EPILOGUE FOR TRANCING THE TIGER
Welcome and thank you so much for stopping by to read the bonus chapter for Trancing the Tiger! I hope that you will love reading it as much as I loved writing it.
SPOILER ALERT: This chapter takes place AFTER Trancing the Tiger (Book 1) ends and BEFORE Rematch (Book 2) begins.
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BONUS CHAPTER: “Lucy Gets a Tat”
Lucy’s heart pounded against her ribcage. Chest heaving, she collapsed, head resting on forearms, against the rock temple wall. Even with Rabbit’s speed, outrunning Sheng and Tiger was a feat she hadn’t been able to accomplish.
Until today. Her lips tugged into a smirk and she cocked her head toward the thudding of footsteps against the stone stairs of Kek Lok Si. Sheng was going to be outright pissed when he found her waiting here for him. It had taken a few weeks of rigorous training, but she’d finally done it.
Her heartbeats drummed in time with the pounding of Sheng’s footsteps. As he neared, her body tensed. She straightened, her nipples pebbling and her panties dampening from the anticipation. She’d just bested Sheng, which meant a lesson was coming… A lesson in submission.
Oh yeah. He was going to take her, right here in the garden, rough and hard. And she couldn’t wait.
The footsteps halted. She leaned back from the wall, ears perked. That was definitely Sheng approaching. Her entire body knew it, so why had he stopped?
Had he sniffed her out? Scented his defeat?
Was he now planning his siege? Oh man. She shuddered and squeezed her thighs tightly together, but that only made the rush of desire escalate. If Sheng refused to come, she wouldn’t wait for him. She dipped a hand under the hem of her skirt.
“Don’t you dare.”
At the deep timbre of Sheng’s voice, she removed her hand and twisted around. About damn time.
“Yeah, I know. I made a pit stop.”
She scrunched up her nose and didn’t bother to hide the disappointment in her voice. “Oh.”
Sheng chuckled as he strode toward her. “You’ll beat me someday, Rabbit.” He tapped her on the nose.
She scowled and crossed her arms. Was he being sincere or patronizing? “Oh, I will.”
The corner of his mouth quirked. “I’m counting on it.”
Damn him. She huffed out her breath. That was sincerity in his eyes. He leaned in, nuzzling his cheek along her neck. The dark, decadent scent of him filled her nostrils, and the lust came pulsing back, vibrating through every inch of her body. The deeper their relationship grew, the harder she kept falling. In the depths of her soul, she knew. There was no turning back. Sheng was her past, her present, her future. She loved everything about this man. His strength and his vulnerability.
Her arms uncrossed; her body surrendered to this passion between them. She’d assumed it would have faded by now, or at least dimmed. But no, she craved Sheng even more now than the first time she’d laid eyes on him.
He groaned, and a quick glance down confirmed the thick erection he sported, straining against his athletic shorts. Apparently, the craving was mutual.
“I want you, Lucy.” His low murmur in her ear sent shivers cascading down her spine. She braced herself. They were both jacked up on adrenaline from their run. This wasn’t going to be slow and sweet, not that sex with Sheng ever was. The man played rough. The way he handled her body… She shuddered. Dominant, but always so careful.
“I want you too.” She moaned as his tongue traced her earlobe.
“Good.” Suddenly, he gripped her wrists and spun her around, pressing her against the wall. Her sharp gasp echoed off the stone while his hands caressed a possessive path down her body. He paused at her waist for a second before lifting her skirt to expose her ass. “Why do you have to wear a damn skirt to run, huh? You know I can’t concentrate when all I can think about is taking you.” He growled next to her ear. “I nearly smacked into a bloody bus.”
She bit her lip to hide her smile. “You would’ve dented the bus, not the other way around.”
“Not my point.” He gave her ass a slap, then tore through her lace panties and tossed them to the ground. “Tease.”
“Whatcha going to do about it? Hmm?” She wiggled in his grasp.
His chest rumbled. His hand left her flesh for a second, and she bit her lip as she listened for the sound of him tugging down his shorts.
But he didn’t. Instead, he parted her thighs and thrust his finger inside her. One, then two, then three. She moaned while he filled her and pumped his fingers. She grew wetter, the slickness a delicious friction between them. With his left hand, he gripped her neck, turning her head to lay against the stone. “Hands on the wall.” He barked his command and she obeyed. From the corner of her eye, she watched him. Slashes of his inky hair crossed his face, those dark depths focused on one thing—possessing her.
He nipped her ear while he took her with his hand, increasing the rhythm until she was ready to shatter. A second before she did, he pulled his fingers out.
“Sheng!” Her raspy cry was met with a low chuckle.
“Now who’s the tease?” His warm, panting breath betrayed him, though. It was probably driving him crazy not to be inside her.
That made two of them.
She glanced over her shoulder. The erection straining the front of his shorts had to be agony. She hummed in satisfaction. “Pretty sure I still am.”
He brought his hand, slick with her essence, to his mouth and licked his fingers, eyelids shuttering. “True. I’ll never have enough of you, Lucy.”
“I’m all yours, Sheng. Take me.” She swayed her hips suggestively.
He leaned forward, pressed a kiss to her hair, and sighed. “We’re late.”
“Late? For what?”
“C’mon.” Instead of answering her, he lowered her skirt, snatched her hand, and towed her toward the path.
“Hey!” She huffed as he ignored her protest. Her body was on fire from all that pent-up lust, but Sheng was too strong for her. If he wanted to take her somewhere, she’d better hold on for the ride.
He led her down the path and into the elevator, which opened into the Hai San Kongsi’s living and training quarters. They strode down the corridor to the infirmary. Lucy held in her breath while Sheng shouldered the swinging doors open. Her heart stopped every time they came down here. Mei was still undercover as a mole in Zhao’s operations. Kek Lok Si just wasn’t the same—not as vibrant—without that girl.
They paused in front of one of the exam rooms. Lucy glanced past Sheng to spot the big guy, Chosen of the Ox. “Kassian?” Sheng’s brother lurked behind Kassian. “Delun? Okay…”
“All set up?” Sheng asked Kassian.
“Yep, hop on the table, Lucy.” Kassian swept a hand toward the exam table.
“Um, why?” They ignored her raised brows and confused tone, exchanging grins.
“It’s time,” Sheng replied.
“For you to get your very own Hai San tat,” Kassian elaborated.
“Wait, what?” She shrank back, but Sheng scooped her up, placed her on the table, and boxed her in with his brawny arms. “I don’t want a tat. I’m okay, really.” She wiggled her nose and tested the limits of her Sheng cage.
“It won’t hurt…much,” Kassian offered, chuckling again.
She squirmed and caught sight of Fang in the corner, prepping a table full of torture instruments. Okay, tattoo tools, but still.
Fang lifted his head and cocked one brow. “You could always join the Ghee Hin and get the tat across your face, if you’d like.”
Their snickering echoed off the walls. “Ha ha.” She rolled her eyes as the men seemed to think that was pretty funny. Now she definitely knew how Mei had felt, being the only female in this testosterone-laden group. “Can’t I just get a temporary tattoo? Maybe something in henna?”
“Don’t be such a gir—”
She slapped her hand over Sheng’s mouth. “Don’t you dare. That’s a jackass thing to say.” She narrowed her eyes. “I just don’t particularly feel like getting inked. You guys are jerks.”
He nipped at her fingers, eyes flashing in amusement. Damn him. He’d said that just to irk her, maybe distract her. She snatched back her hand. No way would she let Sheng flirt his way to victory.
“Well?” Kassian waggled his brows at her. Fang stepped forward, needle glinting as brightly as his grin.
Suck it up, Luce. She sighed and nodded.
Sheng smooched a kiss on her forehead. “That’s my girl.” He winked and shifted to the side, grabbing her hand. “You’ll do just fine.”
She groaned as Sheng slipped down the strap of her tank top and kissed her shoulder. “You are so going to owe me for this.”
A wicked promise flashed in his eyes. “I can’t wait to pay up.”
Sheng clenched his jaw, his free hand fisted to prevent Tiger’s claws from punching through. He’d put up a hell of a tough talk about Lucy getting the tat, but when the needle pierced her flesh and she yelped, he nearly lost it.
Her lips pressed thin while Fang went to work, and she didn’t make another peep, but fuck. It took everything in him to gently caress her hand and pretend like all was normal.
When really he just wanted to tear Tiger’s teeth through Fang’s flesh. Poor bastard. Fang was only following orders. Sheng’s orders.
But the sight of Lucy’s blood did that to him. No matter that she was tough. He’d rather take a thousand bullets to the chest than watch her get a paper cut.
The protectiveness of Tiger had only gotten worse since Lucy now hosted Snake. That sonofabitch Zhao had twisted and warped the spirit animal into doing unspeakable acts. Who the hell knew if the Snake had been made irreparably malevolent? The sooner the Matchmaker found a new host for Snake, the better.
“All done.” Fang stood back and tilted his head, admiring his handiwork. He slapped a piece of tape over the gauze on the fresh tat. “Want a lollipop?”
“You guys are sooo funny.” Lucy wriggled her nose in that damn sexy fashion of hers. Despite the trash talk, Rat and Rabbit were actually getting along better than anyone expected. Lucy had settled into “their” quarters at Kek Lok Si, and she blended in, bantering with the gang like she’d always been here.
Yeah, there might be a frilly, lacy pillow or two in their room, but hell, he’d put up with that shit just to have Lucy close by. Wasn’t like she could live in her crazy, dead uncle’s condo anymore anyway.
Kassian caught his gaze, and probably his anxiety too, and sent him a pussy-whipped gesture, flicking his wrist in the air.
Sheng resisted the urge to flip him off. If all went according to plan today, he’d never be parted from Lucy. Ever. That thought alone made his family’s covert smirks worth it.
He cloaked Tiger, the beast rushing forward at the chance to heal Lucy’s wound. The fuzzy haze of their circle lasted less than a minute. Tiger met Rabbit and the spirits of their two animals fused between them. They fixed Lucy up, repairing her raw, pierced flesh, and the spirit animals retreated back inside them. He leaned forward and peeked beneath the gauze. The wound had already healed. The tat appeared weeks old. Tiger eased, settling inside its cage.
The stylized yin-yang tat—with the Immortal Woman character in the middle—on Lucy’s front right shoulder was the same one Fang had given Mei.
Man, he missed that kid.
“Thanks, you didn’t have to do that. It didn’t hurt…much.” Lucy directed one cocked brow at Kassian. “I would have been fine in a day or two.”
“Perk of being Chosen.” Sheng shrugged. To hell with recovering the normal, human way. They weren’t normal humans. Besides, he refused to stand by and watch Lucy in any amount of pain when he could ease her suffering as easily as breathing.
She lifted her lashes, a knowing glint in those golden depths. Lucy saw through him. She always had. Part of what he loved about her. She might not always call him out on his bullshit, but she damn sure knew when it was there.
“Thanks.” He slapped a hand on Kassian and Fang’s shoulders, giving each a tight squeeze, then he reached for Lucy’s hand. She seized his, hopped off the table, and followed him into the corridor.
“Hey, ah.” He cleared his throat and scraped his fingers across the back of his neck. Damn, was he sweating? “Why don’t we pay Áo a visit?” He faked a glance at his watch. “About time to feed the turtles.” Shit, what was coming out of his mouth?
“Oh, I’d love to.”
Thank fuck. Lucy skipped along ahead of him. She never turned down an opportunity to pet the turtles. He shook his head, halted, and took one deep breath.
“It’ll be fine.” Delun’s deep voice rumbled behind him.
“We got your back.” Kassian nodded. Fang held out a suit wrapped in dry cleaning plastic.
Right. He raked a hand through his hair and accepted the suit from Fang. The guys had already changed into theirs. He tore open the plastic and switched his clothes, hoping like hell Lucy wouldn’t notice his absence.
She likely wouldn’t. She bloody loved those turtles.
“You’re all late.” At the crisp, feminine voice, he shot around.
“Bloody Matchmaker,” he cursed under his breath.
Her long red nails tapped against her forearms, but the curve in the corner of her mouth betrayed any display of agitation.
She was fucking gloating. After all, what more did a Matchmaker love than this? Who the hell invited her? He sent a scowl of betrayal at Kassian and Fang.
Fang whistled and peered at the gardens in the distance. Kassian linked his fingers in front of him and cracked his knuckles.
Like he needed even more of an audience? Bastards.
“Hey,” Kassian shrugged and leaned in to whisper, “Consider this payback for making us go through with your sorry, whipped-ass plan.”
“You should consider yourself grateful for my aid.” The Matchmaker buffed her nails. “This is a big moment in a woman’s life. You wouldn’t want to make a mess of it.”
Her lifted brow was like a sucker punch to his balls. Damn her. He gritted his teeth against a retort. The bitch was right. What if he didn’t do this the way Lucy had always dreamed about? “Thanks,” he grated through his clenched jaw.
“You are most welcome.”
He ignored the smugness of her tone and looked to Fang. “Are we all set?”
“Yep, boss. Go get your girl.”
My girl. Mine. He could do all the claiming he liked, but if she didn’t say yes…
Sheng marched up the stairs to Turtle Pond. Lucy was there, tossing stalky leaves at the squirming turtles. Damn, she was beautiful. Sexy as hell, but also strong, clever, and kind. He’d never met anyone who made him feel the love and acceptance she did. Who made him want to be better. Who made him complete.
And who turned him into a fucking mushy ball of feelings.
He straightened his tie and strolled across the bridge. The afternoon sunlight glinted down on her, highlighting those blond and silver streaks in her hair.
Bloody perfect, that was what she was.
He paused behind her. She hadn’t watched his approach, but she tensed, her back straightening.
“Hey.” He wrapped a hand around her waist. “What’s that there?” He jerked his chin toward the large turtle, Áo. “Something shiny?” Thank fuck it was still there. The “pit stop” he’d made earlier had been to beg and plead with the ancient creature to let him tie the red ribbon around his neck.
“Oh!” Sheng released Lucy as she crouched and reached forward, toward Áo’s neck. “There’s something tied to him. Poor guy.” Her nimble fingers undid the crimson ribbon and she twisted the attached object around in her fingers. Her brows drew together. “It’s a ring.” She glanced over her shoulder and her golden eyes widened. “Why are you wearing a suit?”
Despite the pounding of his heart, he smiled, waiting for the clues to sink in. She swung her gaze between him and the ring in her palm.
When she glanced back at him, he caught her gaze and slowly nodded, sinking down onto one knee.
Her free hand flew to her mouth.
Cue the fanfare.
Dozens of monks stepped out from the corridors of Kek Lok Si. The vivid bouquets of tropical flowers they held cascaded out of their arms and down their bright orange robes. Somewhere in the distance, a romantic tune carried from bamboo flutes.
Kassian, Fang, Delun, and the Matchmaker popped out too, presiding over his proposal.
Lucy’s gaze took it all in, but he had eyes only for her. That fancy, romantic shit was the Kongsi’s idea.
He, well, he just wanted Lucy.
He clasped her hand, the one holding the ring, and squeezed, forcing her attention back to him.
When her golden eyes softened on him, he poured out his heart. “I love you, Lucy. Everything I am, it’s yours. I would give my life to protect you, but I’d rather live my life beside you, fighting together. You make me complete, and I will spend the rest of my existence striving to make you complete too.” Fuck. Moisture pooled in her eyes. Hell, his own pricked with the threat of tears. If he cried during his proposal, the guys would never let him live it down. So he blinked furiously and focused on his speech. “I love you, and I will love you past my last breath, through all eighteen layers of Dìyù, and through every new life we’re given. I will love you for all of eternity.” He paused. She was nibbling her bottom lip. Good or bad sign? One way to find out. “Will you marry me, Lucy?”
She exhaled a long, slow breath. His heart didn’t fucking beat while she did.
“Yes.” She laughed. “A thousand times yes.”
He shot to his feet and snared her in his arms, seizing her mouth like he’d never kiss her again. Around them, shouts of joy burst through the air, like the bubbles inside his fuzzy, warm chest. The monks tore the petals off the flowers and sprinkled them, the petals fluttering to the ground like a delicate snowfall.
After a quick observation, he closed his eyes and shut them all out, kissing the woman he loved.
Claiming her mouth, her heart, her love.
She’d fucking said yes.
Something slapped his shoulder. He broke away from Lucy to find the guys grinning at him.
“You bloody made her cry, boss.” Fang jerked his chin at Lucy, who was wiping the backs of her hands across her eyes.
“They’re good tears, dumbass.” Kassian slapped the back of Fang’s head. Fang ducked, and jabbed Kassian in the side.
“Hey, not here. Animals.” Delun rolled his eyes and grinned at Sheng. “Congrats, little brother.” He stepped over to Lucy and pressed a kiss to her cheek. “He’s one lucky sonofabitch.”
Kassian and Fang sprinted back from their roughhousing and gang-hugged Lucy until she wheezed.
Sheng stole her aside, planting another possessive kiss on her mouth. He pulled back to gaze into her eyes. A double check that those tears really were the good kind.
Her bright smile was all the confirmation he needed. It dimmed for a second, though. “Mei will be sad she missed this.”
“Maybe…” He leaned in, “But she left the damn ring in my room.”
“This ring?” She held up the golden band. He plucked it from her palm and slipped it onto her left hand. “Yep. With a note that read, ‘If you wait, I’ll kick your ass.’”
Her soft laughter chimed. “She’d better not miss our wedding.”
He nuzzled her cheek. “She won’t.” Lucy sighed and he linked his fingers through hers. The feel of the cool metal—the symbol of Lucy accepting him—gave him strength to fight any battle—so long as she stood at his side.
Lucy tilted her chin and gazed into his eyes. “Promise?”
“Always.” He gave her hand a reassuring squeeze. “No matter what’s coming, we’ll face it. And win. Together.” He pressed another kiss to her velvety lips. Her delicate moan and welcoming body were too much to resist.
Why the hell would he want to, anyway?
“Let’s get outta here, yeah?”
“And miss our own party?” She quirked a brow at the gathering crowd. Caterers bearing silver trays mingled among the multiplying herds of guests.
“That’s the Matchmaker’s doing, not mine.”
“Then hell yes. Let’s get out of here.” She planted a hard one on his mouth, then gave him a playful shove and hopped down the path toward the stairs.
Tiger reared, and Sheng didn’t rein the beast in.
He was going to spend the rest of his existence chasing after that woman, and fuck yeah, she was bloody perfect for him.
Because he always loved a good chase.