Cat's Lair(7)

By: Christine Feehan

Her breath slammed out of her lungs. “You followed me?” That couldn’t be. She would have known.

“Every night that you lock up and walk back to the warehouse. Did you really think I’d let a woman walk alone that time of night? Any woman? But especially a woman like you? No fuckin’ way.”

Something in his eyes made her shiver. Hot. Angry. A flash, no more, and then quickly suppressed. He really didn’t like her walking alone at night.

He had been at the coffee-house every night the past two weeks until three A.M. But she hadn’t seen him or heard him or even felt him following her. And that was bad. She couldn’t afford to miss a tail. She had a sixth sense about that kind of thing, and yet he had followed her every single night.

“I can take care of myself.”

“Cat, even Malcom will tell you that you aren’t being realistic. You’re good, there’s no question about it, but you’re small. A man gets his hands on you and you’re done. You’re smart enough to know that. You can defend from a distance, but if he knows what he’s doing he’s going to get past that guard and tie you up. Why don’t you drive your car? That would be much safer.”

She wasn’t about to tell him gas cost the earth. He didn’t need to know her personal finances, but she wasn’t wasting precious gas when she could walk to and from work. It just wasn’t that far.

“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.”