“Who did you bring home?” Another male spoke from the shadowed corner.
Ethan bristled, ready to defend his mate from the intruder.
“Ethan,” Selena replied.
“Nathan? Nathan who?” The voice cracked.
“Ethan Calhoun,” Ethan said. “Who are you?”
“Channing Wolfe, Varulv pack alpha. You look familiar. Where are you from?”
Ethan grabbed his temper before irreparable damage resulted. “Loup Garou, Colorado.”
The man emerged from the shadows. He was old. Too old, in Ethan’s opinion, to be a pack alpha. The sparse hair on his head was as gray as his eyes and the circles beneath them. Ethan thought he heard joints creaking.
“Ethan, meet my grandfather.”
His intended mate was an alpha’s granddaughter? Whoa. Intense, especially considering his own alpha mated a human.
“You’re a long way from home. Were you planning on checking in?”
“Of course,” Ethan lied. Tokarz hadn’t mentioned another pack might claim northern Minnesota. Courtesy demanded he check in with the ruling pack. “I ran into your granddaughter as soon as I arrived.”
A quick glance at Selena showed one eyebrow arched. She didn’t contradict him.
“Mating fever bring you to Minnesota?” Channing was old, not stupid.
Ethan said nothing.
“New one on me.” Channing continued fishing.
“Strangest thing,” Ethan agreed.
“Is this any way to treat your intended?” Channing asked Selena. “Get him something to drink. To eat. You were raised better than a human girl.”
Selena opened her mouth, as if to argue, glared at Ethan as if he were to blame for the situation, and then stalked from the room.
“You have to forgive the girl. She hasn’t had a lot of female influence. Her mamma died when Selena was real young, and my mate died before Selena was born.”
“My appearance shocked her,” Ethan said to placate the old man. Although Channing wasn’t his pack elder, Ethan was determined to be polite, while at the same time protecting Selena.
“Are you going to court her in the traditional way?”
Ethan tried not to be offended by the question. He failed.
Channing must have read Ethan’s mind. “Your pack brews beer, right? Moonsinger? If making beer isn’t flouting the ways and nature of our kind, I don’t know what is. How can I be sure you’ll do right by my girl?”
Okay. Yeah, brewing beer was weird. Lycan allergy to alcohol versus the pack decision to brew craft beer as a method of supporting the pack was a hotly debated subject. Ethan’s grandparents still argued whether to stay with the Loup Garou pack or find a more traditional place to spend their waning years. Channing’s concern was valid. Still, Ethan had to force his teeth to unclench before he spoke.
“On the way here, I stopped and bought a blueberry and strawberry yogurt parfait. I made the offering. It’s still in my truck. I would never dishonor my mate by violating our rituals. If you’re concerned traditions won’t be honored, you should explain why your granddaughter refused the berries I offered.”
“I don’t need my grandfather’s permission,” Selena said as she returned to the front room. Somewhere along the way, she’d discarded her shoes. She carried a tray with a carafe of water garnished with floating lemon slices and a platter of what smelled like fish. She placed the tray on the table in front of a sagging sofa. “Sorry the walleye is partially cooked. I thawed it in the microwave.”
Ethan’s stomach rumbled. He hadn’t eaten in hours. “Smells great,” he said, as he helped himself to a chunk. “Thanks.”
“Have a seat,” Channing said. “You remind me of someone. Can’t think who, though.”
Ethan studied the room as he chewed on his fish. The seating options were limited. Channing reclaimed a worn recliner in the corner. Ethan’s only choice was a battle-scarred sofa. If he sat, he’d have to share with the female who had rejected him.
“I’ve been driving all night. I need to stretch my legs.” The perfect excuse to avoid proximity with her. He had his pride.
“Where are you staying?” Channing asked.
Selena, who leaned against the door jamb, as if she, too, were avoiding physical closeness to Ethan, winced.
Or flinched. Neither reaction flattered him. He dreaded what was coming next. “I haven’t had a chance to find a motel.”
“Nonsense.” Channing sounded as if he were trying to be hearty and jovial. He failed. Miserably. “You’ll stay with Selena.”
“Staying here isn’t a good idea, sir,” Ethan said.
“Nonsense,” Channing repeated. “The sofa pulls out if you’re being . . . modest.”
“Practical,” Ethan said. He stole a glance at Selena, who appeared upset. “I have other business in town and don’t want to inconvenience anyone.”
“What other business? You’re in Varulv territory.”
The lie came easily. “I’m with a band, and we’re between booking agents, so I’m scouting possible venues for us to play.”
“Doesn’t the Loup Garou alpha have a side gig besides the brewery? What’s the band’s name?”
“Toke Lobo and the Pack.”
“Aren’t they on the radio?” Channing asked, while Selena said, “Get out. You are not.”
Ethan now had an excuse to look directly at her. “Sure I am. I play steel guitar.”
“You do not.”
Selena narrowed her eyes. “Prove it.”