Watcher by Holley Trent


Jim wasn’t a coward. He was the son of an alpha and being what he was had gotten him expelled from his birthpack. He’d been on his own for a long damn time before Adam had extended a welcome to the pack at Norseton, so he knew how to survive and face challenges head-on.

Leticia, however, was a challenge he was about to go into his fourth year of putting off.

“Fuck,” he whispered to his selection in the shower-fogged bathroom mirror.

He pushed a hand through his wet hair and paced.

He’d been rash, perhaps. A little reckless.

When she’d bounded up to him on The Strip, bubbling over with excitement and smiling as if he were the sun that had finally come out after a long, dark winter, he’d stopped and listened.

He always pressed paused in his day whenever she was around, though, no matter how critical the task he was entangled in at the time was. He’d known what she was to him from the moment she’d first seen her. That had made him uncomfortable as hell. There was no reason why a Wolf like him should have had any unusual awareness of anyone’s damn little sister.

With her long dark hair, sparkling hazel eyes, and the most troublemaking grin he’d ever seen, she’d been hard to ignore. She’d been chatty and enthusiastic, turning to him in the van that they’d piled into after the pack had fetched them all from the airport in Albuquerque.

Something in him had loosened up that day. He’d felt warmth for the first time since he’d left his pack.

Because he wasn’t a shit-stirrer, and because he never did anything without understanding the consequences, he’d left her the hell alone for a year. That turned into another. And then a third.

His abstinence had become something of a running gag amongst the insiders in the pack. They’d already figured out what Leticia was meant to be to him. They were simply too intelligent and shared information too freely. One or two knew he’d had plenty of opportunities to date in Norseton but had refused. Another credibly ruled out any objections based on sexuality.

One of the ladies had somehow gleaned the information off their alpha, who’d likely known just as soon as Jim had. The Wolf goddess had told Adam, “Okay, I like it,” and he’d kept the match to himself until Jim straight-up asked him one night during a pack run. He’d had to ask because he’d thought it was really fucking weird that the usual barriers of protection that would have been between unattached female Wolves and bachelor Wolves in the pack did not exist for him.

His pack mates kept asking, “So, what are you waiting for?”

He didn’t have an answer anymore, except, “Nothing.”

He raked his short hair into some semblance of a style, tightened the knot of the towel at his waist, and then opened the door to the room.

Cool air rushed in as the steamy warmth left.

Gritting his teeth, he stepped into the room, and his gaze went immediately to Leticia.

She sat on the edge of the bed, gripping the covers around her body.

That body. Fuck.

He closed his eyes against the memory of the night before—of how she’d so enthusiastically peeled off her clothing, and his, before her spectacular collapse onto the bed. He recalled how tempting she’d been and how her curves had beckoned.

She was his wife, and yet he still couldn’t allow himself to entertain those thoughts or feel any sort of pride. He should have known better than to accept those rabble-rousing Wolf women’s assertions of, “It’s fine. Do it, already!”

“Would you happen to know where my clothes are?” Leticia asked.

Clearing his throat, he opened his eyes and crooked his thumb toward the bathroom. “Your dress is hanging over the shower rail. I don’t know what you did with the rest.”

“The rest?”

Uneasy with shame, he shifted his weight. “You’d had on some panties and a bra, but you were moving so fast that I didn’t see where everything went.” His attention had been focused on other things, like her roving hands and her giggles and the way she crinkled her nose when she thought she was taunting him.

At the moment, he hadn’t believed he was being taunted. Her scent had told him everything he needed to know, and teasing hadn’t been on her agenda.

“What kind of dress is it?” she asked quietly.

Her cheeks were red as the red carpet outside the Little Chapel of Love, and her gaze was on the hands she was wringing.

“Cocktail dress, I guess.”

“I got married in a cocktail dress?”

“The marriage was an afterthought. You attended someone else’s wedding in a cocktail dress and happened to still be wearing it during your own.”

“I don’t imagine it’s white.”

“No. Not white.”

Neon blue, in fact, which went well with her brown skin and dark hair, though he’d liked the look of the garment better pooled around her ankles. That was when she’d been about to pounce on him—just before looping her arms around his neck and tugging him down for a sloppy, booze-flavored kiss.

He was going to have to get back into the shower and put the water on full-blast ice-cold if he couldn’t keep his thoughts on the present and not on the almost-happened.

“I guess you could put on the dress and go downstairs to get something else if you need to,” he suggested.

“Where’s my room?”

“This is your room. Never had a chance to get checked into another after arriving. Did you not try to call your sister this morning?”

Jim wouldn’t give a rat’s ass to find out what the instigating brat had to say, but for Leticia’s sake, reconnecting seemed like a good idea.

“I tried, but she didn’t answer her phone. She might still be asleep. Is Finn here, too?”


“If he’s asleep, she won’t move. He doesn’t sleep great without her.”

“Yeah, I’ve heard that.”

A weird trick the Modesto women had was the ability to deescalate agitation in Wolves. All Jim knew was that the magic went back generations, and most people didn’t know the women had it. Keeping hostile actors from brutalizing their family had been a useful ability, although a passive one. The Norseton Pack rumor mill had told him that they’d recently learned that the ability could possibly be used far more aggressively.

Leticia rocked a few beats side to side and chewed on her inner cheek.

“The shower’s free now if you want it.”

“Thanks. I just don’t feel great about putting dirty clothes onto a clean body. Did I not bring a bag? I came here without packing anything at all?”

“I honestly don’t know. We were all in a rush to leave, and I didn’t pay much attention to what everyone else was carrying. I packed just enough for the night.” He glanced down at his plain black duffel lying empty on the floor. “If you’re desperate, you could use my toothbrush, I guess, or I can head downstairs and get you one from the gift shop or something. You really don’t remember anything else?”

She shook her head somberly.

He grunted. “Maybe it’ll come back to you. I sometimes lose time when the wolf part of my brain needs to take over for a bit, but the memories catch up later.”

“How would I know if that’s what happened?”

“It’s just something you know.”

“I don’t feel like I know much of anything right now.”

He sure knew that feeling. After he’d gotten expelled from his former pack, he worried he didn’t know a damn thing at all. It was a humiliating feeling, and he didn’t want her wallowing in the same one. “I’ll go get you some stuff. Let me just get my clothes on. I should be back in fifteen minutes if there’s not a wait for the elevators.”

He eyed her speculatively, wondering if asking her sizes would be in poor taste. Apparently, women’s clothes were sized on an entirely different scale than men’s clothes, and he’d never had to make sense of it before.

She stared at him for a few seconds, then did one of those delayed flinches of realization. “Oh, gods, no. Don’t spend the money. The way these places mark up prices is kind of jacked up. A cocktail dress probably doesn’t look great on anyone on this side of breakfast attire, but this is Vegas. Maybe no one will look twice. What time are we leaving?”

“Checkout’s at twelve. Flight’s at four.”

She turned toward the nightstand and ostensibly the clock on it. “Seven now.”

“Got some time. Push comes to shove, there’s a laundry room at the end of the hall.”

“Oh!” she said, perking up for the first time in the half-hour since she’d been awake. “I’ll use that, then. Do you have quarters?”

“I never carry cash anymore, but I think you can just swipe the room key.” He nodded toward the dresser. “Yours is right there.”

She stood, gripping the knot of her makeshift toga, and waddled over to the dresser. She sorted through the accumulation of odds and ends on top and then paused at one glossy rectangle of paper. Slowly, she slid her fingers beneath and picked up the photo.

The somberness of her expression almost made him look away. Decency implored him to allow her space and time to feel whatever she needed, but he couldn’t stop watching. He needed to understand her so he’d know what to do with her.

“So many people there,” she said quietly. A couple of minutes had passed. “And I can’t remember a damn thing.”

He peered down at the picture. In it, she was grinning hard, gripping a faux flower bouquet in one hand, and holding his arm with the other. He looked uncomfortable, only half smiling. He was out of practice with smiling for cameras, but he’d figured his mother would want a copy.

He was unsure if he’d even be able to tell her. The breaking news could change in the next minutes or hours.

“That’s just the proof,” he said after clearing his throat. “Low resolution. They’re going to email a link to the full package.”

“You ordered an entire package of photos?”

He shrugged restlessly. “I couldn’t decide which ones were any good. Your sister said to just get them all, so that’s what I did.”

“She’s such an instigator.”

“You know that about her, then?”

“Middle Child Syndrome. She either wants to pull us up with her or down, down, down.” Rubbing her eyes one-handedly, Leticia let out a tight, restrained laugh. She set down the photo, heaved up the bottom of her toga, then shuffled toward the bathroom. “I guess I’ll get that dress started in the laundry.”

“You can’t walk out there like that.”

“I bet you that no one’s awake.” She closed the door behind her, likely wanting some privacy to handle business.

“You sure you don’t want me to go find you something? I don’t mind.” It wasn’t like he spent his paycheck on anything beyond his tiny mortgage payment and ethanol for his truck, anyway. He wouldn’t even miss the money.

After about twenty seconds, she responded, “I think I’m okay. Thank you, though.”

“All right, then.” Intending to dress, he dropped the towel. He had one foot into a leg hole of his boxer shorts when she suddenly opened the door.


“Uh…” she croaked.

He pulled the underwear up.

“I…forgot what I was going to say. Carry on.” She slammed the door.

He scoffed at himself.

Leticia had seen him nude before, so there was no reason for him to hurry to cover up. Although she could not shapeshift, she’d been present at most full moon gatherings since their arrival at Norseton. Stripping beforehand was something of a requirement. There was no good reason to tear up good clothes for the sake of modesty. He didn’t know too many shapeshifters who had hang-ups over nudity. They all learned at young ages to compartmentalize when they viewed all that flesh.

She opened the door again and slowly poked her head out.

“It’s all right,” he said. “Not naked.”

“Oh.” She had his toothbrush in her mouth. The humor wasn’t lost on him that it was getting more action than he had. He hadn’t even had a chance to really kiss her properly yet. That sloppy, half-drunken collision of mouths they’d done during the wedding wasn’t what a Wolf really wanted from his mate. At least, not a Wolf like Jim. While he may not have been the most tender of grooms, he had ego enough to want his mate to touch him mindfully.

“You know what?” she mumbled excitedly around the bristles. “I think I do remember something.”

“Oh yeah? What?”

He waited for her to spit and rinse.

“There was a cab ride.”

“Yep. There was.”

“And I was squeezed against the door. You were beside me, and someone else was on the other side of you.”

“Graciella. Finn rode in the front.”

“Right.” She retreated into the bathroom, rinsed the now-communal toothbrush, and then retook her spot at the door. “I don’t know what happened or why I did it, but I seem to recall that at one point, I…” She did one of those tense smiles that people sometimes did when they realized that the story they were listening to was entirely inappropriate, but the storyteller was too far into it to quit. And she was the storyteller. “I had my hand on your…crotch?”

He nodded slowly, trying his damnedest not to think too much of the mentioned body part. He didn’t need any additional stimulus. “Yeah, that was a thing that happened.”

“Why did I have…my hand on…your crotch?” Her pitch went up dramatically at the end in that prudish way that good girls sometimes did when they needed to know but didn’t want others to know they wanted to.

Jim didn’t tend to be incredibly precious about language when he was talking about sex or his body, but even as bold as they could be at times, the Modesto sisters tended to keep their words polite in mixed company.

Leticia didn’t need to be gentle with him. He wasn’t going to think any less of her if she chose to be more matter-of-fact. But the tentativeness was nice, in a way. It told him that she had to think, and he’d never fault anyone for taking the time to think.

“I have no idea why you did,” he said, “but I didn’t exactly object.”

“Graciella didn’t say anything?”

“Wasn’t paying attention. She was chattering a mile a minute to Finn about some store she wanted to see before we all leave.”

“Was that before or after we got married?”



When it seemed she wasn’t going to say anything else, he bent to step into his pants. He’d gotten married in his “good” jeans. That didn’t seem right, and his mother would certainly have some things to say about his attire if she ever found out.

And despite what Leticia had said, he’d deal with the laundry issue. The hour may have been early for a lot of the Vegas revelers, but there was no way in hell he was going to let his wife go bounding down the hall in a bedsheet toga and a smile.

He put on his clean shirt and grabbed a room key. “Tell me what setting I should wash your dress on.”

“Oh! I was going to figure out the laundry.”

“How? Gonna put on a hotel robe to go wash it? Not worth the risk of being seen. Call down for room service for something. Stay put. I’ll be right back.” Approaching the door, he held out his hand for the dress.

She looked down at his hand for a minute and then peered up at him with hurt in her gaze.


He dropped the hand.

He sometimes forgot that the women in the Norseton pack were all recovering from different forms of maltreatment they’d endured in their old packs. They were used to being bossed around and to having their freedoms limited. Norseton was supposed to be a haven away from all that. Norseton was supposed to be a place where they could thrive.

He had to be tactful.

“Please, if you don’t mind,” he said quietly. “Let me do it. You may not think there’s anyone awake, but what if there is? Besides, I’m already dressed.”

After a few silent seconds staring at his hand, she retreated into the bathroom yet again. She returned with the stretchy blue dress that had set off the woodsy color of her eyes so well and draped it over his arm. “Well, there it is.”

“Yep. The infamous wedding dress.”

At least that made her giggle.

Reaching across his forearm, she pulled the zipper tab to the top and gave the garment a little pat of finality. “Still haven’t solved the mystery of where my underwear and bra went. Those probably need to be washed even more than the dress, and that dress smells like a casino.”

“Cigars and liquor. Smells like a better time than you probably actually had.”

Saying nothing, she squeezed past him out of the bathroom.

He drew in a deep inhalation as she passed. Her scent was like some expensive perfume he could never not take note of. The moment she stepped into a room, he always knew, and lately, she couldn’t be within ten feet of him without his cock getting hard.

Not gonna get hard right now.

He stared at the sprinkler mounted on the ceiling and took deep breaths. He was certainly not going to think about how she’d pawed at him in the taxi and whispered, “Oh my damn” when she’d gotten a decent grip on his dick.

Not getting hard.

“Found them!” she said triumphantly.

He lowered her gaze to find her angled in the corner behind the wingback chair.

“Of all places,” he muttered as she dangled her discovery out at arm’s length.

There wasn’t much to them. Lace in the front. A scant string for between the cheeks.

She set them atop the dress on his forearm.

Because his brain wasn’t working right, he ogled a little and inhaled a lot.

Blood surged southward in his body, and again when she, standing two feet from him, dug into her cleavage to fix the drape of her toga. The fix made the fabric droop before she could right it, granting him an unwanted flash of dusky areolas.

He wasn’t sure if he was going to hell for looking or if he was already there.

Turning away from her by medical necessity, he held his breath and tucked her panties beneath the dress. He’d never been a collector of such things, but he was starting to understand the appeal. A dark room with a locked door. That fabric pressed against his nose and mouth. His hand on his shaft. He wouldn’t need long. That fountain outside would have nothing on the spectacle he’d become.

“Bra!” She said with a squeal.

“Where?” he asked begrudgingly because he actually had a picture in his mind of what that looked like. It’d been one of those contraptions that managed to hold her up without covering much of anything. He remembered that because he hadn’t liked it or the underwear when she’d sent them flying. Underwear like that was usually meant to be seen by someone beyond the wearer, and she certainly hadn’t worn either piece with Jim in mind.

“Under the bed.” She carried the bra to him and tucked that beneath the dress, too. “Now I won’t have to fly home with all my bits hanging out.”

“Mm-hmm.” He wouldn’t have survived the flight.

“So, you go wash.” She wagged a finger at him. “Gentle setting. Cold water. Use Woolite if they have any in the dispenser. That’s not even my dress. I think it belongs to Queen Tess, which means she knows something about this excursion. I want to kick myself for not being able to remember that. Did I get to see the inside of the Afótama queen’s closet? Or did she hand-deliver that? I can’t believe the chieftains would let her own a dress like that. I wonder if she wants it back.”

“A dress like that is probably why she has another kid on the way,” Jim muttered miserably and wrapped his fingers around the doorknob.

Queen Tess was shorter than Leticia and wouldn’t have nearly as much asscheek threatening to peek out. Jim hadn’t been the only person on The Strip who’d liked the sight of her in that dress, either. A quick flash of werewolf fang had made every one of those drunk fuckers scurry away.

“Gentle, cold water, Woolite,” he muttered. “I can manage that.”

“And I’ll order breakfast while you’re gone. What do you want to eat?”


He rolled his eyes at the door and swallowed a growl. Her panties were eighteen inches from his sensitive werewolf nose, and his brain was going smoother by the second.

He took a deep breath in through his mouth and let it out. “You pick. Get whatever you want. Don’t scrimp.”

They might as well spend the morning like they were honeymooning, even if she ended up dropping him like a rock when they got back to Norseton. Being mates didn’t mean they had to be romantic or even sexual. The connection simply meant he’d take care of her no matter what.

Though wanting more than that made him feel guilty as hell, he couldn’t edit that needy part of him. Wanting affection didn’t make him weak. Being in a pack full of castoff would-be-alphas had taught him that. Those men loved their wives and didn’t care who knew.

But none of them had felt like they were robbing the cradle. Leticia was well past legal age and fully capable of giving explicit consent, but she hadn’t even had a chance to even experience wanderlust or solitude or heartbreak yet.

Of course she’s going to annul this shit. What the fuck would she want with a cynical-ass Wolf like me?