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Tiger's Tail

Chapter One

Selene stretched on the chaise lounge beside the pool to glance at the caller ID on her mobile phone. Seeing her mother's name, she elected to ignore the insistent chirp. Voicemail would pick up, and it had more patience for her mother's nagging than she did.

The phone finally stopped its annoying twitter, and she checked the time on its display, wishing she could afford a nicer phone than the freebie that came with her service contract. She'd really like one of those annoying ones that played radio quality music or demanded you answer it in celebrity voices. Unfortunately, when she'd chosen to leave home her parents had cut off her financial support.

But that didn't bother her. She found she liked standing on her own two feet. Independence was worth far more than a trust fund, and despite what her parents thought, being independent did not mean turning her back on her people.

"Selene!" a youthful voice piped.

She raised up on one arm and looked through the fence surrounding the pool of her small apartment complex to see a young boy waiving frantically at her. The large yellow school bus pulled away from the curve behind him with a loud screech of releasing brakes. "Hi Davy, how was school?"

The little boy hopped excitedly from one foot to the other. "It was great. I got an A on my math test."

"That's great," she replied with a wide grin. Standing, she wrapped her sarong around her waist and grabbed her bag. This news warranted a hug. On the sidewalk outside the fence, she dropped to one knee and wrapped the boy in a giant bear hug. "I'm so proud of you."

"Momma's gonna be real proud of me, too," he bragged.

"You bet she will. I sure am." She released him and stood back up. Davy had been struggling in school ever since the death of his father two years earlier.

"How proud?" he asked with an avaricious glint in his eye.

She couldn't resist the impish expression on his face. "I think I might have some cookie dough in the fridge."

"Chocolate chip?" he asked hopefully.

"Is there any other kind?"

They crossed the parking lot to her small, efficiency apartment. Selene unlocked the door, but paused with one foot over the threshold. Davy vibrated with excitement behind her. "Don't you have to take Midget out?"

"I can take her out after cookies," he hedged with worry in his features.

"Take her out now while I preheat the oven."

His face smoothed out, clearly relieved that his chores wouldn't postpone the promised cookies. "Can I bring Midget over after I take her out? I promise she'll be good."

"I don't think so, Davy. I'm not a big fan of dogs," she replied.

"You just need to give Midget a chance. She's very sweet," Davy bolted around the corner to his own apartment.

A shudder went through her. She knew Davy was bringing that creature into her home. His tender years prevented him from believing that anyone couldn't be blown over with adoration for his beloved pet, and Selene couldn't exactly explain her innate aversion to dogs. Or dogs' aversion to her.

At least Davy had a Chihuahua. Surely she could handle a dog that weighed a whopping three pounds.

She headed into the kitchenette and turned the oven on. While it heated, she pulled out a nonstick baking sheet from the drawer beneath it and a tub of cookie dough from the fridge. Locating a clean spoon in the dish drying rack beside the sink, she began to scoop balls of sticky dough onto the sheet.

The front door slammed open, and she heard the yipping bark of Midget. A glance over her shoulder revealed Davy holding the tiny terror in his arms. With effort, Selene refrained from hissing at her.

"I think Midget would like a cookie, too," Davy announced, moving to her side.

Selene wanted to back away from the boy and his pet, but made herself stay put. The dog weighed less than her purse.
And Selene was no domesticated house cat.

"Chocolate isn't good for dogs. It could cause a seizure."

"It's just a little bit of chocolate," he wheedled.

"She's just a little bit of a dog," Selene countered. "No chocolate for Midget."

He stuck his lower lip out, and Selene struggled not to laugh. Davy was adorable. But then, she'd always loved children. Contrary to her mother's belief, she had no intention of throwing away the opportunity to have children of her own. She just intended to be more than a broodmare, and that meant establishing her own life first.

She slid the dough-laden sheet into the oven and plucked the egg timer from its place on the counter. After setting the timer, she returned the tub to the fridge. With a smile, she turned to suggest that they sit at the table while they wait -
- and had a small dog shoved into her arms. Startled, she juggled Midget for a moment until she was able to get a better grip. The bug-eyed dog's nostrils flared and she vigorously sniffed at Selene. Tiny lips lifted in a snarl to reveal minuscule, sharp teeth. A growl rumbled in the small dog's chest.

Selene hastily dumped Midget back into Davy's arms. "I don't think Midget likes me."

Midget's growls increased and she barked at Selene, almost lunging from Davy's arms.

"Midget!" Davy scolded, tightening his hold. "I don't understand what's wrong with her. She likes everybody."

Fortunately the diminutive dog trying to attack her looked so ridiculous that it calmed her instincts. She reached over the snapping animal's head and ruffled Davy's hair. "I have that reaction with all dogs. Maybe you should run her home."

He bit his lip. "Yes ma'am. I'm so sorry. I don't know what's got into her."

"Don't worry about it," she reassured him and pulled the door open.

"I'll be right back," he promised and left the apartment, scolding Midget as he went.

Selene closed the door behind him and leaned against it, massaging her temples. She hadn't spent enough time in Tigre form if a stupid Chihuahua could raise her instincts. That was the one downside to being away from the Pride. She didn't have the ability to shift freely while living among the humans. The risk of discovery was too great.

She sighed. However restrictive, living with her family meant living on Pride land and the liberty not only to shift but to run freely without fear of discovery. There was nothing like running wild in her tiger form. Though she gained a great deal of weight and muscle mass when she shifted, she moved with a lighter a step on paws than on foot. She loved the rhythm of running through the forests, especially at night beneath the silver glow of Mother Moon, with the wildness pounding in her blood.

Perhaps it was a good thing that she had given in to her mother's demands and agreed to attend the Pride celebration to welcome the alpha's new mate, the Tigrine.
Not that her mother was concerned about the physical effects of not shifting on her only daughter. The woman was far more interested in the number of eligible Tigre males who would be paying their respects to the alpha's mate.

A mischievous grin crossed Selene's face. On the chance that a potential mate would be attending, she had developed a secret weapon against the pheromones that would send her into heat. Her mother had seriously underestimated her daughter's resourcefulness.

Pleased with her ingenuity, Selene pushed away from the door and headed to the cabinets to get plates for the cookies and glasses for milk.