Bayon Jean-Baptiste (Page 10)
“Have you lost your fucking mind?” Jean-Baptiste eyed the petite woman with the foul mouth, quick wit and fiercely sharp brain. “You know I have.” Isi smacked the seat of the leather recliner in front of her and huffed, “Then get your ass under Derek's needle again because there's no way in hell I'm stepping foot back in the Wildlands.”
“Derek,” he uttered blackly. “That idiot's cat food.”
“When I see him again, he's dead.”
“Oh, Jesus,” she muttered, pulling on a pair of gloves. “What happened?”
“The guy you hired to perform magic-laced tats can't keep his mouth shut. He told one of our spies, who informed the leader of the Suits just what goes in my ink and metal.”
Isi sighed, picked up some tools and dropped them in the autoclave bag. “I'm sorry. Seriously. I'm sorry. But if that's what you're looking for from me-a Wildlands house call-I can't do it.” She gave him a pointed look. “Don't you remember what happened the last time?” Damn right, he remembered. It was a week after he'd realized he had a problem, that his cat wasn't behaving.
He'd popped a few capsules of the malachite drug he gave his patients, testing to see if it grounded the feline inside his body once again.
But not for long.
He'd known right then he needed something permanent. Knew that if he didn't want to be caged liked the very ones he treated, he'd have to hide it.
He'd heard about Isi, her incredible magical abilities, and tried to get to her.
But even though Pantera couldn't shift outside the borders, his cat had. Twice.
And had nearly taken down a couple of tourists in the process. In the end, he'd slunk back to the Wildlands and begged Isi to come to him.
The attempt hadn't turned out well.
For either of them.
“You got sick,” he said, trying to play down the truth as he watched her shove the autoclave bag inside the machine.
She snapped the latch, then turned to glare at him. “What I got was the equivalent of seasickness on land, times ten. I could barely stand, keep anything down.” She shuddered in remembrance.
“I don't care what the reason is or how dire it is, I'm not going.”
Jean-Baptiste sighed, crossed his arms over his chest. “How much?”
“How much? We'll pay. Even in stones, minerals…whatever you want. I know you've been dying to get your hands on all that ancient shit below the surface of the Wildlands' soil.” Baptiste saw a flicker of excitement light her eyes, then a shroud of fear quickly overtake it.
“Isi. That could've been a one-time thing.”
She pointed to the curtain. “You have to go. I have a client coming.” For one brief second, Jean-Baptiste thought about putting up a fight, scaring the shit out of the human who was coming to see her, offering her more than just cash or crystals. But he knew her.
Knew what worked and what didn't.
Fear played her hard and often, and if he was going to get what he wanted, negotiation wasn't the way.
Unfortunately, the way was probably going to get him despised, hunted and, more importantly, cut off from the ink and metal his body and his feral cat desperately needed.
Anger simmered below the surface of Genevieve's skin as she watched the two males greet each other in the lobby of the swank Hotel Fils de France. At first, when Jean-Baptiste had walked out of the voodoun's shop and headed for his car, Genevieve had assumed she'd just become the luckiest female in the world. Isi had said no to the trip, and the inked Nurturer hadn't put up a fight.
She'd be home by midnight, she'd thought smugly, and standing before the elders at dawn.
Her cat had practically purred along with the engine of his Jag.
Then he'd made a call, and two minutes later they'd pulled into the valet line of a beautiful French Quarter hotel.
Before she'd even gotten a word out, a question, a demand to know just what the hell was going on, another male had pulled up beside them in an equally gorgeous car and they'd all walked inside together.
“I appreciate this, Michel,” Jean-Baptiste said in a low, almost conspiratorial voice as they entered the sumptuous, violet-hued lobby.
“Anytime, mon ami.” The suit-and-tie male was extraordinarily handsome, with a skull-shaved head, shockingly broad shoulders, and piercing green eyes that seemed to move over every inch of the hotel and its patrons. “How are things at home? How is the human female recovering?”
Baptiste's voice dropped to a growl.
Michel nodded. “We're working on it from our end.”
“I'm afraid that's classified,” he said, his gaze coming to rest on Genevieve.
Though his eyes remained watchful, his mouth relaxed into a very charming, confident smile. “I recognize a fellow Suit when I scent one. And you, ma cherie, smell like magnolia flowers and twilight on the bayou.”
Genevieve felt a sudden shock of heat hit her cheeks, and she wanted to kick herself. She wasn't appreciating this new and embarrassing side of her nature.
For goodness' sake, handsome males were a dime a dozen. So were
He reached out. “Michel.”
She shook his hand. It was warm, strong, and, knowing his profession outside of the Wildlands, probably able to kill her with just the tiniest of efforts.
“No last name?” she asked him.
“Oh, now you're into last names?” Jean-Baptiste muttered.
Genevieve ignored him.
Michel drew closer. “I find I don't need one.”
His grin broadened. “And your name, cherie?”
“Genevieve,” Jean-Baptiste supplied with more than a trace of annoyance.
Green eyes raked over her. “Beautiful name for a beautiful female.” A low, fierce growl echoed
throughout the bustling lobby, and both Michel and Genevieve turned to look at Jean-Baptiste. The male looked ready to rip Michel's head from his body. His eyes were narrowed into slits, his nostrils flared, and if she wasn't mistaken, his canines were a hair longer than they should be outside of the Wildlands.
As a bellboy passed them, followed by a giggling young couple, Genevieve turned back to Michel and said quickly,
“Thank you. But I'd say I'm more of an impatient, annoyed, and confused female at the moment.”
Michel's gaze remained fixed on Jean-Baptiste. “Are you the cause of this, mon ami?”
“Probably,” the male uttered, his tone so near to menace it actually made the hair on the back of Genevieve's neck lift.
With a soft chuckle, Michel pressed something into Jean-Baptiste's hand, then clapped him on the shoulder. “You have the entire top floor. The owner is a good friend. Anything you want, it's taken care of.” His gaze flickered toward Genevieve, then back to Jean-Baptiste. “And I apologize. I didn't know.”
Jean-Baptiste nodded, then inhaled deeply, seemingly trying to get himself under control.
“Know what?” Genevieve asked, staring at the key in his hand. This had better be a joke. And if it wasn't, there had better be a cab waiting outside.
Hell, if she had to, she could run home.
When neither Michel nor Jean-
Baptiste answered her, she looked up.
There were plenty of humans milling about the lobby, checking in, but the Pantera spy was gone-as if he'd never been. Panic flared within her, and she turned in a slow circle looking for him.
“Where did he go?”
“Come along, Miss Burel.”
She whirled back to face Jean-Baptiste. But he wasn't there either. He was heading for the elevator.
“Hey!” she called after him.
He didn't respond, though several hotel employees looked her way.
“We're not staying here!”
“You don't have to do anything, Miss Burel,” he called back. “The front door is that way. Just let Raphael know I'm on it.”
“On what?” Dammit. She ran after him, bypassing three giggling, stumbling, women who had clearly been out enjoying their evening cocktails. “Your voodoun friend said no, didn't she?”
“Then there's nothing else we can do.”
“I'm giving her some time to calm down, think.”
“Think about what?”
“Giving up a little easily, aren't we, Miss Burel?”
“What?” Her heart stuttered. “Of course not.”
When they reached a bank of
elevators, Jean-Baptiste ignored the gathering crowd and walked straight past, to another, smaller elevator at the far end of the hall. He held his key up to a strip of metal, waited for the keypad to turn red and beep, then glanced over his shoulder at her. Dark brows lowered over amazing eyes. He studied her.
“Isn't it your job to step in if I can't get the job done?”
“I thought you always get the job done, Mr. Baptiste.”
That elicited a wry grin before he stepped into the waiting elevator. “I think I'm starting to like that name. I'll speak to Isi again in the morning.” Morning? “Are you actually suggesting we stay here all night?”
“In or out, Miss Burel.”
Dammit. She couldn't go back to the Wildlands without him, and she couldn't let him talk Isi into coming. She needed time to think. She needed time to-
“Goodnight, Miss Burel.”
Guess she wasn't getting it.
She lurched forward and slipped inside the elevator just as the doors closed.
To Jean-Baptiste's vexation and possible ruin, the female who'd just entered the elevator brought not only her ire and concern into the luxurious leather and suede box with her, but her particular brand of body heat. And the warm, honey-like sensation was quickly fusing into his skin, turning him-and his cat-into a hungry, sensual predator.
He leaned back against the wall and hissed. The last thing this mission needed was an underlying sexual attraction, and yet he'd steered it there too many times to count. Wanting what he shouldn't be wanting. The prickly Suit female. And he'd displayed his desire and possessive instincts for her in front of another Pantera male. Fuck.
Michel's flirtation had been innocent.
His gaze slid over Genevieve, taking in her stunning body and beautiful face.
He grunted. Who was he kidding?
Nothing a Pantera male did was innocent when it came to their females. Michel had been completely and frustratingly into her, and Jean-Baptiste didn't blame the randy bastard one bit. Genevieve Burel was the most desirable female he'd ever laid eyes on, and the fact that she was wrapped up too tightly for anyone, including him, to see just how true that assessment was, made it all the hotter.
“Was this planned from the beginning, Mr. Baptiste?” she asked in a tight voice, her eyes locking with his across the elevator.
“What's that, Miss Burel?”
His body twitched. “There was always a possibility our mission would take more than a few hours.” He crossed his arms over his chest and regarded her.
“Something you're clearly aware of as you brought a bag with you. So, what are you really asking?”
She swallowed tightly and shrugged.
“Just want to know if there's something more going on.”
She gave him a sharp look. “You're really going to make me say it?” His mouth twitched. “Yes, I think I am.”
She took a deep breath. “Are you trying to seduce me, Mr. Baptiste?” Just the query alone had his heated blood ratcheting up to blistering, and his fingers flexing with the need to rip clothing from skin. This female was making him crazy, and he wasn't sure exactly why. She was beautiful and sexy and intriguing, but it was more than that.
He pushed away from the wall and moved toward her. Her scent wrapped around him, infusing his skin, permeating his nostrils with every step. Michel had been right. She smelled like flowers and twilight, and it pissed him off to no end that the Suit had been the one to notice it first.
Her eyes grew wide with his
approach, and she drew back, her shoulders hitting the smooth suede walls of the elevator.
“Seduction is a fallacy, Miss Burel,” he said, coming to stand before her. “A way to diminish your own wants, deny what your body needs, refuse
responsibility for taking what belongs to you.” He couldn't help himself. He inhaled deeply. Then cursed. “If your mouth is ready, your eyes are pleading, your hands are itching to grab and grope, and your pussy is hot and wet and turning the cool air around you into steam, then its mutual. And if it's not? A simple no is all it takes for an honorable male to back the fuck off.”
The elevator was moving upward like a goddamn snail, yet Genevieve's breathing was rapid.
He watched as her tongue slipped from her mouth and swiped at her bottom lip.
“I could do that for you,” he whispered. “I want to.”
Her eyes lifted to connect with his.
White fire swimming in bayou blue.
God, she was gorgeous. Debilitatingly so.
“And you want me to, don't you, Miss Burel? You want me to lick you?” Her nostrils flared, and a soft whimper escaped her throat.
“I'll admit it. Don't think I can stop myself.” Or my cat. “I've wanted to taste you since the moment I saw you.” He leaned in, near her ear. “And not just your mouth.”
Her sharp inhale made him growl.
And the scent of her arousal grabbed hold of the innocent waft of magnolia flowers and the bayou at twilight and shoved them aside, claiming Jean-Baptiste's nostrils, and making his cock swell painfully.
“The door,” she whispered in a pained, breathless voice.
“What door?” he uttered, running his nose across her cheek.
Her skin was so damned soft. He knew it would be soft in other places, too. Her belly, her lower back, behind her knees, between her thighs…
“We're here,” she continued almost painfully.
He eased back, his teeth grinding together, his entire body rigid with a hunger he knew he shouldn't be encouraging. His cat was already scratching to get out, get at her, and the feline didn't give a shit where it showed up and who it took out these days. With the way this female was staring at him-
with longing and fear and sexual curiosity in her sleepy eyes-he wouldn't be able to control the wild cat if it broke free.
“What now?” she whispered, her eyes drinking him in.
“We could take another ride,” he uttered. Goddammit. He was an idiot.
She nodded slightly.
“Or we could get off here.” He grinned. Dangerous, foolish, bastard.
His words, and their double meaning, weren't lost on her, and she blushed furiously, prettily. He wondered if she grew pink all over when she was teased.
His eyes flicked up, past her blond bun, to see the open elevator and beveled glass door of the suite a few feet ahead. There was nothing he wanted more in that moment than to remove each one of those hundred or so buttons on her shirt, and stare, then touch, then feast on what was beneath. But he wasn't going to be that big of a selfish prick. Even if he could keep his cat caged long enough to taste her, he could never be the male for her. He could never offer her a mating. And she was the kind of female who would not only require it, but who wholeheartedly deserved it.
He growled softly, grabbed her hand and her bag, and led her out of the elevator. Xavier had been right about two things: her intelligence and her starched collars. But besides that, the male didn't know shit. This female was not only hot and sexy, but she was intriguing and innocent. And if Jean-Baptiste had been the male he was before, the one with unmarked skin, an optimistic attitude and a cat he could cage with only a thought, he would've dropped to his knees and asked Genevieve Burel to consider his imprint.
Shit, maybe even consider him as a mate-and the only male who would ever be allowed to see and explore the soft, sexual playground she hid beneath all that fabric.