Home > Lion's Quest (A Lion's Pride #12)(8)

Lion's Quest (A Lion's Pride #12)(8)
Author: Eve Langlais

“Sweet. See ya,” she said to Peter, pulling off her apron.

As she went to leave, the bell over the door jingled and a woman walked in. She beamed the moment she saw Montgomery.

“Peter!”

“Hey, Heather. How’s it going?”

Heather batted her lashes as if trying to take off for flight. “Going good. So nice to see you again.”

And the jerk, who’d soundly rejected Nora because she had a fake boyfriend, gave Heather a dimpled smile. “And you. We really should get together for that drink.”

Heather barely waited for him to finish. “How about Friday after work? Dinner first?” The lashes fluttered so hard Nora was sure she saw liftoff.

She couldn’t delay any more without making it obvious she was staring. Leaving her apron behind but grabbing her purse, she headed for the door. Montgomery sprang forward to hold it open for her.

“Thanks,” she muttered, brushing past. Awareness filled her, and inside there was a rumble.

Tasty.

Her inner feline must mean the steak she could smell. Perhaps she should have ordered some food too. But that would mean going back in and watching Montgomery flirting with that vapid brunette.

Everyone knew blondes were better. Real ones. She tossed her head.

She also popped into the Chinese place next door, placed an order, and stood near the window to keep watch while waiting for it. Montgomery exited, bag in hand, still talking to Heather. Probably concreting their date plans.

Grrr.

“It’s ready.” Two brown bags were shoved at her. She’d made sure to get some for Zach. One bag in each hand, she exited the store, purposefully not looking toward Montgomery, who still chatted with Heather.

What could they have to talk about?

Her agitated walk soon had company, as Montgomery suddenly appeared by her side.

“Chinese? You’re making me rethink my steak decision.”

“What’s your girlfriend having?” She could have slapped herself for the tone she injected in that word.

“Heather? Definitely not girlfriend material.”

“I thought you were making a date for Friday.” Too late she realized it showed she’d been listening.

“A man has needs.”

“You’d use her for sex?”

“We’d use each other. Not a big deal.”

“If sex isn’t a big deal, then why disparage me when I said Zach and I had an open arrangement?”

“Because casual sex is one thing. If there’s another person involved, it gets messy.”

“Fair enough.” She’d seen jealousy. Never really suffered it much, although she did have a competitive streak.

“So what does your boyfriend do with all those computers?”

“He’s a programmer.”

“And gets to work from home, which is nice. Pajamas all day and no one stealing your food from the fridge.”

“I thought you worked alone.” Again, her tongue slipped away, but he didn’t seem to notice that she’d been paying attention.

“How did you find the job at the butcher shop?”

“Family connections,” she explained with a shrug.

“Yeah, same for me too. My sister’s hubby helped me with that and the apartment.”

“Got to say a bookstore wouldn’t have been my first choice.” Her nose wrinkled.

“Says the woman slinging meat.”

“I like meat. The way it feels in my mouth. The taste. The chewing and succulence.” She cast him a glance from the corner of her eye. Caught him looking right back with a half-grin.

“I’m more a sweets kind of guy. Nothing better than something delicious to lick, maybe suckle and savor.”

Would he fight if she dragged him into the alley to ask for a demonstration?

No playing with her target. What if she broke him?

“Is being a bookseller your dream job?” she found herself asking to veer the conversation.

“No, that would be lying on a beach.”

“Not sure how it would pay the bills.”

“Money is the only thing holding me back,” he said, holding open the door to their building.

“You the kind who buys lottery tickets hoping to strike it rich?”

“Forget hope. I will one day be wealthy. Evening, Nora.” He paused by the mailbox.

Since she’d checked that morning, she thought it might look odd if she did it again. Instead, she went for the stairs but hung just inside the door, listening, just in case someone followed Montgomery in.

She heard the elevator ding as the doors opened. Then hum as it moved. A quick peek showed the entrance empty.

Arriving in her apartment, she dumped the Chinese food and got a plate out to pile some on it. As she wandered to the screens with it heaped high, she realized her subject hadn’t gone home. The monitors showed no movement, not inside his place or the hall. And the elevator had no one on board.

“Fuck!” she exclaimed. Montgomery had given her the slip.

She quickly headed back out, racing down those steps, having to slow down rather than burst out onto the street. She glanced both ways and didn’t see any sign of him.

Arik would have her head if she’d lost Montgomery. Hell, she wasn’t too impressed with herself right now.

She caught his scent, faint but present, and followed it in the opposite direction from which they’d just arrived. It went to the liquor store, and before she could pretend to walk past it, he exited, appeared startled, and said, “Hey.”

She eyed the brown bag with meat in his hand and the plastic one with the liquor store’s log on it. He’d gone to buy some booze. She quickly covered her gaffe. “Great minds, I see.” She offered a weak smile. “What’s your poison?”

“Red wine for the steaks. You?”

“I’m thinking it’s a good night for margaritas.”

“Enjoy.” He slipped sideways, and she could really make this worse by following him, or she could get in and out as fast as possible. It still took a few minutes, and by the time she emerged, Peter was gone again. But this time, when she got back to the apartment, she saw him on the screen, broiling his steaks and potatoes in the oven, pouring himself a glass of red wine. Making her drool despite the Chinese feast spread out around her.

As he sat down to eat, she could have sworn he glanced at the camera in the corner by the air vent. He held his glass in the air a little longer than necessary, as if saluting. He definitely winked.

Did he know someone watched? Impossible.

But the next day she really had to wonder because when she didn’t see Montgomery leaving the store when his shift finished, she wandered over to the bookstore, only to realize he’d slipped her again.

He was unaccounted for over two hours. He returned with a bag of takeout, and she could have sworn he wore a smirk as he leaned in his chair, eyeing the camera.

Oh yeah, he knew.

Game on.

 

 

Chapter Five

 

 

He was in Irina’s house, facing off against the tiger.

Again.

He knew it was a dream, more like a flashback, one that liked to repeat itself over and over.

Then he was in the car. The tiger leaped and somehow missed his hood. He swerved to avoid it and took off. He kept checking his rearview mirror, expecting at any second to see an orange and black cat running after him.

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