Collision Course (Westin Force #3) by Julie Trettel

Chapter 1

Most days I tried not to think about it, but I always knew the past would come back to haunt me.

Since the moment I saw their faces taped to Trevor Daniels’ wall on a last-minute intel mission, I couldn’t stop thinking about them. Every time I closed my eyes the memories plagued me. I wasn’t sleeping well. I should hate them all, but I couldn’t. I still blamed myself.

After another restless night, I got up and splashed water on my face. For once we actually had a weekend off. I didn’t really care much for downtime. Too much time alone always invited the ghosts of my past to visit. I was struggling enough with them as it was.

Lying in bed, staring at the ceiling, I told myself not to do it, but I couldn’t stop myself from reaching over to the nightstand drawer and pulling out her picture. I stared down at the beautiful blond hair blue eyed girl that still haunted my every dream.

Olivia. Despite the years that had passed by, she remained the best and the worst part of my life. The bitch of it all was that I still loved her.

My friends all seemed to be finding their true mates. Some days I prayed I’d find mine too. I didn’t exactly spend a lot of time with bear shifters though. Sure, I knew my true mate didn’t have to be a bear, but odds were high she would be. I liked my odds and despite my desire to have a mate simply to help me forget the girl I couldn’t have, I also purposefully steered clear of bears because I wasn’t quite ready to give my heart to another. My bear roared in my head at the thought. We were still in agreement there.

I set her picture down on the nightstand and forced myself to get up and dress. There was no point in wallowing over the past. My decision may have been made for me, but I’d chosen to honor it and that was on me. Sometimes I wondered what would have happened if I’d stayed and fought for us. It was highly likely I’d be dead by now if I had.

Olivia’s father, Pike Murphy, was our Clan Alpha and he didn’t take too kindly to me when the situation came to light. I’d been like a cub to him, but that hadn’t mattered in the end. Kano I had expected to turn on me. He was Olivia’s oldest brother, but Killian had been my best friend in the entire world. It had devastated me when he turned against me and demanded I stay away from his sister.

Pike had sided with his sons. I’d been given the choice: stay and die or leave and never return. They hadn’t even let me try to explain and I was forced out of Clan territory without even saying goodbye to Olivia. That was what had hurt the most. I thought I’d been family to them. I loved her and was prepared to stake my claim on her the second she came of age, but that hadn’t seemed to matter. I wasn’t good enough. I’d been ousted and never looked back except in my dreams and the occasional weakness when I pulled out the one picture I couldn’t bring myself to destroy.

Times like this called for one thing and one thing only—a trip into town. When life got me down, I got a new tattoo. Cole Anderson owned a shop in town and was one of my best friends. He only lived in San Marco half the year and, fortunately for me, this was his half to be here.

I left my small apartment at the Lodge and made the drive into town. I hadn’t eaten anything since the night before and it was already well into the afternoon, so I swung into the Crate and ordered four burgers, two large fries, and two Cokes before walking next door.

The bell jingled over the front door.

“Just a minute,” I heard my friend yell.

I didn’t have quite as keen a sense of smell as the wolves, but even I caught a whiff of the aroma of sex.

“It’s just me. Take your time and finish your business,” I yelled back.

I pulled a small table over to one of the couches in the waiting area and started eating. I grinned as the sounds of hot wild sex filled the air. It wasn’t the first time I’d been in this position. Maybe the proper thing to do would have been to leave, but I was hungry.

I was already into my second burger when Cole and his mate stepped out. Her normally perfectly pressed clothes were disheveled, and her hair was a bit of a mess.

“I brought extras, Elizabeth. Help yourself. Sounded like you worked up an appetite.”

Her cheeks reddened, but she laughed and smacked me on the arm. Then she stole one of the burgers before kissing her mate and giving me a quick wave goodbye.

“You’re an ass,” Cole said with the shake of his head.

I handed him up a Coke and shrugged. “She loves me.”

We ate in comfortable silence.