Patricia Briggs 'Mercedes Thompson' series: this one-shot is set during the events of Book 3, 'Iron Kissed'

"Jesse, go to your room." Adam ordered, and his daughter threw him a bewildered look.

"Wh-" she began, but he raised a hand.

She stood, and so did he, "Dr. Cornick is stopping by for a visit."

Jesse nodded once, opened her mouth to say something, but closed it when she saw the look Adam gave her. He asked her once not to interfere in his personal life. She had taken only one opportunity to say her peace on what she thought about Mercedes, and more importantly what she thought about Mercedes and her father... So she trudged up the stairs to her room, and closed the door.

Adam had gone to open the front door while Samuel was still a minute or so away, and then he had walked into the kitchen and waited.

Samuel was still polite enough to knock once, and then he appeared in the kitchen, which was suddenly very small and stifling with both men standing there.

"I will not be courting Mercedes anymore." Samuel said, voice smooth but deep.

Adam gave him a level look, leaning against the counter and crossing his arms over his chest.

"You're throwing in the towel?"

Samuel visibly choked back a snarl, but managed a jerky nod of his head.

"Alright then." Adam rumbled.

Both men waited for the other to say something more.

"You better treat her right." Samuel finally caved, his voice had a deadly edge.

Adam lifted his top lip, showing teeth.

"I know." Samuel sighed, visibly relaxing his shoulders just a fraction.

Samuel turned then, and was about to stride toward the door, when Adam's low rumble filled the air around him, suffocating the living room.

"You didn't say that you don't love her..."

Samuel stopped still, but did not turn around.

"...Only that you were forfeiting." Adam concluded, staring hard at the back of Samuel's head.

Sam's spine stiffened, and he felt the wolf stir.

"No." he bit the word out.

"What did you tell her?" Adam pushed, knowing it could back-fire at any moment.

"Enough." The word pulled from deep inside of him. The wolf wanted to lift its head, but Samuel forced himself to remain civil and keep talking, even while the wolf warned not to show weakness.

"I saved her from having to make a painful decision..." Samuel's voice was low, dark and deep. He pushed the wolf down.

"You took her options away?" Adam's voice sounded neutral, a dull tone, but Samuel whirled at the accusation.

"She has made her choice." the words lingered on a knifes-edge.

Adam raised one eyebrow.

"I merely saved her the guilt she would have felt telling me..."

Adam pushed himself from the bench slightly, his head lifted and he stared into Sam's menacing eyes. He wanted to ask how he knew. He wanted to know why he still felt so territorial, so insanely jealous and lethal because he suspected that Mercedes would still choose Samuel, that she would try for the happy ending she and her first love missed out on the first time around.

Samuel assessed Adam's shift, and stopped what he was going to say. The wolf was close to snapping now, warning against showing such vulnerability... speaking such things was as good as exposing his belly.

"She has never felt like she belongs. Not human. Not werewolf. The wolves at Aspen Creek never let her feel like she was pack... she has never met another of her kind."

"She thinks she is alone." Adam interjected, and for a moment, both their wolves quietened. On this, they agreed. On this topic, they understood and saw eye-to-eye.

"I can change that." Adam murmured, after a long moment.

Samuel averted his eyes. It wasn't a dominance game. It was not cowardice, he insisted to his wolf. He just didn't want Adam to see the hurt he was sure not even the wolf could cover up. He had tried to give Mercedes what she always wanted... even if his own selfish reasons would have been the means.

"Yeah. She's gun-shy..." Adam, mercifully, continued talking, ignoring Samuel's silence. "I am patient..."

Samuel's wolf shook himself, and pushed unhappy memories and thoughts out of Sam's head.

"You should know that Mercedes has, once again, gotten herself into more trouble than she knows she can handle. She cannot see for trying to help Zee."

"I'll take precautions." Adam murmured.

Samuel raised an eyebrow. "And the vampires will know the truth eventually."

"I'm preparing for that." Adam rumbled.

"Mercedes is a handful." It was said good-naturedly, but Adam's spine straightened.

"Nothing I can't handle."

Samuel met his eyes, "you really think you can 'handle' Mercedes?"

Adam gave a rueful smile, "I wouldn't dream of it."

"Good." And this time, Samuel turned on his heel and reached the door, pulling it open and holding it, his head turned slightly as he spoke in a low Alpha-laced whisper, "Hurt her and I will kill you." and then he was gone.

Adam's nose tracked Samuel to the edge of his and Mercedes' property. But he veered away from her trailer, heading into the woods instead... and then Adam smelt the wolf, and knew that Sam was going to give in to his anger for the rest of the night.