From the first book…

She didn’t look like much.

I sat there across from her, worry tearing my gut up, while something else muttered in the back of my head.  Part of me wanted to just get up and walk out—this is a waste of time.  She’s scared stupid.

That was the impatient human half of me.  The cat was content to just sit there and wait while she fidgeted and shifted in her chair. And she fidgeted, a lot.  The way she moved, it was like she couldn’t hold still.

It was driving me nuts.  Both the man and the cat, because every time she moved, it stirred the air currents and I could smell her.  There was that sharp bite of fear, but underneath it, something subtle and soft.  Too many women slathered themselves down with perfumes and shit that almost overpowered my nose, but whatever she had on was…nice.  A little too nice because I didn’t need that distraction.

I was here on a job and so far, she hadn’t done much more than sit behind her desk and wait.  Like she was really going to outwait me?

But judging by the glint in her eye, she was happy enough to try.

No time for that shit. Any other time, I’d play that game with her, but not now.

“You know, we had a bet.” I watched her, slumping lower in my seat, trying to get a better read on her.  Her pulse was slowing, her breathing going down to a normal rhythm as she got her nerves under control.  And she watched me in a way that the cat inside me way, way too curious.

Like she was trying to figure me out.  Her eyes, tilted up at the corners and almost too large for her face, didn’t drop away when they met mine and that intrigued me even more.  Yet another thing I didn’t have time for.

“Don’t you want to know what the bet was?” I smirked as her brows arched up.



She reached for a pen and started to twirl it, moving with a speed and grace that I wish I had the time to appreciate.  Silence stretched out.  She wasn’t bothered by the quiet.  I might have expected her to be, considering I scented human blood in her, but she wasn’t completely mortal.  Too much magic in her blood—I caught that right off.  Magic blood was good. Humans were a liability in my world.

She continued to watch me and I couldn’t help it.  I grinned at her and it was like a little light went off in her head and that intense gaze of her sharpened, narrowed in on me.  The cat inside me stretched, then flexed his muscles, pushing against my skin.  Out, he whispered.  He wanted out, wanted to play with the girl he saw in front of us.

Wasn’t going to happen.

A soft sigh drifted from her and she asked, “Is this a local job?”


“Local.  As in are you local?”

“Yeah.  I’m local.”

Her eyes took on a shuttered appearance and I could see it as her body language shifted entirely.  Take the job and leave, thank you very much.

She’d figured me out.  Some NHs—the non-shifter variety—could do that, peg the shifters within a few minutes, or less.  Apparently Miz Kit Colbana was one of them.  I don’t know what gave me away, but she didn’t seem happy about it.  To be honest, I don’t blame her.  If I was local, that meant one thing.  The Cat clan…and Annette.

My Alpha.

Craziest bitch this side of Atlantic. Smart, sane people didn’t want to work for her.

I have no love for my Alpha.  Apparently, neither did Colbana.  But unlike me, she didn’t owe the Alpha her obedience, either.

“What sort of bet?” she asked, shifting in her chair again.  She was tense.  Like she wanted to be anywhere but here.  I didn’t blame her.  I wanted to be out there, hunting, but instead, I was here, in front of her. She smelled of magic and woman and it was driving me crazy.

But leaving wasn’t an option.

Especially since it had been my idea to bring her in the first place. Too many people had mentioned her name—she had a big mouth, a quick brain and a knack for solving every job that came to her.  That was what I needed.  So I had to see this through.  Especially since I’d manipulated the Alpha into thinking it was her idea to bring in outside help.

Instead of letting the frustration show, I slumped lower in the chair and cast a look around the room.  Her office didn’t look like much.  Small and simple, with weapons decorating the far wall, it was, at best, functional.  The most amazing thing in the room was her. A surprisingly petite package of lean limbs, muscle and attitude.  Letting my gaze return back to her, I smiled, watched as her lids flickered.

. “When you opened this joint, most of us figured you wouldn’t make it a year.”

“A year, huh? That’s all you gave me?” She rested her chin on her hand. Laughter glinted in her eyes.  “I made it through the year. Yay, me, right?”

“You made it through the year and then some. Surprised us.” I tried to remember when the last time I’d been with a woman who wasn’t one of my own.  Probably close to ten years.  Non-shifters were too much of a hassle.  In general, outside of sex, women were something I had no time, anyway. It was the way she smelled, I decided.  Getting to me.  Or maybe it was the way she refused to look away when I stared at her.

“Well, seeing as how I lasted six years…and counting, I guess some of you had egg on your face.” She stared at me, challenge written across her cute face and if worry hadn’t been a scream in my gut, if the order from Annette was prodding me, I would have found out just how soft that mouth was.

She’d probably scream, or hit me, or any number of things.

But at least I’d know.

Curiosity could damn well kill a cat.  I managed to shrug, pretend a mild, half-amused disinterest, even as the human inside me insisted, Hurry…you need to hurry.

The cat knew better.  Patience was everything.