Losing her had been bad; losing his daughter was much, much worse. Jesse trailed noise and cheer everywhere she went—and her absence was… difficult. His wolf was restless. A creature of the moment, his wolf. There was no way to comfort it with the knowledge that he’d have Jesse back for the summer. Not that he derived much comfort from that either. So he tried to lose himself in work.Someone knocked on the back door.He pushed back the chair and had to pause. The wolf was angry that someone had breached his sanctuary. Not even his pack had been brave enough these past few days to approach him in his home.By the time he stalked into the kitchen, he had it mostly under control. He jerked open the back door and expected to see one of his wolves. But it was Mercy.She didn’t look cheerful—but then, she seldom did when she had to come over and talk to him. She was tough and independent and not at all happy to have him interfere in any way with that independence. It had been a long time since someone had bossed him around the way she did—and he liked it. More than a wolf who’d been Alpha for twenty years ought to like it.She smelled of burnt car oil, jasmine from the shampoo she’d been using that month, and chocolate. Or maybe that last was the cookies on the plate she handed him. “Here,” she said stiffly. And he realized it was shyness that pinched in the corner of her mouth. “Chocolate usually helps me regain my balance when life kicks me in the teeth.” She didn’t wait for him to say anything, just turned around and walked back to her house.He took the cookies back to the office with him. After a few minutes, he ate one. Chocolate, thick and dark, spread across his tongue, its bitterness alleviated by a sinful amount of brown sugar and vanilla. He’d forgotten to eat and hadn’t realized it.But it wasn’t the chocolate or the food that made him feel better. It was Mercy’s kindness to someone she viewed as her enemy. And right at that moment, he realized something. She would never love him for what he could do for her.He ate another cookie before getting up to make himself dinner.
He pictured his Mercy in his mind. Mercy holding a plate of cookies in the hope that they would make her neighbor feel better after his wife left him.