The Mating Game: Big Bad Wolf(4)

By: Georgette St. Clair

As Ryker scanned the room, he saw that his Uncle Water, whom he was there to meet, was waving frantically at him by the bar. Walter was on Big Bad Wolf’s board of directors.

Why wasn’t Walt sitting at the table already? Oh well, Ryker could use a drink. He’d been arguing with the company’s suppliers all morning, his mother had been riding his tail about settling down and giving him grandcubs, one of his boxers had been arrested and needed to be bailed out of jail…it had been a long, annoying day.

As he made his way towards the bar, his bored gaze swept the crowd of diners…and came to an abrupt halt. A stunning woman was sitting by herself at a table towards the back, checking her watch.

She had shiny red hair styled in retro 1950s-looking waves, and a deliciously curvy figure. Her satiny emerald dress flowed over her and emphasized her luscious body, including her rounded tummy and full hips. Now, there was a woman who had a healthy appetite – in all areas, he’d like to imagine. It was so hard to find a woman like that these days; the boxing groupies were all skeletal anorexics who would order a salad with no dressing for dinner, stare hungrily at his plate of food, and refuse when he offered to share it with them. Ryker hated that; ruined a man’s appetite.

There was no guy with her; she was clearly waiting for some jerk who couldn’t be bothered to show up on time. With a hot ticket like that waiting here? What an idiot. Well, her date’s loss would be his gain. Whatever Walt wanted, he’d have to talk fast, because Ryker was going to swoop that woman up and show her the time of her life.

Ryker strode up to the bar with a big grin; he felt all the tension of the day uncoiling now. Worrying about losing the pack land, kissing up to their investors, reining in his crazy pack before he was forced to eat one of them for breakfast to set an example…none of that mattered at the moment.

What mattered was how he could dazzle the panties off the hot redhead. Nothing was going to put him in a bad mood, not even Walter’s pissy attitude.

“Damn it, Ryker, this is exactly the kind of thing I’m talking about!” Walt snapped at him. He glanced his watch, and then at the clock on the wall, as if he hadn’t already made his point. “You’re fifteen minutes late, you’ve got hay in your hair, and you’re dressed like you were just out riding horses!”

“I was,” Ryker said, plucking off the strand of hay and setting it down on the bar. “I took Lightning out for a run after I left my office. So? Since when are you so eager for my company? Is the honeymoon over?” Walt had married a lovely woman named Carlotta a few years ago.

“Our honeymoon will never be over, and it’s not my home life we need to worry about, party boy,” Walt growled at him. “We are having a hard time getting our investors to commit to this expansion, because of your reputation for being late and irresponsible. And this isn’t just your career we’re talking about, it’s the future of our pack.”

Ryker stifled a snarl. He was well aware of that. Everything rested on his shoulders. Their pack lands were mortgaged to the hilt, their apparel business was on the cusp of big success but needed an infusion of cash, and if they didn’t get it, they’d probably lose the lands they’d lived on since the turn of the century.

“Not everything is about money,” Ryker said, leaning on the bar and frowning. The restaurant patrons here apparently skipped spraying on expensive perfume and cologne, and just dumped it over their heads by the barrel. Not a pleasant experience for a shifter with a heightened sense of smell.

“Speak for yourself,” Walt said. “I’ve gotten rather fond of being able to make my car payments on time.”

“Right,” Ryker scoffed. “You mean you’ve gotten rather fond of wearing designer suits and buying your wife expensive jewelry.” It was true – Carlotta did have a taste for the good life.

“Whatever,” Walt grumbled, nervously playing with his onyx cufflinks. “The rest of the pack depends on you too. We can’t afford any more of your shenanigans.”

“I’ve been cleaning up my act for the last few months, and you know it,” Ryker said, annoyed.