Shifter Date: Must Love Lions – Chapter 1
Max was a “tit man.” He appreciated all kinds, large and small. There was just something about a woman and her breasts that got his engines roaring. The woman who was interviewing him for an article covering his newest creation was no exception.
“Alexis Parrish, from Avenues X-Change,” she said, coming forward into his office. There was nothing petite about this woman’s rack. It jiggled in all the right ways as she moved.
Max waved the tall, leggy reporter into his office. She was late. Hardly surprising when she’d made it clear she’d prefer not to be here. Someone had forced Alexis to do this interview, and she didn’t look happy about it.
Max had expected that, too.
He was a shifter. She was human. The division between the two species was a chasm fast growing into a bottomless abyss, and everyone was happy with the status quo. Except for Max. Hell, when he’d talked to her on the phone she’d been honest enough about her views on shifter and human relations, as in, never-gonna-happen-bucko. Yet she’d still agreed to an interview with him. He was one to appreciate a woman who knew her own mind and wasn’t afraid to voice it. Even more so when that woman had a voice like velvet and a body fit for any man’s wet dream.
Hence, this meeting with Alexis to interview him about his new paranormal dating app ShifterDate.com presented a very real opportunity to break down the walls between the two species. Not a popular viewpoint, but if anyone could change Alexis’s mind about achieving the impossible, Max believed he was the lion to do it.
What he hadn’t been expecting was that Alexis Parrish would be quite so…delicious in person. Her scent filled his nostrils and his nose twitched, followed by his cock. A subtle shift in his pants that had him resisting the urge to adjust himself. He scented coffee, cake and the distinct smell of a human female. It hit the back of Max’s throat and spread like honey.
His smile filled with confidence, and he stood up, holding out his hand.
“Alexis. I’m Max Forster—”
“I know who you are, Mr. Forster.” She plonked herself in the seat opposite, shoving his name plate out of the way to make room for pen and paper.
Max jerked back his hand, a dozen rude responses rushing to the tip of his tongue. Then her vivid blue eyes hit him and his exasperation disappeared. Max had always had a thing about blue eyes, probably on account of everyone in the Pride having eyes in varying shades of gold and brown. But Alexis’s gaze was something else. Crystal clear. Devastatingly gorgeous.
Max landed back in his seat with a whoomph, feeling like he’d taken a punch to the solar plexus. In contrast, Alexis appeared completely unaffected. Bored almost. She tapped her pencil on the desk, waiting for Max to organize himself. She was giving him a we-going-to-sit-here-all-day kind of look.
Humph. He leaned back and crossed his arms, his worst fears about the coming interview confirmed. Alexis Parrish wanted blood. Shifter blood. Max had met her type before. She would either ask loaded questions, or pave her questions with twists and turns that would have Max blundering in circles until he dropped the juicy tidbit of information she was digging for. It would be something bad. Something that would make Max and his family look like a vicious pride of lions, using Shifter Date to hunt for prey.
However, Max could guarantee his predatory nature had nothing on Alexis. She was known as the best reporter in the business for a reason. Her articles and on-line blogs cut through solid steel at fifty paces.
And Max had intentionally put himself up to be ripped to shreds.
Looking across the clutter of his desk to the editorial assassin sitting opposite him, he had a rare moment of self-doubt. Then he shook it off. He was King of the Jungle.
Hear me roar!
Max flexed his fingers, claws pricking beneath his skin. He would take a bite out of tasty, tempting Alexis, and it had nothing to do with her appetizing smell. Okay, well maybe a little.
He wasn’t going to deny the fact Alexis Parrish was an attractive woman, with her large blue eyes, generous mouth and long dark hair a man could imagine wrapping his fists in. Max shifted subtly in his seat to alleviate the bite of his zipper digging into his swollen cock.
“So, how does it work?” Alexis leaned forward, engaging him with a polite smile.
That’s right. Come a little closer.
“How does what work?” Max forced himself to concentrate. Alexis would be quick, dangerous as a snake when she struck, and he needed to be ready.
“The whole shifter thing. You know, teeth, claws, bursting into fur?” She raised one perfectly plucked brow.
Max barely stopped from rolling his eyes. Not that it would matter if she noticed. Nothing short of a miracle would make a difference to Alexis’s opinion of him. And why did he care, anyway?
“Are you here to write an article on Shifter Date, or are you looking for a fluff piece?” he asked evenly.
“Fluff piece. Ha. You made a joke. I might use that.” Alexis made a show of jotting it down in her notebook.
Max fought the urge to snap her pencil in half, or leap over his desk and kiss her smartass mouth. Her needling should be sharpening his wit and dulling his attraction to her. Instead, it was having the opposite effect. “But seriously.” She tapped the table, bringing his attention back to her. “How can you condone the idea of bringing different species together? It’s dangerous. Untested.” Alexis shook her head. “It’s crossing the species barrier,” she ended, matter-of-fact.
Max threw his head back and laughed. Species barrier, seriously?
Her comment was right in Max’s wheelhouse. “How can you condone holding people apart? You’re right. Love is dangerous. And wild. And spectacular.” He found himself leaning halfway across his desk. Max had a habit of letting his enthusiasm for his idea run away with him. He raked his hands through his thick mane of blonde hair, smoothing it down. “Do you know many couples that are happy?” He eased back in his chair. “Truly happy?” He goaded when she opened her mouth to answer. “Besides, humans and shifters have been mating for hundreds of years.” He shrugged. He couldn’t help that he was speaking the truth, even if it was something ‘taboo.’ That in itself made it more appealing. Unrequited love and all that jazz.
She gaped like a fish for a few moments before mashing her luscious lips closed. Ha. He thought so.
“You know this how?” Alexis finally asked, raising her brow in question.
Max leaned toward her in a conspiratorial way saying, “Hey, once you go shifter, you never go back.” He gave a feral grin at her sharply indrawn breath. He considered her in silence for a moment before continuing.
“And what about you?” he pressed. “Are you happy, Alexis? Do you have someone who makes you feel special? Sated? Satisfied?” Max drew the last word over his tongue like a sensual caress.
Alexis’s eyes widened. “How about we stick to me asking the questions,” she choked out.
“Ask away.” Max opened himself up, feeling magnanimous after seeing the subtle blush of red creeping up her throat. He had rattled her. And he liked it.
She tilted her head, baring a delicate neck that Max had the sudden urge to bury his head in. Her scent continued to tease his senses and he would like nothing more than to lick up the line of her throat, following the color up and over her jaw—
“Why do you want this? Your family is already famous in their own right, so why rock the boat?” Alexis jarred Max out of his musing with her questions.
He blinked, drawing his focus back to her words. “Why not? I’m merely trying to illustrate the fact that love is love. You know when you’ve found it.” He quirked his lips upward. “And when you haven’t. By all accounts, you don’t have a lot of luck in love, but how do you know your perfect match isn’t a shifter? It could be me.” Max paused, taking in the subtle gasp she tried so hard to hide. “You don’t,” he pushed further when Alexis scowled. “None of us do.”
She shook her head, seeming unconvinced. “My readers believe interspecies dating will lead to humans getting hurt by shifters. That you can’t control yourself in the height of passion.” Her eyes flicked down past his chin, stopping at the point where Max’s suit met the top of his desk.
“Oh, I assure you, I‘m always in perfect control.” He had the urge to stand and show her exactly the kind of control he was exercising right now. “Besides, humans are just as hurtful as any other animal, Alexis. Pick a news site and I’ll guarantee ‘your kind’ are responsible for more deaths than we are.”
Alexis bit down on her bottom lip, her gaze shifting to her notes.
“That may be true, but I still don’t think you’ll get any interest in your app from humans. Or shifters. Isn’t your own family against this enterprise you’re so eager to launch?” She plucked that fact out of her sleeve and flourished it at Max like a magic trick.
Someone must have been talking behind his back. Max chewed on that for a moment, before swiping the thought away to be dealt with later.
“Anyone who joins my app will be voyaging into the realms of the unknown. Didn’t Columbus once get in a boat and do the same thing?” He changed tack, settling for honesty, the purpose behind creating his new app. “Look. Love sells stories and I know Shifter Date will bring true love to a lot of couples who might never have met. Surely your readers would be more open to the idea if you explained it to them like that.” Max flashed a hopeful grin.
Alexis looked stunned and he dialed down his smile a little. Humans often found a good show of teeth intimidating, although threatened wasn’t quite the expression Alexis wore. She rubbed the back of her neck, her ears turning pink. He watched her breasts lift and fall invitingly and he shifted in his seat. If Max didn’t know any better, he would swear she was turned on. He sucked in a sweet breath of air, rolling the scent of her heat over his tongue, relishing it.
She mimicked his own movement and shifted in her seat. “I’m not going to promise a good write up. Or a bad one,” she added, when Max opened his mouth to protest. “I report things as I see them. And in this, I have to admit to agreeing with the majority of my readers. And yours. Although I can see that dating someone like you could hold a certain…” Here, Alexis’s eyes ventured south again, and her tongue came out to touch her lips. “Um…attraction. We have certain beliefs—”
“So you wouldn’t give Shifter Date a chance?” Max asked, challenging. Would you give me a chance, he thought.
She shook her head and his shoulders dipped. While Alexis’s attitude wasn’t a big surprise, he was more disappointed in her response than he’d expected. Then again, Max had experienced exactly the same bigotry from his family and the other clans who regularly used Shifter Date—without engaging the human functionality.
He didn’t understand why no one else saw things the way he did. Love wanted what love wanted, and it didn’t give a shit about gender, race or species. Lust was the same. He desired Alexis, and if Max was human, he’d be willing to bet nothing would have stopped them from tearing each other’s clothes off and going at it in his office. Right here. Right now.
And didn’t that thought send a ball of heat straight through his gut to his balls.
That was what Max wanted. The whole pulse-pounding, full-noise passion of finding his soul-mate—not some prearranged sham with someone his father thought was the best choice for him.
“You said you were the best reporter in the business. You also said you were fair.” He placed his hands palm down on the table, leaning in. “All I’m asking is that you write a balanced viewpoint.” Max surveyed her with a knowing smile. “I bet this is the most time you’ve ever spent with a shifter.”
Alexis sat back further in her chair. She brushed her thumb across her lips and Max wondered if she was thinking the same as him. Fuck convention. Let’s get together. He was getting to her. The faint blush in her cheeks gave her away, along with the sweet smell of desire. Max wanted to suck in the air and roll in it. He rubbed a hand through his hair, digging his fingertips into his scalp.
“All I’m asking for is enough time to make my case. Perhaps you could join Shifter Date and give it a test run.”
Perhaps she would throw convention aside and take him for a test drive. That sounded better.
Alexis put down her pencil, no longer making any pretense of writing notes. She had a big, fat no stamped all over her face.
“The whole swipe right, swipe left thing doesn’t really appeal to me.”
“Shifter Date isn’t about booty calls. Think of it more as a call to the wild side of love.” Max smiled and nodded toward her pen. “You can write that down too, if you like.” He winked.
Alexis blinked again, and then surprisingly did as he asked.
She tapped her pencil against her chin. “Okay. I’ll admit you have me intrigued, but not enough to sign up for your app,” she hurried on when Max sat back with a triumphant smile.
Max frowned. Probably for the best. He didn’t like the idea of introducing Alexis to other shifters anyway. Males of both species would be pinging her inbox like bees to honey. On the other hand, he did want to convince her that the thought of dating shifters wasn’t as taboo as she had been brought up to believe.
He leaned his elbows on the table. “I’m surprised you’re not jumping at the opportunity. Everyone enjoys a great love story and I know your magazine is no different.” Max dropped his voice. “And who knows, maybe you will find love. Or a whole other side to the bedroom.”
He almost missed the subtle shift that ran through her, as if an electric current had buzzed her veins.
“Oh, I enjoy the odd foray into the wild side,” she said, meeting his stare openly. A challenge?
The impact of those clear blue eyes hit Max again. He took a breath to steady himself, heat unfurling in his stomach. He curved his fingers into claws, imagining it was Alexis’s flesh that lay beneath his fingers. He would smooth his hands across her body. Stroking. Petting. Caressing.
As if she had heard his thoughts, Alexis took a shuddering breath and shuffled in her seat. She scratched in another note on her pad, her fingers trembling.
What Max would have given to see what she’d wrote.
“What kind of investigative reporter are you, if you don’t at least try dating a shifter. Not even a date,” he urged when her lips pressed together. “Just spend some time. With me.” Max caught her gaze and the slow simmering attraction between them ignited with a rush of heat. His breath caught as something sparked in the deep blue depths of her eyes.
“You?” she asked slowly, as though she were rolling the idea around on her tongue.
“Yes.” The cat inside Max rubbed against his skin with an answering rumble. He shivered. “I won’t stand in your way of publishing the outcome. Good or bad.”
Even though he risked throwing everything away. What was the worst that could happen? The date turned to shit, she wrote a bad review, bringing dishonor to his family’s name and their event management business.
Alexis drummed her fingers on the table, interest narrowing her gaze. Max stared across the desk, trying to decide if he’d stepped into a well set trap.
Too late to change his mind. Not that he would have passed up the opportunity to see Alexis again anyway. The drumming stopped and Alexis leaned forward, a glint in her beautiful blue eyes.
“Okay. You have me intrigued. Although I should warn you, our magazine ran an article last month about the scientific fact that out of every ten people, there will be one you can love and one that you will hate. The rest fall somewhere in-between.” Her drumming resumed. “I wonder which side of the ledger you’ll fall on, Mr. Forster.”
Max remained optimistic. “Red hot, I would have thought.”
Alexis let out a short laugh. “Or the black kiss of death.”
Max rubbed at his chin, envisioning the touch of her soft-looking lips pressed against his, her tongue sliding into his mouth. A shiver of need worked its way down his spine. She might yet be the kiss of death for him, but not in any way Alexis imagined.
“One out of ten? I like those odds. But, let me warn you.” A slow smile curled at Max’s lips. “I’m not aiming for the middle of the bell curve, Alexis. If you agree to this date, I’ll be shooting to score number one.”
His heart was thumping as he watched emotions wash over her face. She frowned, her brow pulling together. Intrigue. Interest. Possibilities. It surprised him how much he wanted her to say yes.
“You get one date,” she said finally. “No. Not a date! A meeting. For the magazine. So don’t try any funny, shifter business.”
Max slapped his hand against his chest to stop the fist pump he wanted to pull.
“Ouch. My ego.”
“Hardly. I’ve heard what they say about lions and their pride.”
Alexis smiled and reached across the desk, offering her hand.
Max clasped her fingers tightly when she went to pull away. “There are a lot of other things people say about lions,” he purred. “Let’s hope you get to find out exactly what they are.”