She bit her lip anxiously as they walked towards the house. Ryder, Jaeden had explained, was the pack’s own true blue hero. He was a Rogue Hunter, which meant he brought justice to any lykan who broke the law (killed humans for pleasure). Was the hunter inspecting her or something? Her thoughts must have betrayed her because Lucien explained to her, apparently amused, “You’ll be seeing a lot of Ryder. He’s a bachelor and can’t cook so he either comes here for dinner, or goes to the diner owned by his mother, Yvana.”
Oh, she let go of the breath she hadn’t known she’d been holding. Her nerves really couldn’t have taken the Spanish inquisition tonight.
As soon as Caia stepped through the front door she was brought to an abrupt halt by Irini who bounded at her, excitement sparkling in her eyes. “So how was school? Was everything OK? Were the others nice to you?”
Caia smiled. It was nice that Irini was still interested in her. She’d half expected that with her new found freedom she would want to forget the person responsible for her ‘imprisonment’.
“Everything was fine. Really. I’m OK.”
“You let me know if anyone bothers you.”
Caia chuckled, remembering her giving a similar demand when she’d begun the ninth grade. “I will.”
“Guess what?” Irini whispered, smiling widely as she changed the subject.
Caia’s bag was heavy and her stomach was growling but she smiled as she asked the expected question. Irini didn’t answer at first, just smirked mischievously at Lucien as he walked around them and into the kitchen. Caia could hear more than one male voice greet him, as well as the soft cadence of Ella’s voice.
“We have guests.”
Caia glanced meaningfully behind her at the driveway. “I gathered that.”
“Aidan’s here.” Irini hungrily ran her tongue across the bottom of her top row of teeth.
“Ssh.” Her eyes darted back to the kitchen. “Ryder’s brother,” Irini whispered. “The one that got away.”
Her eyes were round, sad, but hopeful. Caia gazed beyond her to the kitchen door where she could hear those voices, before returning to Irini’s face, capturing the anxiety there. It had never occurred to her that when Irini had ran into hiding with her that she was leaving more than her family behind.
“Irini, I’m sorry,” she whispered, not even meaning for the apology to slip out.
“Caia,” Ella suddenly interrupted, appearing in the hallway. “How was your first day at school?”
She sighed. How many times was she going to have to lie today? “It was fine.”
“Good. Come on in, Honey. Dinner’s ready.”
The sight that greeted her in the kitchen was more intimidating than having met all of the pack at the same time. The intimate setting, a table set for seven, four of which were for large lykan males, made Caia’s smile of ‘hello’ tremulous. Magnus strode over to her immediately, drawing her to his side and giving her shoulder an affectionate squeeze.
“You OK, Kid?”
She nodded, craning her neck back to look up at him. His eyes twinkled happily.
“Cy, this is Ryder.” He nodded to the lykan standing next to Lucien. He was about an inch smaller than the Alpha but shared a similar build to him. His face, however, was not nearly as severe as Lucien’s. He had constant humor in his eyes and a warm quirk to his top lip. The lovably, shaggy, brown mess of his hair only added to his approachable appeal.
“And this is Aidan.”
Aidan, an almost mirror image of his brother, except for the straight blonde of his hair, stood directly across from Ryder.
“Hi.” They waved comically at her.
“You met them last night but I thought a second introduction might be needed.”
Caia threw the Elder a grateful smile.
Ella had laid out a beautiful dinner; fillet of beef and all the trimmings, and Caia smiled secretly, thinking how Irini hadn’t inherited her mother’s ability to cook. For the longest time the two of them had enjoyed many a microwaveable meal until Caia was old enough to start experimenting with cooking. From then on she had cooked all of their meals.
She tried to offer Ella help but was shooed back into her seat between Magnus and Irini. She watched incredulously at the amount of food these males piled onto their plates. She hadn’t touched her own plate yet, her eyes jumping from Lucien to Ryder, to Aidan, to Magnus, as they scoffed large amounts of beef down. Irini giggled beside her before elbowing her to get her to stop staring and start eating.
Ella laughed, obviously having noticed and understood the reason behind Caia’s wide eyes. “Don’t mind them, honey. They’re just animals. You’ll get used to them.”
Ryder choked in amusement as he took a swig of water, and Aidan and Magnus joined his laughter.
Lucien merely shrugged. “What?”
This set them off again.
“Dude, we’ve frightened Caia with our non-existent manners,” Aidan explained smiling at her.
“No, no-” she tried to protest.
Lucien frowned. “We’re just eating.”
“Caia’s not used to eating at the watering hole.” Irini giggled and smiled flirtatiously at Aidan, who winked in response.
“You will get used to us, Cy,” Ryder assured her pleasantly. “Eventually.”
Caia squirmed, hoping she hadn’t made anyone uncomfortable. But as their amusement lingered she was put at ease enough to turn to her own plate.
“This is delicious Ella, thanks,” she said politely between bites.
“Why thanks, honey,” Ella preened, and then flicked her fork at the others. “This lot never say thanks.”
A rumble of muted ‘thank you’s’ swam towards her as the men spoke with meat in their mouths.
“Ugh, guys,” Irini groaned, “Save the thanks and just chew.”
“I don’t remember you being so cheeky.” Aidan smiled at her. Caia watched his eyes light with appreciation as they washed over Irini.
“I grew up.” She shrugged.
Magnus cleared his throat meaningfully, his eyes darting to Lucien, who had now stopped eating and was watching his sister and Aidan with a darkening suspicion. Caia snorted in her head. It had taken him long enough to realize they were flirting with one another.
“Sooo,” Ryder drawled, breaking Lucien’s scrutiny and saving his brother, “Caia, you like movies?”
Everyone except her and Irini groaned.
“What?” He laughed.
Lucien turned to Caia with an exaggerated look of weariness. “When Ryder isn’t mutilating rogues with his bare hands, he’s strapped to an armchair in front of his Blu-ray player.”
“I love movies.” Ryder shrugged, smiling at her.
Caia smiled tentatively back. She liked this lykan. “I like movies,” she offered, grasping an opportunity to maybe bond with another member of the pack, particularly one who was so highly regarded by everyone else.
Ryder’s eyes lit up. “Yeah?”
She nodded, stupidly pleased with the warmth in his gaze.
“Who’s your favorite director?”
She mused for a bit as she chewed on a piece of exquisite beef. “Truth?” She smiled shyly.
He nodded expectantly.
“I can’t quite make my mind up between Tarantino and Tony Scott.”
The lykan let out a delighted laugh. “Well, I think I might be in love.” He sighed dramatically, his eyes twinkling over mutual film love. Caia felt her cheeks go red with embarrassment at his attentiveness. She had never been a blusher before she returned to the pack. She bit the inside of her cheek willing the redness to go away and realized that, while she was blushing, Lucien had growled at Ryder.
Ryder ignored him. He smirked. “Have you seen Underworld?”
She chuckled, realizing where he was going with this, her eyes dancing with pleasure. “Yes, I have. I swear it was written by one of us.”
“I think we could take those CGI lykans.”
She laughed again, and he leaned conspiratorially across the table towards her. “Who do you think would win in a fight? Lucien,” he indicated their Pack Leader with a tilt of his head, “Or Lucian?” he referred to the ‘lycan’ leader of the film franchise.
“What?” Lucien asked dryly. She suspected he didn’t like being out of the loop on anything.
“Hmm.” Caia pretended to think. “Lucian is pretty tough… he can squeeze bullets out of his head. I don’t think even Lucien can do that?”
“Yeah, but silver hurts Lucian. Lucien would just laugh at a silver bullet.”
“What the hell are they talking about?” Lucien grumbled to the rest of the table.
Magnus smiled. “I don’t know, but it looks like Ry has found a fellow movie buff.”
“Ry and Cy.” Irini snorted like a teenager.
Aidan laughed with her and then quieted at the dirty look Lucien threw them.
Ryder smiled at Caia and returned to his food. She, however, was confused. She’d been getting along with the pack. Wasn’t that what Lucien wanted? Weird, moody, beast of a lykan. She sighed and turned back to her own meal.
He would have to watch his reactions. Lucien gazed surreptitiously at everyone around the table. He was being overbearing and he knew it. His only excuse was that Caia’s presence had left him feeling unbalanced. He was glad she was getting along with the pack, that she’d taken a shine to Ryder. Really. He was.
After everyone had finished dinner Caia offered to help Ella clean up. Magnus yawned and took his leave. Irini and Aidan on the other hand glanced at one another with an obvious hunger. Huh. He hadn’t seen that coming.
“Uh, Irini, you want to go for a run… with me?” Aidan glanced nervously between Lucien and his sister. Irini didn’t even bother to look back at her brother, just smiled beatifically at Aidan and nodded, jumping up from her seat in the same motion.READ MORE >>