Crimson hasn't been himself since the night he learned a woman was beaten to death because of his actions. Ghost and Shelly may have forgiven him, but he can't forgive himself. The easy women surrounding him are suddenly far less appealing than they used to be, and he longs for a mate more than ever.
Holly has learned the hard way that it's going to take a special man to appreciate her curves, and the woman she's become, so it's no surprise that she's leery of the handsome man who comes on a little too strong. But no matter how much she tries to push him away, her heart begs her to pull him closer.
When Crimson nearly loses Holly, he realizes that he will do anything to keep her by his side - and when a bear gets an idea in his head, he'll stop at nothing to make it happen. What's a love struck shifter to do when his mate has cold feet?
The ground quaked under his boots as lightning streaked the sky. Crimson blew out a steady stream of smoke before tossing the nub of his cigarette out into the rain. The deluge had started an hour ago, and if it kept up, they’d be gathering animals two by two. Already the parking lot in front of the bar had small lakes forming. Thank god he’d had the foresight not to ride his bike tonight.
Thunder boomed again, making the ground tremble. Turning his back on Mother Nature’s temper tantrum, he went back inside Laguna Paradise to join his brothers and the local wolf pack. Ghost, the new President of the M.C., had decided it would be good for some of the club members to hang out with the pack, further relations between them. They’d worked together on a few rescue missions so far, but the wolf pack still seemed wary of the M.C.
Crimson slid onto a stool between Pistol and Hunter. He’d noticed the wolf sneaking glances at one of the waitresses and wondered if there was something between them. She was a looker, even if she was fuller figured than what Crimson usually went for. All that long, glossy, dark hair would look spectacular spread across his pillows though.
“She yours?” Crimson asked, nodding toward the brunette.
“No.” Hunter tore his gaze away from the woman and took a swallow of his beer. “I just like the look of her is all.”
“So you’ve never talked to her?” Crimson asked. “Never asked her out?”
Hunter shrugged. “What would she want with a shifter? I mean, look at her! She’s gorgeous and can have any man she wants. Why take up with a wolf when she can have a human and pop out some normal kids?”
Crimson studied the woman, watched as she pushed a wayward strand of hair behind her ear. The smile on her face looked forced as she approached a rather rowdy table. He wondered how long she’d been on her feet, and how many assholes she’d had to deal with today. Crimson watched and waited, wondering if she was going to need assistance, or if the crew at the table was going to mind their manners.
“You like her,” Hunter said, his gaze swinging from Crimson to the waitress and back again. “You like Holly.”
“That’s her name?” Crimson asked, thinking it suited her.
“Yeah. I asked around about her, but I’ve never approached her. She’s never paid any attention to me.” Hunter stared into his beer. “So, if you want to make a move on her or something, she’s free. I don’t hold a claim on her or anything like that.”
“She’s not your mate?”
Hunter shrugged. “I haven’t gotten close enough to be sure, but I don’t think so. I just really like her. But I’ve been coming here for over a year now and have yet to so much as say hi to her. She deserves better than that. If you have the balls to approach her, then go for it. You have my blessing.”
“Think we can get her to wait on our table?” Crimson asked.
“She’s never waited on me. I don’t know if I just sit in the wrong section every damn time or what.”
“Anyone know our waitress’ name?” Crimson asked, looking around at their small group.
“Bethany,” Pistol said. “You’re going to offend her if you ask her to switch tables with Holly.”
Crimson arched a brow. “You thinking about taking her home?”
Pistol grinned. “Maybe.”
Crimson kept an eye on Holly, ready to jump to her defense if anyone bothered her. As the night wore on, he realized that she knew how to handle the customers, even the grabby ones. She sidestepped more wandering hands than anyone should have to, and yet she kept her smile firmly in place and moved on to the next table.
When he saw her cash out and head for the entrance, Crimson excused himself and shadowed her steps. The rain had slackened outside to a drizzle. Crimson watched as she walked to an ancient car parked at the curb and tried to start it. The engine refused to turnover. As she rested her head on the steering wheel, he realized she wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon. He walked over and tapped on her window.
Holly manually rolled down the window and peered up at him with uncertainty in her eyes. “May I help you?”
“Actually, I thought I might be able to help you. I don’t think your car is going anywhere tonight. Why don’t you let me give you a ride home? It’s too wet outside for you to walk, and I know your feet have to be hurting after working tonight.”
She nibbled on her lower lip and it drew his attention to how full and kissable her lips were. He forced his gaze back to her eyes and waited for her decision. She was right to be leery of him, not having met him before. A single woman working late at night, especially in a bar, could never be too careful, but he wasn’t sure how to set her mind at ease. Crimson hunkered down next to the car so he wouldn’t tower over her.
“You don’t have anything to fear from me,” he assured her. “I only want to help.”
“I saw you follow me out here.”
“Only to make sure you got to your car safely. I saw some of the customers inside giving you a hard time and I didn’t want them to follow you out and hurt you. You looked like you could handle yourself in there, but…”
She nodded. “You’re right. In there, I know how to handle myself. Out here? Not so much. I appreciate you looking out for me.” She stuck her hand through the open window. “I’m Holly.”
“Crimson.” He took her smaller hand in his and marveled at how soft it felt against his callused skin.