Outwitting the Foxbykitten101©
Gabriel Hunter took a peek into his basement at midday and saw that his employee was curled up, napping on the couch where she spent a good deal of her time. Not that she didn't have a perfectly good bedroom, Gabriel had seen to that. She was one of his most important employees, and most trusted friend.
Usually upon finding one of his employees napping during work hours Gabriel would have yelled and threatened to cut their pay rates. Or put them or the dishes roster for two weeks straight. Jess Thomson was an exception though, because she did crazy amounts of work, at crazy times of the night, just for they fun of it.
He knew for a fact that she had been up until 3am tinkering with his new crossbow, because he had been having difficulty adjusting it. Jess was his weaponry and mechanics specialist, and he wouldn't have trusted anyone else with his new baby.
Shrugging, Gabriel headed back up the stairs, leaving Jess alone again. He would thank her later.
Jess was a short, spunky shape shifter fox who had a knack for looking cute when she wanted to look fierce, and for dying her own hair. Currently her hair was streaked fire engine red and black. The red was for her fox, because everyone knew that foxes were red (the fire engine bit was her own addition) and the black went well with her eyes, which to most people looked the same colour. If you looked really closely, in the right light, they were actually a deep brown.
The basement was one of Jess's favourite places to be. It was big, but deceptively so, so really it felt small, and dim, and cosy. Also when she was in the basement pulling apart machinery, or cleaning weapons, most of her work, and house-mates, didn't bother her. That was because most of her housemates were cats and cats pretty much didn't like the feeling of being holed up under a perfectly good house for too long.
Living and working in the situation Jess was in probably wasn't exactly a normal thing for a shape shifter fox. Jess didn't exactly know what was a normal thing for a shape shifter fox to be doing though – she'd never met another shape shifter like herself. Gabriel thought it was because foxes were so quiet and in love with their own privacy that they probably wouldn't out themselves to their own mothers.
Living with cats meant she had caught onto some of their bad habits. Jess was a big fan of the cat nap. She was probably a bigger fan of the cat-nap than Alexia who often said that she would be happy in life if all she could do was sleep for 20 hours a day, and beat the crap out of Rider for the other 4.
Today Jess wasn't even napping because she was tired – although she should have been after the all-nighter she had just pulled. Today she was just napping because once she had flopped onto the spot with the broken springs on her couch it had just seemed like too much effort to haul herself back out again.
She woke with a start as a heavy weight landed on top of her. As her eyes flew open she realised that Finn Balmore had quite comfortably settled himself on top of her and was grinning alarmingly close to her face. Jess's throat closed up a little and her heart gave a weak flutter in her chest. She hated it when he did that to her.
Finn was one of the wolves who had followed Marcus Louvre and his partner to Gabriel's estate outside of Paradise City. Gabriel had hired all of them on the spot, not so much for the wolves, but for the fact that Marcus's partner was Sabine Moon, one of the most formidable fighters from Royce Moon's jaguar pack. With Alexia Devon – a half royal half Theris shape shifter – under his protection it was an opportunity Gabriel couldn't afford to give up.
As for Finn? He and Jess were friends, which Jess was completely at peace with. Except of course when his gorgeous face was only inches from her own, while his muscular body was curled warmly over hers.
It was all just play to Finn, who had never really been much of a fan of personal space. As long as she kept reminding herself of that, she would be fine.
"Get off me Finn. I was sleeping. Plus you smell like wet dog."
"I'm going to the city with Rider, for groceries. Need anything?" Finn stayed right where he was, ignoring Jess's crankiness.
"Get me some ham. And chocolate. And make sure you get some popcorn for Max because she got real pissy when we stole her last package the other day." Jess said before closing her eyes and ignoring her friend – hoping he'd get the hint and bugger off.
As usual Finn was oblivious to the hint.
Jess ignored him, and tucked her chin a little more securely against her chest.
Finn's weight left her body and she breathed an inner sigh of relief. The couch dipped and Finn tickled her under the chin.
"Jess... Wake up..." Finn whispered.
She opened one eye to find him lying on his side next to her.
"Come on. Come for a ride. And stop scowling. You know you can't pull it off, you just look cute. Or in this case, like you've been drugged and put through a washing machine – when was the last time you brushed your hair by the way?" He asked, fully aware that he was annoying the hell out of Jess.
Jess groaned and sat up. "Fine I'll come for a ride. But I'm not getting out of the car. And I'm not brushing my hair. And if you think I'm going to put on clean clothing you're in for a nasty shock."
Finn grinned and bounced off the couch triumphantly. "Good, because Rider's in the car out front, and you'd just make him angrier if you screw around and waste any more of his time."
Still not awake Jess stumbled up the stairs and made her way out to the front of the house where the sunlight blinded her. She paused for a second and Finn grabbed her shoulder steering her down the stairs and to the car.
"You know you've probably been in the basement too long when it takes your eyes longer than a few seconds to adjust to the sun you know..." Rider said from the front seat.
"I was napping. I'm not awake yet."
The car shook as Finn wrenched open the passenger side door and threw himself in. "Sure, sure. She was surrounded by porn. Again. Don't bother shaking your head or rolling your eyes. We all know what you get up to down there."
"Finn you're lucky you two are friends..." Rider said, while pulling out of the driveway. "Otherwise I'd say that your insistence on teasing the woman who has all the guns and ammunition in her play room shows a complete lack of respect for the quality of your own life."
Finn grinned broadly and replied "I like to live on the wild side."
Rider shook his head in amazement, trying to figure out exactly how the wolf and the fox managed to get along so well.
Jess was wondering the same thing. By all rights they really shouldn't be so comfortable together. She had a thing for him, he was an annoying prat, and the final nail in the coffin - he had tried to sleep with her a few months ago, and she had turned him down.
Within a day or two of Finn, Marcus, and Sabeen arriving the entire household had ended up throwing an impromptu welcome party by the pool. By the end of the night everyone had ended up in the pool – including Jess who had been accidentally nudged over the edge.
She landed in the deep end, fully clothed in a singlet and jeans, and in big trouble. Jess wasn't a swimmer, and so faced with the prospect of drowning she had grabbed the first solid thing above water and clung to it gasping and coughing the water out of her lungs.
Jess had enough time to reflect on just how under-appreciated oxygen was before she realised that she was clinging to Finn like a life raft.
"You right there sweet cheeks?"
Jess sneezed three times in a row and then coughed for the final time. She kept a tight hold on Finn while looking around for the closest edge to the pool.
"Clearly the answer there is a big fat no." She growled. "Take me to the pools edge so that I can kiss the sweet, sweet ground before I die from ingesting 30 litres of chlorinated bath water."
Finn lifted an eyebrow and grinned down at her. Jess realised that she wasn't just clinging to the wolf, she was pressed up against him intimately with her legs twined around his waist and her arms spanning over his broad back... His very male, very bare back.
She considered letting go, but she knew full well the pool was over her head at this end, and she wasn't quite sure if just an arms grip would keep her sinking like a stone. She looked around to find all the others involved in a strenuous game of drown the boss, there probably wasn't going to be any help from that corner. Worst of all Finn didn't seem to be moving towards dry land, as Jess had hoped he would.
"Go on... Mush! Find the pool ladder lassie." She ordered again.
"I take it you're not much of a swimmer then?" Finn asked, actually moving away from the closest pool edge a bit.
Jess's throat grew tight with worry, and she clutched at his back a little more tightly. "Actually this is all a show, I swim 100 laps a morning – I'm just clinging to you because I'd like to get to know you a little better." She said sarcastically.
Finn snorted and Jess felt his breath against her temple.
"Take me back to the edge?" She asked a little more desperately.
"Nope." Finn shook his head. "You need to learn how to at least float, because as it is if you fell in without anyone here you'd be in a shit-load of trouble."
Jess dug her nails in and tightened her legs ignoring Finn's grimace of pain. She knew she wasn't going to float. She was going to sink like a stone, and then die a horrible cold chlorinated death. She told him as much and got laughed at in return.
"I won't let you drown, now relax your legs. You don't need them to stay upright, and I'd some day like to have feeling to area's below my waist again." Finn got a secure hold around her ribs and waited a moment as she untangled herself.
Jess fixed her serious and startlingly black eyes on him. "If you drop me I'm going to sic Gabriel on you."
Finn had no doubt that Gabriel wouldn't wait to be commanded by her to rip him limb from limb. "I'm not going to drop you, so you could probably also remove your claws from my back."
Jess unclenched her hands reluctantly. "Please don't drop me."
"Promise." Finn chuckled.
He gathered her up so that she was lying in his arms against his chest – albeit a little stiffly. Finn barely noticed that the others were leaving the pool to dry off inside.
"You just need to relax and straighten out. Keep lots of air in your lungs – breath quite deeply." Finn watched as she struggled to do what he'd asked. It didn't look much like she was relaxing.
Finally after a few minutes of instruction Jess was floating almost on her own. Finn had to keep one arm under her legs because every time he took it away her legs sank and she tensed up.
"Hmm." He mused staring at her jeans. "I think you're going to have to take those off. They're too heavy."
"Thank you but no. Not a chance in hell." Jess said stiffly.
"Very well. I will." Finn reached down and unbuttoned her jeans, before tugging them down her legs.
After the ensuing struggle Jess ended up clinging to his back like a monkey, while Finn held her jeans above his head triumphantly. Balling them up he flung them towards the sun loungers where his pants and shirt were.
"You are an ass." She grumbled from behind him.
"Come on sweet cheeks, it's nothing I haven't seen before. Besides we're on even ground here." he glanced down at his boxer briefs and then glanced pointedly at her singlet. "Almost."
"Don't even think about it lassie." Jess warned.
"You obviously don't know men very well then. " Finn chuckled. "Let's have a go at treading water."
Jess snorted. She knew men all right.
Finn taught her how to kick and move her hands to keep herself afloat. And when he let go of her she managed to keep above the water at least.
"Well it's not pretty but it'll do." Finn said before offering an arm for her to cling to.
"I agree. Now, is it time to get out? All the others are sleeping, and I'd rather like to be doing that too." Jess was lying; she had a project waiting in pieces for her in the basement.
Finn grinned a predatory wolf grin and brought his arm in against his body. Because she was still clinging to him she ended up against his chest. He repositioned her grip around his neck, and braced her there with an arm around her back.
"Do I get a thank you?" Finn grinned heatedly making it clear he wasn't looking for a simple thank you.
Jess frowned. She had known it would probably end up here, but her rules were pretty much set in stone. She told him as much and watched as his eyes narrowed speculatively.
"Don't screw the crew. Don't get in between another woman and her man. Never take your friends leftovers – even if she swears black and blue it's ok. It's not." Jess recited, and in her head she added her unwritten rule: Don't get emotionally involved, it's just sex.
Finn thought for a minute. They were good rules, and he agreed with not screwing the crew. However with this particular short and tasty morsel pressed up against his body he was prepared to give it a bit of leeway.
"I can't change your mind then?" He murmured smoothing a hand down over her collar bone and pausing with his fingertips between her breasts.
Jess's breath had quickened, but she had stayed resolute. "Nope. Not a chance it always ends badly. Sex never stays just sex."
Finn had grinned good naturedly before flipping over to his back and paddling towards the side of the pool.
"Can't blame a guy for trying. Friends then, sweetcheeks?"
Jess, who was very much enjoying the ride, grinned. "Sure thing, but be warned my friend's call me Jess, or Jess. If you start with the stupid nicknames I'm going to have to shoot you."
Jess grimaced and splashed him, before reaching up and hauling herself out of the water, and onto the pool ladder. Finn lounged in the water below her enjoying the view.
He lifted himself out of the pool, and collected his clothes, tossing Jess her jeans as she returned the favour with a towel.
"Night." Jess called as she disappeared into the house.
That night she hadn't slept a wink, she preferred to stay awake, thinking and working down in the basement. She had the feeling it wasn't going to be as easy as she thought, being friends with Finn.
In the back seat of Riders car, Jess listened to Finn crowing at Rider over a bet he'd won and reflected on just how right she'd been. Sure being friends with Finn was fun, but every so often he did something that made her want to take it a step further – even though it was entirely her own rules that she would have been breaking.
And it wasn't like Finn was making it easy. He was touchy feely, and cuddly, and didn't think twice about teasing her.
Finn himself knew that he wasn't exactly treating her like a friend would, but he couldn't seem to stop himself. He knew sleeping with her was out of the question, but surely she didn't mind the games he played. It was only a bit of fun.
Riders voice broke into their thoughts "Hey, before I forget Alexia wants to go dancing in the city tonight to celebrate her birthday. Everyone's going, and Gabriel is going to sober drive the van. Are you two tagging along?"
"I'll be there with my party hat on." Finn laughed.
Jess thought for a moment. Maybe a night out of dancing and drinking would do her good. "Yeah I'm in, although the van only seats eight on a good day, so I guess one of us is going to have to drive right?"
"I'll do it." Finn volunteered "I'm not really in the drinking mood."
"Works for me, and actually Alex, Max, Sabeen and I might drive ourselves in first. I've just thought of the perfect present for Alexia."
"You'd better not be about to corrupt my girlfriend." Rider warned.
"Not a chance, I'm not even going to get her arrested."