Andy Rodriguez leaned back against the bar and sipped his beer. The smell of smoke, liquor, and cheap cologne assaulted his nose. Typical Friday night in a Dallas honky-tonk, though. Everyone was out to have a bit of fun and kick off the weekend.
“Hey, Andy, congrats on cracking that case this week,” one of his co-workers said as he came over and stood next to him. “It seemed like it was going to be a wild goose chase until you put all the clues together and landed the perp. Good field work.”
“Thanks, Ty, but I don’t deserve all the credit. It was Em who noticed the blood stains in the trunk. Best piece of evidence we got.”
“Ah, Em the Eyes.” Ty’s attention turned to the tall blonde playing pool with several of their colleagues. “Glad she decided to stay in Dallas, even if it’s just to have something nice to look at.”
Andy frowned. Ty seriously wasn’t trying to demean her because she was an attractive female, was he? “I’m glad she stayed because she’s the best damn partner I’ve ever had.”
He backed away when he heard the annoyance in Andy’s voice. “I wasn’t trying to knock her down or anything, but I’m surprised you’re even able to work around her. Admit it, she’s hot.”
He wasn’t going to deny it. Emily Hawkins was easy on the eyes. The neon lights enhanced the reddish highlights in her wavy golden hair, and the cut of her jeans hugged her curves. But it was her eyes that caught everyone’s attention. Bright emerald green and unwavering when she stared at a person. Almost unnatural, if he had any opinion. But then, his tawny colored eyes could also be considered unnatural, too.
He watched her lean over the pool table. The movement accentuated her tight, round ass, and desire heated his skin. He wanted her, but two things prevented him from acting on it. Not only was she was his partner, but he knew better than to get involved with a normal female. The last time he tried that, the werewolves saw to it that she came back to him a wooden box. Another pawn that fell in a centuries old war.
“I admit it, but I’ll also add that I see her as more than a just piece of ass.”
“Ouch, that was below the belt.” Ty took a long swig of her beer. “Do you think she’d go out with me if I asked her?”
“Why are you asking me?”
“Because you’re her partner. You work with her day in, day out. Surely, you know a little bit about her. What kind of guys does she go for?”
Andy tightened the grip on his bottle to the point he almost shattered it in his hand. He knew more about her than he did his own mother. She liked men who could handle her dry sarcasm without their testicles retracting inside them. She liked spontaneity. And if her advances were to be interpreted correctly, she liked him. Too bad he wasn’t going to cave. He refused to drag her into his own personal hell.
“I don’t think you have a chance with her, Ty. Most guys don’t make it to the third date. She’s kinda picky.” In truth, he was the picky one. He was more than happy to point out the flaws in her previous boyfriends.
“We’ll see about that. Besides, all I need is one night with her.”
As if on cue, Em approached them. “Why are you two sulking by the bar?” Her faint English accent grew stronger when she drank, and now she sounded like a newswoman for the BBC.
“I was just telling Andy we should come over and shoot some pool,” Ty replied and flashed a charming grin.
Andy resisted the urge to roll his eyes. Did he have to listen to this?
She jutted her hip out and rested her hand on it. “Why don’t you buy me a beer and join me in a game, then?”
“I might just do that. What do you want?”
“Another Newcastle. I’ll be there in a minute.”
Ty ordered her drink and carried it to table. As he began racking up the balls, Andy grabbed her bare arm; the feel of her silky skin against his palm almost broke his resolve. “Be careful with him.”
“Jealous that another man shows some interest in me?” She pressed her body against him, and his cock stiffened. The floral scent of her perfume wafted towards him from the hollows of her neck. “If you had the bollocks to ask me out, you wouldn’t have to worry about him.”
A smile played on his lips. “You know that ain’t going to happen.”
Her hand grazed along his thigh, and he suppressed the moan that rose in his throat. She never made it easy for him to resist her. “It’s your loss.”
“So you keep telling me.”
“One day, I’ll have my way with you.”
“And ruin everything we’ve built together?”
She laughed. “It’s not like other officers in the precinct haven’t hooked up before. I think Ty’s shagged about half the women on the force. Do you find me hideous or something?”
Quite the contrary, he thought as he peered down the plunging v-neck of top to catch a glimpse of her cleavage. She was almost his ideal woman—smart, feisty, sexy. “I know better than to get involved with you. I’ve seen your path of destruction.”
“Suddenly having sympathy for all those men you said were never good enough for me? Come now, I’ve been good for over a year. A girl gets lonely.” Her finger stroked along his ear.
He reached for her hand; if she continued to touch him like that, he was going to break his own rules and cross the line. “You know, this could qualify as sexual harassment.” He arched a brow and waited to see how she would respond to that.
“It’s only sexual harassment if it’s unwanted.” She leaned closer to him, and her warm breath tickled his cheek. “Admit it—you lie awake in bed and think of me.” With a smirk, she pulled away and joined Ty at the pool table.
He drained the rest of his beer and turned around to face the bar and hide his bulging erection. She was right. He would probably dream of her again tonight, and his dreams were anything but innocent. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Ty standing close behind her, helping her line up a shot, and his blood boiled. He wished he could be the one pressing his body against hers.
As soon as he thought it, he remembered the fate of his last lover. Five years had passed since then, but time had not dulled his shock at the sight of the shredded flesh on Heather’s body and the flatness of her lifeless eyes. He would never put someone he loved in danger like that again. It was better to burn alone in his bed than mar Em’s porcelain skin.
The door of the bar opened, and the scent of wet dog and rotting meat turned his stomach. He glanced around, knowing he was the only one who could smell it, and spied the werewolf on the other side of the bar. Their eyes met, and he strode towards Andy with a cocky grin on his face.
“Good evening, kitty cat,” he said as he sat next to him at the bar. “Where’s the rest of the pride?”
“I could ask you the same time, Wes. It’s unusual to see you alone without some of your fellow dogs.” He caught the bartender’s attention and waved his empty bottle. He was going to need another drink if he was going to tolerate his new company.
“Let me buy this round. It’s always good to run into you.”
Andy frowned. Werewolves and true shifters barely tolerated one another, and the sudden pleasantries from Wes roused his suspicion. “What do you want?”
Wes chuckled. “Always so blunt. That’s why I like you, Andy, even if you are an overgrown cat.” He slid the new bottle of beer over to him and sipped his own. “I was curious about the rumors around town, that you’ve added three new shifters to your pride.”
“What business of it is yours?”
“You know the agreement between Craig and Miguel. We need to try and keep the numbers balanced so one side doesn’t gain an advantage over the other.”
“Actually, I remember the agreement being that you don’t bite any more humans and turn them into werewolves. And believe me, I’ve been hearing reports to the contrary.”
“You know how easy it is to lose control in the heat of passion. We need mates as much you do.”
“If what I’m hearing you say is true, Miguel will not be pleased.” And it would just confirm what they had been suspecting for months. Craig was trying to mount an army. Thankfully, werewolves could only shift during a full moon. At least the shifters would have a few weeks to respond.
“I have no idea what you’re talking about. You know my motto: why can’t we all just get along?” The stench of his breath crossed the space between them, and Andy breathed through his mouth instead of his nose.
“That’s what Miguel and the rest of us shifters want, but Craig seems determined to start something.”
“I think you’re reading him wrong. He’s mellowing out in his old age.” Wes spun around on the stool and watched the people in the bar. “Anything interesting going on tonight?”
Andy glanced over his shoulder. Ty had pinned Em against the pool table, and his hands stroked the curve of her hips. She caught Andy’s gaze and winked. Damn, she knew how to tease him. One of these days, he may just give her what she wanted and worry about the consequences in the morning.
Unfortunately, Wes witnessed the exchange. “Who’s the lovely bird, Andy?”
“Leave her alone,” he growled. If that werewolf laid one finger on her, he wouldn’t hesitate to hunt him down with a gun full of silver bullets.
“Oh, she’s yours, huh?”
“She’s my partner.”
“She looks like she’d be a real tiger in the sack.” His gaze remained fixed her. “But she’s a mortal, isn’t she? No yellow eyes like the rest of you overgrown pussy cats. And if you haven’t mated with her, she’s fair game.”
Andy’s eyes narrowed as Wes stood and approached her. He knew he should have chased after him, but he was so angry, he might shift in front of everyone. No, I can’t do that, not in this crowd. Too many witnesses. He stayed near the bar, every muscle poised to spring should the werewolf try anything.
Wes started chatting with them and looked like he was getting ready to challenge them to a game of cutthroat. Ty went to the change machine for more quarters, leaving Em alone with him. He leaned close to her, appearing to flirt with her. Her nose wrinkled, and she retreated to the opposite of the table.
Andy began to relax as he watched them. Em made sure there was at least three feet between her and Wes, and Ty tightened his grip on his cue as he sized up his competition. A fight was brewing, but there was no need for him to interfere yet.
They continued this dance until Ty, having finished probably five or six beers by that point, took a swing at Wes. The werewolf easily dodged his fist and responded with a blow of his own. Ty landed on the floor in a heap.
Em whacked Wes on the back of his head with her cue and then jabbed it between his shoulder blades. She pinned him to the table and pressed her elbow against the back of his neck. “That was uncalled for,” she said.
“I think I’m beginning to like you.” Wes laughed, but his face twisted in pain as she applied more of her weight against his spine.
“Funny, I don’t feel the same about you.”
“You haven’t even given me a chance.” With inhuman speed, Wes whipped around and broke free of her hold on him. Now she was the one spread against the table, and he leaned his body against hers, his face inches from hers.
Andy jumped to his feet. It was time to show this dirty dog some manners.
“How’s this for a chance?” Her knee hit him squarely in the groin, and he released her with a grunt. Her emerald eyes flashed in anger. “Bugger off.”
Andy grabbed his shirt and tossed Wes towards the door. “You heard the lady; time for you to leave.”
When they reached the door, Wes lifted his head; his feral eyes glowed yellow instead of their normal brown. “You’d better watch her, Andy, because I know I will.”
There was no mistaking the malice in his voice. Andy’s blood ran cold. “You hurt her, and it will mean war.”
Wes laughed. “Hollow threats, pussy cat.” He straightened to his full height and disappeared into the dark parking lot.