Shifters of Silver Peak(8)

By: Georgette St. Clair

“There is. Barely concealed contempt.” Valerie peered at her friend suspiciously. Brain tumor? Or just a terminal case of the stupids?

Eileen made a gesture of dismissal. “I know you guys fight all the time, but as they say, there’s a thin line between love and hate.”

Valerie stared at Eileen with narrowed eyes. “Who, specifically, says that?”

Eileen ignored her. “I think this is a perfect opportunity to find out if there’s something between the two of you.”

“You always say he’s a jerk,” Valerie pointed out, speaking slowly and enunciating each word, because Eileen had apparently lost about a hundred IQ points in the last few minutes. “Just today you said it. And worse. I believe the words “ass-face” crossed your lips. Why would you try to fix me up with an ass-face?”

“Yes, he acts like a complete tool a lot of the time,” Eileen acknowledged, “but you keep telling me that underneath it all he’s a good person. I mean, I don’t see it, but you’re very perceptive and one of the best people I know, and if you say he’s a good person, then somewhere deep down underneath it all, he must be.”

“What kind of Christmasy treacle is that?” Morgan stomped into his office. “Newsflash. I’m not a good person, I’m an asshole. I make no bones about it. And do you realize what kind of an awkward position you just put me in back there? What the hell were you doing, telling my family that Valerie is my mate?”

“Yes, heaven forbid,” Valerie said bitterly.

He shot her a dirty look. “That’s not what I meant at all. It’s just that you – you’re leaving. You’re quitting.” He scowled at her. “Also, you’ve made it quite clear how you feel about me.”

“Listen up,” Eileen said. “This solves both of your problems. It is a business deal. Morgan, you need a mate. And Valerie’s grandparents need an infusion of cash into their business.”

“What? Why didn’t you tell me?” Morgan demanded of Valerie.

“I guess we’ve both been keeping secrets,” she said bitterly.

He shook his head impatiently and walked around to his desk. “I’ll just write you a check. How much?” He pulled out a checkbook from his top drawer and looked at her expectantly.

She shook her head. “No, our family does not accept charity.”

Morgan drew in a sharp breath. His voice went dangerously low and angry. “Valerie Dickinson, if I tell you that you will accept a check, then you will—”

“You two!” Eileen yelled. “Seriously, I just want to bang your stupid heads together. Listen. Guys, this is just buying you some time for the holidays. After his pack leaves, he can pretend that things didn’t work out. Human-shifter pairings are pretty unusual. You’ll be able to use that as an excuse. And then, if he wants, he can find himself a mate who’ll accept some kind of business arrangement. Valerie, you need the money for your family. You don’t accept charity, but this wouldn’t be charity. You would be earning every penny of it.”

“I’ll say.” Valerie shot Morgan a resentful look.

“Hey!” he said indignantly. “I’m actually considered quite a catch.”

Eileen ignored their arguments. “And you, Morgan. You need a pretend mate. Someone you can trust, someone who won’t exploit the situation. And you need one right now. You don’t have time to find anyone else who would meet all of your requirements. And also, you own a million subsidiary companies. You can have someone from one of those companies approach Valerie’s grandparents and offer to make them a low-interest loan in exchange for a partial share in their business, and they’ll never know where the offer came from. And then your main company could just coincidentally come along and place a bunch of orders with them, so they’d have plenty of revenue coming in.”

“Well…” Morgan glanced at Valerie. “She actually makes some good points.”

“But it’s… We can’t… I mean…jeez. I don’t know if I should thank you or murder you in your sleep,” Valerie said to Eileen.

“Why in my sleep?”

“Well, I’m human and you’re a shifter. I can’t kill you if you’re awake.”

“I sleep next to a very big, very grumpy shifter who sleeps with one eye open. You’ll just have to thank me, I’m afraid.” Eileen smiled sweetly.

“You’re forgetting something,” Valerie said. “His mother said no.”

Morgan scoffed at that. “I’m the Alpha. Nobody tells me who I can mate.”

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