"I'm going to tell Alpha Winter I can't do it. I just can't do it," Kat complained as she rubbed her hands over her face with a groan. "This was a bad idea."

Bella sighed heavily as she blew on her steaming mug full of tea. Kat was swathed in a large towel, her hair was still wet from when she came, in wolf form, charging to Bella's porch. Bella had gone outside when she recognized the dark wolf, and in doing so ended up doused with lake water as it shook its thick fur. Kat has shifted, still breathless from the run, naked against the night and been promptly offered a towel. Bella could sense the distress emanating from her friend and so had instantly invited her in for a cup of tea. And there they sat in the Omega's kitchen, both waiting for their tea to cool.

Kat didn't like tea very much, but she found the blend oddly comforting as it stood there wafting the spicy herbs at her. "He can't force me to work with Jamie, can he? I mean…" she trailed off.

"I suppose not," Bella said, sipping. "If you really do not want to, I suppose you could tell him that. Alpha Winter is rather headstrong but he's also quite reasonable."

"Good," Kat breathed, tapping her fingers on the fine tablecloth. "Good."

"You're frazzled," Bella pointed out, her eyebrow arched. She had noticed straight away, of course, when the wolf skidded onto her porch, wet and panting. "What happened?"

Kat waved away her question and grabbed hold of her mug, the warmth spreading up her arm. "It doesn't matter. Just a run, that was all." She couldn't possibly begin to explain, Bella had never understood her deep hatred for Jamie. But then again, Kat had never elaborated on their past. All Bella knew, all anyone knew, was that Jaie and Kat had a bad break-up long ago as teenagers, and it spurred this intense hatred in them both. Kat hoped that was all anyone knew anyway, how mortifying if anything else had gotten out.

"Kat," Bella said hesitantly, leaning in over the mug, and adjusting in her seat. "Are you happy here?"

"What do you mean?"

"I mean, do you regret coming back? To the pack?"

Kat swallowed, staring at the steam rising from her cup. Her shoulders sagged and she sighed heavily as she pulled the soft towel around her shoulders tighter. "No," she eventually whispered. Kat had left the pack because of Jamie's carelessness, her broken heart, but living with her grandfather at the Oaktree pack hadn't felt like home. She had not petitioned to join the Oaktrees, never even been tempted because, as happy as she had been to leave her troubles behind her, there had always been an urge to roam the Northcreek territory, her territory. She had an undeniable pull to this land, to this pack, that she could not deny. And she felt calm when she was here. "No," she continued, tentatively sipping on her tea. "No, I like it here. This is my pack."

Bella smiled warmly at her. "I'm glad. And I'm glad you're back. Just for the record." She laughed and Kat joined in. "I guess some wolves think you've chosen to live so far away because you don't like being back."

"Nonsense," Kat said with a shake of her head. She could admit to herself that she still felt a little like an outsider in the pack, she had been gone for a long time, almost 10 years, but she kind of liked that. She liked being on the outskirts. That's why she claimed the cabin in the woods, away from the pack, as her home. She still had her shop in town and came in every day, hung out with Bella and went to the bar sometimes, but she could also retreat to her own space when she needed it. "I'm quite content being exactly where I'm at."

"And you've got Marcus," Bella prodded.

"Yes. Yes, I have- I have Marcus," Kat said with a firm nod. She did have Marcus, didn't she? They weren't officially dating, she knew that, but she also knew that he was interested in dating her. Eventually. They were just… seeing where things went at the moment. "Now, if I could just get out of this business with the Summer Fair, I'd be sweet."

"If I were you, I'd stick to it," Bella ventured to say.

It was Kat's turn to raise an eyebrow at her friend. "Whatever for? You know I hate those things. Fairs. They're so full of… happy… wolves and pups." She shuddered. "It's too much sometimes."

"Yes, I forgot how old and grumpy you are for a second." Bella snorted at her and rolled her eyes. "I'm just saying it wouldn't be bad for your business to advertise a little more." She held up her hand when Kat began to argue and silenced her before continuing. "Listen, your glass wares are selling well. They sold well when you went into the city with them every few weeks, and now you've got your shop in town selling even more. But, the only time other packs get to see your sculptures and glass wares is when they happen to come through the town, which is rare. Three? Four times a year? I bet more wolves would be interested in buying wolf-made glass wares, other packs just don't know you exist."

"You're saying it could expand my business," Kat grumbled with a nod.

"Yes, use the stall to advertise yourself and your work. You're good at what you do, Kat," Bella continued sitting back in her chair, sipping her tea. "You'd just have to figure out a way to sell to other packs further away."

"Well, online obviously. An online store," Kat said.

"Exactly," Bella agreed. "I could make you a website. Just say the word."

"You're not just talking me into this mess because you want me to keep you company at the godawful Summer Fair, are you?"

Bella smirked suspiciously into her cup. "I would never."

"You absolutely would," Kat grumbled. "However, I suppose you're right." She growled and groaned at the ceiling. "Alright, fine, I'll have a stall at the Summer Fair. But you, I need a website and what else? Business cards? Something along those lines anyway."

"I may already have fiddled a bit with that for you," Bella admitted sheepishly. "I can show you what I came up with?"

"You're a damn evil genius."

"That's what Max keeps telling me," Bella said innocently.

Josh glared over the cards fanning out in his hand, with a tightening of his jaw. The dim lighting over the dinner table illuminated the white cardboard perfectly, annoyingly that didn't change his hand, it was useless. He couldn't let his opponents know that though. He scratched his stubbly chin and slid two cards across the wooden surface. Instantly, his brother pushed two other cards back at him.

That didn't change his chances of winning either. He suppressed the urge to groan and sat back in his chair as he toyed with his last chips. "I'll raise you two," he grunted and threw one of the chips into the pile in the middle.

Dylan bit his lip, narrowing his eyes at the pile. It was getting big, too big to ignore. But he had nothing. "Damn. Folding," he announced with an annoyed huff and threw his cards face down in front of him, his mouth twisted into a deep frown.

"Raise you another two," Jamie said, with a casual flick of his wrist causing his chip to land in the pile with a loud clink, he smirked at Josh as he tapped his cards on the table.

Josh merely grunted at him. "Right, it's down to you, Squirt."

In unison, the three men turned their attention to the only other person in the room at the end of the table. Mina pursed her lips and furrowed her brow as she studied the cards. One of them slipped out of her hand, and giggling a little she tucked it back in, letting it stick out at an odd angle. "I think-" she started, sighed and scratched her neck, hesitating. "I think, maybe, I'm going to go all in," she said looking questioningly at Josh.

Josh glanced at the pile of chips in front of her. "And you're sure?"

"I think-" Mina tilted her head as she looked at the cards, this time much closer to her eyes, and nodded. "Yes, I think so." She gave a determined nod and pushed her chips forward to join the rest of them on the table, her neat stacks falling in on themselves. She had been unsure and had therefore not played most of them.

Jamie huffed out a laugh, sitting back in his chair he relaxed his shoulders. "Alright, your funeral." He pushed his own pile forward, having done most of the winning.

Josh put his cards down with a slap, chuckling. "Damn, folding."

"Right, read em' and weep," Jamie said and put down his cards. A pair of kings. He sat back again, a self-satisfied smirk on his face.

Mina shifted in her seat, blinking at her cards as she bit her lip. "I think…" she mumbled. She put down her cards slowly.

"You're joking," Dylan burst out in a loud laugh, and the three of them sat completely still looking at a straight flush in front of the little girl. Then Jamie growled and rolled his eyes. Josh began laughing loudly at his brother, slapping him on his back and Dylan shook his head as he chuckled.

"Man, I can't afford to play with you anymore," Jamie grumbled, stretching his arms above his head, folding his hands behind his head and started rocking on the chair.

"I was right, wasn't I?" Mina asked, her grin growing in force.

"You did good, Squirt," Josh agreed, messing up her hair as he wiped a tear of laughter from his eye. If he didn't know any better he would have thought Mina was a professional, only there to scam them. The kid had a natural ability for poker.

"I'm glad you two think it's so funny," Jamie grumbled, but he was unable to keep the grin from spreading on his face when he looked at Mina. She was so proud of herself, having grown at least two inches on the chair since she laid down her cards.

Josh and Dylan both tried to compose themselves but couldn't. At least not until there was the soft click of the door upstairs and Cassie appeared on the stairs, having just put Gabe down for the night. She gazed out over the scene that met her, taking in the still-shaking, red-faced men at the table, the cards scattered as well as the big pile of chips in front of her daughter, sitting in the middle with a big grin on her face. Cassie must not have looked impressed as the men all scrambled to push off the table and stand up.

"You taught her poker?" she asked, her voice steady but filled with disapproval.

"Well, I mean…" Josh coughed out, scratching his neck and looking anywhere but at her.

Dylan and Jamie shared a look and through silent communication quickly decided their next move. "Well, it's getting late," Dylan mumbled.

"I've got somewhere to be as well," Jamie added and headed for the door, following Dylan, but managed to pat Josh on the shoulder as he passed, "You're on your own with this one."

"What? Where are you going?" Josh barked, jumping after his brother, and stopping him at the door.

Jamie sighed. "To bite the fucking bullet," he said through gritted teeth. Josh didn't have to ask him what exactly he meant. "I'll see you later," he added and walked out after Dylan who hurried off with a quick wave.

Josh turned slowly, facing Cassie again. He folded his arms and cracked a nervous smile, tapping his fingers on his arm. "Soooo…"

"Poker?" she asked again with her pale eyebrows rising on her forehead. And without turning to face her she said, "Mina, bedtime."

"Aw, but mom," Mina whined, yet jumped off the chair as if she already knew there was no arguing.

"It's late, baby," Cassie breathed and gave her a warm smile. "Why don't you go brush your teeth and I'll be there in a minute to read to you."

Mina shuffled her feet but still waddled to the stairs. She stopped to look at Josh who was frozen by the door. "Goodnight, Josh."

"Sleep tight, Squirt," he pressed out and shot her a grin.

"Don't be angry at him," she whispered to her mom as she trudged upstairs.

"Teeth," Cassie repeated sternly.

"Alriiight," came the reply and her daughter disappeared down the hall into the bathroom.

When Cassie again turned her focus on the ginger wolf by the door, his shoulders were slumped and his head hung down, watching his feet stepping on a loose couple of strands from the carpet. If he hadn't been towering over her and taken up much of the space in the cramped hallway, his stance would have looked like a child who knew he was in trouble. She swallowed a laugh and cleared her throat. "Poker?" she asked again.

He lifted his head, she knew the grin he had plastered on his face was meant to disarm, and it would usually have worked as well if she hadn't gotten to know his tactics by now. He was a charmer, but she was not in a position to fall for that anymore. This last week in their house, she had gotten to know him better and was now more comfortable around him and his brother. She still locked the doors of course and did try to stay out of their way as much as possible, but they had fallen into a bearable living situation. And her children adored the two Northcreek wolves, sometimes too much.

"It's not like we were playing for real money, though," Josh tried to explain, rubbing the back of his neck. "And she's so bright," he continued with a laugh. She was, she was so smart. Her brother as well. Josh had been surprised at how much he liked the two rascals, for Silverstream kids they were great and a lot of fun. He had never had any kind of children running around his place before, but as suffocating as he had imagined, it was actually quite fun. Even if it did put a damper on his love life.

Their mother, on the other hand, was still guarded and jumpy around him, he could tell she kept her distance. Which was understandable, she still didn't know them. But for a Silverstream, he supposed she wasn't half bad. And he was sure she didn't mind him as much as before. And weird as it sounded, he was getting used to the stench of Silverstream around his home.

"You're teaching her to gamble? She's only six," Cassie argued, motioning to the dining table still cluttered with chips and cards.

Josh shrugged. "I mean, as a Silverstream, don't you-?" He caught himself before he finished that sentence, but it was too late. He saw her chest rise with the sharp intake of breath and the annoyance flashed in her eyes, or was it hurt? He had to stop doing that, reminding her of what she was. Because it wasn't what she was at all. The common idea of Silverstreams was so ingrained in him - they were nothing but trouble, they were backwards and aggressive, they were brutal and cold-blooded. More beast than man. But here was a Silverstream that had shown him none of these things, and it was shaking apart his conviction. "Sorry," he mumbled, "We were just having some fun."

Cassie dismissed his apology with a shake of her head. Her bouncy curls sprang forward at the slightest movement, and she tucked them behind her ear again. Sighing she said, "Maybe before you teach my daughter any more bad habits, you could ask me first?"

"Will do," he said, "Scout's honor." With an overdramatic salute that he was sure drew out the ghost of a smile on her lips he relaxed. he pulled out a pair of rolled-up socks from his back pocket and sat back down at the table. "You sure you're going to be alright tonight?" he asked her.

She watched him proceed to pull on one sock, then the other. They didn't match, but she knew he didn't care. "We'll be fine." Yet on the inside, she wasn't so sure, she wanted him to go, to leave the house, but at the same time, she was also dreading it. While Jamie had spent as little time as possible in the house, Josh had been a steady constant downstairs. His presence had felt both secure and alarming, but now she was faced for the first time to be in the house, alone with her children. A house in the middle of Northcreek pack. She knew Josh was not her protector, but she had begun to think of him as such, he was another link between her and the rest of the Northcreek wolves just outside the door.

Josh sat back in his chair, both sock-clad feet firmly planted on the ground, and looked up at her with concern. "I'm only going to be at the bar," he stated, he rubbed his hands on his jeans, tapping his knees with his fingers as he bit his lip. "You'll be alright, right?"

"Of course," Cassie said. She was acting silly, but she couldn't help the apprehension. She wanted him to leave, she needed him to leave. "Enjoy your night." If he was gone, she could breathe a little easier.

Josh grunted with a nod and proceeded to pull on his boots. This felt weird. It's not like he was leaving a mate home alone for the night, or even a girlfriend, it was more just like a roommate situation. That was it, it was a strange roommate situation with a Silverstream and her brats. He did feel responsible for them though, he had promised Alpha Winter to look after them. But surely Alpha Winter hadn't meant for him to keep constant watch over them when they were safe enough in his house. They were safe there, weren't they? It wasn't as if they ever left the room at night anyway, the kids slept, and Cassie? He didn't know what she got up to, she certainly didn't come down to hang out. Not that he wanted her to. There was no point in him hanging around, they were completely safe there even if he wasn't around. And Alpha Winter would not expect him not to leave occasionally? He was unsure, he had never actually been responsible for someone else before. He wasn't used to being a babysitter.

"Mom!" Mina called from the stairs.

"Coming, baby," Cassie said, then turned to Josh, "I have to…" she trailed off, gesturing to her daughter.

"Of course." Josh stood, facing her. He was hesitant to leave, awkwardly scratching his neck. "Well, good night then."

"Good night, Josh," Cassie said but didn't move either.

"I should go."

She nodded. "Yes."

"I can stay," he said, but he heard the question in his words. He hadn't known he was going to ask until the question was out. Cassie didn't say anything to that, she pressed her lips together avoiding his gaze. Josh cleared his throat. "It's just that Max is playing tonight and-"

"You should go," she interrupted him.

"I'll lock… on the way out," he added.

"Thank you," Cassie breathed.

"Mom!" Mina shouted from the top of the stairs.

Cassie shushed her impatient daughter with a laugh, then shrugged, and folded her arms across her chest. "I have to-"

"Yes, yes, of course. Well, goodnight." He forced himself to walk to the front door but turned to face her instead of opening it. It wasn't that he was scared of leaving her, he had gotten over his fear of her stealing everything or burning down the house, but it didn't feel right leaving her either.

"Goodnight again, Josh." Cassie gripped the banister and stepped up on the first step, but she couldn't make herself walk further either. She needed to see him leave.

He chuckled and shook his head, red hair falling on his face. He quickly pushed it back behind his ears and placed his hand on the doorknob. She finally sighed and turned, walking up the stairs to Mina. He turned the knob and made himself walk out, closing the door softly behind him.

Cassie stood still, waiting for the click of the lock. She exhaled a breath she didn't realize she had been holding and relaxed.


"Coming, baby."

The door wasn't locked, but he knew the store had been closed hours ago. Jamie walked in and the small bell rang out his arrival before he had a chance to announce it himself. But no one noticed him, instead, he was met with glass sculptures of every shape and color. He knew nothing of the art form but enjoyed the way the setting sun, bursting through the storefront, played and reflected in the smooth surfaces, it made them all gleam and sparkle. He would never tell her that.

The last time he had been in there was when he restored the old building and this large room had been empty, it was weird seeing it like this. A loud noise of some kind came from the open door in the back and drew him back to reality, he knew that door led to the workshop. She must still be in there. He had spent a week shuffling around, ever since the run-in at the lake, mustering up the courage to confront her again. He gritted his teeth and walked through it. He had to get this over and done with before he lost his mind worrying about it.

Kat froze as a figure charged through the door, she almost dropped the blowpipe. She growled when she saw who it was and placed it gently back on the holder, the lump of melted glass at the tip forgotten. "What are you doing here?" she asked, wiping sweat from her forehead with her arm.

"You're not at home," Jamie snapped.

"I'm aware," she retorted, raising her eyebrows quizzically, then pointed out, "Because I'm here."

"How was I supposed to know that? I was at your house." She didn't live close to town either, it was further out in the forest and Jamie had felt personally offended she wasn't home when he made the drive all the way out there.

"You could have called," she said with a shrug, turned her back to him and checked on the molten glass in her furnace.

"Don't have your fucking number," Jamie sneered, his nostrils flaring as he was still angry about having to chase her down and couldn't let it go. "Why are you here? It's late," he asked, raising his voice over the noise, noise that he now understood was some kind of music she was listening to as she worked.

Kat rolled her eyes at him. "I felt like staying in today, what's it to you?" She wasn't for one second going to let him know that she preferred to work here, in this workshop, that his brother and him had built, instead of the old cramped one at home. There was no reason for him to know that. She turned to him again, tilting her head, and narrowing her eyes at him. "Why are you here?" she enquired.

He growled at the ceiling, taking a deep breath. "I have to…" he trailed off. A drop of sweat trickled down the side of her face. Her hair had been piled high on her head, and a small, thin scarf tied around it to keep strands off her face. It hadn't worked, loose strands were still plastered to her long neck and bare shoulders. The droplet continued down her throat and disappeared in the small amount of cleavage just visible beneath her tank top. It was white, and she was sweaty, and it clung to her shape exposing the very black bra underneath. Jamie wanted to swallow but fought hard against showing any change in demeanor towards her, even if she stood there looking like a glistening vision, her skin aglow by the pulsating furnace next to her.

She raised her eyebrows in enquiry, motioning for him to go on with a sharp wave of her hands, tucked into comically large working gloves, and an impatient sigh. "What do you want, Morgan?" she asked, punctuating her words. "I'm busy."

Jamie cleared his throat and averted his eyes. "I need-" He stopped when the so-called music assaulted his ears again. "What the hell is that?" he growled, "Can you turn that shit off? The fuck?"

Kat rolled her eyes again, this time harder. And slapped the lip shut on the laptop she had been using. The music died instantly. "Who the hell are you to come in here making demands in my shop? I work best with music."

"That. That is not music," Jamie argued, "That is just noise with some guy yelling."

"It's Icelandic Folk Metal, thank you very much," Kat sneered. "It's amazing."

"Icelandic Folk… Fuck's sake," Jamie mumbled in reply, shaking his head. "That's not music."

"Oh, I'm sorry, Johnny Cash," Kat announced, throwing her arms wide.

Jamie ignored the bounce in her chest when she gestured like that. "Nothing wrong with the classics, Kitty Kat." He cleared his throat and took a few steps backwards, ready to walk through the door and out of this store. Being alone with Kat again was doing his head in. "Look, I just came to get measurements for the damns stall of yours."

"Alpha Winter's stall," Kat corrected him, "As much as it pains me to admit, it's not a completely bad idea business-wise. But I'd rather eat dirt than have any involvement from you when it comes to my business."

"And here I thought we had nothing in common," Jamie breathed, cocking an eyebrow at her and a smirk grew on his face. "Because I'd rather eat dirt than be involved in anything of yours."

"Great," Kat said, plastering a smile so sickeningly sweet on her face she thought she would pull a muscle.

"Just tell me the damn measurements you need for this stupid stall, and I'll be out of your hair forever. I can build it and set it up without your input."

Kat sighed and shrugged. She once again threw her arms wide, this time gesturing in frustration. "A fucking normal stall is fine, Jamie," she said, "Just a fucking normal stall. You didn't need to hunt me down for that."

"Alright, fine." Jamie turned to walk away. "A normal stall then."

He managed a step before she shouted out, "Make sure there is proper shelving, though."

He turned and gave a curt nod. "Yes, of course," he ground out through gritted teeth.

"This is heavy glassware; the shelves need to be reinforced obviously."

"Obviously," he snorted, waving away her concern as he turned again and walked out the door.

"And lots of space, as well," she shouted.

Jamie popped his head back in. "Great, space, alright." Then disappeared.

"And also-"

"Should I just build you a fucking workshop while I'm at it? Another fucking one!" came the biting reply as he stomped back into the room.

"Would you?" Kat asked, her tone dripping with sweetness, "That would be great."

"You're impossible to work with," he stated, copying her gesture and throwing his arms wide in frustration. "You're such a moron."

Kat growled under her breath. "Jackass" she shot back.

"Bitch!" he shouted.

"Fucking imbecile," she yelled.

He narrowed his eyes at her, staring her down. "Motherfucking metal head," he snarled full of contempt, "All that hair dye of yours must have seeped through your thick skull, convinced you to poke those holes in your face and doodle up and down your arms. Disgusting, by the way."

"Knowing you hate the way I choose to look only makes it that much better," Kat growled, slamming her blowpipe back on the holder, hissing, "And you are nothing but a… just a-" Damn. She had nothing, all words disappeared in the haze of hatred he managed to induce in her. Jamie laughed spitefully and walked out, knowing he had won. "You're just a dick… fucker!" she yelled after him. Knowing it was stupid, but she had spat out the words and now had to commit. "A dickfucker."

Jamie stopped by the store door. A dickfucker? He walked back in. "What does- How would that even work?"

"I don't know," Kat yelled. "You're the one who is one!"

"Oh you- you woman!" He stomped his foot on the concrete floor in frustration.

"Yeah, good one."

"We're getting nowhere like this!" Jamie yelled at the ceiling.

Kat wanted to yell more at him but managed to take a deep breath, steadying herself instead. "You're right," she conceded, calming her voice. Jamie cocked an eyebrow at her, challenging her, daring her to go on and not take back that admission. She didn't. "For once, you're actually right. Look, neither of us like this arrangement, so why don't we try to do this shit while having as little contact as possible? And then we can go back to avoiding each other afterwards."

"I never avoided you," Jamie had uttered before he knew what he was saying.

Kat considered that. And it was true, Jamie had always liked torturing her, he always went out of his way to annoy her. "I wish you would."

Jamie's eyes darkened. "Fine." Squaring his shoulders, he continued, "Maybe we should stop running into each other as well then."

"I'm hardly going to stay out of the forest," Kat growled, knowing he was thinking of their run the other day. "Don't give me that cowboy bullshit about it not being big enough for both of us?"

"I'd just rather not smell that stench of yours when I'm trying to enjoy myself," Jamie reasoned, whipping his hair out of his face. Damn, there he went again, he was determined not to let the argument flare up again, but he just couldn't help himself.

Kat bristled and felt her wolf claw at her insides. Alright, if that's the way he wanted it. With her hands tightly curled into fists in her gloves she spat, "Your wolf is looking a little ragged, Morgan. Not enough exercise perhaps?"

Jamie growled, standing up straighter and caught himself flexing his biceps absentmindedly. He stopped, hoping she hadn't noticed, embarrassment spread through him. Not enough exercise? He was in perfectly good shape. The audacity! There was nothing wrong with his form, damn it. He closed the space between them with determination, forcing her to crane her neck up to meet his eye. He sneered down at her stubborn scowl, his nostrils flaring. "You look here, you little…" he started, preparing to swear and growl at her.

But his attention wavered. Another droplet of sweat trickled down from under her scarf. It moved slowly, down the side of her face, passing the wide, unblinking gray eyes, eyes that glared up at him in defiance, daring him to go on. It continued down her jaw, and he followed it. He couldn't stop. His own jaw clenched as tightly as his fists as he watched that droplet play along her smooth skin and down her throat. He had trouble swallowing, his throat was made of sandpaper. He wanted to clear it but found his muscles noncooperative. All he could do was stand there, his eyes straining to follow that one little droplet that had made its way down the front of her shirt and had now disappeared. He hadn't been this close to her in a long time. Not since that time, when they were only teens. It made him uncomfortable.

Kat wanted to look away, but she felt trapped. A mouse when it encountered a predator, a wolf. She had been the wolf many times, and now she was the mouse. She tried to glare up at Jamie, stand her ground, but instead felt her confidence slipping when she looked into his hard eyes. He was too close, he was too near, he was too him. She didn't like him this close to her, it brought back so many things, so many feelings and memories. She caught herself thinking that he still smelled the same. It worried her, and a nervousness she didn't understand sat in. Her heart was pounding in her throat, unsteady but loud, surely he could hear it as well.

He pressed his lips together, unable to stop himself studying her face. The unexpected intimacy that enveloped him had struck him dumb and he was rooted to the spot. Her eyes were wide and unsure, he didn't read any of her usual arrogance in her expression. Instead, fear. His shoulders slumped and he sighed, having lost all his anger and his need to yell at her. "Just- just make a list of what you want and get it to me, alright?"

"If it'll get your ugly mug out of my workshop, fine," Kat agreed, turning her back to him.

"Fine," he repeated and marched out, slamming the shop door shut. The bell rang wildly.

"Fine," Kat mumbled and picked up her blowpipe once again but found it impossible to do any more work that evening.

Jamie thundered into Silver Moon. The place was packed but he was barely aware of other bodies as he stomped across the floor already vibrating from the heavy beat of the music. He was late, searching for Kat had been holding him up, and then he had spent way, way too long in her shop. And now he was grumpy. The crowd was watching the band on stage so it wasn't surprising that he found the bar empty, or at least not busy, with everyone having turned around leaning on it to watch the stage. He even had to wave his hand in the bartender's face to be noticed as she too was watching and moving along to the music.

"Sorry, Jamie, didn't see you there," Alice yelled over the loud music. "What can I get you?"

"The regular," he answered, trying to smile as he saw her nod and fish out a bottle from under the bar and open it before she slid it over the counter at him. "Just put it on my tab," he added, and this time gave a real grin as he lifted the bottle to his lips.

"And what would your father say?" Alice asked, leaning both meaty hands on the counter, giving him a pointed look.

"That his son definitely deserves it?"

Alice laughed loudly and gave him a wink. "Don't let him catch you." And with that, she walked off.

"There you are," Josh clapped Jamie on the back, so hard he almost spilled his beer, and draped his arm over his brother's shoulder. In his other hand, he held a cue that he tapped on the floor hard. "I was beginning to worry," he continued, taking a deep swig of his bottle that had dangled from his fingertips. Jamie glanced at him, then lifted his bottle to his lips and quickly emptied the contents, he slammed it down on the counter and without asking grabbed hold of his brother's, emptying that one as well. "Hey that was mine," Josh grumbled, snatching the bottle back, but alas, it was empty.

"Trust me, I needed it more," Jamie grumbled, wiping his mouth.

Josh was about to argue but then laughed as he remembered. "That bad?"

"That woman-" he yelled over the music, "That fucking female is without a doubt the most obstinate, self-righteous, horrible woman I have ever met." Josh laughed harder. "Where does Kat get off being such a bitch? I mean, really? What have I ever done to her?"

Josh shrugged. "Made a bet about-"

"Yes, fine, alright," Jamie snapped, turning to flag down Alice again. This was going to be one of those nights, he could just feel it. He was already angry and frustrated and- and something else he couldn't put his finger on. These last few encounters with Kat had unnerved him, he hadn't seen her much but her presence was constant in his mind. And it was annoying. He hesitated, held the bottle to his lips but didn't drink. He put it down again, raising his finger at his brother. "If she doesn't get her fucking head out of her ass soon and start acting like a normal lupine being, I swear I'm going to…" he trailed off, his anger dissipating as he caught sight of the person at the bar, sitting not too far away, watching him with mild amusement. "Omega Mallard," Jamie coughed out, pushing his hair out of his eyes, his face reddening in embarrassment. "Evening."

"Good evening, Jamie," Bella greeted him. "Don't let me stop your little outburst."

Josh quickly took a swig of his bottle to stop the laugh that threatened to bubble out of his throat. Omega Mallard was Kat's friend, the only one he knew of and he could visibly see the thoughts trying to rearrange themselves in Jamie's head on how to proceed.

Jamie plastered a smile on his face, straining with the effort. "I was just saying what a delight Kathrine Wright is. Such a gem," he pressed out through gritted teeth.

Bella laughed loudly at that, her shoulders shaking so much that the tight bun at the back of her neck threatened to come loose. "You don't have to lie for my sake, I'm aware she's a stubborn brat."

"In that case-" Jamie's grin widened and for a brief second, he envisioned all the ways in which he could describe Kat, but before he could open his mouth again his father slapped a hand on the counter.

"Omega Mallard," he greeted with a grin. "Nice to see you out tonight, but I suppose…" Instead of finishing his sentence, he pointed towards the stage where Max was currently setting up with the band. She gave an affirming nod and a wide grin. Rusty raised an eyebrow at his sons. "Supporting her mate. Like a good mate," he said, stressing the words. "Being mated is always having support."

Josh groaned and Jamie rolled his eyes.

Their father wasn't discouraged and continued his point, "Being mated is wonderful, boys. Even Dylan is going down that route," he said as his eyes lifted to the door opening, seeing Dylan walk in.

The twins both laughed, shaking their heads. "Honestly Dad," Jamie chuckled.

"We've made our positions quite clear on the subject," Josh added, swigging his beer.

Rusty sighed heavily, turning to Bella. "Talk some sense into them, Omega, I beg of you."

She laughed in response and shook her head. "It wouldn't do much good. Like talking to a brick wall." She got off her stool and excused herself, moving closer to the stage to hear Max and his band play.

"I don't get it, boys, Max is mated and he's happy," Rusty grumbled as he wiped down the bar, shaking his head sadly at his sons.

"That's different," Jamie pointed out, "Max wanted to settle down and mate. We-" He pointed between his brother and himself. "-We don't."

Rusty raised an eyebrow at Jamie. "No? You never wanted to get mated?"

Jamie huffed with a growl and twitched his nose. "No," he snapped, "We're never mating."

"Damn right," Josh agreed, swigging his beer, not noticing the sudden discomfort in his brother.

"Alright," Rusty breathed, turning his attention to Josh instead. "It's good to see you out of the house, son. The bar hasn't been the same without you."

And then Josh's smile faded and he shrugged. "Ah well, you know how it is, house guests and all."

"That's what I mean," Rusty grumbled, scratching his beard as he lowered his voice while he lowered himself onto his elbows on the counter. "Everyone knows there are Silverstreams on the territory now, there are whispers in the corners, boy. You playing hosts to a couple of Silverstreams isn't-"

"Three," Josh corrected automatically.


"Three, one woman and two children. They're harmless, Dad."

Rusty grumbled. "Silverstreams are never harmless."

"You think a small six-year-old is going to murder me in my sleep?" Josh said laughingly.

"The woman is not a small six-year-old," Rusty pointed out, "She could be dangerous. I'm just worried about you. You haven't been coming around much, and as much as I would love for you to grow up and out of my bar, playing family with a Silverstream-"

"I am not playing family with a Silverstream," Josh growled, his voice low in case he was overheard. "I'm just helping out Alpha Winter, alright? It's not like I'm enjoying having them there." He shuddered. "The Silverstream stench is all over my house. I can't escape it."

Rusty sighed. "But-"

"I don't want to talk about it," Josh said, cutting him off. "Tonight, I'm out, and I'm taking my freedom back." With that, he emptied his bottle and put it down hard on the counter.

"What's this about freedom?" Dylan interrupted as he came pushing through patrons with a grin. "Josh, good to see you, man. Finally out of the Silverstream den." He clapped him hard on the shoulder with a laugh.

"My den. Mine," Josh corrected him.

"And mine," Jamie added indignantly before they both greeted Dylan. Max appeared by his side not long after, with his arm around Bella, and sweaty from performing.

"On the house, crooner," Rusty said, his handlebar mustache twitching from the wide grin on his face and pushed a beer towards Max. "You look like you need refreshment."

"Not tonight, Rusty," Max said, waving away his offer, sharing a grin with his mate, "Think we'll just head on home." He squeezed Bella and let her go long enough to jump over the counter to retrieve his jacket before they both made their excuses and left, hand in hand, through the crowd and out of the bar.

"Whipped," Josh decided, making Rusty roll his eyes.

"Definitely whipped," Jamie agreed. The twins gave each other a confirming nod, raising their bottles in a solemn toast.

"Dylan, then," Rusty said pushing the bottle at Dylan.

"Yeah, I'll bite," he said, but something in his pocket vibrated and he pulled out his phone. "Ah," he exclaimed with a growing grin. "Raincheck," he announced and waved the phone at the twins. He quickly made his goodbyes and pushed his way through the crowd. Already dialing the number the twins knew belonged to his girlfriend before he exited the bar.

"Doubly whipped," Jamie breathed, and Josh echoed the sentiment as they both shook their heads sadly, frowns deepening.

"That will never be us," Josh said. Jamie agreed, making Rusty groan at the ceiling.

"Don't want it to go to waste now, do we?" Josh said pulling the ownerless beer over to him.

Jamie and Josh both settled in at the counter, taking a stool each. Jamie complained about Kat and his predicament, and Josh grumbled about his. The night moved forward with the usual ease, the music wafted through the loud laughter and chatter of the bar, patrons moved and mingled, and the atmosphere helped the twins ease their troubles slightly for the night. Although Josh couldn't help but think back to his house where three Silverstreams hopefully slept, and Jamie's thoughts kept wandering back to the sweaty, see-through tank top plastered to Kat's skin. Jamie's solution was to work harder to occupy his mind with other things.

"Aaaaand eightball, corner pocket," Jamie said, aiming with his cue. To no one's surprise, he eased the ball into the pocket, ending the game. And earned himself a couple of twenty-dollar bills that he swiftly slid into the chest pocket of his flannel shirt. "Better luck next time, Dave," he said, patting his opponent on the shoulder.

Dave chuckled good-naturedly and was about to suggest a rematch when a voice from the watching crowd called out, "Still cheating, I see."

Jamie sighed with a grin and turned around slowly, leaning on the cue as he eyed the wolf that had stepped forward. "Brad," he called, sweeping a hand out in greeting. "What brings you all the way from the Riverhead pack?"

"You know why I'm here, Morgan," he snarled, his fingers twitching around the cue he was holding. "Rematch. You and me."

Jamie's smile evolved into a smirk as his eyes roamed the bar, eventually finding the pale wolf that had endorsed his bet, Carl. Carl scratched his beard and sighed in resignation. Jamie raised his eyebrow at him, knowing he was about to win the bet. "So eager to lose," Jamie said, turning his attention back to the Riverhead wolf. "Excellent timing, Riverhead, I am just in the right mood tonight."

Jamie was right, as was Carl who had seen the writing on the wall, as less than halfway through their match, Brad had tried to move Jamie's ball on the table.

"I did not, you have no proof," Brad denied vehemently as his two companions stepped forward behind him. "And it's the word of three against one," he added with a slippery smirk.

The bar was growing hot. Josh stepped up to stand beside his brother, leaning on his shoulder as he emptied a bottle. "Well, two, really."

Brad groaned. "There's two of you?" he growled with a sneer as an uncertain squeak emerged in his tone. Jamie and Josh's identical grins widened. The crowd watching held its breath, knowing what was about to happen. Jamie and Josh shared a look, and Josh blocked the first punch from Brad as Jamie tackled one of the other Riverhead wolves, before the bar erupted in distracting chaos.