Leopard's Fury

By: Christine Feehan

“Your last name?” Timur pushed as he took the plate of macaroons.

Alonzo heard her heart accelerate. He caught the jerk of Gorya’s body as he heard it as well. Timur was relentless, standing still with no intention of moving.

Evangeline turned her head toward Alonzo. “Don’t,” she said softly.

She knew Timur worked for him. She thought, correctly, Timur was getting information for an investigation, but, incorrectly, that Alonzo had ordered him to do so. His woman had secrets.

“Don’t what?” Timur pushed. “Look at me, not him,” he ordered. His voice gentled. “I’m just asking for your last name.”

She didn’t obey him. She kept looking at Alonzo. “I haven’t pried. I haven’t done one thing to give you cause to do this.”

The bell over the door tinkled and Timur instantly spun around, his hand going inside his coat. Three men entered. They were in their thirties and all three looked carefully around, noting Alonzo first, then Gorya and Timur. Right away Alonzo pegged them as undercover cops. They were dressed in casual clothes, jeans and tees stretched tight over muscles. Tattoos down their arms. One had a short beard and mustache. One just the mustache. The third man hadn’t shaved in a couple of days.

Timur thanked Evangeline and took his coffee and the plate of cookies in one hand, keeping his other hand free. Of course they had concealed weapon permits. Alonzo had made certain everything was aboveboard should they ever be stopped for any reason. He didn’t want that reason to happen there in the bakery. Not with his woman watching.

Timur sank into the chair and grinned at him over his coffee. “That woman is breathtaking. My leopard definitely was soothed, but not interested. There’s a difference. Clearly she’s a leopard whisperer. When you’re close to her, you feel peace. Sounds crazy, but I felt it too.” He kept his eyes on the cops without appearing to do so.

“Don’t get too used to being close to her,” Alonzo warned. Icicles dripped from his voice.

Timur, damn him, grinned wider. “It’s not me you have to worry about, moy brat, those three didn’t come in here expecting us. And she clearly knows them. They’re regulars, and I’m guessing it isn’t all about her badass coffee.”

“Brice, good to see you. Your usual?”

She sounded like sex and sin to Alonzo every time she opened her mouth. His body was as hard as a rock. His mind was filled with a million ways to kill the newcomers, and his leopard raked at him in a rage at the idea of the three men so close to what was so clearly theirs.

“You bet, sweetheart.”

“Sweetheart”? What the fuck was that? It was all Alonzo could do not to leap up and kill the son of a bitch.

“Reeve, Crispin? The usual?”

Both undercover cops nodded, smiling at her, but looking at Alonzo. They turned their bodies slightly, just enough to be able to watch Alonzo, Gorya and Timur yet still flirt with Evangeline.

“You ever going to go out with me?” the one she’d called Brice asked, leaning one elbow on the counter to put his chin in his palm so he could stare at her very enticing ass.

Alonzo’s leopard lifted its head and snarled. Alonzo wanted to do the same but he kept his expressionless mask on. The last thing he wanted was for anyone—let alone the cops—to know he was interested in Evangeline. On the other hand, if she said yes, he was going to follow the fucker right out of the bakery and make certain he wouldn’t be asking Alonzo’s woman out again.

Evangeline’s gaze shifted to his for just a moment, to read his reaction no doubt. He should have stayed frozen. He should have kept all emotion out of it. That was what kept him alive and her safe. He gave the slightest shake of his head. He had to warn her. He had to keep as much honesty between them as possible. She had to know dating Brice wasn’t in the cards for her. Six months ago. Even two days ago. But he’d walked back into the bakery and she didn’t have a man. She’d said she missed him. She’d chosen him. She might not realize that was what she’d done, but she belonged to him and Brice had lost his shot.

Evangeline shook her head, her smile sweet and teasing over her shoulder as she made a drink at the machine for him. “One of these days, you keep asking, Brice, and I might scare you to death and say yes. I’d turn into a clingy, nagging witch and drive you nuts.”

“It would be worth it, sweetheart,” Brice said, his eyes on her butt, lovingly encased in those tight jeans.

Alonzo wanted to take out his gun and shoot the bastard. The man had no business ogling what belonged to him.

She laughed and set their coffees on the bar in to-go cups. Their pastries went into small paper bags. At least they weren’t staying. They’d probably wait around to follow Alonzo and his bodyguards later, but it wouldn’t get them anything. They wouldn’t want to blow their covers and in a way, that protected Alonzo.

“Throw me a crumb of hope,” Brice encouraged. “These two are going to be giving me hell for even trying again.” He jerked his thumb at his two companions, who both grinned like idiots.

Alonzo wasn’t deceived. Neither were his two bodyguards. They watched without looking, something they’d perfected from the time they were infants and had had to keep an eye on their fathers and older brothers. Their leopards never failed them.

“A crumb? Saying that to a baker is dangerous,” she teased.

Her voice didn’t have to be so damned soft. Or intimate. Alonzo imagined that alone was enough of a crumb for the cop to return. He consoled himself that he wasn’t the only one lying about his identity to her.

Brice reached across the counter and caught her by the nape of the neck, drawing her close. Everything in Alonzo went still. Ice flowed through his veins. The brutal, vicious killer in him merged with the man trained from birth to take out enemies. He flowed to his feet, too graceful to knock over the table. Timur put a hand on his arm to try to stop him but it was impossible. Both knew it. He was too far gone. Heat banded across his eyes, showing him his three targets in colors rather than images. He could kill all three in seconds. One leap and he’d be on them.

As all three cops turned at his movement, Evangeline took the opportunity to free herself. Immediately she smiled at Alonzo. “You need a refill? No need to get up, I can bring it to you.”

That sense of peace she created with her voice, with her calm, instantly overrode the roar of his leopard, the thunder of his blood pounding with the need to remove every threat to his claim on his woman. His leopard backed off as she reached casually for the coffeepot, already out of reach of the three cops. He didn’t ever ask for fancy coffee. He liked her natural brew and he took it black. In that moment he was very grateful he did. He forced his body back into the chair, sinking down, breathing deeply, watching her the entire time so his cat could see that no one else touched her.

The bell sounded as the three undercover cops slipped out of the shop. He was aware of them looking over their shoulders at him, but he ignored them now that they weren’t close to Evangeline. She came across the room with her coffeepot, not looking at his face now that the threat was gone. Not smiling. Damn it, he’d done that. He deserved that. She poured his coffee without a word, and when she turned to go, he shackled her wrist, at the same time jerking his chin at his brother to indicate he wanted to be alone with her.

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