Anton Copyright © 2017 by Nancy Corrigan writing as Dana Archer. All Rights Are Reserved.
The click of her stiletto heels on the rough stone floor resonated like a death knell. There’d be no missing her approach. Nyx wasn’t sure if that was a good thing or not. Anton Alexander, the most feared member of the Shifter Council, held a reputation for killing first and asking questions later.
Nyx willed her pounding heart to stop its frantic attempt to escape her chest. She shouldn’t be afraid. Anton had never met her. He had no reason to hate her or suspect her of deception.
Of course, yet was the operative word. There was plenty of time to change his mind.
A deep breath filled her lungs with the rich, woodsy scent of man and the subtle fragrance of honey, likely from the many beeswax candles throughout the stone mansion. Nyx held her breath, indulging in the decadent combination.
By the goddesses, Anton was dangerous, but he smelled of heaven. As she was an unmated jaguar shifter, his scent tempted her on a primitive level, the kind that had nothing to do with emotions and everything to do with power.
On a slow exhale, Nyx smoothed her skirt. Her hands no longer shook. Her heart no longer raced. She smiled with the small accomplishment. All she had to do was take a moment to calm herself. She could do this, and once she completed her task, she’d have everything she’d ever dreamed about.
Long strides carried Nyx down the hall to the oversized door at the end. With each step, the tempting scent of vitality grew stronger. With three big cats—lion, tiger, and jaguar—sharing his body, Anton was descended from the goddesses themselves. A Royal. He was the elite of their kind.
Nyx licked her lips. She could almost taste Anton’s power on her tongue.
Rumor had it a Royal’s blood carried a hint of chocolate, the ambrosia of the gods. She’d never be able to confirm the gossip. Royals didn’t part with their powerful blood often, except to save the life of someone important to them. Since she only had one animal sharing her body and soul, she’d never make the cut. Single shifters were worthless and inferior.
The time had come to change everyone’s views. No one would suspect a nobody like her to be the catalyst for such an alteration in opinions either. Or to be the one who managed to take down the man nobody could touch.
Nyx straightened her spine and opened the door. Warm air and Anton’s scent swept out, wrapping around her. It’d be so easy to close her eyes and allow herself to be lulled into a relaxed state. Even her jaguar agreed. She couldn’t. She’d come here for a job, not to make herself at home. It was hard not to feel comfortable here, however.
Dark wood-paneled walls, floor-to-ceiling bookshelves, oil landscapes, and burgundy drapes turned the room into a haven of quietness and isolation. The soothing sounds of the crackling fire warming this late December night and the flickering candlelight brightening the large room added to the sense of contentment. She could get lost here among these books, forgetting her purpose, and simply living in peace.
“Are you lost?”
Anton’s deep voice jerked Nyx’s gaze to where he stood, leaning against the wall an arm’s length to her right. Her breath caught on a sharp inhale. She knew it was him. She’d listened in on one of his phone calls to her uncle Boris, another member of the Shifter Council.
The accounts she’d heard of Anton Alexander focused on his power and strength. No one had mentioned his beauty. Yet how could anyone ignore the exoticness of the millennium-old shifter?
Black streaks etched his golden eyes, giving him an evocative edge, and his black hair with its thick strip of blond locks tucked behind one ear lent him a trendy look.
Anton wasn’t a model, though. He was power personified. He knew it too. Nyx recognized the way Anton held himself. As if he was better than everyone else.
His regal cheekbones, full lips, and straight nose enhanced his perfect image. He could pass himself off as a god. She’d believe him if he told her he’d stepped down from the heavens. And if he told her to kneel before him…
“Did you come here in response to an ad?” Anton’s raised brow implied his annoyance with her silence.
Nyx’s breath rushed out. She’d been holding it, lost in Anton’s black-and-gold eyes. “Yes. I waited at the front door for some time, but nobody escorted me to you.”
“Who would? I have no staff.”
Her uncle Boris had shared that fact. Whereas most Council members had, at the minimum, a butler, Anton lived alone in this large home. Every employee had quit. Or died.
“I assumed you’d greet me.”
“You assumed wrong.” Anton turned his back on her and walked across the large room to a cluttered oak desk situated catty-corner to the fireplace. He flipped over several sheets of paper and closed the lid of a laptop before facing her. “I did not request a female.”
No, he’d solicited a secretary, any species or sex, who could take notes. That was it. No other requirements pertaining to experience or training. The posting should’ve appealed to shifters across the nation, especially with the generous salary and housing offered. Yet the ad he’d placed had remained open for nearly a year.
“I didn’t get a say in my gender either. But here I am. A female.” Nyx smiled. Maybe her grin was a tad cocky. Too many of Boris’s friends and business associates had drooled over her not to make her feel confident in her appearance and her power over men. Not that her sexuality mattered in this situation. Rumor had it Anton didn’t take lovers.
Leaning against the desk, Anton crossed his arms over his chest. The loosely rolled sleeves of his faded blue dress shirt exposed muscled forearms, and his unbuttoned collar showed a glimpse of smooth pecs. Most Royal males had little body hair and perfect physiques. They appeared as if sculpted from marble.
Nyx kept her gaze firmly locked on Anton’s face in an effort to stop herself from checking out his groin. Rumor also had it Royal males had been blessed in other ways too. It’d be best if she didn’t learn the gossip was true. With her hormones raging, she didn’t care why she’d entered this house.
Anton could meet her needs. She instinctually knew that. He would shatter her, bringing her to an orgasm that would leave her trembling. The primitive side of her wanted that. The rest of her understood how devastating that’d be. Emotions weakened a woman. So did sharing a bond to a mate. Soon, she’d be safe from both fates. She couldn’t wait.
On a slow, heated appraisal, Anton swept his gaze over Nyx’s body. Her skin warmed under the suggestive perusal even though there wasn’t much for Anton to see. Her long A-line skirt hid her curves, while the loose, shapeless jacket she’d buttoned over her blouse concealed the swell of her breasts.
She’d spent days agonizing over what to wear for this meeting. Every article of clothing she’d chosen was either black or dark gray too. She’d wanted to appear innocent and unobtrusive, someone Anton would ignore as he went about his day.
Nothing would hide her flushed cheeks or the scent of her arousal, however. She could smell her desire as easily as Anton would.
How could she not react to Anton’s interest? The man was literally a walking sex god. Or maybe the great-grandchild of one.
“I can see that.” Anton’s slightly parted lips showed a hint of fang, a clear sign she’d triggered his primal side too. “But I honestly expect whores to show a little more skin.”
Nyx sucked in a sharp breath. She took a backward step into the hallway. Never had she been called by such a derogatory name. The men in her life treated her as a princess, even if she was a nobody. For now.
“Or do you expect me to do all the work and undress you?” The small, satisfied smile that accompanied Anton’s question stirred her anger. “Because I can, but I promise you, I won’t be gentle when I rip your clothes off.”
Her nostrils flared on her harsher breaths. She stormed into the room, stopping feet from Anton. “I am not a whore.”
Anton’s smile widened, showing off more of his distended fangs. “You’re correct. The Shifter Council’s ad did solicit escorts for tonight’s dance, not whores. The sex is usually a given, however. I never met an escort who didn’t mind earning a few extra bucks.”
Which was why she’d chosen tonight to visit Anton. She’d known he’d be here alone. The dances and, yes, the hookers, were quite popular among the councilmen.
But for Anton to assume she was a whore or even an escort… The tips of Nyx’s fingers burned from the press of her sharpened nails. The thought of swiping them across Anton’s beautiful face sounded like a heavenly idea. “I am not here for the dance.”
Chuckling, Anton slid his rear onto the edge of the desk. Her gaze slipped from his face to the chinos stretched over his long legs, then to his groin. Darn it. She didn’t want to look there. Too late. There was no wiping the image from her mind. From the outline of his package, he was huge. The longer she stared, the thicker his erection grew too.
Her lips parted on a shaky exhale. Lust hit hard. She couldn’t stop it.
“And as I already stated, I did not request a female.” Anton stood and moved to the cabinet at the far end of the room. He opened the doors and selected a rounded glass, then withdrew a decanter of amber liquid. “If that’s what you were expecting, you came to the wrong house. Try walking across the campus to the main residential district. There’s a guard shack at the entrance. The male on duty will direct you to the Council members willing to pay for your services on short notice.”
Darn the man. Nyx closed the distance between them. The second she stepped off the carpet, her heels clunked against the wood floor. Anton’s shoulders visibly tensed as the sound carried through the room. Preparing to attack her? Or surprised at the long, angry strides she took? At the moment, she didn’t care if she’d shocked him or enraged him. She itched for a fight.
“Why?” Nyx stepped in front of Anton, stopping him from reaching for the bucket of ice sitting on the end table. “Do you think you’re too good for me?”
Anton’s dark brows drew together. “Obviously, you have no idea whose house you’re in. Good is not a word any sane shifter would use for me. Obstinate, maybe. Definitely dedicated. Lethal. Unhinged. I’ve heard unpredictable too, but I’d argue that’s not much different from unhinged.”
She’d agree with all those descriptions, and she’d been in his presence less than ten minutes. “I’m referring to the fact that you’re a Royal and I’m—”
Anton pressed a finger to her lips, stopping her words and drawing her attention to his exotic eyes. “I didn’t request a female. For your own good, you need to leave. Now. Before I decide to teach you a lesson.”
Nyx licked her lips. The tip of her tongue touched Anton’s skin. His flavor hit her. It reminded her of something rich and sinful. Chocolate came to mind. She loved chocolate. “No. You requested a secretary, any species or sex. I fit those requirements, plus I can take notes. I’m not leaving until you give me a chance to prove myself.”
Anton turned away from her and poured his drink, forgoing the ice. “I’d given up on that ad. It’s been on the boards for some time without any applicants.”
“Close to a year.” Grinning, she dropped her gaze to stare at Anton’s expensive but worn shoes while she got herself together. Anton’s scent messed with her head, leaving her too aroused for this encounter. Some of the lust could be blamed on her hormones. Not all. Anton drew her in a way other unmated males she’d met hadn’t. Maybe because he was a Royal.
Or maybe because he was deliciously hot.
“Really? That long?” Anton grunted. “Time flies.”
“Yes. I’ve been checking the listing regularly. This was the first opportunity I had to apply, so I’m grateful it’s still open.”
“If you were interested in secretarial work, why wait so long?”
It was her turn to step away. She walked to the open cabinet and closed the doors. The moment gave her a chance to settle her nerves. She was about to tell a lie, the first of many.
With the way Anton affected her, she didn’t know if she could keep the deception from showing in her eyes. She’d have to practice. No better time than the present. “My guardian insisted I remain on our estate until after I matured.”
“You did so recently?”
Nyx inclined her head. “Last full moon.”
“A week ago?”
Was that shock in Anton’s voice? Or revulsion? She glanced over her shoulder. Neither emotion showed in his expression. Nothing did. “Yes. Is that a problem?”
Anton stalked toward her. His eyes narrowed. Her pulse kicked up. She had the sudden urge to run. It was a prey’s response. With Anton’s steady stare focused on her, she felt like one. She locked her knees.
“I have no time for childish games or coddling. I need a secretary who will do as I say without questioning me or attempting to distract me with pointless conversation. I also don’t give out praise. Nor am I here to offer companionship. Work is my solace, and I throw myself into it from sunup to sundown. I expect any secretary who signs on with me to do the same.” Anton stopped within inches of her. He was so close, the heat from his body enveloped her as completely as his woodsy scent did. “Are those terms satisfactory to you?”
“Yes.” The single word didn’t convey confidence. It was all she could manage, however. Her limbs trembled. Fear didn’t cause her shaking. Anton stood too close to her. She couldn’t decide if she wanted to push him away or pull him closer.
Disappointment slackened Anton’s features. He pivoted and walked to his desk. Once seated, he glanced at her. “You don’t sound confident.”
Nyx swallowed hard. “I am.”
Anton watched her for a long heartbeat. “Did you bring any belongings?”
“Yes. My driver dropped off several suitcases with me before he left. They’re in the foyer.”
“Take what you need for the night and leave the rest of your things where they are. I want you to think about my terms and give me your real answer tomorrow.”
Nyx bit the inside of her lip to stop her pleased smile. One battle won. Her answer would be the same in the morning. “Where shall I sleep?”
Anton pointed back the way she’d come. “The old service quarters are on the opposite side of the house. My last secretary chose one of the rooms in that wing as hers. It’s the only one furnished. It’ll be yours if you decide to stay on.”
A chill ran down Nyx’s spine. Anton’s last secretary, Bianca, had disappeared close to a year ago. Many suspected she’d been murdered. By Anton. He was known for his fits of rage. Especially toward those who wronged him. As Bianca had done. Nobody had been able to prove Anton had killed her. The truth had a way of coming out, though. When it did, Nyx would be ready.
“Then I’ll see you at sunrise.” She made her way to the door.
“What’s your name?”
Ugh. How could she have forgotten to introduce herself? Anton’s scent and aura had obviously scrambled more than her hormones.
She unbuttoned her jacket and removed a sealed recommendation letter from her uncle. “Nyx Mercer, niece to Boris Mercer. You know him, I assume.”
The snap of Anton’s teeth sounded overly loud in the quiet room. She jerked, and the envelope fell from her shaky hand.
“I told you I have no time for games!” Anton’s voice boomed.
Nyx linked her fingers instead of bending to pick up the fallen envelope. “I’m not—”
“Of course I know your uncle.” Anton stood and slammed his palms against the desk’s top. “I know every member of the Council. Making such comments to me is not only condescending but childish. If this is the behavior you plan to indulge in, then I suggest you arrange for your uncle’s driver to return for you and your belongings. You will not be an acceptable fit for my needs.”
Nyx’s back went ramrod straight. “I didn’t mean—”
“Go!” Anton pointed. “Either to your room or your uncle’s residence here on campus. I assume you know where it’s at. Pick one and go. Now.”
The trembling returned to her limbs. Anger or fear? She couldn’t tell. She only knew Boris’s plan to remove Anton from the Council sounded like a wonderful idea. Anton deserved the shame of being kicked out of this gorgeous house and his position. He was a royal ass.