He crossed his arms on his chest, making his carved biceps bulge. I vividly remembered those steel-hard biceps flexing as he hoisted me up off the floor by my throat.
"You know what I like about you? You have no sense. You sit here in my house, you can barely hold a spoon, and you're telling me 'no.' You'd pull on Death's whiskers if you could reach them."
Actually, Death wasn't that far out of reach. If I stretched my leg, I could kick him.
"I'll ask one more time, what were you doing?"
It was a pointless battle. Julie didn't stand a chance against Derek. She would tell him everything she knew, which he would then relay to Curran. But I would be damned if I'd let Curran intimidate me into caving in.
"I see. I retrieve the surveys the Pack let slip through its fingers, and in return you bring me here against my will, interrogate me, and threaten me with bodily harm. I'm sure the Order will be amused to learn the Pack kidnapped its representative."
Curran nodded thoughtfully. "Aha. Who's going to tell them?"
Um...Good question. He could kill me and nobody would ever find my body. The Order wouldn't even investigate that hard; they might just chalk it up to the flare-related craziness.
"I guess I'll just have to kick your ass and break out of here." I bravely drank the rest of the soup from the bowl, abandoning all propriety. Probably shouldn't have said that.
"In your dreams."
"We've never had our rematch. I might win." Probably shouldn't have said that, either. "Bathroom?"
Curran pointed to the two doors on his left.
I untangled myself from the sheets. I really had to go to the bathroom. The question was: would my legs support me?
"What's so funny?"
"Your panties have a bow," he said.
I looked down. I was wearing a short tank top - not mine - and my blue panties with a narrow white strip of lace at the top and a tiny white bow. Would it have killed me to check what I was wearing before I pulled the blanket down? "What's wrong with bows?"
"Nothing." He was grinning now. "I expected barbed wire. Or one of those steel chains."
Wiseass. "I'm secure enough in myself to wear panties with bows on them. Besides, they are comfy and soft."
"I bet." He almost purred.
I gulped. Okay, I needed to either crawl back into bed and cover myself with the blanket or get the hell to the bathroom and back. Since I didn't fancy peeing on myself, the bathroom was my only option.
"I don't suppose you'd mind giving me a bit of privacy for my trip?"
"Not a chance," he said.
I tried to get off the bed. Everything was under control until my weight actually hit my legs and then the room decided to crawl sideways. Curran caught me. His arm hugged my back, his touch sending an electric shiver along my skin. Oh no.
"Need some help, ass kicker?"
"I'm fine, thanks." I pushed away from him. He held on to me for a second, letting me know that he could restrain me against my will with laughable ease, and let go. I clenched my teeth. Enjoy it while it lasts. I'll be back on my feet soon.
I walked away from him, successfully maintaining vertical position, and zeroed in on the nearest door.
"That's the closet," he said.
I made a small adjustment to my course, arrived at the bathroom door, got inside, and let out a breath. That was entirely too close for comfort.
"You okay in there?" he asked. "You need me to come and hold your hand or something?"
I locked the door and heard him laughing. Bastard.
I found a white bathrobe in the bathroom, which permitted me to emerge with some small shred of dignity intact. Curran raised his eyebrows at the robe but didn't say anything.
I made it to the bed, crawled in, and hugged Slayer. While I was in the bathroom, somebody had taken away the soup. I had still had a little bit left in my last bowl.
Outside the window was dark. "What time is it?"
"Early morning. You've been out for about six hours." He fixed me with a hard stare. "What do you want?"
I blinked. "I'm sorry?"
He spoke slowly, carefully shaping the words as if I was slow or hard of hearing. "What do you want for the maps?"
I wanted to hit him in the mouth really hard. "One of the Pack members came to me for help. If I tell you, will you promise not to punish the persons involved?"
"I can't promise that. I don't know what you'll say. You should tell me anyway. I'm curious now and I don't like being out of the loop."
"And have you embark on a bloody rampage?"
"I grow tired of your mouth." Bones shifted under Curran's skin. The nose widened, the jaws grew, the top lip split, displaying enormous teeth. I was staring into the face of a nightmare, a horrible meld of human and lion. If a thing that weighed over six hundred pounds in beast-form could be called a lion. His eyes never changed. The rest of him - the body, the arms, the legs, even his hair and skin remained human. The shapeshifters had three forms: beast, human, and half. They could shift into any of the three, but they always changed shape completely. Most had to strain to maintain the half-form and to be able to speak in it was a great achievement. Only Curran could do this: turn part of his body into one shape while keeping the rest in another.
Normally I had no trouble with Curran's face in half-form. It was well-proportioned, even - many shapeshifters suffered the "my jaws are way too big and don't fit together" syndrome - but I was used to that half-form face being sheathed in gray fur. Having human skin stretched over it was nausea inducing.
He noticed my heroic efforts not to barf. "What is it now?"
I waved my hand around my face. "Fur."
"What do you mean?"
"Your face has no fur."
Curran touched his chin. And just like that all traces of the beast vanished. He sat before me fully human.
He massaged his jaw.
The beast grew stronger during the flare. Curran's irritation caused his control to slip just a hair.
"Having technical difficulties?" I asked and immediately regretted it. Pointing out loss of control to a control freak wasn't the brightest idea.
"You shouldn't provoke me." His voice dropped low. He suddenly looked slightly hungry. "You never know what I might do if I'm not fully in control of myself."
Mayday, Mayday. "I shudder at the thought."
"I usually have that effect on women."
Ha! "Is that before or after they pee on themselves and show you their furry bellies?"