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Edge of Night

Copyright 2020 Ramona Gray

   Daisy hesitated outside of Cooper’s office.  She rested her hand on the doorknob before pulling it back.  God, what was she doing?  More importantly, why was she doing it?  This weird compulsion to come up with every excuse in the book to see him was, at best, going to be super noticeable by the others in the office if it wasn’t already, and at worst, get her fired for being incompetent at her job.

   Asking a million questions she already knew the answers to might get her close to Cooper, might feed her sudden craving to be near him, but it would also land her in serious trouble if she didn’t knock it off.  She lived paycheque to paycheque.  If she got fired and didn’t find another job immediately…

   She shuddered, thinking about the homeless people that lived in a tent city situation only a few blocks from her apartment building.  Her apartment might be crappy and scary and possibly on the verge of collapse from mold and water damage, but it was better than being completely homeless.

   More importantly, her inner voice whispered, why are you so determined to be around someone who scares the living hell out of you.

   Cooper would never hurt me.

   Her inner voice scoffed so loudly she was surprised Cooper didn’t hear it through his office door.  Are you really that naïve?  After everything you’ve been through, you still believe that a shifter might be good.  That Cooper wouldn’t hurt you the first chance he got?

   If I didn’t, I wouldn’t have taken this job to try and get over my fear, would I have? she snapped back.

   You’re playing a dangerous game.  One that’s gonna get you killed.  Cooper and Wes and Grayson and all the other shifters in this office are dangerous.  It’s like you want to be murdered by shifters.

   Her heart pounding, she moved away from Cooper’s door, her limbs jerking along like a marionette whose strings were tangled tight.  She didn’t have a death wish, she just needed to get over her fear of shifters.  She couldn’t keep living life this way.  That was why she was trying to spend more time with Cooper.  That was why she volunteered to cook him dinner every night last week while he was recovering.  It was taking much longer than she thought to conquer her fear and by spending extra time with her boss, she was moving along her own self-therapy.

   Or you’re really fucking horny and want to get laid.

   Inner Daisy almost recoiled in horror at that errant thought.  Becoming friends with a shifter was one thing, but sleeping with one?  No fucking way.

   Oh yeah?  Then why do you keep thinking about the kisses you shared?  And what about that weird sex dream you had about him two nights ago.

   Her cheeks turned scarlet and she hurried down the hallway, almost half convinced that just by thinking about her sex dream in the office, Cooper would somehow find out.  She’d woken from the dream both horny and terrified, and certain she was losing her damn mind.

   She needed to step back from Cooper and find a different shifter to try and be friends with.  One she wasn’t possibly, maybe, sexually attracted to, which was really freaking her out because she never once imagined she’d be attracted to a shifter.

   Although, maybe sleeping with a shifter was the way to get over her fear.  Like, a total immersion/exposure thing.  It would be kind of hard to be terrified of Cooper if he’d given her multiple orgasms, right?  She thought about his big hands, about the way it had felt when he’d cupped her face and kissed her.  God, he was a good kisser.  Sure, it had been a little scary kissing him, but when he’d touched her tongue with his, it had…

   Enough!  You’re not sleeping with him.  Stay away from him.  Something weird is going on with him lately.  He’s acting strange.

   She wanted to pretend her inner voice was wrong, but… well, it wasn’t.  Cooper was acting weird lately.  There was something off about him.  He’d seemed mostly normal when he returned to work on Monday, if not a little distant, but with each day that passed, he got… weirder.  The other day, she’d sworn he was talking to himself as he stood at the copier.  And as much as she was suddenly trying to see more of him, she couldn’t shake off the nagging feeling that he was trying to avoid her.  Not that he’d spent all that much time with her before, but he’d always been nice to her and often asked her to help him with his ongoing computer issues.  And she’d thought that after spending every evening with him last week, their tentative friendship would continue at the office.

   How wrong she’d been.

   He hadn’t asked her even once to help fix his computer this week, and she was pretty sure she saw Lusa helping him yesterday.  Hurt weaved its way into her stomach and she berated herself immediately.  What did she care if Cooper didn’t want to spend time with her anymore?  He was her boss and that was it. 

   Thinking she should try and be friends with him, or even more crazy – have sex with him – was insanity on her part.

   “Cooper’s getting worse.”

   Boone’s low voice stopped her in her tracks.  She crept forward a few steps and leaned against the wall outside of the boardroom.  The door was partially open, and she strained to hear.  Listening in on private conversations wasn’t something she normally did, but she couldn’t seem to get her feet to keep moving.  Her suspicions about Cooper were true, and she needed to know what was wrong.  

   Maybe she could help him.

   “He’s okay.”  Grayson’s voice was only slighter louder than Boone’s.

   “He isn’t, man.  I know you want to think he is, but he’s not,” Boone said.

   “He’s stressed out right now.  He needs a few days off to -”

   “It’s more than that, Gray.” 

   This time it was Wes speaking and his voice was so close to the half-open door, that Daisy held her breath.  Shit, he would smell her soon.  She knew he would.  Still, she couldn’t move.  She had to know.

   “His lion is going mad,” Wes said.  “If we don’t do something soon, it’ll be too late.”

   “What are we supposed to do?”  Gray said.  The worry in his voice made Daisy’s stomach churn.  “We can’t make her have sex with him.”

   “No, but maybe we could talk to her,” Boone said.  “Tell her about the mate thing and what it’s doing to Cooper.”

   “Are you serious?”  Grayson said.  “How do you think that conversation will go?  Hmm?  You think we can walk up to her and be like, ‘Oh, hey, Daisy.  We know you’re terrified of shifters, but Coop’s lion believes you’re his mate and if you don’t have sex with him, he’s going to descend into madness and never recover.’  Yeah, that will go over real well, Boone.”

   The breath Daisy had been holding leaked out of her lungs in irregular and patchy sips.  Cooper thought she was his mate?

   Duh, he called you his mate that day at the coffee shop.

   Yeah, because he was playing a part.  One you forced him to play because you were being your usual terrified self.  He called you his mate because you introduced him as your boyfriend, remember?

   “Maybe we can think of a more polite way to say it,” Boone said.

   “Oh my God, Boone, there is no polite way to tell our goddamn receptionist that if she doesn’t fuck the boss, he’s going to go mad and we’ll have to put him down like a rabid dog,” Gray said.

   “Calm down, Gray,” Wes said.

   “Don’t tell me to calm down.  This is my best friend we’re talking about, Wes.  He’s going crazy and there isn’t anything we can do about it.  We’ll never convince Daisy to fuck Cooper.”

   “Maybe if we fired Daisy…” Boone said hesitantly.

   “We can’t,” Wes said.  “The only thing that’s stopped him from going insane already is being around Daisy at work.  He’s gotten so much worse so quickly because she was spending more time with him when his arm was still in that sling.  Daisy went to his place every night and cooked him dinner.  His lion got used to it and now that he’s recovered and she’s not at his house every day, his lion’s losing his grip on reality.”

   “This fucking mate thing is such bullshit,” Boone snarled.  “Cooper is the strongest guy I know and he’s going to be taken down because a woman doesn’t love him.  It’s not fucking fair.”

   “We have to do something,” Grayson said.  “You guys are right, he’s getting worse.  I didn’t want to admit it, but he is.  I wanted to go over to his place last night and he wouldn’t let me.  He’s getting twitchy and weird and -”

   “He spends most of his time talking to his lion,” Boone said grimly.  “His pupils are almost always slits now.  We have to talk to Daisy.”

   “We do,” Wes said.  “Which one of us is doing it?”

   “Not me,” Boone said.  “You think I want a sexual harassment charge on my permanent record?  Because you know Daisy is going to file one against the guy who tries to convince her to fuck her boss.”

   “I’ll talk to her,” Grayson said.

   “Take Ryan with you,” Wes said.  “Maybe hearing it from another human female will help.  Maybe you don’t have to mention the sex thing.  If he isn’t too far gone yet, just getting Daisy to spend one-on-one time with him again would help.  It would soothe his lion enough to keep it from going mad, right?”

   “That’s a good idea,” Grayson said.  “But even if we could convince her to spend time with him, that eventually won’t be enough.  You know how our cats are.  His lion will keep pushing for more and Cooper knows Daisy is terrified of him.  He won’t attempt anything sexual with her.  He’d rather go mad than scare her like that.”

   “It’s the only and best idea we have at the moment,” Wes said.  “We get her to spend some alone time with him again and that’ll buy us some time until we can figure out what to do.”

   “Maybe we could introduce him to someone else,” Boone said.  “Another woman who will make him forget about wanting to fuck Daisy.  Maybe, if he gets laid by anyone, that will help?”

   “Maybe,” Wes said.

   A weird sensation burned in her belly.  After a moment, she placed it.  Holy shit…was she jealous?  She heard Cooper’s office door open and immediately darted down the hallway to reception.  She sat down at her desk, her heart thumping like a rabbit and her mouth dry.  She was right.  Something was wrong with Cooper.   He was going insane and she could help him.  She swallowed down her jagged laughter.

   If she wanted to save Cooper from madness, all she had to do was fuck him.

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