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Cade leaned back against the counter and sighed, scrubbing his hands over his face. He knew she was not his. He’d never betray his brother, Nina or his Pack that way but god he wanted her.
“Hey.” Tracy walked into the room.
Cade looked around his hands at his youngest sister. She hopped up on the counter and looked at him, seeing it all. “Did you get things arranged at your store?”
“Yeah, Charity is going to handle it. You okay?”
He tousled those golden curls and cupped her cheek. “Yeah. I’m fine. You…I…Nina and I…”
“I know. Neither of you ever would. Lex knows that too. It’s hard with brothers sharing the tri-bond.
Layla has feelings for her anchor too. It’s a common enough thing. You’ll find your own mate and it’ll be easier.”
“I hope so. I’d like to find her. What about you?”
“Yeah, I’d like to find him. I want to share my life with someone and as an added bonus, Mom would have to move on to you, Megan and Tegan.”
He rolled his eyes. “Lucky me. Now go to bed. You’re all going to be getting on the road pretty early in the morning.”
She jumped down and he hugged her. “‘Night, Cade. I love you.”
“I love you too.” He kissed her forehead. “Eyebrow ring.” He shuddered and she laughed and turned and left the room, that dog of hers following in her wake.
Nick Lawrence rolled out of his bed at six-thirty and stretched. He needed to get a workout in before he went out to meet with the Mediator and the Wardens at ten.
He jumped in the shower and put on jeans and a sweater before going back into the bedroom. Opening the curtains, the room brightened.
He sauntered back toward the bed. “Shelley, you need to wake up,” he leaned over and whispered to the redhead currently curled up in his bed.
She woke up and smiled. “Again?”
Laughing, he straightened. “As good an offer as that is, I need to get out the door. The Mediator is in town and I need to prepare. I’ll drop you at home on my way to the gym.”
She sighed and stretched to entice him. He thought about it for a few moments but pushed it away. He didn’t have time. He wanted to work out to clear his head.
Seeing that he was set on what he had to do, she swung her very long legs out of bed and padded into the bathroom. He knew she’d hurry it up. She wasn’t prone to playing games or being difficult. It was one of the reasons he liked her and took her out from time to time.
Nick liked his life. He was thirty years old and second in a Pack with excellent territory. Like the Wardens, his family had dominated the Pack leadership for nearly two hundred years. His brother was Alpha and Nick was fine with that. His brother had a mate and two kids, the future of the Pack was assured and that gave him the freedom to play.
At the gym, he did his Krav Maga workout and some boxing before a good swim, all the while working through the issues in his head. Nick didn’t actually think it was a problem. He liked Lex Warden and thought the Cascadia Pack was fair for a much, much larger and more powerful neighbor. It could have been way worse.
At the same time, two Enforcers from different Packs in the same room would be a huge hassle and he knew it. He could feel his wolf pushing at him, competitive and raging to defeat a perceived challenger.
It was a good thing the Mediator would be there. He’d be much higher in rank than either one of them, even though he was Third in his own Pack. The National Pack was made up of the most powerful wolves in the nation and as such, the Mediator would be more powerful than even an Alpha of another territory.
Showering, he put on a suit and tie and headed to the Pack house to speak with Ben and to pick up his personal assistant.
He smiled as he pulled his Porsche into the driveway. The house was the one he grew up in. His parents still lived on the grounds in a house they’d built after handing Pacific over to Ben fifteen years before, when Nick was still a teenager. The main house was a very large Victorian with big trees all around, a big wraparound porch and even a tire swing in the side yard next to Ben’s kids’ huge playset.
“Whoo-hoo! Don’t you clean up nice.” Ben Lawrence looked up at his brother when he entered the room.
“I get by. You got anything else for me? We’re set to meet in an hour.”
The Mediator had chosen a resort-type hotel outside the city that had expansive grounds. The meeting space would be much different there than if he’d chosen a downtown hotel. More relaxed than corporate.
“You can do your job just fine. I spoke briefly with Cade earlier today. I trust you, I trust them. But I would like you to feel them out on the whole Pellini mess.”
“Gotcha. I’m curious myself but guessing that they aren’t happy with it. There was that mess with their demoted Third turning up dead and it looked like a family hit. Can’t imagine that engendered much positive feeling between them and Cascadia.”
“Yeah. Well, we don’t want to go getting in the middle of this situation, Nick. The Pellinis are powerful.
Who knows? Maybe when this is over they’ll remember that we didn’t take sides.”
“I’m not sure it’s wise to not take sides. This is the mafia, Ben! They’ll bring us all down if we let them.”