Almost there, I could see the steel elbow of a hydraulic arm attached at the top of the entrance from over the railing. After a couple more flights, a set of metal encased glass doors came into view, followed by the sharp and caustic signature of chlorine. For the second time that morning lethal fumes assailed my senses, and once again, I found myself exposed before a total stranger.
It was standard procedure to do a thorough background check on all potential personnel at Tepes Memorial Institute. I had no doubt Dr. Lynn’s investigators sifted and sorted through every intimate and private detail of my life. Damn them.
My life, not some fictional indulgence penned to provide amusement for a few hours. Yet, less than twenty minutes ago, I was required to lay out the most painful part of it before him as proof of my worthiness. To hell with that!
Dr. Lynn wanted something from me, and it had nothing to do with my control over my leopardess. The knowing I saw in his crystalline eyes stripped me bare, like a lover too far gone to bother with foreplay. A mistake many males have made when coming for my kitty. I, too, held a degree in head games, a masters in fact, and only a fool played light with me.
“As I stated before Dr. Lynn, I have never learned to shift into leopard form. However, I do possess the ability to focus my primal energy to such a degree that I can tap into my leopard’s heightened senses.”
“What else are you capable of?”
The question was expected; the accusation that lied beneath surprised me. There was no way Dr. Lynn didn’t know about the civil war in Dubai, the decimation of the Arabian leap, or my first bloodletting at age six. Any of which would justify horrendous acts of self-preservation.
Tempted to take a crack at him myself, I’d forgotten Ryland’s error for a moment. With six words, Dr. Lynn forced me back into the mountains, desperate to escape the rape squads, purists, and much worse. I could smell the burning of fur and flesh, hear the roars and curses of battle, and experienced once again the inhumanity of my second nature.
Primal energy began to fill my lungs, like the carcinogen of an unfiltered menthol. A nauseating excitement fingered every nerve ending, as the first prickles of my cat’s arousal spread across my back.
The audacity, I refused to be judged for something that I was too young to understand much less control, not by Dr. Lynn, Ryland Hynes, or anyone else. “I’m so not the one, you soulless bastard,” I thought, as I watched one corner of his lecherous mouth curl upward.
The smug S.O.B. smiled at me, as if he’d read my very thought and would relish the attempt. I forced myself to concentrate on my breathing, took one long slow breath after another. Outwardly, I gave only my clinical façade. I’d never reward him with any sign of the hurt he’d reawakened. Instead, I allowed myself to savor the tartness of righteous indignation, let it coat every syllable of my reply.
“I possess exceptional speed and strength, a trained analytical mind, and can leap tall buildings in a single bound.”
Not as chaste as I initially thought, Ryland made a half-assed attempt to cover his chuckle with a cough. In that split second, we achieved oneness in our mutual pisstivity with Dr. Lynn.
“I don’t believe your response to be very helpful, Dr. Xanders.”
“I don’t believe we have time to role play Dr. Lynn. If there’s something specific you’d like to know, please ask.”
“Let me be direct, Dr. Xanders, your inability to shift would be considered a gift to many in the were community. Yet, I get the impression you view it as a handicap, why?”
“Straight for the jugular is it, Dr. Lynn?”
“Unfortunately, Dr. Xanders.”
“I’ll have to remind myself to stake you through that shriveled up excuse for a heart some day.”
I don’t know what made me so bold, possibly the urgency of our situation, the stress on my nerves, or the look of shock on Dr. Lynn’s face. Which earned me a tearful knee-slapping bout of laughter from Ryland. Oddly, though obviously annoyed with his administrator, Dr. Lynn seemed somewhat impressed with my response. Not able to pass up an opportunity, I went for broke.
“Look Dr. Lynn, I don’t know what invisible hoops you expect me to jump through. I came here to interview for a position on your staff. Either hire me or dismiss me, but don’t waste my time.”
Lightening flashed across those colorless orbs again. I felt a build up of power pulsate through the room. The word “smite” scrolled across my brain in canary yellow fonts. I prepared to meet my maker, which was okay for the moment; I had many questions for Him anyway.
To be continued…