Shifters of Silver Peak(5)

By: Georgette St. Clair

As she stalked over to him, he waved at her impatiently and made a shooing motion. “That was a deadline, not a suggestion!” he yelled into the receiver. His brows were drawn together in a ferocious scowl. “Every day you’re late, your company is fined! And no, I don’t make exceptions for Christmas! Don’t give me that ‘wife is sick’ bullshit – find a way to get it done!”

She stormed behind the desk, grabbed the phone out of his hand, and slammed it down in its cradle.

Arthur looked at her warily and edged toward the office’s side door. He wasn’t a huge fan of confrontation.

Morgan stared at her in astonishment. “What the hell?” he said. “Have you taken leave of your senses, woman?”

“Did you forget to tell me something crucial?”

“Like the fact that there are plenty of other secretaries out there who’d love the excellent salary and benefits I pay you?” Morgan said.

“Like the fact that your family wants to meet your new mate. So do I, for that matter. I’ll need to pick out a nice Christmas present for her.” Valerie felt tears of humiliation burning in her eyes. On some level, she’d thought she and Morgan were friends.

Well, if she had to admit it to herself, on a deeper level, she’d always harbored a secret yearning for Morgan, but he’d never even glanced at her in that way, and she accepted that. He was wealthy, stunningly handsome, and powerful. Valerie was full-figured and round-faced and cheerful and…she had a great personality. Yep. Everybody said that.

But up until this moment, she had at least believed that she was one of Morgan’s few friends. His confidante.

Morgan looked at her with a guilty expression on his face.

“Oh,” he said. “That. Yeah.”

“Yes,” she said bitterly. “That.” She looked him in the eye.

“I’m out,” Arthur said, trotting out the side door without a backward glance.

“Coward!” Morgan yelled after him. Arthur’s only answer was a slammed door and the sound of his hurrying footsteps.

Valerie glared at Morgan. Now was as good a time to tell him as any. “And by the way, I quit. I’m leaving right after Christmas.”

He shook his head, his expression a mixture of befuddlement and annoyance. “What, because of that? I can explain.”

“I don’t care. Mate with whoever you want. I’m not quitting because of that. I’m quitting because…well, okay, to be blunt, you’re an unappreciative jerk, I’ve put up with it for three years, and all that time, I’ve had plenty of other job offers, and I finally accepted one. You’ve never shown the slightest bit of appreciation, but I’m actually an excellent executive assistant.”

“I appreciate you. I haven’t fired you yet, have I? And I send you presents on all the appropriate holidays,” Morgan said, looking astonished.

“You have me pick them out and send them to myself. Not exactly the same thing. What’s my favorite flower?”

“Roses?” he guessed.

“No. Daisies. What kind of coffee do I drink?”

“How the hell would I know? You’re the one who gets the coffee.”

“Cinnamon latte. What’s my favorite color?”

He looked at her calf-length wool skirt. “Herringbone tweed?”

At her snort of disgust, he said impatiently, “Valerie, you’re not quitting. I’ll double what anyone else is offering. I need you here. And I don’t have a mate, by the way. I just lied and told my family that I’d chosen a mate. Last week, when my mother called me and pestered me about it.”

“I don’t care how much you’re paying me. I’m leaving. And why would you lie about having a mate? Did it not occur to you that they’d want to meet her, pronto?”

He looked at her with alarm. “You’re not actually quitting, Valerie. And I lied to my mother because my pack charter states that if I haven’t picked a mate by the age of thirty, then I’m permanently disqualified as Alpha. I can’t even death-challenge anyone for it; the position would go to the next qualified male heir in the pack, or if there are multiple candidates, which there are, they fight it out. I haven’t selected a mate yet, and my mother called me up last week freaking out about it, so I told her I’d picked a mate.”

“Are you kidding me? You turn thirty in two months.” Valerie stared at him in disbelief. “When’s my birthday, by the way?”

“Sometime in the next three hundred and sixty-five days. Valerie, I’m bad at that kind of thing, okay? And yes, I put it off for too long. The mating thing. It was stupid of me. I’m just not good at relationships.”

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