Hard Mated - Page 23

Chapter Ten

No question. “I saw a fighter,” she said. “A jaguar kicking a bear’s ass. Then you turned into a powerful man covered in blood. Scary as hell.”

“You walked right up to me and handed me a bottle of water.”

“Took all my courage to do it. I had to pretend you were a horse.”

The remote look fled. Spike blinked. “A horse? What the f**k?”

“Don’t get your ego into a big twist. I have to work with difficult horses sometimes. Mean shits—the stallions can be tricky, but some mares . . . Man, you don’t want to get on their bad sides. Geldings are the easiest to work with.”

“Don’t even look at me and say gelding.”

“Calm down.” Myka grinned and held up her hands. “See? No scalpel, no anesthetic. What I meant was, when I have to approach a horse that’s dangerous, I have to walk right up to him like I’m not afraid. They sense your fear and use it against you. You have to be head of the herd and let them know you’re not going to take their shit.”

Spike’s tension didn’t ease. “You have to show you’re dominant.”

“Exactly. Just because I’m five-foot-two and they outweigh me about ten times doesn’t make any difference.”

“Huh. You’d make a good Shifter.”

“I figured, if it worked with horses, it might work with Shifters. The difference is that Shifters can think like humans do, so that makes you way more dangerous.”

“So, I’m smarter than a horse,” Spike said dryly. “Thanks.”

Myka shrugged. “It’s the way I think.”

His eyes glinted. “How long did it take you to figure out I was smarter than a horse?”

“Mmm . . . Couple minutes?”

“Dumb-ass fighter, that’s Spike.”

Myka put her hand on his thigh. “I was teasing.”

“I know.”

His voice gentled again, and Spike put his hand over hers. The warmth of him slid through her body like a soft summer night.

“It’s what Gavan sees,” Spike said after a time. “Even what Liam sees.”

“Who’s Gavan?”

“Asshole who wants me to turn on Liam and go work for him.” Spike lifted his hand from hers and stretched his arm along the back of the swing. “Gavan didn’t come out and say it, but that’s what he wants.”

“Is this something you want to do?”

“It doesn’t work that way. I’m a tracker. Means I don’t quit when I’m bored.”

“Hey, I’m new to Shifters. Don’t bite me.”

Spike slid his arm off the top of the swing to enclose her in the circle of it. Myka had a sudden, giddy vision of Spike leaning down and nipping her neck, showing her how Shifters bit, but he only caressed her shoulder.

“Trackers are top fighters of the clans,” he said. “They’re chosen by the leader, and they stick with that leader forever, and with the next Shifter who ousts that leader. Trackers are inherited.”

“And Liam inherited you?”

Spike traced another circle around her bare shoulder. “Yeah, from a Shifter called Fergus after Liam ousted him. I haven’t worked for Liam very long, ’bout a year now. That’s why I say he doesn’t really know me. Hasn’t had time yet, and he doesn’t completely trust me.”

“But you’re pledged to Liam now, right? How can he not trust you?”

“Because when I worked for Fergus, I helped him do things against Liam and his family. Fergus was always afraid of Liam’s family because he knew they had the true power in the clan. So he was always trying to hurt them. Liam says he understands that I had to do what Fergus told me, but understanding and forgiving are two different things. Gavan used to work for Fergus too. So for all Liam knows, we’re cut from the same cloth.”

Spike went silent again, caressing Myka’s skin as though drawing comfort from it.

“If you pledged yourself to Liam,” Myka said, “then there’s no decision. You can’t turn around and work for this other guy.”

“It’s all bullshit anyway,” Spike said. “I know Gavan’s stringing me along, telling me he wants me to work for him. Enforcer, my ass. He wants me to do his dirty work, then he’ll be done with me.”

“Then your answer’s easy. Don’t do it.”

“Liam expects me to do his dirty work too.”

“Don’t do either,” Myka said.

Spike’s lips quirked. “It’s more complicated than that. If I tell Liam I quit, every other Shifter will start thinking Liam can’t hold it together. There’ll be a hierarchy battle before you can say shit, then bloodshed and maybe death, never mind about the Collars. I think that’s why Gavan keeps wanting to talk to me—to make me start thinking about my place, and wanting something better.”

“Playing to your ambition and greed.” Myka sighed. “I know all about that.”

Spike’s brows went down, his attention pulled from his own problems. “What are you talking about?”

“Stables where I train. I’ve spent my whole life there, first learning to ride then learning to be a trainer. It’s the only place I’ve ever been happy. But the current owner inherited it from his dad and isn’t interested in horses. He wants to sell to a developer who will plow it over and build strip malls. The owner will get a boatload of money, and we’re out a place to train.”

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