“It’d be best if everyone moved to the opposite side of the table from me and Tessa,” Mr. Dawson said.

I scowled at him. “I’m not going to hurt my family.”

He laughed.

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My scowl must not have been as intimidating as I thought.

“It’s a necessary precaution if you want to continue this conversation,” Mr. Dawson said.

My family got up and moved across the table. The cafeteria was completely deserted. Even the staff had left, probably just in the kitchen cleaning, but it was enough to give me the feeling of privacy.

Which was essential because my blood was boiling. Keeping my cool was a struggle. Mr. Dawson had a point, but that didn’t mean I had to like it. “Look. I’m not saying I’m going to marry the guy—”

Mr. Dawson cleared his throat.

My heart skipped a beat before it raced. “What? You know something that I don’t?”

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“I wouldn’t confirm or deny anything at this point. Let’s wait and see what happens.”

Dad did not like that. He slapped his hand down on the table. “No one is forcing a man on my daughter.”

“I would never…” Mr. Dawson took a breath. It was the only hint that he was pissed. “We’re keeping this quiet, but I guess you should know that Dastien Laurent is her mate. His wolf took control to claim her. It was an accident and one Dastien wishes he could undo. Or re-do in an entirely different manner. But what’s done is done. Now’s the time to support Tessa as she figures out what this means and what it is she wants.”

Axel sat back in his chair and crossed his arms. “You can call it whatever you want, but that asshole turned my sister without permission. That’s not okay. Not in my book.”

My parents nodded. My family was on my side, but it sure felt like they weren’t.

A man with chin length straight blond hair streaked with gray came to stand next to the table. He wore a charcoal three-piece suit—which was overkill for Cedar Ridge, Texas. “I see you’re still having trouble controlling your student body, Michael.”

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Mr. Dawson stood in one fluid movement, forcing the man to take a step back. Their gazes clashed, and the man’s fists clenched as he looked away.

“And what have we here? Three humans on campus?” His gaze fell to me. “Ah. This must be the bitten girl.”

“Careful, Rupert,” Mr. Dawson said. “You’ll not insult any member of this family.”

I didn’t like Rupert standing over me, so I stood. Everything in the room fell away as I waited for him to look away. When he finally did, fur rippled along his face and was gone so quickly I thought I’d imagined it.

Mr. Dawson put his hand on my shoulder. His grin made me feel like I’d just done something awesome, and I couldn’t help but return it.

“This is Rupert Hoel. Nikki and Imogene’s father.”

That didn’t surprise me in the least. I liked this guy just as much as I liked his daughters.

“This is the McCaide family.” Mr. Dawson turned to fully face Rupert, crossing his arms. “Is there a reason why you’re on my campus unannounced?”

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“I wasn’t aware I needed to announce myself.” Mr. Hoel smoothed down his vest.

“It’s always necessary. This is a closed campus and you know that. Wait in my office.”

Go, Mr. Dawson. I snickered as Mr. Hoel stormed off, slamming the cafeteria door behind him.

Mr. Dawson winked at me. “He’s not going to like my office much. Donovan and Sebastian are there and the three of them don’t get along.”

“I won’t pretend to know all the ins and outs of what’s going on here, but I’m learning fast.” Dad had his no-bullshit face on. “I want to be perfectly clear—what might be normal for you is not normal for my daughter. She is—was—human and I won’t have anything forced on her that she’s uncomfortable with. Or that her mother and I are uncomfortable with.”

Thank God the cafeteria was empty. I shifted in my seat. “I don’t think anyone is going to forget that I was bitten, Dad.”

“I think the thing to remember is that this is a transition for all of you.” Mr. Dawson’s voice was calm and even. He was taking Dad’s intimidating stare better than I could. “You’ve lost the old Tessa, but she’s not really gone. She might have had a rough time before, and maybe at the moment it’s harder—but I think it’s all set her up to become a very strong person. I think you’d all be surprised by what she’s already accomplished here.”

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