Bitten Under Fire(87)

By: Heather Long

He couldn’t believe how colossally he’d fucked up the whole situation. By the time his father descended the stairs, he’d abandoned the sofa for standing and staring.

“Well, at least you moved, hijo,” Reuben commented as he strode toward the kitchen. “Your mother said you will come to see her before you return to your team. The visit is nonnegotiable.”

Cage smiled slightly. If his father was the tempest, his mother was the shore. No one denied her when she made her will clear. Not even his father. “Sí, Papa.”

Maybe he could take Bianca to meet her. She would like Bianca. They were of a similar kind. Both strong. Both determined to live life on their own terms.

“You should have purchased an espresso machine.” His father returned, and this time he held a mug of coffee toward him. “This coffee is terrible.”

“I don’t like espresso, Papa.” He didn’t mind a latte now and again, but he preferred real coffee. “There’s a coffee place a couple of blocks away if you want to get some.”

Taking a position next to him, Reuben looked out the window toward Bianca’s as he sipped his drink. Cage took a swallow of his own simply because it was in his hand.

“Carlos, if you want to be over there with her. Go.” Absent any judgment, his father’s tone held a note of exasperation.

“She asked me for time,” he admitted. “I couldn’t tell her no. Not after everything else. I’ve—I’ve shredded her life.”

“I think you are overestimating your reach, Carlos.” There was the judgment.

“I don’t want to fight with you.” If his father needed to censure him, Cage would accept it. He’d broken tradition. Worse, he’d broken the laws.

“As mature a response as that may be, hijo. I am not asking for a fight, I am pointing out that you may have changed her life, and while it may be a difficult adjustment, she has the wherewithal to survive and to thrive.” Strangely, Reuben’s brusque tone was far more comforting than his words.

“You can’t know that for certain.” He couldn’t allow himself the luxury of hope, not when Bianca was across the street, alone. “She was sick earlier. Feverish.”

“Fairly normal.” The bland acceptance gave him pause.

“Normal?” Cage wheeled to look at his father. “She raged with fever, and she wasn’t altogether cognizant of her surroundings.”

“The body must change; change is often fought. Fevers are normal.” Reuben shook his head. “I will not criticize you for not understanding the full process of the turn before, but why haven’t you taken the time to learn since then?”

He would not fight with his father. Reciting that phrase three times helped curb his temper. “I called Abuela.”

Reuben chuckled, the sound so foreign Cage found himself at a loss.


“You called Mama, and she was so worried about you, she called me.” Well, that explained his father’s presence. “I’d already noticed the issue with your account, and I’d planned to send James, but then Mama mentioned she’d had one of her—feelings—about you.”

As he faced his father, Cage found his exasperation mirrored in Reuben’s expression. “She didn’t.”

“Oh, she did.” Reuben shook his head again, then took another swallow of his coffee. “You forget, when Mama wants something, she will make it happen. Even if she has to nudge the people along to accomplish her goals.”

Cage believed him, having had plenty of experience with his grandmother’s premonitions, usually framed in vaguely specific terms to get her targets thinking about their particular issues. “I’m sorry. I called her because I wanted her advice, but I didn’t want to tell her what I’d done. I should have just called you the moment I realized what may have happened.”

“Agreed. You made a mistake, then you compounded it with an even greater one. I accept your explanation for what happened to Bianca. Keeping it a secret? From me? That was not your wisest move.” Then his father astounded him when he sighed. “After meeting her, however, I think I understand you better than I ever have. You wanted to protect and take care of her, and you were protecting her from me. I don’t have to like something to understand.”

Considering he’d already admitted his faults, he might as well confess them all. “I told my captain, and he made it possible for me to follow her. To make sure she was okay.” Which, she really wasn’t. Cage would fix it. Somehow, he would make this work for her. “My reasoning against telling you immediately was you may have to inform the other alphas. The captain did not want to notify the colonel. The balance and success of the team…my poor judgment could have affected it.”