Hope you enjoyed these two scenes combined together this week. I know it was rather long, but I may be combining scenes or skipping scenes in an attempt to actually display a good representation of all chapters before the novel goes to editing and betas.A few customers started filtering into the bar, so Joe left the bar stool, and found himself a table toward the back of the bar, where he could see the the door and the stage without being noticed. Paulina came in with Becky right behind her. They both went directly to the bar and talked to Sam. He wondered if Sam would have the balls to bring up the prospect of dancing to Paulina. Obviously not, since Paulina and Becky found his table and sat down with him. Becky left her chap stick tube on his tabletop, and her purse over the back of a chair, when she left to change. He noticed, Paulina didn't have a purse with her, odd for a woman not to have a purse."What brings you back here tonight, Joe?" Paulina had a sly look on her face. She sipped a Coke through a straw, her upward turned lips indicating she was happy to see him. "You on the job, or are you unemployed at the moment?""I'm always on the job." He wasn't sure he wanted to tell her he was going to bring in Knuckles--not yet, anyway.She smiled at him, and left the table to serve some new costumers. Joe sat at the table, watching Paulina move from one table to another, filling orders, putting a halt to the advances of drunken amorous men. He watched the front entrance, for Knuckles or any of his stooges. He watched the back exit door into the alleyway for anyone sneaking out to warn him. Knuckles never showed himself, and as far as Joe knew, none of his stooges showed themselves either. He managed to nurse just three drinks during Paulina's entire work shift. Paulina teased him when she brought his second drink, calling it a virgin rum and coke.Sam made last call, and started ushering customers out the door. Paulina came to his table, sitting in the chair opposite him to count her tips."Busy night?" He asked Paulina as she stacked quarters in a row."Looks like I made enough in tips to spend twenty minutes at the arcade," she said. "I'm surprised how many customers leave a tip of pocket change, and lint balls."Joe leaned back in his chair, rubbing his chin, and thinking of the best approach to mention what Sam had talked to him about earlier. He wasn't much motivated to mention it at all. Although, the prospect of nabbing Knuckles without a fight worked for him financially."I wonder how Becky does in tips." He thought talking about Becky might give him an idea of how she felt about dancing. "At least, she gets paid in dollars, instead of quarters."I'm sure she does well, Paulina said. "She was a professional dancer in Vegas, you know, but I wouldn't be caught dead on that pole in a million years.""Are you shy?" Joe was ready to change the subject, and he sensed she was uncomfortable talking to him about it too."Me?" Paulina pointed to herself with an exaggerated expression. "Showing a little skin doesn't bother me, but I'd die of embarrassment if anyone saw me try to dance. There's no way anybody could get me on that stage. I'll stick to serving drinks and flirting with customers, thank you very much."Paulina convinced him that the thought of her dancing was a dead end, and that was just fine. Besides, he was already starting to feel like he might just be a little uncomfortable with the thought of strange men gawking at her while she danced, mostly naked, on a stage."How would you like to get some coffee again tonight?" He said, thinking it was time to change the subject. "Maybe we can find someplace a little nicer tonight."Paulina put a finger to her mouth, and looked up in an exaggerated expression of thinking, then said. "I'll go with you under one condition.""You're going put conditions on free coffee?" He said, and laughed."Yes, I like conditions," she said. "How about, this time we go without Becky.""Deal."Paulina left the table to go talk to Becky, and waited for her by the door. Sam looked at him so many times, it was beginning to make him uncomfortable. He was sure Sam was curious whether he talked to her about dancing or not. Sam was just going to have to hoist his balls up and ask her himself if he was so determined."Wow, looks like you're getting classier with each date," Paulina said, as He angled the truck into a parking space. "International House of Pancakes for a second date. I can't imagine where we'd go next, Olive Garden?" She laughed, but brought her hand over to meet his on the seat."I'm sorry, but this is the best I can do with the hours we keep." Joe opened his door and slid out of the seat, running over to open her door.He followed her into the restaurant, opening the door for her, and then running past her to open the second door. She sat across from him in a cozy booth that was long enough to easily fit at least six adults. He was a little surprised when she ordered steak and eggs, the steak as rare as the waitress told her the restaurant could legally serve. He ordered eggs with country ham and red eye gravy with grits on the side. Paulina engaged him in idle chit-chat while they waited for their food, asking him if he'd always lived here, and if he liked NASCAR, and what college football team he supported. He kept the conversation light by telling her that NASCAR was for Georgians, and Alabamians didn't decide which college football team they supported, they were born a fan of Alabama or Auburn. They fell quiet when the food came, their only communication becoming the cutting of meat, and the occasional request for salt.Paulina was the first to break the silence after the plates were taken away and replaced with coffee cups."So, Joe," she said. "Did you really come into the bar tonight for me, or are you on the hunt for another criminal?""Mostly because of you." He didn't want to tell her he was after biggest crime boss in the state. "Besides, my criminal never showed up."Paulina fell silent again. Every time he looked across the table at her, she was staring at him, a look in her eyes like she was sizing him up, or considering another question. He busied himself by ruffling through the bills in his wallet, pretending he was deciding on how much to tip the waitress. Paulina got his attention when she said, "Well, I guess the date's over." He suddenly realized he'd already laid cash on the table, blanketing the bill."Oh, no." He said." I'm sorry, it's just a habit to pay the bill as soon as it comes.""That's okay," Paulina winked at him. "Our date doesn't have to be over." She reached over the table and placed her hand on top of his. "We could get another cup of coffee at my place.""Okay," was all he could think to say."Let's go," she said.He slid out the booth and took her hand, wondering if she could see the anticipation written all over him. It was all he could do to keep from breaking the posted speed limit on the drive to her apartment.
* * *
All the way back to her place, Lexi wondered just what she'd gotten herself into. She had no experience with men, but Joe was different. She liked him. She wanted him, and she wanted this to happen. She was ready. Joe parked the truck in front of the single-wide trailer she called home, and she waited while he ran around the front of the truck to open her door. He followed her to the wooden steps that led to the door, and held a small pen flashlight for her while she unlocked the door, fumbling nervously as she tried to fit the key into the door.As they went through the door, she felt Joe's hand on her back. Then, he wrapped his other arm around her from behind, and pulled her into him, turning her until she faced him, theirs lips nearly touching. Her knees nearly gave way, as the intensity of their first kiss pulsed from her lips and saturated her entire body. She knew Joe would not let her fall, he was holding her so tight, she felt her feet may already be off the floor. She suddenly realized her loss of control, and wide-eyed fear replaced blind lust. What if she lost control, and shifted? That would not be good for Joe. He'd proven himself strong and fast but all that was nothing compared to what she would become. She feared he would react violently, and in her animal state, she might kill him. That certainly wouldn't be a good start for their relationship."How about that coffee?" Lexi pushed against Joe's chest, and squirmed out of his arms, her body immediately cold and wanting the warmth of him again."Sure," he said, his eyebrows furrowed, and his head shaking left to right in what could only be confusion.Now, she wasn't even sure why she invited him back for coffee. She didn't even own a coffee pot. But, she didn't want to lose him. He was the first man she ever felt this way about, and it was all too confusing, especially with the other secrets she had to keep from him."Uh, I only have instant. You okay with that?" A sudden fear overwhelmed her again. She feared he might sense her apprehension and leave."Instant is fine," Joe said. "That's what I drink at home, anyway."She filled a teapot with water, put it on the stove, and sat down beside Joe on the small couch."Now, where were we?" She said, as she leaned into him, bringing her arms up around his muscular shoulders.Their lips touched, and electricity spread through her body like a wildfire. There were parts of her body responding to his touch, she'd never even knew existed. A trail of heat, and fire, and electricity followed every movement of his big hands moving slowly, gently over her clothes. He moved his hands along her back, upwards across her shoulders, and down her arms, until he found her hands, holding them securely within his. He broke their kiss, moving away from her just far enough to look her directly in the eyes. His eyes were intense, dark, and possessive. The eyes of an Alpha, for sure.The look in her eyes made her want him even more, and she leaned into him, diving into luxurious warmth of his kiss again. A little voice inside her head started its protest. The voice said this could never be. The voice peeped that she could not have a human. She moaned into Joe's mouth, ignoring the voice.The fire and electricity intensified, as Joe's hands moved back up her arms and shoulders, all the way to the bottoms of her earlobes, before plunging down her to the middle of her spine. He pulled at her blouse until it freed itself from the hem of her jeans. A flash of fire and need shot to her core as she felt Joe's bare hands on the skin of her back, working their way upwards until reaching the clasp of her bra. The voice now echoed warnings, as if yelled from a distant mountain, but she ignored it. She felt Joe working the at the clasps with both hands, but she was ruled by his kiss, and that was all that mattered. She let him work at her bra, willing him to work faster.The first clasp came free, then the second, bringing with it, a rush of want and anticipation as she felt her large breasts give way to gravity. As Joe moved his hands around her sides and over her breasts, the voice was washed away in her pleasure, but she felt the unmistakable feeling of her hair growing and thickening on her arms, a kind of tingling, stinging sensation that was not pleasant by any measure. The voice was suddenly back, now screaming a warning that she was going somewhere she could not come back from. She'd never been with a human before. Hell, she'd never been with anyone. The voice became a torrent of noise, as she felt those little changes inside her signaling a slow change in her form. The screaming turned to a whistle, and she realized the water was boiling on the stove."Wait," she said, as she pushed away from Joe. "Stop."Joe looked at her, confusion in his eyes, his hands still cupping her breasts."We can't do this. Not now." She heard herself saying the words, but they sounded as if someone else was saying them. She was confused. She wanted him, but fear overcame her. Not a fear of losing her virginity, but a fear of the unknown--of what she might do to him. The teapot whistled on the stove, creating a confusing cacophony of noise, clouding her thoughts. Despite her best efforts to hold back, she still felt the changes coming within her. Was she going to shift uncontrollably, right in front him? She'd had full control of her shift since she was nine years old. Why was she suddenly unable to control anything?"You have to go," she yelled at Joe as she back away and jumped up from the couch."But, why?" Joe said. "It's okay, we can just talk.""No!" she snapped back at him. "Just go." Her vision was already becoming blurred with her own tears. "Just go now." she said, quieter this time, as she turned away from him, and pulled the teapot off the burner.Lexi didn't turn around until she heard Joe walk out and shut the door, his footsteps thumping down the wooden steps. All those little signs inside her went away--her shift was not going to come. It wasn't until she heard the truck rumble to life, throwing gravel as Joe sped away, that she allowed herself to cry. It came in waves so intense, she had to sit back down on the couch and hold her head in her hands. She knew now that she was falling in love with Joe--with a human. She knew that it was a love that simply could not be. She couldn't let it happen.Defeated and heartbroken, she wondered if she would be better off just going back to Ellijay with her tail between her legs and accepting her preordained mating to Leonidas. Her birthright doomed her to a life of compromise and servitude. Her selfish independence only allowed her to see the life she would never have.