I’d been so intent on avoiding the men I’d escaped from that I’d only kept a minimal contact with the Pride. A few phone calls here and there to Sara had been the only thing I’d given her. She’d always been upbeat on the phone though, asking about me and my activities, and never sharing the news of the cancer that had slowly been spreading throughout her body. The one that had taken her away from me…from us.
I gasped, sniffed, then rubbed my cheeks. Minutes later, I found myself sitting up against a wall, hiding my face against my knees as I tried to stop crying. To no avail.
I hadn’t told her I loved her…
God, I’d been so stupid. So damn selfish too.
“Jade, you’ve got to let it go,” the rough male voice rang above my head seconds before arms wrapped around me. He pulled me up, and I snuggled against his chest, my tears wetting his T-shirt until it clung to him like a second skin. “Shhh, baby, it’s going to be all right.” His hand started a soothing up-and-down motion on my back, my breathing adapting itself to the slow movements after a short while. “That’s it, sweetheart,” he whispered into my hair.
I finally looked up, and even knowing I probably looked like crap with reddened eyes and a blotchy face, I couldn’t help but shiver at the intensity of his gaze. “Leo… Thanks.”
He nodded and stepped away. “She didn’t want to worry you.”
“She should have told me!”
“No, Jade, it was her decision. My mother wouldn’t want you to cry. She would want you to look to the future and be the woman she’d always thought you’d become.”
Our gazes locked, and I nearly started crying again. Leo wasn’t big on speeches, but when he spoke up, you listened. He was our leader. No, he had been our leader. “What’s going to happen now?” I asked, my voice hesitant.
“We have a month to hold our courtship. If you haven’t picked a mate by that time, we’ll battle it out.”
“Battle it out?” This time, my voice came out as a squeak.
“Yes.” His response was curt. “Now, eat something and go to bed. Tomorrow is going to be a long day.”
“Why’s that?” I asked as I watched him turn around and head for the front door.
“It’s Monday.” And with that, he left.
I felt my eyebrows rise in wonder at his parting words. What was wrong with tomorrow being a Monday? Had they instituted a new Pride tradition on Mondays? Was I really that out of touch? “Damn,” I swore before letting out a heavy sigh. I guess I’d just have to wait and see.
The usual then…
Men and Their Plans
“You heard me, Jade.”
I blinked in the bright sunlight, regretting not having slid my shades on before stepping outside to meet the men. We were standing in the center yard, a wide green space that divided the females’ area from the males’ cabins. Of course, now that it was only them and me, it didn’t really matter. I avoided looking at the empty houses around me and focused my gaze on Leo once more. “What do you mean, you each get a day?”
“There are five of us. We’ll each have a day to court you. You’ll be with me on Mondays, Logan on Tuesdays, Wednesday will be Samuel, Thursday Trent, and Brian on Fridays. You can have the weekend to yourself.”
“That’s so nice of you.”
He ignored my sarcastic comment and kept on talking, “Like I told you previously, this means we have the next four weeks to make you our mate.”