I came close to laughing. “They are completely different!”
“No!” He raised a hand to stop me from saying any more. “To me, they are the same. If I knew you were in danger, I’d drop everything to come save you, haven’t I proved that? Simply knowing that you’re in a dangerous situation all but killed me. I think about you all the time and half the time I worry that if I let you out of my sight, you won’t ever come back in it. Call it weak, call me overemotional and anxious, it doesn’t change it.”
“Okay.” I was glad that we were hashing this out. “Call it arrogance, call me a risk-taker, but I can’t change the fact that I want to protect myself no matter if there’s a strong man around to rescue me,” I mocked. “I’m capable and I want you to see that.”
“I am proud of you and who you are and what you can do,” he said in a strained voice. “I’m proud that you’re arguing with me like this now when I could only see the fight in your eyes when we first met. But I can’t help it.”
“That’s not an excuse!!” I cried out exasperatedly. “Where’s your self-control?! I can’t help wanting to be able to go out without two shape-changers on my back!”
“So what are we supposed to do!” he suddenly snarled.
I was so shocked at the outburst that I took a step back. He followed me with a predatory glare. I got over the suddenness of it and held my ground so that we ended up all but touching, chest-to-chest. I craned my neck and firmed my mouth.
“You can’t bully me into this,” I hissed.
“Maybe then you’d see my point,” he retorted, his voice rumbling.
“This isn’t fair.” I pounded my fist against his chest, just hard enough for him to register my anger and frustration.
He snatched my wrist and held it against his chest so that I could feel his heart pound. “To each of us. I understand that. Can you?”
I sighed and looked down, resting my neck. “Yes, I do. But I just feel like everything’s going in your favour at the moment.”
He smiled humourlessly. “When the issue with the blood witches is over, I’ll be less suffocating, I swear.”
I gave him a dark look and pulled away, walking towards the exit without him. “I don’t think you really understand.”
“You’re worth so much to me. More than my own life. Protecting you is my way of proving that.”
I turned back to him. “I know that. You’re like the alpha of a bloody wolf pack, taking care of everyone. You forget that I have teeth and claws too. If you keep me behind you all the time, you might find that I’ll use them on you in my frustration.”
He cocked his head. “Then bring it, little pup. Why don’t you fight me again? If it’ll make you feel any better, I can fight you anytime you want.”
I huffed and gave him an imploring look. He still didn’t get it. I didn’t want to fight just for the sake of fighting. “I want to hold my own,” I said quietly, “I want to earn my keep.”
He stepped towards me and slid his hands up my arms until they rested on my cheeks, warmth following his touch. “You don’t need to earn anything. If you want to give back to Garth and Luke, help around the house but don’t go out now and waste their effort to keep you safe. You’ve already given back to me tenfold. I’m greedy, I want more – and I will get it – but you have to see that within friendship, you don’t always have to repay every favour.”
“We’ve gone off subject,” I muttered, my words slightly slurred by the presence of his hands on my cheeks.
“I don’t care.” He bent down and brushed his lips over mine. My eyes instantly fluttered close and my stomach was queasy at the thought that I was surrendering. Just because he was kissing me.