Monday, December 6, 2010
New Guy/Sparks Fly
(This one’s a longie; probably should have been two entries. Bear with me. Also, major head hopping.)
Nick stood in the doorway to his office and growled out at the newsroom. Another Monday morning, another pile of scat to wade through. He refused to look toward Zeva’s desk, where the little bitch was humming away at her computer with a smug little smirk on her face. So what if she’d scored a date with Dante Hancock? He didn’t give a rip off a bull elk’s throat, and he’d make sure she knew it.
Oh scat. Maggie had just shown up and was beating a path to his office. Too late to duck inside and lock the door. She was – wait a second. “What the hell happened to your hair?”
“Mange powder. Some little monkey skank doused me. Lucky I caught it in time.” The look in her eyes promised dire retribution for said monkey skank. “Mooney wasn’t so fortunate. I doubt if he’ll be presentable by party time. I can’t take a mangy wolf to the ball. I need another date.” She eyed him with frank speculation.
Nick shuddered inwardly. “No. You don’t. Balboa!” he yelled across the newsroom to the intern. The constrictor was coiled on the corner of the new pup’s desk. What was his name? Olsen, right. The photographer. Balboa jumped off the desk and glided over. “You’re covering the Hancock party,” Nick told him. He noticed the new pup had tagged along and added, “Take Olsen with you. I want plenty of pictures.”
Maggie’s jaw dropped. “Darling, you can’t! The party’s my assignment.”
“Not anymore. The plan was, you take Mooney. No Mooney, no party.” He bared his teeth to cut off her protest. “No more arguments, or no more job. Are we clear?”
“There you are, you snake!”
Nick winced. Lycaon bite his balls off, he did not need Leona Lane in full-on bitch mode on a Monday morning. He braced himself for mortal combat while Maggie and her bad hair day stormed off in a huff.
For once, though, he wasn’t her target. She zoomed in on Lamar and let go with both barrels. “What are you, suicidal? Why are you tailing me?”
“Who, me?” He batted his long lashes. “Now why would I follow you around? You know my tastes.”
“I know you’re Maggie’s protégé. She thinks there’s a story, doesn’t she? Tell her to can the scat. I'm not her personal sideshow."
“Por favor, mama, I don’t know what you – ”
“Don’t play dumb. And while you’re at it, ditch the Ricky Ricardo schtick. You’re from Chicago, for Bast’s sake.”
“But the accent makes me sound so sexy.”
“And watch the sibilance. You sound like a leaky balloon.”
“The perils of being a snake, mama.”
“Yeah. I’ll bet you can’t say ‘Mississippi’ in under an hour. Just say ‘good-bye’ so I don’t have to kick what little ass you have.”
“But my ass is so – ” He broke off and stared beyond her shoulder. “Now there is the perfect ass.”
Of course it was a trick, and a pathetic one at that. Leona turned anyway, and was struck by the sight of a gorgeous male ass in tight jeans, headed for Nick. Distraction accomplished, Lamar slipped away.
Perfect, Nick thought. Now my day is complete. He’d never had any fondness for bats. Especially rich bats who owned half the county and thought they were as good as alpha wolves. Bats didn’t even have alphas, for dog’s sake. But they bought a lot of ad space and made for great copy. So Nick gritted his teeth and plastered a smile to his face. “Mr. Wayne. To what do I owe the pleasure?”
“Just thought I’d drop by and catch up on the local headlines.” He gazed around the newsroom like he owned it. Maybe he did, Nick thought. The Waynes had their thumbs stuck up all kinds of unexpected butts. Scat, would you look at the damned flying rat. Worth millions and he dresses like some cowpoke off the range. And makes it look like he’s wearing Armani. How the hell does he pull that off?
Wayne’s proprietary gaze stopped when it found Leona. He smiled. “You must be Leona Lane. I’ve long admired your work.”
Leona gulped, her usual vitriole on hold. “You have?”
“You believe in justice, and exposing the truth. I’m an ardent follower of both.”
“Yeah, that’s our Leona,” Nick said, trying to worm his way back into the conversation. “Well, it’s been great talking to you, but we have to gear up for the next edition. The Hancock bash, y’know. I suppose he froze you out.”
“On the contrary. He extended a personal invitation.”
“To you?” Nick blurted. “I thought you two were – ”
“We are, but you know Damien. Friends close, enemies closer, and all that.” He continued to smile at Leona. “That’s the other reason I’m in town. I’m in need of a date.”
“You? Really? Your fiancée can’t make it?”
Wayne’s eyes hardened momentarily. “Your intel’s out of date, McMahon. Robin and I broke up a while ago.” His gaze had never left Leona. “Perhaps Ms. Lane would like to accompany me? If you don’t have her busy on assignment, that is.”
Nick was then treated to the only bright spot in his Monday: Leona Lane, struck speechless.
But only momentarily. She opened her mouth. Here it came. He grinned. She was going to claw the bat’s balls off.
“I’d be honored, Mr. Wayne. Anything for a fan.”
“Brand,” he corrected. He took her hand and lifted it to his lips. Both Leona and Nick froze in shock. “Perhaps we can discuss it over lunch?”
Transfixed by the exchange – mierda, that bat was smooth – Lamar belatedly became aware of the whir of Jamie Olsen’s digital camera. “Got it,” the red wolf murmured. “Hadda catch that look on her face.”
“Let me see.” Lamar leaned in, closer than needed. He’d always liked furries, and this boy was cute, with a capital K-E-W-T. And dammit, those photos were gold. Brandon Wayne, one of Talbot Peak’s richest eligible bachelors, making a move on the lady reporter. In this town, that was front-page news with a banner headline. With a picture. With Lamar’s byline and not Maggie’s on it. Things like this could make a career.
He smiled into Jamie’s beautiful honey-gold eyes. “I think I love you,” he said.
Perfect, Nick thought. First the dog-damned bat waltzes out with his lead reporter on his arm, and now the snake was practically dry-humping the new photographer. When had his newsroom turned into Hookup Central, and why wasn’t he getting any? He caught Zeva watching him and bellowed, “What the hell are you looking at? Get back to work!”
# # #
BONUS SCENE: MAGGIE MEETS HER DREAM MAN
Maggie bulldozered onto the street. That rat-brained, fleabitten whelp! How dare he? The biggest social event of the year and he hands it off to Lamar? Then threatens to fire her? Oh, the fur was going to fly, all right, and not because of any snippy little monkey skank’s mange powder. It was only a question of which of them she’d make suffer first.
Then she spotted the man leaning on the pickup truck, and revenge got shuttled to the back burner.
Hello, opportunity. Maggie patted her hair, frowned at the loose strands that came off on her fingers, and strolled over. He watched her hips roll with frank appreciation. Step one accomplished; got his attention. Magnificent. “Excuse me, but aren’t you -- ?”
“Lonely? Horny? Looking for action?” He leered at her. “All of the above.”
This would be easier than she’d hoped. “I was going to say, aren’t you Jack Wayne?”
“That too.” He kept his arms folded over his chest and his appraising gaze on her body. There was something just a hair off about him – in his scent, his eyes, his body language. Maggie felt no alarm. Her whole family was off in exactly the same way. Fascinating. One so rarely encountered coyote sensibilities in other shifter species.
She pulled in her tummy and thrust out her boobs. “So what brings you in off the range?”
“My a-hole brother, natch. He likes to patrol the city every now and then. Me, I’m here for the sights.” He nodded at Maggie’s rack. “And I do like what I’m seeing.”
“No cost to look, darling. All set for the Hancock wingding? Oh, that’s right. Your families are still on the outs.”
“Brandy-boy got invited. Guess Damien wants to rub his nose in it. My invite must have gotten lost in the mail.” His machete-slice of a grin widened. “I suppose I’ll just have to crash it.”
“I was planning on the same. You know, crashing a society ball is a lot easier as a couple. More fun, too.”
“I hear that. I’m all about fun. You’re the gossip columnist, right?”
“The public needs to be kept informed. I’m Maggie.”
She extended her hand. The bat took it in a way that implied he wasn’t about to let go of it any time soon. “Yeah. I read your column. You ripped into Brand something fierce. I laughed my butt off for a week. I like the way your mind works, doll. You’re twisted.”
Maggie quivered all over. He was so handsome. And connected. And rich. “So, is it a date, Mr. Wayne? Or may I call you Jack?”
That too-wide grin practically split his face. “Call me Joker.”
Posted by Pat C.