Alpha Province: Puppet Strings(10)

By: Becca Van

She saw Gabe nod at the Fox brothers from the corner of her eye. Just as she was about to ask what was going on, Bladen began to speak. “The term ‘mate’ is used as an alternative for ‘wife,’ however being a mate is so much more.”

“What Bladen is trying to say is that the men in this town are all shifters, and we, the women, are their mates,” Elsa said.

Bladen stared at Sage, waiting for her reaction. She sat there frozen in her seat as if she was an ice sculpture, but seconds later her mouth dropped open and her eyes widened. She opened and closed her mouth a few times before snapping it closed again. Her eyes had been flitting from one man to another, but she locked gazes with Elsa again.

Say the fuck what? These people have got to be completely crazy.

“Are you serious?”

No fucking way.

Is this their attempt at an initiation joke?

“As a heart attack,” Elsa answered.

“But…what…how…why…” Sage shook her head as she slowly rose to her feet. She stumbled over the chair but steadied herself by gripping the edge of the table. “Have you been drinking?”

“No.” Elsa stood, reaching out toward Sage. Sage straightened before backing away from the table, her eyes gazing wildly about the room. “I’m not lying or joking with you, Sage. I would never do that. I know it’s hard to believe, but it’s true.”

“Are you crazy?” Sage asked stridently.

“No,” Elsa sighed, turning her gaze to Liam. “Can you show her?”

“No!” Dax shouted as he stood. “That’s our job.”

“Uh, okay. Sorry.” Elsa crossed her arms.

“Don’t you fucking talk to my mate like that,” Gabe stated in a growly voice.

As soon as they started arguing, Sage was transported back to the night her ex had beaten her. A fine sheen of sweat broke out over her skin, and she covered her ears as she began to pant. She backed up until she bumped into the counter. She was about to make a run for it, but her legs, her whole body was so weak with terror, she couldn’t move. She was so scared she felt as if she was going to pee her pants.

When big hands gripped her wrists, pulling her hands away from her ears, she lost it, screaming so loudly she hurt her own eardrums. Tears welled before rolling down her face, and her knees buckled. Closing her eyes in expectation of pain when she landed hard on the floor, she gasped in a breath, but she never hit. Instead she was scooped up into muscular arms, cradled against a hard, warm chest.

Sage took a breath through her nose, inhaling Bladen’s unique masculine scent deep into her lungs. He smelt so good, she couldn’t help breathing him in again and again. His aroma was a mix of wild earth and musk, a fragrance that tantalized her senses and set her body on fire. When she noticed she was shaking, she wasn’t sure if it was because of the hunger heating her blood or the fear coursing through her veins. Maybe it was a combination of both.

“It’s okay, baby. You’re safe. We’d never hurt you,” Bladen crooned in his deep gravelly voice. She nearly giggled hysterically when she realized he was trying to soften his gruff tone for her.

“Everything is going to be all right, Sage,” Elsa said as Bladen sat down placing her on his lap. “Will you please look at me?”

Sage surreptitiously wiped the moisture on her cheeks on Bladen’s T-shirt, hoping he didn’t mind before she lifted her face from his chest, turning her gaze toward her boss.

“The men in this town, Bladen, Cason, and Daxon included, are retired Marines and would never, ever hurt anyone weaker than they are. They have such big hearts and hate it when especially women and children are in danger. They’d put themselves in the line of fire without a qualm for their own lives if it meant keeping other people safe.”

Sage nodded her acknowledgment.

“Do you believe me?” Elsa asked.

Sage wanted to say yes, but she didn’t know any of these people. For all she knew Elsa could be telling her these things to make her complacent, an easy target, but as she stared into the other woman’s eyes and thought over her words, she knew she was wrong. There had been so much conviction in her tone and sincerity in her eyes, there was no reason for her skepticism. “I do,” she finally answered. “Were you telling the truth about…shifters?”

“I was,” Elsa replied resolutely as she reached over toward Gabe, clasping his hand with hers. “You need to apologize to Sage and Bladen. He wasn’t angry at me, Gabe.”

Gabe nodded, scrubbed a hand down his face, and sighed before meeting her eyes. “I’m sorry if I scared you, Sage. That wasn’t my intention. As Elsa said, us men are all very protective of our mates, our women, and if someone raises their voice to Elsa, I’ll be damned sure to step in.”

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