Predator's Refuge

By: Rosanna Leo

Ryland puffed out his cheeks and let the air escape in a slow whoosh. “Well, I don’t want to reveal all his private info, but I don’t think the noblesse oblige thing is working for him. Just treat him like any other employee. At the same time, see if you can take him under your wing. You know, make sure he fits in and that no one finds out his story. He’s trying to make a new life for himself. I can respect that. Anyway, I told him to ask for the person in charge when he gets here, so he’ll be looking for you.”

A prince who didn’t want to be a prince.

She’d shown a few employees around but never under such weirdly intimidating circumstances. Was she supposed to curtsy to this guy or assist him with donning his ermine robes? Don’t be silly. Ryland said treat him like anyone else. She clasped her hands in front of her and threw her shoulders back, confident in her ability to do her job and prepare the new staff member. Entitled nobleman or not. “I’ll make sure he gets the royal treatment, boss,” she joked.

He shook his head, grinning at the pun. “Thanks.” He handed her some keys. “These are for my office. Use them well, grasshopper. Be good, Marci.”

She gave the bear man a hug, thankful for all he’d done. “You too, Ryland,” she said, excited to earn her wings. “Just not too good.”

* * * *

By that evening, as Marci finished up her walkabout inside the lodge, she was convinced she could run the freaking Four Seasons. The dinner service had gone without a hitch, even though one of the new guests demanded vegan options. Despite how badly she’d wanted to clock the so-called vegan shifter, she’d made special arrangements with the chefs to accommodate him. And when a couple of the boys from the mentoring program got too aggressive, pummeling each other on the lawn, she’d personally intervened and sat them down to reason with them. She’d made sure the fishing lodge was stocked with fresh bait and checked on the gas levels in all the boats for rental. Now, she felt so in command of every niche of the resort, she might have been the Richard Branson of the Ursa Fishing Lodge.

Ryland would have no reasons to regret putting her in charge.

“Kate,” she called to a colleague down the hall. “Did the pub get restocked with Molson Canadian? We go through that stuff like water.”

“Yes, Marci,” the woman replied as they passed.

She smiled and carried on outside toward the security office. Once there, she strode in and addressed the two security guards on duty. “Lloyd, Connor. Any issues today?”

Lloyd, a burly bear shifter, grinned. “All quiet on the western front, boss. Not even a splinter.”

“You guys are awesome.” She exited the office with a happy wave, her heart swelling with satisfaction. “Keep on keepin’ on!”

On her way back to her own cabin for the night, she picked up Ryland’s walkie-talkie and called over to the housekeeping department. “Moira, it’s me. Were you able to send up the extra pillows and blankets to the Vaughan family? Their little girl gets cold at night.” She waited for Moira’s crackly, affirmative response and thanked the housekeeper. “Perfect, thank you. Talk to you in the morning. Over and out.”

With a click on the walkie-talkie button, Marci reached her cabin door. She unlocked it but took one last look back at the property she’d come to love, probably just as much as Ryland. The old oaks and maples were now fully robed in autumn splendor, and the forest seemed awash in tones of gold and scarlet. She breathed in. With her enhanced lynx senses, she could smell smoke from several cozy fireplaces and smiled at the thought of guests warming themselves inside their cabins. She turned her gaze toward the small portion of Lake Gemini visible from her vantage point, and it glistened under the setting sun.

The most beautiful place in the world.

After spending her formative years on the resort, it felt more like home than her parents’ house did. Nothing would give her more contentment than doing it justice while she was in command, so when Ryland returned, it would remain the peaceful haven he’d created.

She exercised control over each aspect of the business and things were going swimmingly. In fact, they couldn’t be any better. Safe in the knowledge all was well on the resort, she entered her cabin and closed the door behind her.

As soon as she was alone, her back still to the door, exhaustion set in and her smile faded. An invasive tickle crept up her spine.

Immediately her inner voice, that of her lynx, began to taunt her. You might think you’ve muzzled me, friend, but just you wait…

Go away. A drip of perspiration materialized on her brow and dripped down her temple, landing in her cleavage.

Marci only shifted for the first time a few months ago, and her lynx seemed to be under the impression she had a different vocation. Specifically, that of a dedicated porn star. Her libido, absent for much of her adult life, had recently kicked into overdrive. Most days, Marci’s temperature ran so hot she wondered if she’d skipped her twenties and gone straight to menopause.

Even Ryland knew her shame because she’d propositioned his brother Soren. While naked.