Mail Order Tiger Bride Wars: A Scorchingly Hot BBW Shifter Romance (6 page)

BOOK: Mail Order Tiger Bride Wars: A Scorchingly Hot BBW Shifter Romance
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Terry was speechless for once.

But only for a while.

“Fuck you!” she
spat.

She turned tail and stormed out of his tent,
knocking off a water bottle from his desk as she did so. It fell to the floor and spilled a good lot of water on his mats.

“High maintenance!” h
e threw back at her.

He wondered if she would really take the next flight back.

13

 

Terry stomped into the tent she was supposed to share with Ellen. It was dark, and she groped for the light switch. Damn it, where was it?

It occurred to her that she
had hardly spent any time here. So why should she know where the light switch was, right? Ellen had probably hidden it away and buried it in the pit.

“Terry?” said a scared voice in the dark.

There it was – the switch. The light blazed on, showing a tousle-headed Ellen on her mattress. She blinked and sat up.

“What’re you doing?”

“What does it look like I’m doing?” Terry snapped. Good thing she didn’t unpack most of it yet. She threw a couple of items into one of her open suitcases.

“What happened?”

A rage was brimming inside Terry – so potent and filled with vitriol that it had to burst forth and contaminate everything else.

“What happened? I’ll tell you what happened.
He called you fat.”

Her sister’s face was stricken.

“He?”

“Yes. Cole
Devereaux. Your intended.”

Terry felt a surge of triumph.

“Not only did he call you fat, he called you a fat cow. No man calls my sister a fat cow and gets away with it. He was laughing. Making fun of you. Yes, I’ll admit I went there to get to know him better. I wanted to see what he was like. Well, now I know . . . and I’m leaving.”

Ellen was silent for a long time.

“You should leave too,” Terry declared. “In fact, I’m going right now to find Mobutu and ask him to take us both home to Omaha. You’d better come too, lest you be stuck with a man who thinks lesser of you than the fungus on a six-week-old slice of bread.”

Ellen winced, and Terry knew she had struck home.
Her heart soared. This had been Ellen’s thorn all her life – the fact that men did not find her attractive. She turned back to her meager packing, though she couldn’t suppress her secret smile.

When Ellen made no move to get out of bed, she turned
to face her sister again.

“Well, aren’t you going to pack
?”

Ellen’s expression was weird
. Terry had never seen it before on her sister’s face. It was a mixture of confusion and sadness and determination and resignation. And maybe a lot of other things Terry could not decipher.

“Well?” Terry repeated.

“I’m not coming with you,” Ellen said
slowly. “And that’s not because Mobutu won’t take you back to Brazzaville in the dark either. Unless he will . . . which is debatable.”

“And why aren’t you coming with me
?”

“Because . . . because . .
. ” Ellen faltered, “because I don’t believe you! I don’t believe that Cole Devereaux called me a fat cow! I don’t believe he was making fun of me.”

Terry was thunderstruck.
This was the first time Ellen had fought her back.

“What did you say?”

“Just what I said.” Ellen sat up straighter in bed. She trembled slightly, as if she was terrified to be doing this, but she was forging ahead anyway. “I don’t believe you. Y-you have put me down and made me feel awful for most of my life. But I won’t take it anymore. I’m going to . . . make a change in my life right now! For the better. I’m going to stay right here.”

Terry could only stare.

“You can pack and go,” Ellen said. “But I’m not coming along.”

Terry spluttered, “You do know what this means, don’t you?

“That I’m not coming along with you?

“It means that when you come home with your tail between your legs, and I mean that literally,
you won’t have a home to come home to.”

“You can’t
do that! Mom and Dad left us that house. Us . . . equally! There’s no way you can do that!”

“Oh, really?
Watch me.”

Ellen jumped up.
“No way.”

Terry grabbed one suitcase.
“Goodbye, Ellen. It was nice knowing you.”

She stalked out, aware that she had left four more suitcases behind. No problem. She would send Mobutu for them. She walked slowly into the night, waiting for Ellen to follow. To call out and say, “Wait . . . I didn’t mean it. Please don’t leave.”

But Ellen never came out.

Terry stopped. She turned back to the direction of the tent.

No one came out.

Terry’s heart skipped several beats.

For the first time in her life, she wondered if she had gone too far where her sister was concerned.

14

 

Ellen was frozen
to the bed.

She could not believe she
just did that.

This was her sister.
Her flesh and blood. A sister she had both loved and hated for the longest time in the most complicated and myriad of ways.

But she had
had it up to here. She was drowning. And she had always known it was a toxic relationship. She just tolerated it out of love and loneliness. Since their parents had died, her sister was the one thing she had clung to. The only family member she still had remaining.

And now she was all alone.

It was chilling. Like in zero-gravity, edge of the universe bone-chilling.

She had no qualms that
Terry would do exactly what she said. She doubted Terry could actually take the house away from her legally, but Terry could certainly trash everything and destroy the memory of their parents.

Suddenly, she realized that she had always known Terry was capable of the most heinous deeds.
And she had always turned a blind eye to it because she told herself that she had to support her sister.

I
t hurt. It was blindingly painful – like she was being blindsided by a tow-truck.

She was bleeding inside.
Because no matter what, Terry was still her sister. You’re supposed to love and protect your own family. And they just had the most violent of all quarrels two siblings could possibly have.

But she wasn’t going to run after Terry.

No.

Because a refrain – a self-defense mechanism – had kicked in.

I won’t be a doormat all my life
.

So even though she was bleeding and hurting
, she was not going to do the easy thing to put balm on her wounds by taking the short cut. She would have to go on bleeding and hurting for a while.

She sank down onto her bed again.

And cried.

15

 

Cole woke up the next morning
, feeling uneasy.

He remembered what he did last night.
He had transformed into a tiger and followed Terry after the incident in his tent. He watched her rouse Mobutu. They both left before the crack of dawn for the airport.

At least, he assumed it was the airport.
Mobutu did not have a satellite phone and there was no way he could text his assistant to find out where he was going.

One significant thing – Ellen did not go with her sister. He knew it to be so, because he had returned to Ellen’s tent and made sure her sleeping body was still there.

Ellen was still here.

This was great.
Because if Ellen left too, he would be left with no female tiger shifter to marry. And nothing to show his father.

He had almost wrecked everything last night.
Now the original plan was back on track again.

That was, if the
vicious Terry Moss hadn’t poisoned her sister against him.

But she
was still here, right? She was staying for a reason, and that reason had to be because she still wanted to marry him. Unless, of course, she was staying just to spite her sister – because she didn’t want to return home. And she would wait for two or three days and demand to be sent home on a first class ticket.

He got up and swung his long legs off the bed. Then he got dressed q
uickly. It was time to wash up and find out what Ellen was thinking and feeling.

16

 

Ellen didn’t want to get out of bed. She couldn’t sleep last night, and so she had tossed and turned and sobbed into her pillow until dawn. Then she fell asleep
out of exhaustion. The good thing was she probably lost a lot of pounds with all that activity.

Then she woke up with a start.
Someone was at the opening flap of her tent.

“Ellen?” It was Cole.
“You OK?”

He called you a fat cow. He was laughing.
Making fun of you.

Ellen’s soul cringed
.

You can’t believe her!

And yet, it might be true. He might be thinking that exact thing when he saw her. She was fat all right.
You can’t deny that
.

“Ellen, are you OK?” he repeated. There was concern in his voice. He was a silhouette in the opening.

So you stayed. But you can’t stay in this tent forever. You need to pee.

The man who was preventing her from peeing wasn’t going to move any time soon.
Ellen sighed and sat up. She was going to have to face him sooner or later.

“Can I come in?” Cole said.

“Sure.” She paused, wrinkling her nose. There was something she had forgotten to say. “Oh, good morning.”

“Good morning.” He came in. “It’s dark in here. May I turn the lights on?”

And see her splotchy red face?

“No. It’ll hurt my, uh, eyes.” Yeah, like she developed photophobia all of a sudden.

“OK.” 

He seemed to be able to move in the dark fairly well. Maybe it was because he was a full tiger shifter. He pulled up a chair and sat a little distance away from her bed.

He said, “Did your sister say anything before she left?”

“Um, yeah.”

“What did she say?”

She was silent for a long while.
Then she decided she had nothing to hide.

“She said . . . she said . .
. ” It was difficult to get the words out “ . . . that you laughed at me when you saw me. That you called me – ”

A lump
choked her throat.

“ –
a fat cow.”

“What?” He was incredulous.

“I’m sure she said it was a cow. Well, it was a definitely a bovine. If it were a pig, I would have thought of that nursery rhyme, you know. The one that says, ‘To market, to market, to buy a fat pig’. And funnily enough, I can’t remember how the rest of it goes.”

“Ellen
– ”

“Because, you know, tigers aren’t supposed to be fat. Not even the one in Calvin and Hobbes.
It makes no sense for tigers to be fat whatsoever, because they would, like, die.”

“Ellen
, I never called you a – ”


Because they can’t chase after their prey, right? So that makes me a non-survivor. If we were in the jungle, which we are now, I won’t be able to survive. Did you know that I haven’t shifted in, like, forever? I don’t think I’ve shifted since I was thirteen. I can’t even remember how to.”

She paused.

He didn’t say anything.

She went on, “
I’m afraid to shift . . . because I’m afraid that I’d be a
fat
tiger. Not because my neighbors are haters or because there’s a neighborhood ordinance against shifting . . . but because I was afraid I’d be fat as a tiger too.”

Another sob welled up in her chest.

“But I can’t help it. I keep eating . . . and eating . . . and then I feel depressed, and the only thing that makes it go away is the food.”

She stopped, unable to continue.

Stupid, stupid, stupid
. Why did you have to go and say all those things to him?

He waited a long time, listening to her soft sniffles. Then he got up and traversed the space between them. It was dark, but not that dark, thanks to the
light outside filtering in from under the tent, and she could still see him as a dark shape with texture and nuance. She could definitely hear him breathe and smell his manly musk, undisguised by any artificial scent.

“Come here,” he said. “Let me hug you.”

He held his arms out in the dark.

After just a moment’s hesitation, s
he went to them. He was warm and solid and oh-so-comforting. How long has it been since she had been held by a man? She couldn’t remember. But now that she was being held again, it was nice.

So nice.

He murmured, “‘Fat’ is a very subjective word. In many parts of Africa, you would be considered a raving beauty.”

He paused for it to sink in.

“You can’t control how people will perceive you or how they think about you . . . but you can certainly control how you feel about it. No one can make you feel bad about yourself if you don’t want to feel bad about yourself. Am I making any sense?”

She thought about it.
She had been feeling bad about herself for so long that she hadn’t stopped to think about this.

It made plenty of sense.

In fact, it made incredible sense. How she felt about anything was entirely in her hands.

So was how she felt about Cole
Devereaux. Even if he thought she was fat, she had the complete power to
not
be upset about it. And she was fat. There was no denying it. Her BMI was over 26. There was no denying that, just as no one could deny she was a blonde with blue eyes who had two dead parents.

Tentatively, her arms crept around his neck. Such nice, molded shoulders he had.
How nice it was to hold him – to have his body against hers, to have his scent cling to hers, to have his warmth seep into her flesh.

She never wanted him to let her go.

They held each other for a long time. Silently, wordlessly. And all her hurt and worries slowly ebbed away.

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