He keeps his emotions on a tight leash, but she can see the desire burning in his eyes…
Timur Amurov has one purpose in life: protect his family at all costs. With lethal skills honed from a violent upbringing, Timur is a leopard shifter who sees any newcomers as possible threats–and the petite blond barista who his sister-in-law, Evangeline, has hired to work in her bakery is definitely hiding something. While Timur still needs to determine if Ashe is an enemy, he does know that she is the only woman whose presence has ever truly calmed the beast roaring inside of him.
Ashe Bronte is well aware she has a type: sexy, gorgeous and dangerous as hell. Despite the fact that Timur is all those things and more, Ashe is in San Antonio for reasons that do not involve getting wild with a ruthless leopard–and she cannot afford to make any mistakes. But Timur has ignited something deep within her, and even though she knows she should keep her distance, every move he makes has her craving a taste…
Timur Amurov cursed under his breath, using his native language, something his brother—and boss—strictly forbade. Striding from the town car with its tinted windows and black paint, he moved easily through those walking on the sidewalk. His trench coat swirled around his ankles, the inner lining filled with many loops to hide the weapons he carried.
People moved out of his way. It was the set of his wide shoulders, the scars on his face, his expressionless mask, the threat in his cold, dead eyes. He saw their reactions and he knew exactly what they would do—step aside for him—so he never broke or deviated from his pace. He looked dangerous because he was dangerous. He looked like a man who would kill—and he was.
He didn’t pretend to be anything other than who he was. A shifter. A bodyguard. A weapon sent out when it was deemed necessary. If he showed up at someone’s door, they weren’t going to see another sunrise. Yeah. He looked the part because that was exactly who he was. A stone-cold killer, a legacy given to him by his father. And Grandfather. And uncles. There was no hiding the truth, not even from himself, and he didn’t care to. Life had handed him a shit deck of cards, but he was playing his hand until he couldn’t take it anymore and then he would go out his way.
He didn’t let many people under his guard. First and foremost was Fyodor, his older brother. Fyodor had risked everything to save him and his cousin Gorya, a man brought up with them in their sick, twisted environment. Timur and Gorya had taken the position of bodyguards to Fyodor, but his brother just refused to stay out of harm’s way. Fyodor was the head of a large territory and may as well have gone around with a large target painted on his back. No matter what security measures Timur and his security team took, Fyodor seemed to just ignore them.
In his defense, Fyodor had been a bodyguard, a soldier, long before he had ascended to the throne, but Timur considered that he should know how difficult it was to guard and keep safe a man who ignored every security protocol.
He loved his brother. Not that they talked of such things. That had been forbidden growing up. They been taught never to feel affection for anyone—especially a woman. Fyodor’s wife, Evangeline, owned and operated a bakery in San Antonio and that meant Fyodor worked out of it sometimes. Most times. He had an office in the back. And despite their upbringing, Fyodor made no bones about loving his wife. No bones about showing it, either. The thing was, Timur loved her too. He loved her as a sister, but couldn’t express it. A childhood of savage beatings had seen to that.
Timur yanked open the glass door to the bakery. He’d had the door replaced with bullet proof glass, along with the banks of windows that made up the shop’s storefront. Evangeline looked up quickly and sent him a smile. His heart contracted. She was sweet. Beautiful. Perfect for his brother. More, she kept his brother’s leopard from trying to break loose to hunt and kill. His own leopard raked and clawed, angry, violent, moody as hell.
“Everythin’ all right, Timur?” Evangeline’s little Louisiana accent always made him feel warm, like he’d come home. Her smile began to fade when he didn’t return the smile.
Hell no, nothing was all right. His fucked-up brother was so smitten with this woman that he risked his life—and hers—every damn day. He kept that to himself. Fyodor wouldn’t want him upsetting Evangeline, nor did he want to.
He gave her a curt nod as he moved across the floor, checking every table as he made his way to the restrooms. He scanned them quickly, around the legs, under the tabletop to ensure no incendiary device or explosives had been placed there.
Evangeline was being insistent. What was he going to say? Fyodor had received more death threats? That was a common enough occurrence. However, this particular threat he was taking seriously, but his brother wasn’t—as usual. Timur knew they’d taken too many chances and sooner or later their luck was going to run out. His gut—never to be ignored—told him their luck was long gone and this time the threat was very real.
“Make me a double latte.”
“A double latte?” She was clearly shocked.
He needed the caffeine. He needed her busy. He gave her another curt nod and shoved open the men’s restroom door. He checked it carefully, every stall, making certain his brother was safe from any assassin and then he checked the women’s room. The moment he put his hand on the door to push it open, he knew, by the way his leopard went crazy, that it was occupied. He didn’t care. He wasn’t there to cater to anyone’s sensibilities. He was there to make certain Fyodor wasn’t murdered.
She stood in front of the mirror, lipstick in her hand and her eyes went wide when he strode in. Her eyes caught him first thing. They were almost too big for her face. A very light brown, amber really, like a fine whiskey one sipped at night when you just wanted to lay it all down. The amber was ringed with very thick, dark lashes, making her eyes stand out. Those lashes feathered down in long sweeps, curling at the ends.
She turned toward him, lipstick held slightly in front of her as if that could stop him if he came at her. He knew he was intimidating. He was tall, wide shoulders and a thick chest. Ropes of muscle rippled along his arms, back, chest and down his abdomen. His heart thudded unexpectedly. Hard. An ache he’d never experienced.
She was beautiful. He could see her front, those breasts pushing at her thin tank. The small, tucked in waist that wasn’t in the least hidden by her shirt. She had hips and a very nice ass, which he’d noticed the moment he walked in. She filled those soft blue jeans to perfection. He kept walking right past her and yanked open each of the stall doors. It wouldn’t have mattered to him had they been locked. He still would have made the inspection. Fortunately, they were all empty, she was the only occupant in the room.
Want to read more? Head to Christine’s Website for all of chapter 1!