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

BOOK: The Tiger's Reluctant Mate: BBW Paranormal Tiger Shifter Romance Standalone (Hunky Shifters Book 2)
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Julie had never felt so relieved to finish work when the last customer finally left after engaging her in conversation for nearly half an hour. While she normally enjoyed talking to her customers, she didn't like it when it stopped her from doing things she needed to do around the cafe.

But she wasn't an impolite person by nature so she allowed the dear old lady who came in every day to talk about her grandson, who had just graduated from Harvard and was going for the bar exam.

The place now quiet, she was tidying up the cups and saucers under the counter and checking the condiments when she heard the bell tingling. Someone was coming in.

Sighing and preparing to serve another customer when she needed to get on with clearing up for the night, Julie pushed herself to her feet, biting back a wince as her knees screamed at her.

"Yes, what can I get you?"

Her smile froze as her eyes alighted on the man who stood by the counter, looking around him with a critical eye. He nodded in vague approval before he turned his gaze on her. Their eyes locked and Julie felt something slam into her stomach.

Damn, he was gorgeous. Six-one if she had to guess, short dark hair and chocolate brown eyes with a hint of swirling gold. He had a firm jaw, a straight nose and a soft-looking mouth.

Broad shoulders and a wide chest were defined by a white shirt and a tan-coloured knee-length coat, and his strong-looking legs were encased in brand new black jeans. White sneakers that looked like they had never come out of the box finished the ensemble.

Julie had never seen him before. She would certainly have seen someone as handsome as this man walking around Little Rock. She swallowed and managed to finish her smile.

"Good evening, sir. Would you like a coffee?"

"That's very kind of you." The newcomer took a seat on one of the stools. "Black, no sugar."

"No problem."

Julie turned the coffee machine back on and fixed up a simple black coffee. She placed it in front of the stranger, who was looking around at the tables with the chairs stacked up on them.

"Did I come after closing? The door was open."

"Technically, I'm still open but only for another five minutes." Julie wiped down the coffee machine. "You just caught me."

"Lucky for me."

The stranger took out a wallet, which looked like it cost thousands, and took out a hundred-dollar bill. He held it out to her.

"Keep the change."

Julie stared at the bill. Had he really told her to keep ninety-seven dollars in change? She shook herself out of her trance and took the bill, aware that the stranger deliberately brushed his fingers against hers.

The electricity shot up her arm and Julie had to bite her lip to stifle the gasp of surprise. Aware that her nipples were hardening under her t-shirt and would be visible, she stepped back and adjusted her apron over her chest.

"We don't get many people flashing these around." She put the bill away in the till.

"Maybe they can't afford it."

"And you can?"

"I certainly can." He flashed a white smile, a smile that went up to his eyes, and he held out a hand. "Ryan Lawrence."

"Julie Fowler." Julie shook his hand firmly but quickly before dropping it. "Lawrence. Are you related to Jonathan Lawrence?"

"My dad."

Then it clicked for Julie. So this was Laura's new boss. The rude, arrogant ball-buster. But Julie couldn't understand why her friend had such a hatred for this man.

Lawrence was gorgeous - Julie may have sworn off sex to focus on her career but she wasn't blind - and even though she was taken Laura never passed up an opportunity to flirt with fresh meat.

Maybe that was the reason. She had tried it on with Lawrence and he had turned her down, one of the few good-looking men who had done the unthinkable. That could be the only reason Laura was in a bad mood about him.

"Jon was nearly seventy." Julie raised an eyebrow as she looked over him, trying not to openly stare. "You don't look like you've reached thirty."

"I've just turned twenty-eight. Took fifteen years of trying before Mom finally got pregnant." Lawrence's mouth twitched sadly. "Only for her to die shortly after giving birth to me. Not exactly a cosy family story."

"I'm sorry."

Lawrence shrugged. He looked so forlorn that Julie wanted to go round the counter and hug him. Hell, she wanted to touch him.

She mentally shook herself. It had to be the lack of sex that was going to her brain. She had been unknowingly starving herself with regards to sex that she was going crazy wanting to touch the first good-looking guy who gave her sad eyes.

Charlie was right, in a sense. She needed to get laid.

Lawrence changed the topic quickly enough for Julie to wonder what had happened.

"Listen, I came in here to make a booking."

"A booking?"

"Yeah, for a party. To celebrate my new ownership of the ranch."

Julie looked around her cafe in surprise. While hosting something like that would be great for her, she wasn't sure about it being in her place.

"And you want to hold it here?"

"The place looks quaint." Lawrence's charm was disarming but his voice said otherwise. "I like quaint. It's for a hundred people."

"The maximum capacity for this place is fifty."

Lawrence shrugged.

"We can go out into the street as well. Lots of big names, lots of money." He waved a hand carelessly at her cafe. "You should be able to get some good business from them if you impress them enough."

That had Julie's back up. She glared at him.

"I get good business already." She said stiffly.

"Really?" Lawrence looked surprised. "In Little Rock?"

"Not just Little Rock. The neighbouring towns also come here." Julie leant her hands on the counter. "I get enough to be happy."

"I doubt it. Not in the boon docks." Lawrence finished his coffee and slid off his stool, brushing a speck of invisible dust off his shoulder. "The party will take place in two days. I'll pay a deposit up front. And we want food as well."

Julie was fuming. He was expecting her to bow down to him? After he had insulted her clientele and treated her like simple hired help? Even if Laura hadn't given Julie her opinion on the man, Julie had already formed an opinion of Lawrence that was certainly not in his favour.

If that meant losing what could be a profitable line for her so be it. She didn't work with arrogance.

"Sorry. I can't do it."

She caught Lawrence as he was turning away. Lawrence looked back at her and stared at her in confusion. He clearly hadn't expected her to say no.

"Why not?"

"It's too short notice. And I can't have that many people in here." Julie wasn't going to tell him the real reason. "You'll have to find somewhere else. Do a barbecue up at the ranch or something. But not here."

Lawrence was now looking at her in total bewilderment. Julie wondered how many women had said no to him and deduced there weren't many of them.

An image of her laid across the counter with her jeans on the floor while Lawrence pounded into her hard enough to make her scream her normally quiet climaxes flashed across her mind. Her pussy clenched and Julie squeezed her thighs together, glad that she was behind the counter. But she couldn't do anything about the blush that rose up in her cheeks.

"You're turning the money down?"

"I have principles."

"Oh?" Lawrence leant on the counter, his face just beyond the range of too close for comfort for Julie. Whether it was a flirtatious move or intimidation, she didn't know but it sent her body into overdrive. "Like what?"

"I have to like my clients." Julie stammered. She gulped and tried again. Men like this shouldn't have her reduced to a complete mess. "I don't work with bullies and those who flash money like it's nothing."

"I'm a bully?"

"And a flasher." Julie managed to maintain eye contact. "For me people talk, money doesn't."

They stared at each other. Julie was then aware of Lawrence's eyes changing colour. One minute they were brown, the next they were gold, glowing as he looked at her. Julie couldn't tear her eyes away; it was beautiful. Then it hit her.

Lawrence was a shifter. No human’s eyes turned like that. Julie hoped he wasn't a werewolf; they weren't exactly her favourite shifters on the planet.

"So money doesn't talk to you?" Lawrence purred and grinned. "Does fifty thousand talk to you?"

Julie couldn't speak. Both for the way Lawrence's voice rippled across her skin and the sound of fifty thousand dollars. She had never had fifty thousand dollars before.

The most she had managed in one go was nearly thirty thousand and most of that had gone in to building and starting up the cafe. Now she was careful, setting aside the money needed for Charlie's tuition and living on a shoestring. She was good at being careful with money.

But fifty thousand dollars could have her set aside the money needed for tuition fees and have plenty left over for her.

Lawrence saw her hesitation and his smile widened, his eyes glowing.

"It sounds tempting, doesn't it? You sort this party out for two days' time and it's all yours."

Julie shook herself and glared at him. She knew what he was doing. Shifters were good at getting people under their spell to do whatever they wanted. The fact they were gorgeous as sin helped. And Ryan Lawrence certainly fell in that category.

But Julie wasn't going to fall for it. If she did this one thing for him, she would be under his thumb for life. He would essentially own her and Julie wasn't a kept pet.

"No, thanks." She said stiffly. "I'd have to do a lot of cancelling and I'm not putting people out. The book club meet here at that time and I'm not telling them it's not on this week because a spoilt brat wanted to indispose them."

"They can come another time." Lawrence said carelessly. "My party can't wait."

"Do it elsewhere. Not here." Julie leant forward. "And don't use your name and influences to change my mind. I'm not doing it."

Their faces were closer now. If Julie just moved a little further forward, she would be able to kiss him. But she shoved the thought away and stood her ground. Now was not the time to be thinking what this arrogant rich bastard kissed like when she was trying to turn his business away.

Lawrence's nostrils flared, his eyes glowing brighter before dimming and going back to brown. He growled.

"You're going to regret saying no to me." He said in a low voice.

"Are you resorting to threats?" Julie grinned nastily. "I have a shotgun behind the counter and I know how to use it. Would you like to find out?"

She did have a shotgun but she had no idea how to really use it. But she had used the bluff of getting it out before on a disruptive customer and they had calmed right down. However, suggesting it to a shifter was rather futile since a normal blast from a shotgun wouldn't kill them. It would likely slow them down, though.

But this didn't feel like threats. This felt like foreplay. And Julie's body was heating up at the thought.

"No one's ever said no to me before." Lawrence looked like he was in total wonder at the sensation.

"There's a first for everything." Julie jerked a thumb at the door. "Now out."

Then she hurried into the back, hiding in the kitchen until she heard him leave. Only then and after her body had cooled down so she didn't feel like she wanted to jump him did she come out.

#

 

 

 

 

 

Ryan sat in his car and calmed his anger. He managed to temper it but it still flared. How dare she tell him what to do? How dare she refuse him?

But, damn, he was turned on as hell.

That shouldn't happen. There wasn't a woman he hadn't encountered that he hadn't managed to charm when he turned it on. But this Julie Fowler had turned his business down and hadn't even blinked when he turned up the demands, still saying no. It was as if his name and wealth didn't mean a thing.

He had found a note in his father's diary of this cafe where he went most mornings for his coffee. Apparently, according to many of his employees, it was the best place to get your coffee and a pastry or cake of your choice. The woman behind the counter was a whizz when it came to baking.

Ryan hadn't thought much of it but had decided to see what the woman was like and if what he had been told was the truth. So he had gone to the cafe with the story that he had a big party to host.

And he hadn't been disappointed. The woman was bright, sassy and could face down a bear if she wanted with that glare. Those green eyes had had him rooted to the spot the first time he saw them. They were stunning.

Hell, the damn woman was stunning. Petite and a few pounds on the heavy side, she carried herself in a way that she was happy with her own body and didn't care what people said. And it wasn't pounds of fat - it was pounds of muscle. The woman worked out.

And that red hair cut in that style. Ryan had found his gaze straying to her hair and how one stray strand that had escaped the bright green clip kept falling over her face and kept getting brushed behind her ear. It was endearing.

Julie Fowler, all in all, was beautiful.

And it wasn't just Ryan that thought so. His tiger, which had been lying around bored for most of the day even with some delectable flesh in the office, had sat up and taken notice when it caught sight of Julie.

Then it had growled and paid close attention to her during their verbal sparring. Ryan had had to focus hard not to let the beast out in case he scared her; he didn't want her screaming and calling the police on him. But the tiger had wanted her. It wanted out.

It was screaming one word.

Mate.

Ryan didn't know what to make of that. After being married at eighteen for a short eight months, he didn't believe he would find his mate. And being the tiger king, he needed a mate. While he hadn't paid much attention to that while his father was alive, Ryan knew he would need to think about taking someone as his queen soon.

Julie was his mate. He should ask her to become his queen. But she was human. She didn't know about shifters. So she was out of bounds.

But that didn't stop Ryan wanting. And did he want.

 

BOOK: The Tiger's Reluctant Mate: BBW Paranormal Tiger Shifter Romance Standalone (Hunky Shifters Book 2)
8.26Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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