The Tiger's Reluctant Mate: BBW Paranormal Tiger Shifter Romance Standalone (Hunky Shifters Book 2)

BOOK: The Tiger's Reluctant Mate: BBW Paranormal Tiger Shifter Romance Standalone (Hunky Shifters Book 2)
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The Tiger’s Reluctant Mate

(Hunky Shifters Book 2)

 

Ashley Hunter

 

Copyright 201
6
by Ashley Hunter

 

All rights reserved.

No part of this publication may be reproduced

in any way whatsoever, without written permission

from the author, except in case of brief

quotations embodied in critical reviews

and articles.

 

This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to any

character, person, living or dead, events, place or

organizations is purely coincidental. The author does not

have any control over and does not assume any responsibility

for third party websites or their content.

 

First edition, 2016

 

 

 

 

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Chapter One

 

The phone had barely finished its first ring when Julie Fowler scooped it up off the counter and answered it, not stopping for a moment as she got the coffee machine going.

"Hello?"

"Don't you ever answer professionally? I could've been the next big thing for you."

Julie laughed as she waited for the coffee cup to be filled.

"In the middle of Arkansas, I very much doubt it."

"Charming."

Julie grinned. It had been a long day and her smile had been getting a little strained after being run off her feet all day. But a phone call from her baby brother always guaranteed to bring the smile back.

She finished preparing the coffee and brought it to the counter. The owner of the beauty salon across the street passed across a ten-dollar note and Julie processed the money one-handed into the till, handing back the change. Then the middle-aged woman blew a kiss at the phone, mouthing 'for Charlie' before walking to a table by the window.

"Megan says hello, by the way." Julie chuckled.

"She is still blowing kisses?"

"Always."

"Hasn't anyone told her I'm young enough to be her son?"

"She likes to be in denial about her age." Julie saw that everything in the cafe had settled down and moved to the staff door at the back, going into the small kitchen that was looking in need of a clean. She leant against the stove. "Haven't you heard of a cougar?"

"Yes but not with that big an age gap."

Julie laughed.

"How are you doing?"

"Good. I did well in that test I was so worried about."

"Brilliant. So everything seems to have settled down?"

"Pretty much." Her brother hesitated. Julie knew the signs. He had something big he wanted to tell her.

"What? Come on, Charlie, what is it?"

Charlie sighed.

"I met a girl, Jules. Her name's Sharon. She's in her second year doing adult nursing. We've gone out for coffee a few times with friends and...I've asked her on a date to the cinema."

Julie's heart warmed. At eighteen, Charlie was too cynical for his age. She knew that was the result of losing his parents at such a young age. It made Charlie a little prickly for people so it felt good to hear that Charlie had had a breakaway from his former self to ask a girl out.

"Aww, bless, my little brother's all grown up."

"Not funny, Julie."

"I'm serious. That's great, Charlie. It's time you had a social life. I swear you've done nothing but study since you went there."

"Well, she manages to put up with me in a group so that's a plus." Charlie said sardonically.

"Don't be daft." Julie shot back affectionately. "Anyone who dates you is a lucky girl."

"You would say that. You're my sister."

Julie grinned.

"I have to have some illusions, don't I?"

Charlie laughed. He didn't laugh very often so it was good to hear it. Julie wished he wasn't in another country right now; she wanted to hug him and talk to him in person. Eight months at Oxford University in England and she was missing him like mad.

But Charlie had wanted to go to England to study and Julie had managed to put the tuition fees and the money for the plane ticket together.

At least with English universities, you paid annually for the student fees instead of every term and it was a lot cheaper per year than it was per semester in the US. Of course, Julie had been happy to pay; her business was doing great and she could easily afford it.

It just meant sacrificing not seeing her little brother every day. Their Skype sessions and regular phone calls would have to do.

"Speaking of dates, are you ever going to go on a date of your own and not focus on that cafe?"

Julie sighed. This was a conversation they had had many times in the last few months after Julie had collapsed in the middle of the day. The doctor had told her that she was overly stressed and she had pushed herself to the edge and need to ease back. Julie had then hired two waitresses so they could rotate who was on what day and that was it.

The cafe was her livelihood. She couldn't afford to stop.

"If I don't focus on my livelihood, how can I pay for you to study?"

"I'm more concerned about your health. I don't want a replay of what happened at New Year’s Eve."

"I have no intention of dating anyone, Charlie." Julie glanced through the window in the door to the cafe. Seeing no one needed her, she relaxed. "There isn't anyone of any interest around here, anyway. And the ones who are interesting are married."

"I thought Richard was interested in you."

"Briefly." Julie smiled fondly as she thought about her friend. "Then I steered him towards Virginia and he forgot about me."

She could almost see Charlie shaking his head.

"You should have someone for yourself. All you think about is that cafe and me."

"And those things are the most important things in my life right now." Julie pointed out. "I'm not going to change that."

"You will need someone to lean on soon and I won't be there."

Julie felt a lump in her throat at that. She knew she couldn't hold onto Charlie forever; the lad needed a life of his own, be it in Arkansas or Oxford.

But after looking after him since he was three years old, she felt like she wouldn't be able to deal with him flying the nest for good when the time came.

She swallowed the lump away.

"I'll be fine."

Charlie sighed. She knew he was giving up on his argument for now.

"I'd better go. Got to get ready for my date. You’re going to be working late again?"

"Sadly. It's the night I sort the books."

"Just don't work too hard."

Julie laughed.

"I love you, too, Charlie."

After a few more affectionate insults thrown back and forth, Julie hung up. Then she adjusted her coffee-stained t-shirt and checked that her short red hair wasn't falling out of the hair clips she had put in.

Megan was also a hairdresser and had suggested Julie try a new style - longer at the front, shorter at the back. Julie liked it since it made her green eyes pop but it did mean putting clips in so her hair stayed out of her face.

She pushed through into the cafe to hear a familiar voice.

"There you are, Julie. I thought you'd fallen into a black hole." A woman in her mid-twenties with long blonde hair down to her waist and dressed in a charcoal black skirt and tight white blouse hopped onto a stool at the counter, hooking one of her five-inch stilettos into the rung. "I need your strongest coffee."

"Nice to see you, too, Laura." Julie prepared an espresso and put it in front of Laura Hancock. "What's the matter? You look rather harried."

"Problems at work." Laura's boyfriend Ian Galatia sat on the stool beside his girlfriend and handed across a ten-dollar bill. "Can I have a latte, please, Jules?"

"No problem." Julie began to fix Ian's coffee. "What's happened to have you so worked up?"

"You know the old man Lawrence died two weeks ago?" Ian asked, rubbing his hand over his brown hair, which had been shortened to a simple buzz cut.

"Yeah. Heart attack at his desk."

Jonathan Lawrence had been the owner of the ranch just outside of Little Rock, which he had made into a profitable business and had his own administration team as well as labourers.

He had been a kind man who seemed to be in the best bill of health Julie had ever seen. He had always been coming in for his usual coffee and one of Julie's homemade Danish pastries. Julie had been sad when she heard of his death and knew she would miss his visits into her place dearly.

"His son took over last week and he moved his things into the apartment today." Ian glanced at Laura, who had downed her Espresso. "He also made his first appearance in the office."

Julie glanced at Laura, who was making a face at downing her coffee.

"I take it he didn't go down well with you."

"That's an understatement." Her friend growled. She began to gesture with her hands as she spoke. "He's rude, abrasive and doesn't give a damn about anyone. He just wants as much money as possible to go into his pocket and not into the ranch."

Julie handed Ian his coffee.

"Since he owns the ranch, isn't he allowed to decide what happens to the money?" She asked.

"He probably uses it to go to strip clubs and pay for whores." Laura muttered.

"Laura..." Ian warned, laying a hand on her knee. Julie watched her friend warily, knowing that her behaviour was the norm; volatile and slightly over-dramatized.

"You don't know that." She said quietly.

"Maybe not but nobody likes him. His dad was a good sort and was always fair to us. But the son..." Laura shook her head. "He's a mean bastard. I'd kill him but I need this job."

"You've only known him a day and you're already talking about killing him?"

"That's more than enough to form an opinion."

Ian sighed.

"I've been trying to talk sense into her since I picked her up." He told Julie.

"What sense?" Laura snapped. "At least I've got the sense to know the man is bad news."

Julie and Ian exchanged glances. They both knew that Laura liked to blow things out of proportion on occasion. Her opinions usually had to be taken with a pinch of salt.

She had calmed somewhat since she started dating Ian at Christmas and her flirtatious ways had toned down but she still had a flare of temper. Even Ian, the most mild-mannered man Julie had ever met, couldn't control that.

"I think you need to go home, Laura." Julie told her friend.

Laura stared at her.

"You're not going to listen to me and moan with me?" She demanded. "We used to do that all the time."

"As teenagers, yes. But we're grown-ups now. We need to be more responsible." Julie reminded her. "No more plotting what evil things we're going to do on the guy to make us feel better."

Laura slumped and gave her a sulky look. Julie had to fight back her laughter; she looked like a child who had been caught with her hand in the cookie jar.

"You're no fun anymore."

Julie rolled her eyes and looked at Ian.

"Take her home, Ian."

Ian nodded and quickly drank his coffee. Then he slid off the stool and took Laura's arm.

"Come on, babe."

Laura went with him, still muttering under her breath. Then she turned to Julie before they set off towards the door.

"If he comes in here, don't give him what he wants." She warned.

Julie sighed.

"I'll be the judge of that. Now go home and get some sleep before you go yourself a mischief."

#

BOOK: The Tiger's Reluctant Mate: BBW Paranormal Tiger Shifter Romance Standalone (Hunky Shifters Book 2)
9.91Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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