His Purrfect MateBy: Georgette St. Clair
Playa Linda, California
“Everyone settle down! The first monthly meeting of Shifters, Incorporated, is now in order.” Tyler Witlocke glared at the two dozen shifter and human employees who were assembled in the meeting room of their security firm’s new office building, an efficient-looking brick and glass structure “And thanks for scaring off yet another secretary, people. Kenneth will be delighted to hear that when he gets back.”
Tyler didn’t want to be in charge of the unruly, squabbling group; his specialty was computer security, not people. Computers were predictable; people were annoying. However, Kenneth Chamberlin, the founder of Shifters, Inc., had been called away on a personal emergency, so Tyler was stuck with the job for at least the next week or two. The first order of business when Kenneth returned was finding a second in command to take over the next time Kenneth left town.
“Dominick started it,” Pixie said, not looking up from her iPad. Pixie, one of the firm’s human employees, held the title of security expert. She was a not particularly reformed thief and pickpocket who helped the firm identify security flaws for their clients.
“I started it?” The lion shifter let out a low growl of fury and swung to face her.
“Don’t say there’s no way I can steal your wallet, unless you want me to steal your wallet,” Pixie shrugged insolently. Pixie stood five foot four, weighed about a hundred and ten pounds, and could not seem to stop deliberately aggravating Dominick. One of Pixie’s great strengths, and weaknesses, was her tendency to stroll cheerfully into danger.
“Settle down, both of you.” Tyler’s felt his temper rising, and the bones in his face shifted. His snout lengthened, and hair sprouted on his face and hands. He was a wolf shifter, usually a very even-tempered one, except for today.
Dominick settled back in his seat with an angry growl. Cruel-looking claws shot from his fingertips, and then retracted.
“Are we going to follow Robert’s Rules of Order?” a human bodyguard called out.
“Who’s Robert?” Pixie looked up from her iPad, puzzled. “We have somebody named Robert? Is he new?”
Oh, God, just give me a room of my own, with a laptop and headphones, Tyler thought. Out loud, he attempted to shape the gathering into something resembling an actual, productive meeting.
“I will now be announcing the list of new assignments, and then assigning them to teams. Your team leader will be checking in to report on your progress. Either Darnell, Quinton or I will be available by phone in case of emergency, at all times, day or night. CapichePixie shrugged and went back to doodling on her iPad. She was drawing a lion with horns and a devil’s tail. Everybody else nodded their assent.
Tyler turned his back to write on the giant white board on the wall, but out of the corner of his eye, he saw Pixie stuck her tongue out at Dominick and cross her eyes. Dominick shifted, his clothes splitting and falling off his massive lion body, and then he leaped from his chair and launched himself at her, only to be intercepted by Heath, a bear shifter. Chairs flew, and broke to pieces. There were curses and screams and shouts. Within a minute, not a single shifter in the room was still in human form, and the human employee were huddled at the far end of the room waiting for the chaos to subside so the meeting could resume.
Pixie turned to Karen, a human cryptographer.
“Seriously, though, who’s Robert?” she asked, as an ocelot shifter landed at her feet with an “oof”.
University of Upstate New York
Russettville, an hour north of Syracuse
“Not if he was the last panther shifter on Earth,” Chloe Novak said firmly, pushing her glasses up the bridge of her nose and scribbling furiously in the margins of yet another barely literate final exam. Had the ability to spell simply died? If she saw one more instance of someone mistaking “their” for “there”, she might be stirred to violence.