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I could feel it when the were-tiger stepped across the boundary of my city and onto the streets of town. She either must have been new enough or ignorant enough as to invade another tiger’s territory without knowing. It would’ve been more logical had she just been turned, and was new to the system, but according to her scent, she was rather old. Even though she was probably a good mile away, I could still smell the musty aroma of leaves and grass, fur and tiger.
I sat back into the red cushioned booth beside the window of a bustling Perkins, people’s chatter saturating the air with an irritable noise. Petulantly, I stuffed my nose into a newspaper and peered sideways as a waitress greeted me with an uncanny grin.
“Here’s your coffee, Sir.” she chirped, setting down the hot pot of coffee and a tan mug decorated with the restaurantâ€˜s cheery green icon. I waited until she scuttled to the next table, then poured myself a steaming cup and dumped seven small containers of cream into it. Satisfied, I lifted the warm cup up to my lips and sipped calmly.
It was then that I heard the door swing ajar, and caught a glimpse of the woman stepping inside from the rain that had just started to fall. Cautiously, I went back to paying attention to the daily paper, shrugging the woman off as a horse would a fly.
I growled in annoyance as two golden eyes lined with deep, vibrant green speckles stared into my plain brown contacts with exuberance. With a sigh, I folded the paper onto the table and took a quick swig of my coffee.
“May I sit by you?” the woman asked, her voice a cross between a musical note and seductive chill. I nodded slowly, propping my chin onto the back of my right wrist.
“Do whatever you want.” I replied. “Just don’t stay here for another day.”
“Excuse me?” she raised her voice in question.
I grumbled, “Sit. I just don’t wancha staying here much longer.”
I shot her an icy glare. “This is my territory.” I formed the last words into a growl, a real tiger’s growl.
The woman twirled a strand of her brunette hair, which I’d imagined to be soft and feathery, around an index finger and laughed. “I’m here to stay.” her tone rose from joking to serious in a split-second. Touché.
“No, you’re not.” I mumbled.
“Yeah, I am.”
I exhaled and stood from my seat, fumbling in my pants pocket for a ten. When my hand wrapped around a crumpled bill, I threw it onto the table and started for the door. The woman followed after me. Goody.
We stopped by some trees right behind Perkins, situated beside a Memorial Park. It was night, the sky starless and bare, a crescent moon shining like an opal pendant. I ran a hand through the snowy white mid-length of my hair, watching the woman with interest as she examined me thoroughly. Gently, I took my contacts out of my eyes and placed them in a small blue case inside my pants pocket. I really didn't need the contacts, for visual purposes, at least. I wore them because I was afraid of people seeing the color of my eyes, especially when they changed with my mood. They could be green one instant, and red the next. Other tigers I knew adored my eyes, but the humans I knew were weirded out by it. I never found out why my eyes were like that, but I've gotten used to it. After years of people gawking at you, I became smart and decided to finally wear contacts. Aggravating, right?
“Your eyes are pretty.” she said. “They're like ice, but darker, almost like a cerulean blue the color of the Ocean.”
I responded lowly, “Thanks.”
She smiled. “You’re a Lugal, a King Tiger.”
I made a sour face and breathed, “Yeah, that’s me.”
She frowned. “I’m Maya.”
My hands flexed, a habit of mine when I’m either annoyed or impatient. “Lance.”
“Hey, Lance.” Maya stepped closer to me. “I know this is your territory in all, but can I please stay a little longer?”
I opened my mouth to respond, but the words died in my throat. In one swift movement, I turned around and blocked the bullet with my arm. It bounced off my skin and clattered to the ground.
Maya gasped as I faced the man concealed under the shadow of a nearby tree, his gun still held to his eyes. Maya backed up a little, scared noises escaping her mouth like a frightened prey.
“Bad memories of guns?” I asked her without turning my head.
“Yeah.” she swallowed hard.
“Bastard.” I muttered, as the man trembled and loaded his gun again. As he scrabbled to find his extra bullets, I crouched onto all fours and let my body relax. Bones popped and snapped as they rearranged themselves, my muscles tearing and bulging as they grew and expanded. Creamy white fur exploded all over my body, the stripes pale and faint against the pure white of the dominant color. My hands morphed into claws, a tail protruding from my rear, teeth extending into sharpened fangs. I let out a low roar as my transformation from man to tiger completed, leaving my clothes a shredded heap on the damp grass.
“Hunter.” I snarled, lunging forward and lashing at the man’s shoulder with enough force to tear his heart out. A warm arc of blood graced the air as I scraped my claws across his back, blood dripping from the fresh marks like crimson paint on a canvas of skin.
The man’s face was flushed so pale, you could see all the blue veins running through his cheeks. He tried to pry my claws off of him, but failed. I growled contently as he whimpered, cried in pain as my fangs found their way into his arm and sank until a steady stream of blood oozed out.
I pulled free from him and thrust him onto the ground, tearing his jeans as I did so.
“Go!” I hissed at the man. He scrambled to his feet and darted away, leaving his gun behind.
I licked the blood from my claws, relishing the sweet metallic taste I experienced rarely.
“Wow! That was super fast.” Maya exclaimed.
I pivoted to her and smiled a smile only a tiger could do, fangs and all. “You’d better stay a little longer.”
“Cause now you have hunters after you.”
Worry shone in her eyes. “Hunters? Like, lycanthrope hunters?”
I nodded, tail swishing.
“Do ya think it’ll be safe at the hotel I’m staying at?”
I groaned. “No.”
“Then where do ya think will be safe?”
I moaned and replied reluctantly, “My house.”