The Tiger’s Offer – Lila Jean, J.A. Cipriano

Tina Andrews threw back yet another tequila shot and blushed as a gorgeous blond man with a six pack ripped off his pants on the stage below. His form shimmered, and his head quickly morphed into a wolf while the rest of him stayed human. Tina gasped. She had seen a lot in her time working for her best friend’s werewolf father, but she had never seen that. “I can’t believe we’re here!” she laughed, turning to her friend Amy. “I didn’t even know werewolf strippers were a thing.” “Why not?” Amy snorted from the plush red chair beside her. “You humans have male strip clubs. Why can’t we wolves?” She paused for a second, clearly liking what she saw on stage before winking at me. “Besides, our men are hotter.” “Can’t argue with that.” Tina leaned against the edge of the balcony, admiring the werewolf shifter’s glistening pecs as another man joined him on stage. The new guy’s square jaw and handsome features belonged in a magazine or on a billboard, which made sense since she had yet to see an unattractive shifter. As the first shifter strutted across the stage and let out a piercing howl, Tina couldn’t help but shiver from a combination of fear and excitement. And maybe the tequila.

“That’s how it’s done! Hot damn!” Amy shouted, fist pumping the air with her pink martini. Amy sipped her drink and leaned out over the balcony, glancing at the dancers winding their way through the tables below before turning her eyes back to the stage. “Is this not the best thing ever?” Tina nodded. “It seriously is. I can never have a normal man after this.” She pointed at the dancer on stage. His abs were just so … yum. “How can a human compare to that?” “They can’t,” Amy said with a smirk as she tossed her blonde hair over one shoulder. “Like I told you before we came, our men are hotter.” “I know, I know.

You were right. Happy?” Tina laughed, a blush burning her cheeks as she lifted another tequila shot to her mouth. “Then again, while shifters are fine and all, what about the demigods?” Tina downed the tequila, and as it warmed her all the way down, Amy rolled her eyes. “Traitor.” Amy smirked. “But yeah, if there was a demigod strip club, this place would be out of business.” She fanned herself. “But they don’t have them, so …” “It’s too bad though,” Tina said with a sigh. “I mean, demigods are the descendants of actual gods and goddesses. That sounds pretty damn sexy.

” “It is,” Amy said, playfully smacking Tina’s shoulder and pointing to the stage. “But now’s not the time to worry about it. Focus on the naked men.” “All jokes aside, consider me converted. It’s shifters only for me from now on.” Tina chuckled, a mischievous smile on her face as the handsome men below rolled their hips to the pulsing beat blasting through the speakers. “Can we get closer to the stage? Why are we stuck up here in the nosebleeds?” “It’s a VIP balcony, Tina, not the cheap seats. We’re high rollers, honey, which means private dances and the best booze. Besides, Daddy says I have to be discreet. He’s making some political bids in the next few months, and I need to pretend to be wholesome.

” Amy sighed, clearly not as happy with the situation as she’d like. “Your dad is screwed, then,” Tina said with a grin. Amy threw back her head, laughter spilling from her lips. “He really is, but I’m going to at least try.” On the stage below, the music changed as four gorgeous men in nothing but fireman pants strutted into the spotlight. Amy set her martini glass on the table between them. “I’m going to the bathroom. Be right back.” “Want me to come with you?” Tina asked, suddenly feeling alone. After all, she was the only human in a den of wolves.

The werewolf heiress rolled her eyes. “I’m walking twenty feet to a toilet, not down some dark alley alone at three in the morning. I’ll be right back.” Before Tina could protest, Amy hopped out of her chair and disappeared through the door leading into the hallway. Tina couldn’t suppress the niggle of worry that snaked through her when her friend left. They had ditched Amy’s bodyguards since they would have ratted Amy out to her father in a heartbeat. That meant she and Amy didn’t have any protection at all. Essentially, they were just two girls alone in a massive city crawling with predators, and worse, she was just a normal human. Amy, at least, was a werewolf. “It’s going to be fine,” Tina told herself, and then, to settle her nerves, she performed her “going solo” ritual.

First, she felt her pocket for the werewolf mace she always carried with her in the wolves’ kingdom of Wolfcrest. As she felt the small tube press against her palm, she let out a satisfied sigh before whipping out her phone and checking her contacts for a familiar name: Anthony. Good. She hadn’t accidentally deleted his contact information. If she had, there’d be no one she could call if something happened. “See, nothing happened!” Amy said, sweeping back into the room and flopping down in her chair like she owned the place. “Good.” Tina tilted her phone toward her bestie, Anthony’s name still on the screen. “I had you covered in case anything went wrong, though—” Amy rolled her eyes. “Nothing ever goes wrong.

” “But if it does—” “Then call him, yes. But we’ll be fine, like always.” Amy shook head. “Honestly, Tina, I don’t know why you’re so worried. This is a strip club. Nothing will happen here. I mean, there’s dozens of people around.” “Better safe than sorry,” Tina said with a shrug. Sure, there might have been dozens of people there, but all of them were shifters. While it was unlikely any of them would rip her to shreds with their bare hands, the fact that they could was scary enough.

It was why she had been so reluctant to come here, despite the promise of so many exquisite men. “Besides,” Amy said, breaking Tina’s train of thought. “Even if something does happen, you can’t forget rule number one.” “Don’t call your father,” Tina said for the millionth time. “Although…” “If you do, I swear I’ll—” “I know, I know. Don’t call your dad. Got it.” Amy shuddered and downed the rest of her martini. “Talk about a nightmare.” “Only if he thought you’d get kidnapped, I suppose.

” Tina laughed. “He would chain you in the basement if it would keep him from having to pay a ransom.” “I know you’re joking, but you’re honestly not far off. Now please, Tina. Naked men! Look at the pretty pecs!” Amy pointed down below again, drawing Tina’s eyes to the stage once more. As her gaze settled on a new wolf with rippling abs and sun-kissed skin, Tina smiled and leaned against the edge of the balcony, finally letting herself relax. “Excuse me,” said a voice as the door opened, and as they turned toward it, they found themselves staring at a muscled waiter wearing only tight black pants and a bowtie. “Which one of you is Amy?” “I am,” Amy said, giving him a once over before gesturing at him with her martini. “Can we get another round?” “Well, sure, but I have something better.” He smiled mischievously.

“Unless you don’t want the private dance that comes with your VIP seat …” He let the words hang in the air as Amy’s eyes lit up. “Guess I’ll be back in a bit, Tina. Enjoy yourself. After all, Daddy’s paying.” With that, Amy moved toward the door, passing by the waiter as she headed into the hallway. Tina chuckled and shook her head. “More booze for me, then. I’ll switch to tequila slammers, though.” “Of course,” the waiter said with a slight bow of his head before he followed Amy into the hallway. Man, I could get used to the high life, Tina thought wistfully.

Too bad her bank account was in the three digits. Still, this was no time to dwell on that, not when she had access to nearly unlimited booze and a stage full of eye candy. As the minutes ticked by and the empty ball glasses on her table multiplied, Tina couldn’t help but wonder how long a private dance lasted. It had to have been a half hour at least, maybe an hour. Biting her lip, she glanced at her phone as yet another song ended. As the curtains closed temporarily and the waiter returned to pick up the glasses beside her, she gasped in surprise. It had been over two hours. “Say,” Tina said, catching the man’s attention, “where’s my friend?” The waiter smirked. “She’s … preoccupied. She called for a car to take you home.

” An embarrassed smile flashed across his face. “I was supposed to tell you …” He smacked his head with one palm. “I just forgot what with everything going on …” That killed Tina’s buzz. Amy would never bail. Sure, she would drink all of Tina’s booze, borrow clothes for years at a time, and had nearly gotten them arrested twice, but she would never just leave Tina on her own, especially in werewolf territory. Alone, Tina was a human in a werewolf den, and while she may have had a ride out, it seemed off. No. Amy wouldn’t do this, and she especially wouldn’t do this here. A wrong place, wrong time situation out here in Wolfcrest was a death sentence more often than not, and Amy had never once left Tina alone. Red flags waving in the back of her mind, Tina frowned at the waiter.

“Take me to my friend, please.” “She asked not to be disturbed. Sorry, Miss, but this is what your friend told us to do.” He set down the tray and smiled. “But if you’re ready to leave, I’d be happy to escort you out. There’s only a couple more dances anyway.” His nostrils flared, and Tina got the distinct impression he was smelling her. “There’s nothing to be scared of, but I’d understand if you are.” He gestured at his washboard abs and perfectly touchable pecs. “We wolves do have something of a reputation.

” Sure, his words were gentle enough, but Tina got the hint. He wasn’t asking her to leave. He was telling her to leave. Fine. She’d leave … but not without Amy. After all, in the five years she’d worked for Amy’s father, Tina had ducked more bodyguards than she could count. One little waiter, however ripped, wouldn’t be a problem. She smiled sweetly, doing her best to impersonate a drunk college girl. “Oh, okay. In that case, lead the way.

” “Great. Right this way.” He said, waiting for her to stand before leading her through the doorway. Tina followed behind him as he led her down the stairs, eyes peeled for a stage door entrance. As he led her through the hallways, she patted her pocket again to make sure the werewolf mace hadn’t fallen out, and as she felt its satisfying weight, she took a deep breath, calming her nerves. She could do this. She could find Amy. Sure, maybe Amy really had sent for a car for her. If that was the case, her friend would definitely understand Tina checking in before she left. If Amy hadn’t sent the car … well, Tina almost didn’t want to think about that.

As they rounded a corner into the main theatre, crowds of women hovered near the bar for one last drink or filed toward the exit. The waiter nudged his way through them, apparently eager to get Tina out of the club. With ever-slowing steps, Tina blended with the crowd and scanned the walls, desperate for a door that would lead her backstage. Though she didn’t know her way around this club, she assumed the private rooms had to be somewhere near the stage. Bingo. A nondescript door by the bar had a black sign on it with the words Employees Only. Tina inched toward it, careful to keep an eye on both the waiter’s oblivious head bobbing in the crowd and the bartender as he poured a few final shots. When the bartender finally looked away, she pushed through the door and gently shut it behind her as fast as she could. A dimly lit hallway stretched in both directions, running the length of the building with doors every ten feet or so. All but one stood open.

Deep in her gut, she knew Amy was in trouble. Worse, she probably wouldn’t have long to figure out where her bestie had gone before someone saw her. With no idea of where to go, Tina moved toward the first door. The Sapphire Room, according to the shimmering silver letters printed on a dark gray plaque by the door, led to a small empty space lined with black leather sofas. Blue lights overhead cast a cool glow on the dark walls, and as Tina looked at them, she realized each of the doors along this hallway probably led to the private dance rooms. “You like?” a man asked from the next room over, his gravelly voice muffled by the closed door. “Very much,” Amy said, her reply equally muted. A blush crept up Tina’s neck. Apparently, the waiter hadn’t been lying about Amy being preoccupied, but something about this whole mess still set off alarm bells in the back of Tina’s mind. The waiter had been trying to get rid of her, and she refused to believe Amy had told him to send Tina home.

No. She wouldn’t believe that until Amy said it to her face. Resolving to do just that, Tina inched toward the door, eyes scanning the empty Sapphire Room one more time. Part of her wanted to enter and break up Amy’s fun in the name of safety, but at the same time, if Amy had wanted her to leave … “You three are gorgeous, really,” Amy said, her voice louder now, “but I want to share you with my friend. Where is that waiter? He said he would get her at least thirty minutes ago.” “She’ll be along,” another man said, his voice deeper than the first. “She was really into the show and wanted to watch it all before coming backstage. There are still a few acts left.” Liar. Tina bit her lip.

From the sound of it, Amy was in a room with at least three werewolves who were definitely up to something. There was just one problem. She was a human and they were all wolves. If something happened, she’d need help. The last thing she wanted to do was bust in and get immediately overpowered. After all, there had been videos of a few of the larger shifters shaking off werewolf mace, despite the reassurances from the company who made it. It seemed like the strong ones were barely fazed by it, and she had no idea who was in the room with Amy. Guess now is as good a time as any to call Anthony. Tina pulled out her phone. As her thumb hovered over Anthony’s name in her contacts, the employee-only door to the main theatre swung open.

“Dammit,” Tina squeaked, glancing over her shoulder. They’d definitely find her standing here in a minute. Moving on instinct and panic, Tina slipped quickly into the empty Sapphire Room and pulled the door shut. She didn’t want to be thrown out before she checked on Amy, and she wouldn’t be able to do anything useful if even more men showed up. She held her breath, waiting. The footsteps mercifully faded as whomever entered walked the opposite way, and a second later, a door slammed shut. With a relieved sigh, Tina went back to her phone, but as she went to dial Anthony, she heard one of the men with Amy speak.

.

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