To Tempt A Tiger

By: Kat Simons
Chapter One

Rose Callaghan hugged her daughter, rocking her as another wave of pain wracked her little body. Panic and torment twisted in her gut, emotions she’d almost gotten used to over the last year. “I’m here, baby. It’ll be okay.”

“Hurts, Mommy.”

“I know, I know. We’ll fix it. We’ll find a way.”

The doorbell rang. Rose ignored it. Whoever it was could come back later. She rubbed the sweat-soaked hair from her daughter’s brow, wondering if she should take her to the emergency room again. It never helped. Nothing helped. The doctors never uncovered the problem. No test had produced an explanation. No specialist had found an answer. No one knew why her daughter went through these episodes of extreme pain.

All her prayers to God, Mary, and all the saints she could remember from mass didn’t seem to be working either. But she had to do something.

Rose was desperate—she just didn’t know where else to turn.

The doorbell rang again, followed by insistent knocking.

She growled then said, “Baby, I need to go get that. I’ll be right back.”

Zoe nodded, but as soon as Rose released her, she curled up into a ball on her bed, rocking as another wave of pain visibly shivered over her skin.

Rose ran to the front door, grumbling kid-safe curses, ready to take the hide off whoever was there. Why couldn’t they take the hint and just go away?

The doorbell rang again, and Rose hissed a not-kid-friendly curse. She threw open the door, her mouth open to yell at whoever it was—until she saw the man on her front step. She froze, her brain momentarily too stunned to work.

Vladimir Dubrovsky. The love of her life. The man she’d planned to marry.

The man who’d accused her of cheating on him and left her when he found out she was pregnant.

Rose blinked as the reality of Vlad being on her doorstep sank in. He looked the same—dark hair, dark eyes, sharp, sexy features, the perfect mouth, and a body designed to make a woman’s mouth water.

“Hello, Rose,” he said. “I realize this is a little…unexpected.”

His voice was still that deep rich octave that had always made her shiver. She released a loud huff.

“Unexpected?” She wanted to laugh. She grabbed his arm and jerked him inside. “Thank God. Get in here.”

His wide-eyed shock might have given her some satisfaction, if she wasn’t so worried.

“Your daughter is sick,” she said, dragging him into her living room. “The doctors can’t tell me what’s wrong. She’s in pain right now. What did you pass on to her? This isn’t anything from my side—we’ve run tests and done the research. You need to tell me everything about your family medical history.”

Vlad stood in her living room staring at her, his head angled down slightly, his brow furrowed. He looked at her like she was speaking a foreign language.

Her patience didn’t stretch that far. “Damn it, Vlad, snap out of it. I need your help. What the hell is wrong with our daughter? While we’re standing here wasting time, she’s hurting, and I have to stop it. If you have any information that will help, you need to tell me. Now.”

“This isn’t the reception I was expecting.”

“I don’t have time for that right now. Can you help or not? If not, get out.”

He shook his head like a dog shaking off water and straightened. “May I see her?”

She hesitated. This man had abandoned them. She hadn’t seen or heard from him in four years. She wasn’t sure she wanted him around her daughter—even if he was Zoe’s father.

But if he could help with Zoe’s pain…

The familiar panic and desperation churned in her stomach and tightened her muscles. “Do you know what’s wrong with her?” she asked.

“I might. Is the pain cyclical? Does it comes and go? Does she complain her muscles and bones feel like they’re stretching and aching? Has she ever said her body feels like it’s coming apart?”

“Yes! The doctors have tried a bunch of stuff and none of it works.”

“None of it would. May I see her?” he asked again.

This time Rose didn’t hesitate. “Come on.”

If he could help with Zoe’s pain, she might just be able to forgive him for breaking her heart. Maybe. She’d certainly stop wishing the torments of hell on him.

At the entrance to Zoe’s bedroom, she spun to face him. The move brought them up close, and for an instant, her breath caught. He still smelled like the most delicious thing ever—spice and musk and male.

She pushed the thought aside and pointed a finger at him. “Don’t scare her or hurt her. If you do anything that pisses me off, you’re out of here. I’m too scared and worried about her to put up with nonsense. Also, no cursing.” She turned and walked into her daughter’s brightly decorated white and yellow room.