“I’ll manage.” She didn’t look at him as she spoke, dismissing him with her body language.
Ward folded his arms across his chest.
“Um…this is kind of private.” Her eyes widened.
“A few quick rules before I allow you to shower. For your own good.” he added when she narrowed her eyes and cocked her head.
“You stay at my side at all times…when I say at all times, I mean it. There are males out there that would see you dead in a heartbeat. The fact that you are a female means nothing. Your kind is not welcome in my territory.”
“Listen, Mister…wolf.” She remained polite, her voice even. “I didn’t ask to be stolen away from my people. I didn’t ask for you to attack us in the first place. As to my being female, I just had a very definite taste of what your males would do to me.”
Ward felt his blood ignite. A knot twisted in his belly. “What happened with Hayden was inexcusable. The male worries me. It is something I will deal with. You need to know that you are in no danger of being rutted against your will by one of my males, but make no mistake that they will not hesitate to remove your head or burn you at the stake.”
Stephany kept her composure, which impressed him.
“I apologize for the way you were treated. It should never have happened. I don’t want anything to happen to you.”
She pursed her lips. “Okay so let me get this straight, my only crime is that I am a vampire? For this I deserve persecution? There is no love lost between our species, but I would’ve thought that being a non-human species in general meant that we were somehow on the same side at the end of the day.”
“Look, it’s complicated.” He sighed shaking his head. “Quite frankly I have no idea what any of them would do if they got their hands on you, but I don’t want to take any chances. You are right, there is no love lost between our species. We are not on the same side. Never have been, never will be. It is that type of arrogance that makes it so.”
She shook her head. “It is not arrogance, but simple fact. We vampires may not want to move in next to you, but we have no issues with the shifters’ existence in general. At least we won’t once you swear your allegiance. You must realize though wolf that after this fiasco, my kings will make you work for their forgiveness. Which is your own fault, seeing as we were quite content with keeping our distance.”
A snort escaped him. “You tolerate us as long as we stay in line. For centuries your species have occupied the best territories. Do the townsfolk of Sweetwater even know who their landlords are? Every time I so much as raise my voice, I’m expected to go down on one knee at the feet of one or both of the kings. We can do as we please as long as it doesn’t mess with their plans. They can do as they please period. Regardless of how it affects the rest of us. I’m done grovelling.”
A thoughtful expression crossed her face. “You will be annihilated.”
“They have to find us first.”
She shrugged. “You can’t run forever.”
“I don’t plan to.” He ran a hand through his hair. “Look, you should never have been taken. It was a mistake. One I plan on rectifying. I need a few days to let things cool down and then I’ll take you back.”
The female narrowed her eyes at him.
“I mean it…I’ll take you back myself. Until then, we need to keep you safe. Also”—he grit his teeth, contemplating how he should best continue—“there are things about us that would be best kept a secret. If you were to find them out, then I would have to keep you…here. You would never be permitted to leave.”