The Wolf on the Run
- 34.3K words
Alpha Rory is determined to protect his pack, including feisty Naomi. How can he get close when she’s intent on facing her demons alone? As a police officer and Alpha of the Olcan Hills’ pack, being a protector is in Rory Blake’s DNA. When Naomi Duffy turned up heavily pregnant and alone, Rory’s natural instinct was to look after her. However, her fierce need for independence over the years has ensured they’ve never been anything more than friends. Naomi has spent too long trying to keep her daughter safe to jeopardise everything for a fling. But, when her past threatens to catch up with her, Rory is the only person she trusts with her life. Thrown together, the couple finally succumb to their passion and it’s all too easy to forget the danger lurking in the hills. Do Rory and Naomi have a future together, or will secrets from the past tear them apart?
“Thanks for stepping in here, Mia. It looks like we have a rush on today.” Naomi squeezed past her friend to serve a stream of new customers at the bar. Although Mia was no longer her employee, she’d volunteered to give a helping hand during her lunch break from her childcare centre.
“It might have something to do with this.” Mia stopped pulling pints long enough to grab the newspaper out of Rory’s hands.
Mia ignored her brother’s protest across the counter and thumbed through the pages until she found what she was looking for.
“There you go.” With a tap of her finger, she directed Naomi to an article taking up half the page.
‘Good food, cold beer and a warm welcome at The Wild Dog’
The headline topped a photograph of her pub. Naomi’s blood ran cold as she scanned paragraph after paragraph. There it was in black and white—’Licensee, Naomi Duffy…’
The words swam together as her world came crashing down around her.
“It’s great publicity, isn’t it? Rory has a contact at the newspaper.” Mia carried on serving as though Naomi hadn’t just been delivered, gift wrapped, to the Devil himself.
“You did this?” Naomi spun around to face the well-meaning policeman she’d been trying to avoid these past months.
His dark chocolate eyes widened at the harsh tone of her voice. “I just recommended the place to a mate—”
“For once in your life, Rory, I wish you’d mind your own bloody business!” The stunned look on his face blurred as tears marred her vision. She slapped the newspaper into his broad chest and made a hasty exit before she caused any more of a scene.
After her few years of freedom here, the walls of the pub suddenly became her prison. Keeping her trapped until the O’Connells found her. After reverting back to her maiden name and moving to Northern Ireland, she’d tried to minimise the disruption for her daughter’s sake, and prayed they would never cross the border to find her. She’d done her best to keep her anonymity, avoiding social network sites and generally staying under the radar. This small piece of publicity could potentially seal her fate.
Like the hunted animal she now was, Naomi scrabbled for her freedom through the back door. Doubled over outside the cellar doors, she fought to breathe as fear clawed from the inside out. Should she run? This was her livelihood. Olcan Hills was the only home Emily had ever known. Yet, if she stayed and they came for her daughter…
Naomi retched at the very thought of the consequences.
“Okay. Let’s have this out.” She heard Rory a fraction of a second before he grabbed her by the wrist and yanked her upright.
“This isn’t the time.” He was lucky she didn’t puke on his shiny black shoes.
“You’re right. The time should’ve been about ten months ago when I kissed you.” He nudged her chin up with his finger, forcing her to look at him. It would probably be better for her health if he kept up the brutish act instead of reverting back to his typical kind-hearted self.
“Don’t—” The nausea dissipated, leaving that all too familiar ache in her heart she experienced every time she saw him.
“Don’t what? Talk to you? Try to help you? Kiss you?” He dropped his gaze to her mouth and her poor heart took another hammering.
The memory of that sweet kiss was forever imprinted on her lips. The tenderness in that brief moment almost made up for the long time she’d spent denying herself any happiness. But nothing could come of it.
“We’re friends, Rory. What happened was a mistake. We simply got caught up in our friends’ joy after the birth of their baby.” Emotions had been running high all around when they’d welcomed baby Sophie into the world, with proud Uncle Rory and honorary Aunt Naomi. She’d simply let her guard down and acted on the simmering attraction during a friendly hug. One kiss couldn’t erase her past, and she wouldn’t take a chance on getting involved with someone when she had so much at stake.
“I’ve spent long enough hanging back, waiting until you’re ready to accept there’s something between us. For some reason you seem determined to keep me at arm’s length.”
There weren’t many men like Rory Blake willing to give her the space to work out her feelings. It made what she had to do even worse.
“If you’ve spent nearly a year mooning over a peck on the lips, you really ought to get yourself a life.” She shook off the emotional attachment with a toss of her dark hair and walked away, pretending her heart wasn’t breaking in two. He might hate her for the cruelty now, but ultimately she was saving him from a shitload of hurt down the road. After all, she’d damned near killed him already.
The cannonball of hurt, which fired into his gut, almost felled Rory’s six foot two frame. It took a moment for him to get his breath back after the tiny brunette’s torrent of ire. He could lash out in similar fashion and tell her she meant nothing to him, but where was the point in lying?
“I don’t know what happened to make you change the way you feel about me, but I know we have something.”
He made another grab for her and spun her back around. A lock of her hair fell across her big brown eyes and he was halfway to brushing it away when he caught himself. He let his hand drift aimlessly to his side, leaving her hair to shield her partially from view.
“I won’t beg. Just know I’m here for you.”
Rory sucked up the last of his dignity and released her. He’d waited this long for her, he guessed a little while longer wouldn’t make much difference. And if she still doesn’t want me? The steady pace he’d started towards his car slowed and he fumbled with his keys.
The enormity of Naomi’s rejection hit him as he collapsed into the driver’s seat. She was right. He was beyond sad. What was the first thing he’d said when she’d told him to back off? ‘I’m here for you’. Loser.
He groaned and released his frustration on the steering wheel with the palm of his hand. With a serious need to escape his humiliation, he over revved the engine and left the object of his unrequited love behind in a cloud of dust.