Ella Hayes tossed back her third shot of tequila and savored the burn as it went down her throat. She also cursed her shifter metabolism. As a jaguar shifter it took her a hell of a lot more alcohol to even feel the effects of a nice buzz. And right about now, she desperately needed one. Unfortunately she was still stone cold sober.
After suffering through her younger sister’s wedding to Ella’s ex-boyfriend, she’d split town before the reception. Because a mating wasn’t enough for them, they’d had to have a wedding too, showing the world how blissfully happy they were together. She wasn’t going to stick around and suffer through all the bullshit of her family and pridemates staring at her with pity during the celebration. Lord, she knew she sounded bitter and she didn’t want to be that person. That was why getting away had been the best move she’d ever made.
She didn’t give a shit that Eve and Frederico—what a dumb name!—had gotten mated. She cared that neither of them had had the decency to give her a heads up before they’d announced it to the entire pride at a meeting. It would have been so easy for her sister to say, “Hey Ella, by the way, I’m getting mated to your ex. Just wanted to let you know before I drop the bomb in front of everyone and you’re standing there like a clueless idiot.” Seriously, it was just humiliating.
For the past six months—okay, way longer than that—she’d been feeling restless and ready to move away from her pride anyhow. Her sister’s mating had been the perfect excuse for her to pack up and head down to Gulf Shores, Alabama to live with her cousin, Lauren. Well, not with her, since Lauren was newly mated, but Ella was joining her cousin’s new wolf pack of all things.
Her cousin had mated a wolf and was now part of their pack. Once Lauren heard she was looking for a change she’d almost come up and packed Ella herself. And Lauren had refused to come to the wedding out of a sense of sisterhood. It didn’t matter that they weren’t actual sisters, Ella and Lauren had grown up closer than Ella had to her own younger sister.
She wasn’t expected for another two days so Ella had decided to take her time and tonight she’d stopped at a well known shifter bar in Montgomery. No humans were allowed in so shifters were free to be who they were. She’d never been, but had heard wild stories about it. Wild wasn’t normally her thing, but tonight it was perfect because she was ready to let her inhibitions loose. Just for one night.
As she motioned to the bartender for another shot, she glanced in the mirror above the bar and saw a sexy-as-sin shifter leaning against one of the six pool tables, stick in hand, as another man racked the balls. He wasn’t overtly tall, but he was broad—really broad, with muscular shoulders and biceps she could imagine running her fingers across. His dark hair reached his jaw line. Normally she didn’t care for long hair on a man, but on him it looked perfect. With about two days worth of stubble on his defined jaw, wearing faded jeans, a black leather jacket and shit kickers, he almost looked like a bad boy cliché. Tall, dark, sexy and a little brooding. Yes, please.
Her gaze traveled up from those beat up shit kickers, over the length of that powerful body to land on that insanely handsome face again and she realized he was looking right at her. With piercing green eyes, there was no mistaking it when they caught hers in the mirror.
Thanks to her shifter sight, there wasn’t even a doubt he was watching her. Her breath caught in her throat as she stared at him, completely snared. One of the men at the pool table said something and briefly diverted his attention, releasing her from that stare. It was like she’d been released from a trance. For just a moment everything around her had funneled out; sounds, sights, scents and anything not Mr. Sexy.
On a rush, everything crashed back in on her. The sharp scent of the new shot of tequila sitting in front of her, the beat of the country music, the visual of various couples grinding against each other on the dance floor. Good Lord, it looked like a few were actually having sex. If not for their clothes in the way, they would be.
Tearing away from that sight, she took a deep breath and tried to make up her mind. Tonight, she could actually live a little and have fun, or go back to her hotel room alone. She was tired of going to bed alone though, tired of pleasuring herself and still being left wanting.
Under normal circumstances Ella let men approach her. She wasn’t going to proposition anyone. Okay, under normal circumstances she never even came to bars, much less hit on men. She was an absolute work-a-hohlic. That was changing for tonight. It had to. She didn’t want to be this person she’d become. It was like in the past five years she’d forgotten how to have fun.