Bite Me(4)

By: Shelly Laurenston


The call disconnected and Vic continued moving down the Albanian street toward his rental car.

“Where are we going?” a voice said behind Vic.

“Back to the States.”

“Cool.”

Vic stopped walking, faced the shifter behind him. Shen Li smiled at Vic around the short bamboo stalk he had in his mouth.

“I don’t need you to come with me.”

“Were you planning on leaving me in Albania?”

Shen, a giant panda born and raised in San Francisco, had a specific set of skills that Vic used for some jobs. They were longtime colleagues who’d worked for the government together. Now that both were doing freelance work, Vic brought Shen in as needed. But Vic didn’t think Shen was needed for this.

“You can get back on your own, can’t you?”

“Don’t speak Albanian. You do.”

“Oh. Right. Okay. Well then, sure. You can come with me.”

“Great.”

The pair started off again in silence, except for the seemingly never-ending sound of Shen chewing on his bamboo stalks.

“So what’s our next job?” Shen asked and Vic stopped again.

He faced Shen. “You do understand we’re not partners, right?”

“We’re not?”

“No.”

“Why not?”

“It’s easier for me to work alone and call you in when I need you.”

Shen chewed and chewed while his dark brown eyes gazed at Vic.

And this was the problem with being a hybrid. Vic’s bear side had no issue with the staring and the silence and the bamboo-munching. The feline side of him, however . . . wanted to tear Shen’s face off. Just for that damn munching sound alone.

Working extremely hard, Vic reined in his feline tendencies and suggested, “Why don’t we talk about this at another time? We need to get our stuff from the hotel and find the first plane out of here.”

“Okie-dokie!” Shen walked off, and in an attempt to get control, Vic shook his head a bit, the feline snarl out of the back of his throat before he could stop it. The few full-humans walking by quickly gave him a wide berth . . . and he couldn’t remotely blame them for it.

Calm and controlled again, Vic followed Shen to the rental car and, eventually, back to the States.





“How’s it going?” Toni asked as she handed Livy a dark German beer.

Livy had insisted Toni’s parents not attend the after-funeral get-together at her parents’ house. The Jean-Louis Parkers were such nice people, it wouldn’t be fair. But nothing would deter Antonella. She was determined to be part of the entire, horrifying ride.

Livy took the cap off her beer with her hand, yawned, took a drink, shrugged. “Fine.”

“That bad, huh?”

“It could be worse.”

“You’re at your father’s funeral—”

“I’m sure he was killed for a very good reason.”

“—your mother is fighting with his entire family over money—”

“In her mind, the fact that she didn’t kill him herself means she earned that money.”

“—someone unleashed poisonous snakes in the backyard—”

“For the kids to have something to play with.”

“—and your father’s mistress just showed up.”

Livy turned and watched the tall Serbian supermodel strut through the hallway toward Livy’s mother. She wore all black, including a black fur stole, and black six-inch Louboutin shoes. Livy’s mother spotted her instantly, and without saying a word, she was suddenly surrounded by her sisters and female cousins.

“Cool,” Livy muttered. “Fight.”

“You can’t let your mother fight her.”

“She probably won’t. But my aunt Teddy will definitely take her on. Because I’m pretty sure before she started dating my dad, that model was dating one of Teddy’s sons. And you know how Teddy is about”—Livy dropped her voice and put on her best Polish accent—“ ‘my beautiful, beautiful boys. They are from God, no?’ ”

Toni shook her head. “I swear, your entire family is like an episode of Dallas.”

“I was thinking more like Dynasty, but without the shoulder pads. My people do not need shoulder pads.”

Livy watched her mother—birth name Chuntao Yang; American name she’d chosen when she was nine and just moved to the States, Joan—stand her ground as the last woman Livy’s father had been sleeping with walked up to her.

Toni rubbed her nose and stated very quietly, “She’s full-human.”

“That was his kink.”

“I mean, Livy, she’s full-human.”