A.J. let himself back into the cave. As he dropped inside, he suddenly faced a very wary cougar and polar bear, both ready to fight. Both relaxed when they saw it was he. Andie nodded. Saying nothing, she let herself out of the cave the way A.J. had come in. He shifted as he watched her leave, his lips set in a grim line.
Zac shifted to his human form. “She’ll be out there a while.”
A.J. looked over at the large man. He’d wondered when he’d get the private man-to-man chat. Apparently Zac had decided that now was as good a time as any, despite the fact that they were both buck naked. A.J. moved over to his pack and started pulling out his clothes. “I assume this is the part where you warn me not to hurt Andie. Mind if I get dressed first?”
“Go ahead. I live in this weather all the time, so it doesn’t really faze me unless I’m out in it too long. And no, this isn’t where I warn you about anything.”
A.J. raised his eyebrows. “No?”
“No. This is the part where I tell you that to get to Andie, you’ll need to go through me first.”
A.J. eyed the other man closely for several moments. Zac was tall, closer to seven feet than six. Cropped, dark brown hair just turning silver at the temples, and an iron jaw created quite an imposing aura. He wondered, not for the first time, exactly who Zac was to Andie. The male cougar in A.J. wanted to rip the guy apart for even attempting to come between him and his woman. Because in A.J.’s mind that’s exactly what Andromeda Reynolds was…his future mate and bride.
At the same time, the protector in him appreciated the fact that someone this powerful had her back. And it gave him a small amount of pride that Andie had earned this level of respect and friendship from a polar bear shifter. The notoriously shy and reclusive bears were the hardest shifters to approach, let alone befriend. That got him to wondering. What exactly had she done to earn this man’s loyalty?
Zac folded his arms over his chest. “If you’re wondering how Andie and I became friends, or why I’m so protective of her, you’ll have to ask her yourself,” he said.
A.J. blinked. People rarely got a read on him like that. Despite his unanswered questions, he liked this guy. Grudgingly. “Now that we’ve established that you’re Andie’s self-appointed chaperone, let’s get a few other things straight.”
Zac waved for him to go ahead.
“I’m your only ticket into the Keller Dare. My word is final, or your welcome will be short-lived.”
“I will win her as my bride. And I won’t tolerate you getting in the way of that.”
“It’s a good thing you said win. I’ll stay out of your way as long as force, either physical or mental, never enters the picture.”
A.J. growled deep in his throat. “That would never happen.”
Zac shrugged, looking unimpressed. “I know what cougars can be like. Kyle Carstairs wasn’t exactly a shining example. I’ll judge for myself.”
(Shadowcat Nation #1)