Merikano ‘Dare’ Varadi has finally met his match. The cheetah shifter assigned to protect and serve falls for Krissy Shuemaker, the boss’ client. Protecting her from herself seems futile, yet he’s determined to do what it takes. Trading the comfort of home for the journey of self-discovery, Krissy is ready to follow her dreams on a new path. When unexpected danger finds her, can the man who ignites feelings best left dead save her from herself? Or will his dark secret shatter any hope for a relationship and prevent them from joining for eternity?
Dare followed at a distant pace, watching Krissy move along the people crowding the paved walkway. He watched her flutter around with her fuzzy hood, taking pictures of any and everything. Damned crazy woman. He froze his gonads off while following her.
He picked up his cell and got the voicemail for the CEO. “You so owe me, you lucky bastard. Next time you wish a tail on someone, make it someone who uses a car and has enough sense to stay out of the elements instead of some quirky crazy chick that’s snapping pictures of people she doesn’t know.” He slammed his phone shut and weaved through the people. He couldn’t wait to catch up to her and grill her for her inept way of placing herself in danger.
His wish came true as she turned and boarded the A-Train. Finally, he shook his head. He had a way to confront her without causing a stir, a way to talk with her and not give away his position. Deryck and his damned ideas! He blew warm air on his hands and rubbed them together. For damn sure he’d be wearing a full-length leather trench tomorrow, provided he couldn’t sway her to stay indoors.
He leaned against a pole in the fifth car. The jam-packed car made it hard to move at this time of day. He watched through the glass, using his hawk’s eye, where she stood three cars up, her camera poised as she snapped pictures of the train’s occupants. He wondered when someone would take her camera and shove it up her ass. She’d been riding the same car all week, taking pictures of the same people. Of course, they could think that she was some freak stalker. He heaved his lean body off the stationary metal pole and walked, holding onto the hand straps as he went from train-car to train-car. He stopped in her car and just watched her watching others. “A watcher of people, not birds,” he whispered, a hairsbreadth from behind her.
Krissy turned around, mace out and ready. “Excuse me?”
“If you watch them or take any more pictures, they might mob you.” He then motioned to the annoyed faces and tense bodies of the train’s inhabitants.
Krissy looked at him and narrowed her eyes. “I know you…” She frowned, as if trying to place where she knew him.
“Dare,” he replied, trying to help her to remember.
“Ohh, you look different with clothes on.” She laughed out loud, oblivious to the questioning gazes of the fellow passengers whose attention was now riveted on the tall, dark man looming over the petite brunette who’d been invading their privacy.
“Do I now?” Dare laughed and then plucked a broken branch from the fur surrounding her face. “Warm enough there, Eskimo?”
Krissy laughed. “Well, you were in nothing but a sheet last time I saw you and then you dropped it.” She blushed.
“Was it so bad?” He couldn’t help but to egg her on.
“You’re the perfect image of the man my ma said to stay away from. You know, you and Truth had a lot of fun making fun of my innocence when you both double teamed me at the shoot.” She shook her head and moved a step away from him.
“We didn’t tag team you, per say. We just persuaded you to try and think of new things.”
Krissy choked. “I had on the most God awful ensemble for the shoot, Mr. Romance Novel model,” she pushed.
“Like you said, I’m every woman’s dream,” he quipped back.
“You’re ruining my project,” she replied with a frown.
“You’re project isn’t safe.” He couldn’t help but gaze into her eyes and take in her flushed face.
“It’s safe enough that I’m not harming anything.” She was becoming exasperated.
“Okay, tell me that running in Central Park or going through Battery Park at dusk is a safe thing for a lone female to do?”
“Spying on me, Dare?” She raised a brow, the mace container still primed and aimed for his face. She smirked, obviously certain he couldn’t see her little device in the palm of her gloved hand.
Dare’s reflexes were quick—lightning quick, to be exact. He took her off balance and pulled her small body against his lean one. Her back hit his chest as his arms wrapped around her wrist. Krissy turned inward to break his hold, but encountered his thighs, preventing her from moving, the steel pole and seats preventing her from going elsewhere. The occupants seemed to be enjoying her folly. She stepped on the instep of his foot and jabbed back with her elbow, encountering rock hard abs.
“Okay,” she grumbled.
Dare didn’t fall for her mechanisms. As he let her loose, he gripped the hold on her wrist so that the tube cylinder would roll out onto the floor. He caught it with the instep of his boot and launched it upward into his palm before handing it back to her. “You don’t need to be spied on. You do the most insane things that are apparent. If you want to live long, then blend in. If you don’t, then keep doing what you are doing and you’ll end up raped and mutilated before you can say help,” he enunciated.
“I have mace,” she said.
“That would be the same mace I just disarmed you with. In a public setting full of people,” he vocalized. “Mace won’t help you against beasts of the night, sweetheart.”
“Quit following me. What are you, a stalker?” she shrieked and gathered her things closer to her.
Dare looked at her. “Look, I’m not stalking you, Krissy. I just have been in the neighborhood and witnessed for myself the way you innocently place yourself in harm’s way.”
Krissy flushed red with annoyance. “I’m not changing my schedule for a what if. The chances of someone attacking me are zilch. I’m perfectly safe with my own safety devices and besides, I know self-defense.” She crossed her arms in defiance.
“Suit yourself, sweetheart. Just don’t get mad when I say I told you so.” He tapped his finger on the tip of her nose and jaunted past her to make his way out of the subway. They were a block away from her apartment building—a building he’d moved into recently.