Mail Order Tiger Bride Wars: A Scorchingly Hot BBW Shifter Romance (4 page)

BOOK: Mail Order Tiger Bride Wars: A Scorchingly Hot BBW Shifter Romance
ads

7

 

Cole was immersed in an excavated pit of his own making. His face was dirt-streaked and
sweat-streaked, and he had his shirt off. He probably smelled like a horse, which was like catnip to tigers. The noon sun was high in the sky, but the buffer of trees around him made the atmosphere more tolerable.

He was surrounded by the day workers, all of whom were paid
to dig where he instructed. So far, the urn was the only thing they had found of value. There was nothing else. Not even an earring.

He was getting frustrated after the initial excitement.

His palms were chafed from the shovel. He was the type of archeologist who liked to
get his own hands dirty rather than to leave the digging part to hired workers. He was always afraid they would miss something or throw something important away amid the clods of earth. He was paying them extra if they could find an extraordinary find, of course, but there was always that fear that something would be discarded.

“I want you to bring me everything you find, OK?” he told them.

“I find a Coke bottle, Prof Devor.”

Pause.

“OK, bring that to me.”

Just in case.

Archeologists were trained to be in for the long haul. A dig could sometimes take years. Not everything moved as fast as a two-hour Indiana Jones movie. And apparently, not everything in the archeological world moved as fast as some snails too.

But still, Cole was getting antsy. He had staked everything on this dig. Everything he possessed and what his father generously gave him.
Additionally, he had taken sabbatical leave from his university. He was due back in the fall.

Which meant he had to
find something of worth by fall, or give up this dig forever.

(OK, maybe not as dramatic as forever, but certainly until his next sabbatical.)

Was that urn dropped there then? Was all his hypotheses of this being the site of a major shifter community wrong then?

Five years of hard work!

Down the drain!

The sound of a Range Rover engine
purred in the distance. Cole looked up. Mobutu had returned with the girl.

Despite telling himself that this was a purely business transaction to a
ppease his father, Cole was piqued and more than a little excited.

At least she
sounds nice on her emails. My email order bride.

He was really sweaty, and so he clambered out of the pit using the wooden scaffold.
He searched for his shirt, which was just as grimy as his body. He wasn’t exactly presentable, but damn – Mobutu should have warned him they were coming back right now. He needed to make a good impression on the girl so that she would marry him without delay.

Damn.

He was getting a tad anxious now. He needed to wash up. He hoped Mobutu was keeping the girl occupied with lugging her suitcase and stuff.

He scurried to
the shower stall which he shared with all the other workers. It was a simple wooden construction with a barrel of water and a plastic scoop. He couldn’t see the Range Rover. It was probably parked somewhere behind the cluster of tents.

He stripped off all his clothes and
started to splash water onto his body.


Mistah Devor! Mistah Devor!”

There was urgency in Mobutu’s voice.

“Damn,” Cole muttered out loud.

Where was the towel? Oh great, he had negle
cted to bring a towel.

He could hear Mobutu asking some of the guys in Swahili where he was. They answered back.

“Mistah Devor!”

“I’m right here!” Cole called, grabbing his clothes.

“Mistah Devor, please help! This woman . . . she krazee!”

The flimsy door opened before Cole could get himself into his underwear.

Mobutu appeared before him, babbling, “She tell me all sorts of krazee things. She says you are
mguezi
, and she and her sister are
mguezi
.
Mguezi
bad luck! All workers will run away.”

Oh great. Cole had tried to keep the fact that he was a tiger shifter under wraps for precisely this reason.
Not everyone in the world was as accommodating to shifters as Canada. Or Scandinavia. There were places where shifters were feared and persecuted outright. The Congo basin was one of them.

He was going to have a long, conciliatory and explanatory talk with Mobutu to assure him that he, the Great White Archeologist, wasn’t
a child-eating monster.

(OK, his ancestors ate people, but that was a long time ago.)

Then he saw her.

The girl!

She was a beautiful, slim blonde with flashing blue eyes and a twist in her mouth which suggested a streak of cruelty. She was exactly one foot behind Mobutu, and she was taking a good, long look at his wet and very naked body. Her eyes roamed down to his cock and they lighted up. It was limp right now, but still impressive.

On a physical scale of one to ten, he would have rated
her a ‘9’.

Her mouth curved upwards in an appreciative grin.

He immediately covered his genitals with his underwear. OK, if he was going to marry her, she was going to see it all hang out anyway. But his gesture was instinctive. Modesty was not his strong suit, but still . . . this was the woman he was going to
marry
. It meant he had to treat her like Mother Theresa. On first meeting, at least.

“So you are Cole
Devereaux,” the girl drawled.

“I . . . believe I am.”

“Nice cock.”

“Thank you.”

Another female came into view. She was a harassed-looking blonde with glasses. She resembled the first girl, only she was much bigger and rounder. She wasn’t that pretty, but he figured she would more attractive without a double chin.

“Terry, wait up,” she said.

Terry?

The beautiful blonde was Terry?

That meant the fat girl had to be –

The realization dawned on Cole and he had to prevent himself from groaning out loud.
Of course! Why would a knockout blonde bombshell apply to a mail order bride ad, right? Of course, his bride-to-be was an overweight, geeky, bespectacled girl who probably ate too much dairy.

The fat girl stopped as soon as she saw him. He should stop calling her the fat girl, really.
She was going to be his wife! She was going to be the mother of his children!

Unless . . . he could get out of it.

Oh come on, he told himself. You were prepared to take her as your wife as she was. You didn’t even ask her for her photo, dammit!

But you said it didn’t matter to you – how she looked.
And suddenly it does?

He was ashamed of himself. He was ashamed of his initial reaction.

But he had a job to do – dammit! He had to procreate with another tiger shifter to ensure the lines continued.

He forced a smile.

“Uh, just gimme a minute,” he said. “You caught me at a bad time. I’m going to get dressed and then I’m going to come out and we can all properly introduce ourselves, OK?”

8

 

Ellen couldn’t stop staring at Cole.

He was exactly like in his photo, only larger than life. And naked! Gloriously naked. He had a five o’ clock shadow. He was clothed in his photograph, and she never realized what a marvelous body he had under his shirt. And what marvelous legs. What marvelous abs. What a marvelous chest with those little hairs on it and tiny marvelous nipples. And what marvelous . . . uh,
junk
.

Then she realized who he was staring at, and it wasn’t her.

Her heart sank.

Terry. Of course he was staring at Terry. Everyone stared at Terry – she was practically made to be stared at.

Now Ellen wished she had lost some weight, put on a nicer dress and lost her glasses. But she couldn’t change who she was overnight, and this wasn’t the point anyway.

Um . . . exactly what was the point?

Oh yes, she was here to meet a man with the view to marriage, and he was bowled over by her younger sister, as all men were. There was nothing she could do about it but weep.

Cole shut the door of the open air shower.
Mobutu had hightailed it out of there. He was probably spooked by all that talk about krazee
mguezi
. She couldn’t blame him.

When Cole came out again, he was dressed in his dirty clothes
. The dampness of his body seeped through the soiled cotton material.

He said, “Let me go back to my tent and
change into some fresh clothes. Then I’ll make us all some dinner.”

He held out his hand first to Ellen.

“Hi, I’m Cole Devereaux.” He flashed her a winning smile.

She was charmed once again. He really was very handsome in a
boyish, engaging manner. And he was very tall. Well over six feet. And very charming. Did she mention he was charming?

She took his hand and shook it. His skin was wet, but she didn’t mind.

“Hi,” she said shyly, aware that her cheeks were burning. “I’m Ellen Moss.” Then she laughed self-consciously. “Of course I’m Ellen Moss. Who else would I be? Unless . . . of course, I’m not.”

God! She was doing it again. Some people stuttered when they were nervous. Why couldn’t she stutter when she was nervous?

“I guessed as much,” he said. His brown eyes alighted on hers, and there was a sudden spark of bemusement in them that made her heart leap.

He turned to Terry and held out his hand again.

“And this must be your sister,” he said. “You both look alike.”

“Yes, I am.
Younger
sister.” Terry took his hand coyly and gripped it for a tad longer than Ellen was comfortable with.

Hey
, she wanted to say to her sister,
he’s mine!

Cole released Terry’s hand, and it was obvious she still wanted to cling on to it. Ellen noted all this with a growing dismay.

Cole gestured to a large tent in the middle of the cluster of tents.

“Shall we?” he said. “One of the guys here is a fairly good cook, and he can make a decent stew with some beans, corn mush and chicken.
If you don’t mind simple fare, it’s a nourishing meal.”

“I like stew,” Ellen said eagerly.
“And I like chicken. And mush. And corn.”

Argg
gh!

Terry turned her nose up. “
Ewww . . . do you have anything else?”

Col
e’s eyes crinkled. “I can see what I have in canned foods. Maybe I might have Spam.”

“Uh, I only eat fresh salads and fruits.
Sometimes with a little salsa and grilled chicken. Don’t you have those?”

“I’m afraid we’re eight hours from the city and our food is acq
uired from the nearest village – ten miles away. This is the fare they have. I’m sorry.” 

Ellen could tell that Cole
wasn’t the sort of man to cave in to a beautiful female’s whims, and she decided that she liked him for it.

Terry’s mouth pouted prettily.

“I’m afraid I’ll have to starve then,” she said.

“I’m sure you won’t starve. Come on.
I’ll show you around.”

 

*

 

The cluster of tents around the dig actually hosted a whole team and equipment needed for quite a large excavation. Cole’s tent was the biggest. Not because he was the head of the excavation but because he had a whole lot of other things in there, Ellen found out.

He had his study in there, for one.
And radio equipment. And his laptop. And external hard drives. And disks. She supposed that in the old days, archeologists would have brought their books. But everything was e-encapsulated now.

Cole also had
a small dining table there and some collapsible chairs. For hosting, Ellen presumed. He set these out. There was a pot of stew – just as he described – laid out for him on the side, together with some crusty baguettes.

“It’s not the Ritz Carlton,” Cole apologized, taking out several bowls, plates and spoons from
a side cabinet. “But it’s been my home for the past three months.”

There was a small refrigerator there, powered by a generator outside.
Ellen could hear the hum of its machinery. She noted Cole’s bed. It was a Queen-size mattress on the floor, and the bedclothes were strewn around.

So he slept in a big bed.
With his ‘many women’.

Cole opened the door of the refrigerator.

“Beer?” he said.

“No thanks,” Terry said.

“Yes, please,” Ellen said.

Terry stared at her. “Since when did you drink beer?”

“I drink it all the time,” Ellen said.

Like ‘duh’.
Well, actually, she didn’t drink it all the time. Only on occasion. Like once a year. And the occasion called for it now.

Cole smiled as he handed Ellen the cool can of beer. It was some local brand that Ellen did not recognize, and she snapped the tab gratefully.
She took a long draught of the ice-cold golden fluid. And promptly spluttered.

“Y
ou all right?” Cole said in concern.

Ellen coughed and wiped her mouth with the back of her hand.
She gasped and nodded.

“She could never hold her fluids,” said Terry in a dry tone.
“Don’t you have any mineral water?”

“As a matter of fact, I do.” Cole fished out a bottle of another local brand and handed it to Terry.

She scrunched her nose. “Um, don’t you have, like, Evian?”

“Sorry, no Evian.”
Cole shrugged. “You’ve got to drink something.”

Terry took the cold bottle of water
with an air of disdain. She uncapped it and took a long drink.

And spluttered.

“Ewww! It tastes funny.”

“It’s been in here for a while, but it’s perfectly harmless,” Cole said.

Terry held up the bottle to the light bulb in the center of the tent and stared at it.

“Like, no,” she said.
“There’s mold at the bottom of the bottle.”

Now Ellen’s stomach turned.

“Really? Lemme see that.” Cole grabbed the bottle from her. “Oh, sorry. You’re right. Well, there’s always boiled water from the kettle if you like.”

It turned out that all of Cole’s water bottles had been
contaminated with the same mold, and so he had to put them out for disinfecting. He seriously needed a woman’s touch around here, Ellen thought.

After all of Terry’s conditions had been met (well, most of them which could be provided anyway),
they all sat down to dinner. Outside, the sky was darkening. It sure gets dark a lot faster around here, Ellen observed.

Terry stared suspiciously at the gob of stew in her bowl and started to stir it round and round with her spoon.
Ellen took a spoonful of hers, and decided it wasn’t bad at all. If you could ignore the chunks of hard meat (chicken? mystery meat?) swimming around it. She dunked her baguette into the stew and ate it that way.

Cole ate heartily.
He practically wolfed his food down. Ellen decided he was a man of healthy appetites.

“So, Ellen,” he said between chews, “
tell me about yourself.”

OK, she had to make it through this without stumbling.

“My name is Ellen Moss. But you knew that already.” She laughed self-consciously. Then she paused. She really didn’t have very interesting things to say about herself.

“Go on,” Cole urged her.

“She’s not that interesting, really,” said Terry.

This stunned Ellen. She sat aback, her meal forgotten, and stared at her sister.
It was like a slap in her face.

Her sister was usually quite mean to her in private.
But not in public. Not blatantly in front of someone else. At least, not quite like this.

Terry said, “I, on the other hand, have
quite a lot of accomplishments.”

Ellen
listened, speechless, as her sister rattled off all the cheerleading trophies she won, and how she was voted sorority princess and Ms. Campus Belle two years running in college.

At the end of it all, Cole said – with a really straight face: “That’s really quite interesting.”

“I know,” Terry said happily.

Cole turned to Ellen, and winked.

Her heart leaped.
Did he just wink at me? Like in a conspiratorial wink?

Cole said, “Do you like the stew?”

“It’s very nice, thank you,” Ellen said.

“I’m really still very interested in what you have to say about yourself,” he said. “Please . . .
tell me.”

“She
– ” Terry interrupted.

Cole held up his hand. “Please . . . let your
sister continue. I really want to hear this.”

Ellen had to swallow the sudden lump which came into her throat.
Now lessee . . .

Maybe she should not be worrying about what was interesting about
herself. She should just tell it the way it was.

She said, “
I come from a family of half tiger shifters. My Mom was half-tiger shifter and so was my Dad. I guess that makes me one-quarter tiger. If you count that sort of stuff, which kind of is like dividing a pie chart.”

“You said ‘was’,” Cole pointed out. “Did anything happen to your parents?”

He seemed quite solicitous.

“They died,” Terry said flatly.

“Oh.”

Ellen said, “My Mom had colon cancer
, and so did my Dad, three years after she died of it. It was really freaky.” She paused. “And sad.”

“I would imagine. I’m very sorry for your loss,” Cole said.

“Thank you,” the sisters chorused.


So how did you get along?” Cole said. “Did you parents leave you any money? Or did you have relatives who took you in?”

“I
was already in college and living on campus. Our parents took out plenty of insurance, and we’ve been living on that since,” Ellen said. Then her eyes flew open. “I’m sure our parents didn’t mean to get cancer just so we could collect the insurance.”

“I
’m sure they didn’t. What did you study in college?”

“I majored in
Mathematics and minored in Psychology.”

“Math
! Wow.” Cole’s gaze was admiring. “I could never wrap my head around Math.”

“I know, it’s so boring, isn’t it?” Terry said. She broke off a hunk of her bread.
“Ewww. This is so, like, hard.”

Ellen decided it was time to get a bit of her own back.

She said, “Terry’s getting married.”

It was Terry’s turn to be startled.

“I’m not.”

“Oh yes, you are. You’re moving to Canada. You’re
engaged
with a big diamond ring and all to a tiger shifter named Billy. You’ve even started picking out the bridemaids’ dresses. You’re thinking of dark green, which is kind of like Robin Hood, if you ask me.”

Terry narrowed her eyes.

“Engagement is such a defining and finite word,” she said loftily. “I have
options
, of course. But it doesn’t mean I’m definitely engaged.”

“But we even had the party.”


And contracts made at parties are binding?” Terry barked a short laugh. “I haven’t really made up my mind yet what I want to do with the rest of my life. Canada is so . . . northern. And the winters, I hear, are practically
Antartic
.”

She shot a sly smile at Cole.

“I might decide that the tropics are more my thing.”

He smiled back. “The tropics have bugs.
And mosquitoes. And malaria.”

ADS
15.4Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
READ BOOK DOWNLOAD BOOK

Other books

El maestro de esgrima by Arturo Pérez-Reverte
Dream Sky by Brett Battles
Cat Among the Pumpkins by Mandy Morton
William Again by Richmal Crompton
Last Heartbeat by T.R. Lykins