Miri: A Paranormal Romance (Plenty of Shift Book 1) (7 page)

BOOK: Miri: A Paranormal Romance (Plenty of Shift Book 1)
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Chapter Nine

A
ll the way home
, Miri cursed herself for any number of mistakes. For letting her heart begin to open itself up to someone she’d thought she could genuinely fall for. For trusting him. For trusting
herself.

For being such a tech idiot that she’d forgotten to charge her phone.

Damn it, she couldn’t even call Jenn to ask where she was, let alone text her. She couldn’t talk to anyone, and she’d never felt so alone.

But it didn’t matter; at least she and Kor hadn’t been there to see their buddy going on his killing spree, or whatever it was. At least they wouldn’t be disillusioned about his true nature.

Fuck, was she even qualified for this self-imposed matchmaking job? If she’d judged Malcolm so poorly, even after spending hours talking to him, how the hell would she ever size other people up in five minutes?

Everything in her felt like a failure. And life felt pointless.

When she’d made her way into her apartment she strode immediately to the bathtub and turned on the taps. A bath wouldn’t cure anything, but it wouldn’t hurt. She wandered back into the living room to plug in her phone, whose giant battery light mocked her, flashing red as though to say, “Fuck you, Miri.”

Sighing heavily, she returned to the bathroom to undress, and sank into the tub of hot water, trying to let the toxicity of her feelings soak into the liquid around her. She tried in vain to drive thoughts of all of it out of her mind: of the grizzly tormenting those wolves. Of Malcolm’s face when she’d told him off. How the hell had he looked so sad? As though it was he who was suffering a loss, not her.

He had no idea what he’d done to her. He had no idea that her heart was aching for a man she’d never really had, and that somehow made it even worse.

She stayed in the tub until the water began to feel like ice on her skin and finally rose, no less hurt. No less sad.

It wasn’t until midnight that she finally amassed the courage to check her phone, where she found a text from Jenn:

Wolves grabbed me in the bar. Malcolm saved my ass. Kor and I got out. That man is a hero, Miri. You chose well. I hope you and he are having a great night.

Oh, God. Had she really misinterpreted what she’d seen? Had she really gotten it so wrong? The text was followed up with a wink. Oh, if only Jenn knew how ill-placed such an emoticon was.

Miri picked up the phone, her hand shaking, and dialled her friend’s number.

“Miri, it’s after twelve. What’s going on?”

“I fucked up, to put it very mildly. I fucked everything up. But Jenn—tell me what happened.”

Jenn explained—the strange behaviour, the aggression. How Malcolm had ordered Kor to take her away.

“But why would the wolves do that?”

“Kor talked to someone in the Grizzly Clan. Apparently the wolves are staging these acts in businesses run by other shifter groups. They’re wreaking havoc so that they can drive others out of town. They were trying to make Malcolm look like a ruthless bully who shouldn’t be allowed to run a bar.”

“Well,” said Miri, choking on the words, “It worked.”

“What do you mean?”

Silence.

“Oh, Mir, you didn’t. I’m sorry. You should talk to him, though. He’ll understand.”

“No. I don’t think he will, Jenn. Listen—I need to get some rest. I’ll talk to you tomorrow.”

She hung up, wondering if she’d ever sleep again.

A
week had passed
since that horrible night when Miri had told Malcolm in no uncertain terms that she wanted him out of her life. She hadn’t spoken to him, but every waking moment, she’d wanted to. She’d wanted nothing more than to swallow her pride and explain to him what had happened. But it was too late; it had to be. He’d probably forgotten about her existence by now.

Jenn was sitting with her on the couch, as she’d done each afternoon for the last four days.

“Do you want to go out tonight?” asked Miri. “There’s a new movie I was thinking of checking out.”

“I’d love to, hon.” Jenn’s head was once again tilted in sympathy.
Damn her for that.
“But I promised I’d have dinner with Kor’s parents tonight. Rain cheque?”

“Of course.”

“I’ll take these and hang them up,” Jenn said, grabbing the pile of multi-coloured flyers that sat on the coffee table. They’d agreed to put off the Open House for a week, but Jenn, determined to get Miri some clients, had been aggressive in her campaigning.

She left Miri with a warm hug and more promises that things would improve. These were the times when Miri found it particularly tough; the lonely, interminable evenings, and the wondering if things
could
get better. There was nothing wrong with being single, after all. Plenty of people were.

But of course, it wasn’t about that. It was about what she’d lost. It was about the man who could have made her happy, if she’d only let him. If she’d gotten over her stupid, ridiculous prejudice against her own kind.

“Screw it,” she muttered. When she was younger she’d occasionally gone to movies on her own. How was tonight any different? It would be fun to head out and have a little solitary adventure.

So she got dressed in jeans, a cream-coloured sweater and a jacket, and headed out. The cinema was only a few blocks away, on the border of Bear-Town and Wolf Central. So the audience might be made up of any combination of those, or shifters like her who fit into neither category. Possibly a few humans, even.

The film was a romantic comedy: the story of some woman who’d gone back to the little town where she’d grown up, only to discover that the man who’d been her high school sweetheart had grown a giant cock. Or something to that effect; she hadn’t finished reading the synopsis. It didn’t really matter, anyhow; she was just looking for light entertainment.

She bought a small popcorn and a drink and headed to the exact centre of the theatre, where she found herself grateful to be surrounded by this and that single body. Some were shifters; she could tell by their scents.

In the section to the left, by the stairs, sat two little old ladies, which was sweet to see. She hoped that when she was their age she’d still be going to movies with Jenn.

Mostly, the crowd was made up of couples, though at one point a series of young men—wolf shifters, by their scent—made their way in. It was an odd display, to say the least. Men and romantic comedies usually didn’t mix unless the man were looking to pay proactively for getting laid later in the evening.

Ignoring them, she nibbled slowly on her popcorn as she waited, trying in vain to answer quiz questions about stars she’d never heard of. Audience members continued to wander in, finding vacant seats to plant their asses for the evening.

And then, out of the corner of her eye, she saw him. Malcolm. Wandering in alone, popcorn in hand.

Miri’s heart did back-flips inside her chest, torn between urging her to go to him and telling her to run away as fast as her legs might carry her. He looked…well, he looked good. Of course.

He seated himself behind the two old ladies, his eyes fixed on the screen. Miri smiled in spite of herself, amused that he would choose a film like this to come to on his own. For a moment she considered walking over and inviting him to sit with her. But how could she, after what she’d said? He’d never forgive her for it; for being so nasty to him. He’d protected her best friend and she’d exploded at him as though he were no better than a common criminal.

So she just stared at him, asking herself how she could ever have pushed away such a gorgeous creature.

Finally, she was put out of her misery as the previews began rolling and the cinema went mostly dark. Miri sat back, wondering how she’d manage to escape at the end without running into Malcolm or letting him know she’d seen him. But she’d cross that bridge when she came to it; for now she’d do her best to enjoy the film, which she was quite sure would be awful.

It began with the perfectly-made-up heroine looking forlorn as she left her current home. Clearly some fool of a man had split up with her for a younger woman, and she was devastated to no longer have his sorry ass in her life. Silly girl. Didn’t she know that she was better off? That now she could start up her own dating service, meet a sexy hunk of a man, and…
oh, right.

As the predictable plot dragged on, Miri noticed that the row of male wolf shifters wasn’t paying any attention at all; not even pretending to be interested in the film that they’d allegedly come to watch. Not much surprise there, but still—they whispered loudly among themselves, their voices harsh hisses. At first, it was a mere distraction: a little annoying, but nothing that couldn’t be ignored.

But within minutes their voices had crescendoed to full-on arguing. So, she guessed, they weren’t actually here to see a romantic comedy. Something else was afoot, and she didn’t like it one bit. Her cat tensed inside her, readying itself for whatever was to come.

Before a minute had passed, a few of the shifters had altered into their wolf forms and were threatening one another. So that was it: they were playing at the same game they’d played at the bar; trying to cause a scene. They were baiting people into thinking they’d gone wild, that they were a threat. They wanted to terrorize the humans present, to ensure that they’d never again attend this particular cinema. So, the wolves were looking for territorial control.

This wasn’t the old Kefir Pack; this was something new, something malicious.

Miri looked around, observing the looks on the audience members’ frightened faces. Instinctively she bristled, her inner cougar ready to pounce if it needed to. But first, taking stock of the risks, she turned her gaze to Malcolm. He’d stood now, and was protectively positioning himself between the older ladies and the mounting altercation, muttering words to them, no doubt in order to reassure them.

The wolves had all shifted now, and the rampage was beginning in earnest. They were tearing at one another madly, the fighting brutal, raw. Like a wolves’ fight club. A few ran about, snarling and growling at people who had nothing to do with their dispute. Many audience members either fled to the lobby or cowered in dark corners, clearing out as quickly as they could.

Miri stood and made her way towards Malcolm, whose expression signalled concern, rather than anger, when he saw her.

“Are you okay?” he said. “If I’d known you were here…”

“I’m fine. Just fine. We should get these people out of here, though. One stray claw or tooth…”

“Agreed.” Malcolm turned back to the old ladies. “Listen, this is Miri,” he said. “She’ll take you out of here. When you’re in the lobby, tell everyone to leave.” With that, he stepped towards the wolves, shifting into his enormous grizzly form. Malcolm used his body as a shield, growling at the wolves who were mischievously threatening to attack him. This allowed Miri room to escort the women and other spectators outside.

When all the non-shifters had escaped into the hallway, Miri returned once again to Malcolm, who was still standing protectively between her and the wolves.

Most of the wolves were too occupied with one another to bother with her, but one, a charcoal-grey, turned her way, seeing a vulnerable human still in their midst. He sniffed the air, no doubt detecting that she was a shifter as he pondered the risks.

He began to skulk towards her. But Miri’s cougar instincts were kicking in; no way was she willing to lead him into the hall, towards those people. Instead, she kicked off her shoes and shifted into her feline form. Malcolm turned and looked towards her, catching her scent on the air. When he saw that she was being threatened he advanced, huge jaws on display to the much smaller wolf as he opened his mouth and let out a roar.

The wolf backed away, too intelligent to mess with such a beast.

Malcolm turned back to Miri, nudging her with his nose. Immediately she understood what he was saying, and went running down the narrow hallway next to the cinema’s staircase, the grizzly following close behind. Gasps from stray onlookers reminded them how their behaviour must appear—no doubt they looked like they’d been part of the mayhem—part of the cause rather than the solution. But the two paid the humans no attention, instead dashing out of the cinema. Without thinking twice, Miri turned to sprint towards her neighbourhood.

It was unfortunate that she’d had to shift; she’d really liked that damned outfit. Besides which, now if she did so again, she’d be naked, vulnerable. Once again, reluctantly on display to the grizzly shifter.

She could hear Malcolm’s huffing form behind her as she ran. So, he was following, no doubt to make sure she’d be okay. Inside her, a feeling of warm affection for the man who’d managed to overlook her shortcomings. Her rush to judgment. Malcolm was looking after her in spite of her poor behaviour, and she adored him for it.

When they reached her building, she shifted under the cover of darkness, her hand reaching for a hidden key that Naomi had given her. Quickly she opened the French doors, slipping inside. Once in, she ran into the office and threw on a white t-shirt and some old, worn leggings before grabbing a large towel. She dashed out to the building’s front door, where the bear still stood.

“I guess you want me to ask you in for a nightcap?” she said, smiling as she held out the towel.

The bear nodded.

“Come in, then. But leave the fur outside.”

Malcolm shifted as he entered the building, taking the towel to cover himself.

“I’m afraid that my clothes won’t fit you,” Miri said. “But the landlady’s ex left some clothes in his old dresser, if you want to try any of those.”

“I don’t care about clothes. Are you all right?” Malcolm asked as they moved to her door. “That wolf didn’t get you, did he?”

“No, he didn’t.” She turned back to him. “I’m fine. And thank you.”

When they were both inside the apartment she shut the door and turned to face him, her eyes seeking his. She clenched her jaw for a moment, preparing herself for what was to come.

“Malcolm—I have to say this, so please don’t stop me. I’m so sorry for what I said to you that night. I was wrong—I was so scared of my feelings for you that I told myself that you had to be bad news. I convinced myself of it. And I was so wrong.”

BOOK: Miri: A Paranormal Romance (Plenty of Shift Book 1)
10.92Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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