After an unfortunate setback, Cheetahs Never Win has finally released. We hope that you enjoy the book as much as our human did. We’re grateful she’s moved on, as we got so tired of listening to her pun that damned title over and over and over again.
We get it, human. You like cheetahs. You also like puns. But did you really have to subject us to that so many times?
We’ll keep this short and sweet today, as the human requires the glowy rectangle box to tell all the stories. She’s itching to work on her goals for this year, and it’s her first real day back to full work.
She’s stupidly excited. Human, it’s work. You really shouldn’t be that excited to be going back to work.
Anyway, I have stolen this section of book for your enjoyment. Please consider tossing 499 pennies into the human’s jar so I can coerce more treats out of her. Thanks!
Miss Sharon Gray locked onto a shoe store at Park Lane, a woman on a mission refusing to accept defeat. Someone was going to lose, and I wasn’t sure if I pitied her wallet, her new shoes, or the horrified woman in the store. Under the guise of checking my phone, I photographed the pair, the building, and to make things more difficult on myself later, I snapped a few shots down the sidewalk where the Saturday shoppers congregated.
My client’s target recruited the store employee, and I worried she’d stay there all day. Had I been wise, I would’ve dumped the problem onto Sassy’s lap. Sassy liked shoes. Sassy even enjoyed keeping other women company while they shopped for shoes.
Sassy also found—or created—trouble wherever she went. Chaos nipped at the cheetah’s heels. If I called her, she’d storm into my quiet afternoon of information gathering. Miss Gray matched the usual shadowing target, a pretty woman with expensive tastes and as much of a magnet for trouble as my feline partner.
Women like her put me on edge, usually because they viewed me as candy for their arm. When they found out I was a private investigator, most lost interest—or immediately made assumptions.
As I often did when following someone, I questioned every decision leading up to the acquisition of my private investigator’s license. Generally, I enjoyed questioning people and seeking secrets.
Unfortunately, most of my cases involved figuring out who was cheating who, and if my client was correct, Miss Gray spent her evenings with Senator Sterling, a married man up for reelection in a few months.
My client wanted Senator Sterling’s job, and he meant to get it through any means possible. Investigating Tom Heathrowe on the side might land me in hot water later, but I’d seen a few too many PIs burned by politicians to take any chances.
A single conviction would lose me my license, and I meant to keep my reputation spotless.
I second-guessed my decision to accept my client’s offer, a sum sufficient to cover my expenses for an entire month and then some. A few incriminating photos would wrap the job. Mr. Heathrowe would need a lot more than a single sex scandal to win a senate seat. As I hadn’t been paid to offer advice, I’d let him learn from his mistakes.
Senator Sterling was already on route for a divorce. I’d located the filing after ten minutes of work. In his case, it was a matter of who had cheated who first.
One day, people would learn cheaters never won. With men like me around, secrets always surface. It was just a matter of when.
Why couldn’t I get one of the more interesting jobs?
Oh, right. The firm of defense lawyers still wasn’t talking to me after I’d proven without a shadow of a doubt their defendant was guilty of embezzlement, blackmail, and extortion. Add in an accessory to murder charge and evidence presented to the prosecution, and I’d burned more than a few bridges with the firm.
They couldn’t touch me for following the law, but they refused to hire me again.
I found the entire situation ridiculous. The job of the defense wasn’t to clear guilty men of crimes, but to ensure the punishment fit the crime.
My job was to find the truth. That was it, that was all.
I figured my parents had pegged me right from the start. In any other life, I would’ve become a cop.
If they’d gotten their way, I would’ve been a married cop, but I’d learned the hard way the cheated never won and to never trust a woman on the prowl. Ladies enjoyed their dalliances as much as men, and once the lies started, all bets were off.
I’d evicted myself from the dating pool, determined to stay single until I died of old age. It might’ve worked if not for Sassy. I still didn’t date, I still lied to myself that I never would, but every time I crossed paths with my partner, I wondered.
I reined myself in, packed up my misgivings, and chucked it into the bin to worry about later. To offer the illusion of purpose, I ducked into the shop beside the shoe store, browsing the selection of overpriced watches while waiting for Miss Gray to finish making her purchases. Ten minutes later, she remained in the store, and when I checked, the store’s employee looked ready to throw up.
What Miss Gray had done to terrorize the woman interested me far more than infidelity. While I tried to limit my interactions with someone I photographed for a job, I couldn’t leave the poor clerk to suffer.
Damn it. Sassy didn’t need yet another pair of heels, yet I had no other excuse to play rescuer or snoop. I’d lose hundreds of dollars, but I always budgeted for excess expenses when shadowing someone.
I just hadn’t planned on making contact with Miss Gray yet, and I disliked when something snarled my plans.
It would take work, but I’d convince myself buying shoes for Sassy technically counted as a business expense. Technically.
Realistically, I couldn’t mark a pair of shoes on my taxes, which meant I’d be buying Sassy another pair of heels out of my pocket.
Bracing for the worst, I stepped into the store. Both women stopped and stared, and Miss Gray’s gaze roamed over me while she licked her lips. Having been treated like a dessert at a buffet more times than I cared to count, I could handle the situation one of three ways: I could run, I could ignore her, or I could smile, which would inevitably be treated like an invitation.
Whoever invented the social requirement to smile needed to be taken out back and shot.
“Howdy, ladies.” I tipped the brim of my baseball cap, forced a smile, and turned my attention to finding the perfect pair of shoes for Sassy, expecting her to beat me with them when she found out I’d unwillingly flirted with someone I was tailing. After she finished beating me, she’d probably kill me. Before killing me, she’d remind me I suffered from an allergy to women first.
“What’s a handsome man like you doing in a store like this?” Miss Gray murmured, and to make certain I understood she wanted to catch my attention, she fluttered her lashes.
The poor store employee deflated, but it was better than an imminent loss of her lunch.
“A friend of mine’s dating someone new, and I thought I’d congratulate her with a pair of shoes. She lives for shoes. What would you ladies suggest? I’d like to make them something special.” I paused, faked a cringed, and added, “Preferably something special but affordable.”
According to their expressions, the world had ended in a blaze of glory. Rather like my laptop, a relic in dire need of replacement, they struggled to comprehend my question.
Maybe if I’d stop buying Sassy shoes I’d have more money to spend on replacing things like my laptop.
The employee’s brain finished rebooting first. “This way, sir.”
She led me straight to the front window and pointed at a pair of black heels. “This is a classic heel good for everyday use. If you want something a little wilder, I just got in a pair of leopard print.”
Leopard spots would infuriate my cheetah partner, which tempted me into making the purchase to watch her reaction. “Anything in cheetah?”
“If you’re willing to spend a thousand, yes. It’s a three-inch stiletto, open toe.”
“She wears a size 8. I checked five different brands to be sure.”
“Do you remember any of the brands?”
“One had a funky red bottom.” Despite feigning ignorance, I could list almost every brand she owned; the more expensive the shoe, the more passionate she became, and I loved watching her when she forgot herself and rambled about the latest and greatest.
“A size 8 should fit. I’ll be right back, sir.” The employee, Danielle according to her name tag, scampered off.
Miss Gray glanced at my left hand. “How is a nice man like you still single?”
Her question led me to believe she thought any man without a ring was fair game, something that often led to single women taking married men to bed. Fighting the urge to sigh, I forced another smile. “I haven’t met the right woman yet.”
While the truth, I also lied right through the tiny gap between my front teeth. Sassy churched through boyfriends, mostly cheetah lycanthrope, and came to me with her current war cry: cheetahs never win.
I gave it another few years before she realized she could date every cheetah male on Earth without finding one loyal pre-mating. I’d done my research.
The females mated with one male for life.
The males slept with each other until a female convinced him it was time for a lifetime of cubs.
Sassy only dated lycanthropes.
The only woman I wanted, lycanthrope or not, only dated lycanthropes.
I’d need a miracle to dig out of the relationship mire I’d made for myself. Until then, I’d pretend being hopelessly single was what I wanted.
Miss Gray took her time looking me over. Again. “You could come give me a try tonight. There’s a party. It’ll get rowdy, I’m sure. You got yourself a suit? If so, I’ve got the ticket. My date cancelled.”
On the PI front, a cancelled date was a bust. “Well, that’s a pity. Know why?”
“He’s a cheap dick. Fucker picked some other broad.”
I could think of a few reasons why. “I’m sorry, ma’am.”
Miss Gray wrinkled her nose. “Turns out the bitch is his fucking wife.” Clicking her teeth together, she shook her head and averted her gaze. “In our club, the rules are clear: either the wives are in or the men are out. Why can’t everyone just follow the rules?”
Why did I always meet the odd ones? Oh, right. I was a private investigator. I courted trouble on a daily basis. I’d been around long enough to deduce she had kinkier tastes than most. Dallas also had more swingers clubs than I cared to count, and I’d been invited to at least half of them during jobs. I’d gone exactly once as an observer.
Some liked to be watched, and I’d sworn to reject any job that might drop me into a den of depravity. Obviously, I hadn’t vetted Tom Heathrowe and the potential for uncomfortable situations thoroughly enough.
Why had I accepted his proposal, anyway?
Oh, right. A month’s worth of income, which I needed to pay for Sassy’s new pair of thousand dollar shoes.
“Swingers club?” I made a show of looking over the cheaper shoes, and a pair of baby blue flats caught my eye. I picked them up and turned them over in my hands. Sassy sometimes wore a dress the same color, one capable of transforming me into an emotional wreck. “Are these a good shoe?”
Miss Gray snatched the shoes. “On the lower end, but yeah. They’ll do. These ones would be in an 8, too. Your friend has trouble dating?”
“You have no idea,” I muttered. “Is the party tonight with your club?”
“Yeah. It is. There’s no sex tonight, though. You interested?”
Damn it, damn it, damn it. Why couldn’t I keep my license with a conviction? Mr. Hearthrow deserved a one-way trip to hell. “As a matter of fact, I am. When and where?”
“The Ritz-Carlton at nine. It’s a mixer. It’s how we find new people to partner with. You’ll be a hit. It’ll be a good way for you to see if you like it.” Miss Gray handed over the shoes and dug into her pocket, retrieving a small white envelope. “Arrive thirty minutes early.”
I slid the invitation into my back pocket, already hating myself for what I did for money. A hidden camera would do the talking for me if Senator Sterling showed up. I doubted it if I held his ticket, but I couldn’t be certain.
The ticket could’ve belonged to another man easily enough.
However, if he had acquired his own ticket and brought his wife, things would become interesting for my client, who would lose his sex scandal angle. Miss Gray’s commentary led me to believe infidelity factored, but considering the relationship between Mr. and Mrs. Sterling was all but over, the information I gathered wouldn’t create much of a scandal.
I needed proof of a scandal. Proof got me paid, and I couldn’t break the law while I worked, which made the job challenging on a good day.
Oh, well. I’d figure something out.
Danielle returned with Sassy’s new shoes, and as I suffered from a complete lapse of good judgment, I got her the blue pair, too. She might kill me over it later, but for a few minutes, one of us would be happy.