Tiger Magic(3)

By: Jennifer Ashley



He found her smiling at him on the other side of the hood as it came down. “You’re kind of amazing, you know that?” she asked. “So what were you doing out in that field? Were you running around as a . . . Let me guess. Tiger?”

He let his lips twitch. “What gave it away?”

“Very funny. I’ve never met a man with striped hair and yellow eyes. Call it a clue. Anyway, you’re a lifesaver. I’m Carly, by the way.” She stuck out her hand, then pulled it back from his now-greasy one. “Hang on. I think there’re some wipes in here.”

Carly leaned in through the passenger window again. Tiger stood still and enjoyed watching her, and when she straightened, she knew he’d been looking. “Like what you see?” she asked, her voice holding challenge.

Tiger saw no reason to lie. “Yes,” he said.

“You sweet-talker.” Carly pulled out two damp wipes for him.

Tiger took them and wiped off his hands. Wet wipes were familiar, at least. Whenever he’d been working on the truck, Connor’s aunt always made him clean up with them before she’d let him back into the house.

“You need a ride into Austin?” Carly asked. “It’s still thirty miles from here to the gallery, so I’d better take this car back to Ethan’s and not risk it. Ethan loves this car. Like I said, Armand’s going to kill me, but I’m so late now, it’s not going to matter.”

“Yes.”

Carly sent him a wide smile. “Yes, you want a ride? Or are you just being polite while I ramble?”

“The ride.” He could call Connor with the cell phone they made him carry when he got back to town. He couldn’t miss this opportunity to get to know his mate.

“Man of few words. I like it. Ethan, my fiancé, can talk on and on and on about his family, his business, his day, his life—Ethan. His favorite topic.”

Tiger stopped. “Fiancé.”

“Do Shifters have fiancés? It’s what humans call the man they’re going to marry.”

Tiger wadded up the now-dirty wipes in his big hands. “I didn’t know you’d have a fiancé.”

Carly opened the door of the running car as though she hadn’t heard him. “Get in. Ethan’s house is on the river—it’s a ways from Shiftertown, but I can always get you a taxi, or one of Ethan’s many lackeys can run you home.”

“Why are you marrying him?”

Carly shrugged. “Girl’s got to marry someone, mostly so her older sister stops mentioning it every five minutes. Ethan’s a good catch. Besides, I’m in love with him.”

No, she wasn’t. The slight motion in her throat, the scent of nervousness as she replied gave away the lie. She didn’t love him. Tiger felt something like triumph.

He got into the car as Carly slid into the driver’s seat inches away from him. Her fingers ran over the steering wheel as she made a competent U-turn on the still-empty road, and she drove, somewhat slowly, back toward Austin.

Carly tried to talk to him. She liked to chatter, this female. Tiger was fine with sitting back and listening to her, scenting her, watching her.

As they neared the city and the road started getting busier, Carly lifted her cell phone and called the man named Armand. She explained she’d be late, then held the phone from her ear while a male voice on the other end spoke loudly in an unfamiliar accent. Carly rolled her eyes at Tiger and smiled, unworried.

“Bark’s worse than his bite,” she said, clicking off the phone.

“I know some wolves like that.”

Carly laughed, her red mouth opening. Tiger leaned in closer to her, not hard to do in this coffin of a car, and brushed his scent onto her.

She glanced at him, again with the puzzlement of knowing something had happened but not sure what. “It’s dangerous for a woman to give strange men rides. I wonder why I’m not worried with you.”

Because you’re my mate. “Because I’d never hurt you.”

“Well, you can’t, can you? That’s why you wear the Collar. Keeps you tame. Shifters can’t be violent with it on.”

Tiger could. This Collar was fake. It didn’t have the technology or Fae magic that would send shocks through his system if he started to attack.

They’d tried to put a real Collar on him, and Tiger had nearly gone insane. They concluded that Tiger should wear a fake Collar—not that the humans realized it was fake—and proceed from there.

This Collar would not stop Tiger from scooping up Carly and running off with her if he wanted to. He could sequester her, mate with her, soothe his need for her until they both collapsed in exhaustion.

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