Predator’s Refuge

Gemini Island Shifters 3

Rosanna Leo

 

Chapter 1

Hot damn! He’s putting me in charge.

Marci Lennox stared at her boss and her heart palpitations indicated equal parts excitement and dread, as much as she refused to show it.

Ryland Snow, owner of the Ursa Fishing Lodge and Resort offered her a deadpan expression. “You won’t burn the place down, will you?”

She threw her head back with what she hoped was a graceful laugh, even though the noise that emerged from her throat sounded staccato and harsh to her own ears. A laugh to make Fran Drescher proud. “Tell you what. If I do, I’ll make sure to tidy up the char marks.”

Ryland grimaced. “Maybe this isn’t such a good idea. The day-to-day running of the lodge is enough to make any sane shifter loopy. It’s a lot of work for one person, Marci. Believe me, I know.”

She put out a hand, reaching over her boss’s desk, and shook his arm. “Look, I promise not to destroy the resort you built with your own two hands.”

He peeled his hand out of her friendly clutch and dragged it through natural waves most women would kill for. “Since I opened this place, I’ve never left it with anyone else. I’m not doubting you, Marci. I’m just worried if I look away for five seconds, the inmates will take over the asylum.”

She searched for a reply that might settle his mind. Her boss, a worrier on the best of days, deserved a break, despite being an ornery bear shifter. Sure, it would be tons of work, but it wasn’t anything she couldn’t handle. “Ryland, since you mated with Lia, you’ve never taken any time off. You two deserve a proper honeymoon. If you stay here, instead of heading to that sweet five-star hotel in Fiji, she’ll never forgive you.”

“She’ll have my balls,” he joked. “She’ll mount them on a plaque that says ‘Worst Mate Ever’ and hang them in the lobby over the fireplace.”

“Ryland.”

“I’m kidding. Lia’s been…” He sighed. “She’s been amazing. She knows how important this place is to me. If I told her I needed to stay, she wouldn’t say a word. Which is just another reason I want to give her this trip.”

“It’ll be a beautiful honeymoon.” She smiled at him. “Didn’t you say something about a private pool on your deck?”

His gaze glassed over, but then focused on her again, frowning over smiling eyes. “None of your business, missy. That’s between my mate and me.” He chuckled, but his gaze turned foggy again as he no doubt pictured what they could get up to in that pool. Quickly, he shook his head and the lust clouds disappeared from his eyes. “Anyway, you know I trust you, Marci. I just don’t want you to get stressed.”

She sighed. Since she’d first arrived at the lodge as a geeky teenager, she’d worked her way from clerical duties to being in charge of customer service. And because it was a relatively small operation, that meant she did a little of everything, from fixing up rooms when they were short on maids to helping Ryland with staffing issues. He relied on her a lot, but he knew, better than most people, she didn’t really have a history of calm and collected responses. She’d spent many a year being a frightened mouse of a girl rather than the proud lynx shifter she ought to be.

It came with being such a late bloomer. Most shape-shifters possessed a natural finesse, one that hadn’t quite finished inching its way into her system yet. Even as a full-grown woman, she still felt like an awkward girl some days. It ran in her family, apparently. Her mom had told her many stories of female family members who’d come into their own while in their twenties, rather than shifting like others did in their teens.

Her boss wasn’t being demeaning in bringing it up. He cared. He’d spent hours with her, coaching and developing her skills, and wouldn’t waste all his hard work with a baptism by fire. Ryland wasn’t that sort of manager. He’d want to make things comfy and cozy for her.

Well, comfy and cozy didn’t always do the job. This chance meant she had an opportunity to prove herself. The spirit of a lynx purred inside her. Self-sufficient and agile and dignified.

And she had the claws to prove it.

She needed more. For some time, she’d been aching for new challenges and eager to tackle new obstacles. She knew her job inside and out and couldn’t help feeling more important adventures hovered somewhere over her horizon. That feeling could only be her need to advance at the resort.

“I can handle myself, and I can handle anything this resort throws at me,” she affirmed, as much for her own benefit as for his. Silently, she tucked the sentence away as a little mantra, to be repeated later. “I meant it when I said I want to be your right-hand man. I mean, woman. You’ve trained me and shown me all the inner workings of the lodge. It’s time to cut the apron strings.” She paused for a quick breath. “It’s time to let baby bird fly, mama bird.”

His black eyebrows shot up. “Mama bird?”

“You know what I mean.”

He eyeballed her for a long moment, and then curled his lip in a half smile. “Fly, then. And if all goes well, Marci, I’ll make you assistant manager.”

“Pardon?” Joy bubbled up inside her. Even though she wanted to jump out of her seat, hug him, and let out a high-pitched squeal, she maintained her professionalism and smiled. What voice she could find emerged as a whisper. “Thank you.”

Ryland laughed as the corners of her mouth touched her ears. Surely they were touching her ears. “Oh, and baby bird. Promise me one thing.”

“Anything.”

“Don’t crap on my head as you fly over.”

She straightened in her seat, sitting so straight her head might have been touching the clouds. “There will be no crap on my watch.”

He stood and motioned to the door, and walked her toward reception. Shadows gripped his handsome features. “Oh, and a reminder. We have a new employee starting in two days. I told you about him a while back. Anton Gaspar?”

“The new mentor?”

“He’s the one. I’d prefer to be here to get him settled, but it can’t be helped. You’ll get him sorted in HR and introduce him around? He already knows what to do.”

“You bet.” She’d helped other new employees get oriented. She could do it with her eyes closed.

Ryland turned to her, peering into her eyes. “This might be a little different. Gaspar is from Hungary.”

“Is there a language barrier?”

“Nope. The man speaks better English than we do. He did a couple of years in one of those fancy English boarding schools. But being here might still be a bit of a culture shock.” He took a moment to scratch his head. “Anton Gaspar is not really like us small-town folk. He’s from an ancient line of Hungarian shape-shifters. He’s sort of, well, royalty.”

She snorted at what she thought was a joke. “What, like king of Hungary?”

“Nah. More like a prince, actually.” The twisted lines around his mouth illustrated his own bewilderment at the idea of putting a prince on payroll. “The shifters in his part of the world seem to appreciate the whole lineage business. It seems he’s actually a big deal where he comes from. Even grew up in a castle.”

“A castle? Why on earth is he coming here to work as a mentor to troubled teen shifters? He can’t be qualified, Ryland. Does he even tie his own shoes?”

He frowned at her. “Let’s not be too judgmental. Look, the man’s got a lot of interesting talents. He’s proficient in wrestling, fencing, and martial arts. I think our young guests will learn a lot from him. He could be an amazing role model. And Marci, he’s a tiger shifter. I don’t think we’ve ever had a tiger on the island before. Think of the tricks he’ll be able to teach the kids. Think of the muscle he’ll bring to the team.”

Muscle.

She was thinking of it. From the gurgle of greed emanating from her spirit animal, she could tell her lynx was already thinking about it a little too much. “Okay. That still doesn’t explain why a prince wants to work in a fishing lodge on Gemini Island. Shouldn’t he be, I don’t know, playing polo somewhere, or ordering his butler around?”

She forced the curl out of her lip. Having grown up in a democratic household, she didn’t hold much with royalty. She’d spent much of her life listening to her dad offer up very decided opinions on abolishing the monarchy, and frankly, she pretty much agreed. Her background, as strange as it might be to some, consisted of hardworking country stock. She didn’t really trust people who had Bentleys given to them on their sixteenth birthdays.

Ryland puffed out his cheeks and let the air escape in a slow whoosh. “Well, I don’t want to reveal all his private info, but I don’t think the noblesse oblige thing is working for him. Just treat him like any other employee. At the same time, see if you can take him under your wing. You know, make sure he fits in and that no one finds out his story. He’s trying to make a new life for himself. I can respect that. Anyway, I told him to ask for the person in charge when he gets here, so he’ll be looking for you.”

A prince who didn’t want to be a prince.

She’d shown a few employees around but never under such weirdly intimidating circumstances. Was she supposed to curtsy to this guy or assist him with donning his ermine robes? Don’t be silly. Ryland said treat him like anyone else. She clasped her hands in front of her and threw her shoulders back, confident in her ability to do her job and prepare the new staff member. Entitled nobleman or not. “I’ll make sure he gets the royal treatment, boss,” she joked.

He shook his head, grinning at the pun. “Thanks.” He handed her some keys. “These are for my office. Use them well, grasshopper. Be good, Marci.”

She gave the bear man a hug, thankful for all he’d done. “You too, Ryland,” she said, excited to earn her wings. “Just not too good.”

* * * *

By that evening, as Marci finished up her walkabout inside the lodge, she was convinced she could run the freaking Four Seasons. The dinner service had gone without a hitch, even though one of the new guests demanded vegan options. Despite how badly she’d wanted to clock the so-called vegan shifter, she’d made special arrangements with the chefs to accommodate him. And when a couple of the boys from the mentoring program got too aggressive, pummeling each other on the lawn, she’d personally intervened and sat them down to reason with them. She’d made sure the fishing lodge was stocked with fresh bait and checked on the gas levels in all the boats for rental. Now, she felt so in command of every niche of the resort, she might have been the Richard Branson of the Ursa Fishing Lodge.

Ryland would have no reasons to regret putting her in charge.

“Kate,” she called to a colleague down the hall. “Did the pub get restocked with Molson Canadian? We go through that stuff like water.”

“Yes, Marci,” the woman replied as they passed.

She smiled and carried on outside toward the security office. Once there, she strode in and addressed the two security guards on duty. “Lloyd, Connor. Any issues today?”

Lloyd, a burly bear shifter, grinned. “All quiet on the western front, boss. Not even a splinter.”

“You guys are awesome.” She exited the office with a happy wave, her heart swelling with satisfaction. “Keep on keepin’ on!”

On her way back to her own cabin for the night, she picked up Ryland’s walkie-talkie and called over to the housekeeping department. “Moira, it’s me. Were you able to send up the extra pillows and blankets to the Vaughan family? Their little girl gets cold at night.” She waited for Moira’s crackly, affirmative response and thanked the housekeeper. “Perfect, thank you. Talk to you in the morning. Over and out.”

With a click on the walkie-talkie button, Marci reached her cabin door. She unlocked it but took one last look back at the property she’d come to love, probably just as much as Ryland. The old oaks and maples were now fully robed in autumn splendor, and the forest seemed awash in tones of gold and scarlet. She breathed in. With her enhanced lynx senses, she could smell smoke from several cozy fireplaces and smiled at the thought of guests warming themselves inside their cabins. She turned her gaze toward the small portion of Lake Gemini visible from her vantage point, and it glistened under the setting sun.

The most beautiful place in the world.

After spending her formative years on the resort, it felt more like home than her parents’ house did. Nothing would give her more contentment than doing it justice while she was in command, so when Ryland returned, it would remain the peaceful haven he’d created.

She exercised control over each aspect of the business and things were going swimmingly. In fact, they couldn’t be any better. Safe in the knowledge all was well on the resort, she entered her cabin and closed the door behind her.

As soon as she was alone, her back still to the door, exhaustion set in and her smile faded. An invasive tickle crept up her spine.

Immediately her inner voice, that of her lynx, began to taunt her. You might think you’ve muzzled me, friend, but just you wait…

Go away. A drip of perspiration materialized on her brow and dripped down her temple, landing in her cleavage.

Marci only shifted for the first time a few months ago, and her lynx seemed to be under the impression she had a different vocation. Specifically, that of a dedicated porn star. Her libido, absent for much of her adult life, had recently kicked into overdrive. Most days, Marci’s temperature ran so hot she wondered if she’d skipped her twenties and gone straight to menopause.

Even Ryland knew her shame because she’d propositioned his brother Soren. While naked.

That hadn’t gone over well. Luckily Soren had a forgiving mate, one who’d become her friend since the odd encounter. It still didn’t mean she didn’t grimace internally every time she spotted Gioia around the resort. Thank God the couple was vacationing in St. Lucia right now, meaning one less thing to cause stress in her already overloaded system.

Marci had spent months sucking back embarrassing pangs of lust in the presence of unmated men. It wasn’t as bad as it used to be, but the ominous purrs of her lynx let her know the animal still sought to appease its hunger. Nevertheless, her job meant the world to her. Determined to remain professional, she ignored the fact her heat-consumed lynx seemed to think every unmated male was a special sexual delivery.

At least her virginity had been ruled out as an issue. Before she’d lost it, her lynx had been insatiable, causing a dreadful ruckus every time one of her male colleagues happened by, to say nothing of the lodge customers.

Luckily, she’d been able to rely on her old pal Killian Moon. The jaguar shifter, one of the other mentors in Ryland’s program, stepped in when he’d witnessed Marci’s agony. She’d asked him to take her virginity, knowing there wouldn’t be any awkwardness afterward. After all, they weren’t interested in each other romantically. She’d just needed to scratch a terrible itch. Okay, it might not have been professional to sleep with a colleague, but Killian was the only one Marci trusted to help her through the transition. They’d been friends for years, since their school days on the mainland.

It helped. A little bit.

She didn’t feel the need to maul passing men in the hallways anymore, but her lynx prowled inside her, still restless. It threatened her regularly. It sought … something different. Sought it everywhere.

Which was why Marci had embarked on a campaign to silence the animal. As much as it hurt to ignore her primal instinct to seek out a mate, she slapped a lid on her bothersome lynx. Every time the animal so much as cracked open its eyes, Marci forced it into a virtual corner of her being. So far, in public, her scheme was working.

But in private…

Now that she hid behind closed doors, the fever set in, rampaging through her like a bloody horseman of the apocalypse. Her lynx reared its lascivious head and let out a cry of sexual frustration.

“Feed me!” it screamed.

She might think she had the animal under control, but during those quiet, vulnerable moments, the beast attacked her again and again, demanding she listen. Demanding she provide the man it so obviously craved.

“I don’t know who you want,” Marci spat in disgust. “Leave me alone!”

The great cat banged against her insides, clamoring for attention and satiation. Swallowing past the thick walls of her throat, Marci dashed into her bedroom and threw the walkie-talkie to the carpeted floor. She collapsed onto her bed. Kicking off her skirt, she ripped a hole in the crotch of her pantyhose and shoved aside the elastic of her panties.

With a frenzied cry, Marci slid her fingers between her sore, swollen lips and rubbed herself to orgasm to the sounds of her lynx moaning. As the animal in her howled, presenting its ass to some invisible partner, Marci bit down on her bottom lip and stifled a primal shout. Even after coming, her orgasm a mere shadow of the one building in her system, she felt no relief. Her lynx wasn’t satisfied and wouldn’t stop crying.

It wanted more. It wanted a man.

Well, it would have to wait. She had a job to do.

Marci sat up and wiped at her clammy face, and then supported her pounding head. She stared at her ripped hose, frowned, and let out a long sigh.

She wasn’t sure how much longer she could keep this up.

* * * *

Anton Gaspar disembarked from the Gemini Island ferryboat. Before doing anything else, he touched his fingers to his brow, chest, left and right shoulder in sequence, in the sign of the cross.

Old habits die hard.

Sighing, he tossed his duffel bag over his shoulder, and then clutched the two large suitcases that contained the most essential of his worldly belongings. A few outfits, his fencings foils, some toiletries, and his Bible were all he needed. As the ferry made ready to pull away, he stole a moment and took in the surroundings of his new home and work.

Gemini Island, Ontario, such a long way from Budapest, jarred him in its differences. In this tree-covered place, he could spy no majestic historic buildings nor delicate bridges. No statues to dead royals, ornamented in bird excrement. No fountains and picturesque roads.

Perfect. He breathed long and deep, and the brisk autumn air found a home in his lungs.

He made a few other quick comparisons between the island and the seat of his family’s power. There was no corruption here; he could smell its absence. Unlike home, Gemini Island seemed free from the stench of long-dried blood and betrayal. In this more innocent place, he would not always have to constantly swallow the acid tang of violence as it clung to every wall and every person.

God help him, he’d make sure it stayed that way. He needed to know places like this existed in the world.

He flexed his Siberian tiger muscles and began the walk to the Ursa Lodge, ready to begin. No looking back.

Szabadság. Freedom reigned here.

If only he could free himself from the vile clutches of his memories.

As he marched along the well-marked path to the lodge, a hundred reminiscences replayed in Anton’s mind like a ridiculous film reel of shame. Thirty years spent in the bosom of a family who didn’t think twice of betraying their own kind. Almost thirty years as the older brother to a man who valued status and power more than family and love. Thirty years as son to a bloodthirsty dictator.

Thirty years too long. He should have done this a sad decade ago.

Never mind. His nightmares would have chased him wherever he went. Even now, he could not erase the horrible imagery from his mind. The clouded visions of him locked in a cage with his brothers, taunted by their sham of a father. The same hateful pictures had tortured him from youth, making him crave retribution. At least here, away from Budapest, he would be out of temptation’s grasp.

Vengeance ran in his blood, but he would not be a slave to the same base desires that claimed his family. He needed to begin again, to rise from the ashes of deceit.

He thought he’d found his perfect refuge when he took up residence at the Pannonhalma Monastery near Gyor. For a while, the Benedictine Abbey had been the perfect escape. Silence and peace and simplicity had been the new themes in Anton’s life. Brother Ferenc had taught him the benefits of meditation, of treating one’s body like a temple, and he’d thrived.

It hadn’t been long before the vivid nightmares found him there too. He’d known at that point he needed to get away from his beloved Hungary altogether. As long as he remained in his homeland, there would always be a chance he’d succumb to the evil in his genes. Tigers like him had trouble controlling their urges, fashioned as they were for hunting prey. And his tiger had been on the hunt for some time, eager for payback, for fresh blood.

For that reason, he couldn’t trust himself at home. He wanted nothing more to do with the Gaspar clan, couldn’t stomach being in the midst of their vile machinations. His only hope at living a normal life was to create a new one, despite how much he wanted to clean up after his father and lead his tribe into a safe and happy future.

When he’d heard of Ryland Snow’s unusual resort through shifter acquaintances, something in him snapped into place. He’d known instinctively the Ursa Lodge was where he needed to reinvent himself. His subsequent conversations with Snow confirmed his suspicions. The man owned a lodge for shifters, a place where they could be free to be themselves, unafraid of retribution or prying human eyes. A place where he mentored young shifters and taught them how to be proud of their unique talents.

No one had ever taught him these things.

He longed to be part of this positive environment, away from the sham court created by his father and one sycophant brother Istvan. No more infighting. No more terror. Just freedom.

He would miss Gabi, his other brother, but sacrifices must be made for sanity.

Casting an appraising eye around the property as he approached it, Anton noticed a few teenage shifter males flirting with a group of girls. He would be spending his days helping teens adjust to their unique talents and gifts. Proud to do it, frankly he couldn’t wait to start work. Mulling over a few ideas for icebreakers, he marched toward the front door. The sliding doors swung open for him and he walked in, head high.

Immediately, the fragrance hit him, activating his Jacobson’s organ. He swallowed, tasting it on his tongue and at the back of his throat, and wondered if he was mistaken.

No, how could he mistake the unique scent of a female cat in heat? It was too delicious a scent to forget. Sweetness coated his taste buds, winding a delirious path down his throat. As his head swam, he blinked and tried to clear his thoughts of the sexual imagery racing through it.

The scent did not belong to another tiger shifter, but some other type of predatory cat. One whose perfume he hadn’t sampled before. One who must be particular to this region. Cougar? No. Mountain lion? Surely not.

Whatever she was, her scent teased him with its delicious flavor.

Don’t, he warned himself. Wasn’t it enough that he spent the last few years of his existence trying to escape the sick wiles of the grasping women at court? And God only knew how hard he’d worked to maintain a state of abstinence at Pannonhalma, devoting his life to meditation. He’d come here to work, not lose himself in a sweet piece of…

Stop it. This was no time to think of pussy, even though he’d never been more desperate for a taste of creaming woman.

His tiger howled inside him, hungry for that which it had been denied for almost two years.

Still the perfume, more intoxicating than any he’d known, wafted toward him. He wanted to close his eyes and drink it in. The unyielding power of the aroma could make him forget his vows. Granted, he wasn’t really a monk, but he had followed the monastic lifestyle from day one at Pannonhalma. The purity in the monk’s life had been the very thing he’d required to get his life back on track.

So why did he want to find the source of the scent and fuck her until she begged alternately for mercy and for more? Her need seemed strong. Whoever this lady cat was, she must be in dire agony for her scent to be so powerful.

None of his business.

Mentally caging the growling tiger inside him, he shook his head and approached the front desk. He dropped his luggage and cleared his throat at the woman working there. Her head had been down as she read some reports, but she looked up now.

“Welcome to the Ursa…” Her jaw fell open and her sentence hung in the air, unfinished and clearly forgotten.

Well, well. A beautiful little lynx.

The scent of desire emanated from her. Only now, it flourished under his gaze, increasing tenfold, if such a thing could be measured. Tendrils of teasing perfume waved around her body, blending into the golden brown highlights in her hair and winding their way around her hips and breasts. Exuding from her pores and sinking straight into his. Delicious, sensual saturation.

Anton’s heart raced and his tiger spotted its new prey. The animal licked its lips.

The man sheltering the beast fought to stand upright. He clenched his fist around his duffel bag handle.

They said nothing for a moment, just stared at each other. Anyone watching them must think them simple. The lynx, a totally touchable woman, stood about 5’7” with rounded curves meant for caressing. The bright sheen in her golden brown eyes allowed a glimpse at the hungry cat within; he could almost see the lynx, with its tufted ears and soft gray fur, sniffing at him. She’d pinned up her sorrel brown hair in a professional chignon, but as she stared at him, a few strands came loose. They seemed to beg his fingers to wrap around them to see if they were truly as soft as they appeared. Perspiration broke out on her skin, ornamenting her upper lip and brow, and he could taste her heat even from across the reception desk. It made him want to seek out the other hot spots on her body. To lick at the moisture gathering under her plump breasts, to nuzzle under her arms, to feast on the heat between her legs.

He wanted to make her hotter.

Anton, stop this madness!

He searched his brain for the name of the person Ryland gave him. He blinked and stood up like the aristocrat he was raised to be. “I am Anton Gaspar of the house…” He caught himself in time, almost saying he was of the house Árpád. He no longer had a house. “Please bring me to Marc Lennox.”

The lynx woman gawked at his lips as he spoke. He clenched them and something in her face clenched as well. “Um, it’s Marci Lennox. I’m Marci Lennox.”

With such a heat to plague her, it was astounding she recalled her own name. He narrowed his eyes at her. He then pulled out his cell phone and scrolled quickly through Ryland’s latest texts, looking for the name. “That is impossible. Mr. Snow told me to ask for Marc, the man in charge.”

The warm golden tones in her eyes scintillated with sudden harshness. “It’s Marci, and I’m the woman in charge.”

In spite of himself, he sniffed in disdain. In no way could this woman be trusted to run a resort. Her heat, so distracting, would prevent her from getting any work done at all. He’d known female cats in heat before. They could barely recall the instructions for boiling water when under the influence of their sex-crazed spirit animals. Better she run along home and find a nice little lynx boy to satisfy her.

At home, he answered to kings. No chance of calling this frustrated girl “boss.”

Besides, he couldn’t report to a woman, certainly not one who looked and smelled like this. Not if he was to remain celibate and stay sane.

She cocked her head. “Is there a problem, Mr. Gaspar?”

He was about to remind her to use his title, but bit his lip. You’re not in Hungary, remember? These people were not of his tribe, and here, he wasn’t anyone special. He’d better get used to it. And soon. Still, his tiger made an appearance and compelled him to play with her. Its voice rumbled into his throat, taking over his vocal cords. “You tell me, little girl.”

Her pretty face reddened, making her cheeks appear as bright as the apples in his father’s orchard in September. “I must be hearing things. Did you just call me little girl?”

He dropped his bags and leaned on the counter between them, inhaling the scent that was close to making him forget himself. Ah, hell, he had already forgotten himself. “Come now, Ms. Lennox. I’m sure Mr. Snow wouldn’t want you wasting anyone’s time. Who’s really in charge here?”

“I am.”

“You don’t look … old enough to run a resort.”

Her lynx eyes flashed again. “For your information, I am old enough. I’ve been working at this resort since I was knee-high to a grasshopper. Mr. Snow trusts me to do the job … and why am I explaining myself to you anyway?”

Enough fun, Anton. Don’t make the girl mad. She’s already beside herself with the need to fuck.

Like you are, his petulant tiger retorted. He blinked and warned the animal away.

“My apologies. I am suspicious by nature. I was raised that way.” He tried to smile, but was worried if he showed his teeth, he’d swallow her scrumptious perfume and eat her to orgasm right there. “I’ve never had a young woman for a supervisor, but I’m sure we can be friends, cicuskám.”

“What does that mean?”

He allowed one side of his mouth to curl up in a half grin, enjoying her flustered sputtering more than he’d enjoyed anything in a long time. Certainly more than he enjoyed matins or tranquil walks in the cloister. “Nothing special.” It wouldn’t do to tell the new boss he’d called her my kitten. Not that she was his. He wasn’t in the market for a lady lynx. He could hear his brother Gabi now. “A lynx, Anton? You are a tiger, a prince among shifters. Stop slumming it.”

God love Gabi. He might be his favorite brother, but he was an incurable snob. As for Istvan, well, Anton tried never to listen to anything his youngest brother said. Istvan wouldn’t have advice on courtship. He didn’t court his women; he beat them into submission.

Dismissing painful memories, Anton eyed Marci. “Very well then, boss. Show me where to begin.”

She walked around the reception desk, her disconcerting gaze trained on him the whole time, as if worried he might pounce. Or was she worried she might? Anton wasn’t sure, but had a feeling he was going to like toying with the nervous kitten too much for his own peace of mind.

Damn. Maybe he should never have left the monastery.