Whisper of Sin Page 9

at times?”

“If it needs to be done, it’ll get done,” she said, meeting those brilliant green eyes. “But I’ll be honest—even though I probably shouldn’t be. I’m likely to get a little short-tempered now and then.”

“A temper might come in handy in this position.” His lips tilted up at the corners. “This is a . . .

family business. And that family will be in and out. Can you handle being the focus of their curiosity?”

It was a strange question, but her answer was easy. “Let’s see—every Sunday without fail, my aunt Eadie calls to interrogate me about my life and offer

‘essential fashion advice.’ My paternal grandparents live in Idaho, but last week, they sent me a dossier on all the nice boys in town—just in case. Oh, and my normally very forward-thinking parents recently tried to arrange my marriage. I know how to handle family.”

His eyes danced. “And the arranged marriage?”

Since she’d brought it up, she couldn’t exactly avoid the personal question. “Not happening.”

“That’s what I thought.” He rose to his feet, an amused curve to his mouth. “I think that’s all I need from you, Ria.”

Standing, she picked up her purse. “It’s you, isn’t it? The person I’d be working for if I get the job?”

A slight nod.

“Usually HR interviews applicants.”

“I’m picky.” He pulled open the door. “I need to trust the person I hire.”

Smiling even as her stomach dropped, she stepped out. Emmett was up and waiting for her.

They entered the elevator in silence and walked out into

the street.

“How’d it go?” Emmett asked.


He rubbed the back of his neck. “Still mad?”

“You think I should give you credit for letting me go in there alone?” She raised an eyebrow, wondering what he’d do.

“Er.” His cheeks flushed. “Never mind.”

She felt her lips twitch. “I know he was a cat, Emmett. The way you leopards walk, it’s a dead giveaway.” They prowled, all soft and silent and lethal.

“Shit.” He grinned. “I was hoping to score brownie points.”

“So it’s DarkRiver Construction?”

“Part of it. The building will also function as the pack’s city headquarters—we outgrew the old premises.”

All of which, Ria knew, meant she’d never get the job. Changeling packs looked after their own, sticking together like glue. Sure they’d helped clean up the city, making it safer for everyone, but as Emmett had explained, that had more to do with holding territory than anything else.

Tired, dispirited, and hungry, she walked into a neighborhood restaurant run by a family she’d seen at community functions, and grabbed a seat.

Emmett took the chair opposite hers.

“You order,” he said, scanning the room.

She was telling the waitress—who also happened to be the owner’s daughter—that she wanted cashew chicken, when Emmett moved across the table to smash her and the waitress both to the ground. A split second later, she heard a loud pop followed by a scream. Emmett was already up and

speaking on his cell. “He’s heading out, past the candy shop—” He ran toward the door.

Getting up, Ria helped the shaken waitress to her feet. Emmett was back before she’d finished. “You hurt?” His hands swept over her body.

Aware of several interested glances, she slapped them off. “I’m fine.” She turned to check on the waitress and got the same answer in response. “What

happened?” she asked Emmett.

He pointed behind her. A large hole marred the previously pristine wall. “Bullet.” His jaw was a brutal line, his eyes . . . his eyes.

Stepping instinctively closer, she put her hand on his chest. “Emmett.”

He glanced down, those incredible green-gold eyes, leopard eyes, looking out at her from a human face. His hand cupped her cheek. “You have a

scratch here.” A thumb stroking gently over a hurt she didn’t even feel, his gaze predator-cold.

She didn’t know how she knew what to do. She just did. Instead of fighting off his hold as she had earlier, she leaned into him, slipping her arms around his waist. His own came around her at almost the same instant, and he squeezed her close, until she could barely breathe. But she held on, held tight.

She didn’t know how long they stood wrapped around each other, but when he did finally release her, the fear in the restaurant had turned to

speculation. Likely, her grandmother and mother would be hearing all about it in the time it took to type a text message. She didn’t care. Because the leopard was gone from Emmett’s eyes, his rage under control.

He tapped her cheek. “Grab your purse. This place needs to be looked at by our techs, and I want you safe at home.”

Realizing he wanted to start tracking the shooter as soon as possible, Ria didn’t argue.

Emmett’s eyes were hyperalert as they began to head out of the restaurant, his big body vibrating with protectiveness.


Startled, she looked over her shoulder. It was the waitress Emmett had taken down—the woman ran over, a bag of take-out containers in hand. Her smile was a little wary as it flicked to Emmett, but her gratitude clear. “Thank you.” She shook her head when Emmett, the majority of his attention clearly on ensuring no more nasty surprises, went to grab his wallet. “It’s a gift. My father was in the army. He says that bullet would’ve hit me first.” She pressed the bag into Ria’s hands. “Please take this.”

Ria accepted it, understanding the family’s need to give something back to the man who’d saved their child’s life. “Thank you.”

The woman smiled and looked up at Emmett. “You’re welcome at our table at any time.”

Emmett gave a short nod. Ria wondered if he understood the value of the invitation. She could’ve let it go, but that wasn’t who she was—she asked him about it as they walked home at a rapid clip.

“I know,” he said, his voice tense as he scanned the area. “We’ve been working on building relationships with the folks around here, but it’s been a slow process. You’re very insular.”

“Talk about the big, fat charcoaled pot calling the kettle black.”

An unworried shrug, no smile. “Didn’t say we didn’t understand.”

“People like DarkRiver cats,” she said, wondering why that damn arrogance was sexy on him. “You’ve cleaned things up so the shopkeepers feel safe.”

“We’re starting to get friendlier smiles,” he told her, “but that’s all going to be fucked to hell if Vincent and his gang of thugs start shooting holes in

defenseless people.”

“I have a feeling they don’t know what they’re up against.”

A hard glance. “You got that right, mink.”

She opened her mouth to respond but they’d arrived at her family home and Amber was waiting in the doorway, cell phone in hand. “She’s home!” her sister-in-law said into the slim white device as soon as she spotted Ria. “No, she’s safe.

Emmett’s with her.”

All but lifting Ria inside, Emmett ordered Amber to shut the door. “And stay inside.” He was gone before Ria could say anything else.

Blowing out a breath, she took the phone Amber was holding out. “Mom, I’m fine.” She repeated that for the next ten minutes, until Alex finally calmed down. By that time, her grandmother had prepared tea, brought out two giant hunks of Mr.

Wong’s famous Divine Madeira Cake, and begun to make her

special sweet black-sesame soup, one of Ria’s favorites.

“Sit!” she said when Amber began to stand up as if to help.

Amber sat with a thankful groan. “The baby’s kicking so hard. Want to feel?”

“Yes!” Ria scooted over. Amber was a great sister-in-law, but she was also intensely private.

This kind of an invitation didn’t come often. Placing her hand on Amber’s abdomen, she stayed very still. Miaoling’s future great-grand(gender unknown) didn’t keep Ria waiting. She felt two very distinct thuds.

“Wow, I think I felt the shape of a foot.”

Amber laughed. “Probably. Baby Wembley has a future as a football player. Fitting really, given the family name.”

“Don’t tell Jet,” Ria teased, biting into her cake. The familiar taste was as welcome as a hug, soft and comforting. “He’s hoping for a golf buddy.”

“What about you, Ria?” Breaking off a piece of her own slice, Amber brought it to her mouth.

“You thinking of popping out any golf buddies sometime


“Amber!” Ria fell back, laughing. “Where do you think I’m going to get the other half of the equation now that the Great Match is done for?”

“Oh, I don’t know.” Amber’s eyes turned sly. “But I know a cat who looks at you like he wants to eat you up, then come back for seconds.”

Ria was still gasping at the scandalous comment from her—usually—shy sister-in-law, when Miaoling began laughing. Slapping her thigh, she laughed

so hard that Ria could do nothing but join in. “You heard”—she sobbed between bursts that left her stomach aching—“what Jet said. They don’t get

serious with humans.”

“Who says?” Amber’s eyes were shiny with humor. “Just because we don’t know about any.”

That cut off Ria’s laughter. She sat back. Thought about it. Shook her head. “We’d have heard. I’d have heard at the college.”

“Not necessarily,” Amber argued. “They don’t exactly advertise things. I’d say I’d never met a more closemouthed lot, but . . .” She waved a hand.

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