January 2018 Newsletter
THE BEAST IN HIM
Jess ended her call and raised her hand, a cab stopping right in front of her. She’d just pulled the door open when a strong hand clasped around her bicep. Without thinking about it, she snarled, “Get your own damn cab, motherfuck—”
Startled, she looked up at a still smirking Smitty. Christ, she couldn’t shake this wolf to save her life! “What now? And get off me,” she snapped, yanking her arm away.
“Since you won’t have dinner with me, I thought we’d get some coffee.”
And before she could tell him no, he had her by the scruff of her sweatshirt, dragging her to the Starbucks on the corner.
Although she welcomed the warmth once inside since she’d left her coat at the office, she still couldn’t believe the nerve of Bobby Ray Smith.
“Two regular coffees,” he said to the girl behind the counter.
“No.” If she was stuck here, she might as well get what she wanted. “Grande latte with non-fat milk, extra hot.”
“Latte? What kind of wuss drink is that?”
“Besides annoying me, is there something you specifically want?”
She waited for him to tell her what that was but, as usual, he left the “yup” hanging there…all alone. Annoying her beyond all reason.
“What, Smitty? What do you want?”
“Are you always in this much of a rush?”
“Yes. I have things to do.”
“Even the Lord takes a break.”
“Yeah, well the Lord doesn’t have my overhead.”
Smitty grabbed the two drinks and when he pulled her to a back table that’s when Jess realized he still had a good grip on her sweatshirt.
“You know, I can walk without your assistance.”
“Don’t want you running out on me again. I know how fast you move.”
He pushed her into a chair and sat across from her.
“Here’s your fou-fou drink.” He placed it in front of her. “And my manly regular coffee.” He sipped it and made a satisfied “Ahhh” sound that made her want to twist his nipples off.
“What do you want?” she asked, yet again.
“Let’s start off easy. What do you do?”
“What do I do about what?”
“I see ‘easy’ is still lost on you. I mean, what do you do, Jessie Ann? What pays for your precious overhead?”
“Which means what exactly?”
She went to stand up and she saw him tense. Would he actually chase her down? Would she mind?
“Stay,” she commanded before walking over to the counter that held all the necessary condiments for coffee drinkers. She grabbed a handful of brown sugar and saccharine packets, wood stirrers, a metal container holding cream, and napkins, but the napkins were really for her since she had a tendency to wear her liquids as much as drink them.
Sitting back down, she placed the creamer on the table. “This is your company. See how it’s unprotected? All alone in the big bad world. And look, it’s saccharine coming to attack.” Jess placed several of the blue packets down, aimed toward the creamer. Then she broke the sticks in half and gave them swords. “See? They’re armed and dangerous.” She placed the brown-sugar packets between the creamer and the saccharine. “But look! It’s the sugars coming to protect us!” Now, thoroughly enjoying herself, she gave the sugar packets swords too. “Saccharine charges—” she moved the packets forward, “—but the sugars battle them back with skill and the darkness within us all. They’re not afraid to kill and destroy in the name of justice—and cold hard cash.”
Jess grinned, extremely pleased with her presentation. But when she looked up at Smitty, he sat there with his elbow on the table, his chin resting in the palm of his hand and staring at her.
“What?” she demanded. “That’s not clear?”
Dang but she was cute. Cute as hell. Even when making absolutely no sense with her sugar packets and little sticks. “No. It’s not clear.”
Rolling her eyes she sat back in her chair like a disgruntled child. “We create security systems for companies to protect them from your run-of-the-mill hackers to hardcore identity thieves,” she quickly rattled off. “We do hard coding, create software, and can even train a company’s IT people to help a company protect themselves. We have a lot of overseas clients and the government has used us on occasion to train their people or to give advice. But we make them nervous because they won’t give us any clearance. I blame Danny. But that’s another story. There? Happy now?”
“Why didn’t you say all that in the first place?”
“I gave you swords and a battle. A hero and an enemy. A defenseless damsel in distress. I gave you the makings of a terrific tale to tell your children.”
“All right then.”
“Forget it.” She glanced at her watch. “Look, I’ve really got to—”
“Lord, Jessie.” He reached across the table and grabbed her hand, pulling her arm out until he could look at her watch. “That’s a lot of watch for a little gal. What do you need it for?”
“To tell time.”
“I’ve seen admirals with the same watch. You planning on attacking those deadly saccharine packets by sea?”
Her eyes narrowed the tiniest bit and Smitty wondered how long before she decked him.
“Is there anything else you want?” That’s a nicely loaded question. “Or can I go now?”
“Sure. You can go.”
“Thank you,” she said on an exasperated sigh. Then she pushed her chair back and stood.
As Jessie walked past him, he added, “I understand you’re afraid.”
Not surprisingly, she froze in her tracks. Even when he had to coax her from trees, Jessie would get insulted if he even suggested she might be afraid. To her, hiding in trees and under bleachers was merely a preventive measure that any sensible person would do. “Excuse me?”
“You’re afraid. I completely understand.” He patted her hand like he would his grandmother. “It’s all right. You go on now.”
She took two steps back until she stood right next to him. “Afraid of what?”
“Of your feelings for me. That’s why you’re fighting me so hard.”
“I do not have feelings for you—other than hatred.”
“Now, Jessie Ann, we’ve always been honest with each other. Just admit you still want me—after all these years.”
She threw up her hands. “I’m walking away from this conversation.”
He figured. But he simply couldn’t help himself. It was such fun torturing her.
Smitty jumped up and followed after her. As he reached the door she’d already gone through, she was suddenly back, her small body slamming into his.
“Uh…” She looked back and then shoved him onto a small couch. Sitting down next to him, she grabbed his arm and yanked it over her shoulders. “Now just sit there and look pretty.”
A few moments later three men walked through the door. Two were full-human but the one whose eyes locked on Jessie…
Immediately Smitty recognized the wild dog from Saturday night.
Jessie smiled and it had to be the fakest thing Smitty had seen since he went to Los Angeles on a business trip. “Sherman. Hi!” Her forced cheeriness made his back teeth ache but the dog seemed to buy it.
“What are you doing here? Shouldn’t you be hard at work as always?”
“Oh. I was. I was.” Jessie waved her hand dismissively. “But I was just taking a little break with my…uh…friend here.”
“Now, Jessie Ann, don’t play coy.” Smitty nuzzled her neck. “You know I’m your boyfriend now.”
As Jessie went tense all over, the male dog went from big and dumb to resentful in a heartbeat—like Smitty had dug up his favorite bone from the backyard. Didn’t he get that Jessie had no interest in him? How could she? The woman deserved better than some scrawny dog. Unfortunately for the dog, he wasn’t “getting it,” forcing Smitty to make it clear as crystal. So when that resentful doggy gaze moved from Smitty teasing Jessie’s neck to his hand, Smitty let his hand drop—right on Jessie’s breast.
Jessie let out a sharp breath and the dog asked, “Well, Jessica. Why don’t you introduce me to your boyfriend?”
“Of course.” Jessie casually took the hand laying on her breast with hers and when she curled her fingers into his palm, she unleashed her claws.
Smitty grunted but that was all. He’d kind of seen that one coming. But, dammit, it had been for her own good. And he’d go to his grave saying that.
“Sherman Landry, this is Bobby Ray Smith. Bobby Ray, this is Sherman Landry.”
The dog already had his hand out for Smitty to shake but it fell back at his side as he stared at him. Smitty had seen it before. That look. A look of fear and panic. And he knew the next words that would next come out of the dog’s mouth.
“You’re a Smith?”
“Of the Smith…Pack?”
And there it was. A Smith could be any ol’ body. But a member of the Smith Pack, one of the direct bloodline, brought out all sorts of reactions from other shifters. Some looked down on them and others looked horrified. That one small phrase, “Of the Smith Pack?” followed Smitty around like stink on a pig.
“Yes, sir, I surely am of the Smith Pack. The Tennessee Smiths.”
“I see. Well, it’s very nice to meet you. Jessica, can I speak with you for a second?”
“Well, as you see—”
This had been what she’d been trying to avoid. Time alone with Sherman Landry. Like most obsessive dogs that chased the same car every day, went after the same cat, slammed into the same mirror because they didn’t seem to grasp the only other dog in the room was themselves—Sherman wouldn’t quite give up on her. She really wished he would. He’d sent flowers to the office that morning, even though she’d told him about her allergies. How could Smitty remember sixteen years after the fact but this idiot forget after two days?
He grabbed her hand and pulled her outside Starbucks into the cold. Completely oblivious to the fact she had no coat in ten-degree weather. Then he started rambling and she had a hard time focusing. Not merely because of the cold, but really because a tit grab had never felt so good before and Smitty hadn’t even squeezed.
“I’m not sure what the problem is, Sherman,” she snapped, too cold to bother being polite any longer.
“Jessica, do you know who you’re sitting with?”
“Well, since I just introduced him to you, I have a vague idea.”
“I don’t mean who he is. I mean who he is.” A physicist with several government contracts under his belt and a tenured position complete with his own lab at the local, blindingly expensive small university, Sherman still had the amazing ability of sounding like a complete idiot.
“And who is he?”
“He’s a Smith. I thought he was just a wolf, but he’s a Smith. What are you thinking?”
I’m thinking the man can palm my breast anytime. “I’m not sure what you mean. What am I thinking about what?”
“Jessica,” to her great annoyance, he took her elbow and led her farther away from the coffee house, “Smiths are, at the very least, not good for a woman’s reputation.”
“My reputation?” Had she actually portaled to another time and dimension? Where women actually had to worry about their reputations.
“I know. I know. You don’t think about those things, but you need to. Smiths are infamous womanizers.”
She’d never call Smith males “womanizers.” Although she would call them whores.
“And,” Sherman said in all dog-like seriousness, “they’re dangerous, Jessica. Unstable. Even other wolves avoid them.”
“I had no clue.” Sure, she could explain to Sherman how she’d grown up around Smiths and knew them better than most. She could also explain how Smitty and she used to be friends. But all that would require her to spend more time with the man, seconds of her life she’d never get back.
Forcing herself not to glance impatiently down at her watch, she said, “I’ll talk to my Pack about it.”
“Of course. Because God forbid you should move without their permission.”
It was the venom with which he made that statement that had her eyes narrowing to slits. Her Pack only wanted her to be happy. For instance, they sure as fuck wouldn’t let her stand out in the cold so they could lecture her.
The coffeehouse door opened and Smitty walked out, heading right toward them. She hadn’t been this relieved to see the man since he dragged Bertha off her while she was pummeling Jess’s face.
Smitty glanced down at her and she knew he’d immediately caught on to her rapidly growing anger. Taking her arms, he pulled them around his waist and pulled her in tight to his body. His jacket and body heat kept her warm, his embrace kept her from tearing out Sherman Landry’s throat.
“Everything all right out here?” Smitty asked.
“Yes,” she said out loud and under her breath added, “Make him go away.”
“Leave it to me,” he muttered back. “Well,” he said clearly, for the entire street to hear, “we’re going to go home now and have some hot and dirty sex.”
Jess let out a startled gasp and tried to pull back, but Smitty held her tight against him.
“Yup,” he continued. “We’re gonna go have some nasty, dirty, whore sex.”
Even with her face buried in his—very nice smelling—chest, Jess could still sense when Smitty locked his sights on Sherman.
“And you’re not invited.”
“Jessica,” Sherman tried again, “maybe we should—”
“Son,” Smitty drawled, “don’t make me show you how much of a Smith I truly am.”
Sherman cleared his throat. “I’ll speak with you another time, Jessica.” She heard his footsteps heading back to the coffeehouse.
When Sherman opened the door, Smitty tossed out, “Just don’t call her when we’re having sex—which will be constantly!”
Jess waited long enough for Sherman to get inside before she yanked away from Smitty and followed up with a solid fist to his chest. The pain that radiated up her arm afterward—she ignored.
“What is wrong with you?”
“Nothin’,” he said, looking confused. “Why?”