Jared turned to go, but for some reason, the hairs on the back of his neck chose that instant to stand on end as if the air had taken on an electric current.
“Jared Scott?” a husky female voice said from behind him. Not Gloria. Another woman had arrived.
He turned back. “Well, finally.”
“I told you she was perfect,” Gloria chirped.
Amanda didn’t appear to appreciate that assessment any more than he did. She scowled at the receptionist for a second and then gave him the once over.
He did the same for her. Nearly as tall as his own six feet, she stood straight, her chin lifted, as she stared at him out of eyes the color of dark sapphires. Pale skin and black hair done up in a rigid twist completed the picture of someone formidable, even severe. The two of them likely wouldn’t do any giggling during their relationship.
Relationship? She’d design the execution of his wish. No more.
“I’m sorry to have kept you waiting, Jared,” she said.
No formalities, indeed. “I forgive you, Amanda.”
She flinched at that, but only just barely. Someone who spent less time than he did reading people would have missed the slight narrowing of her eyes. Either the forgiveness bit or the pointed use of her first name had irked her. Fine. Only his few friends called him Jared. No one here counted as his friend.
“Well, then. Let’s get on with it.” She headed down a corridor, her long strides taking her away from him and forcing him to catch up. He took his time doing it. For one thing, she could damned well wait for him for a bit. For another, hanging back gave him a good view of her ass.
Though more slender than the pixie-cat, Amanda had her own curves. She wore leggings underneath a bulky sweater, and the movement in there sent his imagination into overdrive. Every swing of her hips, no matter how subtle, suggested the rounding of her buttocks.
By the time she stopped in front of one of the offices, he’d measured her breasts from memory. Small but firm. And when they’d entered and she’d taken her seat behind her desk, he’d already begun to have a very male reaction to her.
She bit her lip and shot him a gaze that went right through his chest and down to his groin. Recognition. She already knew what was happening between them.
“Please, sit down.” Her voice came out as deep as before, but now it had a hint of breathiness as well. She had a husky way of speaking. Something that made her linger for a millisecond on the vowel sounds. Sweet. Seductive.
Before his anatomy embarrassed him completely, he sat and watched her sift through some papers. She didn’t make eye contact, but a flush to her cheeks told him she was as aware of his presence as he was of hers.
After a moment, she picked up one sheet and studied it for a long moment. Her eyes widened as she stared up at him. “This is your wish?”
“To hunt a werewolf. Yes.”
“I suppose you’ve read my dossier,” he answered.
“Everyone in R and D becomes acquainted with the histories of our clients,” she answered. “You’ve served as CEO of a number of companies. Now, you have your own.”
“Government contracts. Top secret much of it.”
She set the paper down and studied him. “Military?”
“Intelligence mostly.” In fact, his agency contacts would take a dim view of his coming here and an even gloomier one if they knew what he’d come here for. None of their damned business. “So, you can see why confidentiality is so important.”
“We never give away information of our clients.” There was that deep tone again. The slow downward inflection on clients.
“Then, we understand each other,” he said.
“Not at all,” she said. “What does your history have to do with your wish?”
“Human beings… ordinary people… how shall I put this?”
She stared at him evenly. Assessing him the way he normally did with others. He had no reason to doubt her intellect, but he seldom encountered an equal. Given that and what her body did to his, she might present a real challenge with more than a little pleasure on the side. Right now, she obviously wasn’t going to help him explain himself.
“I want to hunt the greatest predator on Earth. You’d think that would be a human being,” he went on. “But average people are motivated by only a handful of things. Once you’ve figured out what they want, they’re really rather boring.”
“And so, your interest in werewolves.”
“What a creature. Imagine. The speed and keen senses of the wolf combined with the mind of the human. What kind of opponent one of them would make,” he said.
“Your wish is to hunt one.”
“You can’t hunt big game these days, and honestly, I have no interest. Animals are dumb beasts, and they belong in the wild.”
Another woman might have applauded his kindness. Amanda sat and stared at him out of her startling blue eyes.
“I don’t think the authorities would like me hunting people,” he continued. “But if WishLabz could create a werewolf for me, I could hunt that without breaking the law.”
The room fell into complete silence, and the woman sat across from him like a sphinx, not moving, hardly blinking. After a moment, she leaned back in her chair. “Create a werewolf?”
“You can make magic here, at least according to the people who referred me. I don’t know what sort of technology you have. If you can’t design a credible werewolf for me, you can refund my money.”
“And how would you kill this creature?” she asked. “Shoot it with a high-powered rifle from hundreds of yards away?”
“I didn’t say kill. I said I wanted to hunt it.”
“Killing the target’s the whole point of hunting, isn’t it?” she asked.
“One or both of us might die, I’ll admit,” he answered. “It’ll be dangerous sport.”
“Sport,” she repeated. This time her accent suggested more than a hint of derision.
“I don’t expect you to understand.”
That got a definite reaction -- one eyebrow arching. “Because I’m a woman?”
“Because you’re not in a position of command. I fought like hell to get where I am. Now that I’ve arrived, I miss the fight.”
She nibbled her lower lip for a few seconds. On another woman, the action might have suggested uncertainty. On her, it suggested she needed to gnaw on something and she hadn’t decided if he’d be worth the effort.