Cat's Lair(8)

By: Christine Feehan

“It isn’t any of your business,” she said, and knew she sounded uptight and stiff. Well, she was uptight and stiff. And it wasn’t any of his business.

The same flash was there in his eyes. Hot. Angry. Pure steel. Her stomach did another flip. He was both scary and sexy at the same time, a combination she wanted no part of.

“I’m making it my business, Kitten, whether you like it or not. After hours, half the men in here are drunk. Why do you think they’re in here?”

“I make a mean cup of coffee and word has gotten around. It sobers them up a little. Coming to Poetry Slam gives them some time to wind down.”

He made a sound in the back of his throat that alarmed her. A rumble. A growl. The sound found its way to her heart, kick-starting her into flight mode.

“You can’t possibly be that naïve, woman. Just in the two weeks I’ve been coming, the traffic between midnight and three has doubled. Mostly men. They come here because they’re hoping to get lucky. They spend the entire time staring at you and trying to think of ways to get you in their beds. A few of them may have figured out that you walk home and they may make plans you aren’t going to like and can’t do anything about on your own.”

She jumped up fast, but he was faster, his long fingers settling around her wrist, shackling her to him. He stood too, towering over her. His fierce golden eyes stared down into her blue ones, just as intense as she remembered, more so even. His gaze cut right through her until she feared every secret she had was laid bare in front of him.

“Don’t run from me. I’m telling you the truth. Clearly you’re living in a dream world when it comes to men and their intentions.”

She tilted her head to one side, forgetting to keep her attitude in check. “Would you like to tell me what your intentions are?” she challenged.

His eyes changed and she knew immediately she’d made a terrible mistake. His eyes went liquid gold, focused and unblinking, locked onto her, and this time there was interest. Real interest. Before she’d been the one locked on to him, playing in her head with silly fantasies, but his motivation for following her had been actually watching out for her – she could see that now, at least she thought she could. Until that moment. That second.

She’d put too much sass into her tone. There was no backtracking from that, not with the stark speculation in his eyes. She forced air through her burning lungs and tugged at her hand to try to get him to release her.

His thumb slid over her wrist, right over her pounding pulse, a mere brush, but the stroke sent hot blood rushing through her veins. She wanted to look away, but there was no getting away from the piercing stare of his eyes.

“Now I’m seeing you, Kitten. And you’ve got a little bite to you.”

“Enough to handle myself if someone decides to attack me on my way home.”

“I disagree.”

“That doesn’t matter,” she said, and tugged at her hand again.

His hold didn’t loosen. He wasn’t hurting her; in fact, the pad of his thumb sent waves of heat curling through her body as it continued to brush little strokes over her pulse.

“It matters to me.”

“It isn’t your business.” Now he was back to scaring her. He couldn’t follow her around. Especially not to her home.

She was usually adept at spotting and shaking a tail. She practiced. He couldn’t see her practicing. He’d wonder what she was doing and why. She desperately tried to remember if she’d done such a thing in the last two weeks. Usually, after working a full shift, she was exhausted and didn’t take the extra time.

“I’ve decided to make it my business.”

His voice was so low she could barely catch the sound, but the tone vibrated right through her body, disturbing her balance. She almost felt as if she was caught in a dream, waking up for the first time, suddenly aware of what real chemistry between a man and a woman was. She was certain she’d been the only one to feel it, and even then, it was just an awareness, not in the least harmful – like her silly daydreams of him.

This was altogether different. Her awareness of him, her reaction, was so strong, almost feral, female reacting to a male on the hunt, wanting him, yet wanting to run. Maybe needing the chase to prove something to both of them. She saw the answering challenge in his eyes. It was impossible not to see.

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