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Eye of the Tiger: Paranormal Dating Agency by ML Guida (1)

Chapter 1

“Come on, Cora, how bad can our high school reunion be?” Lara whined on the phone.

“Bad. Nightmare bad.” Cora Amici gripped her cell phone tight, afraid any minute she’d break it in half. She sat on her bar stool and twirled her glass of wine. Her heart beat faster. Just thinking about facing Miles Le Blanc again put her in a howling panic.

Outside her window, the clouds flitted past Buffalo Mountain and the wind blew the pine needles. Aspen leaves quivered. She regretted answering her cell and would rather be outside taking a walk rather than reliving her high school drama.

“Jessica Whitcomb was helping me for the last two months, then she backed out.”

“So?”

“Cora, you promised you’d help me,” Lara interrupted her wistful thoughts. “How can I do this without you?”

“I have three words for you: Miles Le Blanc.” She took a sip of wine, wishing she could worm out of her promise. Miles had been the sexiest shifter in school. He’d been the leader of the Streaks. Only the most popular girls got to go out with a tiger, but going out with him had been the biggest mistake of her life.

“But that was ten years ago,” Lara grumbled. “I’m sure people have forgotten.”

“My sister married him, and now she’s a shifter. Do you know what it’s like having to deal with this every day? I can’t forget what happened that awful night, so how could anyone else?”

“I know. I can’t believe Caterina did that to you.”

“So then why are you asking me to do this?”

“Because I need you. We did everything in high school together. We always had each other’s backs. I stood up for you when people talked shit about you after prom.”

Cora winced. “I remember.”

The same familiar pain drilled into her heart. She could still picture Caterina and Miles running out of the ballroom, holding hands, leaving her in the middle of the dance floor with tears rolling down her cheeks. Caterina was her fraternal twin and twins were supposed to be close and support each other. Caterina must not have gotten the memo. Cora closed her eyes and wiped away the tears. She could still hear the whispers as she headed off the dance floor.

I can’t believe she didn’t know that he was only using her… Of course he was in love with Caterina… She’s the thin one…

“Hey, maybe Miles and Caterina won’t come. Don’t they live in Santa Fe?”

“Are you kidding? You think Miles would miss lording over his worshippers again?”

“You’re probably right.” Her voice lowered, then it picked up. “Maybe I’ll lose their invite.”

Cora traced the top of her wine glass with a finger. “No, then I’d get blamed for it, and I don’t want to hear my mom’s forgive-and-forget lecture. Again.”

She could never understand why her family took Caterina’s side. Her stomach tightened into a bunch of clumps. “Lara, I just don’t think I can do this.”

“You can’t do this to me.”

Caterina had been head cheerleader with a body that football players drooled over. She’d been one of the mean girls – criticizing Cora’s clothes, her weight, her friends, and then her antics had risen to a whole new stardom at prom.

She poured more wine into her glass. “Why don’t you just bow out and let someone else be the coordinator?”

“I’m the valedictorian and the coordinator of the reunion committee, so no, I can’t bow out.” Her excited tone turned hard. “How can I go to the reunion without you? We always did things together. Do you want me to face the mean girls alone?”

Cora bit her tongue to keep from answering yes. She sighed and then grumbled, “No.”

“Good. Come on, it will be fun! You’ll see.”

She rubbed her forehead. “What exactly do you want me to do?”

“I need you to help me with contacting people through Facebook or email.”

“I’m not contacting Miles or Caterina. It’s bad enough I have to face them at family events. There’s a reason I don’t live in Arvada anymore.”

“Okay, fine. I’ll do it.”

“Thank you.”

Frisco was an hour away. Mountains and valleys and deserts were between her and her sister, but sometimes it wasn’t enough. Caterina hated the cold, so there wasn’t a chance she’d run into her or Miles at the grocery store. Plus, Cora owned a one bedroom condo, which kept them from visiting her. Thank God.

“So you’re going to help me?” Her tone brightened.

“Maybe.”

“Are you going to make me get on my knees and beg?”

“It would help.”

“This won’t kill you. Besides, I only ever see you at major holidays.”

Lara was an attorney and worked in a firm that required billable hours, which meant nights and weekends.

“Spending holidays at my mom’s isn’t my idea of fun.”

Christmas was the worst, acting like they were one big happy family with the exchange of kisses and hugs. All Cora wanted, was to come down with the flu every Christmas Eve, but try telling that to her mother. Christmas was a huge thing in the Amici family. Even being sick wasn’t allowed, unless you were in the hospital on your death bed.

Lara put on her attorney voice. “You’re not giving this half a chance. Let’s look at the bright side. There are other guys.”

“Yeah, other guys who want to humiliate me,” she mumbled.

“Cora, it’s been ten years since high school, I’m sure things have changed. Will you please, please, please help me?”

“I don’t know.”

“Would it make a difference if I told you I ran into Seth Reese?”

Cora’s breath caught in her throat. Seth was another tiger shifter who had turned every girl’s head in high school. He didn’t talk much, but he was always with Miles. He’d been at the prom and had watched Miles grab Caterina’s hand and lead her out of the dance as if she were Cinderella and Cora was one of the ugly stepsisters.

Cora rubbed her sweaty forehead. “All of Miles’ friends had cheered.”

“I don’t remember Seth cheering,” she said softly.

“Okay, maybe he didn’t.” Heat rushed over her face and her chest tightened. “But he was Miles’ best friend.”

“So? He was way hotter than Miles. He was just quiet and didn’t drive a savage car.”

“Miles did have a gorgeous, red corvette. I remember.” Unfortunately, she’d lost her virginity in that car.

“I bet you do.”

“Don’t remind me. Miles still owns that damn car. Every time he and Caterina drive up in the car, it’s a slap in my face.”

“Quit focusing on Miles and Caterina.”

Cora rolled her eyes and laughed bitterly.

“Did I tell you Seth always asks about you?”

“To see if I recovered from the most humiliating high school event ever?”

“He never mentions prom. I think he’s really interested in you. I always told you that you should have gone out with him – not Miles.”

“Then Caterina would be married to Seth instead of Miles.”

“Seth isn’t Miles.”

Her scolding voice spurred Cora’s spine, and she sat straighter in her chair, but she silenced back a retort.

“Cora, are you there?”

“Yes, I’m here.”

“I need an answer. Are you going to help me or not?”

Every instinct told her to say no, but in a weak voice, she caved. “I’ll help you.”

“And you promise to come to the reunion?”

Cora gritted her teeth, thinking about what illness she could suddenly come down with during the weekend of the reunion – pneumonia, whooping cough, malaria.

“Cora?”

She frowned. “I’ll come, but don’t expect me to stay the whole time.”

Lara sighed. “I guess that’s the best I can expect from you.”

“I’ll talk to you later.”

“I’ll send you the list immediately. I’ll make you an admin on the Facebook page.”

“Fine.”

“You’re the best.”

She ran her hand through her curls. “Yeah, I’m the best.”

They hung up and Cora finished her glass of wine. She looked at the calendar. The reunion was exactly one month away. If she could cast a spell, she’d make time stop.

She walked over to her laptop and checked her email. Sure enough, Lara had already sent her the email list and the little wench had listed Seth Reese as the first person for her to contact. She popped on to Facebook and pulled up Seth’s Facebook page. She gasped and her heartbeat quickened. She’d forgotten how handsome he was. He sat on a motorcycle wearing a leather jacket and a pair of faded jeans. His intense golden eyes made her squirm in her chair as if he could see her through the net. She wondered what it would be like to thread her fingers through his silky strands. His black leather jacket hugged his broad shoulders and showed off his naked abs. He was a bad boy – an extremely hot bad boy.

Lara was right. He was drop dead gorgeous compared to Miles who had a gained a few pounds over the years. How come she’d never noticed that before? Why did Seth always ask about her anyways? She was a librarian who could barely pay her rent each month and was still on the chunky side, unlike her pencil-thin sister.

Diets didn’t work and she’d given up. She bought clothes that complimented her body, but she doubted the lovely Barbie bitches or Miles and his buddies would notice. Based on Lara’s information, she quickly made an Arvada East High School Facebook page, announcing the ten-year reunion and events – a dreaded happy hour, an even more dreadful dance, and then a painful picnic.

Before she knew what she was doing, she sent Seth a friend request. God, he made her think of what it would be like to have his lips worshipping her body. He must have a girlfriend or be married. How could a guy like that be single?

If it was the last thing she did, she wasn’t going to show up at the reunion without a date. Not just any date. She needed a shifter. She knew who to call – Gerri Wilder.

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