Jasmine Bennett’s gaze locked on the five pregnancy tests littering her bathroom vanity in disbelief. Time slowed. Her mind blanked, refused to accept the visual, the proof of her multi-year sentence. She backed away until she hit the wall. Staring at the plastic sticks, she couldn’t move, couldn’t think, couldn’t breathe.
Five tests. All wrong. All right.
Denial was a hollow holding cell built on baseless facts and misplaced hope. She’d hoped the first test had been wrong. The second test, another brand, another chance, another plus sign. The positive signs on tests three, four and five loomed like red lights on the highway of her life, signaling the end of her freedom.
Goosebumps exploded across her arms and swam across her chest.
Suspicions confirmed, the grilled cheese sandwich from lunch took a dive. Nausea held her hostage, refusing to allow her to leave the small room without accepting her new fate. Leaning against the wall, she breathed in and out. In and out. In and… damn, she was pregnant.
She was going to West Virginia, not Paris.
She had a lover, but was not in love.
She was human, he was not.
The notion of giving birth to his…what did he call them? Pups. She cringed at the idea of birthing… a litter of puppies.
Groaning, she dropped her head into her hands. You’ve done it again… did she wear a sticker on her forehead that read, ‘Men who don’t want to be fathers, apply here?’
She had lived without her former husband’s assistance all those years before he died, and she wasn’t about to go through that again. If Silas expected her to lie down and roll over, he’d knocked up the wrong woman.
A double tap on the front door startled her. It took her a moment to realize it had to be Callum, Alpha Jayden’s son, checking up on her again. He’d visited every day since her sons had left for Texas with Silas. Her gaze flicked over the result of her most exciting sexual escapade ever, and with one swipe she knocked the proof of her current predicament into the trash.
Reaching the entry, she peeked out and then opened the door. “Hello, Callum, nice hat.”
He snatched the blue baseball cap from his head. Thick dark brown hair lay in a perfect symmetrical cut on his head, longer strands in the back brushed against his shoulders. “Thank you, Ma’am. I’m just checking to see if you need anything.” He was a few inches taller than her. Square jawed, with a large nose dominating his face, his somber chocolate-colored gaze touched hers.
Jasmine moved back, allowing him to enter. Ever since the day she had found him in the forest during what she’d discovered later was his first shape-shifter change; he’d become a fixture in her life. “I’m fine, just clearing up a few things.” She pushed away thoughts of her pregnancy; she would deal with those another time. “Want something to drink?”
“Some sweet tea if you have it.” He followed and sat at the breakfast bar in the kitchen.
“I’m beginning to wonder if you come to see me or for the tea,” she said, her voice light and airy needing some humor after her life-altering discovery.
He stood abruptly. “No…no, I’m here to check on you. I don’t need anything else. Please don’t think I’m not grateful for everything, I am. I just…I just like the way you make the drink. Water would be fine.”
It took her a moment to realize he thought she was serious. She burst out laughing.
His red face alerted her that he failed to see the humor.
“I’m…I was just teasing you. I know you come to see me… it was a joke.” She paused, watching him. “A joke to make you laugh, which you aren’t doing, so I should stop laughing.” His reaction had the effect of pouring cold water over her head. She sobered and touched his shoulder.
“Honestly, it was a joke. I wasn’t laughing at you per se.”
“I understand.” He looked away, his voice softened. “And I know you were teasing. It took me a moment to figure it out, but by then I was embarrassed by my reaction.” He twisted the cap tight. “Father says I’m too serious. He says I need to relax, lighten up. That’s one of the reasons he never refuses my visits to you. He thinks you’re helping me learn not to take myself so seriously.”
Eying the wrinkled cap, she remained quiet and poured them both glasses of tea.
“Do you think I’m stiff? Or too serious?”
“Stiff? I don’t know. But you are very serious for someone so young. You’re only sixteen, right?”
“Most our conversations have been about your preparation for Alpha training, pack protocol, learning to cook, or running a den so you’ll be a better Alpha. Don’t get me wrong, preparing for your future is great, but I think you’re throwing away your childhood. Now’s the time to have adventures, make mistakes, get into trouble.”
His jaw dropped.
“Kids are allowed to get it wrong, they get a pass. Adults…not so much.”
“Get into trouble? Have adventures? What? Is that what Tyrone and Tyrese did?” The eagerness in his voice made him sound much younger.
Jasmine hid a smile.
“Is water wet? You better believe they did. When they get back I’ll have them tell you about some of their escapades. I had my hands full with those two.” Seeing him torture the cap, she motioned for him to follow her to the living room. Obviously there was more on his mind and she preferred to be comfortable if they were going to have a long conversation.
“And now…” he cleared his throat after she had taken her seat. “You’re breeding.”
Her head whipped around and she stared at him. “What?” she asked in a horrified whisper. She had accepted her pregnancy minutes ago. How could Callum know?
Red faced, his thumb wiped the moisture from the glass. “You’re breeding. I can smell it. But the scent is a little different than some of the pack bitches.”
Her throat tightened. “Smell?” She shook her head, certain she’d misheard him. “Did you say you can smell my…a pregnancy?”
His hand stilled. “Pregnancy? If that’s breeding, then yes. The scent is stronger now, but it’s been changing since the day in the forest.” He met her steady gaze. “Is everything okay?”
“You’re referring to the day when I found you changing into your wolf? That day?”
Her heart knocked her back and took flight. Right after finding him she went into what her sons told her was a mating heat. Warmth rushed up her neck choking her. She’d been so horny she couldn’t think. Somehow her fired-up libido had sent out a 911 call to every wolf in the compound. Wolves fought to be the one who put out her flame and scratch her itch.
Being human, she could have been killed, or at least that’s what they had thought at the time. The more her sons learned about her ability to do what should be impossible, giving birth to shifters, the more they discovered her body’s amazing capabilities. According to her sons, women like her lived long lives, healed fast, were strong and could take quite a bit of physical abuse.
“Ma’am?” his low voice filled with uncertainty, pulled her back.
Jasmine noticed the concerned look on Callum’s face and offered a small smile. She thought she had time to muddle through the idea of changing diapers, using bottles, and giving birth. She should have known better. No doubt Silas had smelled her condition before he left.
“Just thinking about what you said, starting over, babies and the whole package deal. I hadn’t really given it much thought.” She twisted her neck from side to side to relieve the pressure. “I need to start doing that.” She sighed. Having more children was not what she’d meant when she’d decided to do something different with her life.
“I guess a trip to my doctor is in order,” she said, hoping she sounded, at the very least, neutral.
He shot up, grinning like he had won the lottery and jammed the cap on his head. “My mom’s doctor is in town. Much closer.”
Brow raised, she stared him down. Silas hadn’t said she was a prisoner, but you never knew when dealing with the Top guy. “How close? On the grounds or in town?” she asked, her tone suspicious.
Her shoulders relaxed a fraction. “Okay. I’ll call and make an appointment.”
“It’s already taken care of,” he said, tripping over his words. “The Patron took care of it. I’m supposed to tell you it’s in an hour.”
Aggravation raced across her chest. “They sent you? Instead of allowing me to set up my own damn…” She threw up her hands.
“I’m sorry.” Red faced, he took a step back.
Inhaling deeply, she reined in her temper. Good dick notwithstanding, Silas Knight was a pain in her ass. Then it hit her, Silas probably selected an expert for her special situation.
“No. I’m sorry. I’m not angry, not at you. It’s just…it doesn’t matter.” She stood and finger combed her braids. “I’m going to get dressed.” She glanced at him, hoping he took the hint to leave.
He fidgeted a bit. “I’d like to go with you, but if you don’t want me to, I understand.” He spoke fast and stared at the floor. She didn’t want anyone with her when she spoke to the doctor.
“Thanks for offering, but no. Let’s go for our walk later, around five instead of three. That’ll give me some time to get a few things taken care of.” She needed to call Renee and her mother. Renee would freak, but she’d be happy. Jasmine wasn’t sure what her mom would say, after their last conversation regarding Jasmine’s twin who died at birth, they hadn’t talked much.
Subdued, Callum walked slowly to the door. “The car will be here for you in forty minutes.”