I looked at myself in the mirror. I wore tiny black panties and a tomato red satin garter belt with black lace-up inserts. The price sticker had described the color as scarlet, but really it was tomato red. The garter belt held up black fishnet stockings. A matching bra did its best to push up my small boobs. It didn’t have much to work with. I wasn’t just skinny. When my body was made, someone had read the instructions wrong. I had tiny boobs, narrow hips, and thin chopstick legs with knobby knees.
I looked ridiculous.
The description of the bra had promised “enticing curves” and encouraged me to “flirt with your most stunning cleavage.” I leaned on the bathroom vanity and blew the air out. This sucked so much.
I stared at my reflection in the mirror. “You’re a weretiger. Confident. Aggressive. Roar.”
It could be worse, I told myself. I could’ve gone for the chain mail bikini. The lingerie shop had one of those, too.
The sales clerk had recommended a floaty pink see-through thing with bows. Buying that was out of the question. I was already short and skinny. The see-through thing would swallow me. Besides, that outfit was a baby-doll outfit. Looking cute and sweet was the last thing I wanted to do, because tonight Jim Shrapshire and I had a date.
Jim Shrapshire ran Clan Cat, one of the seven clans in Atlanta’s Shapeshifter Pack. A werejaguar, he normally served as the Pack’s Chief of Security. Jim wasn’t just a badass. He was a badass who wrote a book for badasses on how to be a badder badass. Which is why, when Curran, the Beastlord and the ruler of the Pack, had to go on an expedition to the Mediterranean, he left Jim in charge of fifteen hundred shapeshifters. Curran had been gone for about a month and Jim was keeping the Pack together with iron claws. He was the smartest man I ever met. He was scary, funny, had muscles in places I had no idea muscles existed, and for some weird reason he liked me.
At least I thought he liked me. Things were complicated. As the alpha of Clan Cat, he was in charge of me and he’d been really careful not to take advantage of it. We’d been trying to date, except that Jim was busy and I was busy, too, so we barely managed a date every two to three weeks. When we did connect, we talked about everything under the sun and we made out. He let me set the pace. I decided how far we went and the first few times we got together, we didn’t go very far.
Kissing Jim was my definition of nirvana, but some small part of me never believed he was really there for me. Jim needed his equal: a powerful, aggressive, and sexy woman. He got me, Dali, a skinny vegetarian girl who had to wear glasses with lenses as thick as Coke bottle bottoms, threw up when she smelled blood, and was about as useful in a fight as a fifth leg on a donkey. To top it all off, my own mother, who loved me more than the whole world, wouldn’t describe me as pretty. She told people that I was smart, brave, and educated. Unfortunately none of it helped me right now, because tonight I wanted to be sexy. I wanted to seduce Jim.
I had the whole thing planned. I bought the wine. I cooked a big meal. I even made him a steak. I cooked it last in a separate pan to make sure no meat juices got onto my gnocchi. I may have gagged a few times from the smell and I had to use two forks to move it around because I didn’t want to touch it, but I was pretty sure it was cooked correctly. I chose this outfit, because the model wearing it in the ad looked exactly the way I wanted to be: she was tall, with double-D breasts, plump butt, tiny waist, and she had the kind of face that would make men turn to look at her. The lingerie was great on her.
I glanced back at my reflection. I wanted to knock him off his feet, not make him fall down laughing. If I hadn’t already put mascara on, I would have cried.
None of it might matter anyway. It was twenty minutes past eight o’clock. Jim was late. Maybe he got held up. Maybe he changed his mind on this whole dating thing.
The doorbell rang.
Ah! I spun around the bathroom, grabbed my blue silk kimono, slipped into it, and ran down the stairs.
The doorbell chimed again. I checked the peephole. My heart skipped a beat. Jim!
I swung the door open. He stood on my doorstep, tall, dark, and so hot, it made me weak in the knees. I’d been crushing on him for years and every time I saw him, my breath still caught. His scent washed over me, the sandalwood, light musk, and creamy vanilla of his deodorant; the hint of citrus and spearmint in his shampoo; and the fragrance of his skin, a complicated mix of tangy sweat and slightly harsh male smell, blending into a multi-layered chorus that sang, “Jim” to me. All of my smart words disappeared and I turned into a half-wit.
“Hey!” Oh, great. Hay is for horses.
“Hi.” He shouldered his way into the house. He wore dark jeans, a black T-shirt, and a leather jacket over it. Jim usually wore black. His skin was a dark, rich brown, his black hair cut short, leaving his masculine face open.
He leaned forward. I stood on my toes and brushed a kiss on his lips. He didn’t kiss me back. Something was wrong.
“I’ve got a bottle of Cabernet Franc,” I said. Jim cooked like a chef and liked wine. The man at the wine store told me this was an award-winning wine. “From Tiger Mountain Winery.”
He nodded. I didn’t even get a smirk.
What if he were breaking up with me?
“I’ll go get it.” My voice turned squeaky. “Go ahead and sit down.”
I went into the kitchen, got the two wineglasses, and poured the deep red wine into the glasses. He couldn’t possibly be breaking up with me.
I grabbed the glasses and went into the living room.