Catching the Thief Ch. 03bykitten101©
Early the next morning Max was up and cautiously peering out of her room on the third floor. She was wearing a pair of loose fitting jeans and a guys tee shirt, which she had found in one of the drawers. She was a little disoriented and couldn't remember the way Grey had led her to the room. She closed her eyes and concentrated on the night before.
They had driven up to a set of huge gates that opened automatically. There was a long drive, a parking lot, and a big house - no a huge house. The forest stretched for miles around them. Max did not feel at ease knowing that they were incredibly secluded.
The front door had cameras (thanks to her profession she remembered the locations of all the cameras) and once past it there was a huge room, with three separate staircases heading to different parts of the house. To the right was a office set up, and she thought that each set of stairs might lead to a separate wing.
Grey escorted her up the middle one. Gabriel had watched, looking a little like he wanted to stop them, before heading to the office with Michael.
Once on the third floor he had lead her right... Or maybe left... To her room.
"The bathroom's on the right, the stairs are on the left." An amused voice broke into her train of thought.
Max opened her eyes to find a short woman with plenty of attitude looking back at her from the room across the hall. Her hair was streaked black and stunning red and she was dressed in overalls covered in grease. The woman's eyes looked almost black to her.
"Hi, I'm Max Seris, thanks.. this place is... unusually big."
Max said a little unsure of whether the woman was happy to see her or not. Her eyes were unnerving.
"I'm Jess Thomson. And I know exactly what you mean. I work a lot down in the basement with the weapons and stuff, and coming back up here to all the space can be a bit disorienting. But then I'm a fox, so I'm more of a 'little space' person anyway." Jess grinned and extended her hand to shake.
"I'll take you on a tour in a second, I just want to grab some non-dirt encrusted clothes."
Max grinned in return and nodded her hand. "Thanks."
Jess showed her downstairs to the rec room which was full of beanbags and movies. She also showed her around the giant kitchen, and they had breakfast together while Jess explained the rest of the house. There was a big pool out the back, gardens, and trails leading into the woods and a gym.
Grey and Michael lived in the eastern wing on the first floor which led out into the pool area. Jess lived on the third floor opposite her with a view of the gardens. Christina lived on the second floor of the western wing, and Gabriel lived on the top floor with his own rooftop garden.
"Grey's our computer guy, a technical genius... He's not all that happy with me because I accidentally threw one of his computers out a second story window the other day." Jess grimaced.
Max stared at her "seriously? Why?"
"Freaking Microsoft. There was a fatal error, and I wanted to make sure the damn thing was dead. I'm going Mac next time, I don't care how much Grey whines about interlopers. I'll get Michael to talk to him about discrimination.
"Michael is the muscle here. He does quite a few body-guarding type jobs... He's not so great at the light on his feet thing - he's too big - that seems to be the norm for tigers I think, graceful as cats, but clumsy as heck as people, you know?"
"Erm not really" said Max.
"I've never really spent that much time with other shape shifters. I've been on my own since is was 16, and never really thought it was a good idea to mix with others."
As evidenced by last nights' catastrophe which destroyed everything she owned.
Jess saw the hard edge beginning to creep into Max's eyes and hurried on with her explanation.
"Christina is a snow leopard, she does a bit of thieving. She's not really great at that though, what she is good at is getting information out of people, and infiltrating hard to reach places... Mostly through sex I think. It's surprising how far a vindictive bitch can get on a smile and the promise of some ass."
Jess and Max both giggled at that - Max remembering Gabriel's blunt treatment of Christina the night before.
"Are they together? Gabriel and Christina I mean.." Max asked, more nervous than she really had right to be.
"She wishes... Gabriel's smart enough not to get involved with her - although not smart enough to throw her trouble making ass out of the house. Speaking of our illustrious leader I'm guessing you're wanting to find him and take a piece outta him for last night huh?" Jess asked stacking their plates away in the dishwasher.
"You knew about that huh? Yes please. It's about time I had some answers from him." Max sighed
Jess pointed Max in the direction of the office and disappeared into the basement.
Max loitered in the big entrance hall for a moment or two getting her game face on. She strolled in circles pretending to be looking at the plants while mapping the angles of the cameras. From where she stood she could see two possible ways to enter the main house without being caught on the cameras.
She should probably mention that to someone - the problem would be easily fixed by installing a big mirror on one of the walls, and it would brighten up the room a bit.
Gabriel was working on his computer when she finally made her way to him. He was dressed in black and had his hair out of its usual confines.
He wasn't having much luck trying to find the information he was looking for, and for a moment was happy to see her. Until he took in her expression, his eyes lingered on her stubborn mouth for a second, imagining kissing her into submission. She looked tired, and angry - bound to be a fun combination.
Last night when he had been looking for her he was using his mind as much as his eyes ears and nose. Some shape shifters had some small mental abilities to go with their natural talents. Gabriel's was a natural affinity with finding things. Sometimes it just meant that he got hunches that turned out to be correct, or picked up a scent that no one else did, or sometimes he would get a flash of the person and their location like a bundle of feelings, and smells, and images in his head.
Last night when he had found Max he felt her mistrust of them all. It hurt him to know that she didn't trust him, but at the same time he knew damn well she had no reason to. He decided to tell her the truth - it was going to come out eventually and if he had any hope of gaining her trust sooner was better.
"Kitten. Have a seat." He leaned back in his chair and ran his fingers through his hair.
She watched speculatively for a second before taking the seat offered. Gabriel looked as tired as she felt... His eyes were still intense and that hair. She just wanted to play with it. She didn't bother correcting his choice of nickname - kitten was probably there to stay - she thought, annoyed.
"What the fuck happened last night. What did I actually steal, why, and who from. How much trouble am I in?" She asked in a clipped voice.
She was angry but there was no need to shout yet.
"You stole a list of names and addresses for threatened shape shifters. They're being watched by the Council who suspect them to be working against them and the Royal family. My cousin and some people I care about were on that list, and I want to make sure they have enough time to get to a safe place.
"You stole the list from the council, and they think they got you last night." Gabriel met her eyes levelly over the table.
"I was pretty sure they didn't know you. From what I've found out you were good enough to get in and out quickly and do the job. And there's something about you that just sticks in my head - you're a memorable cat. I posted watch on you that night to be sure the council didn't come calling. The watch failed.."
Max interrupted "clearly... Although don't you think I would have had a better chance if I knew all the facts? Why didn't you tell me?"
"I didn't tell you because I didn't trust you. Not many people will go up against the council willingly. I needed your help, and I really did think I could protect you..." Gabriel sighed.
Max decided it was time to shout.
"PROTECT me! You didn't even warn me. I was doing an alright job of protecting myself until some arrogant idiot set the council on me. And on that I trust myself to look after myself - what right do you have to decide that you can do a better job?! BECAUSE CLEARLY YOU CAN'T. You used me for sex and you used me to get your information, and you know what? I don't trust you, you've given me no reason to."
Max took a deep breath and stared her best death stare at him before going on with a little less volume.
"There is a damn good reason why people don't go up against the council. I brought everything in that apartment from my own pocket. All those scars Those were from every job that went wrong while I was trying to get enough money to make myself a good life. There's no way I would have jeopardized any of that with the council.
"From now on I want FULL information on every job you ask me to do. If I find out you've held anything back - even if its just the security guard's middle name - I'm out." Max said.
Gabriel blinked at her tirade. "You're absolutely right. I'm sorry kitten."
Instead of placating her his apology made her angrier. Max didn't get angry very often, but when she did it took a lot more than an apology to calm her down.
... Which was her only real reason for throwing the stapler on the edge of the desk at Gabriel's head.
Gabriel's eyes widened and he ducked as the heavy office supply went flying to make a dent in his wall. Standing up, Max took a step around the edge of the desk, as if she was going to follow the stapler and attack the bigger male. He decided to halt this in its tracks.
Vaulting over the desk he spun her around, lifting her and pinning her back onto his desk. He held her wrists firmly and leaned over her, pressing his groin into hers to keep her in place.
"I'm not your freaking kitten, and I want more than sorry. You destroyed everything I owned, and my first and only home." Max raged, squirming under him.
"I know I did kitten. If you want me to I'll buy you a new apartment, but home is more than just a place Max. Its a feeling."
He dropped his head to her neck and gently lipped the delicate skin there. She whimpered as heat began to grow in her stomach.
"I was your first, and you are my kitten... that's not me trying to make you feel like you need my protection, or like I don't think you can look after yourself. I know you can. I didn't use you for sex. We both wanted that, and for the record, sex with you feels like coming home to me." He moved a little further up her neck, scraping his teeth across her pulse and giving her chills.
"I can't help wanting to protect you. And I want you here, in my house, as my mate. But I'll wait and replace the apartment, if you want, and what I lost. Please don't throw anymore stuff at me."
Max finally cracked a smile - a very small one. "No more throwing stuff. But I think you're out of your mind if you think you want me as a mate. You want me to do stuff for you, and you want sex. That's it."
Gabriel chuckled against her neck "Yes I do, but I want more than that."
He trailed his lips a little higher, meeting her mouth. Max groaned as he flicked his tongue against the join of her lips. She turned her head aside determined not to let him have his way. Undeterred Gabriel shifted his focus downwards, towards her breasts.
She wasn't wearing a bra, so when he nuzzled the side of her breast all there was between them was her tee shirt. Gasping Max tried again to free herself. She was almost at the end of her limits of resistance when she remembered his words to her.
"Stop. Stop! You said all I had to do was tell you to stop and you would." Max gasped, not at all sure she did want to stop.
Gabriel groaned against her breast. "You're going against what your body wants kitten. I can smell you, you're more turned on than you're admitting."
Max moved as if to knee him in the groin, and Gabriel slid off her quickly, taking a step away and raking her possessively with his eyes.
"Yeah but my body doesn't rule the show here. I do, and I don't want this." She said sitting up slowly.
Gabriel tilted his head on the side and grinned a little at her.
"Keep telling yourself that Max. You can't keep yourself alone all your life and I'll be waiting if you change your mind."
Max slipped off the desk and headed for the door mentally berating herself. All she wanted to do was have that man thrusting on top of her - trust her stubborn streak to get in the way of it. Also, working with Gabriel was going to suck. She was so turned on that everyone in the house was going to be able to smell her reaction every time she got near the man.
"Dignified..." she rolled her eyes at herself.
Two steps out of the office door she came face to face with Christina.
"You must be Max... And just finished fucking the boss for a little extra in the paycheck - although it looks like you'll need it." Christina swept her icy blue eyes down Max's makeshift outfit.
Max raised an eyebrow at her and snorted at the woman's attempt to rattle her. "Yup, that was an extra 10K a year. He's in a generous mood sweetie so go for it, he's all yours."
Christina curled her lip at Max. "You're right kitten he is all mine."
Max shook her head at the other woman's possessiveness and went in search of Jess. She needed clothes, and a way to charge them to Gabriel. She also remembered that she hadn't actually told Gabriel that she wanted out of the house, and made a mental note to do so. ASAP.