Shifters of Silver Peak(4)

By: Georgette St. Clair

“Good luck with that.”

“I feel badly,” Valerie mused. “He just told me to order my usual Christmas present for myself. Diamond jewelry, my choice. I didn’t order it, of course. Since I’m leaving.”

“What I want to know is, how have you managed to hang in here this long?” Eileen asked.

Valerie tucked a curl of brown hair back behind her ear. “He’s basically a good person, underneath it all. He cares a lot about his family. He’s very talented at what he does, and he pays his employees a very fair wage and good benefits, above what the law requires. And he donates to charity. I mean, I pick the charities, but he writes the checks.”

Eileen made a face, and Valerie added quickly, “He’d do it himself if I wasn’t here. Or he would have someone do it for him.”

“Uh-huh.” Eileen’s look said that she wasn’t convinced, but it wasn’t worth arguing about. She looked at Valerie for a long, silent moment, until Valerie finally said, “What?”

“We’re friends, you know. Is something else bothering you besides having to tell Morgan that you quit?”

Valerie managed a smile and gestured at the doorway Morgan had just stormed through. “Like that isn’t enough?” she said.

“No. It’s not. What is it?”

“Nothing. Everything’s fine.” Valerie shook her head.

Eileen snorted. “Liar-face human.”

“Nosy furry mutt.”

“I am of excellent pedigree,” Eileen said placidly, unoffended. “I mean, my father is a royal dickhead who makes Morgan look sweet, soft and cuddly, but my pedigree is unimpeachable. What is the problem?”

Valerie hesitated. “I can only tell you if you promise not to offer to lend me money.”

“It’s a money problem?” Eileen looked at Valerie in confusion. “But, I mean, Marcus and I have butt-tons of money. We donate to charity, we go on vacations, we’ve built a big beautiful house, and we’re still swimming in money. If you have a problem, why wouldn’t I lend you money? Or give it to you, for that matter.”

Valerie shook her head. “You’re a good friend. I mean, for a nosy buttinski, that is.”

“Chelsea was a nosy buttinski when I first showed up in town. It’s probably why things worked out between me and Marcus. Sometimes friends don’t know what’s best for them and they need a little push.” Eileen grinned at Valerie. Then her face turned serious. “So spill it.”

Valerie sighed. “My grandparents. They’re the ones who raised me, and now they’re being stubborn fools who won’t let me help them even though they’re about to lose their business. They’ve had a dressmaking and tailoring business for decades. They took on a new business partner a few years ago, who was supposed to help them modernize. Instead he embezzled most of their money. They’re about to go under, and— Shut up. No. They’re extremely proud. They would never, ever take charity. I even offered to lend them money, and they said no.”

“It wouldn’t be charity,” Eileen protested. “It could be an interest-free loan, even.”

“They wouldn’t look at it that way. They’re very old-school. They’d rather lose their business than…who is that?” She looked out the window with alarm. “We weren’t expecting anybody. Dear God, I think it’s Morgan’s family. Please don’t let it be his family. If anything makes him flip out, it’s…them.”

Three big SUVs had just pulled up in front of the building.

The doors of one of the SUVs flung open, and shifters started piling out. They bore a strong resemblance to Morgan – tall, darkly attractive, expensively dressed. The woman was wearing a black mink coat. The two teenagers with her wore cashmere overcoats.

They headed straight for the front door of Morgan’s office.

As the door flung open, Valerie braced herself. Eileen watched with interest.

The tall woman shouldered her way in first and headed straight for Valerie’s desk. “I’m Nelda Rosemont,” she said to Valerie. “I’ve come to meet my son’s new mate.”

“New mate?” Eileen glanced at Valerie, puzzled.

Valerie had gone as white as a ghost and her eyes were glittering with tears. Without a word, she turned and ran out of the room.

Chapter Two

“Excuse me,” Valerie said furiously to Morgan, who was shouting at someone on the phone. Morgan’s room was dark and imposing and masculine, just like him. The furniture was hand-carved mahogany and black leather, the walls adorned with oil paintings featuring nature and hunting scenes.

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