She's more trouble than he bargained for, but he can't very well leave her to live in her car.More info →
Alasdair MacLeod growled at the impertinent wench who had placed her hand on his shoulder. She was buxom and bonnie to be sure, but she wasn’t his type. Truth be told, he hadn’t had a type in a while, preferring to ease his frustrations with his hand rather than succumb to the charms of gold digging lasses. As head of his clan, and alpha of his ambush, he dealt with power hungry women all the time. It was an unfortunate side effect of his rather impressive stature and wealth.
The blonde jerked her hand back, her eyes widening. He saw the pulse leap in her throat and fought his beast’s urge to go for the kill. Alasdair watched as she backed away slowly, as if frightened he might chase her should she run, and really, she had cause for alarm. No one touched him without permission, not if they wanted to keep their hands attached to their bodies at any rate.
“That was just mean,” his beta said with a laugh. “Poor thing just wanted to warm your bed for a night or two.”
“Sure she did. And if I happened to leave her a bit of money on the dresser, I’m sure she would have hastened to snatch it up. Money grubbing whore,” Alasdair said, his brogue thickening with his irritation.
Brochan Kinley just shook his head. “No’ all women are like that. Is it so hard to imagine that she was just interested in you? It’s the whole bad boy image you exude. The motorcycle, tattoos, piercings. You have to admit, you aren’t a typical clan chief.”
“Be that as it may, everyone knows to keep their hands to themselves. I’m just as likely to bite it off as shake it.”
“More likely you mean.” Brochan snorted.
“Forget the wench. You said you had news of my brother. What’s Fergus done now?”
“No’ Fergus. Evan.”
Alasdair’s brows slammed together as he scowled fiercely at his beta. “Dinnae be talkin’ ill of the dead.”
“I didnae say a word against your littlest brother. I merely said I had news of him.”
“What? A message from the heavens?” Alasdair gave a bark of laughter. “Hell is more like it.”
“It seems your brother got himself into a wee bit of trouble about eight months ago.”
“How wee is this trouble?” Alasdair asked.
“Weel…no’ as big as it will be in another month.”
“What the hell are you blathering about?”
Brochan sighed. “I didnae want to tell you this way, but it seems you’re going to be an uncle. And soon. There was a lass in the country that Evan had been seein’ every now and then. It seems she’s in the family way, and after a bit of digging, I discovered that your brother is the likely father of that child.”
Alasdair tipped his head and heaved out a sigh, closing his eyes against the pain of loss he felt whenever he thought of Evan. It was just like Evan to knock up some penniless lass then expect Alasdair to clean up the mess. His brother had always been flighty, jumping from one thing to another, including women, and always expecting his big brother to fix everything when it went to shit. It seemed death hadn’t stopped that if what Brochan said was true.
“And when can I expect to hear from the lass?” Alasdair said, his gaze settling on his beta.
“I reached out to her last week. She was surprised at the news that Evan was dead. She’d thought he’d just skipped out on her.” Brochan rubbed the back of his neck. “I’m afraid it’s worse.”
“How? How could it possibly be worse?”
“She disnae have any family left and her home was being foreclosed. There was a sign in the yard when I stopped by. If you could call it a yard,” he muttered. “I’d say the lass has been in a bad way for a while now, and yet she didnae attempt to track down Evan or you for support. She’s a stubborn slip of a thing, determined to do things her own way.”
“And you’re sure this child is Evan’s?” Alasdair asked.
“Positive.” Brochan nodded. “Word around her village is that she hasn’t been seen with any other young men, and the consensus was that your dearly departed brother took her virginity. She’s a bit young still, not much more than a babe herself.”
Christ! That was just what he needed. Some snot nosed kid about to have a kid of her own. Despite what Brochan said, Alasdair had no doubt the lass would come looking for a handout, assuming she knew who Evan was. Did she even realize she was carrying a shifter child? Honestly, the fact she was pregnant at all was a miracle. Tiger cubs were difficult to conceive, and yet his little brother had done so without even trying. Alasdair had to assume he wasn’t trying at any rate.
“What are you going to do?” Brochan asked. “I can tell you’re less than pleased.”
“She’ll want something. They always do,” Alasdair said. “The question is whether or no’ she’ll be satisfied with money.”
“Poor wee thing could use it.” Brochan took a swallow of ale. “Did you ever stop to consider that Evan may have liked this lass more than the others? He saw her rather frequently, up until his death.”
“And yet she has no’ come looking for him,” Alasdair pointed out. “What does that say about their relationship?”
“Maybe you should meet with the lass. She’s only an hour’s journey from here.”
Brochan had a point. Alasdair could meet her without telling her who he was, assess the situation and go from there. If she seemed like a gold digger, then he’d let her fall on her ass and leave her in the dirt. But what if she was an innocent bystander in his brother’s folly? Not that he believed anyone was ever truly innocent. She hadn’t gotten in her condition without being a willing participant. His brother might have been a lot of things, but a rapist wasn’t one of them.
Alasdair frowned. “What?”
“Her name,” Brochan said. “It’s Kenzy Ross.”
Kenzy Ross. You have no idea what you’ve gotten yourself into, lass. Alasdair drained the last of his ale and rose to his feet. Might as well check out the situation tonight, when Miss Kenzy Ross would least expect him.
Kenzy stretched, her hands braced on her lower back. Sweat trickled from her temple and down her cheek, slipping down the column of her neck and into her shirt. It was her last clean shirt and was by far the rattiest, but without a home, she couldn’t very well wash clothes. She’d been living in her car since the previous day, when the bank had come to foreclose her property, throwing her belongings out on the curb. She’d managed to gather her maternity clothes, her mother’s locket, and her father’s favorite shirt. Everything else was gone.
Opening her car door, she slid back in, reclining the seat as far back as it would go, which wasn’t very far but it would have to do. Kenzy groaned, thinking of how nice it would be to sleep in a soft bed, in the air conditioning, but there was no point in wishing for something that wouldn’t happen. She had exactly thirty-three euros in her account. Enough for a few meals, but it wasn’t going to last past tomorrow. If she hadn’t lost her job, maybe things would have been better, but their small library had decided they didn’t need her services any longer and she’d been let go without notice.
A dark shape approached her vehicle and she looked out the window. Large golden eyes stared back at her in an orange and black striped face. Her hand flew to her mouth as her heart raced out of control. Since Kenzy knew there were no wild tigers in the area, she assumed it must be a shifter. And if it was a tiger shifter that meant it was probably related to Evan. Her dear, sweet, funny Evan.
Tears gathered in her eyes as she thought about the man she’d loved. Or at least, she’d thought she loved him. When he’d disappeared from her life, her heart had broken a little, but she’d been able to pick up the pieces easily enough. Now that she looked back on their time together, they’d had fun, but she could see that he’d never been serious about her, and even if he’d been alive when she’d discovered she was pregnant, it wasn’t likely he would have stuck around.
The tiger took a step back, then its form shimmered and a rather deliciously muscled and very naked male stood in its place. Her cheeks flamed as she realized she was eye level with a part of him she should probably never see. Quickly casting her gaze down, she reached for the handle of the car with a shaky hand, finally popping the door open and easing her way out of the car.
“Kenzy Ross?” the man asked, his voice a deep growl that sent shivers down her spine.
“I’m Alasdair MacLeod. Evan’s eldest brother.”
“I’m sorry for your loss. I only learned of his death recently.”
Alasdair nodded. “Why are you in your car in the middle of the night?”
Her cheeks burned with embarrassment and she clamped her lips together.
“Answer me,” he demanded harshly, his eyes flashing in the moonlight.
“I had nowhere else to go. Satisfied? Is that what you wanted to hear? I’m eight months pregnant and I’ve lost my job and my home.”
The intensity of his gaze burned through her. “Why did you no’ come to me for help? That’s Evan’s child you’re carrying, is it no’?”
“Of course it’s Evan’s,” she said, cradling her stomach and the child growing within. “If you want to know why I didnae come knocking on your door, it’s because I dinnae need you. We’re fine on our own.”
He gave her rundown car a baleful look. “Really? Because it would seem otherwise.”
Humiliation burned through her as she tugged on the hem of her tee, it was frayed from many washings and she worried it would unravel under her fingertips.
Alasdair heaved a sigh. “Christ, lass. You cannae stay here. No’ like this. You need a roof over your head, a bed to sleep in, and food in your belly. Obviously, you will nae be receiving those things on your own.”
“What are you saying?” she asked.
“That you need to come home with me.”
She shook her head frantically.
“None of that,” he said. “You’re no’ doing so well on your own and I cannae in good conscience allow my brother’s child to be born in the backseat of that rusted heap you call a car. You dinnae have a way to pay for food, do you? Or diapers once the lad is born?”
“Lass,” she whispered. “It’s a girl.”
“You’re quite sure?”
She nodded. “I had an ultrasound a few months ago. They told me then it was a girl.”
“All right. A lass then. Do you want her to be born out here? Or would you prefer to come with me and allow someone to watch over you? Help you get back on your feet?”
She chewed on her lower lip. His offer was tempting, even if she didn’t know him. Evan had often spoken of his brothers, but he’d always said Alasdair was hard. Stern. And completely emotionless unless anger was involved. But if that were true, would he care one way or another if she lived in her car? Would it bother him that she might go hungry or without proper medical care? He couldn’t be all bad, could he?
“My truck is at your old house,” Alasdair said. “I’ll shift and run back. Meet me there.”
His body began to shimmer and she held out a hand. “Wait!”
He stopped mid-shift, his eyes a golden ember glowing in the night. “What is it, lass?”
“You…you could ride with me. Unless you prefer to…” She gestured toward him.
“A good run is what I need about now,” he said. “I’ll meet you at the house.”
Before she could utter another protest, he’d shifted back into his cat form, a rather magnificent sight if she did say so, and he bounded off into the darkness. Kenzy slipped back into her car, cranked the engine, and began the short journey to her old home. Something told her that nothing would ever be the same again.