Bitten Under Fire(14)By: Heather Long
Neither man would be pleased.
“What’s the fascination?” The quiet question pulled his attention.
“Not sure it’s fascination.” Denying the accusation didn’t make it go away. “She’s got grit—and she was out there alone, against a lot of nasty guys, and she kept it together for her and the kid.”
McGinnis quieted a moment, her expression thoughtful. “Understood, Sergeant. My apologies for suggesting otherwise.”
“She’s a good-looking woman, no need to apologize.” And his interest in her went a shade deeper than her heroism. If his bite inadvertently turned her, he couldn’t let her wander off to face the change alone. He also had to be ready to face the consequences of his actions.
My father won’t be pleased. His heart fisted at the thought of the old man. Reuben Castillo, Alpha of the Guadalupe Pack, would kick his ass five ways from next week. His father had no patience for fools or careless mistakes—he had even less tolerance for them in his son. Cage spent his whole life failing to live up to the old man’s high standards.
“I’ll get back on the report. Are you going to stay with her?”
He’d almost forgotten McGinnis was still with him. Was he going to stay? His guys were back in a ward room, catching a nap before they were airlifted off and back to the Edge. They had to be wondering what was taking him so long, but no one had come looking for him.
“Yeah,” he admitted. “I’m going to go grab her a meal, then bring it back here. Want anything?” If he planned to lift something for Bianca from the officer’s mess, he might as well do right by the corpsman.
“I could use coffee and a sandwich. Nothing fancy or likely to get me written up.”
With a nod, he slipped out the hatch and made his way to the mess. Sandwiches might be easier for Bianca to eat anyway. He could save a fancier meal for another time. Eating what was on hand and available had become a habit, no matter how hungry he was. Thankfully, he’d never been a picky eater, not even at home with his pack. With his team, he’d learned to adapt to every circumstance. They all had their own experiences, habits, and traditions. Blending together meant learning from each other. An unexpected side effect of volunteering, he supposed.
Serving on Bravo Team WOLF was supposed to be his way to achieve respect in his father’s eyes, to prove his value not only to the pack but to the alpha who led them. Reuben had never been only his father; as alpha he couldn’t afford to go easy on Cage.
Even more aggravating, Cage wasn’t even sure most days whether or not he wanted to achieve his father’s approval. Part of him rejected the struggle to rise above pup where his father was concerned. Yet he craved the wolf’s respect. To stand on even footing with him, and be regarded as worthy.
The conflicting desires irritated him every time it came up. He was a grown man, dammit. A veteran wolf, a victorious one. Growling under his breath, he shoved those thoughts aside. He didn’t have time or energy to focus on the ways he’d screwed up over the years. The mission had gone smoothly; they’d retrieved the ambassador’s son and saved Bianca. He was damn proud of his accomplishments.
Except I bit her. He’d fucking bitten her when he’d been saving her. Biting her wasn’t the end of the world. As far as he could recall, it took more than one bite. But he’d been damn careful for years—they were always careful.
Yet he’d bitten her.
So he told himself to stay with her. He should be able to scent if the change had been activated, right?
At the mess, he waited his turn behind a line of sailors. Conversation washed over him from a dozen different directions, but he ignored them. What the hell happened to a human when they were turned? The last one he’d seen had been, what, a little over two decades before? Why did it feel like a million years? He’d been twelve, barely old enough to join the adults on the hunt. Reuben had taken one of the senior soldiers to task for a relationship he’d been maintaining with a woman in the nearby town of Rio del Anton.
Pinching the bridge of his nose, Cage calmed his wolf. The animal began pacing inside of him restlessly. Too many men in close quarters that he didn’t know. None of his men were around to watch his back—and Bianca was a deck and four partitions away. When it was his turn, he explained to the sailor on duty what he needed and the man went to work. He put together two trays and some fresh coffee in sealed cups.
As soon as he was out of the mess on his way back to the med bay, his wolf stopped thrashing about like a teenager on a sugar rush. Most of the time, Cage’s wolf was a lot like Cage. They enjoyed a good prank, they liked to romp and play, and when given the option, they preferred to be left alone.