Valiant Page 2

’’Someone get a tranquilizer gun.’’ It was a woman and she sounded scared. ’’Now. Move it.’’

’’Valiant?’’ It was the man again with the deep voice. ’’Listen to me, man. She didn\ mean to trespass into your territory. She got lost when someone screwed up the maps and it led her here. You know Justice is having a party and he hired caterers. She is just a terrified female who came here to serve food. It\s not a challenge. She can\ look away from you or leave because she\s frozen with fear. Calm down and just back off. She can leave once you do.’’

Justice North was the appointed leader of the New Species Organization. He\d bought up the closed-down old resort and all the land around it for his people to live on and turned it into a New Species enclave called Reservation. He was also their spokesperson who did all the television interviews. He\d hired Ted\s catering service to host their first party at Reservation and that\s how Tammy had ended up in the wrong place.

She swallowed, grateful her mind still worked and knew all that information. She could at least follow the conversation that her life might depend on. It seemed to her that this would be her last job for Ted otherwise. Hell, it might be my last day doing anything ever again.

’’Do you hear me, Valiant? Do you know how pissed Justice is going to be if you maul someone he hired? We\ e supposed to be throwing this dinner to make the people living in town feel comfortable with us being here. It\s going to really set everyone off if you attack one of them.’’ The man with the deep voice sighed. ’’Let me come get her. Is that all right, man? Can I come into your yard to take her away?’’

’’No,’’ the man-beast snarled. He threw back his head and an earsplitting roar shattered the wooded area.

Tammy moved finally but it just wasn\ in the direction she wanted to go, which would have been toward her work van and closer to the help that had arrived to try to save her on the other side of the gate she\d walked through. Her knees collapsed under her. She hit the grass but didn\ totally fall flat. She remained kneeling.

He had to be a lion or tiger of some sort. She recognized the sound he\d made. He had a pretty distinctive roar. She studied his coloring, his wide nose, and finally those sharp teeth. Shit. He\s definitely some kind of big-cat mix. She guessed lion. She stared up at him and wondered if her bladder would let loose from sheer terror. It wouldn\ surprise her in the least. It wasn\ as if her day could get any worse.

’’Remain calm,’’ the deep-voiced man demanded. ’’I won\ come in. Talk to me, Valiant. Otherwise someone is going to tranquilize your ass and I know how upset that\s going to make you.’’

Man-beast had a name. It wasn\ human either, or normal, but Tammy let it sink in that it was his. What kind of name is Valiant? She knew it meant courageous, something she lacked at that moment. She wished furiously that she wasn\ really there, wasn\ staring up at her worst, never-thought-up nightmare.

Valiant jerked his focus off Tammy finally to glare at someone behind her and to the left. ’’Do not shoot at me.’’ The threatening tone in his voice was loud and clear.

There was a deep sigh. ’’Let the female go. What\s your deal anyway? Did she say something before she passed through the gate? She didn\ know this is your house and not the clubhouse. She was given the wrong map. It looks to me as if all she did was get out of the van and walk toward your front door before you reached her. Did she piss you off?’’

’’She is here, Tiger. That is enough.’’ Valiant growled.

’’And it was an accident.’’ Tiger tried to be logical. ’’Someone on our end screwed up and it was our mistake. We didn\ realize what had happened until she showed up. She was the first one to arrive after the guy who runs the catering service. This is Ted Armstrong. He\s been here a few times before and he realized the map was wrong when he glanced at it. We contacted the gate immediately but they informed me that her van had gone through already. Now here we all are. Come on, Valiant, you\ve terrified her enough. What did Justice say about trying to fit in? Remember that talk? God knows, I do. It\s not polite to scare the living shit out of humans.’’

’’He won\ really maul her, will he?’’ Ted sounded a little high strung. That was saying a lot because her boss always remained cool under pressure. ’’I mean, Jesus! Was that a joke?’’

Tiger softly cursed. ’’I\m sure I was kidding.’’ His tone didn\ sound convincing at all to Tammy. ’’So what do you say, Valiant? She can calm down a little and leave if you\ll just back off. Would you reconsider allowing me to come get her? It would only take a second. I\ll just rush in there, grab her, and leap right out.’’

Valiant growled again and his gaze returned to Tammy. She swallowed. She blinked. She breathed regularly again. She took note of all those functions that were under her control but her limbs were still unresponsive. The man-beast paused about six feet from her but she appreciated that he had stopped advancing to just stare at her. That\s progress, right? God, I hope so.

She moved her mouth and it actually opened. She attempted to apologize for trespassing but nothing came out. Damn it. She had always thought she\d be different under stress. She\d always been a natural-born smartass who had a comeback for everything. She\d gained a reputation for being mouthy no matter how afraid she was, under any circumstances. Obviously, I was wrong, she conceded. When she\d dreamed up worst-case scenarios, none had covered man-beasts with sharp teeth or cat-eyes who roared.


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