Beastly Desires(8)

By: Nikki Winter



She watched him casually stroll around to the driver’s side door and pop it open before he started digging around.

“Now where’s that...? Ah...got it.”

Her tank cover released and then he was there, unscrewing it.

“Is there a metal plate in your head? I told you I could handle it.”

He simply gave her that same slow, sweet grin. “Why are you so cranky? Someone declaw you?”

Insane. He had to be fucking insane. What nutter, shifter or no, would make casual conversation with the person who’d just finished putting a gun to their head?

Kamali folded her arms across her chest as he swiped his card and pumped gas into her tank. “You were the cub that used to like to purposely run around with the feed bowl on his head, weren’t you?”

His chuckle was as rich as molasses. “Sorry to disappoint you, sweetheart. I have a younger brother, and while I very much so encouraged the act, I never participated. Watching him charge into walls was always entertaining.”

Jesus Christ who was this guy? And why was he so goddamn...nice? Kamali wasn’t used to nice. Perhaps it was the fact her pride was full of superficiality and bullshit shows of strength, or that she’d been raised by a man who couldn’t seem to understand the concept of basic kindness. Maybe she was simply jaded, but there was something about Vitaly that made her hackles rise. What made her anxious was the fact he didn’t make her anxious.

“I sense a disturbance in the Force,” he commented. “Never learned to depend on the kindness of strangers?”

“What I’ve learned is that everyone has a motive,” Kamali retorted, watching him closely. “What’s yours?”

He shrugged. “Your scent.”

Her brows lowered. “What?”

“You smell like one of the desserts my mother used to make for me as a cub, before she taught me how to do it on my own.” His grin made her pulse thump unevenly. “I was led around by my nose the majority of the time, and it seems that hasn’t changed much.”

Finishing up, he re-screwed the cap to her gas tank. “Should be full.” Then he nodded at her and started to walk away.

“Wait.” She spoke before she could stop herself.

The tiger pulled up short and gave her a questioning glance over one shoulder.

Kamali reached for her wallet. “At least let me give you—”

He placed a hand on top of her own to stop her. “The kindness of strangers.” He started toward his truck once more.

Say something. Stop him. The nudge came from her beast. Why, she didn’t know; didn’t want to know. “So that’s it?” she called. “You tell me I smell good then amble off?”

Head cocking, he asked, “You asking me to stick around?”

“I’m asking you why you would do this for a woman who just put a gun to your head and all but threatened to blow you away. I’m asking what it is that made you stop. I’m asking why you helped me.”

“Because I know that look.”

“What look?”

“The one that says you’re terrified of your past catching up to you.” He waved a hand toward her SUV then pointed up the road. “There’s a hotel about three miles off. Should you need someplace to stay, you tell them Kaisal Verochka sent you and if they want to confirm it, you tell them to call the Monahan pack house.” Running a hand through his hair, he looked as though he were debating something with himself before he spoke again. “I don’t know what you’re running from—”

“I’m not—”

He raised a hand, cutting her off. “Don’t. Don’t lie to me.” The tiger exhaled. “I can’t make you want my help, and I can’t make myself understand why I’m offering it, but I know when someone’s hiding. All signs point to that very thing. You look exhausted, you have no cards, and you’re armed like a member of the NFA coalition. I get the distinct impression that if I become pushy, ask too many questions, I’ll find myself in a shallow hole bleeding out tonight, so I’m simply going to tell you that, should whatever is pursuing you find you…call me.” Taking something out of his pocket, he tossed it in her direction. She didn’t realize it was a phone until she caught it. “I don’t care how illogical it is. I don’t care how late or early it may be. You. Call.”

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