Chapter Nine

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"I'm healed and want to return to my practice."

Ife felt an itch beneath her skin that began to bore and settle into her very bones. For over a week, she'd played the patient. That was over now. She was completely healed and wanted to return to her work.

"You cannot go back," Nate began in a calm, reasonable tone. He'd been wonderful throughout Ife's healing. He'd helped her to the bathroom while her leg healed and kept her well-supplied with Owen's pain-defying herbal teas. Whenever the nightmares came, he was there to help chase them away. They were currently all that remained of her ordeal.

With her ability to move about restored, Ife began to feel like a captive. Her world was restricted to her tent and its immediate surroundings. Now that her injuries were mended, Nate would leave for large parts of the day. While he was gone, she had nothing to do and no one to talk to keep mind-numbing boredom at bay. Of course, he wouldn't tell her where he went or what he did when he returned in the evening.

Nate was U.S. military, Ife knew that now. During their first date, he had managed to misrepresent what he did for a living without her smelling his deception. It made her not want to trust him with other things, like her heart.

Ife was conflicted as to how she felt about the werelion. It wasn't a nice place to be, especially after having survived an act of terror. Although Nate was attentive, even loving in his care of her, she refused to give into her beast's wishes and claim him as her mate. Not until she knew all that he continued to keep from her would she bond with him. Falling in love with him was also out of the question. Her human side would continue to guard their heart.

Raising a hand, Ife cut off the rest of Nate's words. "I know Zaire thinks I'm dead and that's how it must remain if I'm to be safe from him." Nate and his men had even gone so far as to stage a funeral for her to bolster the deception.

Blowing out a breath, Ife continued, "But I'm tired of this inactivity. Find something for me to do, else I will leave. If not for Nairobi, then somewhere else."

Ife learned the city's only hospital was now the one Zaire had built. It was in a more secure location and had the best, state-of-the-art equipment. The First had used his attack against her to sow fear and discord. He'd discredited his rival, Nairobi County Hospital's owner who had been one of the last hold-outs. Zaire now owned all the business real-estate in Kenya's capital, including her old apartment.

Nate made a frustrated sound deep in his throat. "Why can you not be happy here for a little longer? My mission is nearly complete; then we can leave together." He'd already promised himself he would retire from the Marines and bow out of this war once Akinyi was caught. No longer was vengeance his top priority.

Ife's narrow chin jutted out stubbornly. "Kenya is my home. I will not leave her or my people in their time of need. Not for anything or anyone."

Hurt blossomed in Nate's deep chocolate eyes. Ife knew her words wounded the man that had been her savior, the one who her beast recognized as its mate. But, she argued with herself, it was best to voice her feelings now so there wouldn't be any misunderstandings later. She had left the land of her birth once and was unwilling to do so again. If it were habitable, she'd be inhabiting it, simple as that.

Ife's inner debate did little to drive down the guilt churning in her belly. Although she was frustrated and infuriated by Nate's dishonesty, she didn't want to inflict pain. She hadn't meant to lash out in such a clumsy manner.

"I'll speak with Lieutenant Jaeger." Nate rose from the canvas chair he was seated in and loomed over her.

Ife met Wolfrick Jaeger after she'd come back to consciousness.  It was the same day she'd been attacked. He was a large man, built for command. Although their meeting was short and consisted of Wolf outlining where she could and could not roam, Ife had a feeling he was a fair man. She could be happy with him deciding her fate in the short-term. But only for a time. She needed to take back the reins of her life soon.

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