The Panther's Claw

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Chapter 1o: business or pleasure

Everett and I speed down some mountain roads until he pulls into a sleek looking bistro. Everything is glass and raw edged wood and im going to stick out like a sore thumb here. Shit.

He holds the door open for me and we walk in immediately faced with a lithe blonde waitress who smiles at him and looks me up and down. She knows! She knows I'm trash and shouldn't be here! All of a sudden Amethyst gives me the speech.

We deserve to be treated with respect. Don't take that shit. We are amazing and magical and she smells like desperation and fake coconuts. You look hot, you have a sexy ass mate. Act like it! Panther up!

I take a breath and follow them with my head high to the table. The waitress suddenly looks like im going to yell at her. Maybe I panthered up too hard. I smile at her and say thank you and she relaxes a bit before leaving. I turn to Everett and my brain short circuits.

His eyes are out from behind his sunglasses and are so dark they don't let the sun in. Amethyst is up and panting. Mate.

God damn it another one?!

"Well, this is not what I was expecting." He smiles. "But I'll take it."

"What were you expecting?" I ask.

"An apology lunch with a beautiful woman. But I'll take a date with my mate over that any day." He says leaning over and taking my hand in his. The electric feel of his skin makes me purr. "A cat hmm?" He smirks. "Let me guess... mountain lion?"

"Nope." I smile.

"Bobcat?" I shake my head. It seems hes staying local. This may take a while. I rest my chin on my fist. "Am I close?" I shake my head again.

"Go south." I hint.

"South? Umm... cougar? Puma? Uh... im out sweetheart. Will you tell me?" I put a finger to my chin in thought.

"How about I'll tell you before you drop me off if you don't guess it first." I smile.

"Deal. You're going to keep me on my toes aren't you?" He smirks.

"If you're good." I flirt. He lets out a hiss and his black eyes heat.

"I'll be very good." He says as fingers graze my knees under the table. I am in so much trouble. "But let's get to business first." Damn. "As leader of the snakes i would like to formally apologize to you on behalf of Xander. He is a bit rash and may have overreacted." I put up a hand to stop him.

"What do you mean overreacted?" I ask. React to what?

"You think he didn't?" He asks raising a brow. Im so confused.

"What did he tell you happened?" I ask tilting my head.

"That you challenged him in front of everyone and he felt like he needed to defend himself." He says simply. I cant help it. I laugh. Loudly.

"Are you serious? Scarlet and I were eating dinner and he came up to our table and introduced himself. He did a weird tongue thing to my hand. And ignored Scarlet. I gave him a look and he did the same tongue thing to her. We left and she almost died." I explain. "I dont know what he was reacting to. But I believe you were misinformed." I huff my blood boiling. What a coward. I look at him to see green scales come to the surface of his perfect cheekbones. Looks like he's angry too. "Calm down. Do you want to leave?" I ask quietly. He nods so we get up and i apologize to the waitress as we leave.

He throws me the keys to the Shelby without hesitation. I try to hold back a little squeal but it doesn't work. I see him crack a smile as we get in. Best. Day. Ever.

I slide in and sink into the seat and turn it on trying to keep what little cool I have but I purr right along with the engine.

I pull out of the parking lot and drive down the road where he tells me. The ride is over far too quickly as we pull in to a house that looks like its made of windows.

He holds the door for me and leads the way into the house. I smell heat and sand and jungle but its not hot in the house. Its a strange sensation.

"Xander!" Everett booms with his arm resting on my waist. Bless him he's not even trying to touch my ass. A human would have especially if they thought you were theirs.

Xander comes around the corner and into view. He looks better than the last time I saw him. Less bloody. Hes smiling talking to a tall man in a honest to god cowboy hat, tight tshirt and well fitting jeans. Very well fitting. Its a good look on him. Xander stops dead in his tracks and pales at the sight of me with Everett.

"We need to talk." Everett grinds out. "To my office. Lena, please join us." He says gently to me offering his arm. I take it and follow along past the cowboy who smells like hot sand. Amethyst likes him she wants to snuggle him something fierce. I try to focus on the task at hand though. Even when his arm brushes against mine and I have to hold back a purr.

"Sir, would you like me to join?" Cowboy offers in a deep southern drawl. Oh dear lord an accent.

"That might be for the best. Yes, please join us." Everett concedes as we enter the office. Xander is sitting in a chair looking like a misbehaved child. I stay by the door so I have enough room to shift if I need to. Amethyst is at attention ready to go at a moments notice.

"Hello Xander. I had an interesting appointment today with Lena. Apparently you have not been completely honest with me." Everett says calmly but I see his eyes are hard and unforgiving and kind of hot if I'm honest.

"I told you the truth. She challenged me and I defended our nest." He defends. I take a deep breath to calm myself. Not my turf, not my ass to kick.

"Really? Are you going to stick with that answer Xander?" Everett asks leaning against the front of his desk. My god the man is sex walking.

"I was defending our nest. I only regret that the wolf didn't die." He seethes. I let out a deep growl that I cant seem to contain. Xander whips around and stares at me with wide panicked eyes. Apparently he didn't know I was here. I wonder if his answer would have changed. I smell his fear from here and it smells wonderful.

"I believe you've met my mate, Lena." Everett smiles at me.

"Mate?" Xander squeaks. The cowboy coughs to cover a laugh as Everett walks over to me. He leads me to his desk and rests his hand on my waist again.

"Mate." He confirms. I really should tell him about the multiple mates shit soon.

"What exactly was the challenge again?" Everett asks as if trying to remember. "Oh yes. It was a challenge to the integrity of our nest. Wasn't it?" I snort but stay quiet. Xander swallows loudly. "Lena, would you say that was the correct description of the event?"

"No, I would have to disagree. I may have challenged his pride though. Maybe his manners as well." I shrug. "But such is life." The cowboy and Everett chuckle.

"Did you threaten him?" Everett asks.

"Yes. I did." I say proudly.

"What was the threat?"

"I told him if he bothered me or the wolves again I would rip his tongue from his head." I state honestly.

"Another lie Xander?" Everett says folding his arms across his broad chest. Thats distracting. "He told us that you would attack the nest." I raise my eyebrows.

"Wow. I mean I know im big and scary but I think that's out of my wheelhouse." I smile gesturing to all five foot three of me. Cowboy and Everett laugh again.

"Well, here i was thinking I landed myself a bad girl." He shakes his head in mock disappointment.

"I'll steal your car if that makes you feel any better." I smile causing cowboy to laugh. I look over to him and finally meet his eyes. They are golden brown and cause Amethyst to freak out again. Mate.

Oh shit.

He looks to Everett in confusion. I send him a look pleading with him to wait and he nods but hes tense.

"Now, Xander. What to do with you?" Everett mutters. "I think a few days in the tank would be a good idea." I have no idea what that means but apparently Xander doesn't like it.
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