The Lion's Pride(4)

By: Terra Wolf & Olivia Arran

That was the other thing that set shifters apart—their eyes.

A shiver ran down my spine—one of foreboding or anticipation? I couldn’t tell. Before Kate and Tina could start in again, I hightailed it toward the discreet bar area set up at the back of the room. A drink would do me just fine, then I could settle down to some people watching.

Catching the bartender’s eye, I ordered a gin and tonic with extra ice, studiously ignoring my friends waving and beckoning me back over.

“Are you not joining in?” the bartender asked, putting my drink in front of me. He was tall and well built, wearing the black t-shirt and slacks that seemed to be the uniform around here. Hazel eyes sparkled with amusement at my mock groan of exasperation. “Not your kind of thing? The speed dating, that is.” The hazel lit up with flecks of gold.

Realization dawned on me. He was totally checking me out! He was handsome enough that I could appreciate it, but there wasn’t a spark. Not even a flicker. “Thanks for the drink,” I murmured, making a quick exit. In the short while I had been at the bar, the lights had dimmed even more, somehow managing to give the huge room in an intimate feel. Squinting, I realized all the couches were occupied with couples chatting.

Damn. Skirting around the edge, I weaved in and out of the furniture, trying my hardest not to intrude and feeling more and more like a spare wheel. Eventually I gave up the search, settling on a convenient step to enjoy my drink, letting the low murmur of voices and the tinkle of the bell signaling change of partners wash over me.

Digging in the bottom of my glass, I fished out an ice cube and sucked it into my mouth. I wasn’t ready to try and make my way back to the bar just yet, even though my ass had gone numb ages ago and I was dying to kick my heels off and wriggle my toes. Screw it. I toed them off. Much better.

“Excuse me?” The voice came from behind me, a low, throaty rumble that sent goosebumps skittering down my spine.

I glanced over my shoulder, then tilted my head, my eyes traveling up long legs clad in black jeans, muscular thighs and a trim waist. Then up some more, this time taking in the broad expanse of chest, the black t-shirt straining over wide shoulders.

“Keep going, I’m up here.” Amusement tinged his voice with a smirk.

There’s no need for that! “I’m getting to it,” I snapped out, deciding to take my time. A square jaw with a dusting of hair, high cheekbones, thin lips—yep, curved in a smirk. I paused, then forced myself to meet his eyes. Vivid apple green stared back at me, the color so luminescent, I knew straight away that this man was a shifter. And a big one, at that. What was startling, though, was his hair. From my assessment of his face, his body, I’d expected him to be groomed, or at least neat and tidy. His hair stood out from his head in spikes and tufts, a gorgeous honey brown tipped with gold. Disheveled and dangerous looking, he had to be security of some sort.

I pinned my hands to my sides, just in case I accidentally reached out and poked him, just to see if those muscles were actually real. Because that would be bad. And they couldn’t be, right?

“Have you finished?”

Heat rushed to my cheeks. What had started out as innocent, then morphed into defiance, was now just plain embarrassing. I was staring at the guy like he had two heads! I lurched to my feet, my legs throbbing and protesting the sudden movement.

“Whoa, easy there,” he murmured, reaching out to steady me as I wobbled on the step. “Are you okay?”

I nodded, words deserting me for the first time in my adult life. He’s just so goddamn big! And gorgeous! And hot! And— I cut off the babble inside my head.

He was staring at me, his head tilted to the side as though in consideration.

Of what? Surely not—

He moved an inch closer, crowding me against the wall. A low growl filled the space between us.

Mouth dry, I swallowed. “I really should be—”

He took a deep breath, his eyes closing for a brief second. “What’s your name?”

“My name?” Why did he want to know? I wasn’t anyone—just the dumpy girl next door. The kind of woman a man like him wouldn’t look twice at.

“Yes, your name. Unless you want me to call you my little gatito?” He growled the last word, the sound stirring a heat inside of me.

My high school Spanish might be a little rusty, but I was pretty sure he had just called me a… “Kitten?” Damn my voice for coming out all breathy!

“And little, don’t forget that part. Though from the look you’re giving me, maybe I should have called you feisty.”

The low timbre of his voice was turning my insides to mush, along with my brain. “Lara.”