Read Big Bad Beast Online

Authors: Shelly Laurenston

Tags: #Romance, #Fiction, #Paranormal, #General

Big Bad Beast (3 page)

BOOK: Big Bad Beast
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C
HAPTER
2
 
T
he first punch to her face sent Dee-Ann stumbling. But that wasn’t surprising. They didn’t call the tigress Marcella Malone “Bare Knuckles” for nothing. And Dee’s big mistake had been turning her back on her. She knew better than to turn her back on the treacherous feline and former Marine originally from Mineola, Long Island, New York. Or, as Dee used to put it when they trained together—“that Long Island whore.”
It had been a lot of years since they’d seen each other, since they’d started together in the Marines Corps’ shifter-only Unit until their commanding officer had placed them on separate teams because, as the polar bear had explained, “Some dogs and cats will just never get along.”
“I’m sorry, Dee-Ann,” the feline told her without any remorse whatsoever. “My fist slipped.”
“It happens,” Dee replied seconds before she swung her own fist, connecting with Malone’s face.
The She-tiger snarled, her head coming up, blood streaming from the cut on her cheek, eyes turning bright gold and angry. Seemed fair, though, since Dee had the same amount of blood coming from her nose.
The pair sized each other up. Dee quickly remembered all the strengths and weaknesses the She-tiger had. About Dee’s age, thirty-five or so, Malone had come into her full adult power with strong arms and thighs. She’d be fast, but her stamina would be nothing like Dee’s. At six feet, Malone weighed a bit more and had more curves in her human form. She still kept her black hair with white and red streaks long, and Dee had no qualms about using all that hair to her advantage if she had to.
Their teams spread out around them in a circle and Dee knew on some deeper, more humane level that this was wrong. They were here on a hot, late-June night in this Brooklyn warehouse for bigger issues than a bitch-fight between former Marines. But Malone had always brought out the worst in Dee. The absolute worst.
So ignoring the bigger issues—like what had happened to the fight ring that was supposed to be having an event tonight at this location—the two She-predators removed their jackets and brought up their fists.
Malone was and always would be a brawler. It ran in her tiger bloodline. She was the daughter of one of the greatest early shifter hockey players, “Nice Guy” Malone. And, like her father, she’d gone from the Marines to playing right defenseman for the Nevada Slammers. She was pretty good, too, but spent a lot of her time in the penalty box because she simply couldn’t stop from beating the hell out of people when they irritated her.
But hockey wasn’t all that Malone was part of. She also worked for Katzenhaft Security or KZS for short. The feline nation’s security team. Dating back several hundred years, KZS had bases all over the world, their job simply to protect all felines. It was rare for Dee or the Group in general to come face to face with a KZS team. Especially when dealing with hybrids. The cats were notorious for having no interest or patience with mixed breeds of any kind. As it was, they barely tolerated the feline crossbreeds—tigons, ligers, cheetah-leopard crosses, etc.—but when fellow felines bred outside their species or KZS teammates were dealing with canine mixes in general, they often showed more disdain than usual. Which meant they normally didn’t involve themselves with hybrid issues.
Until recently. Something that made Dee-Ann all sorts of distrustful.
That two-ton truck Malone called a fist rammed into Dee’s cheek, followed by a right cross to her already battered nose. Dee ignored the little yellow birds twirling around her head and blocked the next punch with her right forearm, smashing Malone’s nose with the palm of her hand. Malone’s head snapped back and Dee followed up with a punch to the stomach. Malone caught Dee around the neck with both arms and came in close, bringing her knee up into Dee’s gut, twice. Dee slammed her head forward into Malone’s.
“That’s it!” a female voice yelled.
Strong hands yanked Dee and Malone apart and the fact that their feet weren’t touching the ground told Dee they were being held by something really big.
“Dee-Ann?” That female voice again. It didn’t belong to whatever was holding them.
Dee wiped blood out of her eyes and looked down into a familiar face. “Evening, Desiree.”
Wearing a bulletproof vest over a light T-shirt, her gun drawn—she always had more than one on her at any given time—her bright grey-green gaze quickly taking in the room, Desiree MacDermot-Llewellyn seemed much more at home with shifters than with her own. It wasn’t just her choice of mate either, the lion male Mace Llewellyn whom Dee had known for years through her cousin Bobby Ray. No, it was too easy to dismiss Desiree as a full-human who didn’t find her own way until she’d met her mate. Because the truth was, Desiree MacDermot-Llewellyn was as much a predator as anyone Dee had known.
Desiree shook her head, blew out a breath, and put her weapon back in the holster at her side. “What the hell are you doing, Dee?”
“Don’t know what you mean.”
Rolling her eyes, Desiree looked over at Malone. “And you?”
Malone snarled, baring her fangs. A move that didn’t bother Desiree one bit based on that snort she gave in return.
“Check the place,” Desiree ordered. She was NYPD and had not come alone tonight. Besides the bear holding Dee and Malone like two rag dolls, there was a S.W.A.T. unit from the Brooklyn precinct that was made up mostly of shifter cops who’d worked for other precincts throughout the five boroughs until they got this gig. Unlike the Group or KZS, their job was to keep the peace between the species throughout the city, not protect or wipe out. And although Desiree was full-human, she had three things going for her that made her perfect for this particular job: She was mated to a powerful lion male, she’d bred a lion male of her own, meaning she’d do what she could to protect him, and the woman was a damn good cop.
“Dez,” one of her team called out. “You better see this.”
Desiree walked off and Malone said to the one holding them, “Think you could put us down now, sport?”
The roughly seven-ten polar’s gaze went back and forth between them before answering, “No.”
After several minutes, Desiree returned, her expression direct and not too happy.
With a swirl of her finger, Desiree ordered her team to, “Bring ’em all in.”
“What the hell for?” Malone snapped.
“There are about twenty bodies back there,” she informed them. “Some in their human form, some not so much. Maybe you two would have noticed if you weren’t busy having a caged death match.” Disgusted, she shook her head. “Until we straighten this out, everybody goes.”
Desiree turned to her team, barking out orders.
Feeling downright shamed, Dee glanced over at Malone, who raised her head at the same time. And, for a moment, Dee guessed they both felt the same bone-deep disappointment in themselves for not keeping their eyes on the bigger issue. But then it seemed they both got tired of that and began snarling and snapping, trying to claw at each other from a distance, ignoring the bear ordering them to settle down.
Dee had to admit, it felt better doing that than feeling sorry for herself.
Ric pulled three plates from the overhead grill. He slammed the door shut with his elbow and slid the plates of sizzling sea lion blubber onto the saucier’s station for the final touch.
“Let’s go, people!” he yelled out, seeing the number of tickets piling up. “Let’s pick up the speed. We’ve got a full house out there!”
“Yes, chef!” was the answer he got back, followed by several muttered “Asshole.” But Ric didn’t mind. He kind of deserved it.
“Ric!” he heard his younger cousin Arden yell out as she stormed into the kitchen. If a Van Holtz didn’t want to work in the kitchen, then they worked front of house. At least until they got through college.
Arden held a large platter in her hand. A full salmon, head and all, that Ric had sent out ten minutes earlier.
“What is it?”
“The grizzly on six says there’s not enough honey in your honey sauce salmon.”
Knowing that his honey sauce glaze was, is, and always
would be
perfection, Ric understood what the disgruntled bear really wanted. Reaching down to one of the cabinets, he grabbed one of the fifty bear-shaped bottles of average, everyday honey he kept there. He wouldn’t waste the good—and expensive—European stuff on Philistines.
Pushing past his sous-chef, Ric unscrewed the top and dumped half the bottle of honey right onto the salmon, stole a knife from one of the nearby stations and smeared the honey over the fish. Taking the platter from his cousin, he tossed it into one of the industrial microwaves and re-heated the fish for a few seconds. Again, someone with an actual palate might deserve better treatment, but this idiot bear was lucky Ric didn’t drag the damn fish across the bathroom floor.
When he knew enough time had passed, he opened the microwave and pulled out the fish. “Here. With compliments from the chef,” he practically snarled.
Grinning, his cousin walked out.
“They’re all Philistines!” he announced to his kitchen.
“Yes, chef!”
Ric went back to work, his unwavering focus on getting the food done and getting it done well. He was happily in a zone when his phone vibrated from the pocket of his black sweatpants.
“This is Ric.”
“Hi, Cousin.”
Ric smiled. “Uncle Van! How’s it going?”
“Great. Great. I know you’re busy so I’ll make this quick. I’m having something messengered over to your apartment in the next day or two.”
“Okay.”
“You’re not going to ask me what it is?”
“Should I?”
“Probably.”
Ric grimaced. “This involves my father, doesn’t it?”
“Possibly. I’m sending you copies of the books for the Van Holtz restaurants in the tri-state area. I want you to look them over, closely, and tell me what you think.”
Ric’s grimace turned to slack-jawed panic. He could feel his mouth dropping open in shock. “Pardon?”
“You know what I’m asking, Ric.”
“Yes, but—”
“And you’re the one I trust to be honest with me.”
“But it sounds like you already know the truth.”
“I’m guessing.
You
are the one with the head for numbers. Or so my beautiful wife keeps telling me. Her exact words were, ‘Please don’t try to think. It’s painful to watch. Send the damn things to Ulrich.’ And, as always, she’s absolutely right. Will that be a problem?”
Investigating to see if Ric’s father, Alder Van Holtz, was robbing his own family and Pack of funds for whatever reason he might have? Gee . . . why would that be a problem?
“No, sir.”
“Excellent. Let me know when you have something.”
“Okay.”
The call disconnected, Ric went back to his work, glad that he would be turning over his kitchen to his sous-chef soon because he had guests coming over in a bit. But before he could get lost in the food, his phone went off again.
Dreading that his father had already heard all about it through his spies, Ric went out to the back alley to answer the call.
“This is Ric.”
“Mr. Van Holtz?”
Ric almost sighed in relief when he heard a woman’s voice on the other end. “Yes.”
“This is Detective MacDermot. NYPD.”
He knew her. Mace Llewellyn’s wife. Not exactly the type of woman Ric would expect a lion like Llewellyn to choose for his mate. Not that there was anything wrong with Desiree MacDermot. Far from it. But a Puerto Rican–Irish street cop from the Bronx wasn’t exactly a blue blood, was she? Something that the Llewellyns usually insisted upon.
“Yes, Detective. What can I do for you?”
“My boss was wondering if you could come in tonight for a meeting.”
Ric frowned. “I’m working tonight and have plans, so I’m not sure that’s going to—”
“We have your team, Mr. Van Holtz.”
Ric blew out a breath.
Dee-Ann
. “I understand. I’m heading right over.”
“Thank you.” She ended the call and Ric slipped the phone back into his sweats. Already irritated, now Ric was extremely annoyed. He glanced at his watch, making sure he had enough time to deal with whatever drama Dee-Ann and her team had gotten into and then get back to meet his friends without being forced to cancel the entire evening. He could do it, even though he might be a little late, but they’d wait for him.
Already thinking of what he’d have to do in his kitchen before he could cut out, Ric gazed down to the end of the alley that led out to the street. That’s when he saw him. Their eyes met and the kid took off.
Ric ran to the end of the alley, looking up and down the busy street, trying to catch sight of him again. Nope. Nothing.
Damn it.
This night was simply not getting any better, was it?
BOOK: Big Bad Beast
2.86Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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