Home > Lion's Quest (A Lion's Pride #12)(2)

Lion's Quest (A Lion's Pride #12)(2)
Author: Eve Langlais

“This is the kind of thing my sister would love. I don’t suppose you’d sell it?” Peter tried to do it the right way. The honest way.

“No.” Irina shook her head. “Babushka make me.”

He could have pressed the point to see if that sentimentality had a price, but it was easier to creep from his bed after midnight to steal it. Irina would never notice one key gone from that monster lamp shade, but just in case, he’d brought a close replica. After all, the job came with sketches of what he was supposed to look for. If he swapped it right, no one would ever know the difference.

Did he have any qualms about stealing from the old lady? Not many. His sister thought he was a good guy. And he was. For her.

But this key was special. It could set him up for life, and when that happened, he’d make sure Irina got a portion of it. Maybe he’d have her house fixed. Hire her some help. Get a shrink to absolve him and blame his actions on his childhood.

The good deeds he could do with that key justified his entering the sewing room. Reaching on tiptoe, he could grasp the key, but unhooking it proved impossible. He needed a few more inches. He eyed the footstool, but the spindly legs were for resting feet not the full weight of a man.

The sewing machine table appeared heavy, leaving him only one choice. He moved the rocking chair and, with careful maneuvering that included him hovering in a squat, ended up on the seat.

It wobbled, and he held out his arms to balance then straightened fully so that he could manipulate the wire holding the key in place. It truly was a testament to recycling. The metal rim was made of old coat hangers bent and twisted into a frame from which dangled the oddest collection of stuff on metal filament.

The key wasn’t the only thing that caught his eye. As he happened to glance out the window, he could have sworn he saw the brief flicker as of someone lighting a cigarette. Could be someone out for a walk.

Still, he shouldn’t dawdle. His fingers protested the tough metal. The filament took some time to untangle, but he freed the heavier than expected key, the coldness of it sending a shiver through him.

He ignored a feeling of foreboding and put it into his pocket even as he wondered at his next move. Leave in the night or stay for breakfast?

Given the hearty dinner Irina fed him, he almost drooled as he wondered what he could expect for the first meal of the day. Surely better than he could get on the way back to the city.

His tummy decided it. He’d leave in the morning.

Now for the next step, a precaution if you will. Fake key to take its place. He’d actually had two fabricated. The second one was hidden in his apartment, ready to hand over to the people who hired him.

Don’t feel bad. They weren’t good people.

The fake key went up, a closer replica than expected given he’d had the 3D printer make it off images that didn’t show all the parts. The new ornament looked seamless.

Before he could climb down from the rocking chair, he glanced out the window again. The cigarette smoker was gone. Just him and his trespasses out and about.

His bad luck too.

There was a reason he’d gone to prison in the past, because somehow, so many of his best-laid plans failed for stupid reasons. In this case? The rocking chair gave only a single warning creak before it collapsed. As in, splintered into pieces. He thudded to the floor.

There was nothing quiet about it. The grimace stayed on his face the entire time he stood silent in the debris, listening. He didn’t hear the old lady coming to look, but she was sure to notice the next time she came into the sewing room. Staying the rest of the night suddenly didn’t seem like the best option.

A sense of urgency filled him. He exited the sewing room and moved into the hall. His door was at the far end; however, the one to the old lady’s suite was ajar. It had been closed when he came up the hall.

Oh shit. Was she up? Had she already called the cops? He couldn’t tell if she was in her room or downstairs. Could be she went for a glass of warm milk. Personally, he’d never used that nasty white shit to help him sleep. Give him a joint any day.

Inanity helped him focus. Stealthy mice had nothing on him as he eased up the hall, darting into his room only long enough to grab his knapsack. It was when he was about to leave, he saw the tiger.

He blinked. Opened his eyes wide.

Still there.

Fuck me, a tiger.

Where had it come from? He’d not seen any signs Irina owned a pet.

“Grrr.” The rumbling growl of warning didn’t bode well, nor did the raised hackles on the feline’s back.

Peter backed toward the window, a mental catalogue of the house reminding him of the peaked porch roof outside his room then a short drop to the ground. But opening the window meant putting his back to a tiger.

Doing nothing got his face eaten.

He whirled and tugged. The old wooden pane didn’t budge. Instinct more than anything had him throwing himself sideways. Just in time too!

The tiger soared past and hit the window hard then slumped to the floor, lying there, barely moving as if groggy.

He didn’t waste that rare bit of good luck. He raced for the hall and down the stairs, no longer caring who he woke. Not with a tiger on the loose.

Out the door he went, and he was down two steps before it occurred to him to whirl and close it. After all, tigers couldn’t open doors. But Irina could.

To his surprise, his car was parked in the driveway. The garage must have delivered it earlier than expected. His strides to reach it felt like a mile as he kept expecting something striped to pounce. He fumbled with his keys. Glass shattered, and a roar split the night.

Holy fuck. Peter slammed into his car and started it. The automated features turned on the headlights. He hit the brake and had shifted it into drive when he saw it.

Animal eyes with that weird glow reflected in the bright beams. The tiger stalked toward him, snarling. Close enough he could see the gray in the fur. The stiffness of its pace.

An old tiger doing right by its owner.

Dammit. He’d always had a soft spot for big felines, which was why he didn’t run it over but swerved and headed in the other direction.

He would later regret that choice.

 

 

Chapter One

 

 

“I need you to guard a human.”

Nora eyed Arik, the lion king. “Am I in trouble for something? Being punished?” It might have emerged a tad sassier than was respectful because the job sounded like a demotion to her.

“On the contrary. This task could be the most important thing anyone can do right now.”

She arched a brow. “Babysitting a human, important?” Unless this person was the president or something, she couldn’t see it.

“Questioning me?” Arik said softly then stared at her, nothing more. He didn’t have to do anything. As king of the Lion’s Pride, East Coast division, his word was law.

It should be noted, he wouldn’t harm her if she argued. She could say no and walk away, but the king would remember her disobedience, and her standing in the Pride would diminish. Not to mention, would Arik really ask her to watch over someone for no reason?

“Okay, who’s the guy or gal?”

“Peter Montgomery. Lives alone. No partner or close friends, but he does have a sister.”

“Am I restricting her access?”

Arik shook his head, his golden mane of hair perfectly layered and gorgeous. “No. But if you are around when she comes visiting, watch what you say.”

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