So without further ado, I give you their story.
Read on for the the moment they meet and it dawns on Darius who Holly is to him. :-)
You can check out a hawt excerpt here.
Bear shifter Darius Longton never expected to find his mate in his favorite coffee shop, but one sniff of her scent in the air is all it takes for his bear to know the truth. This delicious, sinfully curvy redhead is his.
Too bad she’s human and far too fragile for his volatile bear.
Holly Trent cannot understand the instant attraction she feels for this man. One look from his heavy-lidded eyes is all it takes to set her knickers aflame with lust. However, she will not be another notch on his bedpost, no matter how much his voice alone makes her want to sink to her knees.
But when a customer gets heavy with her, everything changes. Darius’s defense of her places them both in terrible danger. Thrown headfirst into shifter council politics, it falls to Holly to save her mate.
Available from Amazon Amazon UK Evernight Bookstrand
The Projects, 6
Copyright © 2017
A different scent was in the air. One that made his bear sit up and growl low in his throat. The man he was in the process of overtaking on the crowded pavement visibly jumped at that deep rumble coming from Darius’s chest. The hapless human almost spilled his coffee doing so, and Darius offered an apologetic smile to the startled passerby, while he tightened his emotional hold on his inner animal. It was unusually volatile today, so much so that it took every ounce of willpower Darius possessed to stop himself from shifting in the middle of Covent Garden.
That would not go over well with the council, let alone the humans who would no doubt panic at the sight of a grizzly bear in their midst. He was here to protect them, not be the cause of a riot, which would ensure shifters became the hunted. At best he would end up darted—which fucking hurt—at worst he’d wind up dead.
Neither option appealed to him, as he continued to dodge the crowd while he tried to get a lead on that alluring scent. It had been strongest when he’d passed the human. Darius disappeared into a side alley, closed his eyes and recalled every minute detail of that encounter.
Where had that scent come from? More importantly, what was it? Who was it? Not the human he’d inadvertently growled at. Darius didn’t bat for the other team, and his bear’s reaction had been instant, instinctive, the urge to seek and find its mate. To make her his, and damn the consequences.
Another one of those deep growls erupted from his chest, and Darius swore softly under his breath. His animal had to be mistaken. Chances of anyone finding their true mate were remote at least, if not to say nigh on impossible, and the main reason why shifters were a dying breed. While procreation was possible without the mating bond, fertility rates had been steadily declining for decades. The infamous, and now disbanded, Mating Project had been an attempt by the council to preserve the bloodlines. Fortunately, they’d never come knocking on Darius’s door to set him up with some barely legal female chosen to be his brood mare. Sometimes it paid to have family in high places, and Cole Jackson, the head of council security and one of the Original bear shifters, was Darius’s cousin.
He scowled into thin air. Thoughts of his boss were not helping while he was trying to convince his bear that he had not—absolutely fucking not—scented his mate. Not when Cole was the picture image for the mating bond at work with his human mate and their adorable bear cub.
Head down, breathing heavily, Darius retraced the steps that human male had taken, that alluring scent getting stronger until the truth hit him square in the chest. Rooted to the spot, he watched the one woman he was meant to be with. The universe was having a laugh at his expense because the sinfully curvy redhead was human. Not only that, she had to be at least ten years younger than he was, and she worked in his favorite coffee shop. One owned and operated entirely by shifters, so what in the world had convinced Lydia to employ a human girl?
The sometimes rowdy crowd of shifters who frequented this café would make mincemeat of her. Eyes the color of the deepest ocean connected with his, when she briefly looked up from Lydia giving her instructions on how to use the coffee machine. Steam rose around his mate’s ears, which made wisps of red hair curl around her face. He watched in utter fascination as a blush stole across her translucent skin. One that had nothing to do with the steam and everything with his silent scrutiny of her. Through the plate glass window and over the hum of the passing traffic he felt her response to him, further confirming what his bear had known from that first whiff of her scent, carried on the human male’s coffee cup. Her heart rate kicked up, her eyes widened, and time stood still in that split second of recognition. Confusion registered in her expressive eyes. They weren’t solid blue like he’d first thought, but an intriguing mix of green, blue, and gray, as they shifted through the spectrum before Lydia nudged her and their connection was broken.
The middle-aged owner of the café broke into a wide grin when she spotted Darius glowering inside her establishment, and there was no mistaking the incline of her head, urging him to come in.
The minute he did, his mate’s scent engulfed him, made his bear pace to and fro, and he didn’t even try to hold in his possessive growl. There was no need to, not with the pretty redhead the only human in the place. It meant she dropped the cup she’d been holding. Darius reacted without thought. He was on her in seconds, yanking her hand away from the hot water which cascaded down, and she shrieked in surprise.
“Careful, you’ll get burned.”
Her eyes widened at the growly timbre of his voice, and Darius mentally kicked himself. He might as well put a sign over his head.
Horny bear shifter wants to devour you.
That wouldn’t go over well. Heat seared his fingertips, and he forced himself to let go of her delicate wrist. Holly, at least that’s what the nametag on her chest said, blinked and rubbed the area as though she’d felt that surge of electricity, too. Perhaps she had. In the rare successful human/shifter matings Darius had encountered over the years—namely Cole and his Emmi, and the panther magicians and their Kate, which had given the council a right headache—the human appeared as in thrall as their shifting mate. They just didn’t understand why they felt that way.
Holly took a step back, every line of her body screaming her wariness of him, and Darius suppressed an irritated sigh. He so didn’t need this complication. Not now, not ever. Holly was far too fragile for the likes of him.
“Darius has fast reflexes, Holly.” Lydia’s amused drawl broke the sudden tension in the room, and the general hubbub of conversation started up again. The gaggle of geese shifting office workers put their heads down and resumed talking when Darius swung round to glare at them. Like their animal counterparts they came in droves, took over the place and they were always chattering.
In different circumstances, Darius would have found their instant submission amusing. There were a few cute faces among them. He’d even briefly dated one of them, if you could call hot, kinky sex dating, that was. The bird in question looked between him and Holly with a frown, before she dropped her gaze, picked up her handbag and tottered out of the café as fast as her six-inch stilettos would let her. Even the memories of that piece of footwear around his ears as he drove into her tight little body didn’t throw his bear off track. Darius’s mood darkened at that thought, and he tried his best to fix a smile on his face for Lydia’s benefit.
The sly old fox was watching him intently, and he could almost see her jumping to conclusions. She was forever setting him up with eligible young females, after all.
He forced himself to uncurl his hands, which had fisted into balls to hide his emerging claws, and took a deep breath in. It drove the sweet musk of his mate deeper into his lungs, but it seemed to calm his bear at least. This close to his prey the animal relaxed.
“Forgive me, I didn’t mean to startle you. Tell her I don’t bite, Lydia.”
The older woman quirked an eyebrow and laughed.
“Not in public, anyway, Darius.” His bear snarled at her fox, but, of course, she took no notice. Lydia was like a mother to him, and his bear could never intimidate her.
“Darius is one of our regulars, Holly. He always has an espresso, and a glass of water served with today’s newspaper. Go grab one for me, would you?”
“Right, of course.” Holly made herself busy, and Lydia nodded her head toward the other end of the long counter and Darius’s usual spot.
The minute they were out of earshot of her Darius snarled at Lydia.
“What the hell are you thinking, employing a fucking human?”
Instead of answering him, Lydia crossed her arms under her ample bosom, raised an eyebrow, and stared at him. He knew that look, and the skin on his neck prickled in response. Lydia might be only a little over five feet tall, but she ruled this place with an iron fist. Having lost her mate ten years ago, she had thrown herself into her work. Her little café, tucked away in a side street just outside of the main tourist attractions Central London had to offer, was thriving.
“Did you, or did you not tell me only the other week that I should employ more staff, now that the café has its license to stay open twenty-four hours? And as for her being human, I just had a feeling she would fit in here. So, there, bite me.”
She looked up her long nose at him as she hissed the words, the air around her shimmering while her fox snarled, seemingly as annoyed at him as her human side was. That itch behind his neck now spread down between his shoulder blades, especially as the object of their discussion approached with his espresso and water, with today’s newspaper tucked under her arm.
Heat spread through his chest, when she offered him a worried smile, and then looked between him and Lydia.
“I hope I did this right, boss?” she asked. Her husky voice made his bear roll over and grin at her like a lovesick fool, while Darius pulled the waistcoat of his three-piece suit down lower to hide his instant boner. He wasn’t some star-struck teenage boy, for fuck’s sake, who couldn’t control his body’s impulses, but a grown ass man. Yet one look from under naturally long eyelashes seemingly had the power to bring him to his knees.
“I’m sure it’s fine. Just put it here, and hurry up, will you? This is a private discussion.” The words came out far too gruff and angry sounding, and sure enough the fragrant bundle of curves his bear wanted to claim as theirs startled. The tiny cup holding his steaming brew rattled on the saucer, and he felt Lydia’s disapproval of his actions like a physical blow. If looks could kill, he’d be ten feet under already.
Damn it all to hell and back, though. How was he supposed to act around his mate—his mate, for fuck’s sake—who was clearly frightened of him?
“There is no need to be rude, Darius. Regular or not, I will not tolerate rudeness toward my staff. You, of all people, should know that.”
Lydia’s voice could have cut glass, but he ignored the fox and concentrated on Holly instead. She worried her plump bottom lip with her teeth, and his dick punched forward with a speed that left him rather lightheaded and glad he was sitting down. He wanted to be the one to bite that succulent flesh, before he kissed her senseless until her fear was replaced by the sweet musk of aroused woman. Her pale skin would mark beautifully under his hands and claws, and that delicate neck would bear his mark so that everyone knew who she belonged to.
“Darius James Longton.”
That curt address shook him out of his lust fueled musings about peeling his mate out of that uniform to discover whether that line of enticing freckles going down her neck would extend to her rack. Under his silent appraisal, Holly’s nipples puckered against the starched fabric, and her scent got stronger, more appealing until he had to reach out and touch her. Her pulse galloped under his fingertips, when he grasped her hand and dropped a lingering kiss on the back of it.
Lydia’s short laugh almost drowned out his mate’s sharp intake of breath. Darius slowly released his hold on her hand and winked at her.
“Forgive me. Lydia is quite right, of course. There’s no excuse for letting my frustrations out on her staff.”
Holly blinked and belatedly withdrew her hand. He didn’t miss the way she wiped it on her thigh, and his mood darkened again. What the fuck was that about?
“Um, that’s okay, really. Hard day was it?”
Darius leaned back and shrugged.
“Something like that. Not as hard as yours, I wager.”
Again with that surprised blink, as though she hadn’t expected that response. Darius forced a smile on his face in an effort to look less menacing. He knew he must look terrifying to the human. His bear was too close to the surface, and he wasn’t at all sure, she wasn’t looking into his beast’s eyes right now.
“Why would you say that?” she asked. Her voice barely carried over the hum of
conversation, and the breathy, wobbly cadence told him how nervous she was. Whether it was of him, or whether she was naturally a nervous person, who knew. He would have to do some digging to find out all there was to know about her.
Working in security and having friends not only on the council but also with the human police definitely came in handy when you unexpectedly stumbled across your mate.
He couldn’t just claim her. She was human and would need a fair amount of wooing, but he would damn well protect her. No one, human or shifter, would get a chance to get too close to her, or to harm her in any way. Some of his possessive thought processes must have shown on his face because Lydia whistled under her breath. She squeezed his arm and walked away to deal with a sudden influx of customers who’d walked into the café. A quick sniff confirmed they were all human and thus no threat to his mate.
Holly cocked her head and regarded him thoughtfully, as though she had caught his surreptitious sniff of the air.
“This is your first day, right? It must be overwhelming learning where everything is and how to use the machines, etc.”
He tried for another smile, which didn’t seem to work either because Holly pulled her shoulders back and frowned at him.
“There’s a lot to take in, but it’s hardly rocket science. I’ll remember your order in future. Now, if you’ll excuse me I best go and help Lydia. Lunch time rush is here.”
She didn’t wait for his reply, simply turned away and walked off. The sway of her ass cheeks, lovingly outlined by the fabric of her black trousers, did nothing to help his erection to go down anytime soon, and Darius indulged himself simply watching her. She was a natural. Away from him, she relaxed, took down orders and delivered them to the waiting patrons with a smile, which made his bear roll over in submission.
Yes, he was so utterly fucked, it wasn’t even real.
*goes back to hyper excited bouncing*
Have a great day, folks, and do stay naughty, won't you!