Marcus watched Eloise walk toward the stairs his eyes following her hips. When their eyes had connected earlier, his bear sat up and purred. She had a caramel complexion, so much darker than his own, with jet black hair curled gently and smiling chocolate brown eyes. She wore a tight red knit sweater dress, with a low cut v neck showing off the swell of her breasts. She was short compared to him, but most people were and the undeniable urge to protect her swelled in his chest.
The instinct came as soon as Peter gave her a smile, he wanted to punch him in the face for even looking at his mate. After meeting her, he could see why many of the shifters flirted with her. Never had his bear taken interest in any of the women Marcus took to his bed or dated. This time was different, he hadn’t been asking her out or flirting with her. They were talking about the safety of the people at the club and his bear constantly kept purring she was their mate.
Mate! Take her! Mate!
That’s not how human women work. He argued with his bear, his bear grunted, unhappy with the ways of humans. His eyes never strayed from her hips, as they walked up the stairs. He curled his hands into fists keeping himself in check. He didn’t want to frighten her.
“Are the VIP rooms used a lot?” he asked. He wanted to hear her pleasant voice again. She looked over her shoulder, her long black hair swaying, her brown eyes looking up at him as she took in his question.
“Yes. They are left open for those couples who want a quiet place to talk and get to know each other better. Josie is big on making sure no sex happens up here, only getting to know each other. She put that in place after the first Mate Me event.” She smiled and it lit up her face, Marcus was momentarily stunned and stared.
“Do the bouncers stand guard at the stairs to make sure nothing happens?” Marcus asked. He didn’t like the idea of anything happening to anyone, be they man or woman.
“They are spread too thin protecting the front and the dance floor. Rhett has made Hank stay close to the bar after an incident happened two months ago.” He saw her eyes cloud over and knew it had to do with her.
“What happened?” he asked, instantly wanting to find the man who stole the smile from her eyes and beat him senseless for doing anything to Eloise.
“Just a drunk shifter being stupid.” She waved off his question, and moved back down the stairs to show him the dimly lit bathrooms. He should ask Rhett what happened, so he would be prepared to protect her at all costs. She was his mate and no one would harm her.
“Has he done anything since?” Marcus watched her and barely caught her flinch before she smiled and said,
“No nothing. You can see the bathrooms are dark and it is hard to see people coming and going.” She was lying he could smell it, she changed the subject getting them back to work. He let her, and decided to keep a close eye on her to see if she reacted to anyone coming into the club.
“How does it look?” Rhett came over and Eloise gave him a brief smile.
“I’ll let you two talk I need to get back to work.” Marcus watched her walk away his bear lamenting her departure. He desperately wanted to pull her to him and kiss her until her taste was imprinted on his brain. Rhett cleared his throat and Marcus turned back to face him.
“Just a word to the wise. She doesn’t trust us.”
“Two months ago, Jimmy Duggen came to an event. He snuck in some shifter moonshine and got hammered. He started to hit on Eloise and tried to drag her off by her hair during her break. Josie happened to be coming back from the bathroom and saw it. She ran to get me and I managed to make Jimmy to release her, but Ellie refused to come back to work for a while. This is the first Mate Me event she has agreed to come bartend for and I know it is because she needs the money,” Rhett explained. He watched Eloise get settled behind the bar and pull out a stack of papers. He groaned,
“She got out her grading again, that woman is going to kill me one of these days.” But he did nothing to stop her.
“So, she is a teacher?” Marcus asked, watching different facial expressions pass over her face as she went through the stack of papers. She intrigued him with her small stature and bold curves.
“Yes, she teaches fourth grade, Josie used to teach with her before we married.” Rhett shook his head and turned back to Marcus.
“Tell me what you found.”
“You are going to need at least three more men for your club, the bathrooms are too dark for Troy or I to see down the hall to make sure no one is being bothered. You also need someone to be at the top of the stairs for the VIP rooms and I think one more on the floor would be best,” Marcus gave his assessment. The club was kept dim, the perfect atmosphere for dancing and drinks. It also made it the perfect space for unsavory happenings.
“Do you have any more available?” Rhett asked.
“Not at the moment, I have a couple coming off assignment in the next week. Tonight we are going to have to be extra vigilant,” Marcus explained. He wasn’t sure how well everything would go tonight with so few men to help.
“What about my two bouncers?” Rhett offered.
“They need to be near the bar and one on the front door with Peter.”
“Damn, okay let me call Xander and see if he is willing to help tonight. His mate Roxie just found out she is expecting twins.” Rhett walked away to call his brother and Marcus turned to look at Eloise. She made his bear roar with need, if he didn’t know there was no mate in the world for him, he’d think she was meant to be his. He had an unreasonable desire to protect her and didn’t like he had to leave her protection to Lionel. Maybe he would trade places with Lionel tonight, put himself within shouting distance.
She is our mate! I’m sure, you were the fool who picked that other woman. His bear grumbled, he had to shake his head.
How can you be so sure? We were harshly shut down before.
Because this time I am doing the picking. She is the one for us! You are just too pussy to tell her.
Uncalled for, we’ve known her for an hour.
In the wild, she’d be pregnant with our cubs by now.
Not in the wild! He couldn’t believe he was having this argument with his bear, they’d always gotten along.
“Marcus, I checked the back door and it looks secure. You need a key code to get inside plus a key,” Greyson reported. Marcus nodded his acknowledgment but didn’t look away from Eloise grading papers at the bar.
“She is a beautiful woman. I understand why Peter hit on her,” Greyson remarked, and Marcus had to hold back a growl. Greyson lifted a brow, but let the moment pass.
“Do you think we can leave the back door for tonight? There are some more pressing areas that need protection,” Marcus asked. He trusted Greyson’s instincts more than anyone. They had served together in the marines and saved each other’s lives more than once.
“Yes, place someone near the bathrooms and the back door can be kept within hearing range.”
“Good, I want you on the VIP rooms then. Eloise showed me and there needs to be someone upstairs, to make sure no one is forced to do anything that makes them feel uncomfortable,” Marcus explained. Greyson looked up the stairs and nodded.
“I’ll go take a look.” He left silently, making his way up the stairs. Marcus went in search of Peter and Troy. To his utter amazement they were both by the front door working. Marcus knew Troy was a serious worker, Peter liked to flirt and talk while on the job.
“Troy, I want you to do a circuit of the floor, tell me if you think there is any place, we need extra eyes. Eloise showed me around and I think we are going to need three extra men.” Marcus knew Troy had leadership abilities and wanted to test him out to see if he could potentially become a team leader.
“Yes sir,” Troy walked off and Marcus turned to look at Peter.
“Think you can handle the door?”
“Yes, I spoke with Lionel and it is just checking IDs and making sure Jimmy Duggen does not make it inside. He has been banned for the incident with Ellie.”
“I heard from Rhett a bit about the incident. Were you here when it happened?”
“Yes, but I only saw the aftermath when Rhett and Xander went full blown raging dragon on his ass. If Roxie hadn’t stepped in Jimmy would still be recovering from the beating.” Peter looked thrilled at the idea, clearly Rhett down played what happened. Marcus knew the Duggen family, they had four boys and were coyote shifters. Their father wasn’t known for his good treatment of women. Their mother had run off after the youngest had been born.
“Let me know the second any of the other Duggen boys come in. I’m sure they were unhappy with Jimmy’s treatment.”
“Will do boss,” Peter saluted, and Marcus walked away to check on Eloise.