Marcus watched Eloise chat with Roxie, Josie, Elizabeth and Evelyn while she pulled orders. He’d tensed when he saw the Duggen men walk in, but made sure to sit back and observe. They hadn’t done anything to deserve the bouncer hounding them while they tried to enjoy a beer. Lex and Joshua were sitting at their low table talking to two women who’d sat down after Marcus and Eloise had walked away. Taking a walk around the club he checked in with Greyson up near the VIP rooms.
“How is everything?”
“Nothing to report, a bunch of couples have come up and talked for a bit, most left hand in hand, headed out.” Greyson looked bored, as he leaned against one of the walls out of the way, to give the rooms a sense of privacy.
“Good to hear, let me know if you need anything else, I’m going to check on Peter at the door.” Marcus walked off and watched Eloise laugh at something a man said, leaning on the bar giving her a smile. Her laugh was the most beautiful sound he’d heard and his bear purred. He had to curb the urge to toss the man across the room for speaking to his mate. He didn’t think Eloise or Josie would appreciate his actions.
“Peter, how is door duty?” Marcus asked, coming up behind the blonde wolf shifter.
“Not bad, it was crazy when the event started, but it has calmed down. I saw the Duggen boys come in and you push one back out within minutes of them arriving. What did Henry do?” Peter kept his eyes on the parking lot, nodding at the coyote shifter sulking at his truck. He stood with his arms crossed and a cigarette hanging from his mouth.
“He tried to bother Eloise and Josie. I walked over when I saw Josie visibly gag. When I asked if there was a problem, he tried to intimidate Josie. She wanted him out of the club, I obliged,” he explained, with a shrug.
“What do you think of Ellie? I noticed you haven’t taken your eyes off of her,” Peter commented, looking over his shoulder at her. Marcus followed his line of sight, Eloise was working hard mixing drinks, her black hair swaying down her back, as she moved with a grace he envied.
“She is interesting, I’ve never met anyone like her. Most women I know, throw themselves at me and I take them home if I need to satisfy an urge. She is different,” he answered and Peter nodded.
“She is hot, I missed her the months she refused to bartend Mate Me events.”
“Have you noticed any change in her since then?” he asked, he felt she was on guard with any male who came up to her.
“She isn’t as carefree, but what woman wouldn’t be on guard around a bunch of male shifters who are bigger and stronger. She has always been a favorite and Jimmy took it to far. I’m not friends with her, for that I would ask the ladies sitting at the bar,” Peter suggested. Marcus nodded and walked back inside. He went over to Lionel and told him,
“I’ll take over watching the bar, you go stretch your legs and walk around the club.”
“Thanks, I get stiff standing here all night. Keep an eye on Drew he is a sweet talking lion who is getting really friendly with the ladies.” Lionel pointed out the strawberry blond shifter.
“Anything else?” he wanted to know, watching Eloise pass her friend in the bright red dress a glass of wine.
“Only that since Eloise came back to bartending, Evelyn, Elizabeth, Josie and Roxie take turns staying at the bar. I think they’ve formed their own protection detail. No one knows exactly what Jimmy did to her, just that he had grabbed her and was dragging her by the hair to his car. Keep a close eye on her, she hasn’t been the same. Her smile is guarded and she flinches away from male contact,” Lionel explained, and Marcus nodded, he was learning more about Eloise every minute.
She is our mate. We must protect her! His bear yelled in his head.
Enough, you are making it hard for me to work. She is not our mate. we have no mate. Wendy rejected us, there will not be a second time. He fought back; his bear growled.
I never liked Wendy, you did! She was you thinking with your dick and not your brain. Marcus was taken aback; his bear had never argued with him like that before. When he had been dating Wendy during high school his bear said nothing. He thought it was up to him to find their mate and the prom queen was his choice. She, on the other hand, did not want to marry a shifter and had laughed at him on graduation day when he proposed.
“Why would I marry you Marcus? You will never amount to more than working on your parents’ farm. I want to live in the city and I don’t want to marry a shifter.” Her face had contorted into a nasty sneer and that night Marcus ran away. He joined the Marines and left Little Creek, Texas.
He only ever came back home when ordered to by his mother. Wendy hadn’t married rich, she married Andrew who worked as a manager of the local hardware store. Every time he came home, she would hit on him. It made him feel confused and a little repulsed. She rejected him when they were eighteen, at thirty-three she had five children and he was a confirmed bachelor.
Now, Eloise invaded his mind, a million times more than Wendy ever had. He hadn’t taken his eyes off her for longer than a few minutes. Even when his eyes weren’t on her, he could sense her. His bear was bristling for a run in the woods, he needed that or he would throw Eloise over his shoulder and take her home. He wouldn’t let her out of his bedroom until he’d satisfied his desire for her.
“Do you want a water?” He turned to look at the petite blond standing next to him. She came up to his shoulder and had put a bunch of makeup on her eyes.
“What?” He asked, he had been distracted thinking about Eloise.
“Do you want water?” she repeated her question, touching his arm and rubbing back and forth. His bear bristled at the contact, now that he had met his mate, no one else would do.
“Sure,” he replied, his throat was a little parched. Looking down at his watch, he saw there was one more hour of the event left. The waitress came back, handing him a highball glass with water and a napkin. Upon closer inspection, the napkin had her name and number on it.
Crumpling the napkin, he surreptitiously threw it away. He didn’t want to give her false hope. He watched as two burly bear shifters saunter up to the bar. He knew the two, Race and Finch, black bears and obnoxious when drunk. They swayed on their feet and pinned Evelyn and Elizabeth in their sights. He tensed as Finch leaned close to Elizabeth. She looked very uncomfortable and was leaning away.
“Enough Finch, you are cut off. Don’t make me get Lionel,” Eloise threatened. Finch turned his glassy eyes on her and growled,
“Oh yeah? I’d like to see what that old tiger can do to me.”
“You are cut off too Race, do you want me to call you a cab?” Eloise ignored Finch’s boast, and turned to his brother. Marcus could see Race was slightly more sober than his brother. Marcus moved behind the bar and stood within eyesight of Race. They knew each other, he and his brother weren’t bad bears, they just liked to over indulge. He knew Finch would never make good on his boast against Lionel. Race and his eyes connected; the black bear nodded his understanding. Either he got his brother out now, or Marcus would forcibly remove him.
“No, I’m sober enough to drive us home. Come on Finch, the ladies have had enough men throwing themselves at their feet.” Race grabbed his brother by the collar and dragged him out. Marcus relaxed, watching Eloise take a shuddering breath.
“Are you okay?” he asked, she squeaked and turned around wielding a long bat at him. He caught it easily, but was shocked she had such good reflexes for a human.
“Oh my God you scared me!” she gasped, and lowered the bat. All the women at the bar gaped at her, clearly, they didn’t know she was packing behind the bar.
“Ellie!” Josie exclaimed, Eloise turned red and hid the bat away.
“It’s nothing,” she replied, waving away her friend’s concern.
“It isn’t nothing, why on Earth do you have a bat behind the bar? Does Rhett know?” Josie pelted her with questions. He watched Eloise shift uneasily on her feet, not happy her friends were finding out something she clearly didn’t want to talk about.
“It has always been there, in case something like that happens.” She jerked her thumb at Marcus standing behind her.
“He only asked if you were okay. That was a major overreaction,” Elizabeth pointed out, if Marcus remembered she was the new pediatrician in town.
“It was not,” Eloise argued. Marcus disagreed, but wisely kept his mouth shut.
“Explain,” Evelyn demanded, her eyes darkened and Eloise huffed.
“No,” she refused and all the women stared at her surprised.
“This is so unlike you Ellie; we are your friends and deserve to know why you are being like this. It has been months since Jimmy tried to carry you off. He spent a month in jail and has a restraining order against him. Why are you still so jumpy?” Roxie asked, with a gentle voice and a pat on her hand. Marcus watched as she deflated and nodded her agreement.