LOVE IS A MOVING TARGET
Isa was not a suspicious person, not anymore. It might seem counter-intuitive for an alpha werewolf, but she surrounded herself with people leery of strangers and she trusted them to have her back. She couldn’t be an effective leader if she spent most of her time questioning the motives of others. She had werewolf senses, and they were quite helpful at detecting the motives of strangers ...and friends ...and mates.
Isa gazed at Wren as they drove. The farther from Belle Haven they got, the more suspicious Isa grew. She couldn’t help it. He was acting weird. He’d never given her reason to doubt him, not once in the years they’d been together, but, tonight, he was setting off all kinds of alarm bells and it was making her wolf crazy. What was happening? Was it about their fight a few weeks ago?
She studied their linked hands on the console between them, noting his slightly damp palm. Wren was never nervous. Not ever. He was unflinchingly calm in the face of unspeakable evil, yet she could smell something off about him. Not nerves so much as ...anticipation? He hadn’t looked at her once since they’d left and they’d driven for at least half an hour on the highway. Where were they going?
She watched the shadows play across the angles of his face, street lights bathing him in light before receding once more. Like her, he dressed in jeans and a t-shirt, their usual attire. He hadn’t even shaved, and his stubble was on its way to a beard. She liked it. The only jewelry he wore was the chunk of obsidian around his neck, protecting him from Tristin’s banshee scream and a thin gold band on his left hand. Her heart dropped, eyes snagging on the circle of metal surrounding his finger. Why was he wearing his wedding ring? He never wore his ring for the same reason Isa never wore hers; it wasn’t necessary. Their bond went beyond gold rings and words uttered before friends. They had sealed their vows with teeth and blood, and there was nothing that could come between them.
So, why today? Why was he wearing his ring today? “Everything okay?” she finally asked.
He glanced over, flashing her that cocky grin that still made her knees weak. “Yeah, why wouldn’t it be?”
“You won’t tell me where we’re going or why ...also, you’re wearing your ring.”
He lifted their joined hands and kissed her fingers. “Isa McGowan, it’s a good thing I have a strong ego. Do you seriously not know what day it is?”
Isa's cheeks grew warm as she tried to remember what day it was. Oh, no. Oh, no. No. No. Nooooo. It was their anniversary. Their fucking anniversary. The night they’d sealed their bond on the dock under the full moon. She was the worst mate ever. “I forgot,” she whispered. “I’m so sorry.” When she could finally bring herself to look at him, he was still grinning that stupid grin on his stupid perfect face. “Why are you smiling like that? I forgot our anniversary. I’m a terrible person. I don’t even have my ring on. People will think I’m dating a married man.” She said the last part almost to herself.
Wren let go of her hand, wrestling with something in his pocket before his palm appeared under her nose. Her ring. He’d even brought her ring. “How are you even real, Wren Davies?”
She slipped her ring on and gazed at the thin gold band with the tiny round moonstone, her heart feeling too big for her chest. They drove in silence for a while longer before she asked, “Where are you taking me?”
“To your very favorite place on earth.”
She grinned, letting her gaze wander over his well-muscled arms and chest before she leaned over and bit the corded tendon on the side of his neck, smiling as he rumbled low in his chest. “My very favorite place is our bed, with you in it ...naked. Are you taking me someplace to get you naked?”
Wren laughed but pulled her in for a quick kiss. “It’s on the menu, for sure. But, first, I'm taking you to your second favorite place on Earth.”
Isa frowned, curious what Wren might consider her favorite place. They turned off the highway and drove a short distance more, and Isa recognized the strip malls and grocery stores of Newton, the closest thing to a city in their part of the world. She couldn't imagine ever listing anything in Newton as her second favorite place in the world, but when they turned into a parking lot and she saw their destination, she couldn’t help but laugh. “Target? You think my favorite place in the world is Target?”
He parked the car and then turned to look at her, arching a brow. “Isn’t it, though?”
She wanted to lie. She wanted to not sound so ...basic. But it was her second favorite place. “Yes. Dammit.”
When they were outside the truck, he grabbed an abandoned red cart and gestured grandly. “Your chariot awaits.”
She gazed at the cart for a long minute. “You want me to get in the cart? I’m not five.”
“You can’t fool me, darlin’. You know you want to. It’s not like you won’t fit.”
She glowered at him but still hopped into the cart, annoyed that he was correct. “What are we doing first?” she asked.
“Whatever you want, baby. Shoes. Starbucks. Books.” He waggled his brows suggestively at the last one, and Isa blushed. Their current read was getting a bit ...abused, but Isa couldn’t help it. There was this kinky Earl and a virginal tutor and when Wren read to her ... She sighed, her thoughts wandering. He suddenly loomed over her, grinning. “Keep thinking thoughts like the ones you’re thinking now and the only place we’ll be visiting is the back of the Suburban, dirty girl."
She kissed him until they were both far too worked up for a Target parking lot. When he pulled back, she asked, “Can I buy throw pillows?”
“All the pillows you want,” he promised. “Even those stupid cat pillows I hate. Tonight, Target is your oyster.”
She clapped like an excited child, sticking her feet over the side and relaxing against the back so she could still touch Wren’s furry jaw anytime she wanted. “Onward,” she cried, pointing to the entrance.
“As you command, my lady.”
They got looks. One harried mom with five kids trailing behind her gazed at Wren long enough for Isa to consider growling. An old lady smiled at them with a nostalgic expression Isa hoped to wear some day. One old man harrumphed at seeing a grown woman in a shopping cart. Isa ignored them all. She and Wren were in her second favorite place in the world, kid free. He bought her a green tea from Starbucks and a pretzel with extra salt and wheeled her to all her favorite departments. When they reached the shoe section, he even slipped the heels she liked onto her feet like she was Cinderella. How had she ever gotten so lucky?
As they explored, they shopped. She picked up two super cute and extra sparkly throw pillows for the bedroom. One in dove gray and the other a cornflower blue the same as Wren’s eyes. She got the six-inch heels Wren liked, a new bra Wren really liked, and a new pair of steel-toed boots to replace the ones practically disintegrating on Wren’s feet. Wren also snagged two cheesy historical romance novels and tucked them under the pillows. She pretended not to notice, even as her body shivered at the thought of Wren reading them to her later.
When Isa had all but disappeared under their purchases, they strolled lazily with no destination in mind. “Oh, wouldn’t Neoma look so cute in this?” she asked, pointing to a long floral dress.
“Does Neoma need any more floral dresses?” Wren asked.
“No? Not really.”
They got the dress. They bought two new shirts for Kai, another black Henley for Rhys, more clothes for Harlow, another set of headphones for Donovan, a book on World War II for Mace and Malachi, a teal hoodie for Mallory, and more baby clothes than RJ could wear in a lifetime. They even bought more boxing gloves for Tristin and Tate.
Isa couldn't remember the last time she’d had so much fun. This was better than Christmas or Yule. This was presents just because. She gazed at Wren as he pushed the cart and wondered if he had any idea how much she loved him. Like, she was stupid in love with him. He just got her on every level. Isa didn’t want fancy restaurants or fine jewelry. She only wanted his time and attention and to provide for their weird little family they’d created. Money they had, but time ... That was in short supply. There was never really any way to know when the end would sneak up on them, so this meant everything.
The cashier smiled at them as Wren unloaded the purchases Isa nested in, intrigued by their wide range of items but remaining silent about it. When the total flashed on the screen, the girl’s face morphed into one of alarm, but Wren just silently handed over the cash. Isa snickered. He’d known they were going to blow a ton of money tonight and he’d come prepared.
Once Wren had loaded the bags into the back of the Suburban, he helped Isa from the cart. Before he could set her on the ground, she wrapped her legs around his waist and kissed him like he was shipping off to war.
When she pulled back, his eyes glowed blue and his claws pricked her thighs. “Not that I’m complaining, but what was that for?”
“For remembering our anniversary. For not being mad that I didn’t. For taking me to Target. For being the sweetest most perfect human being alive.”
He rumbled low in his chest, burying his face in her neck. “I’m not gonna lie. Sweet’s not really what I’m feeling right now.”
Isa wiggled against him until he hissed. She smirked. “Mm, that’s not what I’m feeling either.”
There was the sound of muffled laughter from somewhere in the distance, and then Wren was shifting her weight. “Uh, I’d really love to explore this further, but we have an audience and I really don’t want to murder some kids who are clearly enjoying our show.”
Isa turned to see three teen boys laughing and pointing as they leaned against the trunk of their beat-up Camry.
She let her face partially shift, eyes and fangs flashing, before she roared in their direction.
“What the fuck?” one of them yelped before they ran towards the entrance.
She could feel Wren laughing. “Subtle, babe.”
She scoffed. “What? Nobody will ever believe them.”
He nipped at her ear and then her neck. “Wanna go home?”
He stilled. “No?”
“Uh-uh. Take me to the lake. It’s not a full moon, but that never stopped us before.”
He planted a hard kiss on her mouth, carrying her while she clung to him. When he dropped her into the passenger seat, he kissed her again ...and then once more for good measure. She snagged his face in her hands, locking eyes with him. “I love you more than anything else in the entire world. You know that right? I’m sorry I forgot our anniversary.”
He grinned. “That’s okay. I once forgot you existed. Remember?”
She hadn’t remembered, but now that he’d reminded her, it still sort of rankled. “That’s right. You forgot I existed for like twenty-one years or something. I feel like I should be more insulted by that.”
“You forgot me, too,” he reminded gently.
It was true. It seemed insane to her that there was a time in her life when Wren wasn’t in it. He was everything to her. Everything. “I could never forget you now.”
He pushed her hair from her face. “Even if you did, I’d remind you every single day until you remembered again.”
Her stomach swooped. “Take me to the lake and remind me all night?”
“Anything for you.”