“The gathering should be fun, but the local human mechanic near my work has my heart. I’ll wear down my father soon if I can annoy my stepmother enough to get over her snobbery.”
Rory chuckled. “You have a plan.”
“What I have is a winning plan.”
“Confidence is half the battle,” the guy sitting on the female shifter’s other side said.
Rory let their conversation drift over him while surreptitiously watching Anita. The woman’s honey-colored skin seemed paler than earlier, and she gripped her cutlery like weapons. Now and then, she’d sneak a glance at him. Her scowl told Rory something about him upset her.
Rory thought he was an easygoing guy. He was happiest sorting out problems diplomatically rather than knocking heads together. Hell, he couldn’t think of anything he might’ve done to upset this feline woman. Rory seldom left the mountain where he lived and worked.
A brainwave occurred to Rory. “Have you visited Scotland before?”
Her brown eyes widened, and she shook her head vigorously. “This is my first visit.”
She averted her gaze before letting it skitter back. Finally, she glanced down at her silverware.
Rory grimaced, glad when a waiter interrupted to take their drink orders.
“We have red or white table wine. Which would you prefer?” the waiter asked.
The female bear shifter butted into the conversation. “We’ll have one of each,” she chirped.
The waiter smiled and handed over two bottles of wine.
“White or red?” Something about Anita made Rory want to annoy her, to force her to speak to him. He didn’t take the time to analyze his reaction but tilted the white in her direction. “You do want wine?”
“Please,” she said, her voice harsh.
Rory inhaled, and her floral scent filled his nostrils. Nice. Her perfume was delicate instead of overpowering, and something about the smell poked at his memories. He shook himself and tamped down his uneasy wolf.
Once he’d filled her glass, she lifted it to her red lips and took a huge sip. Rory turned to his right to offer the white wine. When he turned back, her glass was empty.
Rory topped up her glass. “Do I make you nervous?”
“Are you interested in me?”
“No.”Her feline showed in her golden-brown eyes. An intriguing but fleeting flash of temper lit her features. “You’re a wolf.”
“Mixed marriages are common these days.” Not in his world, but he wanted to rile her and provoke a reaction.
She bit her lip and didn’t reply to his statement, although he could tell she wanted to snap at him because her jaw clenched. Her feline was practically spitting at him, and if she were in her feline form, she’d take a swipe at him with unleashed claws.
“We could partner in the activities.” Rory didn’t stop to analyze his impulse to needle her to get a reaction.
“I don’t think so,” came her chilly reply.
Interesting. Anita’s accent held the distinct sounds of her home country, but beneath, he caught a hint of the Scottish brogue. No, perhaps he imagined this, or maybe… “Were your parents born in Scotland?”
“None of your business.” She drank more of her wine and ignored him to chat with the man on her other side.
Rory tapped her on the shoulder, his inner wolf irritated at the casual way she’d dismissed him.
“Leave me alone. Wolves don’t interest me.”
“Right.” Rory shaped his mouth into a toothy grin. “Challenge accepted.”