The Tiger's Reluctant Mate: BBW Paranormal Tiger Shifter Romance Standalone (Hunky Shifters Book 2) (5 page)

BOOK: The Tiger's Reluctant Mate: BBW Paranormal Tiger Shifter Romance Standalone (Hunky Shifters Book 2)
13.64Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

 

 

 

 

 

 

"Hey, girlfriend."

Julie looked up and saw Laura leaning in the doorway to her office. She was dressed in a tight black blouse open enough to see her ample cleavage and a tight black skirt with high heels. Julie was sure Laura was wearing stockings and a garter belt as well.

She found enough energy to smile at her friend, leaning back in her chair. Her fingers were sore from all the typing and she was dying to get up and walk around.

"Hey."

"What are you doing here? Frances said you were acting as Lawrence's personal assistant for the month. I thought she was talking crazy."

"It's true." Julie rubbed her hands over her face. "Lawrence said if I worked for him for a month then he would give me the money to start up my cafe again and make sure Charlie's tuition fees are looked after."

She explained what had happened that evening Lawrence had given her the deal. When she finished Laura was looking at her like she had grown an extra head.

"He blackmailed you into working for him?"

"I had no choice. No one would give me a loan and the cafe and Charlie are the only things I will do anything for."

Laura tilted her head to one side as she entered the room, her heels sinking into the soft carpet. Her hair was left loose about her shoulders with a clip holding back the sides out of her face.

"He's not having you as his fuck buddy, is he? I also heard you got moved into the annex next to his apartment."

Julie hadn't realized that Lawrence's apartment was that close. She had thought it was one of the workers. She sighed and stood, stretching her arms above her head.

"You know his work schedule." Lowering her arms she rolled her shoulders, feeling the tightened muscles scream at her. "I'm needed at close quarters. And there is no way I'm fucking him."

"Yeah." Laura snorted. "Who wants to fuck a gorgeous, arrogant rich boy, anyways?"

"Laura!" Julie gasped. She glanced towards the closed office door, which had stayed closed since she had arrived and Lawrence had ducked into his space. "Don't talk like that. He'll hear you."

"He certainly will."

Both women squealed and spun round. Lawrence was in the doorway, evidently having come from the office floor. Julie had no idea how he had managed to get there when he hadn't come out of his office all morning. He had to have another door somewhere.

Lawrence advanced into the room, giving Laura a stern look that Julie hadn't seen before. Whatever had happened between them he clearly didn't like her.

"I thought you were supposed to be working at your desk, Laura. And that happens to be at the other end of the room, not in here."

Laura flushed but she lifted her chin and didn't look away.

"I came to see my bestie."

"Well, now you've seen your 'bestie', get back to your desk. I haven't seen any work from you all week and I'd like to see some by the end of the day."

"Yes, sir."

Sullen, Laura gave Julie a sulky look, rolled her eyes, and left. Julie glared at Lawrence. She had known she was right about him and that Laura's opinion of him was correct; he was rude and unkind. No matter what he had done for her, he was what Laura had said he was.

Lawrence turned back and saw her expression.

"What?"

"You don't need to be so rude to your employees." Julie said coldly. "Laura is a friend. She was just checking up on me."

"Which means she's not doing any work." Lawrence grunted. "Not that it makes any difference."

"What's that supposed to mean?"

Julie watched as Lawrence went to the door to the rest of the office and closed it. Then he stalked towards her. Julie tried to stand her ground but found herself backing away until her back hit the filing cabinet. Lawrence stood close, very close, and trapped her in by placing his hands either side of her, holding onto the cabinet.

"Laura is crass and bone-lazy." His voice was low, almost a growl that sounded like a purr. "She spends most of her time flirting with my work hands or in a locked room somewhere with her skirt around her waist and her knickers disappearing into another dimension."

"What?" Julie couldn't believe what she was hearing. "Laura's got a boyfriend. She dotes on Ian."

"Then the guy's a fool."

Julie shook her head. She knew that Laura was a flirt but she wasn't a cheater.

"She wouldn't sleep around. She hasn't looked at another man since she and Ian got together."

But hearing his description of Laura and what she actually got up to had doubts settling in Julie's mind. She wouldn't do that. Would she?

"Well, it wasn't Ian she was fucking when I caught her in the supply closet on my first day." Lawrence glowered at her. "Later, she came into my office and pleaded with me not to fire her. Even tried to proposition me."

Julie felt lightheaded. At least she now knew why Laura hated Lawrence. He had caught her out and then had turned her away. Laura hated rejection.

"She wouldn't."

But now she had less conviction in her voice.

"You know her, Julie. She would. I don't know why Dad kept her on but Laura knows she's on her final warning. I catch her knickers lying around the place or she's caught on her hands and knees with one of my employees banging her, she's gone." Lawrence pushed away from the cabinet and Julie suddenly felt like she could breathe properly again. "She's here to work, not to make her way through her colleagues."

Julie was still trying to come to terms with the image Lawrence had given her of Laura. Laura had always claimed she was a hard worker and people just didn't like the fact she was on good terms with her boss. Now, she knew what she did and why she took a lot of sick days.

She gulped.

"Is that warning the same with everyone else here?" She asked.

Lawrence tilted his head to one side and his expression softened.

"You're not everyone else." He said quietly. "You're loyal, at least. So are the rest of my workers and they will be treated fairly." He straightened and adjusted his jacket. "But mess about and you'll regret it."

Julie wasn't sure if she could handle the closeness anymore. If she wasn't careful, she was going to be all over this man, who was standing in front of her like sex on a stick.

Why did her temporary boss have to be so gorgeous? And why did he have to be a shifter?

Julie pushed away from the cabinet and staggered towards the door.

"I need to go to the bathroom."

Lawrence didn't stop her as she went into the hall and hurried down to the bathroom at the end of the hall. She pushed through the door and found a woman with short black hair dry-heaving into one of the sinks. Concerned, she went to her and placed a hand on her back.

"Are you okay? Do you need any help?"

"No, thanks." The woman straightened up. Her face was pale and her forehead was streaked with sweat. Her hair was stuck up in spikes. She gave Julie a faint smile in the mirror. "Just a little nauseous, that's all. Nothing I can't handle."

Julie went to the towel dispenser and took out a few hand towels. She ran them under the cold tap and handed them to the woman. Then she turned both taps on and washed away the remnants of vomit still in the sink.

"Why don't you take a sick day? I'm sure nobody will mind if you're this sick."

"I'm okay." The woman put the towels to her head and wiped away the sweat. She sighed in relief. "Chemo tends to make you feel sick. It's still early on in the treatment." She held out her free hand. "I'm Jayne Williamson. You're Julie, aren't you? You run the cafe in Little Rock?"

"Yes."

Julie shook the hand offered, noting the thinness of Jayne's hand. As she looked closer, she saw that Jayne was a bit too thin and guessed the chemo had already sucked a lot of her energy out of her.

"I've been there. You make a lovely coffee cake." Jayne grinned and patted her stomach. "Nearly took me off my diet, it's that addictive."

"Sorry."

"Don't be. I'm making the most of it. Especially after the chemo. That hasn't taken my sense of taste away yet."

Julie felt a pang of sadness. Her mother had been diagnosed with breast cancer shortly after giving birth to Charlie. But she had gone through her treatment and the cancer had been in remission.

She had lived only to be...

Julie pushed away the memories.

"What cancer is it?" She asked awkwardly.

"Breast cancer." Jayne didn't seem bothered. She leant against the sink. "They only discovered it three weeks ago. Caught it early. They took out the cancerous lump and I'm just having chemo as a precaution, make sure there's nothing left behind."

Julie nodded. Then she thought about Lawrence and decided to see what other people thought of him.

"It must be hard going to the hospital to have that when you work here. We're miles away from any hospital." She said carefully. "I bet the boss wasn't too happy with that."

"On the contrary, he was very supportive."

Julie blinked.

"Mr Lawrence?"

"Well, he wasn't officially the boss back then when I found out but he needed to know that I would need surgery." Jayne sighed. "He was amazing. He said he would pay for the surgery as my insurance wouldn't cover it and arranged for the chemo treatment personally."

"He did?"

Julie couldn't connect the man Laura had told her about with the man Jayne was describing.

"He wanted me to take time off but I said I need to work or my son and I would be out on the streets. But he said he could easily pay me for full-time work and bonuses despite me now working part-time to work around the chemo." Jayne snorted with a smile. "He even said he'd help out with the bills so we wouldn't be destitute."

Julie was still coming to terms with what she had heard. She rubbed at the back of her head.

"Lawrence doesn't seem the type to help people like that."

Liar, she thought. He had helped her out by giving her a job when she would be unemployed. And he was helping Jayne in pretty much the same way.

"He's like his dad." Jayne explained. "He's a little gruff and doesn't suffer fools gladly but he's a real softie on the inside. If you do well for him, he'll look after you." She snorted. "Do what that little chit Laura did and he'll have you out of here as fast as you can blink."

Julie had already figured that out. She was also figuring out that Laura wasn't as popular with her colleagues as she had made out. Men saw her as a sexual release and women saw her as something else entirely. Neither description was particularly complimenting.

"I would've thought he'd love a bit of attention like that." She mused.

"Not Ryan Lawrence. He's loyal through and through. Only one woman for him and that's only when he allows himself to let a woman in." Jayne sighed. "That man is one in a million. If I were fifteen years younger, I'd set my sights on him. But he's the boss." She glanced at her watch and tossed the wet towels into the bin. "Sorry, I'd better get going. I've got invoices to process. Fancy lunch later?"

"Sure."

Jayne gave her another big smile and hurried out, leaving Julie to think over what she had heard.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Four

 

"Julie?"

Julie stopped in the doorway, her coat half-on. Ryan stood in the doorway to his office. His tie had gone and the top two buttons on his shirt were undone. Julie wished he wouldn't go around like that; he looked irresistible. The three weeks they had worked together had worked on her and she was days away from jumping him.

She was in so much trouble.

"Yes?"

"Could you work late this evening? I've just had a lot of paperwork come in and I need an extra pair of hands."

Julie closed her eyes. She had a splitting headache and her stomach was screaming at her to get some food. All she wanted to do was go back to her apartment and have a takeout before going to bed. This was the last thing she needed.

But she and Ryan had agreed that she would do anything and everything he said and that had included several late nights. She shrugged out of her coat and hung it back up.

"Sure."

During the last week, they had found a rhythm that worked and could work off each other easily. Somehow they had fallen into a familiar routine when working together that felt like they had known each other for years instead of a matter of weeks.

She had even started calling him Ryan on his request. It felt strange calling him that instead of formally but now it felt nice. She liked the name and from Ryan's reaction when she had first said it, he liked the way she said it.

The tension between them was heavy and Julie wondered if everyone else could see it. If she was aware of it and she was terrible when it came to relationships then everyone else was aware. She had been getting some looks from a few of the prettier women who had tried to snag Ryan's attention but Julie ignored them. Nothing was going to happen between her and her boss.

She thought.

"Are you okay?"

Julie looked up. Ryan was staring at her in concern. Julie managed a smile.

"I'm fine."

"Are you sure? You look pale."

"I said I'm fine." Julie lied. The world was starting to spin.

She took a step forward and her legs gave way. Her vision went black.

When she opened her eyes, she found herself lying on her back staring at the ceiling. Ryan was sitting on the edge of the couch at her hip, dabbing a wet cloth over her forehead. His fingers brushed against her skin and Julie felt the touch all the way down to her toes. Ryan smiled at her, his expression showing relief.

"Hey. Welcome back."

Julie stared at him. Then she covered her eyes with her hands.

"Why is the light so bright?"

"Sorry."

Ryan left her side and Julie immediately wanted him back.

"Okay, you can take your hands away. I've dimmed the lights."

Julie lowered her hands and found the dimness was a lot better on her head. Ryan came back and sat beside her again.

"What happened?"

"You passed out." Ryan gave her a wry smile. "Nearly gave me a heart attack when you cracked your head on the desk."

That would explain why her head felt like it had exploded. Julie pressed a hand to her head and grimaced.

"Can you sit up?"

Julie shrugged. She allowed Ryan to help her sit up, Ryan propping the cushions behind her back and resting her against them. He sat back.

"Okay, look at me." He held up a hand. "How many fingers am I holding up?"

"Two and I'm glad you're holding them up that way round."

Ryan laughed.

"You're okay if you've still got your wit. It doesn't look like you've got a concussion but we can't be too true."

"I'm fine."

Ryan's look told her he didn't believe her.

"When was the last time you ate?"

Julie thought hard, which made her head hurt even more.

"I don't know. Yesterday lunch time?" She yawned. "I was so tired last night I went straight to bed and I skipped breakfast because I slept in." She looked at Ryan and blinked in surprise when she saw the angry expression on his face. "What?"

"You skipped breakfast because you were scared of being late?" He said incredulously. "I wouldn't have cared if you had slept in as long as you had a decent breakfast. Your health is more important." He placed a warm hand on her forehead. "Have you had anything to drink?"

"Just water. One mug of coffee at lunch."

Ryan shook his head in disapproval.

"You really need to take care of yourself."

"You've been running me ragged." Julie snapped. "What do you expect me to do?"

"Tell me you need to take a break." Ryan snapped back. "You're the hardest worker here, I think I can cut you some slack and let you have a decent meal. Then you won't be fainting in front of me again."

They glared at each other. Julie was the first to look away. She knew he was right; she had just been determined to do everything to the letter so she was able to get that money in three weeks’ time.

"Sorry." She muttered.

Ryan placed his hands on her shoulders and gently urged her to lie down.

"You lie down here and rest. Don't argue," He cut over Julie's protest, "I insist. I'm going to call and get something to eat. You rest until it gets here."

"What about work?" Julie still managed to protest.

"That can wait. Your health, on the other hand, can't." Ryan shifted the cushions so they were under her head. Then he whipped a blanket off the back of the couch and laid it over her. "Now rest."

Julie didn't need to be told twice. She didn't even question why Ryan was being so nice. She was simply aware of him stroking her hair as she fell asleep.

#

BOOK: The Tiger's Reluctant Mate: BBW Paranormal Tiger Shifter Romance Standalone (Hunky Shifters Book 2)
13.64Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

Rachel Van Dyken by The Parting Gift
Violets in February by Clare Revell
Above the Law by J. F. Freedman
The Midnight Watch by David Dyer
Ahmed's Revenge by Richard Wiley
Cherry Bomb: A Siobhan Quinn Novel by Caitlin R. Kiernan, Kathleen Tierney
Mad Sea by K Webster
Fated by Angela Skaggs