The Lion's Cat

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Chapter 19

The wolf I once called boyfriend walks down the stairs, surprising me as he engulfs my body in a warm hug. His arms are bigger than I remember, but his body still stays on the slimmer side.

I can’t help but notice the ink covering both his arms. I remember him telling me about his wish to fill his arms with tattoos, but I never thought he’d go through with it. He used to be the kind of person who changed his mind every so often.

“It’s been so long,” he says as I slowly hug him back.

“...Yeah,” I murmur, my voice muffled by his hard chest.

A cough breaks us apart. I look at him still in shock. This feels weird. Dante’s plump lips are tugged in a dashing smile that makes my heart flutter. “We have a lot of catching up to do like,” he glances beside me toward Xavier, “who’s the guy?”

Xavier clears his throat. “I’m her boy—′

“Friend.” I quickly cut him off. “He’s just a friend.”

Dante seems pleased by my answer since he flashes me another smile. I glance up to my side at Xavier, finding his lips set in a thin line and his jaw clenching. I’m sorry Xavier, but I need to find out something first.

“Alpha Dante of the Crimson Pack,” Dante says, sticking his hand out to the lion.

Xavier fakes a smile as they handshake. “Xavier Lyon, right hand— of Alexa. We’re solitary creatures.”

Dante’s dark eyes widen, breaking their contact. “You’re the werecats.”

Xavier and I nod simultaneously. “We’re here for business,” he says.

“Follow me,” Dante replies, taking us inside the simple living room, followed by the dining room, and a short corridor with a wooden door at the end of it.

In less than a couple of minutes, we’re inside to what I presume is Dante’s study room. Damn. The place is packed with books. There are three wooden shelves, taking all the walls’ spaces, filled with books and binders.

Xavier and I take a seat in the leather brown chair. Dante walks around his neat desk, sitting on his office chair. “So, what brings you to me?” he asks, lighting up a cigarette.

My nose scrunches at the sight, and it doesn’t go unnoticed by him. The wolf simply smirks. “We’re here for the trafficking of werecats. We’re offering ourselves as volunteers,” Xavier explains.

Dante puffs out smoke. “It’s not that easy, and are you guys that poor to be doing this?” he asks, frowning.

Wait, what?

“What do you mean?” I ask, tilting my head to the side.

“Well, you get paid for your services, although it’s a small percentage. I don’t know why everyone thinks of it as trafficking. I find it more similar to an escort kind of work,” he explains.

I glance at Xavier, finding his knitted eyes already on me. I’m confused. If he pays them, then why does everyone think he kidnaps werecats? Is he lying?

“How much money could we earn?” I ask.

Dante scans Xavier from head to toe. “With that body, he’d get at least one thousand dollars for one day. While you, love, around five hundred,” he says, focusing back on me.

I frown. “Why am I cheaper than him?”

A hand comes on my shoulder followed by a laugh. “I’m just more suited for this kind of job,” Xavier says as I slap his hand off me out of frustration.

Honestly, I don’t even know what type of jobs we’re talking about. I’m lost, but I can’t tell Dante this. My eyes squint at Xavier. I wonder if he knows something or if he’s just going with the flow.

A deep chuckle pulls my eyes back to Dante. Every time I look at him my body gets warmer. I hate it. “You’re cheaper because you’re a domesticated cat. My clients are looking for the big ones.”

I frown. “To do what?”

He shrugs. “That’s between the client and my employee. My job is to satisfy their requests. Once it’s delivered, I get paid.”

“So what can we do to get involved?” Xavier asks.

Dante leans back on his chair, taking another hit of his cigarette. “Prove to me that you really are volunteering, and not scheming against me. Don’t worry, I already have a few tasks in mind.”

I stand up putting my hands on the desk as I tilt my head to the side. “Is there a reason why we should scheme against you?”

Dante’s eyes drop to my chest for a second before looking back up. A shiver runs down my back at the heated look. “Better safe than sorry,” he says in that deep voice that makes my breath hitch.

My eyes narrow when a warm hand touches my lower back. “We’re ready whenever you are,” Xavier says, calmly.

My tensed shoulders relax under his touch. Dante’s eyes bounce between Xavier and me in what seems like a skeptical look. “I’m sorry, but couples aren’t part of my business,” he says.

Xavier and I glance at each other and only at that moment do I notice how close the lion actually is. His hand is on my back, his body is close behind me. I look down to my hands noticing the only jewellery I own. The ring. I don’t think he noticed something so little, right?

“Excuse me?” I ask, straightening my back and crossing my arms over my chest.

Dante’s eyes turn a lighter shade of brown, making goosebumps appear on my skin. “All these years, and you’re still the same,” he says, standing up, and walking in front of me after dropping his cigarette in the glass-made ashtray. “I can still read you like an open book. Your eyes dropped to his lips and your body tensed up when I mentioned that you were a couple, although I don’t think you even noticed.”

The wolf grabs my chin, lifting my face until my eyes are staring into his darker ones. My mouth has long gone dry with my brain trying to think of something, anything, to say back. “Your lips—”

“Take your hands off her.”

My breathing stops. Xavier’s arm snakes around my waist from behind, pulling my body back against a firm chest. It feels like everything is going in slow motion when the action happens in less than a second.

Dante blinks, his eyes returning black. “Get out of my house,” he says, his jaw clenching at the lion.

The fact that we can’t get kicked out for the mission snaps me back to reality. My emotions took control of me for a moment there. I quickly shake my head, pushing Xavier away and taking a step closer to Dante. “We’re not together, and we’re volunteering for whatever shady business you’ve got going on so, honestly Dante, why are you playing hard to get?”

Dante snorts, his eyes darting away. “I’m not playing hard to get.”

I roll my eyes. “Yeah, and I’m Elon Musk, but you know what? I don’t care. Tell us the tasks of loyalty so we can move forward.”

We exchange a silent, blank stare, holding back any type of emotion. Was I too informal? “Welcome to the Crimson Pack,” Dante starts, motioning us with his finger to follow him outside. “Males and females volunteering for me cannot be seen together, cannot sleep in the same room, and must not flirt with each other. Fail to do and you get killed,” he casually explains.

He leads us back to the main hall, taking us upstairs while my mind repeats the word ′kill′ in a loop.

“Isn’t killing a bit extreme?” Xavier voices out my thought as we walk down the hallway giving off old hotel vibes.

“Not at all. Humans are merciless creatures. As long as their asses are saved, they’ll do anything. Even trying to kill me.”

“You must have done something to them. Humans don’t blindly kill people,” Xavier says.

Dante halts on his track. “Everyone knows what they get themselves into once they step into my territory. Just like you guys, I bet you know not a lot of people get out of here, right?” He asks, turning around to look at us.

“Because you kill them,” Xavier retorts, making him laugh.

“I’ve been clear since the beginning. Until the contract is over, you cannot leave the pack. If you try escaping, then yes, you die.”

The cold look on his face is enough to make me start sweating. I don’t want to die— I won’t.

Dante points toward the end of the hall. “If you go there, you’ll find a stick that will open up the attic. There are two of them that need to be opened. The right is the room for the males while the left for the females. You have one hour of free time before the task. Dress elegantly and meet me at the dining room.”

Without another word, Dante passes us, leaving Xavier and me alone. I look up at the dreaded guy who stops me when I open my mouth. He waves his hand around before pointing to his ears.

They might hear us.

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