Chasing payne, p.5
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       Chasing Payne, p.5

           Chantel Seabrook
 
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  He moved so quickly she barely had time to brace herself before he gripped her shoulders. “You think this is a fucking game? You nearly got yourself torn to pieces. You lied not only to me, but to the Therian Council. Do you have a goddamn clue what they'll do to you if they find out?”

  Lora swallowed past the lump in her throat. “I didn't think—”

  “You're right you didn't think. Sit down and let me look at your arm.”

  He released her and she sat down heavily on the couch.

  Kneeling beside her, he rolled her sleeve up and used the peroxide to disinfect the wounds. She healed quickly, but a shifter bite could fester if not treated properly.

  Her whole world was crashing down on her, and still his presence made the very air seem impossible to breathe. She ignored the heat of his touch.

  Lora's phone vibrated in her pocket and she pulled it out. There was a text message from Turner.

  Chase left his phone on site.

  Coyote appears to be a victim of spontaneous shifting.

  Lab kids were doing experiments on him.

  Council is going to have a fucking heyday with this.

  See you back at the office, Kiddo!

  Her breath hitched at the last line. What would he say when he found out she'd been sacked? How was she supposed to face him after this? Face anyone?

  “Text from Turner.” She showed Chase the message.

  “Fuck. I'm going to crucify whoever is responsible for this.” He looked at her hard. “We'll have the lab run tests and make sure the animal wasn't infected, but if you show any signs of fever before then, call me.”

  “Yeah, right,” she muttered. Call him? Was he freaking serious?

  He cut a long piece of the gauze with his teeth. “I have to get back to the office. Deal with this mess. I'll tell Jacob to come by later to check on you.”

  Oh god, her brother. How was she going to face her family after this? “You're going to tell him, aren't you? That I can't shift.”

  “No.” When he was done wrapping the gauze around her arm, he crossed his arms over his broad chest and narrowed his gaze at her. “And neither will you. You don't tell anyone what you said to me inside that building. Understand? The file I report will say you were dismissed for insubordination.”

  “Why?” she asked, her voice thickening as she swallowed. “Why would you lie for me?”

  “Regardless of what you may think, I care about you.” He held her gaze, and for a moment Lora could believe that there was truth to his words. He shook his head and sighed. “I've known you since you were in diapers. You're like a sister to me.”

  Ice washed over her. “Right.” Despite the hunger for his touch, she pushed his hand away and stood. “Sister.” The hysterical laugh that escaped her lips sounded barely human. “I get it, Chase. Just leave me alone.”

  She pushed past him, but there was nowhere to hide in her small apartment.

  He stalked behind her, pacing the tiny room, and she could feel the frustration radiating off him. “What the hell is wrong with you? You're acting like this is somehow my fault.”

  She whirled on him. Emotions raw and energy high, she lost all sense of control. “You really don't get it, do you?” She threw her hands in the air and let out a small cry that choked her. “I'm in love with you.” The words poured out of her in a rush, unstoppable. “I've been in love with you since before I can remember.” She took a deep, shaky breath. “But right now, Chase, I really hate you.”

  He rolled his hands over his face, then through his hair. “Shit, Lora.” He took a step towards her, concern and shock evident in his blue eyes.

  “No. You don't get to feel sorry for me.” She pushed hard on his chest, an overwhelming sense of loss and shame crushing her. “Just get out of my apartment. Get out of my life.” When he didn't move, she let out a low pleading cry. “Please Chase, just leave me alone.”

  He stood silent for a long moment. The look on his face was pure misery.

  “Lora,” he sighed, heavily.

  Her name on his lips twisted her gut and she growled, feeling something wild and animalistic rising too close to the surface. She pointed to the door and scowled. “Leave!”

  He paused, then nodded, face drawn tight in a frown.

  The door clicked shut and she could feel the blood drain from her face, her hands suddenly ice cold. She sat down where she had been standing, pulled her knees to her chest, and let despair envelope her.

  Chapter 7

  Her cell buzzed for the gazillionth time that day. Lora rolled over in bed, grabbed the phone and groaned at her sister's name on the screen. She let the call go to messages and resisted the urge to throw the device across the room.

  She sat up, dragged her legs over the bed, and stared at her reflection in the full-length mirror across from her. Matted hair fell over her shoulders in a tangled mess. Dark circles rimmed puffy, bloodshot eyes. Cottonmouth, nauseous stomach, and throbbing temples left her regretting the bottle of wine she drank the night before.

  Three days had passed since Chase walked out of her apartment. Three days since she had spoken to anyone. She had responded to a few of her sister's texts, just to let her family know that she was still breathing, but she had warned them to stay away. She couldn't deal with seeing them right now.

  Her cell buzzed again. Another text message from Jenna.

  Get up. Shower and get dressed.

  I'm coming over.

  This time you better answer,

  or I'll break the door down!

  P.S. I'm not kidding!

  Lora moaned and threw herself backwards on the bed. Shit, the last thing she needed was Jenna getting involved. The whole family knew that Chase had fired her, but no one, not even Jenna, knew why.

  Grumbling, she stood, and lightheaded made her way to the bathroom. She turned the shower on and winced as the hot water hit her bandaged arm. Pulling the gauze back, she sucked in her breath at the angry, red, puss-filled wound.

  “Shit.” Her arm should have healed by now. It was her own fault for not taking care of it. She hadn't changed the bandage and now it was infected.

  Blinking back fresh tears, she discarded her pajamas and immersed herself under the steaming water.

  She would not call Chase, but how else was she supposed to get the proper antibiotics?

  It wasn't as if she was a freaking normal person and could go to a public hospital.

  Shit, shit, shit. She could call Turner. He had access to the agency's medical supplies. She shook her head. He was in enough trouble with the agency. She didn't want him getting caught stealing antibiotics.

  She felt her forehead. A bit warm, maybe a low-grade fever, but nothing to worry about. She would take better care of the wound. If it didn't heal in a few days she would call Jacob.

  She pulled on a sweatshirt and jeans, towel dried her hair, cleaned the bite marks with rubbing alcohol and wrapped her arm with fresh gauze.

  A knock at her door made her jump. Jenna hadn't wasted any time. Lora glanced in the mirror. The dark circles under her eyes were still noticeable, and her face was paler than normal. But it was a huge improvement from her earlier zombie-like appearance.

  “I'm coming,” she yelled, at a second knock. She opened the door and paused. “Austin.”

  “Hey.” He leaned against the door. Dark eyes roamed over her in appraisal.

  Her cheeks warmed under his gaze. “What are you doing here?”

  “Came to see if you were okay. Can I come in?”

  “Sure.” She opened the door wider and let him in. It wasn't like she could pretend not to be home. “Why not.”

  He scratched the dark scruff on his chin and raised his eyebrows as he scanned the room, glancing at the empty bottle of wine, ice cream container and pizza box that lay discarded across the floor.

  He stepped towards her and she stepped back. “So, are you?”

  “What?”

  He chuckled lightly, shaking his head. “All
right?”

  Wrapping her arms around her chest, she rolled her eyes and snorted. “I just lost my job. So, no, I'd say at the moment I'm not all right.”

  She knew she sounded bitchy, but she hadn't asked for his concern.

  His smile dimmed. “Give him a couple of weeks to cool off. You'll get your job back.”

  She shrugged dismissively, knowing he was wrong.

  “What are you doing tonight?

  “Ice cream, pizza, reruns,” she said, spreading her arms and motioning to the cluttered room and small flat screen TV.

  “It's Saturday night.” His grin returned, as he took another step towards her. He leaned so close that he was almost touching her. “You deserve to have a bit of fun after the week you had. Let me take you out. I've got tickets for a charity auction. Come with me.”

  The way he was looking at her sent crazy tingles shooting through her body. She would have sold her soul for Chase to look at her like that—just once.

  She pushed Chase out of her mind. “I don't think so.”

  He leaned closer and she put her hands up. They encountered a solid wall of muscle. The man was built, and she could sense his animal stirring, almost vibrating underneath her palms. And for a moment she let herself wonder if the rumors about werejaguars' sexual appetites were true.

  She tried to pull away, but his hands clamped over hers. The look in his eyes invited her to play. Yeah, she had no doubt the rumors were true.

  The man was pure temptation. Sin in its finest form. Maybe that's what she needed. Unemotional, no strings attached sex.

  He ran his knuckles over her cheek and she shivered. “Come on, it's for a good cause.”

  She chewed her lip and looked into his dark eyes. The gold flecks seemed to glow and brighten with intensity. He was hot. There was no denying it. “I—”

  “I think it's a great idea.” Jenna's voice carried across the room.

  She had forgotten to turn the padlock, and now her sister was standing in her apartment with a mischievous look in her eyes that promised sibling meddling.

  Jenna gave her a satisfied smile, and then looked at Austin. “She'll be ready by six.”

  “I didn't say—”

  Satisfaction gleamed in his eyes. “Perfect. I'll pick you up then.”

  He didn't wait for her to respond, just strode past her, winking at Jenna as he left.

  What the bloody hell just happened?

  Lora stared daggers at her sister, who responded with a cocky half grin. “Let's find you something to wear.”

  That was not the intervention she had expected.

  Chapter 8

  Austin placed a hand on her bare lower back, guiding her through the Convention Center towards their designated table. Lora's blood warmed as his fingers brushed over her exposed flesh. Jenna had insisted she wear the black lace dress, but now Lora wondered if it showed too much skin.

  “You look gorgeous,” Austin whispered, and leaned close so that his breath tickled her cheek.

  She tugged at the sleeve covering her bandaged arm and smiled, ignoring the throbbing pain that pulsated where the coyote had bitten her.

  They had arrived late and the room was already crowded. Most of those in attendance were human, but she had sensed a few Metamorphs the moment she arrived. People crowded around the open bar, men in tuxedos, women in gowns and jewels. Others roamed the tables that were set up to display the auction items.

  The room was sweltering, and the smell of perfume and alcohol made her head spin. Austin handed her a glass of champagne and she took a small sip, but the taste made her stomach lurch. A wave of dizziness hit her, the room blurred, and she staggered.

  “Are you feeling all right?” Austin cupped her chin in his palm. “You feel warm.”

  She took a deep breath and the room came back into focus. “I'm fine.”

  He leaned forward, his knuckles softly grazing her cheek. Dark eyes sparkled under the halogen lights, and his hot breath skittered across her lips. For a moment she thought he would kiss her. Instead, his nostrils flared and he tensed. He straightened and his gaze roamed the crowded room until they found their target. “Shit.”

  Lora's stomach cramped as she followed his gaze. Shit, was right! Across the room, Chase sat, arms crossed, body rigid, and eyes locked directly on her. Even from a distance, his energy hummed and vibrated across her skin. The blonde agent who had been all over Chase a few days before sat beside him, a manicured hand suggestively trailing a spiral pattern down his arm.

  “Sorry, Lora. I didn't realize he'd be here.” Austin's voice was tight. “We can leave if you want.”

  And let Chase win? No. She was done letting him control her life. She pushed past the disorienting feeling, steeled herself and shook her head. Shoulders back, head held high, she took Austin's arm and turned her back on Chase.

  * * *

  Chase barely stopped the growl that rumbled in his chest. He sensed her the moment she walked into the room. The short black dress clung to her body, accentuating the curves of her full breasts. Her long hair was pulled up, showing off the smooth line of her bare back and luscious ass. She was fucking gorgeous.

  Pure animalistic lust rippled through him, along with a sense of ownership he had no right to feel. Austin held her close, too close, as they made their way to the dance floor, and the primal need to claim her rocketed through him.

  Ease down, he warned the beast within him. He felt the animal snarl in response. His entire body was tense and wired up, instincts fighting rational thought. Just watching the way Lora smiled at Austin made him want to tear the man to shreds.

  “You seem distracted tonight.” Claire pouted beside him, her fingers slowly making their way up his thigh.

  He grabbed her hand, stopping her before it reached its destination, and placed it back in her lap.

  She huffed and reached for her glass of wine. He barely noticed her get up and walk away.

  Chase tossed back the shot of bourbon he had been nursing.

  Jaw clenched, cock throbbing, he watched as Lora moved to the rhythm of the music.

  Get your shit together, Chase. She's your best friend's baby sister. He pinched the bridge of his nose, closed his eyes and took a couple steadying breaths.

  Even if she wasn't Jacob's sister, Lora wasn't a woman to be fucked and discarded. And that was all he was able to offer her. All he was able to offer any woman. He didn't let emotions get involved. They were lethal, deadly, a poison that seeped into a man's soul and destroyed him from the inside out. He might as well put a loaded gun to his head, rather than allow mating heat to turn him into his father.

  He felt like he was spiraling into fucking Wonderland without so much as a rabbit hole in sight.

  What happened to the young girl who use to steal doe-eyed glances at him when she thought he wasn't looking? And what the hell had she meant when she said she was in love with him?

  He'd barely been able to process a thought before she kicked him out of her apartment. Now, here she was, fawning over McCaffrey like she hadn't just pulled the rug out from under him.

  The music changed tempo, a slow, crooning song echoing from the speakers, and the dance floor flooded with couples, blocking his view of Lora. He went to the bar and ordered another shot, which he slammed back in one gulp.

  Energy vibrated off him in waves, and his lion paced, growling to claim the woman it had chosen as their mate. No fucking way. He needed to pull his head out of his ass and get the hell out of there, fast.

  He turned and stopped cold. McCaffrey held Lora tight as they moved to the music. His flattened palm lay intimately against the naked flesh of her lower back. He whispered something in her ear and she threw her head back and laughed. His hand dipped lower—

  Uninhibited anger coursed through Chase's veins, and this time he was unable to contain the growl from leaving his chest.

  There was no way in hell he was going to let her go home with McCaffrey, or any other man for that matter.
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  She was his.

  * * *

  Lora saw the look on Chase's face as he stalked towards them. He was mad. Really, really mad.

  “Leave us,” Chase said in a low, dangerous voice.

  A tick started on Austin's jaw. He tensed and straightened, squaring his shoulders. They stared daggers at one another for a full thirty seconds, and Lora was sure there was some sort of nonverbal communication going on.

  They were in the middle of the dance floor with over a hundred people, humans no less, surrounding them, and they looked like they were about to take a swing at each other.

  “Back off, Payne.” Austin's fists clenched. “We're not at work. You don't get to order me around.”

  Austin was a good two inches taller than Chase, his body more heavily muscled, but there was no question who the alpha was.

  Over the music, she heard the low rumble that resonated from Chase's chest.

  “It's all right.” She squeezed Austin's hand, then let go. They were already getting funny looks and she didn't want to cause any more of a scene. “I'll meet you back at the table.”

  Austin finally submitted. With an uneasy scowl, he shoved his hands into the pockets of his slacks, and walked away.

  Lora watched as he disappeared into the crowd, and then glanced back at the man hovering over her like a predator ready to pounce.

  What was his problem? He didn't want her around, and he clearly didn't have feelings for her beyond “little sister,” so why was he being such a prick?

  She put her hands on her hips, and glared back at him. The movement sent a shooting pain up her arm, but she did her best not to wince. “What do you want, Chase?”

  He grabbed her by her waist and pulled her tight against his body. “I want to dance with you.”

  She tried to pull away, but he held firm.

  “Well, maybe I don't want to dance with you. FYI, you fired me,” she said weakly, even though her body said something entirely different.

  “If you remember correctly, I saved your ass.” His voice was rough and graveled, his breathing labored. His sharp blue eyes assessed her. “And if you would have answered any of my calls you would know that I didn't terminate your employment.”

 
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