Leopard's Fury(5)

By: Christine Feehan


“You don’ want me to keep callin’ you my Iceman. That’s what I do in my head. Better to have a name, don’ you think?”

Her cheek throbbed and burned like hell and she knew it was swelling. So was her eye. Great. She’d have to go all day answering questions when customers started coming in. If they came in. She’d forgotten the sign was turned to closed.

His glacier-blue eyes moved over her face. No change in expression. So much for being alluring with her sense of humor and her really nicely swollen face. She had to look awful. This was what came from being vain about her skin.

“Alonzo.”

A word. His name. Elation swept through her even as she knew, deep down, he was lying to her. His name was not Alonzo. She heard the lie. Still, she let him get away with it because he’d just saved her from a savage beating. Robert would have robbed her as well.

“Is he alive?” She knew he wasn’t. She knew it with the same certainty that she knew Alonzo wasn’t her Iceman’s real name.

“Does it matter?” He began walking her toward the back room, going around the counter space over her beautiful display cases.

Did it? It was wrong to kill someone by civilized law. The law of the shifters was different, and rogues received a death sentence if they endangered others of the lair. She’d left the lair and that life behind.

She glanced up at him to see him looking down at her with a leopard’s focus. No change in expression. He was as cold as ice.

“He mean something to you?”

She shook her head and immediately wished she hadn’t. A small sound escaped before she could stop it. He instantly lifted her into his arms, clearly done with their slow progress. In his arms, held tightly against his chest, she could feel those heavy muscles rippling as he glided across the floor. There was no jarring of her body, not the way he moved, so fluid, and not the way he held her, nearly crushing her against his chest.

He swept into her kitchen, placed her into a chair and went to the refrigerator. She wished she’d worn something nice. She didn’t have a lot in the way of nice. She’d used her money for a down payment on a small house, and the rest of it went to the bakery. Every cent she had was tied up in her business, so no nice clothes. She didn’t date so she didn’t need them—until now.

He pressed a bag of ice into her hand. “Hold that against your cheek and answer me. When I ask a question I expect an answer.”

“Does that go both ways?”

Her eyes met his and she shivered again. The glacier had just gotten colder if that was possible. “I barely knew him. He was a troublemaker back home. I’d never met him until he came to the bakery. He wanted money.”

“And you. He wanted you.”

She didn’t think so, but she wasn’t going to argue with him.

“Does it matter if he’s dead?”

She took a deep breath. Really, she didn’t want to answer because it wasn’t going to show her in a good light, but Robert wouldn’t have stopped at a beating. She knew his reputation.

Evangeline lifted her chin, looked him straight in the eye and shook her head. “Only if it meant you would get into trouble for savin’ me.”

“He won’t bother you again.” He didn’t take his gaze from hers, watching carefully for her reaction.

She felt relief more than anything else. And guilt that she felt relief. The ice burned on her cheek but felt good. “Thank you. It seems I owe you again. I guess I’ll have to give you free cinnamon cake for the rest of your life.”

He didn’t respond. Nor did he smile. She sighed and looked down at her lap. She shouldn’t want his attention. He’d just killed a man. She couldn’t be certain, but if he had, he’d done so casually and without emotion. She would be insane to be attracted to him and yet . . . she was. Attracted wasn’t even a word she would use for what she was around him.

“Why are you here? You never come on Thursday, that’s why he chose today.”

“His bad luck. I wanted to get a few dozen of your cinnamon-apple cookies for my boss. I came in early so you would have plenty.”

She started to put the ice pack down but he pushed her hand back, covering it with his own. He always wore those butter-soft gloves. Under them she could see the bulges of several rings. Big square, thick ones. She noticed them every single time he reached for his coffee mug. They intrigued her, just as the tattoos she could see drifting up his neck from under that perfect suit. For some reason those tattoos made him all the hotter to her. She’d awakened twice now from a dream of peeling that suit from him to uncover all the treasures underneath.