Alaskan Tigers Book Three
Could Pierce be so daft he wouldn’t have seen Victor’s true motivation? That was the question haunting not only Taber, but the Elders of the Alaskan Tigers as well. If they could see through Victor, surely Pierce had as well.
The papers cluttering the table detailed Victor’s plans to bring Bratva—the brotherhood, a Russian shifter terrorist group—to the states. Over the years, it appeared Victor had been gathering followers from different shifter groups with like-minded beliefs.
Taber pushed papers aside, searching for his squeeze bottle of honey buried somewhere under the clutter. With hours left, before the day’s end, he needed his honey to see him through. Where did that damn bottle go?
“Bear.” Adam growled when Taber shoved more papers out of the way. “You finished your honey an hour ago.”
“We stocked some for you in the compound’s kitchen. Go get a refill and then get some damn sleep. You’re grumpy when you’re tired.”
“I’m a bear, damn it.” He rose, stretching his long legs. To him being a bear explained everything, but to the tigers well it might have been another story, especially after Adam raised an eyebrow. At that moment, Taber didn’t care.
He’d swing by the kitchen for another bottle of honey before checking in with the men guarding Victor. He also hoped to find Ty or Raja before hitting the sack, to see if any progress was made gaining information from Victor.
The kitchen was on the far side of the main building, away from the private quarters of the Alpha and Lieutenant, giving them both seclusion and security. He slipped his hand into the front pocket of his sweatshirt, his fingers wrapping around his cell phone. As he turned the last corner, leading to the long hallway toward the kitchen, he collided with a woman.
“Shit,” she said. Coffee covered the front of her shirt.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t expect anyone to be around here this time of the night.” Being nearly seven foot, he stared down at her. The white stripes sprinkled through her long, curly brown hair caught his attention. Did she do those on purpose? According to his cousin, they were highlights, but Taber couldn’t fathom why anyone would want such stripes painting their hair.
“You’re a damn shifter. You should have sensed me coming!” She growled at him, blotting the coffee stain with a napkin, but it only served to make matters worse.
“I said I was sorry, what more do you want woman?”
“Obviously nothing.” She snarled, shoving the napkins in her nearly empty coffee cup. She released a heavy sigh and moved to pass him.
He reached out, wrapping his hand around her small arm. She winced as if expecting him to cause her pain. He hated seeing fear resonating in her eyes. What happened to cause her such distress? “You’re right, I should have sensed you, but I wasn’t paying attention. Let me get you another cup.”
A sudden shot of electricity vibrated through their contact. He couldn’t tear his gaze from her.
This can’t be happening. My mate can’t be a tigress. I won’t have it. Especially a tigress with haunting in her eyes.
“So you can spill it over me again? I think not.” She pulled her arm free and pushed past him. He turned, his gaze following her as she sauntered down the hallway away from him. The sway of her hips drew his attention to her long, lush legs. The three-inch high heels she wore only served to add more sashay to her swaying hips. He wanted to run after her, to explore the electric jolt he received from their touch, but he instructed his feet to remain where he stood. He didn’t want a tigress as his mate, and he doubted he could help ease the pain within her eyes.
* * *
Unwilling to go back to the kitchen for another cup of coffee, Kallie walked across the compound back to her room. The cold night air sent shivers down her spine, thankfully it wasn’t snowing again. At least not yet. She loved winter and all the white, fluffy snow, but they had more than enough the last few days to satisfy her need.
Damn, bear. Who the hell does he think he is, laying a hand on me? A simple touch served to remind her of all the years she suffered at the hands of another. She did her best to block the haunting memories and thanks to Adam’s appearance she managed to keep them at bay again.
“Hey Kallie, what are you doing out at this time of night?” Unlike with Taber, she now had her senses on high alert and smelled Adam before he stepped from the darkness. Heavy circles shadowed under his eyes and his shoulders sagged in defeat. Whatever is going on is taking a toll on the lead guards.
“I was grabbing a cup of coffee before my shift at command central.” When Adam’s gaze fell to her empty hands, she pointed to her stained sweater. “That damn bear wasn’t paying attention and spilled it on me. I’m going to change quickly.”
“Tigers are quiet creatures, unlike bears. He probably didn’t hear you coming.”
“I guess.” She glanced down at one of her favorite green sweaters and hoped the coffee would wash out. “I’ll see you later. I have to change. Mark gets grumpy when I’m late.”
“Be safe. You know we have a prisoner on the grounds.”
She nodded and left to change. Who is this prisoner? Many in the compound assumed because of her job in command central she might have inside information, but in reality she was in the dark as everyone else. The Elders and their guards were tightlipped when it came to security issues, unless they were briefing the whole clan.
Her apartment was a studio at best, with a small kitchenette, sitting area, and a bed that dominated most of the room. Many of the unmarried guards lived in similar styled studios. The small space didn’t bother the male guards since they rarely cooked, but she missed having a house and privacy without neighbors on each side. Every time she opened her door there was someone nearby. Since moving to Alaska, her clan had been building new cabins for the guards, and her name had nearly reached the top of the list. It wouldn’t be much longer until she had a real home to call her own.
The only one benefit to her current living arrangement was that she didn’t have to do the laundry. Twice a week some of the clan women would come by to pick up her linens and clothes. They’d be returned later that day washed, and folded neatly on her bed. Doing laundry had never been high on Kallie’s enjoyment list.
Slipping the sweater off, she tossed it into the laundry bag, before grabbing another from the drawer. Another favorite sweater, a warm, heather grey with bright white stitching, and rosy pink trimming around the collar, waist, and sleeves.
If that bear came near her again she’d be sure to stay a good distance away, especially if she had anything to drink in her hands. She wouldn’t tolerate him ruining another favorite sweater. This particular sweater gave her a confidence she didn’t normally have, even helped her forget about those damn white streaks in her hair.
Changed, she headed back to command central, where she dreaded seeing Mark who would be irritated for cutting her arrival so close to shift change. She avoided stepping on any slick icy spots along the way. High-heeled, knee-high boots weren’t best for this climate, but since finding the security of the Alaskan Tigers, she favored heels. For the first time, she could embrace being a woman and not just a tigress. She had heels to go with every outfit, for every occasion.
She opened the door and saw Mark pacing the room, his arms crossed over his chest. “Where have you been?”
“You’re never going to find a mate if you keep barking at women. I thought you were a tiger, not one of those idiot wolves.” He continued to glare at her, waiting for an answer to his question. “Come on, Mark, give me a break. That damn bear ran into me. He spilled coffee on my sweater, so I had to change. Plus, I’m on time.” She flashed him a smile, hoping to warm his chilly heart.
“Fine.” He grabbed his coat from the back of the chair, nodding to the bank of computer screens. “You see any unannounced movement in area four, contact Ty or Raja privately about the activity, no matter the time. You understand?”
Her gaze moved to each computer monitor before returning to Mark. “It’s not my first day on the job, I can handle it.” Would he ever trust she could do the job even though she was a woman? She doubted it, but what mattered was Ty and Raja thought she could. “Is that where the prisoner is being held?”
“How…” He frowned.
“I ran into Adam on my way to change, he mentioned there was a prisoner on the grounds. So, is that where he is?” She glanced to area four to be certain there was no change in activity. She’d have to watch that section very carefully while on duty. They wouldn’t have a prisoner in their compound, especially not one of their own, unless it had something to do with the rogue gang they had been tracking.
He stepped toward the door, his dark shadowed eyes indicating he was clearly ready for his shift to end and to get some sleep. “Yes, now be sure to pay close attention to the monitors.”
“I got it.” She saluted as he closed the door.
Peace. She sank onto the chair, her gaze scrolling over the monitors and then returning to area four again. Who do they have in that old abandoned cabin? It couldn’t be Pierce, the leader of the rogues. There was no way Ty or Raja would stand for him to be that close to their mates, not after he single-handedly killed Tabitha’s and then Bethany’s parents, and nearly killed Bethany when she was kidnapped and used as ransom to gain Tabitha. To her Alpha and Lieutenant, whatever information could be gained would never outweigh the risk to their mates. They were good men and would protect not only their mates, but the whole clan, regardless of the danger to themselves.
Movement in area three caught her eye, drawing her attention from area four for a brief moment. Taber.
Her core moistened with desire just watching him stroll across the grounds. Ever since their encounter earlier, her body longed for his touch, to feel his fingers running over her skin. It had been too long since she had the touch of another, but then she remembered why.
Only once had she given her heart and body to another, and in the end it nearly killed her. She vowed to never make that mistake again, and she’d be damn certain she wouldn’t with a bear. Filthy creatures.
Kallie was surprised to be alive, let alone naked in her room next to a very naked Taber. She squirmed, trying to scoot away from him, but his large arms trapped her against his chest. What the hell? How did we get here?
She closed her eyes, hoping to remember what happened and more importantly how she ended up naked in bed with him. She couldn’t remember anything except the attack. People attacked the compound, a man broke down the command central door, fear flood through her and she ran. At the stream she held the capsule in her hand. After that, everything was blank.
“Hey, wake up!” Wanting answers, she pounded her fist against the barrel of his chest. He woke with a start and extended his claws. She winced as they pressed into her back.
“Taber.” She whispered, trying not to spook the bear any more than he was.
“Damn it, Kal, you should know better than to abruptly wake a sleeping bear. I could have attacked you.” He retracted his claws and pulled her to his body, snuggling her close to him as his eyelids drifted shut once again.
“Stop that.” She swatted his arm, wriggling to get out of his grip.
“You need to stay here. My body heat…” His words were heavy with exhaustion.
“What the hell do you mean?”
“Kal, you tried to poison yourself. Bethany has done what she could to reverse it, and now your body needs to heal the damage. Stop moving so much. I’m on strict orders from the healers to provide body heat and keep you calm for the next forty-eight hours.”
Her fingers roamed her neck, seeking the capsule she kept on a chain. She could feel by the weight alone, it was empty. She had one safety measure and it failed her. She left Mark, and jumped out the window, running until she was certain no one had followed her. Kallie then grasped the only escape she had been certain of. “You’re dreaming if you think I’m going to stay cuddled with you for the next two days.”
“I’ll sedate you if I have to.” He ran his hand over her arm, and she trembled with excitement. “Damn it woman, look at you. You’re freezing. Your body can’t provide the heat you need while it’s doing such extensive repairs. Once the chills have past you won’t need my heat and I can get out of your bed, but until then be still.”
When she continued to fight him, he added. “The longer you fight me the longer you’ll be stuck next to me. You’re using energy that your body needs to heal.”
She was cold and his body was so warm, like her own personal heater. Sucking up her pride, she curled around him.
“Why, Kallie?” He whispered, gently rubbing her arm.
“They were here for me.” She cringed at the thought. They would find her and try to take her back. She knew it was inevitable, and tried to prepare for it, but her plan failed.
“Kenneth, he was the threat who attacked command central. He showed us a picture of the two women he was here to find. Tabitha and you. What I don’t understand is why. Why was he after you?” He squeezed her tight against him. “Kal, if I’m going to protect you, I need to know the truth. Why were you so scared that you thought death was your only option?”
No one ever asked about her past before. Regardless of her fight, fate mated her to Taber. She wanted to be honest with him, to confide her deepest fear with him.