By Cherie Nicholls
“Someone is on the prowl tonight.” Lilly looked up as Sandy, one of the wait staff, came to the bar to have an order filled.
“What?” Lilly had been too busy to even think, let alone check out the comings and goings in the place.
Not that she should complain, the more customers Lucky’s brought in, the more money she made. But damn, if it wasn’t hard work.
“Mikal, the ice mountain, ain’t too icy tonight. See that little redhead over there?” Sandy pointed to a table of partying ladies. “As soon as she walked in, he looked like he was about to bend her over the coat-check desk and take her right there in front of everyone. I haven’t seen him like that, well rarely ever.” Sandy gave her a knowing smile.
Lilly rolled her eyes. “Do I really have to tell you again that nothing has ever happened between us?”
“Me thinks she doth protest too much,” Sandy said with a wink before she walked back into the crowds.
“Damn English majors.”
Lilly turned her attention back to the table of ladies. She drew in a deep breath and promptly swore.
“Nice language for a lady,” one of the regulars joked.
“Sorry, Clive, got a bit of an issue.”
“Need some help?”
“No thanks. I’m good.” She gave him a bright smile, turned, and headed toward the far end of the bar.
When she was farther away from the main section, she raised her hand. The staff’s signal to get the attention of the security team.
One of the team started toward her, but Lilly stopped him with the shake of her head and pointed at Mikal, the head of security, and the reason for the new headache brewing behind her eyes.
When the security man was finally able to drag Mikal’s attention away from the table of ladies, he sent him over to her.
“What’s the problem?” Mikal asked, still looking toward the table.
Lilly gave a deep sigh. Why did she always have to do the god damn right thing? Why couldn’t she be the person who just sat back and watched the drama unfold?
“Okay, let me get one of the team to sort that for you.” He wasn’t listening and started to move away.
Lilly grabbed his arm. She didn’t give him a chance to do anything as she dragged him into the stock room and slammed the door.
“What are you doing?” he demanded.
Lilly let him go and grabbed a bottle of water from the shelves. With a twist, she had the lid off. Holding the bottle flat in one hand, she slammed the other down on it hard. The contents rushed out and hit him in the face and chest.
“What the hell!” he roared.
“Are you back in the room now? ’Cause I can’t talk to you if you’re still in the middle of that fug.”
“What are you doing, you freaking mental case?” Mikal wiped his face with the bottom of his T-shirt.
The flash of tight abs made Lilly swallow hard. She dragged her gaze away from such perfection and focused on his face, his very angry face.
“I’m helping you before you do something really stupid and then blame me for it. ’Cause I just know this would end up being my fault.”
Mikal looked at her with narrowed eyes. “What?”
“The chick out there? The one you can’t take your eyes off of?.” Not that she was jealous, nope not Lilly. “She’s in heat. You, genius, got bathed in her scent when she came into the club. I thought you were smarter than that.”
Mikal’s hands went to his hips, and his chin dropped to his chest. “Dammit. I smelled her coming, but then I got caught at the door.”
“Well, my suggestion―go back to your office and stay there.” Lilly dropped the empty water bottle into the trash and headed for the door. She started to open it when a large hand pushed it shut.
She could feel the heat of him behind her, not touching but just there. It took more self-control than she cared to admit to keep from turning in to his body and wrapping her arms around Mikal.
“I thought you didn’t care.” He spoke the words softly.
“Then why do this for me? We both know if I’d spent five minutes with that woman, she’d have let me fuck her and I would’ve marked her.” He said the last through gritted teeth.
“Then you’d have woken up from your sex-induced hypnosis, and it would’ve been my fault for not stopping you. I didn’t warn you because I was worried about you. I did it because I knew you’d make my life hard, and I just won’t have that.” She pulled at the door handle.” Now move, I need to get back to work.”
For a second, she didn’t think he would move. When his hand finally dropped from the door, Lilly pulled it open and rushed back to the bar.
Out of the corner of her eye, she watched Mikal move across the room. He gave the problem table a wide berth and then headed behind the stage to where the offices were.
She breathed a sigh of relief when he disappeared from sight.
“Yeah, sure, there’s nothing going on with you two.”
Lilly looked over her shoulder as Sandy picked up another order and walked away.
The problem was Sandy was both right and wrong.
She and Mikal had never had sex, never even kissed. But there was something there, and it had been driving Lilly mad for the last two years.
From the second she’d walked into Lucky’s, Mikal had taken offense at her presence. Lilly hadn’t taken it personally. After all, he’d marked the club and the area six blocks in either direction as his territory. And there she’d come, just strolling into the place as if she owned it.
It was at times like that Lilly loved her tiger half. It gave her a natural cockiness, an extra edge.
Tiger shifters such as herself and Mikal were very protective of what they considered theirs. It had taken Lilly a while to assure him she had no desire to take anything from him. She roamed, that’s what she did. Never stayed anywhere for long and didn’t like the idea of borders or territory stopping her from moving where she liked.
Two years she’d been here, roughly eighteen months longer than she’d intended.
Lucky’s was a nice enough place to work. Lucky O’Reilly, a retired stripper, owned the successful strip joint. The acts mostly consisted of male strippers, but Lucky didn’t mind ladies performing if they were good enough.
Lucky also had good instincts. He’d taken one look at her and said, “If I slap your ass, you’re going to rip my arm off, ain’t ya?”
Lilly had assured him she’d do more than that if he put his paws on her. Lucky had given her a big smile and sent her over to the bar.
She shoved the memory aside and went back to work. She kept half an eye on the table with the little tiger shifter in heat.
The night was nearly over when the little shifter and two of her friends stumbled over to the bar.
“Three waters, please.” One of the shifter’s friends ordered.
“Coming right up.” Lilly grabbed the water bottles and dropped them onto the bartop.
“Hey, do you know where the scarred guy went? My friend was just wondering,” one of the women asked.
Scarred guy? Really?
“He had to leave.” Lilly spoke through gritted teeth.
“Aw, that’s a shame. Don’t worry, Brit, we’ll find you someone else.” Her friends headed off, but “Brit” stayed behind.
“I can still smell him,” Brit said.
“Can you?” Lilly wasn’t in the mood to play nice, definitely not with a little girl who went out while she was in heat. Any tiger could jump her, and the girl wouldn’t even care. Heat did silly things to shifter minds. Brit could’ve been marked and then she would’ve been screwed.
Lilly leaned over the counter, bringing herself closer to the woman. “Perhaps that’s because you can smell him on me.”
Brit’s mouth pulled as if she’d sucked on a lemon. “I didn’t scent he was mated.”
“I didn’t say he was.”
“Then why would his scent be on you?”
The corner of Lilly’s mouth tipped up in a half smile. “You’re a big girl. I’m sure you can figure it out.”
It took Brit a second, then anger came with the realization. “Fucking don’t make it permanent.”
“This is true, but I can assure you that if you even look at what’s mine,” the smile slipped from Lilly’s face, “I’ll rip the still-beating heart from your chest.”
She sensed the internal conflict in Brit, one side wanting to take on another tiger, who’d clearly challenged her, and the other knowing she’d get her ass kicked if she did.
Finally, Brit made the smart choice and headed back to her friends.
“See? That’s the kinda shit that makes me say, there is for sure something going on between you and Mikal.”
“God damn, Sandy!”
Mikal paced his office. His tiger wanted out; it needed to prowl, but he couldn’t allow that―not here and not now.
He’d scented the chick in heat when she had been about three blocks away from the club. Why the hell hadn’t he moved away from the door at that time? What he’d told Lilly, about being stuck at the door until it was too late, had been a lie. He could’ve walked away at any time, but he hadn’t. Instead, he’d waited for the woman in heat as if she was the answer to everything.
The roar he let out was long and loud and helped release a small amount of his tension. Mikal was grateful Lucky had taken one look at him five years ago and insisted on soundproofing the tiger’s office.
As simple as some people thought Lucky was, the man knew about things most normal full humans couldn’t even begin to understand. That’s why Lucky requested a full shifter security team which Mikal ran. His team had wolves, leopards, even hyenas. A perfect blend for security.
Mikal turned toward the bank of monitors that covered one wall. The club was slowing down for the night. Most people were leaving. He spotted the woman in heat heading toward the bar with two of her friends. He clicked a couple of buttons until the main monitor showed Lilly’s face and those of the group of ladies.
He didn’t need sound to know what they were saying. The mention of his scar had him rolling his eyes. The scar was long and deep and ran from eye to lip on his right side. A souvenir from the last tiger who’d tried to take his territory. Mikal didn’t mind the disfigurement. It helped with his role as hard-ass security man, and was strangely a magnet for female attention.
Two of the ladies walked away, but the shifter in heat stayed. He watched Lilly verbally slap her down and then groaned.
Damn, but Lilly was beautiful when she was aggressive. Mikal adjusted his trousers in an attempt to relieve some of the pressure on his hard-on.
Tonight, she wore another of her trademark corsets, this time in lime green, that showed of her curves. He used to think she wore the sexy tops just to tease him. He soon realized Lilly didn’t work like that, which just made it all the more of a tease.
Mikal shook his head. The fog of the other woman’s heat must have lingered, but it wasn’t a stranger he saw in his mind when he thought about fucking someone. No, his head was full of images of Lilly. How she would look lying naked under him. He wouldn’t have to hold back as he did with full humans. Lilly would be able to take all of him, and there would be nothing held back, not from either of them.
He’d made a move on her awhile back, but she’d shut him down. Now, they’d moved from politeness to sniping. She hadn’t been wrong; he’d have made it her fault if he’d marked another woman. He made sure anything that went wrong was her fault, whether she was there or not.
He was such a bastard sometimes. But Lilly gave as good as she got. She knew how to push his buttons in ways no one ever had, and it pissed him off so much.
He looked back at the monitor. Lilly was talking to Sandy.
Mikal picked up his radio and called his team. “Bring me Lilly. And, boys, don’t take no for an answer.”
It didn’t take long for his door to open and four of his team carrying an angry Lilly between them to come in. They dropped on her feet by his desk. She ran a hand through her short hair, smoothing it back into place before turning anger-filled eyes on them all.
“I’m going to kill you all, and then I’m going to make coats out of your hides!” she growled at them.
“Don’t be mad. We were only following orders,” one of the team told her.
“Out.” Mikal didn’t give them time to say anything more. He wanted her to himself. He followed his men to the door and then made sure to shut and lock it.
“What the hell is this about? Why the hell did you send the goon squad after me, and when did you start locking me in rooms―with you?”
She was good and mad, which only made him calmer, more focused.
He pointed at the monitors. “About the same time you started threatening customers―over me.”
He watched as realization hit her.
“That didn’t mean anything, and you know it.”
“No? So claiming me―that was just casual conversation, then?”
“No! Yes! Stop it. You know I was just stopping you from making a mistake.”
He could tell she wanted to stamp her foot.
“Really? What if I wanted to mark her, make her mine forever?” He stepped closer to Lilly.
“I have the perfect hat for the ceremony.” She all but snarled the words at him.
“Okay. See you at the mating party.” He turned to head out the door, but hadn’t gone two steps when Lilly leaped onto his back.
“I hate you.” She declared before placing a soft kiss at the base of his neck.
Mikal reached behind, hooked her around the waist, and pulled her around until he could press her back against the door.
“Show me how much you really hate me.” His voice was more tiger than man, more of a growl than words.
The grin on Lilly’s face could only be described as predatory. Mikal sent a silent thank you to Lucky and his demands for a soundproofed office.
There was no finesse when they come together, each fighting for control. Lips meshed and tongues parried.
Mikal pressed her harder against the door, using his body to keep her up so he could run both his hands through her hair, capturing her head, giving him greater access to her mouth.
Mikal rained kisses along her jaw line to her neck. Lilly tipped her head as much as his hold permitted, showing him her neck. A move that was both sensual and submissive. She was letting him know she trusted him. Which meant more than Mikal ever thought it would.
His hand slipped down and under her butt, holding her high as he moved away from the door. In three easy strides he had them across the room.
He dropped Lilly to her feet and took a step away. “Last chance to change your mind, Lil. This won’t be sweet and soft. When I take you, it’ll me, all of me, both sides and I won’t hold back. If you don’t think you can handle that, you need to tell me now.”
A small part of him worried she’d turn and walk out of the room. But he should have known better. Lilly raised an eyebrow as she stepped closer, making sure her body was pressed up against his.
“If you don’t think you can handle me, pussy cat, you just say so. Otherwise shut up and get on with it.”
He knew the grin he gave her was full of fangs, but he didn’t care.
They didn’t say anything more. Mikal turned and swept all the papers off his desk, not caring where they landed.
Lilly didn’t wait for him to make a move; she slipped back onto the desk, giving him a knowing smile.
It was that look, of pure desire, that finally snapped the leash he‘d gotten on his beast. He shoved his jeans down to his thighs, releasing his hard on. The relief was short lived.
Mikal caught Lilly around the waist, pulled her to the edge of the desk.
Lilly laid back, leaving herself open to him. Mikal took a second to admire the beauty of her like that before reaching under her skirt and ripping her panties off. The little bit of lace came away easily in his hand. Her laughter filled the office.
“I warned you, this is not going to be sweet.”
“Are you really still talking?” she shot back.
Mikal raised an eyebrow at her before thrusting his hard length into her wet heat.
He didn’t know if he groaned or she did. It was the sound of bliss. She felt so good around him that Mikal didn’t know if he’d ever want to be anywhere else.
He’d never been more grateful for his shifter genes that made it impossible for him to catch any human diseases and ensure that a female could only get pregnant when she was in heat. He didn’t want a rubber stopping him from feeling all that was her.
“Move.” Her heels and the base of his spin spurred him on.
Mikal moved, thrusting into her over and over.
“Please.” She whimpered. Mikal took hold of her hands, pinning them to the desk next to her head.
Lilly’s eyes were closed so she didn’t see the silent snarl he gave. Mikal leant forward, bringing his mouth close to her ear.
“Mine.” He growled.
Lilly turned to nuzzle against the tender skin of his throat. “Prove it.” She purred.
Mikal needed no farther encouragement.
As he trust into her again, he felt her climax start to take hold. He didn’t stop moving even after she screamed out her release, once, twice, before he allowed his own.
He collapsed down onto her, both were breathing hard.
Lilly kissed his ear and whispered four little words that made him grin.
“I still hate you.”