Valiant Page 15

She shook her head as she undid her seat belt. ’’He didn\ hurt me, I don\ want him punished and I don\ need a doctor. I\m not sure about the shrink part yet but I\m tough.’’ She paused. ’’I just want to forget this ever happened. Okay?’’

He met her gaze, watched her silently, but nodded slowly.

Tammy climbed out of the Jeep and walked to her front door, unlocked it, and stepped into the small room. She turned and noticed that Tiger watched her silently from the black unmarked vehicle. She firmly closed the door and twisted the deadbolt.

’’Son of a bitch.’’ She sighed. She headed for the bathroom and the shower. ’’I never saw today coming.’’ So much for always trying to be prepared. Ha! Man-beasts with killer kissing skills and the ability to seduce women. She shook her head. My life just gets weirder and weirder. Why can\ it ever be normal?

* * * * *

Valiant groaned. His head throbbed and he couldn\ remember why. His eyes opened to stare at the carpet. He lay sprawled on his side. He blinked before someone shoved a big plastic bag of ice in front of his face. It hovered there. He inhaled and softly growled. It made his head hurt worse.

Tiger crouched down, still holding out the bag of ice. ’’Put that on the back of your head.’’ He spoke softly.

Valiant grabbed it. His hand trembled a little and he found the spot where it hurt the most. He winced and snarled as the bag made contact. His attention fixed on Tiger.

’’Are you all right?’’

’’What happened?’’

Tiger took a deep breath. ’’It will come to you. Just stay down when it does.’’

The ice helped reduce the haze of pain and he took a deep breath, allowing the scents inside the room to fill his nose. Tammy! He tried to sit up but the room spun. He groaned again, sank back to the floor and bared his teeth at Tiger.

’’Which one of your men crept up on me?’’

’’Tammy did it. She hit you with a lamp.’’ Tiger stood and backed away, putting a safe distance between them. ’’She\s safe and off Reservation.’’

Rage surged through Valiant and he snarled. ’’Bring her back. She\s mine.’’

In response, the other Species leaned against the wall, crossed his arms over his chest, and sighed. ’’She hit you to get away, asked to be taken home, but refused to press charges. You\ e lucky, man. She could have had you locked inside a tiny damn cell and Justice would have had to decide if you needed to be put down for good. If you\ e too dangerous to live F*k, don\ get me started. That\s a nightmare concept we never want to have to face.’’

The pain receded more and Valiant sat up without the room spinning. He glared at Tiger. ’’She\s mine.’’

’’I got that.’’ He sniffed the air. ’’You had her all right.’’ His gaze flickered to the bed and back. ’’But you can\ keep her. She\s human. You wouldn\ even pull that stunt on our women. You know you can\ just claim them and force them to live with you.’’

’’She\s little. I could easily keep her here and change her mind about leaving. I planned to feed her and care for her.’’

’’She mentioned you seemed to think she was a pet. I thought she had read the situation wrong. Humans tend to see us in a messed-up light but after hearing you talk, she was dead on. She\s not a pet.’’

’’I know this.’’ Valiant frowned, worried that he might have given her the wrong impression. Regret gripped him. ’’Is that why she left? Why she hit me? I\ll tell her she\s my mate, not my pet.’’

’’She\s not yours, man.’’ Tiger pushed away from the wall. ’’She wanted to leave. Deal with it. You and I, we\ e not for humans. We talked about this, remember? They are too fragile, they scare too easily, and you wanted a Species mate. A feline one.’’

’’Not anymore. I want Tammy.’’

’’Too bad. You can\ have her. You talk about our kind growing soft and how you hate it. You\ e the one who sounds soft right now. Toughen up and face facts. A human would never get past how we are. At least not for guys like us. We\ e too in tune with our animal sides. I just look more human than you do.’’

Sadness was an emotion Valiant loathed but it filtered through him all the same. ’’She\s not coming back to me, is she?’’

’’No,’’ Tiger\s gaze softened, ’’she\s not.’’

’’Leave.’’

’’I\d rather stay a while to make sure you recover fully. I\ll make us dinner. We\ll have some sodas and talk. I heard a few felines you haven\ met yet are being transferred here. Maybe one of them will be the one for you.’’

Images of Tammy flashed through Valiant\s mind. ’’Leave me. I need to be alone.’’

’’The new felines arrive tomorrow. I\ll pick you up and take you to the hotel for you to sniff them out.’’

Valiant struggled to his feet and his gaze drifted to the bed where Tammy had been. Her scent still remained strong inside the room. He moved toward it and tossed the bag of ice away. He\d rather feel the pain than return to the numbing state in which he\d existed before he\d felt all those wonderful things with Tammy. He crawled onto the bed and lay where she had been, inhaling her scent.

’’Valiant? I\ll pick you up at two o\clock.’’

’’Don\ bother. Just go. Lock the door when you leave. I don\ want to meet any felines.’’

He breathed in Tammy\s scent, wanted to memorize it before it faded, and listened to his friend go away. His eyes closed as his hand gently brushed the comforter. He couldn\ remember the last time tears had wet his eyes but they did at that moment. He\d lost her and she would never return. He\d known peace with her. Happiness. Hope. And now it was gone. She was...lost to him forever.


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