Tiger Magic(7)

By: Jennifer Ashley

“You stay down, lad,” Liam said, his Irish tones laced with steel. “You understand me?”

Tiger dragged in a breath. The fear hadn’t left him, but he knew he had to obey Liam or the men in black would bring up the weapons and fill Tiger’s body with bullets, too many to withstand at once.

Tiger managed one nod. His fists stayed balled, but he stopped pulling at the chains.

Liam’s hand remained on Tiger’s chest. “Good lad. You need to stay still to heal. You stay still, and everything will be fine.”

“Carly,” Tiger whispered.

Liam leaned to the bed without lifting his hand from Tiger. “What?”

“Carly. Where is she?”

Liam shook his head. “I don’t know who that is, but you’ve been whispering her name. Someone from the lab?”

“She’s my mate.” Tiger could barely speak, his voice grating and strange, but it felt good to say the word. “My mate.”

Liam blinked slowly, once, but he didn’t let his body move. “You need to stop talking and rest now.”

“She’s hurting.”

Liam leaned closer, speaking so only Tiger would hear him. “Was she at this house you broke into? She get caught in the cross fire?”

“Find her.”

“You have to give me a bit more to go on, lad.”

“Carly.” Tiger dimly remembered the name the gardener had used. “Randal.”

A machine above him clicked, and the meds or whatever they’d given him coursed through his body again. Darkness rushed at him.

Tiger tried to reach for Liam, but he couldn’t move his hands. He had to settle for pinning the alpha with his gaze, something Connor had told him never to do. “Find my mate,” Tiger rasped, and then nothing existed.

* * *

The red ’Vette’s door hung open, Carly’s foot out on the driveway. The rest of her remained behind the wheel, she staring at the blankness of the garage door as more tears slid down her face. The rearview mirror showed mascara smeared into black smudges under her eyes and streaks of it tracking her cheeks.

Carly had driven blindly around the city before ending up in front of her house, but she didn’t want to go inside right now to the silent, empty place. She didn’t want to be alone, but she didn’t want to call her mama or her sisters and tell them what had happened. Not yet. Her energetic sisters and mother weren’t home anyway—they’d gone to Mexico for days of shopping and sampling every kind of tequila they could find. Carly had decided to give the trip a miss so she could stay behind and help Armand. If she called them, they’d exclaim in sympathy and anger and give her lots of support. When that happened, she’d lose it completely.

She’d tried to go see Yvette, Armand’s wife. With Yvette, Carly could pour out her heart and find sympathy, but also sage, clear-eyed advice. Yvette knew the world, and she’d tell Carly what to do.

Except Yvette hadn’t been home. If Carly had stopped to think about it, she would have realized that. Yvette was at the gallery helping Armand, because Carly wasn’t there for the big exhibit opening. Armand was probably even now firing Carly.

And Carly didn’t care.

Nothing mattered right now. Not her sitting in her driveway in a car that wasn’t hers, not her mascara-blotched face, not the black lines that dropped from her cheeks to her pretty white dress.

She’d been so sure of Ethan, her future cut-and-dried. Ethan had been the antithesis of Carly’s father—her father had never held a job for long, gambled away money he did have, grew angry at Carly’s mother if she didn’t hand over most of what she earned to him. When her father had lived with them, Carly’s family had moved constantly, never able to stay in one house long. And then one day he’d gone. He’d vanished one afternoon when Carly was twelve, walking away from his wife and four daughters, leaving them with unpaid back rent and a mountain of bills—after withdrawing all the money they did have out of the bank account and taking it with him. He’d never come back, hadn’t wanted to see his daughters, had agreed to the divorce from afar, and had vanished from their lives.

Ethan represented stability, ambition, a man who wouldn’t lose everything on the next turn of a card or on a horse that had long odds to win, who wouldn’t leave a wife high and dry. Carly’s father had been quicksand—Ethan was a pillar.

But now that pillar had crumbled, plunging Carly into pain and uncertainty. Ethan hadn’t endangered her financially, but he’d betrayed her trust and had slapped respect in the face.

How long had he been screwing other women? From day one? Had Carly been so blinded by her need for Ethan’s stability that she hadn’t noticed?

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