Howdy, folks. Today I’m sharing the final Unnatural Excerpt with you, to the end of chapter 2, before it releases in 34 days!
And if you’ve already read those, then scroll down for the last bite of chapter 2.
As Brook watched from the guest chair, her father stalked his study from one wall to the other, his eyes focused straight ahead as though she’d infuriated him too much to even look at her. Although considered quite short in the shifter world, Donald Nicholls’ solid breadth gave him an imposing presence, which made him appear so much taller than his five-eleven height.
To Brook, at her five-foot-five, anyway.
“You are being unreasonable, Brook.” He halted, and his amber stare—common amongst feline shifters—glowed golden as he turned it on his daughter. “Must I make my requests into orders before you will comply?”
Brook fidgeted in her seat. “I don’t believe I’ve been unreasonable. You asked me to be polite, and I have.”
“No. I said you owed it to yourself to get along with Clive. That it would be easier if you accepted your future—which you cannot do without first learning to at least answer him with words instead of the glares and tantrums you seem so insistent on sharing.”
And what then? she wanted to ask. Who would he expect her to cosy up to next?
He sighed and paced to the window, shoulders high with tension. “You promised me you would try, Brook.”
“That was before I realised life exists beyond these four walls,” she said before she could stop herself, “and whatever four walls you choose to deposit me in for the rest of my life.”
Donald whirled, his growl deep as his fists clenched. “How dare you disrespect me in that tone, young lady!”
Brook stiffened her spine in a refusal to cringe. “I mean you no disrespect, Father. But I am an adult and—”
“An adult with responsibilities.”
“Responsibilities to whom?”
“To the Coalition.” His finger shot from his fisted hand and poked at the air.
“Maybe I do not wish for this role into which I am being forced.”
Donald roared, the sound vibrating the frames of the pictures hung about the paisley décor’d walls.
That time, she did cringe, her shoulders hunching over until she had no choice but to peer up at him through her draping hair.
“It is not entrapment, Brook,” he said, his voice a gravelly tenor. “It is your birthright. And you will honour the Nicholls name.”
“This discussion is over. Go to your room. And when Clive or Stefan—or anyone else for that matter—calls to show an interest, you will be polite. I shall not have you bring embarrassment upon my corner of the Coalition. Do you understand me, young lady?”
A singular tear broke past her lower lid—one of frustration for her inability to fight against the cause her father seemed so bent on adhering to.
“Brook?” Donald asked, his tone stern.
“Yes, Father,” she whispered. “I understand.”
“Good girl.” He crossed the room, leaned down, and pressed a kiss to her forehead with such tenderness the past ten minutes might never have happened—except Brook knew they had. “You may go.”
She couldn’t quite bring herself to utter any thanks, instead dipping her face in acknowledgement of what he would consider to be his generosity. The instant he stepped back, she pushed up from the chair, taking great care to measure her steps so as not to run from the room. Her fingers shook as she reached for the handle and swung the door inward.
“Oh, and, Brook?”
She closed her eyes for a split second before she opened them and turned back to him.
“If you lock yourself in the guesthouse again when you have visitors, I shall ground you.”
Aaarrgh! She spun and raced from the room before the scream could be vocalised. What sort of twenty-four year old woman ended up grounded by her parents?
Clive straightened from where he leaned against the hall wall like he’d been waiting for her. “Brook?”
Heedless of her father’s demand spoken only moments before, she shoved past him, rounded the banister, and raced up the stairs.
“Go after her,” her father said from below. “She’ll be nice.”
Like hell. Swinging around the top banister took her to the first door tucked into the left hand corner of the landing. Beyond that, her bedroom. She barged in, slammed the door, and tossed herself down on a bed that resembled a giant doily.
Footsteps ascended the stairs.
She pressed her face into the white lace bedspread. Folds of the fabric gathered within her fisting hands as she forced back the shift poking at the edges of her mind. No doubt, her inner animal sensed her distress and wanted escape. Brook had never been so trapped within her own life. Not even when she had been kidnapped and caged a few months before.
A double knock sounded through her door.
Go away! she wanted to scream, but knowing her father would be listening in, likely stood at the bottom of the stairs awaiting proof of her compliance, she lifted her face from the bedding and forced out a sweetly spoken, “Come in.”
The handled twisted and the door opened.
She smelled Clive before he even entered the room. “Please shut the door behind you.”
The click told her he had.
With her face still close enough to the bed to suck up dust-mites, she flopped her arm out to the side and extended a finger toward her vanity dresser. “Please, have a seat.”
When the mattress depressed beside her, her head shot up.
Looking far too at-home with his back against her headboard, Clive gave a smile of satisfaction as he swung his legs up onto her bed.
Brook pushed to her knees, shoving at his feet. “Shoes off my bed.”
“Feel free to remove them for me.” He reached out and twined his fingers in the ends of her hair trailing on the mattress. “Maybe if you prove you can be amicable, I could convince Don a long-term mating might be a better option for you.”
“Ha!” She knocked his hand aside. “In other words, kiss your behind and you will put in a good word?”
“Would it kill you to try and get along?”
Kicking back, she landed on her rear and crossed her legs, the stubborn set of her jaw all but giving her answer.
“You’ve gotta realise I’m a better option than Andrew … or Chris … or Ray …” He ducked toward her a little as he ran through some of the other male Coalition members. “Please tell me I’m a better choice than Stefan.”
“Every choice offered to me stinks of petty politics I want no part of.”
Pain flittered across his features like a passing shadow. “What happened between us that you started hating me so much?”
She had known Clive for a lifetime. Since the day she had left her mother’s womb. “I do not hate you.”
“You think you’re the only one backed into a corner here?”
She knew she wasn’t. Clive probably had as many bruises from the manipulative nudges as she did. “But I am not the only female in the Coalition, Clive.” For decades, though, the male shifter population had outweighed the females by at least seven to one.
“I know that.” His golden gaze settled on hers, something akin to yearning glossing the orbs. “But you’re the only one I’m interested in.”
Brook didn’t need to ask him for what. The males in the Coalition chased the females for one reason only: the creation of successors.
“Well, maybe I …”
He toyed with her hair once more until it curled around his forefinger, his warm gaze lifting to hers. “Maybe what, Brook?”
Maybe I want more, her mind said, though she couldn’t bring herself to speak the words that would hurt him. She sighed. “Maybe I do not want to speak about this anymore.”
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