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Jessica’s Wolves

By:Becca Jameson

Chapter 1

Jessica Murphy hugged her lined coat a little tighter and squeezed the sides of her hood together around her face. Wind whipped across her cheeks until they felt raw and tight. Leaning against the fence railing, she rested her chin on the rough wood and stared out across the acres of pasture presented like a photograph. White extended as far as she could see, unmarred by any human or animal prints after this morning’s dusting of snow that erased all the smudges and dents that had covered the several inches already in place. Through the small slit she left open for her eyes, the world narrowed until she could almost imagine she lived inside the picture-perfect rolling terrain. Nothing but her and the land.

Footsteps gingerly shuffled toward her from behind. She didn’t turn to look at the intruder. She didn’t need to.

“When are you going to tell them?” The gentle words were not accusatory or angry or worried or even frustrated. They were simply words. A question. One she didn’t know the answer to.

“Tell who what?” She still didn’t turn, but kept her gaze on the pasture, the pure white innocence of the snow sparkling as the sun peeked between the dense clouds. Large glorious flakes still landed all around her and on the fur lining of her hood. She wanted to stick out her tongue and grab a unique piece of fluff, but that would be childish, and this conversation should be a serious one. She needed to pull up her big-girl panties and act like an adult.

Justin didn’t say anything else. He didn’t need to justify her ridiculous counter-question with a response. He merely leaned against the fence alongside her. Glancing his way, she wondered if his gaze interpreted the same thing hers did. Did he too find the expanse of land as beautiful as she did? Did he, or anyone else for that matter, ever stare out at this field and let all of life’s responsibilities just fade into the background for however long one could hold them at bay?

Jessica cleared her throat and reluctantly turned to face her friend’s mate; well, one of them anyway. She was surprised Trevor wasn’t standing here also, doubling their efforts. “This wasn’t supposed to happen. I never meant to come out … ever.” She enunciated that last word so Justin would understand better.

He chuckled. “You say that as if you’re gay.”

“Ha ha. You know what I mean. I wanted to live a normal life. A regular, human, average existence.”

“I see.” His brow furrowed as he stared. “It wouldn’t have worked, you know. At least not for—ever.” He repeated her word. “You can’t deny who you are … what you are. What did you think you were going to do when you met your mate?”

“Ignore him and run for the hills.” Jessica half-chuckled. That had been her plan, actually. Precisely her plan. Until she’d witnessed what happened to her two best friends, her roommates, when they met their mates. Kara and then Lindsey had clearly experienced a sexual frenzy that was undeniable. Even though they were both humans and this world of wolf shifters was new to them, they’d both succumbed, unable to fight the inevitable pull of mates.

Jessica glanced behind her toward the house. It felt awkward standing out here talking to one of Kara’s mates like this.

“They know something’s up. You’ve been avoiding them. Acting kinda strange. They’ve both mentioned it.”

Jessica ducked her head. Lindsey and Kara had been her best friends for four and a half years, ever since they’d been assigned as roommates when they’d arrived at Oregon State University as freshmen. “I’ve been busy. They know that. I’m working.”

“Yes, but they also realize you never come out here to visit. They have to come to you. Jess, they don’t understand why. They’ve spent months pondering the possibilities: ‘Do you think she’s that uncomfortable with our lifestyle? Do you think she blames us for what happened in August?’” Justin enumerated the possibilities her friends had expressed in Kara’s sing-songy tone of voice, making Jess smile. He did a pretty good imitation. A chill went down her spine as she recalled being kidnapped by religious zealots at the end of the summer. Thank God she’d had a pack of wolves to rescue her, literally.

Her expression fell flat when he repeated the initial question. “Jess, they are your friends. You need to trust them. When are you going to tell them?”

Laughter erupted from the house, even though it was quite a distance from where the two stood. Jessica jerked her attention to the back door again, uncomfortable with the conversation and the circumstances. There was a baby shower going on, for heaven’s sake. Shouldn’t Justin be inside with his “wife” opening gifts instead of out here entertaining her wayward friend?