Authors: Savannah Stuart
He rolled his hips once, his thick erection pressing insistently against her abdomen. Warmth flooded between her legs as she thought about how easy it would be to let him take her right here. For anyone to see. The thought was strangely exhilarating. As if he read her mind, his hand slid up under the bottom of her shirt. Those wicked fingers skimmed her bare skin and she barely refrained from groaning out loud. He was so hot, so built and would easily take off the edge that had been building inside her since the first night they’d spent together.
But…she pulled her head back and shoved at his chest with a lot of force. Though she doubted she could have moved him unless he’d chosen to let her, she was glad he backed off. Digging her keys out of her clutch, she looked him in the eyes. “I told you I have somewhere to be. And if you want me again, you’re going to have to work for it.”
She took perverse pleasure in his stunned expression as she slid into the front seat of her car. That man probably never had to work for any female in his life, and she’d been no different than any of them, hopping into bed the first night they met. Ugh.
He just exuded a primal sex appeal any female with a pulse could appreciate. While she’d loved that night they’d spent together, she wasn’t in the market for some bad-boy fling. Nope, she was starting over and that did not include Mr. Badass tattoos. No matter how her body and instincts responded to him.
As she pulled away from her parking spot, she resisted the urge to look in her rearview mirror. She didn’t care if he watched her leave or not. Of course, even she didn’t believe her own lie.
She really hoped her friend Margery had baked tonight. Ella had just dropped by the bar to see Lauren before heading over to her new packmates’ place for a girl’s night. Margery could seriously cook. Right about now, Ella wanted to drown in the female’s sugary baked goods. Maybe they would distract her from that annoying growing need for one impossibly sexy wolf.
* * *
Asher stared in shock as Ella drove away. He could still smell her need. It wrapped around him, nearly choking him with its intensity. His body was keyed up just as much. He’d been ready to take her right up against the side of her car. Which made him feel like a total jackass.
She deserved better than that. Her parting words had stunned him.
And if she wanted him to work for her, he had no problem doing that. The only problem was, when she’d thrown down that challenge, he was under the impression she didn’t mean it. Like she didn’t think he would work for her.
If that’s what she thought, she was about to be proven very wrong. After his mate had died he hadn’t had many lovers. Occasionally he’d found a female shifter to help take off the edge. Usually with a lone she-wolf, someone just like him, looking for temporary relief. He’d been too damn busy the past few decades working his ass off. He’d been in too many wars, served under various commands and various branches of the military. The Marine Corps was his favorite branch, but he’d had to mix it up. Then for the last decade he’d done pretty much nothing but contract work overseas.
And made a killing.
That hadn’t left much time for finding a willing female. Not that he’d been interested. After being mated he knew what the real thing was like. He’d thought that no female would ever affect him so strongly again.
Then a sexy, petite blonde jaguar female had tipped his world on its axis.
“Did Ella leave?” Max’s voice drew his gaze away from the exit of the parking lot and he found himself looking at both Max and Grant.
Shit. He hadn’t even heard them come outside. Glancing around, he made sure they were alone. He’d never been this distracted before. Not so much that he wasn’t aware of his damn surroundings. He needed to get his head on straight. Clearing his throat, he said, “Yeah.”
Grant just watched him with interest. It was as if the alpha wolf saw right through him with those dark eyes. “I hear you’re taking the job?”
He nodded. “I’d like to go over specifics, meet the security team and see who will work best with whom. You know your pack’s personalities better than me, so I’ll run the first months work schedule by you and change around anything if you think it’s best.”
Grant just nodded, an obnoxious grin on his face. “How do you know Ella?”
“That’s what you want to talk about?”
Both men shrugged, smirking. Yep, mated males were obnoxious.
Asher gritted his teeth. “What’s her position at the hotel?”
“She’s my new accountant,” Grant said.
Max shook his head. “She originally came down here to work at Lauren’s spa, but big bad alpha here hired her away. I’m still hearing about that from my mate,” he grumbled.
Grant just rolled his eyes. “She’s still doing Lauren’s books.”
“So she’s an accountant?”
His cousin nodded. “Yeah, but she’ll be more than that. Once she’s cleaned up the horrendous books from the previous owner, I’m creating a new position for her at the hotel. Her resume is impressive.”
Asher had no doubt it was, but he didn’t care about those details right now. He wanted to know something more important. “Do either of you know where she was headed tonight?”
Grant shook his head, but Max just grinned. Oh yeah, he wanted to kick the shit out of his friend. “You gonna make me beg?”
“Where’d she tell you she was going?” Max asked instead of answering.
He gritted his teeth. “She didn’t say.”
After a long moment, Max spoke. “She’s hanging out with Margery tonight. Having a girls’ night.”
A relief like he’d never experienced slammed through him. Even the thought of her with another male made his inner wolf go insane. Knowing she wasn’t going to someone else tonight soothed a primal part of him. He looked at his alpha. “The only stipulation I have about taking this job is, I want the same schedule as Ella.”
Grant straightened slightly and Asher could see his wolf flash in the alpha’s gaze. “Are you giving me orders now?”
Gritting his teeth, he shook his head and swallowed his pride. “Please.”
Ella leaned back in her office chair and stretched out her legs. Her head was starting to ache and she was stiff from being cooped up in her new office almost all day. At least she had an awesome view of the beach. Of course that was a good and bad thing. It had been a cloudless day so her jaguar had been aching to run along the sandy dunes for the past couple hours. Grant had told her she didn’t have to fix everything right away and that she should take multiple breaks, but her accountant brain wouldn’t let her do otherwise.
Whoever he’d bought his newly revamped hotel from had kept terrible books. Just awful. She’d managed to figure out a few of the nonsensical recordkeeping notes jotted down longhand—seriously, who used longhand anymore?—and had transferred some things to an accounting program she’d developed herself.
After ten hours though, she was officially done. She shut the computer down, then grabbed her purse from under her desk. Since she’d known today would be a long one, she’d worn comfortable clothes. Jeans, a fitted sweater, and ballet slipper type shoes. Now she just wanted to go for a run in her jaguar form along the pack’s very private beach then take a long, hot shower.
think about Asher.
The sexy wolf had sporadically stopped by her office all day just to chat and bring her snacks. Either someone had told him about her weakness for chocolate or he remembered what she’d said in Montgomery. His gestures were sweet—okay, beyond sweet. She was more than flattered. Of course he’d looked good enough to eat wearing a black suit she assumed was custom made. His shoulders were so broad, it just had to be. But she wasn’t sure what he was playing at.
As she started to open her door, she scented him. Strong, powerful, earthy. The scents accosted her at once. Trying to still her racing heart, she opened the door and hoped she appeared casual.
Leaning against the opposite wall, Asher had his hands shoved into his jeans pockets. He must have changed clothes, then come to see her.
Straightening, he smiled almost nervously when he saw her. “Hey.”
“Hi, is everything all right?” she asked as she locked the door behind her. The male was just so alpha she wasn’t sure how to read his mood. He seemed almost out of sorts.
“Thought I’d see if you were hungry.”
Oh yeah, she was hungry all right. But for more than just food. After the night they’d shared, all she could think about was how he’d taken her up against the slick wall of that hotel shower, over the dinette table and even on the bed a couple times. Her face heated, but luckily her stomach growled at the same time. She hoped he assumed she was just embarrassed by that, and not because of her wicked thoughts. She nodded. “Yeah, I’m just going to grab something downstairs.” There were three restaurants in the expansive hotel and Grant had told her that she could eat at any of them for free, any time she wanted.
Asher cleared his throat and though everything about his body language screamed confidence, she could scent an underlying aroma that smelled a lot like nervousness. It wasn’t acidic, but it was tart. It was so subtle though, she wasn’t sure if she imagined it.
When he just stood there, she motioned toward the elevators at the end of the hall. “You’re welcome to join me.” Just because they’d shared a night of wild sex didn’t mean they couldn’t be friendly. He’d already shown her he was trying to keep things beyond civil between them. Or she assumed that was why he’d been stopping by all day. She could return the favor.
“I have a better idea, if you don’t mind surprises.”
“Okay.” She actually hated surprises. It was the control freak in her. But, she was a feline and curious by nature.
“How was your first day?” he asked as they headed toward the elevators.
She shrugged. “Good enough. I know I won’t be stuck behind a desk 24/7, but today was mentally tiring. How about you?”
The elevator dinged and opened. He sighed as they stepped inside. “Today was okay.”
She was surprised when he pressed the eighteenth floor—the top floor—instead of heading down, but didn’t comment.
“I might be Grant’s cousin, a century older than these young pups, and more than qualified for this job, but I’m still the new guy.” He lifted his shoulders in what she knew he meant to be a casual gesture, but was stiff.
“Ah, so some of the wolves have challenged you?”
His lips pulled into a thin line as the elevator stopped. “Not overtly, but it’s coming.”
“It’s better for you to put them in their place now instead of letting it drag out. Why don’t you challenge them?”
His green eyes flashed with surprise as they stepped into the lushly tiled marble hallway. “All of them?”
“Why not? You can let everyone on the security team know they get one chance to challenge you. After they lose, they respect your position and ability to do your job. And if they challenge you again, you reassign them somewhere else. This way you don’t involve Grant and take care of everything without deferring to anyone else. You know shifters. They respect physical strength.” The species didn’t seem to matter and while it sometimes drove her crazy, she understood that in their world, strength was important. They were just hardwired that way.
He was silent for a long moment as he opened the nearest door. There were two penthouse suites on this floor. She’d been in both on the brief tour Grant had given her. Right now her inner jaguar was torn with rage and curiosity. If Asher had brought her here to get her into bed, the sexually frustrated part of her wanted to go for it. But the other part of her was insulted. She decided to hold her tongue until she knew what he was up to.
“You assume I’ll win?” There was real curiosity in his question as he ushered her into the giant living room area of the penthouse.
The beauty of the room was stunning, but she focused on the beautiful man next to her. There wasn’t an ounce of arrogance in that question, as if he really cared about her answer. That surprised her. “Of course. You forget I saw you make that Kodiak submit without even fighting him. Plus…” She bit her lip, unsure how much she should reveal, but then decided to tell him. There was no harm. “One of my jaguar gifts is sensing another being’s power. You could be an alpha if you wanted.”
He didn’t respond to that, but she knew it was true without his confirmation. Being an alpha wasn’t just about strength though. A shifter had to
to do it, to take on the responsibility of an entire pack, to put others’ needs first, to deal with annoying inter-pack or pride squabbles. It wasn’t something she would ever want to take on. Not that she could. She wasn’t physically strong enough and she didn’t have the right personality.
When Asher continued through the living room to the open doors, some of her tension eased. It didn’t seem as if he was leading her to the bedroom. If he’d tried, he’d have gotten clawed for the assumption.
Her eyes widened as they stepped out onto the terrace. A large, round mosaic table with two chairs on either side was set up with two covered silver platters, a bottle of wine and two glasses. She glanced at him, unsure what to think. “You did this? For me?”
He nodded, watching her intently, his green eyes even brighter under the glow of the moonlight. “I knew you didn’t give yourself a break today and thought this would be nice.”