her title.”
I could feel Asher was nearing that dark place I had pulled him from and sent my thoughts careening into the middle-aged wolf’s mind. His pain was the soul-deep kind that came with losing a child, even though Cassidy let it slip he and Devin rarely spoke.
Only when Devin needed something or had gotten himself into trouble did he call on his father-not that Clint minded since he was often busy with work.
There was nothing on my face that would give me away as I snarled at the man knelt before me, seconds away from what was becoming his e*n.
‘For f*s sake, Clint. You can’t get vengeance or whatever it is you’re after if you’re dd. You went to Law school, which means you’re most likely a good liar. Just apologize and mean it before he kills you.’
Clint took a staggering breath and let out a nasty cough. The whites of his eyes were tinted red from his blood. They were wide with fear, absent of the hate and rage that had previously poured from their depths.
“I’m-I’m sorry, Luna…what I did was inexcusable. My son…” He stammered; his voice gritty with emotion. “I was so angry and upset…I–I should’ve never spread those lies about you.”
Oh, he was good.
If it weren’t for the persistent feeling in my gut, I would’ve never known he were lying.
Asher stared at him for a long moment, and finally acting on that sense of self-preservation, Clint avoided making eye contact.
“It’s you he disrespected, and it’s you who should decide his fate.” He said, eyes swiveling to my face. They were a warm chocolate brown, which wasn’t close enough to his honey shade to ease my worries over a spontaneous decision to k**l Clint.
I kept my stare pinned on Clint’s slowly healing face, counting the seconds as his bruises faded from purple to yellow.
Without another word to the man who caused irreparable damage by feeding the media a false story, or my stoic mate who could taste every fiber of my anger and matched it with his own, I turned on my heel and walked in the direction of the porch steps.
A near silent but relieved sigh sounded from Clint’s direction.
‘We need to talk.’ I forced my way into Asher’s head, fueled by rage and what could’ve easily been a pinch of magic. There was no keeping my voice calm as I shoved the words into the deepest recesses of his thoughts. ‘Now.’
I didn’t break my stride as I climbed the stairs and nodded at a stone-faced Zeke.
The thump of his feet hitting the stairs could be heard before he called out to the small crowd. “Alright, everybody. You’re all free to go, enjoy the next three days off.”
The last thing I saw before calmly pulling open the back door to Town Hall was Zeke slinging a partially unconscious Judge over his shoulder.
If I had waited for Asher to follow instead of using his scent trail to locate his office, I would’ve never been able to keep myself from spewing all the things churning in my mind.
“What are you doing?” Asher’s rough voice filled the space behind me, and I whirled to find him standing across the room.
Glancing one last time out the window, I watched as the larger crowd out front began to disperse. The metal curtain rings scratched against the rod as I flung them shut and grunted, “…making sure no one can hear us.”
“This office is soundproof.”
“Of course it is.” I scoffed under my breath, and slowly turned around to face my mate.
He stood in front of the door, but as I met his eyes he crossed the room and headed for the executive desk covered in paperwork. The calm way he lowered himself into the chair sent a rush of anger straight to my head.
“What…was…that?” I asked him slowly, using what little restraint I had to keep myself from storming over to his desk and throwing the single guest chair at his head.
Did he expect me to sit on the other side and speak to him like I were nothing more than a disgruntled pack member? There wasn’t a chance in h**l that was going to happen.
I abandoned my spot by the window and walked over to his desk slowly, stalking him like a wolf would her prey. His eyes narrowed as he read the challenge in my movements, but he remained seated, even as I came to a stop on the other side.
Rather than lower myself into the chair like a good Luna and mate would do, I placed my palms flat on the desk and towered over him.
“His son’s d***h-” Asher began, but my anger quickly won out and put an end to his empty explanation.
“His son didn’t just de, Asher. He was brutally m*d, and Clint thinks I’m the one who did it. How else do you expect him to respond?” I snapped, and the feeling of splintered wood beneath my fingers let me know my nails had been elongating.
Asher didn’t fumble for an answer and replied without paused, “With respect. Above anything else, you are his Luna first.”
“‘You can’t expect him to follow me if he thinks I md his son. If I were to de and my dad did something like this because he blamed you, would you k**l him too?” I asked sharply.
“That’s different.” His expression darkened, morphing his irises from the color of fresh soil to pitch-black waters.
“Is it?” He repeated, eyebrows inching closer together. “Do you understand the problems this could cause? The problems it’s already caused?”
Without waiting for a response, he pulled a copy of today’s newspaper out and set it on the desk. Only when silence enveloped us did I break eye contact and look down.
The front page looked the same with its four columns and two blown up photographs both starring yours truly. When I looked back up, my face was blank.
Asher narrowed his eyes into slits and asked, “Have you even read it?”
It was the weird sense of awareness that often appeared within the pits of my stomach that alerted me to the change within Asher. His eyes unfocussed, making his pupils widen and shrink. Rather than seeing only my face, his vision expanded to take in what I was wearing -or rather, what I wasn’t.
Dashing upstairs to change when Asher was in the process of shortening Clint Armstrong’s life hadn’t been a priority at the time, so I had no choice but to try and assert myself wearing nothing more than a lace camisole and pair of cotton shorts that could easily double as underwear.
On my feet were a pair of sandals I snatched from Cassidy’s car, but I’d trade them in a heartbeat for a bra. The imprint my n*s made against the thin fabric of my top no longer went unnoticed, and I watched as his aggression gave way to another hunger of sorts.
‘The shift wasn’t on a physical level, but I couldn’t help but feel as though Asher wasn’t entirely in control of the reins anymore.
I pursed my lips and tried to bide time, but each passing second alluded to the truth. Deep within my head, I could feel the roar of my instincts as they instructed me to lie.
Maya’s ears twitched and she muttered, “…are you getting the overwhelming urge to run right now?’
Choosing to ignore her and the ever-increasing sound of alarm bells in my head, I replied with a resounding, “sure have.”
Asher didn’t so much as blink as he stared me down, eyes dark enough to s**w his pupil whole. The silence he began to d**n me in was thick with sense of foreboding, so strong that I was helpless to stop myself as I made a wild dash for the door.
The sound of scattering papers filled the air only half a second after he leapt over the desk. A single fleeting moment was all I had before the heat and roughness of his body discended upon mine.