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Alpha (Shifters #6)(10)

By:Rachel Vincent

Jace smiled, and his whole face lit up. “Should I go say something? Make some sort of formal declaration?” He leaned closer to whisper into my hair. “Or thank him for not ripping my lungs out through my throat for sleeping with his daughter?”
I grinned. I couldn’t help it. I hadn’t seen him look truly happy for more than a minute at a time since Ethan died, and I wanted so badly to make him happy. To keep him smiling. When Jace smiled, I felt warm inside. He took the edge off the winter-in-the mountains chill. “I think that would be a little awkward right now. He’s telling them.”
I nodded toward the living room, where my dad sat with Di Carlo and all three of his enforcers. As humiliating as it was for me—and even more so for Marc—my dad’s allies needed to know what was going on, since it would probably be used against us in the vote. Full disclosure to our allies—that was one of the things my father offered, but Malone did not. Surely once we’d disclosed Malone’s crimes, those Alphas who didn’t already know about them—we were pretty sure Wes Gardner and Nick Davidson were completely in the dark—would jump ship. How could they vote for a traitor and a murderer?
“I want to kiss you.” Jace’s whisper pulled me from my thoughts and I glanced up to find his eyes blazing with raw need. “Just because Marc won’t touch you doesn’t mean I shouldn’t. Right? I don’t have that kind of self-control, and honestly, I don’t see the point in it. Are you supposed to be impressed by how long we can go without touching you? ’Cause if that’s the game we’re playing, I think I’d rather lose.” 
I almost melted from relief at his declaration, even with the wash of guilt that followed it. I was tired of being untouched. Alone in a room full of people. How was I supposed to choose who I wanted to spend the rest of my life with, if I couldn’t be alone with either of them, allowed to feel anything that wasn’t pain and regret? How was denying everything that felt good about love supposed to help me make my choice?
Jace saw my indecision and tugged me into the hall, out of view from the living room. He pressed me against the wood-paneled wall, and my hands found his chest on their own, before I even realized what I was doing.
“It’s not wrong, Faythe,” he whispered, and my heart ached from wanting so badly to believe him. “This is what we’re supposed to be doing. Exploring our relationship. Helping you choose.” He ran his hands lightly over my arms, raising chill bumps the length of my body.
“You think my decision should be based on who kisses best?” I barely breathed the words, my eyes closed, trying to resist what felt so wrong, yet so right.
“We both know it’s about more than that, but it’s physical, too, and I don’t want you to forget what I feel like.” Jace leaned into me, sliding one knee between mine, and his skin was hot, even through our clothing. “What I taste like… But if this is a contest, that makes you the judge.” One side of his perfect mouth turned up in a wicked grin. “So how ’bout it? Who’s better?”
“Mmmm…” I purred as he rubbed his cheek along my temple. “It’s been a while. I’m not sure I remember.”
His breath brushed my cheek from centimeters away. “Let me remind you. Let me kiss you, Faythe.” His voice was low and gravelly, almost broken with need for me, and I was overwhelmed by the power of that need.
A kiss wasn’t all he wanted; I could feel that much with him pressed against me. But it was a damn good start.
“I’m going to kiss you,” he said, when I didn’t answer.
Yes… No sound came out, but he heard me, anyway.
Jace’s lips met mine, and I tilted my head up to meet him. My mouth opened, and the kiss deepened. He was hungry for me, and I was half-starved from the recent famine. His lips were hot, his hands warm on my hips, even through my clothes. My arms slid around his back, feeling the play of muscles with each minute movement.
His tongue dipped into my mouth, and suddenly I ached in other, more sensitive places. We were making out in the hall, in full view, should anyone walk in. The thrill of possible discovery was unmitigated by the fact that everyone knew. That we were no longer stealing hidden comfort kisses in the throes of bitter pain and chaos. If anything, I wanted him more now. And he clearly wanted me….
The screen door squealed open from the kitchen. I jerked back from Jace and smacked my head on the wall. But he wasn’t interested in stopping and I wasn’t fast enough. Marc stood in the doorway, hands fisted at his sides, face lined in pain.
Jace stepped back and I straightened my shirt, but the damage was done.
Marc had only seen me with Jace once, in my bedroom, when I’d first returned to the ranch. It wasn’t real back then. Because I hadn’t taken Jace seriously, and Marc and I weren’t even together at the time. But Marc had ripped my door from its hinges and broken through the Sheetrock with Jace’s head.“Don’t stop on my account,” he snapped, jaw bulging furiously. “Hell, why don’t we sell tickets?” He stopped when intrusive silence descended from the living room. Marc scrubbed his face with both hands, then crossed his arms over his chest and stared at the floor, clearly trying to get control of his temper.
“No.” He looked up, flames raging behind his eyes. “Outside, if you want to talk.”
I nodded and headed for the kitchen, grateful that he hadn’t just stormed out again. Jace started to follow me, and Marc turned on him, growling, pulling one fist back.
“Stop!” I shouted. My father appeared in the doorway, tense and angry. Jace practically buzzed with fury. I sucked in a deep breath and grabbed Marc’s arm, pushing it down steadily while I stared straight into his eyes. I begged him silently to back off, fully aware that if he wasn’t willing to, I couldn’t make him.
“Faythe…” My father’s warning held little of the sympathy he’d shown earlier. He wouldn’t judge me, but he would preserve order. He had to. And so did I. “If you can’t handle this, I will.”
“It’s okay. I got it.” I let go of Marc’s fist and it stayed down, though his eyes still flashed with anger and an underlying personal agony. I gestured for Marc to head on out. Jace tried to follow again, and this time I stepped into his path. “Jace, give us a minute.”
“Hell, no!” He was tense all over, and I could feel fury radiating like heat from a bonfire. “You shouldn’t be alone with him when he’s like this.”
My dad growled in warning, and I glared at Jace. “Don’t tell me where I shouldn’t be. Stay here. I need to talk to Marc.”
He scowled, but nodded. I shot an apologetic glance at my father, then ran out the back door after Marc. But the backyard was empty. I raced down the steps, adrenaline flooding my veins, demanding an immediate search.
“Over here,” Marc said, and I whirled around to find him leaning against the shed near the tree line. I jogged across the yard and into the shed while he held the door open for me. He yanked the pull chain on the light, then leaned against the closed door, and I held up the wall next to him, giving him the two feet of distance he seemed to prefer.
I pushed hair behind my ears, wishing he’d look at me. Wishing he’d touch me, and show me that he could still feel something for me other than anger, even if that something else was buried way down deep.
But instead, he stuffed his hands into his pockets, reinforcing the physical and emotional distance he was building. He blinked into the glare from the naked bulb, and his face was blank. Completely unreadable. 
“You were really going to hurt him.” I’d read that much in his posture. And then Jace would have hurt him back, and the situation would have been unrecoverable.
He rolled his eyes and let his head fall against the wood plank wall at his back. “Do you blame me?”
I sighed. He had every right to be pissed, but I had to think about the good of the Pride. “If this war really happens, we’re going to need him, and you know it.”
“Maybe you both should have thought of that before you let him shove his tongue down your throat in front of—” Marc’s voice broke beneath obvious anguish, and my heart suddenly felt like it weighed ten pounds. “Why are you doing this to me, Faythe? Am I not suffering enough, knowing he’s been inside you? Is the floor show just to give me a visual? To make sure I know exactly how much you like it…?”
“No!” I took a deep breath, trying to compose my thoughts. “Marc, I’m not trying to hurt you. I swear. I just… You say I have to choose, but I don’t know how to do that if you won’t come near me, and you won’t let him near me, either. You won’t touch me, Marc. Not a hug. Not a kiss. You won’t even sit less than two feet from me.”
“And your solution is to let him grope you in plain sight?”
“I just wanted to know I wasn’t alone.” I closed my eyes, grasping for an explanation he’d understand. “I know how he feels. He wants to show me how he feels about me, and you don’t. You won’t. I miss you, and missing you is so much harder when I can still see you, and hear you, and smell you, but you won’t touch me. You hardly ever even look at me unless you’re too pissed off to avoid it, and I can’t tell if you still want me, or if you just want to make me pay for what I did.”