The Tiger's Reluctant Mate: BBW Paranormal Tiger Shifter Romance Standalone (Hunky Shifters Book 2) (3 page)

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

 

It took Julie several hours before she was able to fall asleep. Normally, she conked out as soon as her head hit the pillow but tonight she tossed and turned, unable to switch off.

All she could think about was the insufferable Ryan Lawrence and that sexy smile of his and his even sexier eyes. The way they glowed golden amber before turning back to brown.

It changed his whole face and he went from gorgeous to devastating. Julie's whole body was still heated from their exchange, her pussy complaining that she hadn't got any action.

She really did need to go out and get laid if she was considering a shifter attractive. While Julie knew not all shifters were the same, she was still apprehensive about even thinking that he was smoking hot. Her brain must have got frazzled from all the stress.

But she couldn't stop thinking about the image that Lawrence had cast in her mind when they had been verbally sparring, of her lying on her back while Lawrence fucked her hard, touching places none of her previous boyfriends had been able to reach. Her body was flushing red-hot even hours after the thought and Julie was getting fidgety.

Even using her dildo and bringing herself to orgasm by hand didn't seem to help. She was still on edge. Just because of the damn man who thought he ruled the roost.

It was nearly dawn by the time Julie finally fell asleep, only to suddenly awaken by her phone ringing loudly. After a moment she realized it wasn't her alarm going off. Julie fumbled for her phone, rubbing sleep out of her eyes.

"Yeah?"

"Julie, you gotta come to the cafe now."

"Richard?" The words were jumbled in Julie's head but she recognized the voice. She sat up. "What's wrong?"

"Your cafe is on fire. Can you not hear the sirens?"

It was then that Julie heard the familiar screeching that was from the fire department sirens. She was right on the edge of Little Rock but it was small enough that sound simply echoed through the streets. Immediately Julie was awake.

"My cafe?"

"Someone's torched the place. It's going up like an inferno."

Julie didn't hear what else Richard had to say. Slipping jeans on over her bikini panties, leaving her oversized shirt on, she stuffed her feet into her sneakers and ran out of the house. It was only a few hundred feet to her work place but it felt like a mile. Julie felt like everything was going on in slow motion.

She turned a corner and the heat and smoke hit her in the face. Her cafe was ablaze, flames reaching high up into the sky. The firefighters were trying to contain the fire but it was too much. They only had two hoses and they were fighting a losing battle.

Julie's heart dropped like a stone. Her work. Her life gone up in flames. There would be nothing left.

Her legs gave out from under her and she collapsed onto the ground. It was then that the tears started to fall.

#

 

 

 

 

 

The loud ringing of his phone had Ryan jerking away from sleep. Slowly, the vision of Julie on top of him and riding his cock to an orgasm disappeared and he was awake and alone in his bedroom, sporting an erection that was bordering on painful.

Rolling onto his side, he fumbled for his phone and snapped it open.

"Yeah?" He growled and then realized that his fangs were out, filling his mouth.

"You okay, Ryan? You don't sound good."

"I'm fine." Ryan concentrated and his fangs receded enough so he could talk. But they didn't completely go. "Talk to me, Greg."

"That girl you asked me to check out? Her cafe was just burned down."

That had Ryan's attention. He sat up; his painful hard-on forgotten and sleep became a thing of the past.

"Burned down? Was it a gas leak?"

"No. From what the firefighters said, it was torched." His second-in-command and cousin sounded grim. "It was deliberate, Ryan."

Ryan's heart was hammering in his chest. He knew from what people had said about Julie that the cafe was her whole life, with the exception of her kid brother. This would devastate her.

He swallowed.

"Is Julie okay?"

"She's fine. She wasn't in there. Our guy had to drag her away before she ran into the flames." Greg sighed. "She's torn apart."

Only Greg knew about Julie being Ryan's mate. They shared everything and Ryan could trust Greg with this. If it got out that he had a mate, female tigers would go out of their way to eliminate their human competition so they had a shot at being queen. Ryan didn't want that to happen so Greg was the only person he had confided in.

Could it be that someone had found out about Julie and gone after her instead? It was possible but Ryan didn't think so. However, he wasn't about to discount it.

"Do what you can, Greg." He said gruffly. "Find out who the bastards are. I want their heads on a platter."

"You think one of the girls wanted to take her out?"

"I don't know but I wouldn't put it past them. Some of those felines are downright nasty." Ryan took a deep breath and let it out with a shudder. "Just keep tabs on Julie. Keep her safe."

"You can rely on me, Ry."

Greg hung up. Ryan closed his cell phone and tossed it onto the bed. Then he buried his face in his face.

Things were going to get hairy if any of the female tigers was involved. They knew the consequences of messing with a human mate but evidently someone didn't care.

Ryan was going to make sure they knew how badly they had screwed up.

#

 

 

 

 

 

Julie drove home, her mood the lowest it had ever been in her life. It had been two days since that fire had wiped out her livelihood and she had spent those two days trying to salvage what she could and sorting out the insurance.

Thankfully, she had kept on top of the payments but the insurance company was refusing to pay out as the fire was being seen as arson and was under police investigation. The dumbasses thought she had set the fire.

The structure of the place was sound, which was a good thing. Richard had told her if she cleaned everything away the structure would hold easily and she could set up again. That was the easy part. Finding a bank that was willing to give her a loan to refurbish and set up again was not.

Julie had gone to three banks, both in Little Rock and in Benton and Conway, and all of them had turned her down. She had even gone all the way to Pine Bluff and Hot Springs but it was the same result. Even the manager who had given her a loan the first time around said he wouldn't give her another since she still had half of her original loan to pay off.

Julie was lost. Everything had gone up in flames and she had no way to support herself and no way to afford the tuition fees for Charlie. He would have to leave Oxford and come home or get several jobs to pay his way through. The admissions team might be able to give them special treatment due to circumstances but Julie didn't want that. She didn't like special treatment.

Her uncle and aunt had taught her to do things off her own back. So when she had turned eighteen and gone off to university to do a business degree she had done everything herself. Her uncle had given her half the money for the fees every semester but Julie had paid the rest. She never asked for it and she never took money for granted.

Now it was looking like she was back at the bottom rung again. She would have to look for a crappy job and start saving up again.

Dusk was falling as Julie pulled into her street. She just wanted to go inside, lock the doors and have a good cry. She was not looking forward to the phone call to Charlie that he would have to leave university unless he paid his own way.

There was a flashy dark blue BMW parked outside her house. Julie could see someone sitting on the porch, his face half-lit by the light on his phone as he texted away. She groaned. Of all the people she didn't want to deal with, this man was at the top of the list.

She pulled into the driveway and got out, snatching for her purse and clutching it tightly to her as she locked up. Then she stalked towards the porch.

"What are you doing here?"

Lawrence looked up. Julie was surprised to see a frown between his eyes. He looked worried. Then it disappeared as Lawrence put his phone away and he stood, coming down the steps to meet her.

"I came to check you were okay." He stopped when Julie stopped, keeping his distance. "I heard you were rather distraught after what happened to that quaint little cafe you ran."

"You'd be distraught if the only thing that paid the bills and kept your brother in the school is what is not there anymore." Julie snapped.

"And I'd be distraught if that happened and no one would give me a loan to help me get back on my feet."

Julie gritted her teeth. She had a headache coming on.

"Why are you here?" She demanded. "Are you here to gloat? To say that serves me right that I didn't let you have that party?"

As soon as she said that, a disturbing thought came into her head. It took firm root and began to grow. Julie knew it was ridiculous but...

She stared at Lawrence, who was watching her closely.

"Oh, God. You set the fire, didn't you?"

Lawrence scoffed and rolled his eyes.

"Now you're getting hysterical."

"Really? Then what's to prevent me from calling the cops right now and saying I have the man responsible for the arson outside my house?"

"Because it's a stupid and clumsy theory that you've come to and we both know it."

Julie knew he was right. She was being hysterical. Just because they had come to a disagreement didn't mean that he was responsible for starting the fire. He wasn't that vindictive or stupid.

Was he?

Lawrence sighed.

"I actually came here to offer you some help."

Julie scoffed.

"I don't want any help from you." She snarled.

"You might change your mind when you hear the terms."

"That's why I don't want your help. Because there are strings attached." Julie went to push past Lawrence. "I don't do help like that."

She squealed when Lawrence grabbed her arm and spun her round. He didn't hold her hard but Julie could feel the heat burning into her skin. Lawrence held her close as he glared down at her, his now-golden eyes flaring, his mouth twisted in frustration.

"Would you stop being so stubborn for five minutes and listen to the terms before you judge?" He snapped. "Or are you going to pre-judge again like you pre-judged me?"

"I didn't pre-judge you."

"Are you sure of that?"

Julie knew he was right. She had pre-judged him from what Laura had told her about him and her opinion on shifters. Bastard that he was, Ryan Lawrence didn't deserve that. Sighing, she shrugged his arm off and put a lid on her rising temper.

"Fine. You've got two minutes."

"One month." Lawrence held up a hand. "You work as my personal assistant on my ranch for one month. There's a separate annex for you so you won't have to do the long commute. You will do anything and everything that I say. I'll pay you as I would for any personal assistant, including bonuses. Then at the end of the month, if you're still there and I think you've been good, I'll give you the money you need to get your cafe back up to speed."

Julie couldn't believe what she was hearing. She had to be dreaming. He was offering to help her out on the condition that she worked for him. She could see how well that would go down.

"My workplace cost tens of thousands of dollars." She pointed out. "You haven't got the money."

"Try me. I can easily afford it." Lawrence spread his hands. "I was a successful businessman with a high-ranking salary before I came here to take over Dad's operations. I've got that and then some."

Julie was tempted. Really tempted. But she didn't like the conditions. From what she had gathered, Ryan Lawrence would be a difficult man to work for. While she was normally a polite person, Julie didn't hold back when she thought someone was being rude and disrespectful. She wouldn't be able to cope.

She shook her head.

"Sorry, no deal. I'm not working for you."

Lawrence looked incredulous.

"You'd rather be unemployed than work for me? Be an adult, Julie."

"I am." Julie wagged a finger in his face. "I'm not going to be made your lapdog and be a laughing stock."

"I'd never do that."

"Really?" Julie stepped away and turned her back on him, heading up the porch steps. "Goodbye, Mr Lawrence."

"You've got twenty-four hours." Lawrence's voice followed her up the stairs. "My card's under the door."

"I won't be changing my mind." Julie said over her shoulder, not missing a step as she got her key out and opened the front door.

She heard Lawrence sigh. It sounded like he was giving up.

"Suit yourself. But the offer's still there until this time tomorrow night."

Julie didn't turn around as she heard Lawrence walk away and his car bleep its locks off. She ducked into her house and slammed the door, leaning her forehead against the polished wood. She thumped a fist into the doorframe.

"Bastard."

 

 

 

 

 

 

BOOK: The Tiger's Reluctant Mate: BBW Paranormal Tiger Shifter Romance Standalone (Hunky Shifters Book 2)
6.33Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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