The Tiger's Reluctant Mate: BBW Paranormal Tiger Shifter Romance Standalone (Hunky Shifters Book 2) (4 page)

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

 

Her cell phone rang just as Julie got out the shower. Slipping on a robe over the towel she wrapped around her body and using a smaller towel to rub her hair down, Julie hurried to pick up her cell, which she had left on the kitchen counter.

"Hello?"

"Hey, it's me. Where were you? I thought you'd got lost."

"Oh, hi, Laura." Julie hopped onto a stool and laid the towel round her shoulders. "Sorry, was having a shower. How was your time away?"

Laura had a habit of calling in sick at irregular intervals but Julie knew Laura was skipping town with Ian and going to motels to have hours of wild sex. Laura was always going on about Ian's prowess in bed, so much so Julie had to block up her ears so she didn't hear every single detail.

"It was awesome." Laura sighed. "You wouldn't believe how romantic Ian was."

Julie snorted.

"I thought you accused Ian of being the most unromantic bastard you could think of. You were talking of breaking if off because he wasn't romantic."

"I was a little hasty. He showed his soft side finally." Laura's voice sobered. "I heard what happened with the cafe. I'm so sorry."

Julie felt the tears welling up and swallowed.

"Thanks."

"I bet it was him."

"What?" Julie wondered if she had missed something. "Who?"

"Lawrence. I bet he started the fire."

"Why would you think that?"

"He would do it to spite you after you turned him down." Julie had told Laura about Lawrence's attempt to book her cafe for a party the same evening. "He's nasty like that. Anything to make sure whoever turned him down, and that doesn't happen often, gets something bad happen to them. Makes him feel better."

Julie wanted to believe it but she had seen two sides to Lawrence. One was an arrogant man who expected to get his own way; the other was compassionate and had him offering her money to help out, albeit at a price. Plus Laura could say outlandish things, believing them to be true. She was a dramatic woman.

"That sounds rather childish, doesn't it? Besides, we don't have proof that he actually did torch my place."

"Give me a couple of days and I can prove it. I'll find the proof."

Julie groaned. She pressed her fingers to the bridge of her nose.

"No. Don't bother."

"Why not? I can..."

"No. I know you, Laura. You'll find something you believe is the proof and we could end up sending an innocent man to jail."

"But if he did..."

"Then we'll find things the proper way. Let the police handle it." Julie's headache was slowly getting worse. "Okay?"

"Okay."

She could see Laura's annoyed pout in her mind's eye. Her friend loved to dish up dirt, whether it was true or not. Much as she disliked Lawrence she wasn't that vindictive.

Laura sighed.

"If you need anything, call me?"

"I will do." Then Julie heard a familiar bleeping tone. Someone else was calling. She took a quick glance at the screen. "Sorry, Laura, got to go. Charlie's calling."

She hung up on Laura and answered Charlie's call, trying to sound upbeat.

"Hey, little guy."

"Little? Sis, I've been taller than you since the ninth grade."

"Thanks for reminding me of that fact." Julie laughed. "How you doing?"

"Well, I had that date. Sharon and I watched that new thriller."

"Which one?"

Charlie sighed.

"Okay, we watched the new Marvel film."

Julie chuckled. Charlie loved his comics and anime.

"Sounds more like you." She slid off the stool and went into the lounge. "How did it go?"

"Sharon enjoyed it. We went for pizza afterwards." He sighed. "She's a meat lover."

"You picked well." Julie sat on the couch, pulling her legs up underneath her. "You never did like your vegetables."

It sounded like things were going well for her brother. Julie wondered if he could push some of his luck her way.

"We talked for hours at my place afterwards. It was gone two when we decided to say goodbye."

"What? No goodbye kiss?" Julie teased.

"Just a kiss at the end." Charlie said quickly. "And I'm not telling you anything more on future dates."

Julie laughed.

"Good. Because I wouldn't want you to."

"How's everything your end? Boon docks still boring as ever?"

Julie's good mood suddenly went. She didn't want to tell Charlie about what had happened. He would try to do the honourable thing and come back to help. His education was important to him and Julie was determined to make sure he stuck it out. She swallowed and tried to sound upbeat.

"Yep. Boring as ever."

"You know, I've told Sharon all about you. How you stuck with me when our parents died and looked after me. Said you were superwoman." Charlie sounded proud. "She said she'd like to meet you."

Julie bit her lip. While she wanted to meet Charlie's girlfriend she didn't want to be shown as a failure now she had no job.

"I think she said that to make you feel good about your big sister."

"Honestly, she means it. Maybe we can Skype one day and you can say hello."

"Sounds like an idea."

Charlie fell silent for a moment. Julie could hear him thinking and it was about her.

"Are you sure you're okay?" He asked. "You sound different."

"Yeah." Julie pretended to yawn and then actually yawned. "Just very tired."

"Okay, if you're sure? Oh, and Admissions reminded me that the payment for next year is due next month."

Next month. Julie tried to sound bright.

"No problem. I'll get on to it."

"Thanks. I'd better go now. Got an essay to write." Charlie's voice softened. "Love you, Jules."

"Love you, too."

Julie hung up and stared at the wall, her cell phone in her lap. Next month. She had half the money needed to send over but then she would be virtually destitute. No one was willing to give her money to help her out and there weren't many jobs going that could let her live beyond hand-to-mouth.

There was only one option. An option she didn't like taking but she had no choice. But this was for Charlie, not for her. He was more important than her pride.

His card was still on the doormat. Julie retrieved it and dialled the number. He picked up on the second ring.

"Lawrence."

Julie closed her eyes and took a deep breath.

"I'll take the deal."

Somehow she was going to regret this.

#

 

 

 

 

 

Ryan was nervous. Julie was coming in today. It had been two days since Julie had called to tell him she would take the deal and they had made arrangements for her to be moved into the separate annex, right next to his apartment. She had moved in last night and was due to start that morning.

Having a wall between them during the night and not able to touch her had kept Ryan up most of the night. His cock had been in a state of constant stiffness and it had taken three cold showers before it abated. It was resting now but Ryan knew it was going only to take a sniff of his mate's scent and his cock would be awake again.

Maybe this wasn't such a good idea.

But if he wanted to keep her alive, he needed to know where she was, keep her close. It would calm him knowing that she was close and safe.

No one could get to her here. Not with his clan and their security.

He was pacing around his office waiting for her when his phone rang. Ryan scooped the receiver up on the third ring.

"This had better be good." He growled.

"Sorry."

Recognizing his second's voice, Ryan sat in his chair.

"Have you found anything?"

"The scent disappeared very quickly when we tried to follow it." Greg didn't sound happy. "It was very distinct."

Ryan was confused.

"If it was that distinct then how could it disappear?" He demanded. "Scents don't disappear."

"I don't know but whatever they did worked. We can't find anything beyond the end of the street."

Ryan snarled and slammed his fist onto the desk.

"Dammit!" His hand throbbed but he ignored it. "They're clever."

"Why would they go after her? Has she had any contact with them before?"

"Their leader has been in her place on a regular basis and they talk often but I don't think she would do anything to anger him to do that."

"Why not?" Greg sounded amused. "You got her angry at you just by being an arrogant shit. She nearly pulled a gun on you."

"She wouldn't have."

"How can you be so sure?"

"It was a bluff. I could clearly see she had never fired a gun in her life and she was scared about carrying out her bluff." Ryan grinned. "Besides, I was intentionally getting her riled up."

Greg grunted. Ryan could hear his cousin thinking.

"Could it be a female tiger working with them? You only met her that evening and immediately knew she was your mate. Only you and I know about it. I haven't said anything and I'm sure you wouldn't have, either. The only way they would know you two were mates would be if they were following you or tapping our phones. You have had one of the girls in the office following you lately."

Ryan had considered that possibility. The females were queuing up to become his tiger queen but Ryan wasn't interested. Especially not since he had found his mate.

Knowing it was dangerous if the females found out before he marked Julie, he had made Greg keep quiet about it, Greg the only one he could completely trust. Everyone else thought Julie was just a passing fancy.

"That girl's human. And she's got a boyfriend. I told her to go back to him." He could still remember the scene with his employee. "She didn't take it that well."

"They never do." Greg said, amused. "Not when you're involved."

Ryan's nostrils suddenly picked up a familiar scent that had his tiger sitting up and taking notice. Julie was here. She was in the outer office. Immediately, his cock hardened and Ryan had to concentrate hard to put his arousal away. If he weren’t careful, he was going to jump Julie and that really would have her running away. He swallowed.

"She's here. I'd better go. Keep me posted."

"Ryan." Greg stopped him before he hung up. "Don't be too hard on her. I know you're putting on a facade but don't push too hard."

Ryan didn't respond. He hung up and stood up, making sure that his arousal wasn't noticeable. Then he went to the door and opened it, leaning against the doorframe.

Julie was putting her coat on a rack and was making her way to the desk, looking in her purse as she walked. She was dressed conservatively in a simple white blouse and shapeless black slacks. While it wasn't the sexiest outfit he had ever seen, Ryan didn't think he'd see anything more beautiful than Julie.

"Good morning, Julie." He gave her his best smile. "I trust you found your accommodation to your satisfaction."

Julie stopped and looked up, her green eyes wide and apprehensive as she looked at him. Ryan felt the look like a punch in the gut. If her hair wasn't a head-turner, those eyes certainly were; they sucked him in.

"I just dumped my things and slept." Julie said shortly, moving behind her desk and putting it between them. "I'm not going to be here long enough to make it a home."

"But you're going to be here a month. You might as well." Ryan pushed off the doorframe. "And don't worry about the rent on your home for this month. I've spoken to your landlord and he said he’d just pick up when you've got it. He's not going to bang your door down asking for it."

He wasn't going to say that he had already paid Julie's rent for the next year. The landlord had been surprised and pleased, saying Julie could have her home as long as she wanted. But he didn't want Julie alienating him and berating him for his actions.

"That's very kind of you." Julie said faintly. She put her purse down. "What do you want me to do?"

Ryan was ready for that. Picking up a cardboard box full of papers just inside the door, he carried it across and dumped it on her desk.

"These charts and tables need to be processed. Dad had someone doing it for him but she went on maternity leave shortly before he died so it's been piling up."

"Convenient." Julie muttered. She eyed the box. "So I'm just typing things into a computer."

"For now. And when I need you, I'll holler." Ryan walked back to his office. "You'll be getting refreshments for everyone, you will need to answer the phones and transfer whenever necessary and keep up to date on my diary." He stopped at the door and turned back. "Think you can do that?"

"I was a secretary before I started up my cafe and I've done data entry at university." Julie lifted her chin defiantly. "I can handle it."

"Good."

Ryan didn't know what to say other than that. He wanted to tell her that he wasn't going to be hard on her but somehow that didn't seem right. Julie didn't look like she wanted to hear it. He coughed and turned away.

"Okay."

He stepped into his office and shut the door, leaning against it as his tiger yapped, demanding to go back and claim his mate.

This was going to be harder than he thought.

#

BOOK: The Tiger's Reluctant Mate: BBW Paranormal Tiger Shifter Romance Standalone (Hunky Shifters Book 2)
4.46Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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