TerrIIItory

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Authors: Susan A. Bliler
were human and they couldn’t take the beatings, and the…” her words stuttered when Evander growled.  Peeking up again, she saw anger flashing across his features.
    “They beat you?”
    She forged on as if he hadn’t spoken.  “Instead of them each singling out a female, they’d pick one and all concentrate on attacking her.  They’d beat us until we couldn’t fight back, and then they’d…” She swallowed hard. “They’d bite us.”
    She felt Evander’s finger’s shaking around hers, and she looked up to find his eyes black with rage.  She blew out a pent-up breath and hurried on.  “I could have escaped, but it would have left the human women unprotected.”
    When Evander spoke, his voice had dipped dangerously low.  “Unprotected?”
    Bethany pulled on her fingers and he let them go.  Under the table, she fisted her hands and continued.  “The other women were weaker, and they couldn’t take the pain.  So I…”
    “You what, Beth?”
    “I baited them.  I taunted them into attacking just me.  I knew I could take it.  The others couldn’t.”
    “Here we go.” Vi’s cheery voice cut into their conversation as she approached the table with two steaming cheeseburger platters complete with all the fixings and a pile of golden fries.  She placed a plate in front of Bethany and the other before Evander.  “Anything else?”  She looked at Evander and stilled.  “You alright, Kane?”  Clear concern laced the woman’s tone.
    “He’s fine.”  Bethany eyed Evander, willing him to calm.  “Can…can we get some ranch maybe?”
    “Sure, sweetheart.”  Vi pulled her attention from Evander to do Bethany’s bidding.
    “Look.” Bethany leaned in to hiss.  “Please don’t go all psychotic Alpha on me.  I want to finish this, but I’m not going to if you can’t handle hearing it.”
    Evander’s scowl lessened by only a fraction.
    “Eat your food.” Bethany pushed his plate toward him.  When he didn’t reach for it, Bethany frowned. “Please?”  She looked toward the rapidly approaching Vi.  “I don’t want her to think we’re fighting.”
    Just as Vi reached the table, Evander reached down and lifted the burger to his lips, taking a vicious bite.
    “That’s what I like to see,” Vi beamed.  “A man with a healthy appetite.  She turned to Bethany. “Anything else, dear?”
    “No, thank you.”
    “Enjoy.” Then Vi was heading back behind the counter.
    Bethany relaxed a little, and gave Evander an appreciative smile as she lifted a warm fry to her mouth and nibbled on it.
    “Finish!”  Evander growled before taking a second bite of his burger.
    “So, I could have escaped, but I didn’t.  My wolf wanted to, and I sure as hell wanted to, but I couldn’t leave those women like that.  After a few beatings, I no longer had the strength to leave, or to heal.  I was at their mercy.”  She looked up when Evander dropped his burger on his plate and fisted both hands on the table.
    “Beth.  Did they…” 
    He didn’t finish, but from the way his jaw worked and his face paled slightly, Bethany knew what he was asking.
    “No.  They didn’t touch me sexually.  They didn’t hurt any of the women like that.”  She watched as some of the tension left his frame, but he let his food sit.
    “At first, I thought my wolf was just worn out from keeping constant vigil.  She never slept, and I figured that being on alert twenty-four-seven protecting me was just too much.  She healed me the first few days, but after that…   I figured, once I was rescued, I’d eat, sleep, and then she’d heal me.  It hasn’t happened.  She’s…gone.  She’s just gone.”  Tears flooded her eyes.  “I think she’s upset that I didn’t get us out of there when I had the chance.  I let us be abused, and she abandoned me for it.”  Bethany lifted her eyes to Evander’s.  “Until you.  She stirred when you rescued us, and I think it’s because she

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