Miri: A Paranormal Romance (Plenty of Shift Book 1) (3 page)

BOOK: Miri: A Paranormal Romance (Plenty of Shift Book 1)
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“Hell no,” laughed her—hopefully—new landlady. “God knows, I could use the added set of fangs around here. As I’m sure you can tell, I’m a shifter as well—but I’m just a ferret. Not so powerful against raging wolves, if ever they decide to give me trouble.”

“Understood. Well, I’m not much of a fighter but I do have some pretty good canines when I’m in form.”

“Great. This is the beginning of a beautiful friendship, I’d say. So listen, do you want to see the place? It’s vacant, so you can take it whenever you’d like. You can probably guess that I want to unload it. The ad only went up today—you were quick to jump on it.”

“If you don’t mind, yeah, I’d love to take a look. And I’d move in this minute if that works for you.” Miri grasped the cheque in her hand, confident that she’d be handing it over. “So tell me, why are you renting this place so cheaply? I mean, why are you so keen to get rid of it?”

“Well, for one thing, it’s the turf wars. It’s not easy to rent real estate in this area these days—certainly not to humans. For another thing, my ex and I bought this place together. With him moved out, I need the rent to help me cover the mortgage.”

“I see. I’m sorry about the ex. I’m recently severed from my own, too. A boyfriend-ectomy, if you will. Though I have to say—I feel much better without him.”

“Glad to hear it,” said Naomi. “It’s been a while for me, and I’m over it. Anyhow,” she said, opening the door to apartment B, which sat on the main floor, “Here it is.”

Miri gasped for a moment, pleasure filling her as she took in the sight. The view was of a kitchen and a large living room, complete with hardwood floors and comfortable-looking furniture. Huge French doors allowed light to pour in, in spite of the premature autumn sunset. An iron grate was slid over them for extra security.

“You can open the grates,” said Naomi. “They’re useful if you’re worried about people trying to break in. But I don’t suppose you’ll need them.”

The French doors were perfect, and would mean that clients could enter the apartment without going through the building’s front door.

“It’s amazing,” she said. “As for the furniture…”

“Yours if you want it. It belonged to my ex, and I couldn’t care less if you took a chainsaw to it.”

“He doesn’t want it?”

“Not since I threatened to sue his ass for every penny he had. Let’s just say that he got off easy.”

“Now there’s a story I’d like to hear someday. I’m sorry for whatever you went through. But I’ll gladly accept the furniture—I really don’t have much of my own.”

“Feel free to change things up in here, too. If you want to paint, or whatever.”

Looking around, Miri hesitated for a moment before asking, “The wall between the living room and the office: how much would you hate it if I did a little renovation work?”

“I guess that would be all right. It’s not a supporting wall, anyhow.”

“I’d pay for it and everything. It’s for a business idea of mine.”

“Nothing untoward, I assume,” laughed Naomi.

“Oh, no. I’ll tell you all about it once I’ve figured out what I’m doing.”

“I can’t wait to hear.”

“Say—you wouldn’t happen to still be a single lady, would you?”

“I would,” said Naomi. “Let’s just say that I’m still in between relationships.”

“I don’t suppose you’d like to be a guinea pig and try out a new dating service that I’m offering? If it goes well, you could give me a testimonial.”

“Well, a guinea pig would be a downgrade from a ferret. But I’ll try anything once. Sure, count me in.”

And just like that, Miri had her first client.

Chapter Four

M
iri found
herself sitting on her new couch a week later, in the apartment that had quickly begun to feel like home. The movers had brought her things from storage and she was now comfortably surrounded by items that she’d owned for years: a lamp with a paper shade that she loved; paintings that Jeff had never wanted hung in their shared apartment, and a thick, lush carpet of rich reds and blues. She’d always fantasized about sex on this rug, but it remained a virgin to this day.

On that particular evening, having unpacked, cleaned and sorted the apartment out to the point where she knew each square inch of it, she found herself literally twiddling her restless thumbs—something she’d never realized people actually did. No cable TV and no internet to speak of meant that she was at loose ends in the evenings, her mind reeling with questions of how to get a business off the ground from nowhere. And how to tell her boss that the next time she found his crotch next to her face, she’d make him wish he’d worn a steel cup.

These moments were the times when she missed having a boyfriend. A partner, someone she could talk to, share ideas with. Though, quite honestly, she had Jenn for that. Her friend had already been by after work that day to check in, and the two had put their heads together to design a logo for the new agency.

The agency whose name Jenn had seriously questioned.

“Plenty of Shift? Are you sure?”

“I like it. What’s wrong with it?” Miri had asked.

“You do realize that the acronym is PoS.”

“And?”

“Piece…of…?” Jenn seemed to be waiting for Miri to come up with the rest herself.

“Oh. Damn.” Miri let out a laugh.

“Don’t worry. I think it gives it a certain je ne sais quoi. I mean, who
doesn’t
want to be hooked up through a matchmaking service called Piece of Shit?”

“Well, no one can deny that I have experience in the field,” said Miri. “I can identify a piece of shit from a mile away.”

Miri had told her about a plan to have a two-way mirror installed between the living room and office, so that prospective clients could sit in the office and surreptitiously watch their dates be interviewed.

“It’s very police station-chic,” Jenn had said. “You could get a really bright light for your interrogations.”

“I don’t want to frighten the poor guys to death. I’ll save the bright light for the ones I hate.”

“Perfect.”

At six p.m. Jenn had left to head home to Kor. She would be eating dinner with her mate, her partner, her lover. And Miri found herself envious, in spite of the fact that she was very happy for them both.

As she pondered all of it, she realized that she was feeling a little sorry for herself. God, some sex would have been nice. It was the greatest pastime in the history of the universe, and it was no wonder that it was so addictive.

But it was no good to wallow in self-pity. Instead, she tried to take her mind off her sorry state by pondering what needed to be done before she could invite clients into the apartment. She fixed her eyes on the wall opposite the couch, imagining the two-way mirror reflecting the living room back at itself. It wasn’t a bad idea at all, that; the person on the other side would be able to get an idea of their potential mate’s movements, voice. Even scent.

But the trick was to get the damn thing installed, which meant renovation work. Who could she ask to help with its installation?

“Of course,” she said. In a moment of decisiveness she stood, strode to the closet and grabbed a jacket and her purse. Maybe a quick drink was in order.

And she knew just the place.

W
eeknights tended
to be quiet at the “Bear Bar,” as the locals had begun to call it. Its true name of The Fox and Hound didn’t particularly represent its place in Grayson City society. This was a bar run by bears, for bear clientele. Not that it discriminated; any sort of shifter or human was welcome. Except for the sort that had a serious aversion to grizzlies—which meant that most of the wolf pack stayed away.

At six-thirty, Malcolm found himself polishing glasses behind the bar, as usual, his mind invaded by thoughts about the woman who’d been in with Jennika a few nights earlier. The brunette with the curves til Tuesday, the round ass that begged to be pawed, bitten and licked, and the voice that had all too briefly breathed raw sexuality all over him.

It had been months since he’d found himself so attracted to a woman. Hell, he wasn’t sure he’d
ever
found one quite so delicious as she was. She was a walking feast, and Malcolm’s eyes hadn’t known where to begin. He could only imagine what he’d do if he could get his mouth on her. And what had gone on in his pants? Well, that was enough to make him consider buying a bigger pair of jeans.

That Miri had been something else. For one thing, unlike every other female who came into the joint, she didn’t seem all that interested in him—she hadn’t tried once to get him to take her home, or to give him her number. Though she was a flirt; no question about it. But she was smart, independent. The sort of woman who would make her own life, rather than expect a man to figure it out for her. She wouldn’t want him paying her way or barking orders at her.

And yet the bear in him wanted to look after her; it sensed that she needed protection on some level. Here was a woman who wanted to prove her strength; to hide that she had any weaknesses. But he knew better. Everyone had weaknesses. Even him.

He put down the shot glass that he’d been cleaning for who knows how long, and found himself staring at his hand as he did so. Those hands that had been used for so much: to fight. To caress. As he picked up the glass again and twisted it around, his thoughts prevented him from noticing the customer who’d just walked in.

“Penny for your thoughts? Or has inflation increased the price?”

Something inside his chest leapt. That voice. That scent. He’d know them anywhere now.

Without turning his face, Malcolm said, “Just contemplating the perfect curve of a shot glass.”

“You’re an expert on perfect curves, are you?”

Ah, so she was in a flirtatious mood.

“I know them when I see them,” he said. Finally his face turned towards her. “Speaking of which, what can I get you, Miri?”

“You remember my name.” She smiled, her pink lips shining with a hint of gloss that no doubt tasted like the sweetness of sex.

“Of course I remember. I never forget a name. At least, not one associated with such a gorgeous face.”

“Oh, my,” she replied. “Flattery will get you…a big fat tip.”

“I’m not looking for a tip. Unless it’s to tell me how to get you naked.”

He leaned towards her now, his elbows on the bar, confidence surging through him. It wasn’t so much her words as her scent that rendered him cocky. The last time he’d seen her, the heady scent had revealed apprehension, nervousness. Now she was all sex. Even from several feet away, he could tell what was going on between her legs: her body craved his, whether she would ever admit it in words or not.

This woman wanted him. And it only made him want her more.

“I’m not about to explain to you how to get me naked,” said Miri. “That would spoil all the fun, after all.”

“I do like fun.”

“Yes, I think you do. And I’d like a rusty nail, please,” she said, putting her purse on the bar as she pulled up a stool.

“All right. For the record, though, you asked for it: I’m about to nail you.”

She let out a snicker, unable to hold back.

“Listen, sweetheart,” said Malcolm, turning away to grab the scotch. “Just be thankful you didn’t ask for a screwdriver.”

“Good point.”

“So, what brings you here?” he asked as he expertly combined the drink’s ingredients.

“I guess I was bored,” she said.

“No TV, huh?”

“No TV.”

“Well, as you can see, we have plenty around here.” Malcolm gestured around the room, where approximately twelve sets seemed to be showing twelve different sporting events.

“I’m not so into the sports.”

“I can tell. For one thing, you call them ‘the sports.’”

“It’s true. I’m a girl.”

“You’re a woman,” said Malcolm, handing over the glass. “And cheers to
that.”
He locked eyes with her, and for a moment Miri wondered what would happen if she actually turned into a puddle.

“So, tell me about the new place,” the bartender added. “Jenn told me that you’d just moved.”

Miri sipped her rusty nail. The man could mix a fine drink, that was for sure.

“It’s pretty great. Big, cheap, comfortable.”

“Just like me.”

“Is that right?”

“Well, I think you’d find me comfortable. Not to mention big.”

Good lord. The thought of it.

“But not cheap.”

Miri smiled quietly. This was not good. He was way too attractive. Way too smooth. Way too sexy. And her body was pulsing in places where she didn’t even know she had a pulse.

And yet, she wasn’t getting up to leave. She was sitting, staring at him. Inhaling that musky bear-scent that oozed raw heat. Her eyes moved between his face—its perfect proportions, those gorgeous eyes that hid any number of secret and not-so-secret thoughts, and his chest, which seemed to be trying to fight its way out of his t-shirt. Had he deliberately bought one that was slightly too small? Whatever the case, bravo to him.

“Malcolm,” she said, her voice quiet, forcing him to lean in. “There’s something I’ve been wanting to ask you.”

“Miri.”

“Would you ever…”

She watched as the corners of his mouth curled upwards.

“Consider…”

“Yes?”

“Oh, God. This is really hard to ask.”

“It’s okay. You can ask me anything.” His lips barely parted as he uttered the words.

“I want you to help me pound a hole in my wall.”

“Is that some kind of sexual term? Because hell yes, I would do that.”

Miri laughed. “No. I literally want you to smash the drywall with a mallet.”

“You kinky lady.”

“Are you in? You’re the only big strong bear shifter I know. Well, aside from Kor. But he’s busy pounding other things.”

“You’re inviting me to your apartment?”

“Yes.”

“Well, I’m no idiot. So of course I’m in.”

“Good. Give me your number and I’ll text you the address.”

“Give me
your
number instead. I can come by tomorrow. Say, sixish?”

“That sounds great.”

He handed his cell phone to her and she punched in her number and passed it back. Malcolm hit a button and a moment later, Miri’s phone was ringing.

“What are you doing?” she asked.

“Pick up,” he said, holding his phone to his ear.

She reached into her purse and grabbed it. “Hello?” she said.

“Hi. Listen, I don’t want to freak you out, but I think you’re being watched.”

“Am I? By whom?”

“A grizzly shifter. Don’t look now, but he’s standing behind the bar, holding a cell phone. He keeps staring at your chest. It just seems really inappropriate.”

“Yes, you’re right. And what else?”

“He keeps licking his chops, like he wants to eat you or something.” With that, Malcolm licked his upper lip, sending blood rushing through Miri like a freight train on crack.

“I’ll have to keep an eye on him,” she said. “Thanks for the tip.”

“Just the tip? I can give you a lot more than that, if you want.”

“You are the master of double-entendres, aren’t you?” she asked, laughing as she hung up.

“I like to think so.”

Miri downed the last of her rusty nail and put a ten-dollar bill on the bar.

“I’ll see you tomorrow with a mallet in hand, Thor,” she said.

He watched her leave the bar, and a moment later his phone buzzed.

“101B, Barber Street,” the message read. “Don’t be late.”

Malcolm smiled, thrusting the phone into his back pocket. He had something to look forward to. A beautiful woman. In her apartment.

He looked down for a moment at the front of his jeans.

“Down, boy,” he said. “You’re going to have to wait for this one.”

M
iri breathed deeply
as she strode away from the bar, attempting to decelerate her heart. That had been one quick drink. But if she’d stuck around, there was no way she could ever have left, unless it was to go to some dark, mysterious back room with Malcolm and tear his clothes off. The man was a walking aphrodisiac.

She walked with her head up, proud to have defeated the monster in her pants. The almighty sex-beast, the thing that made sane people into lunatics and destroyed every man and woman’s ability to think straight.

And even as she moved farther away from Malcolm, her head cleared. She began to think again about her new business: how would she get it off the ground? Word of mouth? She didn’t have the funds to hire any help or to advertise. But tomorrow, she’d start setting up the apartment to accommodate clients. Tomorrow.
Oh, shit.
Tomorrow, he was coming over. What the hell was she thinking, inviting that man into her home? He’d be, what? Four feet from her bedroom? How the hell would she resist the desire to push him through the door and straddle him?

It had been a spur of the moment decision, asking him to help her. He was just so…big. And strong. He looked like he could probably tear down the wall with his bare hands. Or bear hands, even—no doubt in grizzly form he was an indomitable force.

“Stupid, stupid woman,” she muttered, shaking her head and laughing as she walked by a young couple who seemed to be veering to avoid the crazy lady. “Ah, well. So I have a date with a grizzly who’s going to break my house. Life could actually be worse.”

BOOK: Miri: A Paranormal Romance (Plenty of Shift Book 1)
7.25Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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