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Table

of Contents

Book One: Chasing Tail


Chapter One
Chapter Two
Chapter Three
Chapter Four
Book Two: Tailing Her
Chapter One
Chapter Two
Chapter Three
Chapter Four
Chapter Five
Book Three: On Her Tail
Chapter One
Chapter Two
Chapter Three
Chapter Four
Chapter Five
Book Four: Heads or Tails
Chapter One
Chapter Two
Chapter Three
Chapter Four
About the Author
Copyright Page
Book One: Chasing Tail
Chapter One

A werelion prowled the library shelves, pacing amongst the rows. The
werelion aspect wasnt a huge surprise considering the town was filled with
them. From the sheriff to the school principal, members of Penelope Littles
pride held many positions. Including Penny herself as the town librarian.
So, a furball roaming the stacks was a familiar occurrence. Especially on
Wednesday after the kindergarten reading circle rampaged through the space.
The only problem was this particular lion was quite a bit bigger than the
beasts that usually visited. Bigger as in, an actual full grown male. Big. Really,
really big.
He released a ground-shaking roar and Penelope steadied the stack of
books that trembled on the corner of her desk. Dammit.
She heard him breathing heavily as he paced the length of the room. Air
huffed in and out of his lungs, and she imagined his moist pink nose hovering
over the ground as he sniffed the area. He was obviously hunting something
chasing his preyshe just wasnt sure what. Hell, she wasnt even sure why he
bothered. The library was frequented by so many people day in and day out,
lions and humans both, she didnt think he could actually find what he sought.
But, whatever. Let him waste his time. She just wished hed find it and leave
already. There was a group of second graders due any moment and she hadnt
had a chance to straighten the childrens area.
Another roar, and this time the other pile wavered and actually did fall.
Dammit. For real this time.
Enough was enough. She wasnt sure when Mr. Growly snuck in, but he
needed to get gone. Thankfully, Penny knew just the lion to handle the job.
Her alpha, Justin Palmer.
Penny snatched up the phone and quickly dialed her alpha. There was only
one ring before her call was answered, and the voice that reached her sounded
panicked and harried.
Hello? She recognized the alphas mate, Dana.
Since Penelope was outside the clans den, even if no customers were in the
building, she used the womans true name rather than her title. Hi, Dana, this
is Penny down at the library. I, uh, was wondering if Justin was missing a
friend from out of town.
Friend. Right.
A friend? The woman cleared her throat. What kind of friend?
Our kind of friend. Stress on the our.
Oh, thank God. Yes, yes he is, actually.
And And what the hell should I do with him? Of course, she couldnt
actually say that without sounding all disrespectful and whatnot.
And She could practically hear the woman thinking. I guess just make
sure hes comfortable. At least until Justin gets there.
Comfortable? The woman had to be crazy. How the hell could a lion be
comfortable in a freaking library? Hell, half the time Penelope wasnt
comfortable. It was just that She really enjoyed books. Well, reading books.
Filing them after ankle biters got their hands on them was a different story.
You dont want toI dont knowcome get him?
Its not like I can actually force him to take direction, can I? Dana
snapped.
Penelope was tempted to say yes, you really could since youre the Alpha
Mate, but refrained. She liked her hide just where it was, attached. Okay, she
swallowed past the new nervousness that attacked her, what should I do with
him then?
The him in question, rounded yet another row of shelves and stopped. He
swung his golden-eyed gaze to her, and it was the first time shed actually met
his stare. From the moment hed entered the building, shed only caught
glimpses of his luxurious coat. Only seen snatches of his fluffy mane and
flicking tail. Now she was trembling beneath the full weight of his gaze.
Oh, my. He was Wow. That was all she had. Just wow.
Penelopes inner lion purred and padded forward. The cat wanted to rub
and slide against the larger male. That single look made her crave him. She
licked her lips, mouth suddenly dry, and she couldnt help but wonder what
hed look like on two feet rather than four. Oh, she knew hed be tall and
muscular, all male shifters were. While the females could vary in size and
shape, the malesthe protectors in their specieswere always strong and
dominant. Some more than others. This lion looked like hed be massive in
human form. Large and fierce and oh so delicious
Yum.
No, not yum. Bad, very bad. This male wandered around like he owned the
place and disrupted her entire day. Inconsiderate, thats what he was. Not
yummy in any way. Except maybe in the very bad, very good way.
She was so lost. She didnt even know what he looked like, but his
aggression and dominance reached out and beckoned her. Pennys cat wanted
him like there was no tomorrow, and she found that her human body couldnt
wait to see him once he shifted. Everything about him called to her, and she
would happily pick up the phone and answer.
You do whatever the hell he wants you to do.
Wait, where the hell did that voice come from? Oh, right. She was talking
to Dana on the phone. Dana, who was telling her to do whatever he desired.
Well, she had a few desires of her own. Ones that involved no clothes and lots
of skin.
Thats it, she was a whore. All kinds of whoredom known to whoreland.
Considering hes looking at me like he wants to eat me for dinner, I would
prefer not to do what he wants. Is there an option B?
No, the woman said flatly. You dont need to know who he is, but suffice
it to say, while your alpha holds your life in his hands, this male holds
everyones lives in his paws. What he wants goes. Ill let Justin know hes
there.
With that, she heard the womans phone drop into the cradle, and then a
rapid dial tone filled her ear. Well, at least Dana would tell Alpha Justin where
to find his wayward friend.
Great, just great. She was left in the library, alone save a single male who
looked like he had a whole different kind of eating on the brain.
The massive beast came forward, closing the distance between them, and
the nearer he came, the larger he seemed. Her entire world centered on the
approaching male, and fear filled her veins as she realized just how big he
truly was. Dear God, if he decided he wanted to eat her for dinner, there wasnt
much shed be able to do about it. He was easily twice her size when shifted and
she had no chance against him.
Her own cat reminded her she didnt want to go against him. No, she
wanted to do whatever she wanted to do and if that included naked time, all the
better. Yes, her feline was all about stripping down.
A deep rumbling purr vibrated the air and sank into her body. It slid past
her flesh and deep into her bones until she felt as if it lived inside her. It
touched places she didnt know existed, and she shied away from the
unfamiliar sensation. She didnt know why the male affected her in such a way,
but she wasnt sure she wanted to follow where the man seemed to lead. Her cat
whined its objection. It ached to get closer to the lion; it wanted to bathe in his
scent and bare her belly to him.
So not happening.
Penelope backed from the desk, attempting to retain the distance between
their bodies, but it wasnt long before she bumped against the wall. Hed
trapped her, and now there was no escape. She was gonna die. Right here, right
now, she was meeting her end. What had she accomplished in life? What would
people remember about her? How many people would cry at her graveside?
Ugh. She was a freaking librarian. Not that there was anything wrong with
being a librarian, but she had so many dreams growing up. Dreams that were
about to be eaten for dinner.
Chomp. There went her pottery class.
Bite. There went her attempt at jewelry making.
Lick. There went her Maybe licking wouldnt be so bad.
Of course, by the time she tore her attention away from licking and back to
the actual lion at hand, he was there. A massive five-hundred-pound animal sat
atop her steel desk, his head tilted to the side as he stared at her. His lids
lowered and then rose in a sleepy, unhurried blink insinuating he didnt think
of her as any threat. He wouldnt have been so slow in his perusal if he did. In
reality, she wasnt a threat to anyone but unruly children who damaged her
books.
Hey, kitty. How are you? She chuckled, hoping it sounded even remotely
natural. When he merely curled his lip, revealing a single five-inch-long
canine, she backtracked. I mean, hello, how are you? Can I help you with
something? Id be happy to direct you wherever you desire to go.
Pennys lion had a lot of desires and none of them involved helping him
leave. Nope, if her cat had its way, it would involve lots of skin on skin and soft
surfaces. Even hard surfaces in a pinch.
The lion merely huffed, blowing a wave of moist, warm air in her
direction. Not just toward her, but into her. Oh, boy. That That put a whole
new spin on the game.
That scent The flavors lingered in the air and enveloped her cat in a
seductive embrace. Her feline didnt just purr, it trilled and chuffed as it begged
for attention. Attention and affection. No, more than affection. It wanted so, so
much more. It wanted everything this male had to give.
Oh, fuck her sideways. The scent of dry grassy plains and spring rain
mixed with his masculine musk, as well as her cats reaction, told her one
thing. He wasnt just a gorgeous cat that smelled good. He was a gorgeous cat
who belonged to her. One hundred percent totally belonged to her.
As in, this lion was her mate and she could think of nothing better than to
claim him right here, right now. Was this why hed prowled the stacks?
Chasing her scent from one side of the building to the other until he finally
caught sight of her?
The fanciful part of her voted yes. It wanted to believe a male craved her
so much, he could do nothing but shift and hunt.
Penny licked her lips, torn between the need to strip bare and launch herself
at him and strip bare, shift, and launch herself at him. It seemed this stranger
felt the same way if his fur was any indication.
He eased to the edge of the desk, claws hanging past the lip. It didnt even
creak as his weight moved on honed steel. Itd been built with lions in mind,
with the knowledge that cubs and adolescents alike tended to run freely and
crazily when confined. He finally hopped down and his massive paws didnt
make a sound as they met the carpet in front of her. Now the gorgeous male
was within touching distance.
Touch, touch, touch
Oh, dear God, she was in so much trouble. There was no measuring the
amount of troublesome trouble she was in. The firm lines of his snout, the
strength of his deadly jaw, the amber in his eyes, and the fullness of his mane,
told her everything she needed to know. This was not a lion to be denied. He
was dominant and strong, a male who made demands and expected them to be
immediately satisfied.
Speaking of satisfaction
Penelope swallowed past the growing lump in her throat, searching for her
voice, and came up with nothing. Mainly because her attention was split
between the glorious animal before her and her bodys reaction to him. Her
nipples were hard points within her bra, their heaviness aching and begging
for his touch. That wasnt the only part of her that wanted him. No, her pussy
grew warm and moist, silently begging to be possessed by this lion. Well, not
lion-lion. More like, lion when human shaped. She wasnt into the whole lion
and human boinking thing. That was just Gross.
When the first crack of bone echoed in the silence of the building, she
realized she may get her chance to get her hands on him sooner than she
anticipated. Not that she truly anticipated anything. Not realistically anyway.
She knew what she looked like and the type of man she attracted. This guy, with
his air of authority and entitlement, was so out of her league. That didnt mean
she couldnt look though.
Slowly, carefully, with unerring precision, he was revealed.
Massive paws receded to reveal equally large hands, thick forearms and
biceps came next, and his chest seemed just as wide in his human shape as hed
been when he wore fur. He was a study in carved muscle and bone, and she
didnt hesitate to drink her fill with her gaze. He was strength personified, and
she wanted to climb him like a motherfucking tree.
During her perusal, she kinda sorta skipped over the junk area. She was
all for staring, but it was a little rude to ogle a man after a shift. Shifters had
standards of conduct.
She did allow herself to focus on his face, seeing remnants of the mans
beast in his features. The jaw, his nose, and the fierceness in his eyes. Eyes that
seemed to delve into hertheir startling amber hue still in place, telling her
his beast was still very, very close to the surface. He changed position ever so
slightly, brushing a tendril of long midnight hair over his broad shoulders,
drawing her back to his nude body. No, bad, Penelope, bad.
A low, masculine chuckle shook his frame and had her refocusing on his
face again. On the wide spread of his lips and the seductive smile that curved
his mouth.
He really shouldnt smile. Ever. Because the moment that expression settled
into place, her panties were wet with arousal. Did he leave hundreds of women
with wet panties in his wake? Probably. And he didnt seem repentant in
anyway.
Thats because Im not, his words vibrated the air and crawled through
her.
What?
I dont care that I leave a trail of wet panties behind me. Because theyre
behind me. The only panties I care about are yours. He stepped closer, his
scorching heat branding her skin. Tell me, sweetheart, are yours?
He was asking her a question? He wanted her to think? Penny tried really
hardshe totally didbut words failed her. She couldnt grasp anything when
her mind and body were enraptured by his delicious scent and overwhelming
presence. And his skin, so much skin. She wanted to lick him from head to toe,
taste every inch, and see if the small spot at the base of his throat tasted the
same as that deeply carved line on his hip.
The stranger s wicked grin turned smoldering, and she whimpered at the
sensual promises that lingered in his features. Then his nostrils flared, his chest
expanding as he drew in a breath, and he released it with a deep purr.
Yes, yes they are wet.
Suddenly she was in his arms, his grip holding her flush against him, and
his warmth really did brand her. She was surrounded by him, enveloped by
him, and she never wanted to be anywhere else.
He buried his fingers in her hair, forcing her to tilt her head back, and she
found herself lost in his gaze. Penny trembled beneath his stare and it was as if
her lungs forgot how to breathe, her heart forgot how to send blood rushing
through her veins, and all she could do was meet his intense stare and wait for
his next move. It wasnt long in coming. His lips met hers in a searing kiss, one
that overpowered her and stole any objection that may have lingered on her
lips.
Objection? Ha! Not likely.
He controlled their passionate meeting, his tongue venturing into her
mouth, licking and tasting her. She fought to do the same, explore his heated
flavors, but he was too much. He overpowered her with ease, taking what he
desired and she was unableunwillingto object. Not when his massive hands
cupped her ass and lifted her against him, not when he yanked her skirt to her
waist and then encouraged her to wrap her legs around his hips, or when his
shaft came in contact with the fabric-covered juncture of her thighs. It was too
much and not enough, his touch wandering over her, consuming her more and
more with each passing second.
Growls and snarls followed each movement, as if staking his claim with
his body wasnt enough. He seemed to want to fill the air with trembling
warnings.
And wasnt that fucking hot?
When his lips left her mouth long enough to trail kisses along her throat,
she took a moment to drag in much needed air. He scraped the column of her
neck with his deadly fangs, scratching her skin and sending a bolt of the
delicious pain down her spine. Then he nearly had her coming due to his
voice alone.
Mine. He growled against her shoulder. Mine.
It seemed as if he was searching for confirmation, and she was quick to
give it. She was his, just as he was hers. Mine. Youre mine.
He ripped and tore at the fabric that covered her skin, and she cursed the
fact she wore clothes to work. Obviously she had to wear something because of
the kiddies, but if shed come naked, this whole process would have gone a lot
quicker. She wanted skin on skin, his cock inside her and his teeth in her
shoulder. ASAP.
Her skirt was gone in a moment, her top suffering the same fate, and her
bra and panties were no barrier to his razor-sharp nails. Then it truly was flesh
against flesh, his shaft rubbing against her moistness, and the blunted head of
his length was poised at her entrance.
Ideally, knowing his name before taking this momentous step would be a
big deal, but Mates. There was no denying the truth, and when it came to
shifters, it tended to be mate first, talk second. Or rather seventy-fifth since all
the moments before were spent mating. So, yeah, she was all with getting down
and dirty despite the lack of names and their current location. She would
disinfect everything later. Much, much later.
Please, please, please she didnt care that she was begging and
pleading with this guy. There was no pride when it came to being with her
other half.
He didnt say much, but what he did say, had her hovering on the edge of
release with that single syllable. Mine.
Yes, she hissed. All kinds of yes.
Except somebody had to be the one and only asshole in the world and
interrupt them. No!
Penelope clutched her mates shoulders, clinging to him not because she
was desperate for his body, but for protection. She whimpered, uneasy at the
intrusion, and her emotions wavered between desperate for her mate and fear
that someone was denying their mating.
He released her, and in a sudden whirl, had her pinned behind him as he
faced off against their intruder. His previous sounds had nothing on the
ground-shaking roar that vibrated the entire building. The floor rolled and
trembled with the sound, and she steadied herself by placing her hands on his
back. He shuddered with her touch and gently leaned toward her. He seemed to
take comfort in the connection, but his threatening sounds did not cease.
Alpha, I mean no disrespect. The intruder s tone was familiar and
Penelope swallowed the groan that leapt to her lips. Her dens alpha. Of course,
Justin would find them together. Shed called his house, hadnt she? She should
have held off on the panic attack a little longer.
She waited for the man to continue. There was a but in there somewhere.
And It wasnt long in coming. But I dont wish for you to make a mistake
that would ruin the rest of your life.
Well, she knew Alpha Palmer disliked her, but she didnt realize he felt she
would ruin someones life by claiming her mate. So nice to be loved by her
own pride.
The male blocking her view renewed his threatening growls, and she
stroked his back, urging him to calm. Two alphas going at each other s throat
in the middle of the library was so not a good thing. Blood didnt exactly wash
out of books easily and her budget wasnt big enough to replace the ones these
two would ruin.
Mine. Penny wondered if her mate knew any other word.
I understand how youre feeling, but it isnt real. Alpha Palmer s voice
was low and soothing. At least she assumed that was the tone he was going for.
It was kinda hard for a male who lived his life giving orders and growling at
the world to actually sound soothing. This isnt real. She isnt your mate.
Shed ruin
Another word and I will rip out your throat. Apparently her mate could
string words together. Very threatening words, at that.
Youre under a spell, Alpha. A witch was detained just outside of town.
She admitted to casting a spell on you. Justin pleaded with her mate. We dont
know what shes done, but look at your actions. Alpha Palmer gestured
toward Penelope. Do you imagine a woman like her as your mate? Truly,
Alpha, think before you do something youll regret.
She swallowed hard, battling the sob that formed in her chest and
threatened to burst from her mouth. Regret? Rest of his life? He was her mate.
How could anyone ever regret claiming their mate? But she felt her mates
resolve wavering. It was in the way his shoulders relaxed slightly, the
disappearance of the fur that coated his arms, and the receding of his claws
until his hands were human once again. He was listening to Alpha Palmer. He
was listening to the man before them rather than following his beasts instincts.
Could it be true? Was there a spell cast on her mate? Was he even really her
mate at all?
Why was she even asking the question? Of course he was her mate. If a
spell was cast on him, it wouldnt affect her. And she was very, very affected by
him.
Alpha Palmer She peeked around her mates body. I dont think
Youre right, dont think, he snapped.
Penny flinched beneath the mans anger and hid behind her mate once
again. A mate who did not seem intent on destroying Justin for acting
aggressively toward her. So, he believed Alpha Palmer. It shouldnt hurt, not
when they didnt even know each other s names, and yet It did. It more than
hurt, it crushed her heart. Maybe it was a spell that brought him to her library
doors, but it wasnt a spell that had her lioness craving the man before her. It
wasnt a spell that had her more than willing to mate the male in the middle of
the building for one and all to see. Didnt her mate recognize that? Or her
alpha?
No, he didnt. Because he next stepped forward, putting space between
them, and spoke to Alpha Palmer. A witch?
She leaned her head against the wall at her back and closed her eyes,
refusing to look at her could-have-been mate any longer. Instead, she simply
listened to their conversation.
Yes, our local caster has her magically tied to a plot of land at the edge of
town. If you like, we can get you some clothes and address the situation.
I see. After her mates two words, quiet returned.
Yes, silence enveloped them, but the tension remained high and cloying. It
seemed oppressive and weighed against her body until she could no longer
stand beneath its power.
She scented the room, cataloging each flavor from the men. There was
pure, true conviction in her alphas aromas and her mates emotions were
slowly easing toward acceptance and belief. A lion couldnt lie and Justin was
so sure he was right
The two men seem to be in a standoff of sorts, but enough was enough.
Penny had endured a near mating, had her childhood dreams almost in her
grasp, only to have them ripped from her by one of her own pride. Nothing
new to her. Now, she was simply tired. She wanted to gather what was left of
her clothes and make an elegant-ish retreat.
Excuse me, she used the tone that often worked on the younger patrons
of the library. I believe it is time you both departed. I would like to straighten
the library, and then Ill be going home.
She left no room for argument, and instead of waiting for their agreement,
she merely stepped from behind her mate and went to her desk. She ignored the
males growl, knowing he had no right to take issue with her exposing herself
to Justin, and instead withdrew the extra set of clothing she kept in the bottom
drawer. It was there in case there was an emergency shifting situation but also
because the children who came in occasionally got a little too rowdy with their
markers.
She spared neither male a glance as she tugged on the comfortable pants
and equally soft top. She didnt have a set of bra and panties on hand, but she
didnt plan on rocking the clothing for very long. They could leave, she could
clean, and then her day would end with a nice long, hot bath and a good cry.
At this point, she figured shed earned a good sob session. Because in a
span of fifteen minutes, shed found and lost her mate.
The moment she was covered, she turned to face the men. She first focused
on her mate, giving him a grim and yet rueful smile. It was nice meeting you.
He opened his mouth to reply, but she refused to listen to whatever he had to
say. Instead, she stared at her alpha. Alpha Palmer, thank you for saving him
from what you believe would have been a mistake.
It would
As I said, thank you. She didnt leave any room for him to speak further.
And when he glared at her, she refused to be intimidated. He was a strong lion
there was no doubt about thatbut everyone knew she was quite a bit
stronger. As she was growing up, it had been yet another line in the list of
reasons half the town disliked her. She didnt look like the typical lioness, she
didnt cower like a typical lioness, but she also didnt fight for dominance and
status like a typical lioness. Add in the fact that her family tree was colorful
and included vamps, witches, and humans
Penelope
Ill see you at the next gathering. She spun on her heel, and moved
toward the stacks, unwilling to hear another word from him. Shed lose herself
in the books and pray she could lose her emotional pain just as easily. When
her mates deep voice reached out and stroked her, she knew shed never forget
those few moments when she held happiness in her arms. Nor would she forget
whod destroyed her dreams.
With luck, and more control than she ever thought she possessed, she
managed to keep her tears at bay. It wasnt until she was alone with her own
thoughts, and her own heartache, that the first trailed down her cheek to stain
the book in her lap.
* * *
It was amazing what a person could have delivered nowadays. Because
Penelope was now the proud owner of buttercream iced cupcakes, more ice
cream than she could consume in one sitting, and several bottles of wine to top
it off. Now, staring at it all on her kitchen counter, she couldnt decide what to
jump into first. She knew she could drown her sorrows in each option, but
when it came down to it, what would gorging herself accomplish?
Nothing. But maybe she could convince herself for a moment that she
hadnt had happiness within reach. And then torn away just as quickly.
Well, if she wanted to blunt her feelings, shed begin with the wine. She
grabbed the bottle opener from its home and went to work on the first bottle
she snagged. She loved them all, so she didnt really care where she started or
ended.
She was working on the first cork when the rapid pounding of a fist on her
front door interrupted. It wasnt heavy and strong like a males, and she
banished the small hint of joy thatd blossomed in her chest. It was a witchs
spell, remember? It wasnt like he was going to come find her. It wasnt like he
felt the same as her. It wasnt like
Another round of banging on the metal panel, and it was joined by a
familiar voice. Dammit, Penny, open this door! Another speedy series of
thumps. I mean it!
With a sigh, she placed the bottle and opener on the counter and padded
toward the front door. She loved having a best friend When said best friend
wasnt trying to interrupt her pity party. She undid the locks, turned the knob,
and tugged the panel open. Jennifer.
Sympathy filled the other womans gaze and Penelope tore her attention
from her friend, unwilling to suffer under the expression. She didnt want
anyone to feel badly for her. She wanted to be left alone. It was bad enough that
half the pride laughed at her on a regular basis while the other half sneered, but
now with recent events There would be no hiding from their torment. She
knew it was only a matter of time before Alpha Palmer encouraged her to
find a new pride. With todays events, she imagined the order would come any
time now.
Oh God, Penelope. Penelopes own heartache was mirrored on her best
friends features and the dam broke.
Jennifer The first cry escaped, and then it was downhill from there.
Hugs were shared, tears were wiped, noses were very unsexily blown, and
more than enough wine was consumed. By the time they finished their second
bottle, Penelope managed to release the whole sordid, seriously not long
enough, tale. From the first grumble, to the first purr, and on to the first taste of
his skin, she revealed all. There were no secrets from the woman whod stood
by her side year after year despite the teasing and poor treatment by the rest of
their pride.
So, thats it. Penelope drained the last few drops from her glass.
Thats it? Jennifer slammed her delicate glass on the coffee table and
winced, waiting for it to shatter. Amazingly, it did not. Justin, her best friend
sneered, strides in, interrupts, claims some witch is behind it all, and thats
it?
Justin For a moment, Penelope forgot that Justin was Jennifer s brother
which was why the woman could even talk about the man with such a
disrespectful tone. But just for a moment.
Yup. She reached for another bottle. Knowing they were likely to drain
them all, they had yanked the cork on each one before they began. Pretty
much.
Youre joking.
Nope.
But But Jennifer sputtered. Hes wrong.
I doubt it. Fuck it. She was probably on the way out anyway. She could be
disrespectful too. Penelope deepened her voice to imitate Alpha Palmer. My
decisions are final and unbreakable. You do not deny me, you do not disobey
me. My word is law.
But its not. Jennifer shook her head. The spell didnt pick Marcus. It
doesnt work that way.
Marcus Marcus was a nice name It was sexy and sinful and it tasted
delicious. Marcus Penelope turned her head until she could stare at her
friend. Is that his name? Marcus
You didnt even know his name? You dont know who he is?
Should I? We kind of skipped that part. He was a lion, then he was human,
then he had his tongue in my throat. We jumped over everything else. She
sighed happily. Did I mention how sexy he was? And the whole mating
thing?
The mating thing. Or rather, the not mating thing. The not mating thing and
the embarrassment that came from the entire process being stopped by Alpha
Palmer.
a mistake that would ruin the rest of your life.
Yes, you mentioned that, her friend drawled. Ill fill you in on your
mate then.
Penelope shook her head and fought the dizziness that came with the action.
No, hes not my mate. We just discussed this, didnt we?
Humor me. Jennifer reached for her previously discarded glass and
refilled it before sitting back once again. His name is Marcus Tolson.
That name sounds familiar.
The woman grinned at her and tried to hide the smile behind the glass but
failed miserably. Yes, I imagine it would. Especially considering hes the
North American Alpha.
Oh. Right. Nice. Super nice.
Penelope groaned and flopped sideways, burying her face in a pillow.
Now I know hes not my mate. Im so not North American Alpha Mate
material. She was fluffy, average mate material. She moaned again. I
assaulted the North American Alpha.
No, her friend began, you tried to claim your mate.
Did you sorta miss the part where he was under the spell of a witch? Her
words were muffled but she had no doubt Jennifer heard her. I was pretty sure
that part was covered.
And I said the spell didnt work that way.
Now, admittedly, Penelopes brain was quite muddled by the mass
consumption of wineit took a lot to get a lion drunkbut the lioness words
tickled her brain. She fought to push herself up but did nothing more than flop
around like a fish on sand. Giving up, she finally just settled in place and
decided to have this conversation from her sprawled position.
And how, my very best friend in the whole wide world, do you know how
the spell works? A very telling, very, very damning silence was Jennifer s
answer. What, my very best friend in the whole wide world, did you do?
More silence, but Penelope decided to wait Jennifer out. She didnt care if it
took five seconds or five hours, her best friend had a lot to answer for.
Because now, new thoughts churned through her alcohol-muddled mind. Ones
that said maybe Marcus truly was her mate. That it was Alpha Palmer who was
wrong. That it was really okay for Penelope to climb Marcus like a tree.
Well You see Hypothetically I may, or may not have, contracted the
services of a certain witch who happens to hypothetically Did I mention
hypothetically? Hypothetically be a relative of yours. Which is why the
possible spell worked so well for you and had Marcus chasing your scent
across the country.
Penelope groaned and squeezed her eyes shut. And what, exactly and non-
hypothetically, did you ask her to do?
I may or may not have
Dammit, Penelope snarled. This is my life, Jennifer. She forced her
head up and glared at the other lioness. What the fuck did you do? In
response to her aggressive tone, Jennifer s eyes filled with tears, a single drop
of moisture making its way down her cheek. That had her burying her face
once again. Youre such a crier when youre drunk. It takes the fun out of
yelling at you. She sighed. Tell me already.
I just wanted you to be happy. Youve been miserable for so long. Youve
dealt with so much. Your parents This pride Jennifer s cool small hands
grasped Penelopes and squeezed gently. You deserve to be happy, Penny.
Penelope remained silent, knowing if she tried to make a sound, the pain of
her past and the agony of her present would overwhelm her. Yes, most of her
life had been shit. She was a mutt and then there was the fact that her parents
never supported her. Oh, they put a roof over her head and made sure they
gave her the necessities, but emotionally
They were disgraced by her. They could have dealt with her curvy body.
Her best friendthe old alphas daughterwas a little rounded, after all. But
combined with her behavior It was too much for them. She didnt act like a
real lion. She didnt crave the hunt or embrace the natural dominance that
lived inside her. She had too much non-shifter DNA in her blood that overrode
her cat.
Her failure as a lioness upset her father, which meant her mother was
frustrated with her for disappointing her mate even though it was her mother s
genetics that made Penelope the way she was. Their continued tension and
strife put them in a vulnerable position within the pride until Penelope was
shunted aside to maintain family harmony. Well, harmony for them. Because
their private rejection wasnt quite so private and it influenced how others
treated her. Even after her parents passed, she was treated with disrespect.
Did she deserve to be happy when she caused so much pain to others? She
didnt even think she deserved to ask that question.
Im fine. Ive been fine for a long time. I have a good life, I have a job I
love, and
And youre alone.
But Im happy.
Jennifer shook her head. No, youre really not. You cant lie to me.
Jen just say it.
I found the most powerful woman on your witch side of the family tree,
and when I told her everything about you, she agreed with me. She came to
town and worked her magic mojo. A sudden excitement filled the air and her
best friend squirmed in her seat. And for free.
Well, Im glad it didnt cost you anything since it didnt work because of
the whole getting caught thing.
Werent you listening? It did work. It was only meant to bring your mate
here. Not Larry, not Joe Bob from two counties over, not Pierre from across
the pond. Jennifer shrugged. Just your mate.
Penelope let those words sink into her, let them crawl through her blood
and along her veins, let them creep into her bones, and felt them flick
something deep inside her. It stroked the certainty in her heart that he was her
mate. The belief that Marcus was her mate despite what theyd been told. Was
he really?
Her cat answered for her with a resounding roar. It knew the truth, and it
clawed aside her humans worries and concerns. Her hint of hesitation, her
sliver of doubt, gave the beast a chance to rush forward. It assured her that
Marcus belonged to them, he was theirs and no other s, and it was time they got
their shit together and went and got him.
Hes mine.
Yes.
The cat pushed forward, shoving the human parts of her to the background
as it stole control of her two-footed form. Its rush burned away the alcohol in
her veins, clearing her mind of the liquids cloud. She rolled to her feet, body
prepped and primed and aching for her mate. It wasnt a question. Marcus
Tolson, North American Alpha, is mine. And its time he accepted it.
Her hands ached, and she allowed even more of the feline to push forward,
her nails transforming to sharp claws. Her gums throbbed and then her fangs
descended pricking her lower lip. The lioness strength that she always brushed
aside was in full force as she embraced her dominant urges.
Whoa. Jennifer s gaze moved over her from head to toe. This whole
angry look is kinda sexy. If I swung your way, Id be all over you.
Shaking her head, Penelope plucked the half-full glass from her best
friends grip and snagged the remaining bottle of wine as well. Come on, lets
get you sobered up a little, and then you can tell me where to find Marcus. Your
brother may have interfered once, but Ill be damned if it happens again.
Jennifer pushed to her feet, body swaying slightly, and she studied
Penelope carefully. I know youve always been strong and just disregarded
that part of you, but since Marcus is your mate, that means youre actually a
really, really strong lion. Stronger than any of us. Jennifer hiccupped. Like, I
bet if you snarled a little, you could even get Justin to roll over and bare his
belly. Her best friend jumped in place and released an excited squeal. Ooh,
say youll do it, say youll do it!
The idea had merit, but Penelope had something to accomplish first.
Mainly, making Marcus Tolson hers and begging him to do the same in return.
With any luck, it wouldnt require any bloodshed. Or at least, not a lot.
Well discuss it on the way. Where can we find them all? Because she had
no doubt Marcus and Justin didnt go alone to question the witch. Or rather, her
relative.
Her best friend paused in her excited bouncing. Oh. Theyre at your
house.
Penelopes house. Or rather the place shed lived until she was forced out.
True, it still remained in her name, but she hadnt been there in more years than
she could count. It held so many memories None she wanted to keep.
Sensing her disquiet, Jennifer grasped Penelopes hand and twined their
fingers. You can do it, Pen. Its just a house.
Sure, it was just the house. Penelope didnt tell Jennifer it wasnt just the
house. It was hell. A hell that currently held her ticket to heaven.
Besides, Jennifer continued, if we dont get there before Justin
introduces her to Marcus, theres no telling what will happen. Angry alphas
arent necessarily understanding alphas and Marcus has plenty to be angry
about if he believes my brother. Justin has already poisoned his mind against
you and the witch. Whats going to happen to her if a furious Marcus gets to
her first?
Shell be torn to shreds.
Dammit, she snarled. Lets go.
Chapter Two

Marcus would rip off the head of the next lion who spoke to him. Hell, the
next person, lion or human, who spoke to him would die. His inner cat was in
full agreement. The animal was agitated and anxious to tear into everyone in
the room. Each time the air conditioner kicked on, each time someone came
near, he was assaulted with different scents. Males and females, musk and
perfume, sweat and earth They surrounded him in the cloying room.
His skin itched, his fur rippling through his flesh only to disappear once
again. Each wave he banished proved just how strong his lion was becoming as
the seconds passed. It would slide fur free of his pores, and just as quickly
Marcus would regain control and the light dusting of gold would vanish. He
was the North American Alpha, the strongest lion on the continent. He didnt
have the luxury of losing control. When his animal snatched the humans
power, there was no telling what would be left in his wake. The way he felt that
moment, he knew it would be a trail of blood and gore.
Mainly because everyone in the vicinity was attempting to keep him from
one single, luscious female.
Penelope Little. She was tiny compared to him, short and compact with
generous curves that had cradled him so sweetly. She was a handful and then
some, built for him from head to toe. It was as if God himself crept into
Marcus brain and discovered what he viewed as the ideal woman.
Yes, the average lioness was lithe and lean, but that wasnt what turned on
Marcus. He liked the softness of a curved female, the ways she molded to his
hard body, and the way her form contrasted so heavily against his. He had
enough hardness in his day-to-day life. Sometimes a male just needed a daily
dose of sweetness to make it from one day to the next.
With him that was doubly important. He battled his near indestructible lion
on a daily basis, fought it to prove his dominance over every being he came
across. But with her in his arms that need and unshakable desire was blunted.
For the first time in his life, he could breathe and relax without the fear of
harming someone. Hell, he hadnt killed Justin Palmer, had he? The pre-
Penelope Marcus would have ripped the head off the male for interrupting him
before returning to the woman hed held so close.
Instead, hed been the ultimate asshole and removed his touch. Yes, hed
hidden her from Palmer s gaze, but the second a sliver of doubt assaulted him,
he left her to survive on her own.
Since when do I listen to anyone else? Im the North American
motherfucking Alpha.
Voices layered over voices, males and females whirling together until he
couldnt discern one from the next. No, it wasnt them that kept his mind from
settling, it was his animal and his body screaming for Penelope that kept him
from focusing. Even now, hours later, he was rock hard and anxious to slide
into her warmth and wetness, and eventually her heart.
Oh, he knew and understood what everyone told him; a witch had cast a
spell on him, making him feel as if Penelope belonged to him. But He
couldnt shake the feeling they were wrong. It wasnt just his behavior in the
library. It was so much more.
It was that more that fueled his unwavering desire to travel across
country. His unending drive to head south. His refusal to go anywhere but the
small town of Ryland
Unable to stand another moment in anyones presence, he pushed to his
feet. The fluid move drew everyones attention and silence immediately fell
over the room. The house, the pride den, was large. Especially considering the
size of the small group in this tiny southern town, but it wasnt big enough for
him. He could still smell Penelope on his skin, refusing a shower after hed
arrived at the den, but the flavors in the room were overpowering her natural
aromas. His beast needed to smell her in her purest form. In order to do that, he
needed to be away Away from here Away from everyone.
Alpha? Palmer was the first to risk speaking to him.
Surprising. It seemed the local alpha had no sense of self-preservation. If
he had, he wouldnt have said a word directly to Marcus. Even Marcus own
guard detail had remained silent from the moment theyd left the library. After
so many years, the men were sensitive to his moods.
Can I get you something? The local alpha tried again.
Marcus carefully, slowly, turned his golden gaze to the large male. Large,
but not larger than Marcus. He wasnt meaner or deadlier than him either. He
would really, really like to release some of that deadliness right about now.
Without a word, Marcus spun on his heel and moved to the front door. His
steps were silent over the hardwood, even his boots not daring to make a noise
on the solid surface.
At the moment, he was pure predator, pure animal, pure unadulterated rage.
There was a scramble behind him, shuffles of the rooms occupants struggling
to their feet. The immediate sound of a low grunt from someone told him his
guards had done their jobs.
Theyd obviously knocked back a lion and kept them from chasing after
Marcus. No one would follow him, no one would dare. Not when the males in
his entourage explained that Marcus would destroy the next person who spoke
in his presence. His lion would allow for nothing less. Whether he was battling
a witchs spell or the natural desire for his true mate, he couldnt be trusted at
the moment.
He burst from the house, shoving the front door wide, and the moment he
was free he breathed deeply. He drew in the clean scents of the country air,
sucking it into his body, and he sighed when his beast relaxed the tiniest bit.
Some of the tension thrumming in his veins vanished with the nature
surrounding him. This was where his lion belonged, where all the lions
belonged. Nature, trees, grasses, live prey, and open plains to run.
Did his mate enjoy these acres as much as Marcus own animal? He didnt
doubt it. She wouldnt be a true match for him if she didnt and he hoped she
wouldnt mind leaving it all behind.
Theyd address the problem if she was a match. Marcus shook his head,
still unable to accept the alphas assertions that a witch held so much power
over him.
He yanked his shirt from his body, letting it drop to the ground. There, he
could breathe again. Breathe in her scent that lingered on his skin. Shed
touched and stroked him, whimpering and whining as her tongue slid over his
skin. Growling when her teeth nipped his flesh. He shuddered, the memory of
that small sting shooting through his blood.
The low squeak and then heavy thump of boots on the front porch reached
him and it was immediately followed by the familiar scent of his best friend
and captain of his guard. The male could have his own pride, or even act as
Marcus Beta, but the lion constantly refused.
I get enough tail just following you around. Why the fuck do I gotta take
on some title when I already get everything I need, and all I gotta do is save
your ass once in a while?
With each new breath, Penelopes aroma was overrun by Lincolns until
Marcus was ready to cut the male to shreds. His body called for Penelope,
thickness rock hard and primed to fill her, and his friends presence was
destroying his mates lingering flavors. Dammit, hed come outside to be
alone, to revel in what was left of his mate on his body.
He spun in place, a snarl on his lips, and bared his fangs at Lincoln. Instead
of cowering, or even flinching beneath Marcus fury, the male simply leaned
against a porch support post and crossed his ankles.
Got that out of the way, now? Lincoln drawled.
Marcus merely narrowed his eyes and glared at his best friend. What do
you want?
The other man shrugged. Just want to know what were going to do next.
He closed his eyes, coaxing his lion away from the front of his mind so he
could think for a moment. Think without the cloud of driving need and
desperation for one particular curvy female. He was the North American Alpha
for a reason, and it wasnt merely because he could kick everyone elses ass.
He was also analytical, intelligent, and operated with a calm that was out of
reach for the average lion. Not that his current behavior was an example of that
ability.
I dont trust Palmer. Marcus wasnt sure why, wasnt sure what caused
him to form that opinion. It wasnt as if the local alpha had done anything
specific to mislead him. Or had he?
The low growl that emanated from within the house told him the man heard
Marcus words. He mentally shrugged. He hoped he wouldnt have to kick the
idiot lions ass, but if he did, he did. He wasnt insulting the mannot much
anywaybut he was a damn good judge of character and behavior. There was
something about this Justin Palmer Something about the male and Penelope.
a mistake that would ruin the rest of your life.
Now, why would an alpha say that about one of his own lions? If anything,
Marcus mating one of Justins pride would benefit every cat in the town. And
yet it would somehow ruin Marcus life?
He wasnt buying it. Now that some of his desire for Penelope was easing
back and he could think clearly, he realized he needed to have a claw-to-claw
conversation with the male.
Marcus took a deep, calming breath, allowing his lion to savor one last
taste of Penelopes scent. He released it with a long sigh and then focused his
mind on the problem in front of him. Particularly the local alphas beliefs and
how hed come to those conclusions.
I want to talk to Palmer and the witch. Together. Now.
Lincoln pushed away from the post and rose to his full height. All right
then.
Marcus remained in place, ignoring the snarls and hisses that came from
within the home. His men would do their job quickly and efficiently. He
wouldnt have long to wait, and within thirty seconds he had one almost
trembling alpha standing before him. Oh, he had to respect the male for his
attempt at remaining strong and tall beneath the weight of Marcus anger, but it
didnt change the fact that Marcus would get his way.
He reached for Palmer and wrapped his hand around the back of the males
neck, yanking him forward until he walked at Marcus side toward the waiting
vehicle. Youre going to give Lincoln, here, directions to where we can find
the witch. And then were all going to have a chat.
A-a-alpha do you think
Really not a good idea to ask questions at this point, Lincoln inserted
smoothly, which saved Marcus from having to sink his claws into the males
neck.
Hell, Marcus might not have even stopped there. Especially once the lion
realized Palmer s blood would drive away what remained of Penelopes
flavors on his skin and that was unforgivable as far as the cat was concerned.
It took moments for them to climb into the nearest SUV, the rest of Marcus
group piling into others, and then they were on their way. The local alphas
voice trembled as he gave directions, and Marcus imagined Palmer was finally
understanding his positionone of a lion suffering beneath the North
American Alphas displeasure.
Go through the gates at the end of the road, Palmer swallowed hard, the
action audible in the quiet confines of the SUV. And then its another five
hundred yards down that dirt road. The local alpha shot Marcus a brief glance.
Shes confined to the land at the moment. Entering her domain puts you at
risk, Alpha.
I understand. Marcus held on to his rage by a thread. The closer they got
to this mysterious witch, the more certain he became that Justin Palmer was
wrong, and Penelope Little was very, very right. For him.
They rounded the last bend, emerging from the untamed trees that filled
their vision, and the home before him nearly stole his breath. With its wide
wraparound porch and tall pillars, it looked as if it had been plucked out of
history, a southern plantation house that begged to be filled by a family.
Damn, if that thought wasnt proof enough that hed found his mate, he
wasnt sure what else could drive the thought home. Marcus Tolson? A family?
He hadnt ever craved one, but with Penelope on the brain
The moment the vehicle rolled to a stop, Marcus was free of the SUV and
striding toward the woman on the porch who seemed to be waiting for their
arrival. He cataloged her appearance in a brief sweep, noting the features were
similar to the woman he thought of as his mate.
Alpha! Palmer shouted for him, but that yell was quickly followed by an
echoing snarled and then a grunt.
Lincoln was having too much fun taking out his frustration on the local
alpha.
Marcus bounded up the steps, only slowing when he stood mere feet from
the woman. He sensed her magic, the power within her seeming to glow and
emanate from her skin.
Mistress, he tilted his head in acknowledgment, but not submission. He
recognized her abilities but refused to be cowed or frightened by them.
Georgie will do. She gave him a rueful smile. So, what did the idiot tell
you?
That youre a witch. The question is what kind.
That smile turned from rueful to teasing. Didnt your mama ever tell you
that asking a woman what kind of witch she is, is akin to asking a woman her
age? She winked at him.
Okay, he crossed his arms over his chest. If you wont tell me that, tell
me if theres a reason why I shouldnt kill you right now. Interfering with a
lions mating, especially an alphas, is a death offense.
I didnt realize helping you find your mate was interfering, she mused. I
could take her away from you. She snapped her fingers. Like that.
Marcus growled. So youre saying shes mine?
Im saying
She was cut off by the loud, obnoxious honk of an approaching vehicle, the
small car bursting into the clearing surrounding the house in a storm of dust
and flying rocks. The very second the vehicle stopped, its driver was free and
racing over the ground. He had an instant vision of her luscious body, an
image of a stripping and then nude Penelope seared in his brain. At least until
she was suddenly replaced by a roaring, running lioness.
Her anger, her fury, struck him a split second before her furious body
tackled him to the ground. He should be furious, raging and destroying the
woman whod broken past his guards and pounced with such ease. She had
dominance over him, her teeth a hair s breadth from his vulnerable throat and
her saliva dripped onto his skin.
Yes, he should shift his hands into deadly claws and shove her from his
body before taking her to the porchs worn flooring. And yet, his only thought
was that she smelled so damned good. Her sweetness, her seductive flavors,
beckoned his animal forward. But not to do battle. No, to mate and claim her
before anyone could interrupt them once again.
Other sounds filled the clearing, more of the lions going after each other,
words being slung across the space, but a feminine shout rose above the rest.
Dont you fucking hurt her! It was an order, plain and simple, followed
by a muffled grumble. Stop touching me, dammit. Let me go. I will rip your
balls off through your throat, dont see if I wont.
If Marcus wasnt close to losing his life to his mate, hed find the spunky
female fighting with his guards funny.
I mean it! I will hunt you like the poor excuse for a feline that you are,
the woman yelled again, and those words were followed by a few choice
threats from Lincoln.
That had Penelope, seductive and furious Penelope, tightening her hold on
his flesh. Dammit, he was rock fucking hard, and rather than focusing on the
fact he was moments from being killed, all he could think about was slipping
into her over and over. He wanted her now just as much as he had that morning.
Maybe more so.
Marcus gaze was intent on her, her pale eyes boring into him as if she
could see into his soul, and he fought to do the same. He wanted to know
everything about her, everything that made her tick, everything that made her
laugh and cry.
The strange female and Lincoln continued to argue, and he saw the
indecision and worry that lingered in Penelopes eyes. While shed been all
over him mere hours ago with sex on the brain, she had a completely different
purpose now. Shed come after him, true, but he didnt imagine it was because
of him, but probably because of his proximity to the witch. Further, the
increase in her anxiety and aggression had to do with Lincoln and the other
woman.
Lincoln, cut out that shit and let her go. His friend grunted, and he
imagined the woman had taken a shot at him when his friend followed Marcus
orders.
That had him smiling even if he was so close to death. His human half was
slightly concerned by that fact while his lion half was aroused by his mates
strength and determination.
Jennifer! That was Palmer, and the womans name was familiar to him.
Justin Palmer had a twin sister. Jennifer. The female was obviously protective
of Penelope which made her one of Marcus new favorite people.
Oh, fuck off, asshole.
I am your
Brother. Youre my brother. And if you so much as touch a hair on my
head, Dad will so come back and kick your ass, so shut the fuck up before
Penelope kills someone.
That had Palmer snorting, and Marcus decided the male wouldnt live past
the day. Anyone underestimating his mate and belittling her abilities was asking
for trouble.
The soft careful steps of someone approaching, a light someone, signaled
theyd soon have a visitor.
Georgie entered his line of sight, and her wide smile was nearly blinding.
Penelope, dear, perhaps you should let your pretty mate go. I dont think
theres a reason to kill him, not when he has such a pretty, pretty package.
Marcus wasnt sure if the witch spoke of his physical appearance or the fact
he was full and large in his jeans. Either way, his lion objected to the
description. His body was only up for comment by his mate. The fact that any
other female dare speak of him in that way enraged the beast. It didnt want to
hear compliments from anyone but Penelope. When the lioness began audibly
growling and quickly released him to snap at the witch, he knew she felt the
same.
There, thats better. He heard the contented smile in her voice, even if he
could no longer see her, his vision now consumed by the gold of Penelopes
fur. Now, I believe someone has questions for me.
Another body blurred in his periphery and Jennifer Palmer joined the
conversation. Us. Questions for us. Georgie didnt do it alone.
And what, Georgie drawled, could a lion possibly do when it came to
casting spells?
Jennifer tried to answer. I
But Marcus had only one question. Is Penelope truly my mate?
Silence was his answer, the lack of sound was oppressive as seconds ticked
past, but finally the witch replied. I only called Penelopes mate. I didnt make
her your mate, I simply encouraged the male who belonged to her to find her.
Somehow he grew harder, filling even more. Short answer is yes, then.
Yes, Georgie confirmed.
The yes was all he needed, all that was necessary for him to let the lion
finally have free rein with his body. He wanted her, and he accepted and
embraced the desires pounding through. He had her and he wasnt about to let
her go. Not until he claimed her every way he possibly could. Twice. Okay,
maybe five times. And that was only the first day. He couldnt wait for the rest
of their lives.
Penelope must have scented his arousal because she shuddered, a small
tremble shaking her body, and then she released a deep seductive purr.
It was as if they were back in the library, both of their bodies working
overtime, desire and craving wrapping them in a desperate blanket of arousal.
Good. He didnt bother addressing anyone but the single male who could
get shit done and fast. Lincoln, get everyone the fuck out of here. Now. And if
someone so much as gets within one thousand feet of this house before I make
Penelope mine, theyll be dead. Make sure that is passed around.
You got it. Lincoln didnt question Marcus orders, and it wasnt long
before his friend completed the task.
You should understand something about Jennifer s sentence ended in a
high-pitched squeal and he imagined his best friend carting off the lioness.
The moment not another soul lingered, Marcus dug his fingers into her
silken fur. Her rolling purr intensified, vibrating through him and his lion was
quick to return the sounds. Satisfaction and serenity unlike hed ever known
thrummed through his veins. He had her. Her. His one and only mate. Despite
interference, he had her. And he wouldnt let go.
He rubbed his hands over her ears, tracing the lines of her taut neck,
massaging the tense muscles of her shoulders, and finally following her legs
to her massive paws. Strong and deadly, fierce and protective. He retraced his
path until he was able to cup her massive head, and he encouraged her to turn
her beautiful gaze to him.
When her eyes clashed with his, he spoke, Are you going to shift for me?
Let me get my hands on your curvy body once again. I want nothing but to taste
and claim you until were too exhausted to move. But I cant do that unless you
change for me. He stroked her whiskers brushing them back and then he
traced her nose with a single finger, smiling when she chuffed in pleasure. Let
me mate you, Penelope. And then, he tilted his head to the side, exposing his
neck, you can make me yours.
It wasnt something alphas generally allowed, being that vulnerable was
hard for the average dominant male, but Marcus was anything but average. He
was strong enough to know that mating went both ways, and he couldnt be
fully tied to his mate unless she sank her teeth into his flesh in return. His lion
roared in approval, and now he simply had to wait for Penelopes response.
By the time the last syllable left his lips, her change was upon her. A body-
shaking tremor enveloped her, and the first crack of bone signaled her change.
But that was all the warning he got. Like him, her own transition was fierce and
had he blinked he wouldve missed her shift from lion the human. The stronger
the beast, the quicker the change. It had always been this way. It was part of how
an alpha was determined. A male couldnt lead a pride if he wasnt ready and
strong enough to defend it. In many cases, a rapid shift was the decision
between seeing the dawn of a new day and being planted six feet under.
It was only right that the mate of the strongest alpha on the continent was
more than a match for him.
Suddenly his arms were filled with a woman covered in plump curves and
the sweetest scent hed ever encountered. Her musk filled the air, her moans
enveloping him, and her groans tormented his lion.
Before she could say a word, he cupped her face and brought her mouth to
his. Despite being beneath her, he took control of their kiss. It was frenzied and
fierce, their tongues fighting for dominance as they tasted each other s flavors.
Sweet. He knew the same word kept rolling through his mind, but he couldnt
think of any other way to describe her. Just Sweet. Wait. No. He had another
word.
His.
And if he wasnt careful, hed claim her on the front porch, bits of old and
dry wood digging into his flesh. Or worse, her flesh. No, that couldnt happen.
His first responsibility was no longer the lions of the continent, but the single,
delicious female. He fought to gentle their kiss, lessened the passion to a low
simmer instead of this rolling uncontrollable boil, but he had to accept their
passion had only two settings at the moment: on and Okay, just on. He forced
himself to tear his mouth from hers, his grip keeping her from re-initiating the
connection.
Penelope whimpered and whined but Marcus was not giving in. Im not
claiming you on a fucking porch. Where else can we go? Inside the house?
Who does it belong to?
Not that he really cared. If it held a bed, it now belonged to him and that
was that.
Except, her next sound wasnt one of desire or need from him, but of
distress.
Penelope?
She opened her eyes, exposing the startling gold of her lioness, and
whimpered once again. Marcus, she whined, I dont want to go in there.
The expression that flitted across her face, the sadness in her gaze, was
enough to bank his arousal. Having a mate wasnt just about sex and claiming,
it was so much more. What is it about this place, sweetheart? Whose is it?
She tried to tear her attention from him, but he refused to let her hide herself.
Sweetheart?
He wasnt sure if she would answer, had no idea if shed deny him, and he
mentally breathed a sigh of relief when she finally replied, Mine. Its my
house, but I havent lived here since I was eighteen and it came to me when my
parents died.
His heart hurt for her, tightened and the beat stuttered as he viewed the pain
in her expression. Did they pass here? It that why its so painful? Palmer said
this was Georgies land
No, she shook her head. Its mine, but Georgie is a cousin, which is why
they could tie her here. Marcus sensed there was more, and he bit his tongue,
waiting for her to speak again. The house doesnt hold any fond memories
for me, so the first moment I could, I left. Everything is as it was when they
passed away, and I pay someone to come in occasionally to clean, but
otherwise I havent crossed the threshold in eight years.
So, well go somewhere else, he brushed a strand of hair that lingered on
her cheek and tucked it behind her ear. Wherever you want to go.
We can She licked her lips, and he swallowed the groan that threatened
to burst from his chest. Her mouth was so damned tempting.
Penelope?
They hated me. The town doesnt like me, but they wouldnt be so bad if
my parents had supported me. Except they didnt so
Marcus swallowed the growl that threated to vault past his lips. Youre
perfect. Perfect. He tugged her down so he could brush a soft kiss across her
lips. Well find somewhere else. Well go to a hotel. There has to be one
around here somewhere, right? She opened her mouth to speak and he shook
his head. No, I wont have you uncomfortable or surrounded by bad
memories.
She nibbled her lower lip, taunting him with the action. No, we can mate
here. We can banish the bad memories, cant we?
With you, sweetheart, well make nothing but good memories. Well make
this house our own.
With her blinding smile, Marcus was more than happy to do just that.
In a flurry of movement, he found himself on his feet, Penelope in his arms
as he broke through the front door. He clutched her to his chest, and smiled
widely at her squeal when he bolted up the stairs. She was right, the home was
clean and tidy, not a speck of dust tickling his nose as he strode down the hall.
Which one was yours?
Last door on the left. She pointed at the single door that remained ajar.
When they entered, he strode straight to the bed and placed her on the soft
surface, following her down and blanketing her with his body. Is this where
you dreamed of finding your mate? At her nod, he continued. Then making
you mine here is perfect.

Chapter Three

And it was perfect. Her perfect pale skin was bared to his gaze and air
whooshed from his lungs when he was struck with awe. She was his. Every
luscious, curvaceous inch visible belonged to him.
He skimmed her smooth skin with his palm, memorizing the rise and fall,
the dip and curve, of her body. When he stroked her side, she trembled, and
when he cupped her breast, she whimpered. The white plump mounds were
tipped with hard, colored nipples that begged for his mouth.
Marcus she said his name with a breathy moan.
She almost stole his control with that single whisper, and he kept the animal
at bay using every ounce of strength he possessed. He could get through this
without embarrassing himself, without rushing her, if she wouldnt talk. Or
move. Or breathe, because when she exhaled, she blew even more of her
delicious scent into him. The woman was a walking talking trembling threat to
his control.
Marcus
Dammit if she didnt quiet, things would be over before they began.
Already he was aching and throbbing for her. Already? It had been that way
from the moment he spied her in the library. Now it was simply magnified by a
million. Because he had her in his arms, and no one to stop him. He may have
been under a spell when he chased her scent across the continent, but there was
no denying she was his mate.
When she opened her mouth again, he realized he needed to keep those lips
busy. Not that it was a hardship.
He pressed his mouth to hers, drinking in her flavors as he slid his tongue
past her lips. She rocked against him, trembling and riding, pressing her body
against his, harder than before. And as their tongues dueled, he let his touch
wander. He petted and stroked every inch he could reach and growled when
Penelope did the same. She clawed and scratched at his shoulders, gripped his
upper arms, and dug her fingers into his forearms as she fought to make him
touch her where she desired.
Marcus chuckled, easing from their kiss for a moment. Just long enough to
murmur a handful of words. Youre mating an alpha, sweetheart. Ill touch
you wherever I want when Im good and ready.
Can you be ready to touch me here? Here happened to be her left breast.
Or kiss me there?
His mouth watered with the suggestion, and his beast roared in satisfaction.
Her lioness might not be able to take him in a fight, but her quiet pleas and
words that held no hint of faltering proved she was a match for him in the
bedroom.
Coincidentally, thats what I want too.
He didnt hesitate to capture the single nub with his lips, to flick it with his
tongue. He smiled against her flesh when she gripped his head and pricked his
scalp with her small claws. As he focused on the small bit of flesh, he
continued to stroke her body. All the while, she writhed beneath him, pleading,
whining, and begging for more.
She was dangerous. Those small sounds and tiny syllables threatening to
undo him before he slid into her body. But he refused to pop off like an
adolescent cub. This was their mating, and he was going to do it properly. They
only had one chance to get it right.
Eventually he abandoned her left breast, and continued his travels over her
body. Damn, he wasnt sure what hed done to deserve her, but he was going to
take and keep her. She was made for him. One hundred percent for him. He
kissed and nibbled his way between her breasts, continued his path over the
gentle rounding of her stomach, and didnt stop his travels until he was on his
stomach between her plump spread thighs.
Heaven. Her musk called to him, and the moist pinkness exposed to his
gaze beckoned him. She was gorgeous, flush and ready for his possession. His
mouth watered and he took what he desired. He placed a soft kiss to her inner
thigh followed by a gentle scrape of his fangs over the sensitive skin and was
gratified at her desperate shout.
Marcus!
He smiled against her skin and rubbed his cheek along her inner thigh.
Right here.
Marcus, she pleaded.
Tell me what you need. He snared her gaze with his own. Tell me.
You. Just you.
She wanted him? Shed have him. Just as soon as he tasted her.
Which he did; he lapped at the seam of her sex lips, licking and tasting,
swallowing the proof of her arousal, and suckling her clit.
He memorized every twitch, cataloged every tremble, and gloried in every
needy whine and he resolved to repeat them until she screamed his name. The
moment she balanced on that precipice, hed take her. Take her and make her
his.
*
Penelope wanted to be his. She wanted him to take her and make her his.
Then again, when he sucked on her clit and sent those delicious tingles down
her spine, she figured this was kind of okay too.
She rocked against his mouth, taking from him as she fought to reach her
pinnacle. It was there, so close and yet still out of reach. But sometimes, the
journey could be better than the arrival. Because right now, the journey was
really, really fucking good.
Then he made it better; his blunt fingertips circled her opening, and two
digits slid deeply into her. He stretched her and filled her, stroking with his
talented fingers. That added sensation had her nearer to the edge, shoving her
to the very precipice and she knew it wouldnt take much more to send her
tumbling over.
She rolled her body, riding his tongue and fucking herself on his fingers as
she fought for more. But it wasnt his touch, it wasnt his mouth or tongue, or
even his heat that sent her flying.
It was his eyes. The way his gaze poured into her, the way it begged for her,
the way it branded her with his possession and not just askedbut demanded
her surrender. She was powerless beneath his silent domination, unable to stop
her lioness immediate response to her mates wordless demand. He wanted her
to come, and she was unable to stop it.
The pleasure gradually building bubbled over and consumed her in a
blinding wave. Her heat contracted around him, milking him, and she couldnt
wait until it was his length deep within her. Bliss enveloped her from head to
toe, plucking at her nerves and sending joy pouring through her veins. Her
body was no longer her own, muscles trembling and spasming uncontrollably.
Her toes curled and she was unable to stop her legs when they wrapped around
him.
Her shout of completion echoed off the bedroom walls and was joined by a
satisfied growl from Marcus.
Penelopes orgasm continued, the sensations never ending, and if the
foreplay was this good, shed simply die when he finally claimed her.
Please, please, please I need you. Her lion was whining and chuffing,
begging Penelope to move things along. Both parts of her ached to belong to
him, and it needed to happen already. Make me yours.
With a snarl, Marcus abandoned the juncture of her thighs and left her long
enough to tear his clothes to shreds and leave them in a pile on the floor. Then
he was back, climbing up her body and anticipation thrummed through her
veins. His gaze remained focused on her, never wavering as he levered himself
above her. A shift of his hips, and then the blunted tip of his shaft pressed
against her very center. In one great heave, he speared her with his length, and
a roar escaped him at that same moment. Mine!
Yes, yes she was his.
He stretched her, sending a tendril of pain through her blood, and it twined
around the pleasure still pulsing through her. That sting merely encouraged
her release to continue, the pleasure overwhelming until she could hardly
breathe.
He withdrew slightly, his thickness caressing her inner walls, and then he
shoved forward in a fierce thrust once again. Mine.
She wrapped her legs around his hips, holding him close. Yours.
He repeated the move, a slight retreat and then a forceful lunge. Forever
mine.
Yes, she gasped.
Then words were beyond her. She was unable to catch her breath, unable to
think beyond the pleasure and need that consumed her. Their bodies writhed in
a dance as old as time, hips meeting, skin sliding against skin, and their breaths
mingling as his mouth hovered above her.
The sounds of their sex filled the air while the scent of their combined
musk soaked into their pores and coated them. No, it wasnt just sex, it was
pure, animalistic mating. Lion to lioness, man to woman, forever.
Come for me. He gave another fierce thrust, slamming the bed against
the wall. Come for me, and then Ill claim you. Another thrust and retreat.
Make you mine.
Penelope did as he asked, taking the pleasure of his body and gathering it
to herself. The rest of her orgasm had not drifted far, and his words sent it
rushing forward once again. Only this time, it was stronger, overwhelming in
its intensity and she cried out as it crashed through her blood. Oh God!
Now, Penelope. Now. I want you to be mine.
She couldnt deny him, and this time her scream ended with a mighty roar.
Her lion leapt forward, forcing her human teeth to become sharp fangs, the tips
easily able to sink into Marcus flesh. And then she did.
She struck, pressing them through his skin and into the muscle, taking him
for herself. Her next yell was muffled against his flesh as he did the same to
her. It was no longer simply the combined scents of their sweat and musk, but
also the coppery tang of their blood that surrounded them.
The shifter born magic that lived inside them reached for the other; his
stretching and twining with hers while hers beckoned him. As their release
thundered through their bodies, the ethereal lines wrapped around each other
and tied the two spirits together. Yes, sharing their bodies was an integral part
of a mating, but this soul deep connection would knot them together until the
end of time.
And as the lines solidified in their connection, her beast was soothed by
Marcus presence. Because it was done, they were mated, and there wasnt a
damn thing anyone could do. Her pride may not view her as a worthy lioness,
but fuck them.
Marcus was hers. Hers. And if they didnt like it, shed have her mate kick
their asses.
His shaft swelled and stretched her further, locking them together in the
final moments of their binding. His thickness wouldnt allow him to retreat as
soon as his orgasm ended; they would be joined together in a closeness only
shared by mates.
A new heat filled her, the warmth of his cum coating her inner walls. His
pure essence would alter her true scent, adding a bit of his to her own. One and
all would know she belonged to him. In return, she knew her bite on his
shoulder would do the same. Maybe not to the extent of the alteration of hers,
but the bitches better watch out because she would straight up cut them if they
went near her mate.
Marcus trembled, his big frame shaking and the vibrations transferred to
her, sending another spear of pleasure down her spine. It wasnt until he
withdrew his fangs from her flesh that she realized the motions were due to
chuckles and not emotions that overwhelmed him.
At his retreat, she withdrew her own, and lapped at the wound she caused. It
was big and would definitely be visible to everyone. Good. That part of her
mind settled, she returned her attention to her laughing mate. Whats so
funny?
You. He still remained tied to her, his length hard and firm within her,
and he propped himself on his elbows. Youre going to straight up cut
them?
Oh. She forgot he could read her mind. Dammit.
Well, youre my mate. Youre not the only one who gets to be a possessive
asshole, you know.
He lapped at her lips, and she opened to him, tasting her blood in his mouth
an instant before he retreated. I didnt say I didnt like it. It just surprised me.
To think the woman I hunted down, the prissy perfect librarian is violent at
heart Makes me hard.
Penelope rolled her eyes. A stiff wind would make you hard.
Maybe when I was an adolescent cub, but now He slid his arms beneath
her, and suddenly she was astride him, her legs straddling his hips while his
shaft was still deep within her. Its all about you.
Oh.
Exactly. He rubbed her hips and then cupped her ass, kneading the
mounds. Now, lets see how long I can stay hard.
Penelope definitely liked the sound of that idea.
Chapter Four

The next morning, Penelope rubbed her nose against Marcus bare chest,
inhaling his musky scent and savoring his closeness. He stroked her with those
large, callused palms and she remembered how gentle they could be. And how
wicked.
So, youre kind of a big deal? she murmured against him. Theyd have to
talk about the furry elephant in the room at some point.
Marcus merely chuckled, his body trembling with the sound. You could
say that. But I only want to be important to one person. He cupped her cheeks,
encouraging her to tilt her head back and meet his gaze. You.
Aww, if he kept saying sweet things like that, she was a goner. Well,
youre kind of a big deal to me.
He lowered his head, and she stretched toward him, until their lips met in a
gentle kiss. It was completely opposite of the passionate meetings that had
consumed them the last twenty-four hours. Now, their lions were able to enjoy
a little sweetness rather than the fiery need of mating. He withdrew from her, a
small smile hovering between them as he relaxed against the bed.
She propped her chin on his chest, staring at the man shed spend the rest of
her life with. She wasnt sure how she got so lucky. Going from hardly wanted,
barely tolerated, to being claimed was a novel experience. And there was no
doubt Marcus wanted her. No, it was more than want. She wouldnt be able to
live without him and had no doubt he felt the same.
What you looking at? He whispered the words.
You. She pressed a kiss to his chest, the soft gold fur that seemed to
permanently grace his skin brushing her nose. Just you.
And what do you think about me?
A blush heated Penelopes cheeks, burning her face, and she squirmed
against him. What could she tell him? That she didnt think shed ever be able
to live without him? That she couldnt wait to have his cubs? That if he so
much as looked at another female she would cut the bitch and claw out the
womans eyes? God, hed turned her into a violence craving homicidal bitch.
Penny?
You know what I think about you, she grumbled. I yelled it often
enough, didnt I?
Another chuckle from Marcus. Yeah, you did. I like making you yell. I like
making you scream my name. He stroked her back, fingertips scraping her
delicate skin. Want me to do it again?
Penelope hurt in places she didnt even know existed, and she wasnt sure
she could survive another round. At least not until she got some food in her
stomach.
She shook her head. Feed me first.
Food is more important than me claiming you again? His tone held a hint
of annoyance and she almost rushed to deny his statement, but a girl had to
keep her guy on his toes.
Good food
Marcus mock growled, and flipped their positions, rolling until Penelope
was pinned beneath his large bulk. He blanketed her like a seductive cloth,
sending a sliver of arousal through her body. It took that single brush, that
slide of skin on skin, and she was ready for him once again. The yellow of his
eyes and the rumble of his chest with a deep purr told Penelope he felt the
same.
But then her stomach growled and the burgeoning desire quickly vanished.
Food. He rolled from her, quickly gained his feet beside the bed, and
held out his hand. Come on, lets eat.
Penelope allowed herself to be drawn from the comfort of their small nest
and went easily into the circle of his arms. She didnt bother protesting when
he swung her up into his embrace. You know, I doubt theres any food in the
house.
Dont worry, Lincoln took care of things around three this morning.
Theres enough here to feed five average full grown lions.
Well, that should last us a couple days, she murmured as she clung to him
when he tromped down the stairs.
Marcus grinned down at her and didnt break his stride. Sweetheart, thats
just for me and it might last the rest of the day.
Uh-huh. And you let Lincoln in here? I thought big bad alpha lions were
super protective of their mates. Whats up with that?
He padded into the kitchen and placed her on the old wooden table. She
squeaked as her bare flesh collided with the cool surface and she opened her
mouth to yell at him, but his voice cut her off.
Youre covered in my scent. Youve got my mark on your shoulder, and
evidence of our mating coating your skin. There is no way he wouldnt know.
He leaned forward and nibbled her lower lip. And I trust Lincoln with my life.
Besides, he was the only one with balls big enough to step onto the property.
The other guys are good but theyre
Pussies. The word youre looking for is pussies.
Woman.
Penelope ignored him. So, it seems its good to be a big deal. I think I
could get used to this kind of treatment.
This kind of treatment His gaze was intent on her, his eyes seeming to
search for something, but she wasnt sure what he was looking for. Could you
get used to it somewhere else?
Wow. From teasing to heavy in an instant. She met his serious stare.
Define somewhere else.
A look of vulnerability coated his features, and she figured she was the
only person whod ever seen the alpha unsure. You know where the North
American headquarters are, and I also travel when needed.
The question was there, even if the words didnt leave his mouth. He
wanted to know if shed moved with him, if shed leave her life behind and
follow him.
She cupped his face, rubbing her thumbs along his cheekbones and stared
deeply into his eyes. Ive lived here my whole life and I hate the people here.
The town, the surrounding land is gorgeous, but the pride despises me. She
ignored his rolling growl. Home isnt a place, Marcus. For me, home is you.
Just you.
With those words, any thoughts of food were discarded. Especially when he
claimed her on the kitchen table, and then the counter, and then there was the
hallway as they tried to make it back upstairs
But when all was said and done, Penelope was well and truly claimed and
looking forward to spending the rest of her life with Marcus. Whether that be
in a nowhere town like Ryland, or beneath the bright lights of the city, shed
always be at home With Marcus.

The End of Chasing Tail
Book Two: Tailing Her
Chapter One

Jennifer Palmer growled into her phone at her best friend, Penelope Little.
No, wait, her BFF was now Penelope Tolsonmate to the North American
Alpha. She should probably be all respectful and shit. Too bad Jennifer s
respectful bone was broken.
Look, Pen, I get what youre saying, but Im fine. She raised her hand
and waved, hoping to catch the attention of the passing cabbie. She was due in
court in fifteen minutes, and she still had to get across town. Between waking
up late, taking forever to get dressed, and arguing with Penny on the phone,
Jen was super late.
Yeah, Penelope snapped. Everyone is fine until theyre dead.
Dead. Everyone was so worried about her life. Or rather, her remaining
alive. One high profile case, and suddenly Jennifer was on everyones mind.
Her brother, alpha of her and Penelopes old pride seem to be calling every ten
minutes. And if he wasnt calling her, Penelope was on the phone. Then there
was Pens mate, Marcus, checking on her constantly.
Each of them had the same concernfinding Jennifer dead in a ditch.
They also had the same answergiving Jennifer a bodyguard.
She was a werelion, for goodness sake! She could protect herself. God
gave her fangs and claws, didnt he? Of course that thought had her
remembering Marcus last words What good are fangs and claws against a
bullet?
Maybe they couldnt do a damn thing, but that didnt change the fact she
was still a werelion with the ability to heal much faster than a human.
Are you listening to me? Penelope shrieked.
Uh, sure. Totally. Jennifer was so not listening.
So you agree with me?
A bright yellow cab screeched to a stop beside Jennifer, and she snared the
handle to the door. She yanked it open, and quickly slid into the backseat,
nearly dropping her phone. Oh, I totally agree with you.
She hoped they were talking about paint colors for Penelope and Marcus
apartment. Or rather sky high palace. Penelope had moved up from the tiny old
apartment she had in their hometown to the penthouse of the tallest building in
the city. The two had offered Jen a place in the same building, but shed
refused. She left Ryland on her own, and shed make a home for herself in the
big city on her own.
Penelope released a high-pitched squeal. Oh, I knew youd see sense! I
told Marcus you would, but he wouldnt listen. I totally won that bet.
The cab jolted to a stop outside the courthouse, and Jennifer shoved cash
toward the driver before she climbed from the interior. Her heels clicked and
clacked as she rapidly raced up the stairs. Yeah, you won? So happy for you.
She distractedly replied. What was the bet?
Her shoes slipped on the polished floor of the lobby as she dashed around
the corner. The metal detectors were just ahead, and she sighed in relief that the
lines werent too long. A glance at her watch showed she had three minutes to
get to the courtroom and she couldnt be late. The judge was fair but a hard ass,
and shed worked so hard on this case that the last thing she wanted was to fuck
it up. Or give the opposing counsel a reason to request a mistrial.
Penelope? Her friend still hadnt answered her question. What was the
bet?
Jennifer s destination was in sight, and she groaned when she saw the news
vultures surrounding the entry to the room. Everyones gaze swung to her as
she ran toward them, the flash of light and cameras confirming theyd spotted
her.
Dammit.
Look, Pen, honey I need to cut this short. Court is starting any second
now, and I gotta make it past the media jackals. A couple of those jackals
moved toward her, microphones extended and cameras intent on her. Ill call
you as soon as Im done for the day and we can talk about that bet, huh?
No! Wait! You have to
Jennifer was no longer listening because one of the reporters wasnt a
reporter. He wasnt holding a microphone or a tape recorder. No, he was
holding a gun. Black and compact, it blended in with everything the others
waved around and she didnt spy it until it was almost too late.
She immediately dropped her cell phone and stumbled back a step, fingers
flashing to claws without thought and her fangs descended in an instant. Right
about that moment, she realized Marcus may have been right. Fangs and claws
might not be a good defense against a speeding bullet.
The bright flash that came with the pulling of the trigger and release of a
round was immediately followed by the loud boom of the gun firing. It echoed
off the marble walls, and the reportersthe real reportersducked. Jennifer
tensed to do the same, but she shouldnt have bothered. Because at that moment
a large body plowed into her. The stranger took her to the ground, his weight
forcing her against the floor, and they both grunted with the impact. Another
echoing pop reached her, which was immediately followed by another grunt
from the person atop her.
The person atop her
Snarls and roars bounced around the hallway and those were followed by
shouts from courthouse security. It was obvious the gunman was either
captured or being pursued by others.
Which left her with the person atop her. Jennifer breathed deeply, and the
scent of the dry plains struck herthe aroma particular to a specific species.
So, not a human or warlock. Definitely not a vamphe scented very much
alivenor a werewolf. (None of that wet dog smell.) No, shed been tackled by
a lion. Not just any lion, but one particular lion. Her mate.
Her mate who was a coppery tang filled her nose bleeding?
The thundering, threatening, deadly sound that flew from her mouth threw
a blanket of silence over the area. Not a soul moved, she wasnt sure if anyone
even breathed, and no one uttered a peep. Well, no one but her mate.
He chuckled, gifting her with more of his scent, and that aroma soothed her
raging lioness just as much as it angered her. Yes, someone shot at her. She was
prosecuting the case against the head of the human half of the Colletti mob
Niccolo Colletti. That made it almost expected. But no oneno onewas
gonna shoot her mate.
Baby his voice really was sexy, and she would love to hear him talk a
bit more, but the unmistakable squeak of a shoe on the floor alerted her that
someone approached.
Unacceptable.
She threw her mate to the side, shoving him to the ground as her shift
slammed through her. Her curvy human body went from professional lawyer
to deadly lion in an instant. Her clothes were shredded as her size grew and
transformed into a homicidal beast. If anyone dared approach her wounded
mate, theyd have to go through her. And now, riding the adrenaline high of
near death and rage, she almost wanted someone to try.
Jennifer spied the person who approached and immediately recognized
him as one of the clerks who worked in the building. Not just a clerk, but also a
fellow lion. He held up one hand, palm out as he tried to placate her while the
other gripped a large first aid kit. Damn, howd he get the case so quickly?
Thank God for shifter speed.
Ms. Palmer, his voice trembled slightly and her lioness was both pleased
and slightly disgusted with herself. Pleased because they were obviously strong
enough to scare another of her kind. Not just another, but also a male. The
disgust was because shed been trying so hard to make a place for herself in
the city pride and this had set her progress back.
This time his voice was raised above the panicked yell of some of the
humans. Apparently knowing about shifters and knowing about them were two
different concepts to people. Ms. Palmer, I just want to check on Brett.
Brett. That was her mates name. Her mate whod been shot and was
currently bleeding all over the floor. Yes, he should be taken care of.
Dammit, Nash, its not like Im a child. Its a damned bullet hole. Besides,
theres only two.
Two? Jennifer swung her gaze to her mate, anxious to look him over but
froze when her gaze collided with his. Blue. That was all she could think.
Bright, bright blue. She had totally struck the mate lottery.
Damn, youre pretty.
Her lion preened at her mates words, thrilled their other half thought they
were pretty. Then she inhaled and was reminded of his injury.
She snapped her attention back to the clerk and curled her lip, jerking her
head toward Brett at the same time. The man needed to get to work, already.
The stranger skirted Jennifer, moving around them and coming at Brett from
her mates other side. That allowed her to keep her attention on the rest of the
crowd.
She glared at anyone who dared meet her gaze, and growled when one
particular male tried to stare her down. She was the daughter of an alpha, she
was the sister of an alpha, and shed be damned if she backed down against
anything but an alpha. The male attempting to assume dominance over her was
definitely not an alpha. If anything, his appearance, the lack of bulging muscles
and above average height, told her he wasnt a shifter of any type.
So as far as Jennifer was concerned, the man was first in line to get her
claws in his gut.
It wasnt until Brett stroked her fur, his fingers gliding over her while he
murmured low, that she realized she was growling. Shhh Leave the puny
humans alone, baby. I promised Marcus I wouldnt let any of our lions eat
anyone while hes traveling. You dont want to turn me into a liar, do you?
Jennifer flicked her ear, focused still on the inadequate male while she
listened to Brett. Obviously he knew Marcus, but it seemed he was more
familiar with the North American Alpha than the average werelion.
She tried to sniff past the overwhelming scents in the hallway, the sting of
fear and anger invading her nose, and sought out the pure flavors of her mate.
Perhaps it would tell her more The truth finally slapped her and she nearly
groaned aloud.
Yes, he was her mate, but he was also Marcus brother and the North
American pride beta. Which resulted in two things: Oneshe would be able to
spend a lot more time with her best friend since Penelope was mated to Marcus.
Twoshe had just been saddled with a male who was almost as dominant,
protective, and possessive as her best friends mate.
Goody.
*
Despite the pain that had taken up residence in his back, Brett was rock hard
from wanting her. Sitting in the middle of the courthouse hallway, bleeding all
over the pale marble, and all he could think about was stripping Jennifer bare
and claiming her for all to see. Maybe not completely bare. Shed be wearing
him, after all.
Brett almost laughed at his own joke but that was about the time Nash
decided to stick damned forceps into his flesh. What the fuck, Nash? Whered
you get those?
His snarled words were echoed by a roar from his mate. She was fucking
gorgeous when pissed off. He didnt have much to compare it to, but he was
thinking about keeping her mad all the time. Unless she was more beautiful
when he was balls deep inside her. Then maybe hed keep her naked all the
time.
I just gotta get this one out before you heal over it. Its better to pull it now
rather than cut you open at the safe house later. You know that. Nashs voice
was matter of fact and held a hint of annoyance.
If he wasnt in so much pain and worrying about Jennifer eating some stray
human, he wouldve knocked Nash on his ass for being such a dick. Damn
disrespectful kids these days.
Oh well, hed do it later when the boy was least suspecting.
Get it done, already. I dont like being out in the open like this. Not when
there was a chance someone else on the Colletti payroll still hung around.
Yeah, yeah Nash dug deep. Got it.
His touch vanished, leaving lingering agony in his wake. He fucking hated
getting shot. A guy tries to go for a run in the woods, and asshole hunters
mistake a bright gold lion for a fucking bear? Brett almost ate that asshole for
dinner. Almost. Marcus had vetoed the idea and thrown a cow at Brett instead.
Nash tossed the bullet onto the tile in front of Brett and then stood. Youre
all set.
Brett simply grunted and pushed to his feet, stroking Jennifer s back the
moment he was upright. He glanced at the crowd, proudly noting that his men
were keeping them at bay. It gave him room to calm Jennifer. He reached down
and stroked her head, cupping the back of her skull, and he encouraged her
with his grip to turn her eyes to him.
We have to get you out of here. She shook her head and took a step away
from him, but he refused to let her retreat. It wasnt a question, he snapped.
He wasnt letting her remain in danger. It was more than his inner lion could
bear. If hed hesitated even a moment, she wouldnt be standing beside him
coated in his blood. Instead, shed be dying on the courthouse floor. Were
going to escort you to the underground garage and then we can talk about all
this when youre safe And clothed. Both are nonnegotiable.
She narrowed those amber eyes, and he felt the heat of her anger wash over
him. Yep, that made him hard, too.
Glare all you want, baby, but youre still going to listen to me. He tore
his attention from her and called out to his men. Lennox, Colton, Oscar
Take lead. Zane, Grant, Austin, cover our backs. Brett crouched and snatched
Jennifer s blood splattered phone. As he rose, he reached to give it to Nash.
She was on the phone with Penny. Call her back, and tell her were keeping
Jennifer safe. Nashs hand closed around the cell phone and tried to take it, but
Brett didnt release the device. Instead, he locked eyes with the other lion.
There will be no mention of bullets, guns, and blood. Ill fill Marcus in once
everyone is safe. Got it? Nash was quick to nod his agreement. Good.
With that, they departed, Jennifer s deadly nails clicking as they struck the
hard floor. It was the only sound that accompanied their retreat, his men
remaining silent and watchful. When guards stepped forward to stop them, it
took one glare from Brett to have them quickly retreating. Yes, they backed
off, but continued to follow as they made their exit. When their group finally
reached the underground lot, he only let them get as far as the buildings exit.
There he spun and flung an envelope toward the nearest male. Give this to
the judge and tell him to call me. At the mention of judge, Jennifer released
a snarl that bounced off the bare concrete surrounding them. Brett merely
rolled his eyes and then gave the nearest guard another glare. Got it?
The man nodded and that was good enough for Brett. He whirled to face
the waiting SUVs and strode toward the one that held a glaring and growling
lioness in the back. Yup, that look got him hard too. He should give up and
admit that everything about Jennifer Palmer got to him. Got to him in the very
best, dirtiest ways.
He climbed into the back and slammed the door behind him. Lets do it.
The vehicle jumped into action, the men quickly following the plan theyd
laid out the previous night. Penelope had called him in a jumbled panic, and his
brother s furious snarls filled the background. The Alpha Mate was scared for
her best friend, which upset the alpha, which meant Brett had to do something
about the situation.
Kidnapping Jennifer seemed like the perfect answer. He had felt a little bad
about the idea, but now that hed realized she was his mate, he was patting
himself on the back for such an ingenious plan. She was his mate, and he had
her to himself. Maybe not alone, she was still at risk and he wouldnt do
anything to jeopardize her safety. So his guys would stick around, but for all
other intents and purposes, she was his.
She swung her attention to him, head peeking over the back seat and the
angry glare in place. If she turned him on this much with anger, he couldnt
wait to see her overjoyed. Hed probably come in his jeans. She curled her lip,
exposing a white fourinch fang in an obvious threat, and he couldnt
suppress the laugh that burst to his lips.
I hear you, baby. I want to get dirty too. He smiled widely, letting his teeth
lengthen ever so slightly. But well be alone soon and you can show me all the
wicked things you want to do with those fangs of yours. He let the simmering
heat in his mind fill his gaze. And then Ill show you what I want to do with
mine.
Jennifer growled, the sound rolling through the cramped interior, and his
men stiffened. A hint of stinging fear filled the cabin. If that didnt prove she
was perfect for him, he didnt know what would. These were the strongest lions
in the pride, and shed just scared them all with a single grumble. Yeah, he
couldnt wait to get down and dirty with her, to taste her from head to toe, and
mate her
Brett had to kill the guy after her first. That meant actually talking to the
woman and not the lion.
He glanced at the passing scenery, realizing they were a lot closer to the
safe house then he thought, and he knew it was time to get down to business.
They drove past the place, checking the street and exterior from afar as they
looked for any interlopers. Then theyd circle back and slide into the garage
before anyone recognized theyd arrived.
Unfortunately, the first pass down the street told him theyd been
compromised.
Motherfucker. He glared at the familiar red offending vehicle parked in
the driveway as they sped by. Even betteror worsethe driver of the red
sports car stood on the concrete, wearing shorts that barely covered anything
and a top that covered even less. Going further, the woman was hopping in
place, waving at them as her tits bounced and nearly flopped free of their
covering. Dammit, he spat. Oscar, location seven.
Beta? He didnt need to scent the air to know the subordinate lion was
surprised.
The other two lionsLennox and Coltonflicked their gazes toward him,
the same question on their features.
Do it. Well discuss it later. Yes, theyd discuss quite a bit later.
Specifically, why the top-secret safe house for pride members in trouble
sported a non-top-secret visitor.
Hey, Beta, isnt that
Brett was going to kill Lennox. Shut it.
Candy, your ex?
Yep, Lennox was a dead lion. Double dead when Jennifer s attention fixed
on him and her rage struck him like a physical thing, punching him in the
chest. Baby He reached for her, intent on stroking away some of her fury,
only to have her snap at him with those large teeth and powerful jaws. Okay
then, well talk at my place.
It was where hed wanted her from the beginning, but hed already
committed to taking her to the primary safe house. Now that it was
compromised, he could do whatever the fuck he wanted. And right now, all he
wanted to do was fuck. Against the wall, on the floor, in the bed He didnt
care where as long as it meant being inside her with both his cock and fangs.
Based on the deadly glare she was shooting him, he didnt imagine itd happen
any time soon.
But a guy could hope.
Chapter Two

When they finally stopped their mad dash from the courthouse, Jennifer
intended to find out what the hell was going on, except there was a teeny, tiny
three hundred pound problem. Specifically, she was still lion shaped and three
hundred pounds. She sneered at Brett as she padded past him into his condo.
This wasnt their original destination, and her lion was still pissed about the
reason theyd changed their plans.
Candy, your ex?
Oh, she was so hearing that story.
Now on two feet and freshly showered, Jennifer rubbed the towel over her
head, soaking up the moisture that remained. Even now, fifteen minutes later,
frustration thrummed through her. No amount of snarling and growling got
Brett talking about Candy. Nope, he had simply kept urging her toward the
shower with assurances theyd talk after she shifted and got clean.
Well, that was then, and now she expected answers. If some chick was after
her mate
Mate.
Jennifer had a mate. And not some pushover lion that her father and
brother could intimidate. Nope, this guy was one hundred percent dominant,
badass male. And he was hers. He was gorgeous with muscles on top of
muscles covering his body from head to toe. His burnished gold hair had her
fingers itching to sift through the strands. His blue eyes, when they werent
filled with desire for her, held evidence of a teasing nature, and he was so
strong So damned strong. Two bullet wounds and still he laughed and joked
as another pride member dug the hunks of metal from his body. He was bossy
and sexy and snarly Yup, perfect for her.
She finished drying her hair and then wrapped the damp towel around her
body, tucking the edge within the fold to secure it. She shook out her hair,
running her fingers through the wet strands in an attempt to untangle the mess.
It didnt take her long to give up, since she didnt have a brush on hand, and
simply used her hair clip to keep it out of the way. Skin coveredmostlyshe
padded from the massive bathroom. She was getting answers. She wanted Brett
to tell her what the hell was going on, give her a brush, and hand over some
clothes. Not necessarily in that order. Actually, he was her mate. If they were
alone, clothing was optional.
Barefoot, she padded through the expansive condo, following the low
murmur of voices down the hall. She passed several rooms, some easily
identifiable as guest rooms while others looked like additional family areas
and a study. How large was this place?
She finally emerged into what had to be the central living area and came to
an abrupt stop. Holy fucking sexy lions! She remembered having a few men in
the SUV with them when they left the courthouse, and thered been another
behind them, but she didnt remember them being so damn sexy. Rawr.
She must have made a sound, must have whimpered or whined the tiniest
bit because Brett whirled in place so he could stare at her. Those eyes locked
on hers, his gaze sinking into her as if he were attempting to read her mind.
She tore her attention from him. He didnt get to see her secrets. Not yet
anyway.
Brett growled low, his blue eyes flashing yellow as he approached. He
stomped across the polished wood floor, the room seeming to tremble with
each step. It took no time for him to close in on her, lessening the distance
within seconds, and then he was reaching for her. Gold fur slid free of his skin,
coating his arms in shades of yellow and cream. His blunt, calloused fingers
rapidly shifted from human to lion. It was evident the beast was making
decisions and not the man.
Jennifer eased back a step, unsure if she should hold her ground or run for
cover. It was clear he was pissed, again, and that anger was intent on her. She
moved backward again, fighting to increase the distance between them but a
loud snarl was enough to keep her frozen in place. He flexed his hands once
again, nails lengthening further, and now a hint of true fear thrummed through
her veins.
And that snippet of worry was enough to infuriate her inner lioness. How
dare this asshole scare her. She wasnt afraid of anyone. Well, maybe Marcus
but he didnt count. Because he was her best friends mate first and North
American Alpha second.
Brett though He was her mate who was obviously furious as hell about
something.
Clutching the towel with one hand to ensure it remained in place, she held
out her other in an effort to forestall him. Hold up a second. The towel
slipped a bit, but she tightened her grip. Whats got you so pissed? Im the
only one here allowed to be angry.
He curled his lip, flashing all his sharpened teeth. They can see you.
God save her from possessive lions. Its not like you have something for
me to wear.
He simply growled and reached for her, his hands easily encircling her
bicep as he tugged her toward him. It wasnt until he bent at his waist and
pressed his shoulder to her stomach that she realized his intention. He was
going to toss her over his shoulder in a firemans carry. It was a totally
caveman move and while she normally wouldve found it sexy, it so wasnt at
the moment due to one small reason. One typically silk and lace crafted reason.
Jennifer abandoned her hold on the towel and instead whacked at his back
with rapid slaps. Dont you dare!
Brett simply chuckled and didnt slow.
I mean it! Im not wearing panties!
That got him freezing in place and then he released her and slowly
straightened. By the time she was able to look him in the eye once again, she
wasnt surprised to see his features resembled his inner beast more than a man.
He quickly crowded her against the wall and then spun to face the other men in
the room.
He released a bone-chilling hiss that had each of them looking everywhere
but at Jennifer. It seemed like hours passed but it was only seconds before Brett
was satisfied everyone was staring elsewhere. The moment he felt comfortable,
he nudged her toward the hallway, returning the way shed come. He stood
between her and the males during their shuffle, ensuring he kept her hidden
from view.
The moment she was near enough to the bedroom shed been using,
Jennifer darted into the space, and put at least twelve feet between her and Brett.
He followed, slowly closing the door behind him with a soft click. Then he
turned toward her and leaned against the wood panel. He crossed his arms over
his chest and simply stared at her intently. He didnt say a word, didnt move
another inch, but simply stared.
What? she snapped.
Brett shrugged. Nothing. Just enjoying the view.
His gaze seemed to stroke her body from head to toe, his attention starting
at her face and then heading south. His eyes gradually shifted from bright blue
to his lions gold. His concentration lingered at her breasts and she
immediately tugged the towel tighter around herself, ensuring she was
covered. That brought a small smirk to his lips, and she glared at him in
response.
But it didnt matter. He continued his perusal. When he got to the wide flare
of her hips, he remained focused on that part of her for more than a moment.
He licked his lips, and she noted his human canines were longer and more
pointed than before.
And it is a lovely, lovely view. He met her eyes. But you know that
already, dont you?
Jennifer squirmed beneath his perusal and fiddled with the damp towel that
hid her from his gaze. Lovely view? Hardly. Like her best friend Penelope,
Jennifer wasnt the ideal version of a lioness and she knew it. But she wasnt
about to tell him she knew he was lying about his attraction.
Of course. She shrugged.
Maybe he really did think she was pretty. He was her mate and she didnt
think shed end up with a mate who thought she could lose a few pounds.
Now she treated him to the same intent examination, looking her fill, and
her lioness purred at what they found. Massive muscles, wide shoulders, and an
attitude that annoyed her as much as aroused her.
Like what you see? His deep voice vibrated through her, and she couldnt
fight the little snippet of desire that slid into her veins.
Maybe. No sense in letting a guy know she wanted to bang him non-stop
for the next twenty-four hours.
Uhhuh. He pushed away from the door and slowly padded toward her.
He walked like the cat that lived inside him, slow and sure and with all the
grace of a feline. He didnt pause in his approach until he stood less than a foot
from her. Shed held her ground, refusing to give him even a centimeter or
retreat the slightest bit. They were both strong lions in their own right, and she
wasnt about to back down.
Brett lifted his hands, skimmed his fingertips up her arms, then across her
collarbone before tracing the upper swells of her breasts. Jennifer couldnt
suppress the shiver of need that assaulted her or the sudden heating of her
center, body already slicking and preparing itself for him.
She craved him like her next breath and was shocked by her desperate need
for her mate. She owed her best friend an apology. Shed teased Penelope over
jumping right into bed with Marcus, and yet Jennifer was more than willing to
find the nearest flat surface with her mate.
Oh look, theres a bed. Lets use that.
He continued teasing her with his touch, fingers never slowing as they
glided over her skin. He skimmed the long line of her neck before finally
sifting his fingers through her hair to cradle her skull. There will be plenty of
time for a bed later.
It was only when a new flare of need filled his gaze that she realized shed
spoken the words aloud. At the prospect of not getting what she most desired,
Jennifer s lioness whimpered. It also had her cheeks heating with a furious
blush as she fought to turn her head away from him but he held her fast.
No hiding. I like that you want me. He stepped closer, and evidence of his
arousal pressed against her lower stomach. Because I sure as hell want you.
He lowered his head and treated her to a teasing kiss. But first we need to deal
with our current situation.
Current situation? she whispered, mind consumed with need for him. She
couldnt follow their conversation. Her brain sort of shorted out with his I sure
as hell want you.
Brett captured her lower lip between his teeth and nibbled the plump bit of
flesh, gifting her with a little sting of pain that merely stoked her arousal. You
have to focus, baby. Once we figure out who came after you, and how to
eliminate the threat, Ill lay you out on my bed and mate you Tie you to me
so hard that you wont ever think or look at another male.
Yes she hissed. She wanted that, a lot of a lot of a lot.
Good. He nibbled again. Marcus filled me in a little. I know its the
Colletti family thats after you, but what do you have against Niccolo Colletti
that makes you think you can put him away? Why have you taken on such a big
human case and involved lions in a human problem?
Groaning, knowing she couldnt lie to her mate just as she wasnt able to
lie to her alpha, Jennifer sighed. Its a lion problem because the human
Colletti has a half-brother who is a lion. So, they are not just breaking human
laws, theyre also breaking ours. She huffed. If I cant fight the werelion
Colletti because he hasnt been caught breaking our laws, I can at least tweak
his tail. Hence, the human court proceedings. I wouldnt have taken such a high
profile case otherwise. Marcus thinks
*
A deafening roar leapt to Bretts lips. Marcus thinks? He snarled for
good measure. Marcus thinks! He took a deep breath but it did nothing to
calm his anger. All it accomplished was bringing him more of Jennifer s sweet
scent. Pulling that into him both soothed and enraged his beast. Exactly what
did Marcus say about all this? And when did he make his opinions known?
Youve hardly been here a month and hes been traveling with Penelope. You
havent even been officially welcomed to the pride but Marcus is already
involving you in
He needed to cool off before he hunted down his brother and tore him to
shreds for risking his mate.
Jennifer frowned, and he fought the need to kiss away that expression. We
talked about it after I made the initial connection between Colletti-the-human
and Colletti-the-lion whose name is Davis. He agreed with me because, while
we dont have any concrete evidence against the lion that would enable him to
render judgment, I should go ahead with prosecuting the head of the human
side of the organization. Like I said, tweak his tail.
Brett flexed his fingers, massaging the back of her head, and was careful
not to prick her delicate skin with his claws. And you didnt feel that you
should have some sort of security detail while you go after the citys most
corrupt crime family? He didnt feel
Of course, he did. She shrugged and tried to ease from his hold. His lion
didnt want to release her but he sensed her need for space so he let her go.
But it was my choice. Im not some girl who needs to hide behind a man. I
lived with enough of that in Ryland. I didnt want to deal with that caveman
attitude here.
Thats just stupid. You let your pride get the best of you and almost got
yourself shot! The words rang through the room. The second the last syllable
left his mouth, he went silent. He probably couldve been a little more tactful
saying that but he didnt regret the message. She was his mate, and hed nearly
lost her before he had the chance to have her.
Oh, fuck you very much. She curled her lip at him, issuing a clear threat,
and then spun away, presenting him with her back. She strode toward the
windows that made up one wall of the room and stared at the world below. Her
back was ramrod straight, and fury filled every inch of her body.
He sighed and ran a hand through his hair in frustration. Im sorry. I
shouldnt have shouted like that. But
He went to her, unable to stomach the new distance between them. She
didnt move away as he approached and he took that as a good sign. Deciding
they should begin as they would live, he didnt allow her to close herself off.
He wrapped his arms around her waist and tugged her against him, enjoying
the sensation of her soft curves against his hard body. Not second-guessing
himself, he lowered his head and grasped the flesh of her shoulder between his
teeth. He didnt break skin, he wasnt about to start something they couldnt
finish, but he wanted her to know how he felt.
Brett released her and lapped at the bruised skin. He didnt miss the tremors
that wracked her body and he knew she felt the same as he did even if she was
being prickly at the moment.
Youre mine. Mine. I just met you and already I dont know what Id do
without you. The fact youve been in so much danger enrages my lion. Do I
feel like the situation were in could have been avoided? Yes. Do I think it was
foolish? Yes. He took a calming breath. Do I wish youd taken a different
path, and that Marcus would have shoved a protection detail on you? No. She
stiffened for a moment and he encouraged her to turn and face him. She didnt
bite him as he repositioned her and he carefully enfolded her in his arms so
they were chest to chest. Because if you had made the smart decision, I
wouldnt be here with you now. He lowered his head and brushed his mouth
across hers. And nothing gets a guy hotter than protecting his mate.
Mate she murmured.
It was the first time theyd confirmed the truth between them, the first time
either said the words out loud. Yes. Im your mate, and youre mine. As soon
as this bullshit is handled, Im going to tie you to that bed and make love to you
until you cant walk straight.
Jennifer whimpered and wiggled against him and it took all of his control
not to do exactly as he promised right this second. But they needed to wait until
the danger to her had passed which meant he wanted this shit wrapped up
ASAP.
We could
Brett shook his head. I want to stay on alert, I want to be ready to protect
you. I know the second I get inside you, I wont be able to think of anything but
you. Its a good idea when were alone and safe, but not when theres someone
out there gunning for you. She opened her mouth, probably to voice an
objection and he gave her a quick, fierce kiss. Not another word. Im holding
onto my control by a thread. Ive got sweatpants and t-shirts in the bottom
drawer of the dresser that might fit you. Grab something and come on out
when youre ready.
He stepped away from her, turning to head toward the door, but her low
growl had him giving her his attention once again. Her eyes were the lioness
amber and a light dusting of gold fur decorated her shoulders. He could scent
she was pissedhe had no idea whybut damn was she gorgeous.
It didnt take her long to tell him what hed done wrong.
Small enough to fit me? Youre over six feet and two hundred pounds and
have something thatll fit me? She narrowed her eyes and he could practically
see the gears working in her head as she made connections that probably
wouldnt make sense to him. You have another womans clothes here?
Nope, Brett didnt get it, but her words did make him grin. Youre
jealous.
Correction. Im ready to cut the woman those clothes belong to.
That had him smiling wider and he was secure in the knowledge she was
his match in every way. You are jealous. But theres no reason to be. Theyre
my old clothes. No need to bust out those claws. He let the full weight of his
need enter his gaze. And the idea that youre wearing my clothing Baby,
you have no idea what it does to me.
She swallowed hard, bringing his attention to her throat which then had
him focusing on the juncture of her neck and shoulder.
Jennifer smirked, her gaze flicking from his face to his groin and back
again. Oh, I think I do.
Brett wasnt embarrassed by his bodys reaction to her. In fact, the only
reason hed ever have to be embarrassed in front of his mate was if he wasnt
at full attention around her. He reached down and stroked his hardness, teasing
himself with the touch while also showing Jennifer exactly how much he
wanted her. She licked her lips, that pink tongue wetting her lower lip and all
he could think of was her mouth on him. Her sucking him deep and toying with
him before he finally lost control and took her.
Minx.
Her smirk turned into a teasing grin. Lioness.
Pain in my ass, he countered. Get dressed and then we can talk
everything out in the living room with the guys.
He made it as far as the bedroom door before she spoke again. Can we
talk about why the safe house sported a trashy lion-whore in the driveway? I
assume that location was supposed to be confidential and yet
Brett groaned. The lion-whore is no longer a problem and she hasnt
been in my life for over six months. As for who leaked the location Ill be
dealing with that.
Jennifer voiced the concern that had been swirling in his mind from the
moment they passed the house. If she was able to bribe someone on your team
for its address, what other types of bribes will they take?
I know. He glanced at her over his shoulder, getting one last delicious
look at her body before she covered it in baggy clothing. Get dressed. Well
deal with it all at once.
Deal with it all That was one way of saying it. Really, he was about to put
down one of his own lions. Betraying him and risking the life of another lion
was irresponsible. Potentially risking the life of his mate was unacceptable. Or
rather deadly.
Chapter Three

Jennifer didnt engage in the verbal battle being fought behind her. No, she
simply continued to stare at the bustling city below. Night had fallen, and the
landscape filled with sparkling lights and the rapid race of cars rushing down
the highways. The world moved on as if no one had attempted to commit
murder that very morning at the courthouse.
Her life had irrevocably changed in that split second but everyone one else
continued as if it were just another day. She supposed it was for them. For her,
it had been both frightening and exhilarating. Even now, when she should be
worried about the men in Bretts group, all she could think about was hauling
Brett back to the bedroom.
Instead, she had to deal with a bunch of overgrown, bickering children.
Except for Brett. Her mate remained silent and watchful, taking in everyones
reactions to the accusation of betrayal. Throw a group together, roar out the
accusation and then let them fight it out themselves. The plan didnt always
work. There were those who were psychopathic and flat out evil shifters, after
all, and didnt react in any way, but she didnt sense that in this group. No, her
lioness firmly believed one of these males was just an idiot and a sucker for a
pretty face.
That didnt mean shed break it up. Let them go after each other. It would be
a hard and painful lesson to the guilty party. They were lions and sometimes it
did boil down to survival of the fittest. Or rather smartest.
Snarls and tumbling growls filled the air, and she found herself easily able
to differentiate each one. Listening and thinking back to the event, it took her
less than five minutes to discover the person who had betrayed Brett. She
imagined it took her mate even less time. The evidence tinkled together, and
she had only one question to pose to the gathered males.
She tore her attention from the cityscape and enveloped the half-dozen men
in a single glance. Excuse me?
Seven sets of eyes focused on her, one pair holding a look of pure need
while the other six stared with barely suppressed emotions that ranged from
annoyed to furious. Hell, one pair looked like he had homicide on the brain.
Oh, she couldnt wait to kick that guys ass. Was she a woman? Yes. Was she a
total bitch who fought dirty? Fuck. Yeah.
What do you need, sweetheart? Cant you see the big boys are talking?
That condescending question came from Zane. Dead Zane.
Brett growled his displeasure, but Jennifer acted.
Really, when thinking back on it later, shed probably feel bad about
lunging after the guy. But right now, all she could ponder was whether she
could get to the male before Brett. Turned out, as she dove toward him, easily
leaping the six feet that separated them, Jennifer was quicker.
She didnt hesitate to wrap her fingers around his throat and squeeze. She
didnt prick his skin, or even tighten her grip that hard. Just enough for him to
realize she was not one to be messed with. All right, maybe that hard was
actually enough to make it difficult for him to breathe. But she really didnt
pierce his skin!
Others may assume she was as sweet and kind as her best friend, but they
were wrong. She didnt dispute the fact that Penelope had a difficult time
growing up, but what Penny experienced was limited to her interactions with
others. Whereas Jennifer had lived beneath the roof of an alpha. Not only that,
her brother was an alpha. So while Penelope was a physically stronger lion,
Jennifer was volatile as hell.
Bretts natural heat warmed her while his scent slid through her pores, his
presence softening her rage. Hey, baby. Have a problem I can help with?
She didnt miss the teasing note in his tone. Nope. Im just asking your
friend a question.
He might be able to answer if you let up a little on the pressure.
Jennifer refused to acknowledge that he had a point. Instead, she loosened
her hold the tiniest bit. Better? When the male wheezed, and sucked in air, she
took that as a yes. Now, and this is to the entire class, who else knew I was
being put under protection? I doubt the number is very large, am I right? All
around, including the lion she held captive, she received nods. Who else?
Lennox spoke up first. The alpha, but you cant imagine
Oh, I know it wasnt him. Penelope would neuter him if something
happened to me. Keep going. It wasnt Marcus, and it wasnt furball Barbie at
the original safe house. Jennifer felt like she was trying to lead a stubborn
horse to water. Silence met her, each male furrowing his brow, and the scent of
confusion assaulted her. For the love of She rolled her eyes. Nash. He
was too quick with that first aid kit, dont you think? And does the average kit
have a set of forceps? Im thinking no.
Im guessing that at some point Nash fell under their payroll when
Niccolo Colletti realized what was what. But he was feeling a little guilty,
which is why his first aid kit was prepped for bullet wounds. If Collettis guy
didnt do his job and left me alive, then Nash would be able to come to the
rescue. Jennifer released Zane and pushed him away, letting the male fall back
against his seat. Now, does anyone disagree with me?
Not a word was spoken. Or rather, no one said a word about that.
No, baby. Did I mention when you act like a bitch, you make my She
spun and pressed her fingers to his lips. She didnt need to know what else
made her mate hard.
Yes, Im pretty sure you told me. A round of masculine chuckles trailed
after her words. How about we discuss who is going after Nash and come up
with a way for me to safely return to court tomorrow? She removed her hand
and waited for him to reply.
Oscar and Colton can secure Nash for Marcus. Let my brother deal with
him when he gets back tomorrow. Hell get more out of Nash than anyone else.
Hopefully the information he has will allow Marcus to go after the furry side
of the Colletti family.
And court?
Brett narrowed his eyes, and she knew what hed say before the words left
his mouth. I dont think its a good idea.
Jennifer understood his hesitation. She wouldnt want him putting himself
in danger, so it only made sense he felt the same way about her. And yet The
Colletti family.
She focused on him, reading his expression, and she realized this wasnt
the place. Not in front of his men, at least. She glanced over her shoulder, and
briefly met each males gaze. Can you excuse us for a moment?
She didnt wait for their agreement, she merely snared Bretts wrist and
tugged him down the hall. Damn, they were wearing out the floor between the
living room and the bedroom.
It took a matter of moments to reenter the room and close the door with a
soft click.
Jennifer released him and returned to the glorious view shed admired
moments ago. The lights twinkled as if they danced to a song only they heard,
and she stared at them, mesmerized by the beauty. It was easier to keep her cool
and talk coherently if she wasnt looking at Brett. Because when she had him in
her line of vision, all she could think about was mating him.
Are you telling me no? she whispered, but he heard her, could easily
make out the words due to his inner beast. Are you?
*
Brett ground his teeth in aggravation. His lion roared in his head,
demanding he reply to her question with a resounding yes.
But he knew that was a sure fire way to lose her. Lose her before he had
her. Things were too new, too unstable, for him to act like a dictator now.
Maybe he could get away with it in thirty years or so.
Brett? Jennifer s body was tense, her hands curled into white-knuckled
fists and her body was rigid. She would fight him. Fight until the very last
breath left her body.
He understood her dedication. But hed read more than one newspaper
article, had heard more than one whispered story, and had engaged in more
than one conversation with Marcus about the Colletti family.
Part of him was slightly hurt at his brother s lack of trust and yet he
understood the mans decision to keep quiet Jennifer s connection to the head
of the familys prosecution. Male shifters tended to rip things into tiny pieces
first and ask questions later. With the involvement of both the human and
shapeshifter worlds, a certain level of patience was necessary.
Hence Jennifer s participation. A lioness would at least ask a question here
and there before pouncing.
He understood it, but he didnt have to like it.
Im
So damned scared.
Im
He was nothing. Or rather, his life could mean nothing in a few seconds;
through the darkness, through the midnight outside and the dim interior of the
master bedroom, a bright red dot painted Jennifer s chest. She was half turned
toward him, a plea in her gaze, but all he could focus on was the steady red dot.
Brett didnt hesitate. His lion lent him strength and speed and he roared
across the distance that separated them. One moment he was beside the door,
and the next, flying and tackling Jennifer to the ground. The echoing shatter of
glass reached him as he wrapped himself around her body. They collided with
the floor, grunting with the impact, and he shielded her from the tinkling
remnants of the window.
She was frozen beneath him, muscles stiff and tight, and his heart froze.
Had she been shot? Had the attacker been successful?
He didnt have time to check her over. If the gunman realized hed been
unsuccessful, there was no doubt hed try again. The rapid pound of his mens
feet as they approached his room reached him. He knew they would try to help,
but they could give the attacker more targets. In one fluid move, Brett hauled
her into his arms and raced across the space, ignoring the sudden pain in his
shoulder, all too familiar.
Fucking got shot again.
He burst through the door, nearly bowling over Zane.
Make way! he roared and the males were quick to comply, jumping out
of his path and backtracking before following so they could get to a more
secure location within his apartment.
The men were hot on his heels, and the second they filled the safe room,
Brett allowed himself to lower Jennifer s feet to the ground.
And then she turned into a curvy, diminutive, unbending angel. She
growled and barked at his men, demanding medical supplies. Zane was the first
to respond to her orders. All the while, she growled and complained about
stupid men being stupid heroes and the stupidity of all of the stupids.
Brett chose not to take it personally and decided she had to be talking about
his guards and not him.
Jennifer wrenched at his shirt, pulling a groan from his chest, but she
didnt cease the rough treatment. If anything, she simply got worse. Especially
when she dug into his shoulder and yanked a bullet free. She dropped it to the
ground, the offending piece of metal bounced over the hard surface.
How many does that make? she snapped.
Today or ever? He tried to grin at her but only managed a grimace.
She snarled. Im going to pretend you didnt just say that.
You asked the question
Beta, maybe you shouldnt say anything, Zane mumbled.
Apparently his mate now had an ally in the enormous lion.
Brett glared at Zane and answered, Four. A hunter took a shot at me when I
was a teen.
Four she whispered.
Thats not the point. The point is this attempt answers your earlier
question about returning to court. He focused on Grant. Get the judge on the
line. He needs to know about this.
What? No! She moved around him until they faced off against each other.
I have to go tomorrow. I have to see this to the end.
If you keep pushing, all youre going to see is the inside of a coffin.
Jennifer curled her lip, exposing her fang in a clear threat. Im going.
No, youre not. He pointed toward the door and by extension the world
outside the small room. If you go out there, youre dead. That family is going
to keep trying. Theyre not giving up.
I dont want to have another mistrial. Thats what theyre aiming for.
He gnashed his teeth in frustration and fury. The judge may call a mistrial
because of the attempts on your life. If that doesnt happen, he definitely will
when the Collettis finally succeed and you end up dead. Is that what you want?
Because it sure as hell isnt what I want!
So many emotions swirled throughout the room, crowding his nose. From
fear to anger and great heaps of worry, the room was awash in the aromas.
And he wasnt sure exactly which were hers.
With a sigh, he met the gazes of the other males. Can you guys give us a
minute? For now, just figure out where we can go. The men tromped out, and
the moment they were alone, he turned to his mate and opened his arms. He
needed to feel her against him.
Jennifer With a sob, she rushed forward and wrapped around him,
snuggling close, pressing against his body. He stroked her back, soothing the
tension and trembles that overtook her. You try to be so strong, but I have you.
Im not going to let anything happen to you.
Im not worried about me, Im worried about you. You keep getting shot.
Better me than you. The words came from deep within his soul.
She shook her head, rubbing her face against his chest. No, I cant stand
the fact you keep getting hurt because of me.
And you think Id be okay with you getting hurt? He removed his hands
from her back and cupped her cheeks, forcing her head to tilt and meet his
gaze. Youre my matemateand I only get one. I cant lose you. I wouldnt
survive it.
But
No buts.
Fine, she snarled. How about if I dont do my job, he gets off scott
free. Hell be able to kill anyone, do anything. And if I hide, Ill be the one who
let it happen. Her gaze pleaded with him, and he didnt miss the shining
moisture in her eyes. The last thing I want is to lose you before Ive had you,
but being a strong lionbeing a betas matemeans I protect those weaker
than me.
Brett hated that she was right, truth filled each and every word. It wasnt just
about telling others what to do. He was meant to care for those in his pride and
it made sense that his mate felt the same. It was evident in her life, wasnt it?
The way shed fought for Penelope as they grew up in Ryland. Penelope was an
Alpha Mate and physically strong but Jennifer had protected and supported the
womans emotions.
Ill protect you. He tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. Ill protect
you tomorrow. Ill get you through the end of the trial. But if the worst
happens, I dont want you to lose me before you had me either.
She forced a teasing smile to her lips. You just want to get laid.
No, he shook his head. I just want to love you. Will you let me do that?
Her reply was instantaneous. Yes.
Chapter Four

The new location was a bunker fifteen feet underground. Theyd pulled
into the driveway of an average looking ranch-style home and quietly slipped
into the two-car garage. The vehicles had hardly rolled to a stop before Bretts
men were hustling her toward the back of the house. They crowded into a small
pantry off the kitchen and a few quick button pushes on a keypad revealed a
secret door. Down the stairs they went and further security measures were
disabled before they were granted entry to a large secure space.
The air was lightly scented with cleaning products, which werent wholly
offensive, but the surroundings left a lot to be desired. Her lioness was less
than thrilled with what they saw. Bare concrete walls enveloped them in sterile
blocks and there was nothing to muffle the echo of their steps as they delved
deeper into the bunker. Brett pointed out different highlights of the compound,
informing her where she could find the kitchen, the bathroom, and general
living room area. There were also several bedrooms.
Bedrooms
Those interested her most. After agreeing that now was the time to tie
themselves together, Jennifer couldnt wait to climb into a bed with him.
Unfortunately, each one he showed her only had a single bed. That was so not
going to work. Not with his big muscular body and her curvy ass.
Then they turned down a final hallway that sported one doorone that had
yet another security measure. Once Brett gained access, she smiled in relief.
All the other beds had been teeny tiny, but this one was massive. A king-size
bed occupied the very center of this newest space and she noted other
differences as well. Such as the walls werent bare, but smooth and painted a
delicate shade of cream. The floor wasnt polished concrete but lush, thick
carpet. And while the other rooms held not much more than a mattress, this one
offered another seating area with plush comfortable-looking chairs.
Whats this? Jennifer ran her hand over the comforter that covered the
bed. Why is this room so different from the others?
Because it belongs to the alpha.
She wrinkled her nose and snatched her hand back. Ew, gross.
Brett chuckled and shook his head. No one has ever used this room or that
bed. We havent ever needed to.
Until me.
Until you. He nodded.
Jennifer sighed, a hint of guilt over the problems shed caused sliding
through her. Im really sor
Dont apologize. Weve gone over this. I hate that youre in danger, hell
everyone hates that youre in danger, but what youre doing is a good thing.
Its necessary even if you are a pain in the ass and dont listen to me.
She growled, baring a single fang, but there was no heat in the sound. Or
rather there wasnt the evidence of anger. Instead, all her lioness could think
about was the fact that their mate stood so close to both them and a bed. A bed
that had never been used.
Maybe if you told me something worth listening to, Id follow your
directions. And since you havent
Brett smirked and slowly approached her. What kind of orders are you
looking for?
He continued forward. The back of her knees struck the mattress, and she
flopped onto the soft surface but he didnt stop. He eased over her,
encouraging her to lay back as he propped himself above her.
Jennifer Crawl into bed for me, baby. He leaned down and ran his nose
along her throat. He scraped his fangs across her skin. Moan for me. He
sucked on her shoulder then released the flesh with a soft pop. Scream my
name.
A shudder of pure need overtook her and snaked down her spine. Arousal,
fierce and fast, enveloped her with his words and she had one response, the
only thing the mate of a beta could say. She met his heated gaze, and saw her
own need reflected at her. Make me.
Brett grinned, the smile filled with pure sex. With pleasure.
His initial slow seduction turned into a passionate battle.
When he pressed his mouth to hers in a rough kiss, she returned that
ferocity. She tangled her fingers in his hair and hugged him even tighter
against her. Before he could slip his tongue into her, she pounced and delved
into him. She won that passionate round, but lost the next.
Lost it when his claw-tipped fingers shredded her clothing, the borrowed
shirt splitting easily beneath the sharp nails. She didnt exactly strip for him,
but she was still bared to his gaze. Next came the moaning, and she had no way
to deny him. Not when he captured a single nipple with his lips and sucked on
the small nubbin. He flicked and nibbled the hardened bit of flesh, drawing
more groans from her lips. Even as he tormented her breasts, his hands kept at
her clothing. When the rooms cool air bathed the heated center of her body,
she moaned more.
When it came to screaming his name, he had a much easier time
accomplishing that goal. It took one gentle touch between her thighs for her to
arch against him and yell. His adept fingers played against her moist, needy
flesh and she couldnt halt the sounds. Then again, she didnt want to. She
didnt want to fight him at all. In fact, she was ready to do whatever it took to
move things along. When his chest brushed hers, she realized there was
definitely something she could do.
Her lioness was eager to lend its assistance and her human nails were
suddenly razor-sharp and sinking into the fabric of his shirt. She gathered the
cloth in her claw-tipped hands and tore it from his body. Now she had skin, his
on hers, and she was overwhelmed with the feel of him. She ran her hands over
his flesh, carving shallow lines down his back as she fought to pull him closer.
The touch between her thighs became more concentrated as he slid two fingers
inside her, carefully stretching her with his intrusion.
Jennifer grasped at his shoulders, tugging until he released her breast and
brought his mouth to hers. Their tongues tangled, mimicking the action of his
digits sliding in and out of her body. The addition of their kiss to her bubbling
arousal sent her nearer to the edge. His fingers, his body, and his mouth were
going to send her flying and she found herself barely able to breathe. She
fought to suck in air, to steal oxygen from him so she wouldnt pass out from
the sensations.
And then she couldnt think of anything. Not when he brushed that
perfect spot inside her, or when he circled the source of her pleasure with his
thumb, or when he carefully retreated only to thrust into her once again.
Because it enveloped her in a large shimmering wave of bliss and she rocked
her hips against his hand, fighting to snatch more of that joy. She writhed
beneath him, basking in every sensation he drew from her body, and before she
knew it she was screaming his name in earnest.
Jennifer s orgasm was upon her, racing through her like a runaway train,
speeding along her veins and nerves until her entire body was alight with
ecstasy. She tightened around him, body milking his fingers as if they were his
shaft and she wished they were. She wished he was fully inside her, stretching
her with his hardness, and bathing her in his scent. But that would come
Brett! She couldnt withhold the shout that burst past her lips. That was
followed with a deep moan of bliss. She ground against his hand, letting his
touch drag her release on and on. Her muscles were no longer her own, her
body twitching and jerking as his attention stole every ounce of control she
possessed.
He growled, More. Give me more.
She didnt have anything left to give. Hed wrung every ounce of
satisfaction from her body and now she was merely a limp shadow of herself.
I cant, she whimpered, and twitched as another shot of desire attacked
her.
You can, he snarled. Now.
His demanding words and his attitude annoyed her cat, and suddenly it did
have strength for more. But she wasnt about to do as he demanded. In fact,
now it was his turn.
Grasping his shoulders, her lioness gave her added strength and it was easy
to flip her distracted mate onto his back. Easy to change their positions so she
dominated and Brett lay beneath her. While she still grasped the element of
surprise, Jennifer wiggled down his body to fall to her knees between his
parted thighs. His jeans shredded as easily as his shirt, and then she was left
with his long hardness. The tip was large and purpled, droplets of his arousal
coating the domed shape.
While his shout of surprise still echoed off the walls, Jennifer struck. She
didnt hesitate to swallow him, lick along his silken length, and savor the taste
of his pure essence on her tongue. She slowly rose, releasing him in gradual
increments, until she lifted her mouth from him. She placed a soft kiss to the
head, and gave him a small, satisfied smirk. I think its time you gave me
something.
*
Brett would give her anything she wanted as long as she didnt stop. He
didnt think hed ever seen anything so beautiful as Jennifer s lips wrapped
around him as she took him into her warm, wet depths. So perfect. So
delicious. So trusting.
It was her trust that aroused him most. She trusted him to take more,
demand more, than she was prepared to give.
Anything, he rasped. Ill give you anything.
She grinned and kissed the tip once again, telling them without words that
she liked his answer.
Then she was on him once again, lips stretched around his girth, and
tongue bathing the underside of his shaft. Her eyes remained intent on his as
she pleasured him, those gold irises proving her lioness was present. It wasnt
just her human half present, but her beast as well. As it should be between lion
mates.
Her hand joined her attentions, stroking him where her mouth could not
and giving him even more snippets of bliss. She kept up a steady rhythm, a
continuous rise and fall along his hardness, teasing and tormenting him with
what he desired most. To be inside her. To be truly inside her.
But when she scraped a single fang along his very tip, adding a hint of
sting to the pure joy running through his body, he figured this was kind of
okay too. He remained passive beneath her, letting her take the lead, and he
simply laid back and reveled in her attention.
He loved it when she tapped her tongue against that one spot beneath the
head, when her thumb traced a circle along his sensitive shaft, andohshe
encircled the base and squeezed ever so slightly Honestly, he loved it all.
Brett fought to keep his hips in place, fought the urge to pounce on her and
take what he wanted. Instead, he buried his fingers in her hair, luxuriating in the
feel of the soft strands against his palms. Her eyes remained intent on him,
expressing emotions neither were ready to voice. So he let his body speak for
him. He let her experience the full brunt of his need, and there was no
mistaking the musky scent of her desire that filled the air.
Jennifer He paused, unable to believe he was on the verge of begging.
Had he no pride? No. Not when it came to his mate. There was no sense in
clinging to pride with his other half. I love this, but I need you. Her answer
was to suck harder, to tighten her delicious grip, and to nibble a hint more. The
actions hauled a shout from his throat, and the sound bounced off the rooms
walls. Jennifer! She purred, the vibrations enveloping his hardness and then
reverberating through his body. Dammit, Jennifer.
This time the tremors were more like a chuckle, and he didnt have a
chance to tell her he wasnt in the mood for laughs. He wanted to bury himself
inside her, already. He wanted both his firmness and his fangs inside her body
now.
She mustve been reading his thoughts because in one fluid move she
released him and crawled up his body. She sat astride him, knees on either side
of his hips, and before he could voice an objection, he was poised at her
entrance. Without conscious thought, he gripped her hips and slowed her
movements. Her wet, tight opening kissed the very tip of his length, and he
shuddered with the first jolt of bliss. He was on the brink of taking her, and he
wanted to savor the moment.
Slowly.
Jennifer whimpered and nibbled her lower lip, but nodded in agreement.
From there, it was a gentle descent, her flesh parting for him, allowing him
to slide into her wet heat. Her inner walls were like the softest of velvets
soaked with her arousal. He edged deeper and deeper, her body lowering until
finally her hips rested against his. And then they remained there, frozen in
position as the truth of their intent washed over them both.
Youre mine. He couldnt hold the words within him any longer. All
mine.
He ran his palms along her outer thighs, traced her hips, and then teased the
small thatch of dark hair that shielded her femininity from him. He gently
burrowed through the curls and rubbed the bundle of nerves he found with the
pad of his thumb. Her bodys reaction was instantaneous, she tightened around
him, sheath milking his length, and he nearly lost himself in that moment.
But he couldnt. At least, not yet. Soon though. Very, very soon.
Ride me, baby.
Another whimper, another nibble, and another nod. Then she was doing
exactly as he craved, raising and lowering along him, giving them both
immense ecstasy. It became a sweaty race. Bodies working toward the pinnacle,
the scent of sex filling the air, and the sound of their bodies meeting filling the
room. When she gasped, he moaned, when he groaned she whined, and when
she shouted as another orgasm raced upon her, his beast roared.
Jennifer cupped her breasts, kneading the abundant flesh and plucking her
hardened nipples. Each squeeze and tweak had her tightening around him
further, and he wished it was his mouth on her. His mouth nibbling, tasting, and
teasing as he filled her.
Then again, he had better ideas on what to do with his mouth. Particularly
ones that centered on sinking his teeth into her shoulder as they both screamed
with their release.
And he was ready. He was riding the edge, just waiting for any hint that she
was right along with him. He knew it wouldnt be long now, the seductive
rhythm of her body milking him constantly increasing with each breath. No, it
wouldnt be long.
I want you to come for me. Come, and Ill make you mine forever.
Her eyes flared an even brighter gold, and he noted her teeth were longer
and sharper than before. Yes, she was ready.
Without breaking their torturous tempo, Brett repositioned until she was
beneath him once again. Hips jerked forward with each thrust as he fought to
get deeper than before. Sweat dripped from his brow and painted Jennifer with
his scent.
Her stare was intent on his shoulder, and her teasing pink tongue darted out
to wet her lips. Brett Want you to be mine.
Fuck. That had him balancing on the edge, and he thought hed blow any
moment. Just come for me, baby.
Jennifer did as he asked, arching from the bed as a scream left her throat.
He let go of what remaining control he had, his beast breaking free and taking
control of his body. As his orgasm pummeled him, he struck, sinking his teeth
into her shoulder. The ache of her own bite on him added to his rolling bliss,
and then they were merely a rising ball of sensation. They exchanged bliss and
joy as it mingled with the pain of their claiming bites.
But then the final connection, the final piece of their mating, wove into the
knot that would keep them tied forever. It went beyond the fighting sensations,
beyond the demanding lions, and into their souls. Their bond was unbreakable,
souls wound into one, his heart and hers could never be separated.
Her coppery blood continued to flow over his tongue, and his beast called
out for more. It ached to have her scent all over them, inside them, and it was
his human half that demanded they stop. They couldnt take too much blood
from their mate. Their female needed to remain healthy. With a feline grumble,
the cat retreated and returned his dangerous fangs to blunted human teeth. He
pulled back and licked the wound, distantly recognizing that Jennifer did the
same to him.
Now their loving became gentle strokes and softly murmured words, his
body not yet allowing his retreat. He was swollen within her, nature ensuring
they spent time together after such an explosive and emotional first mating.
Once hed lapped up the remaining droplets of blood, he turned his
attention to kissing the other parts of her. He used his tongue to gather snippets
of her natural flavors. Salt, musk, and sweat filled his mouth, and he knew hed
never get tired of her taste.
There were husky murmurs, hoarse whispers, and low promises
exchanged.
Brett would never let her go, hed never allow her to be hurt, and hed
never let her out of this bed.
Except tomorrow morning, Jennifer gently corrected.
Bretts lion snarled. He knew what hed promised, but he didnt want his
mate going anywhere near danger. Ever.
You can keep me safe.
Flattery wont get me to say yes. Though it did have his cat preening.
Its not flattery if its what I truly believe. She stroked his cheek, finger
sliding over his skin, and he couldnt withhold the purr that filled him.
Hes going to come after you with everything he has.
Jennifer stared into his eyes, and he knew the truth even as he objected. He
was going to ensure her safety because this was important to her, and her
happiness was important to him.
But you can protect me, she countered.
But I can protect you. And God save the man who tried to hurt her.
Chapter Five

Jennifer trembled, hands shaking so hard she forced herself to form fists to
keep them steady. Her lioness paced, snarling and growling at the delay,
anxious to get the answer theyd fought for so they could return to their mates
side. She hated being away from him for even a moment, detested any physical
distance between them since they mated. This whole trial had been a study in
separation. There was never the same route, never the same destination, never
the same bed And when it came to bed, there was no guarantee Brett would
be there.
But as she stood in place, confident in her abilities and her performance,
she didnt regret their actions.
The jury filed in, twelve men and women who would decide a single mans
fate. After two days of deliberations, here they were.
Colletti no longer wore the pristine Italian suits coupled with handmade
leather shoes as he had during the trial. Instead he was clothed in the familiar
orange jumper for inmates. What was the point in dressing him up now that he
no longer had to look nice for the jury?
She scanned each juror, hunting for any hint of their attitude. Were they
going to convict him? Were they going to let him free? The scents in the room
overwhelmed her cats ability to detect emotions so it was of no help. Which
meant she merely stared. Stared and prayed.
She distractedly listened to the judge question the jurors, asking if theyd
reached a decision. The foreperson stated they had, and then it was time for the
verdict. One that would prove whether Jennifer had wasted so much time being
without her mate.
Guilty or not guilty?
We the jury Find Guilty
Jennifer propped her hands on the desk, catching herself before she
tumbled to the ground. Her knees were weak, body slumping as the words
permeated her mind. She recognized joyful shouts surrounding her as the
foreperson revealed their decision on each and every count.
Guilty, guilty, guilty
Years. He would be going away for years, and this was the first step in
tearing down the family. Nash had revealed quite a bit from the lion side of the
operation, and now the human half was tumbling.
A large warm hand pressed between her shoulder blades and stroked down
her spine. The touch sent an immediate wave of strength and comfort through
her. Hed been there, at her back and protecting her, every step of the way. Even
when she lay alone, wondering where he was, his presence was with her in
silent support. He didnt have to like what she did, she knew he didnt, but hed
been there for her anyway.
She didnt listen to the rest, ignored the crying and laughing that
surrounded her, ignored the continuous pounding of the judges gavel, and
merely turned toward her mate. She went into his arms, taking every ounce of
strength he offered and simply rested her head against his shoulder.
Its over, she sobbed. Shed done it, shed put him away. Its over.
No, baby, its just beginning. She lifted her head and stared into his eyes,
noting the joy that filled his features. This trial is over, but our lives are just
beginning.
She could handle that. Because he was right, her life as a prosecutor was
over. But now her job was even more important. Now she had her own practice
and a new direction. Human issues were importantthat was unquestionable
but so were those of the werelions. Her mate was the beta of the North
American prides. He didnt protect a single small town like the one shed
called home. He fought to protect them all.
And now, so would she.

The End of Tailing Her
Book Three: On Her Tail
Chapter One

Addy couldnt let them catch her. Not now, not ever. That single thought in
mind, she clutched the small bundle in her arms tighter and forced herself to
run faster. Her inner lioness attempted to help, adding what strength and speed
she could, but it wasnt enough. They were larger, stronger, quicker, and fueled
by both rage and fear. Shed managed to avoid them for the last two weeks, but
the more time that passed, the closer they came and this was the closest yet.
She still wasnt sure what clued her in to their arrival, but something
alerted her lioness danger was near. Shed peeked out the front window of the
moldy hotel room, spied the two hulking males, and then escaped out the back
with nothing more than the clothes on her back, a diaper bag, and what those
two men hunted the baby.
She ducked and weaved through the busy crowd, fighting the natural flow
of foot traffic. She took advantage of the fact she was much smaller than the
two males. At over six feet tall and two hundred-plus pounds, they had to
struggle against the gathered bodies.
Growls chased her, their sounds making it seem they were within inches of
her, but that couldnt be. Shed had a decent lead when she fled the hotel, hadnt
she? Now snarls reached her, the men foisting their anger at her actions. The
humans fear stung her nose as they seemed to finally realize they had furious
non-human somethings in their midst.
They were livid with her, but they couldnt have known why shed run.
Then again, maybe they did and didnt give a damn. They worked for Tony
Davis, didnt they?
And Tony wanted his baby back.
Not while she had breath in her body.
Dammit, bitch.
Fucking catch her.
The two mens words reached her, syllables sending forward a new panic
that threatened to freeze her in place. Thankfully they instead served to spur her
on and she dug deep for any remaining energy.
Cant be caught Cant be caught
Little Jack whimpered and released a low cry, reminding her why she
pushed so hard. For him. For his future.
Shhh I have you. Im going to take care of you. Be easy, sweetheart.
She tried to soothe him without missing a step. Any hesitation, any bit of
slowing, would result in her capture.
And not just capture, but also her death.
Unacceptable.
Jack whined again, telling her exactly how upset this mad dash was making
him. She would have to calm him. Later. Right now, pure adrenaline drove her
onward.
She could almost feel their breath on the back of her neck, the moisture of
their spittle landing on her skin, and she clawed deeper inside herself. She
increased her pace, changing her movements from quick ducks and dashes to
outright shoves. She pushed others out of the way, ignoring their surprised
shouts. There was no time for apologies or requests. Only running.
Addy glanced at street signs as she darted through intersections, fighting to
remember the layout of the massive city. Shed only been in town a month and
all that time, Tonys drivers/bodyguards escorted her everywhere which meant
she still didnt know her way around.
Yet another crosswalk loomed before her, the curb crowded with early
morning employees hoofing it to work. She glanced at the walk sign and
noted it still told walkers it wasnt safe, butshe glanced over her shoulder
and trembled in fearthey were too close.
Addy burst through the clumps of people, racing dead center through the
mass and straight out the other side. She glanced down the street, trying to
gauge the oncoming traffic. Yells followed her, but she was in a straightaway.
She could make it through the intersection and on to the other side before her
pursuersor the approaching carsreached her.
Were almost safe, sweetheart. Almost safe, she whispered. Addy made it
past the bicycle lane, knowing she was putting more and more space between
her and the men. She made it past the first lane as well. Almost
She didnt make it past the second. A high-pitched squeal of tires was the
only warning she received that her world was about to be destroyed once
again. She only had a split second to spy the source of that sound, to watch a
big vehicle bear down on her. The grill grew closer and closer, the auto
seeming to be aimed directly at her, and she distantly wondered if one of
Tonys goons were behind the wheel. But why would he risk his own son?
Then the question became moot because the SUV wasnt going to stop in
time. Addys lioness whined in anticipation of the coming pain, and she twisted
in place, making sure the grill struck her back and not little Jack.
She wrapped herself around him, desperate to cushion him from any harm
as the vehicle plowed into her. Pain exploded in her back and then it enveloped
her entire body. Her shoulder snapped out of place and she recognized when
her arm broke, but still she kept Jack protected. She hugged him close, arms
carefully shielding him from the rough ground as it scraped skin from her
body.
The coppery tang of her own blood filled her nose. That scent was joined
by the oil and rubber that coated the road. It was then she realized shed stopped
rolling. She was no longer skidding over the ground and remained motionless.
The babys wail filled her ears, the child announcing its fear to the heavens
with an ever-increasing volume. Agony wracked her body, assaulting her from
within, and she knew she had to have broken more than one bone. Her only
hope now was that her lioness could help her shake off the injuriesheal her
enough so she could stumble away without being caught. Shed have time to
recover once they were safe.
Screams and questions were thrown at her, the stench of the crowds worry
burning her nose as people tried to discern if she was okay and what had
happened.
No, Im not okay. I got hit by a fucking truck.
But she didnt put voice to those words. Instead she concentrated on her
beasts attempt to heal the damage to her body. The bones would be crooked,
there was no hope for that, but she could worry about re-breaking them and
setting them correctly once she found a new place to hide.
She forced her eyes open, anxious to see where her pursuers lingered, and
she found them at the edges of the wide circle that surrounded her. Both men
glared at her, their golden eyes seeming to bore into her, and a new wave of
fear crashed over her body. She had to go. Had to run.
She glanced down at Jack, running her hand over his tiny form, and she
ignored the agony that came with the movement. He appeared no worse for
wear, and she sighed in relief when she realized he was unharmed and only
scared.
A loud thud reached her, the sound close and obviously from a vehicle, and
then a male she didnt know crouched at her side. His eyes were the yellow of a
lion, and a light dusting of cream fur coated his tanned cheeks. Finding a lion
at her side was not surprising in a city filled with her kind. However, finding
the lion at her side was also her mate floored her. His scent was deep and
smoky, offset by the aroma of the dry plains that imbued every werelion, and it
called to Addys cat.
Her inner beast purred and whined in relief, soothed by his presence. He
would protect them, he would take care of them, he would He would keep
Jack safe. At least she hoped.
His gaze stroked her, enveloping her from head to toe, and her inner
lioness was calmed even further by his attention and worry.
Its you, she whispered and frowned. Why was her voice so thin and
reedy?
His irises seemed to glow even brighter as he stared at her face, and he
revealed his possessiveness with his first utterance. Mine. His nostrils flared
as he breathed deeply, and his attention darted from her face to the rest of her.
Where are you hurt?
Im fine. She lifted one hand from Jack and placed her palm on the
asphalt, intent on rising from the street. She shouted with the first new bolt of
agony that struck her with the pressure. That was echoed by his roar of rage
and it had the crowd making a rushed retreat.
Where are you hurt?
Where wasnt she hurt? Not only that, but she was finding it harder and
harder to keep her eyes open. Her eyelids grew heavier by the second and
darkness crept into her vision until the world was coated in a gray cast.
Im She shook her head and struggled to dispel the dizziness that attacked
her. Im
Fuck.
Dont Curse Around the baby. The stench of her own blood filled
her nose, and she realized two things. She was bleeding freely from a wound
and her cat still hadnt managed to stem the flow. That meant she was quickly
losing consciousness. She was going to pass out, leaving herself vulnerable
Leave Jack vulnerable. Addy shoved back the darkness long enough to reach
for her mate, to grasp his hand despite the agony that struck her, and demand
his attention. His worried gaze met hers. Dont let them take the baby.
The baby? Confusion filled his features and his focus flicked to the
squirming bundle in her arms and then back to her.
She had to get him to do as she asked, had to get him to listen to her.
And so she lied. Dont let them take my baby.
*
Zane was torn between snatching the wriggling child from her arms before
the baby tumbled to the ground and catching her before her head struck the
concrete. It was obvious she was rapidly losing consciousness. She had a
lioness but the inner beast wasnt healing her. Why? Even though hed hit her
with his SUV, she should have been well on her way to recovering and not still
bleeding all over the road. That only happened when a lion was severely
weakened. From exhaustion? Hunger? Stress?
It wasnt only the scent of her inner cat that prodded him, but also his lion
was more than intrigued by the female. In fact, he was pacing in the back of
Zanes mind, digging his claws in deep and scraping at him. It demanded to be
released so it could chase off the crowd that surrounded them. It wanted to
protect and care for its Mate?
Mate.
That realization had a new tension thrumming through his body. There
were too many people nearby, she was hurt, and she demanded that he care for
her child. Her child. The feline inside him snarled at the thought that another
had touched her, another had given her a cub. Any children she had would
come from him.
Once again the lion made demands, encouraging him to dispose of the
baby that wasnt of his blood. The cat was ruthless and violent and it didnt care
they were half human. Didnt give a fuck that humans didnt kill the children of
other males. It demanded Zane recognize that he was part lion as well and their
kind destroyed any remnants of others.
He battled to keep the beast under control and snarled at the animal,
shoving it to the back of his mind and tying it to the shadows. They had other
issues to deal with at the moment.
Such as the fact their mate was quickly fading. As her head dropped to the
ground, he slid his hand beneath her and kept her from harm. At the same
moment, her grip slackened and the child almost fell as well.
Zane, whats up? Oscar yelled, and several grunts followed the words as
the massive lion pushed his way through the gathering.
Take the baby. He was quick to issue an order. Ive got the mother.
The moment Oscar removed the child, Zane swung the woman into his
arms. He fought to ignore the whimper and moans that followed the
movement, the rush of moistureher bloodthat coated him.
Once again his lion attacked. This time it wasnt demanding he get rid of
the cub but was furious theyd caused their mate pain. There would be a lot
more agony before all was said and done and that pissed it off even more. Not
much he could do about it though. He recognized more than one bone had been
broken when the truck had struck her, and the gouges and scrapes were still
bleeding heavily.
He spun toward his SUV, ignoring the people who shouted at him, telling
him to call an ambulance and not to move her. They didnt understand. They
didnt realize at this point he needed to get her medical care andfor a shifter
that wasnt necessarily at a hospital. They also didnt understand that if they
didnt get the fuck away from him, hed kill them all. This womanthe
strangerwas his mate and they needed to back off.
Unfortunately the crowd still seemed intent on delaying him. Rather than
pushing them aside or asking them nicely to get out of his way, he merely
roared. Except there was no merely about it. He let his beast come forward,
let it transform his vocal chords until a full-grown, enraged lion roar echoed
off the buildings surrounding them. The acoustics amplified the sound until
every human in the vicinity ducked and cowered beneath his rage.
Yes, every human hit the ground, but two males still stood. They were both
large, towering above the trembling masses. Their gazes were intent on Zane,
eyes hidden behind dark glasses, but he sensed their malice and barely banked
rage. Then that focus shifted from him to Oscar and by extension the child.
Their body language changed, fury transforming to near desperation.
It didnt take a rocket scientist to see the two males were the them and
they were the ones who wanted the childhis mates child.
Not happening.
Zane pushed his way through the fearful crowd and went straight for his
SUV. Oscar stood at its left, still cradling the small child and shooting him a
look of pure confusion. He didnt have time for explanations. Not that he knew
anything worth sharing. What he did know was his mate needed care and the
longer his fellow enforcer held the baby, the louder and more upset it became.
Get in the back with the kid.
Wha
I dont have time to argue with you, Oscar. Get in the back with the baby.
Be careful with it. Im gonna strap her into the passenger seat and then were
going to my place. The pride doc could help her better than a hospital
emergency room. Ignoring his friend, he stepped around the door that
remained ajar, and carefully slid the woman onto the leather seat. He ignored
the stains of blood swiped across the pale leather. He would have time to hate
himself for injuring her later. Right now, he needed to remain focused on
getting her help.
It took seconds to get his mate strapped in and then he stepped away to slam
the door only to find Oscar still standing nearby. What the fuck? Get in the
fucking back.
Look, man, you need to tell me what the hell is going on.
Zanes lion leapt forward, bristling at the challenge to his authority, and
suddenly his fangs were extended and bared at the male. His fingers and hands
were now deadly paws and claws, and golden fur coated his arms. Get. In the
fucking. Car. He noted movement over his friends shoulder and glared at
those two males attempting to approach them from behind. Now.
Zane
I got my fucking mate bleeding in the front seat and thats her kid. So
listen to me, for fucks sake. He really didnt have time for this shit.
All right, man. Why the fuck didnt you say so?
Zane was gonna kill the lion as soon as he was sure his mate was safe.
Oscar climbed into the back, carefully holding the little tike, and Zane
glared at the two men who still stood nearby. That menacing air continued to
surround them and he ached to wipe the floor with them. They wanted his
mates kid? Theyd have to go through him first.
There was nothing his lion hated more than big guys picking a fight with
somebody smaller. It didnt get any smaller than a baby. And as much as his
lion disliked the idea that shed been with someone else, it despised the
prospect of those two goons getting their hands on the little one.
He shot a glare at the males and was gratified when they both tensed and
twitched. Yeah, they were big and strong, but Zane was meaner.
It didnt take him long to round the vehicle and slide behind the wheel. It
took even less time to start the engine and throw it into gear. A single long
press of his horn disbanded the gawking group, and then he was rolling down
the streets once again.
Zane pressed a button on the steering wheel to initiate a call, and the
moment it was answered, he barked out his orders. I want the pride doc at my
place in three minutes. I got a mom and cub in my car that need help. Tell him
the mom has been hit by a car.
Zane? There was no way to miss the Alpha Mates confusion. What are
you
He tried to be nice to her, he really did. Hed been running an anti-dick
campaign since his beta, Brett, mated Jennifer. Hed been a dick to the lioness
then and now he was trying to clean up his act. But fuck if he could be
diplomatic now. I have my mate in the passenger seat of my SUV and shes
bleeding everywhere, Penelope. Get the damn doctor to my apartment. Ill be
there in two minutes.
Why arent you taking her to the hospital?
With all due respect, Alpha Mate, get the doctor to my fucking apartment.
He pressed the button to end the call and focused on driving. If he took the
shortcut and raced down 4th, he could shave ten seconds off his time. Since the
doctor lived in the same high-rise as him and damn near the rest of the pride,
he knew the male would be waiting for them when they arrived. So the quicker
Zane got there, the quicker his still nameless mate would get help.
Zane Marcus isnt going to be happy with you talking to his mate that
way. Oscar wasnt lying.
The only thing he could do was hope the pride alpha saw Zanes side and
knew hed been worried about his mate when he was so disrespectful to
Penelope.
Hold on. He took the corner hard, ignoring the squeal of the tires as he
whipped onto 16th.
The building was in sight and he pushed his way down the street,
disregarding red lights as he raced down the road. He came to a screeching
stop and vaulted from the SUV to race around the vehicle. Other pride
members released shouts of surprise and more than one growled at his sudden
appearance. Yeah, he pissed off a lotta people in general. Today was nothing
new.
Zane snared the door s handle and yanked, giving himself access to the
passenger seat. Before he leaned over his mate, he caught sight of those two
guys once again. This time they were seated in a non-descript black sedan,
parked south of the building and tried to appear as if they hadnt tailed him
through a mad dangerous dash through the city. They wanted her. No, they
wanted the baby and that made him even more determined to keep the kid safe.
He was a contrary fucker.
Get the baby inside and up to my place, he growled at Oscar and then
focused on taking care of his mate. With infinite care, he undid her seatbelt and
gathered her into his arms once again. The red stains were large on the seat,
sinking into the pristine leather, and his lion roared its objection at her
continued bleeding.
Without hesitation, he held her close and whirled toward the buildings
entrance. Oscar was on his heels as he raced into the high-rise and his fellow
pride members were quick to give him a path to the elevator. One of the other
enforcersAustinheld the door wide.
Take care of my truck, will ya?
Sure, Zane. The male was quick to answer.
And therere two lions in a town car down the street. Big, mean looking
fuckers and they want my cub. I want them gone.
Austins surprise was instantaneous at the mention of a child but he quickly
recovered. Consider it done.
Assured in his new familys safetyfor nowhe refocused on his mate.
The second he stepped into the elevator, Oscar pushed a button to close the
doors and then they were heading up to his floor. Quiet surrounded them,
making his worry grow since he hardly heard his mate breathing. All that
broke through the quiet were the low cries from the baby fussing and
whimpering and that simply added to his animals fury. His mate was hurt, his
baby was upset, and those two assholes
You know youre gonna have to clean up your language. You got a kid
now.
For a bare second his worry was snatched away from his mate and he
focused on Oscar. The lion merely turned his head and gave the blank and
unblinking stare as he waited for Zanes response. And Zane had only one
thing to say to the male.
Fuck. You.
Chapter Two

Addy woke with a rush, slamming from unconsciousness to fully awake in
less than a heartbeat. As she opened her eyes, a scream erupted from her throat
and she gasped for air. Fear, a familiar emotion, attacked her the instant she
scanned her surroundings. The walls were clean, the room smelled fresh, and
there was no hint of decay marring the carpet.
It wasnt a place she knew nor did it look like somewhere she could
actually afford.
The rapid, heavy thump of booted feet pounding on a solid floor hit her
ears a bare second before the door was busted down. The wood panel went
slamming against the wall, a foot to the lock easily shoving the door from its
frame. The owner of that foot strode into the room, and his golden-eyed gaze
swept the area in one rapid glance.
Fury emanated from every line of his body, from the tenseness in his
mouth to the ever-widening breadth of his muscular shoulders. His arms were
flexed and his human hands resembled lion claws. He was massive, well over
six feet and easily more than two hundred fifty pounds of enraged werelion.
The only thing that kept her from collapsing into a tearful puddle was that his
anger wasnt directed at her. In fact, it seemed to be hunting the cause of her
fright.
And then those orbs focused on her, the amber flaring even brighter as his
stare slid over her in a gentle caress. When he didnt find anything physically
wrong with her, he seemed to expel the anger in a single exhale. His lion
gradually retreated, leaving tanned skin as fur receded and green eyes when the
cat completely vanished. He drew in a deep breath, nostrils flaring as he
inhaled, and then he released it with a deep purr.
Oh.
Addy did the same, scenting the air, desperately searching for the males
natural flavors and her heart stuttered at what she found.
Her mate. She gasped. Her mate.
Now? She discovered her mate now when she was running for her life;
running for Jacks life.
Jack.
Addy yanked at the blankets covering her, shoving and tugging on them,
unsuccessfully battling to rid herself of the restraints. Where is he?
Her mate frowned. Who?
She growled and bared her fangs, but her head was now wrapped in the
sheet, totally killing the effect. Jack, she snapped. Where is he?
He narrowed his eyes. Who the hell is that? If its some ex of yours, you
can forget about him. Youre mine.
Seriously?
Look, I dont know who you think you are Addy finally got the sheet
from around her and gave it one last yank, freeing her fully. She carefully
pushed herself until she was sitting on the edge of a bed? Yes, she was in a
bed. In a bed and no longer wearing the ratty jeans and worn t-shirt shed
donned that morning. Now she was clothed in a baggy top and equally large
drawstring shorts. Her grimy sneakers were gone, and her hair was no longer
tied in a ponytail at the base of her skull. Basically, she looked nothing like she
had when shed rolled out of bed.
With a shake of her head, she tried again. Look, I dont know who you
think you are, but
Im your mate.
you need to tell me what youve done with Jack.
He narrowed his eyes and a whisper-quiet growl thrummed through the
room. Dont you growl at me, she hissed. Ive eaten bigger lions than you
for breakfast. Give him back to me and then Im leaving.
But, he blinked in surprise, youre my mate.
And hes only a baby. One who needs my protection. That comes in the
form of getting him the hell out of here. She braced one hand on the mattress
and slowly pushed to her feet. She swayed slightly, knees unwilling to help her
stand, and she stumbled to the side, grasping one of the beds post to keep her
upright.
You can hardly stand, he snarled.
You dont have to stand to ride a train.
Dammit. Sit down before you fall down. How the hell are you gonna take
care of a cub if you cant even get out of bed?
He had a point. Not that she was telling him that. I need to leave.
Leave before Tonys guys found her. Before they crashed into wherever the
hell she was and snatched the baby from her arms.
No, what you need is to relax for thirty seconds so we can talk.
The man didnt realize stubborn was her middle name. Look
He growled at her, the only warning she received before he darted forward
and pulled her into his arms. He cradled her close and was gentle despite his
large size and obvious anger. One giant step had them beside a plush chair, and
another had them both cuddled in the cushioned center.
No, you look. Were going to talk and youre not going anywhere until
we do.
Addy snarled. Thats kidnapping.
Youre my mate. Thats like stealing a car I already own. Aint gonna
happen.
That had her bristling. So Im a car now? Is that a dig because Ive got a
wide ass?
Self-conscious lioness, party of one.
His brow furrowed, mouth forming a small frown. I like your ass. Not
that I looked when I changed your clothes. But you were hurt and somebody
had to take care of you and the fucking doctor had already fucking had his
fucking hands all over you. I was gonna fucking kill him.
I dont even want to know. She shook her head. Were getting off topic
here. Where is Jack? Is he okay?
Is Jack the baby? Thats his name?
She didnt want to give him any more details than necessary, but answering
one question would lead to another which led to another and then the eventual
revelation of the truth. And then theyd make her let him go.
Yes, my babys name is Jack.
He eased her closer, arms holding her the tiniest bit tighter, and she fought
the desire to simply sink into his embrace and take comfort in the feel of his
skin on hers. Except she couldnt afford a distraction. Not now, not ever.
But we both know Jack isnt your child. So why dont you answer my
questions and then we can talk about what the hell is going on.
It all sounded so rational. Too bad she wasnt prepared to listen.
Hes mine, she growled.
He shook his head. No, hes not. He sighed. How about we start with
your name? Mine is Zane Edwards. Im one of the North American pride
enforcers.
A new jolt of terror overtook her, blinding her to any good sense. Without
thought, she struggled against his grip, fighting to get free. She would find
Jack on her own and then run as far and as fast as she could. He was an
enforcer. Enforcer. His job was to uphold the laws. Which Addy had blatantly
broken when shed fled Tonys. It didnt always matter that a person had good
intentions.
I-I-I She couldnt get out any other words, her mind overrun by panic.
Not for herself, but little Jack and what would happen if his father got his hands
on him. Her best friends voiceJacks motherdrifted through her mind.
If Jack stays with him, Tony will kill him. This life will kill him. I want more
for my son than an existence of stealing or hurting others and dodging bullets
or claws from the pride. You have to help him
Hey, shhh He stroked her back, large palm tracing her spine and she
figured he was probably trying to calm her, but his touch did anything but. Its
okay.
No, it was very not okay. I have to go. I want Jack and then I want
Hello, I see my patient is up. Yet another stranger poked his head through
the doorway, his gaze bouncing between Addy, her mate, and back again. How
are you feeling?
Patient? She raised her eyebrows in question.
The man came forward and she recognized the tools of a doctor s trade;
the ever-present stethoscope and white jacket making his profession easily
identifiable.
Patient. He tugged the stethoscope from around his neck. You were one
injured little cub when Zane carried you in here. He pressed the cool pad of
the stethoscope to her back. Deep breath for me. She did as asked, repeating
the move several times until he finally stepped back. Any pain? Anything still
bothering you?
Im fine. I need to see Jack. Why wouldnt anyone listen to her?
Well, that is up to your mate and the alpha, but I can tell you he is healthy
as can be and doing fine. Didnt even have a scratch on him after your
adventure with your mates car.
Addy only distantly acknowledged that apparently shed been hit by a car
while she still held Jack in her arms. Even more, her mate was apparently the
one whod been driving. That news was frightening, but sheer unadulterated
terror struck her when she realized the North American Alpha was now
involved in the situation.
Can-can she licked her lips, can I see him, please?
She needed to see him, touch him, and make sure he was okay. And then
Then shed snatch him and try to figure out where to go. Her lioness whined an
objection, aching to stay near her mate rather than going on the run. But she
had to think of more than herself, of the promise shed made and the small life
that hung in the balance.
The doctor frowned. I believe Alpha Marcus wants to speak with you
first.
Of course he would. Of course he had questions, ones Addy didnt want to
answer. But she didnt get a chance to tell him. The male simply turned on his
heel and strode toward the door, leaving her alone with Zane once again.
I dont want to talk to him. I want Jack and then Ill get out of your lives.
She didnt miss Zanes low growl and she also didnt miss the way her inner
cat responded with an interested purr.
Youre mine. Mine. He tightened his hold slightly, but not enough to
jostle her injuries. Im not letting you go. Im not letting Jack go.
I sliver of hope drifted into her heart. You wontYou wont let anyone
take him away from me?
Us. He cupped her cheek and encouraged her to meet his gaze. I wont
let anyone take him from us.
Theres Hes not I took How did she explain the truth?
I know youre not his birth mother. Everyone who has come in contact
with both of you knows this. Did you break any lawshuman or shifterto
have him? You have to tell me.
A tremor racked Addy and she wasnt quite sure how to answer the
question, but she tried. In my heart, I dont believe I did, but others might
think
Then the answer is no. Jack is yours, you are mine, which means Jack is
mine and Ill be damned if I let anyone take what belongs to me.
For the first time in weeks, for the first time since her best friends brutal
death at Tony Davis hands, Addy was able to breathe.
*
With those quiet words, Zanes mate shuddered and relaxed against him as
tension fled her body. She might not trust him, might be filled with panic and
fear, but she at least accepted those few words as truth.
Now that you know I wont let anyone take him, why dont you tell me
what the fuck is going on? He internally winced, knowing the way he worded
the question wasnt exactly classy.
She chuckled, and the teasing sound turned into a low groan that had his
beast hissing within his mind. It might be better if you dont know all the
facts.
Nope, not gonna work. Tell me already.
Bossy, she grumbled. I am Adelaide Wilson, but my friends
correction friendcall me Addy. Or rather, she did before She swallowed
hard and blinked back her tears. Im just Addy.
Zane traced her lower lip with his thumb, staring at her mouth and
wondering what shed taste like. Addy. I like that. Addy and Zane. He was
tempted to brush a soft kiss across her lips, but kept himself in check. And
Jack?
It really is best if you dont know. At least then he could claim ignorance
and maybe Tony would take it easy on him for helping her.
Maybe you let me decide that.
No
I cant protect you and Jack if I dont know. He tucked a few errant
strands of hair behind her ear and ignored the way she shook her head and
continued to deny him. How about I guess then? He didnt wait for her
agreement. Instead, he simply told her what hed worked out so far. Hes not
yours, Addy. I think he belongs to one of the guys who chased you out in front
of my truck. Am I right?
Zane waited for her lie, held his breath as he anticipated the untruth to drip
from her lips. She was in trouble, scared, and still hurting, so he couldnt
blame her if she continued to lie. He hoped she would soon trust him. Actually,
he wanted to yell at her and shake her, demanding her to have faith in him right
this moment. But he didnt let his usual uncontrolled anger take over.
I didnt give birth to Jack, but that doesnt mean hes not mine. She
snarled the last few words, revealing how much she cared for the baby. And
no, neither of those men fathered him. His dad couldnt even be bothered to
think of him until he was missing.
Her fury assaulted his nose with a burning heat, and it was tinged with a
giant heap of terror. He gently ran his hand along her back, tracing her spine
and trying to soothe her. He hadnt ever had experience calming someone, but
there was the first time for everything. Okay Can you tell me anything else?
Will you tell me anything else?
She remained quiet, nibbling her lower lip as she met his gaze and then
turned her attention elsewhere. He knew he was being judged, Addy trying to
figure out if he could be trusted, and his lion snarled at the fact she didnt
blindly believe in him the first moment they met.
The front door to his apartment opened and then softly thumped closed,
which was followed by a low murmur of voices. She stiffened in his arms, a
new wave of fear slid through her so he increased his soothing attentions.
Addy? He prodded. Are you going to talk to me?
Look, he even made it a question and everything. Those voices drew closer
and he was easily able to pick apart the owner of each. Marcus had obviously
come, and the other male was his brother and pride beta, Brett. The tinkling
feminine laughter from Penelope and Jennifer was joined by a babys giggle.
They would soon have a full house, five more bodies crowded in this room.
You need to give me something before they get here.
I Her eyes clashed with his and he couldnt fail to notice the moisture
gathered there. The way it threatened to overflow and cascade down her
cheeks. I
Dammit. He wanted to growl and snarl at her, intimidate her into telling
him the truth, but he bit back the sounds. She was already hurting both
emotionally and physically, and he had no doubt she was utterly exhausted.
Who knew how long shed been on the run and hiding? Who knew how
long theyd been on her tail and dogging her steps? For her to go running into
traffic They were definitely dangerous.
Zane brushed her hair back from her face and cupped her cheeks, wiping
away the first tear that trailed down her face. Im going to take care of you.
You and Jack, okay? She carefully nodded and he leaned forward to press a
gentle kiss to her forehead. Good. Stay here, and Ill be back.
But what about
You dont worry about anything. Yet another droplet of moisture escaped
her eyes. Youre my mate, Addy, you know that right? At her nod, he
continued. So Im going to take care of you. You rest for a little bit and Im
gonna get Jack. The doc already checked him over and someone went and got
everything well need for him. You both take it easy and Ill deal with
everything else.
Disbelief and hope warred and fought their way across her features.
Youll But you dont
Zane rose, taking her with him. Keeping her cradled in his arms, he
carefully padded toward the bed and gently laid her on the soft surface. Ill
take care of you, and for now, I know everything I need to know.
He dropped a kiss to her forehead once again, pausing long enough to take
a deep breath and savor her delicious scent. He wanted her, he ached for her,
but it was obvious she was in no shape to welcome him.
Besides, it seemed he had a mess to deal with. Someone wanted his mate
and the cub. He simply needed to find them and explain that Addy and Jack
werent their concern any longer. Whether that was with words or claws, he
didnt know and honestly didnt care. Actually, he had a good bit of anger
currently directed at himself and he wouldnt mind blowing it off on one of
those goons.
Ill be right back, he murmured against her skin.
O-okay.
Zane forced himself away and moved to the closed bedroom door. He
carefully opened it and slipped into the hallway, stopping the approaching
group before they neared the room. He held up a hand, palm out. I need the
baby and then Ill talk to you guys in the living room.
Marcushis alpharaised a single brow. You will, will you?
Fury, not unlike what he ached to direct at the two men whod scared the
hell out of his mate, filled him. Yes. I wont have my mate upset. Shes dealt
with enough. All she wants is her baby and then she needs to sleep. Youre
going to let her.
It was nonnegotiable.
Your mate? Marcus other eyebrow joined the first in surprise.
Yes, he bit off.
Marcus gave him a speculative look. All right, for now Ill accept the
claim, but I need to speak with her. The baby doesnt belong to her. You know
that.
Zanes shoulders tensed, the hair on the back of his neck raising as his lion
bristled with his alphas words. Shes my mate and she says the baby belongs
to her. Ergo, the baby is mine. I want him.
Brett snorted. Ergo.
Zane finally got the chance to snarl and bare his fangs at another beast.
Brett responded with aggressive sounds of his own and Zanes skin rippled
with his inner lions anxious need to burst forward. Hed been craving blood
from the moment he lifted Addy into his arms, and it seemed hed finally get
his wish.
Marcus? Penelopes soft voice sliced through the anger that filled the air,
and the alpha sighed and slumped his shoulders.
Enough. For now, questions can wait.
And Jack? Zane was not moving an inch without the cub. The look on his
alphas face told him the male did not want to hand Addy the child when it
obviously did not belong to her. They didnt share a scent, not even a hint of
one that would tie them together as family members, let alone the shared
flavors of mother and son. I want him, Marcus.
Penelope sighed. Marcus, its not like she can leave the apartment without
anyone seeing. Theres only one way in or out.
Zane wasnt about to tell the Alpha Mate she was wrong and that hed had a
little something added to his place.
Penelope continued. Its obvious she loves himshe wouldnt have nearly
died for him otherwiseand he wont stop fussing. Hes going to make
himself sick if he doesnt calm down soon.
Fine, the alpha growled. But I expect answers and Im going to get
them.
Marcus would get something, but it would only be what Zane was willing
to give him and nothing more.
Chapter Three

Addy cuddled little Jack close, smiling into his bright blue eyes. He
greedily sucked on the bottle, swallowing down the formula while keeping his
attention entirely on her. He looked so like his mother, even now at such a
young age his features resembled Addys best friend.
Oh, Lori, I wish you could see him, Addy whispered and then pressed a
soft kiss to Jacks downy head. But Im keeping him safe for you. I wont let
Ton she swallowed the mans name before she could put voice to it. Lions
had excellent hearing, and the last thing she wanted was to expose her secret. I
wont let him get hurt.
Jack released the nipple, his lids fluttering closed as sleep threatened to
claim him. She set the bottle aside, tossed a burping rag on her shoulder, and
carefully maneuvered him until his head rested on the cloth. No sleeping yet,
sweet boy.
He fussed and whined, but she wouldnt be denied. Colic was not something
she was ready to deal with. Not again. That had been a hard and painful lesson
for both of them. She eased to her feet, supporting his neck as she stood, and
began the gentle tapping against his back to help him release the air hed
swallowed. She carefully circled the room, quietly whispering to him and
soothing him as she did.
Shhh Quiet, baby boy. He continued to fuss, but the sounds were
gradually lessening with each pat and each careful step. Thats it, sweetheart.
She rubbed her nose against the light dusting of hair on his head, and
breathed deeply. She always loved the scent of clean baby, a hint of powder and
something sweet that every infant seemed to possess. Tears stung her eyes as
memories of watching Lori do this exact thing filled her. Her best friend had
been so overjoyed at becoming a mother And then that was taken from her
by Jacks own father.
A sob threatened to escape, but she pushed it down. She knew if Zane heard
her crying, he would come running. Hed been hovering, constantly poking his
head in and checking on her. Part of her ached to beg him to stay, but she knew
her arrival and the trouble she brought with her could only be handled by him.
He was running interference between his alpha and her, making sure she didnt
have to speak before she was ready. She knew they were delaying the
inevitable, but she appreciated the breathing room, nonetheless.
Jacks body went limp in her arms, his tiny weight completely relaxing
against her chest, but she continued to slowly circle the room. She wasnt quite
ready to let him go. She used him for comfort almost as much as he used her.
For weeks it had been them against the crazy and cruel world, and now it
seemed some of that was coming to an end. At least if Zane had his way.
The male was scary. And sexy, her lioness readily interjected that
descriptor. His body, his features, even the way he was so demanding appealed
to her. And his possessiveness and that barely banked violence It was as if
God knew what she needed and handed it over on a silver platter.
Because she needed that uncontrollable violence to keep her safe, to keep
Jack safe.
The muted ding of the front door s bell reached her, the sound slightly
muffled due to the distance from the main area of the apartment. Lions had
been coming and going all afternoon.
The deep rumble of the voices told her that quite a few men were within the
space, and she only heard the occasional tinkling tone of a female. She
imagined those two distinct voices belonged to the mates of the alpha and beta.
Addy sank into the large plush chair to the right of the door and let the soft
cushions wrap around her in a welcoming embrace. She sighed and allowed
herself to relax. It was the first time shed been able to breathe without panic
filling her since shed begun her mad dash from Tony.
She let her eyes drift closed, blocking out the bright light in the room, and
allowed herself to float toward sleep. Shed catch a quick nap since she knew
Zane wouldnt be able to keep the pride leaders at bay forever.
Jack squirmed and she immediately stroked his small back in an effort to
soothe him. Its all right, baby boy.
Except it wasnt.
This time it wasnt the high-pitched doorbell that reached her, but the heavy
thud of knuckles on wood announcing the visitor was banging on the main
door. Which wasnt entirely odd. Not everyone used the doorbell after all. And
yet This person was granted entrance and the first stifled words from his
mouth had her blood turning to ice and her heart freezing in her chest. The
words werent identifiable, but that voice
She knew that voice. Shed heard it often enough. Every time she called
Lori before moving to the city, that male answered. In every picture Lori sent
her, that male hovered nearby. Andwhen Addy visitedeverywhere they
went, he followed. It was as if Lori couldnt breathe without him at her side.
Now he was here. Here at her mates home. Inside her mates home. From what
she recalled of the layout of Zanes apartment, the lion couldnt be more than
one hundred feet from her at this very moment. No more than one hundred feet
away from Jack.
It wasnt Tony, he was in prison, but that didnt mean he wasnt still
involved in the running of the business. The Colletti familythey could be
put behind bars but they couldnt be taken down. Even though Tonys last name
was Davis, he was a Colletti at heart.
Addy knew that Jennifer, the betas mate, had put the human leader of the
Colletti family in prison, and soon after itd led to Tonys incarceration.
Yet hed still kept after Lori and Jack. Or rather just Jack after the male
orchestrated Loris death.
Did they know shed taken refuge with Zane? Was that why he was here?
The deep timbre of that voice grew closer, words exchanged between the
dangerous male and Zane as they approached and she knew she had to get
away. Somehow her mate was involved with this deadly and dangerous lion.
Did he know who hed let into his home? She prayed not. She prayed Zane
wasnt somehow involved with Tony.
Her mind spun, thoughts pinging through her brain, and she finally
snatched one from the rolling mass. Zane had recognized her fear and panic
when shed woken and had revealed there was more than one entrance and exit
to the apartment. Hed probably told her to soothe her and she doubted he
expected her to actually use the stairwell.
Well, she would. She would run from her mate despite her lioness roar
and scraping at Addys mind. It wanted to remain and confront their mate, find
out why hed brought that male into his home. Except She knew this
intruding lion was fast, able to shift much quicker than Addy, and it would take
him no more than one slice to tear out her throat. He could walk into the room,
see she held Jack to her chest, and then kill her for stealing him. Three seconds
tops and there was no telling what would happen to Jack after she died.
No, she couldnt risk it. She accepted running was probably a mistake and it
was only a matter of time before Tonys men, or Zane himself, found her
again, but she had to try. Lori entrusted Jack to her care because she knew
Addy would do whatever it took to keep him safe.
She jumped from the chair and strode across the room to snatch up the
diaper bag. She hadnt even touched it before that moment, but Zane assured
her it carried all the baby shit she needed. So she snared it, juggled Jack so
she could place the strap across her chest, and then she held the baby tightly
once again as she approached the door.
Ever so quietly she turned the knob and eased it open, allowing her
attention to flick up and down the hallway. The area remained empty and she
took her chance. She shot down the length, heading away from the main area of
the apartment and straight to the last room.
She crept into the space, immediately heading for the closet. Once inside
she made sure the door was closed behind her and then she focused on gaining
access to the stairwell. The back wall looked exactly as hed described, plain
and flat, not hinting at what it concealed, but she knew better.
Addy poked and prodded at the left side, hunting for the panel that was
supposed to slide apart at the touch of a werelion. The oils in her skin would
identify her species. It was then she realized Zane was much taller than she was,
so she needed to reach higher. The moment she extended her arm and skimmed
her fingertips over the painted wall, the access panel shed been hunting slid
aside to reveal a keypad. She rubbed her fingers together, trying to remember
the code that would grant her access.
Come on, come on, come on Addy knew it, she did, but she couldnt
remember dammit. Stupid, stupid, stupid, what is it?
A single squeak silenced her, piercing her chest like a knife, and she froze
in place. It had been too clear, too close, and she accepted she was moments
from being caught. Someone was nearby, whether Zane or another male, she
didnt know. But they were there.
Then the scent struck herevil, anger, violence Distantly she recognized
Zanes aroma as well, but it was the other that had adrenaline flooding her
veins.
Fear pummeling her, she looked around the closet, hunting for a place to
hide Jack. They were drawing closer with every second she hesitated. She
glanced to her left and right and finally settled on placing him on the ground in
the farthest corner of the space. She placed the diaper bag at his side, hopefully
keeping him corralled and safe.
The moment he was out of harms way, she centered herself in the closet.
Allowing her lioness to come forward, golden fur slowly slid from her pores
and coated her skin. Her human hands quickly transformed to deadly claws
while her fangs lengthened and sharpened in preparation of tearing into flesh.
She wouldnt let the male have him. She would go down fighting and
hopefully Zane would finish the job she started. She didnt believe her mate
knew who hed allowed into the spacehe was rough and raw, but not evil. If
the lion came after her, she had no doubt Zane would go at him.
*
You dont need to follow me, Zane glanced over his shoulder at the other
lion. In fact, he really didnt want the male anywhere near him while he
completed his task.
I was hoping youd let me see that kid of yours. Kevin smiled and
something about that grin rubbed him the wrong way. Ive got two nephews,
and man, I just love the little ones.
Kevin could like all the little ones he liked, but he wasnt getting near Jack
and Addy.
I hear you. Zane nodded. Why dont you head back to the living room?
Ill see if I can coax Addy in a second. His phone had vibrated only moments
ago, telling him someone had accessed the apartments back door. The only
other person who knew of it was Addy and he couldnt help the anger and fear
that battled inside him. She was his mate and was trying to leave him? He made
sure Kevin remained near the rooms door before he focused on the closet. I
just need to check
Ill die before I let you have him.
The words punched him the chest and Zane fought to catch up, battled to
figure out what had suddenly gone wrong. When hed left Addy an hour ago,
shed been fine. She still hadnt wanted to come out and meet other enforcers,
and he happily agreed. His lion didnt want any other males around her while
she remained unclaimed. His fellow enforcer Oscar was a charmer, and the
ladies always liked Lennox. He didnt want either of those men sniffing after
his Addy.
So, how did they go from Addy lovingly cuddling Jack in one of the spare
bedrooms to her facing off against him with death on her mind? Hed expected
her to need a little calming and a few words that eased her worries as he led
her back to the guestroom. Shed been running with Jack for a while. He
should have anticipated her attempt at escape.
Addy? He held his hands up, palms out while raising his eyebrows in
question. Whats going on, sweetheart?
But her attention wasnt on him. No, it was slightly lower and over his left
shoulder. She was focusing on Kevin. The male was a newcomer to the pride,
previously living as a lone lion in the city and only recently requesting to join
an organized pride. While Marcus handled the whole continent, he also kept
things organized in their home city.
Kevin had been training as an enforcer for the last month and Marcus and
Brett had slowly been feeling him out. The two males as well as Zane hadnt
trusted him and it seemed that Addy felt the same way. However, this seemed a
little extreme, even for him.
Addy? He took a half step forward.
I mean it. She flexed her fingers, claws lengthening farther. The rapid
snap and crack of bones preceded the transformation of her mouth to better
resemble a lions snout. That partial shift gave her more room for her cats
deadly teeth.
Why dont you tell me whats wrong? He sensed she was on the edge, her
scent sinking into him and pure panic as well as utter terror stung his nose.
Addy
The rest of his thought didnt escape his lips because his world exploded in
a rush of skin and fur.
Kevin snarled, the rage-filled sound striking Zane in the back and that was
immediately followed by a rush of pain that consumed his left shoulder. Claws
dug into his flesh and yanked, attempting to remove him from the doorway.
Fuck that shit.
No matter Kevins history, no matter his strength, he was no match for
Zane. He immediately threw off the other males attack and spun in place to
face his opponent. In that rush of movement, his transition equaled Kevin until
it was partially shifted lion against partially shifted lion. Whatever Kevins
reason for attack, it would be the last thing he ever did.
His body flexed and strained as he fought the smaller lion. He roared and
struck with his right hand, catching his opponent in the jaw. Skin and muscle
split, exposing the bone beneath. Kevin tried to return the favor, but Zane easily
blocked it and countered with a swipe across the chest, leaving deep furrows in
his wake.
Red painted Kevins skin and soaked into his clothing. It continued down
and stained the wood as well.
Kevin backed off, retreating slightly, and Zane pushed his advantage. He
stepped forward, going on the attack and went after the male.
Rage burned inside.
Zane and his lion demanded retribution. He could deal with an attack on
himself, but this asshole went after his mate and that was unacceptable.
He locked claws with Kevinarms and paws moving in a blur. Cut. Slice.
Gouge. Pain assaulted him, but Zane pushed it aside. He didnt have time to
worry about the hurt that covered him. The other lions fury made his hatred
for Addy easily evident and he knew only death would bring an end to this
males loathing for his mate.
Zane snarled and roared, threatening his opponent with sound as he
continued his relentless attack. The heavy pounding of booted feet on wood
reached him, but he couldnt spare a moment to focus on those who
approached. No, he had a lion to kill. Until that was done, he had to keep his
attention on Kevin.
The nearing newcomers made his opponent more desperate, made him
make mistake after mistake, granting Zane opportunity after opportunity. Yes,
he had his own peppering of cuts and bruises, but Zane saw the white of
Kevins bones almost as much as he saw the fresh red of his flesh.
Zane! Marcus yelled and then stepped forward to move between him and
Kevin.
Rather than let the alpha put an end to the battle, Zane snapped at the male
and swung his arm in a great arch, claws ready to sink into his leader s arm.
Mine!
Dammit, Zane! Once again he ignored his alpha.
Jab. Duck. Feint. Swing.
More and more blood flowed as strength fled Kevin until one final punch
scent him tumbling to the ground and sliding across the slick surface until he
collided with the wall. Still Zane went after him. He rushed forward, intent on
finishing the job he started, only to have arms and hands halt his progress.
No, dammit, Brett snarled in his ear.
Fucking quit it, Oscar demanded.
God damn asshole. Lennox merely stated the truth.
All three men held him steady, refusing to let him go, and then his vision
was consumed by Marcus. What the fuck is your problem?
His problem? They were his problem.
Let Zane go! Addys trembling voice cut through their conversation and
Zanes lion shifted his focus to their mate. Let him his mate sobbed, go.
Instead of fighting to get at Kevin, Zane changed his tactic and yanked
backward against the three males. So surprised by his action, he easily slipped
from their hold and was able to race to Addys side. He immediately swept her
into his arms, uncaring that his blood would soak into her clothing. If anything,
it would warn others away from her. He hadnt claimed her yet, but now she
was coated in his scent.
She wrapped her arms around him, clinging to him as tears soaked his skin
and he immediately sought to ease her fears. Im fine. Everythings fine. She
continued to cry, and he worried shed make herself sick. Im okay,
sweetheart, but what about Jack?
Jack? She sniffled. Hes
She lifted her head and as before she looked past his shoulder and
stiffened, telling without words that someone approached.
He spun and faced off against the group that drew near her. Marcus took the
lead while Brett, Oscar, and Lennox stood at his back. You need to tell me
what the hell is going on here. Now.
Zane would tell his alpha if he knew. The only thing he was conscious of
was that Kevin tried to come after his mate.
Addy trembled against his back, her front pressed against his blood soaked
clothing.
Im waiting, Marcus growled.
His mate shook once again, her fear pounding at him and his lion. That
scent had him snarling anew. Which, in turn, had the four males returning the
sounds.
Zane, she whispered. If If theyll get Kevin out of here, Ill talk to
them. But notnot with him here.
That had him stiffening and looking over his shoulder at her. How do you
know his name?
Because he used to work for Tony Davis. And Tony Davis is Jacks
father. Hes the murderer who disposed of Jacks mother, she whimpered.
Kevin helped Tony kill her. Hes been chasing me
For his involvement in Tonys world and the death of Jacks mother, the
guy was gonna die. Because hed actually been chasing Zanes mate, he was
gonna die now.
He shrugged off Addys hold and from one breath to the next, his shift
rolled through him. He bowled past the four males, brushing them aside as if
they didnt exist, and launched himself at the now unconscious Kevin.
Jaws spread wide, lions teeth fully in place, and his mouth watered at the
thought of tearing Kevin into pieces. He would start at the males throat,
ripping it out in one snap. No, wait he wanted to hear the males screams. He
wanted Kevin to fear death just as Addy had while shed been on the run. Yes,
that seemed like a wonderful idea. Hed start from the bottom. See if the male
could chase anyone with no feet.
Best. Plan. Ever.
Except, just as he was about to crunch into Kevins ankle, a larger feline
body shoved him aside. Now he faced off against his own alpha, the massive
lion outweighing him easily and Marcus would have no trouble putting him
down. But Zanes cat wanted blood, it wanted yells of pain and to breathe the
sweet scent of death.
Marcus bared his fangs in a clear threat and Zane snarled. He paced along
the wall, eyes trained on his alpha as he fought to find any hint of vulnerability
in the males defense of Kevin. And he found nothing. Dammit.
Then one single sound drew away his aggression and replaced it with the
fierce need to protect and guard. It didnt come from the alphas or betas mate,
or even Addy. No, it came from Jack. Little Jack who couldnt yet defend
himself and Zanes lion decided caring for the small child would fall onto his
golden shoulders.
With one last curl of his lip at Marcus, he abandoned his post near the wall
and padded toward Addy. He carefully nudged her deeper into the closet, and
nosed the bag that kept Jack hidden. He gently pushed it aside with one paw and
then met his mates gaze. With a tilt of his head, he encouraged her to lift the
baby and give it comfort. Did he want vengeance for what happened to Jack
and Addy? Yes. But it could wait and explanations to the small group hovering
in the doorway could wait. Right now he needed to care for his family.
Chapter Four

Addy stared down at the small child, little Jack snug and content in his new
crib. The crib wasnt the only thing new. Somehow the pride had transformed
one of Zanes spare bedrooms into a nursery within hours. The enforcers as
well as the alpha and betas mates all pitching in to create a space for Jack.
Part of her should be annoyed with the assumption she and the baby would
be staying with Zane, but then the other part of her realized of course she would
stay with Zane. He was her mate and no amount of drama or trouble could
change that. So here she was.
At least until the alphano, he wanted her to call him Marcusmade a
decision about the baby. Lori had no family to speak of, but Tony had relatives
though the family was filled with men who thought someone spilling coffee
on their shirt was a good reason to tear out the offender s throat. Which meant
Marcus was torn between the laws of their people and what was best for Jack.
Hes not going to disappear on you, Zane murmured. No one is taking
him from us.
Her lioness purred, satisfied with both her mates presence and his words.
She slowly turned from the crib to face her mate. I understand, but are you
sure were worth all this trouble?
Zane moved faster than a bullet, closing the distance between them in what
seemed like an instant, and then she was crushed to him. His fingers tangled in
her hair, pulling her head back, while his other arm wrapped around her waist
and held her close. Yes, he hissed. Protecting you both is never trouble. He
leaned down and nuzzled her neck. I want to do nothing but care for you and
Jack for the rest of our lives.
But
Youre mine. Hes mine.
Tension she hadnt realized shed been clinging to finally fled her body.
She slumped against him and allowed him to take her weight. When he eased
his fist, she released a heavy sigh and she leaned against his chest. She breathed
deeply and drew his scent into her lungs.
I know its going to be hard. The CollettisDavisesare going to try and
take him. But Lori Wants me to keep him out of that world.
They can try, but they wont succeed. This time, his touch wasnt rough,
but very gentle as he encouraged her to lift her chin and meet his gaze. Baby,
you dont understand right now, but you will. What I take, what I claim, stays
mine. Someday youll believe that.
I want to but Shed been running and hiding and knew what the Colletti
family was capable of.
You will. He lowered his head, his expression one of asking permission
as he slowly brought his lips near her.
Zane was going to kiss her, or at least wanted to, and was waiting for her
reaction. She only had one, of course. Despite her problems, despite the fact the
Colletti family wanted her blood and Jack in their possession, she wanted to
mate him.
He did not complete the kiss, did not press their lips together, but instead
hovered above her mouth. He was still giving her a chance to say no.
Is it safe? Will someone
Zane spoke against her mouth. I would never do anything to risk your
safety. The alpha and beta agreed to stand guard while new background checks
are run on the alphas guards and pride enforcers. But if you want to wait
If she wanted to wait, hed give her time. Except she knew he wanted her,
could feel evidence of his arousal and need hard against her hip and yet He
was giving her the chance to say no. She didnt know of any other male whod
be so understanding. And it was those words that made the decision for her.
II trust you and if you say were safe, then we are. Which means I dont
want to wait. She pressed to her tiptoes, anxious to begin a kiss that would
eventually lead to other more delicious things, but he didnt allow her to do so.
She whimpered, and tried again, only to be thwarted.
You were ready to leave me, Addy. His voice was hoarse and rough.
Shame washed over her, anger at herself over not trusting him pummeling
her. She should have. She doubted shed be given a mate who meant her harm.
Instinctively she knew the man holding her didnt have an evil bone in his
body. Her time with Lori had allowed her to fine-tune her senses.
Addy opened her mouth to release the apology that hovered on her lips
only to have him immediately silence any regret.
No, dont say anything. It was smart. You didnt know medont know me
and had to keep Jack safe. I admit it hurt my pride a little, but I cant deny
you did a good thing. A fierce possessiveness filled his gaze. But now you
know Im worthy of your trust. So if you even think about running again I will
take you over my knee and turn that sexy ass of yours bright red.
She couldnt have stopped the blush that filled her face had she tried. You
cant say things like that.
Why? He raised a single brow. Its the truth.
With a groan, she nudged him. Im sure you think youll do that but
Oh, itll happen. Zane breathed deeply and released a rumbling purr.
And I think you like that idea. You want me to strip
She placed her fingers over his lips to shut him up. She wasnt going to
confess that it intrigued her. Not at all, not ever. And especially not in Jacks
nursery. Hush. Dont you know theres an infant not three feet away?
He didnt even bother apologizing. What? He shrugged. Its not like the
kid isnt going to hear and see us loving on each other at some point.
loving on each other
Loving Our son sure as hell isnt going to see
I like hearing you calling him our son, but you shouldnt curse around
him. Dont want to teach him bad habits. His voice turned husky and seductive.
And he wont watch us loving, but hes going to know his parents make love. I
bet youre a screamer. Am I right? He shook his head. Dont answer that, Ill
find out myself.
Zane released her and turned away, snatching her wrist and tugging her
from the room. He drew her down the hallway, their steps quiet as their bare
feet padded toward the master bedroom. It wasnt a far walk from the nursery
down the hallway, but it seemed like a million miles. And once again, he
practically read her mind. The moment they stepped into the room theyd
share, he pointed to one of the bedside tables. I bought the best baby monitor
they make. You can listen to him, but its got a camera too so you can see him
as well. If he makes a sound or breathes funny, well know.
And she found herself tumbling toward loving him all the more.
The presence of the monitor reminded her of what hed said. Parents? You
said parents making love
He jolted to a stop. Of course. What else can we be? I already told you
youre not leaving me. Dont even think
No, she shook her head. I wasnt I didnt think were parents. We
hardly know each other and were parents.
Exactly. And now, we need to give Jack a brother or sister. He slowly
drew her toward the massive king-size bed. Any objections?
Yes, she had worries and concerns that still nagged her brain, but there
could never be anything wrong with claiming her mate. No, none at all.
*
Zane nearly pounced on her the moment the words registered. Instead, he
tugged a bit harder and the moment she was close enough, he wrapped his
arms around her and fell onto the bed. A bright laugh escaped her and he found
himself smiling in response. Despite recent events, he was thrilled they could
find a little bit of joy in each other. There was no doubt they needed it.
He rolled them, pinning her beneath his bulk and holding her captive. He
managed to grasp her wrists in one hand and stretch her arms above her. With a
firm but gentle push he pinned them in place. Keep them there.
Addy whimpered and the sound went straight to his groin, making him
twitch and throb in his jeans. Hed been hard for her the moment her scent
filled him, and hed been craving her ever since. Now, hed have her.
Addy? Are you listening? When she released a low whine and nodded, he
moved on.
The feel of her, the sensation of having those curves flush against him, had
so many fantasies flitting through his mind. He wished they had time to spend
days mating and exploring each and every one of his ideas. But they didnt,
they had Jack to worry about and care for. So that made each coming together
important. He had time for one idea, not thirty-seven.
At her confirmation, he released her wrists and got to the task of
discovering his mates secrets.
He captured her mouth in a passionate kiss, sliding his tongue between her
lips and exploring her with a single sweep. Her flavors blossomed across his
taste buds, arousing him even further as the flavors of sweetness and heat filled
him. She teased him, carefully sucking on his tongue, and he nearly came from
that alone. He carefully drew his mouth away and nipped her lower lip.
Witch, he whispered into her mouth. She merely hummed and wiggled
against him, forcing a groan from his chest. Youre gonna kill me.
Then he focused on making her cry out, torturing her with pleasure as she
was now doing to him.
When he asked for his lions help, the beast was quick to react and
transform Zanes fingernails to sharpened claws so he could slice away her
clothing. Delicious inches of her flesh were revealed, goose bumps rising on
the newly exposed skin, and his mouth watered with the need to sample her.
He wasnt one to deny himself, so he slid down her body, licking every bit
of her that was bared. He lapped at her collarbone, nibbled her nipple, and
when he got to the juncture of her thighs he nuzzled her slightly damp curls.
The salty musk of her arousal filled his nose and despite the gentle tightening
of her legs in an effort to hide from him, he refused to let her. Even when
small claw-tipped fingers pricked his skull, he remained in place. He did,
however, let his attention meet hers and he narrowed his eyes.
Where are your hand supposed to be?
Zane
He puffed a warm burst of air over her needy flesh. What, love?
Its Im not pretty down there
No, she wasnt pretty, she was gorgeous. The plump lower lips, the swollen
pinkness of her need for him Magnificent. And his. Couldnt forget that part.
Shhh Youre more than pretty and right here this is glorious. He
kept his attention on her as he lowered his head and pressed a soft kiss to the
seam of her sex lips. Im going to taste you, make you scream my name, and
then Im going to mate you. As each word left his mouth, her breathing
increased until she panted and squirmed. Any objections? Addy shook her
head and he smiled wide. Good.
Then he did exactly that. He put his mouth against her, tongue sliding out to
lap at her cream as he gathered the evidence of her need into him. The flavors
overwhelmed him with their strength and intensity, calling to his inner beast
and demanding the lion come forward. He wanted to roll and bathe in her scent
until he was covered from head to toe.
He suckled her clit, the very source of her pleasure, and moved with her as
she rocked against him. She babbled and moaned, begging for more. When he
traced her opening with a single finger, she whimpered, but when he slid two
fingers into her velvety warmth, she finally screamed. She milked his
intrusion, hips moving with him as he thrust and retreated, and all the while he
continued flicking that bundle of nerves with his tongue.
Her face flushed and her eyes went glassy. Hed done that, hed
overwhelmed his mate until she was a trembling mass of need, and yeah, he
was cocky about that fact.
Zane knew she was close, the intricacy of her flavors telling him shed
moved beyond a craving for him and on to bone deep need. A need he was
happy to satisfy. When she began tightening around him rhythmically, he knew
she lingered at the edge, that it wouldnt take much to send her into the abyss of
joy.
He didnt stop his hand, but he did lift his mouth from her, smiling widely
when she sobbed and gave him an accusing glare. Do you want to come now
or with me inside you? Zane ached for her to pick the latter option. He wanted
to be hilt deep in her wetness and feel her come apart around him. He slid his
fingers free and then carefully thrust into her once again. Addy?
*
Zane wanted her to think? To speak? He had to be kidding. Since he was no
longer pushing her toward the edge of release and instead had her hovering
near the brink, she figured he was serious. Bastard.
He pushed deep once again, fingers curled and stroking that pretty, pretty
spot and she shouted her decision to the ceiling. Inside me!
Those three syllables had him bolting into action. While itd only taken
moments for him to slice and remove the clothing from her body, he took even
less time with his own. Hed hardly left her before he was back, his sweat
dampened flesh firm against her and the skin on skin connection had her inner
lioness purring and aching to bare its belly to their mate.
He resettled between her thighs, but instead of his mouth floating above her
center, it was his hardness pressed intimately against her. He gently rocked his
hips, sending a lightning bolt of pleasure down her spine and she shuddered,
unable to squash her reaction to his touch.
She wanted him, there was no denying that, but she didnt want it going to
his head either.
You like that? He rolled his hips once again and she smiled when her
shudder was answered by his own.
I think we both do. She smiled widely. Zane growled, baring his teeth in
mock anger and she was quick to respond. Dont flash em unless youre
using em.
That caused him to growl once again and she smiled even wider. Her
teasing hit the mark, and now he was serious. His hands were everywhere,
stroking and petting her, lips gliding over her skin and sucking on her. In all
the while, his hardness lay flush with her heat until she was ready to scream
with the need for him.
Dammit, Zane
He rumbled and she had the distinct feeling it was actually a laugh. Her
suspicion was confirmed when he lifted his head from her breast and met her
stare. Yeah, baby?
Quit teasing. You gave me a choice and I told you I wanted to come with
you inside me. That cant happen if you dont, you know, get inside me.
She was pretty sure that part was obvious.
Another chuckle as he carefully lifted his hips enough to position the tip of
his length against her moist entrance. He carefully teased her, sliding in a bare
inch before retreating.
Is this what you want?
She whimpered and nodded.
Nope, give me the words.
Bastard. She shuddered and swallowed the moan that leapt to her lips.
Yes, thats what I want. I want you inside me.
Then thats what youll have.
And damn the man, he kept his promises. His hardness carefully slid inside
her, stretching her as his fingers had not, and she moaned with the new pain-
tinged pleasure that overtook her. He slipped deeper and deeper, his length
stroking her and she trembled with the overwhelming sensations of his
possession.
He set a maddening rhythm, a careful retreat met by a gentle thrust that did
nothing more than make her crazy with need for him. They remained quiet,
their bodies and breathing making more than enough sound. Their hips met,
each collision pushing her closer to the ultimate joy, and her body called for
release.
She hovered at the edge, dangling on the very precipice, and she held her
breath as she waited to see if hed give her what she needed.
Like any good mate, he met her needs. He flashed his white lengthened
fangs, his lion obviously prepared to claim her, and Addy found her lioness
responded in kind.
Youre mine. The words spurred her pleasure, sending it sliding through
her veins and it snatched away any hint of control that remained.
She was nothing more than a ball of overwhelming sensation and soul deep
need.
Youre mine. She bared her fangs as well, letting him know what was to
come.
Based on the flare of gold in his eyes, she knew he more than embraced the
idea. They became a mass of writhing bodies, both hunting for that ultimate
release. Their roars and yells gained in volume with each passing second. His
were a constant demand while hers a steady plea for more. Until finally
Finally the end was there. Her orgasm overtook her in a surprising wave of
blinding ecstasy. Her body was no longer her own, but merely a rolling wave
of bliss. She trembled and twitched, toes curling and limbs refusing to
acknowledge her commands, but there was one thing she could do.
Addy could claim him. Because as he lowered his head, mouth wide and
prepared to sink into her flesh, she did the same. She struck as he bit her, going
deep and she reveled in the coppery sweetness that rolled over her tongue.
Heaven, more and more heaven filled her as she sucked on the wound shed
caused. Pain assaulted her as well, telling her she now belonged to him.
The evidence of their mating continued, her very essence reaching out for
his, the glowing ethereal tendrils twining and tying them together. They would
forever be linked, mind to mind until their thoughts were no longer their own.
There would be no secrets from her mate. His thickness grew even more,
knotting their bodies as his release filled her. They would be tied together,
body and soul, this reaction only present between true mates, and she gloried in
this cascade of events.
She was his, and he was hers. Theyd shared those words, but now they
were connected forever in truth and nothing could ever tear them apart. And
now his mating knot would ensure they remained close for minutes after theyd
satisfied each other. It wasnt a time to be rushed or shortened, but a time of
connection for a couple.
Except the soft wail of an infant through a baby monitor had Zane
softening in an instant. It was as if nature programmed a parents body to
But they werent parents. Not in truth. But in her heart, obviously in Zanes
heart, they were. If only
Chapter Five

Addy wasnt sure what to expect. Theyd simply received a call, Colton
informing that Marcus requested their presence at the prides lands situated an
hour outside the city. Zane hadnt yet taken her to the area, his concern for their
safety keeping him close to home and Addy and Jack within the apartment
unless they had enforcers at their side.
She couldnt blame her mate for his caution. Things in the city were still
very much in the air. The Collettishuman and werelionwere still a big
threat despite the leaders being in prison. Criminal life apparently didnt end
behind bars. It simply meant the men had to be more creative.
But something had to have changed if Zane was willing to take them to
such a wide open and hard to protect area.
Their SUV carefully bounced over the rutted road, each rise and fall
dragging giggles and laughs from Jack. Hed grown so much in the month
theyd been with Zane, as if love and care were all he needed to blossom into a
healthy and happy cub.
The trees that had surrounded them for the last twenty minutes finally
thinned out and then completely vanished, exposing a large area of flat, cleared
land. Numerous cars were parked off to one side, many familiar to her. She
recognized that Marcus and Brett were there, but also several other enforcers
shed come to know as well. Lennox, Grant, Austin
Are we having a pride gathering? She furrowed her brow.
Not that I know of. Zane seemed as confused as her.
Jack continued giggling and enjoying himself as they carefully pulled up
alongside the alphas vehicle. The second her mate shifted into park, the baby
began fussing and yelling to be released. He didnt mind being in the car, but
only when it was moving.
I know, I know, Im coming Addy quickly hopped from the SUV and
went toward the back seat only to have Zane cut her off.
She shook her head and smiled. The big, bad enforcer was a sucker for a
baby. Come to daddy, big man.
Leaving her mate to it, she stepped back and looked around the space. She
spied the small group near the tree line, several of the males in their lion form,
while others remained on two feet. She recognized Jennifer and Penelope, and
noted what seemed to be hardly suppressed excitement surrounding the women.
She wasnt sure what had the lionesses on pins and needlesthere was no
telling with them. They bounced around over a night on the town and new baby
booties in equal measure.
Zanes large hand settled on her lower back and she glanced at him to see
he cuddled Jack to his chest with his free arm. As a family they padded toward
the group and with each step, her worry grew. Yes, the two women seemed to
be brimming with anticipation, but the mens gazes were more shuttered which
added to her unease.
Zane?
He leaned over and pressed a kiss to her temple. Were fine.
Fine. Right. Of course.
Soon they were mere feet from the group, and the delicious scent of fresh
meat teased her nose. That was also about the time she realized the few lion
males were busily cleaning themselves and licking their whiskers. A recent kill.
They couldnt be delivering bad news if theyd been hunting for celebratory
food, right? Unless it was an apology meal because Marcus finally came to a
decision about Jack.
She flicked her attention to the large alpha and swallowed hard. An
unreadable yet serious expression covered his features and a hint of fear
snaked its way through her body.
Jack fussed and Zane rubbed her back. Calm down. Everythings fine, he
murmured.
As they approached the small group, Penelope broke away and rushed
toward them, her arms outstretched. Oh, let me snuggle and get my baby fix.
Addy looked from the alphas mate to Marcus and then Zane, hunting for
any hint of an ulterior motive. She didnt see any subterfuge and yet And yet
Addy couldnt shake the feeling that something huge was in the works. And that
something involved Jack.
Acting as only a mama lion could, she darted away from Zane and
immediately cut Penelope off with a low snarl and curl of her lip. Whats
going on?
Penelope drew up short, sliding to a stop before crashing into Addy, and
the woman stared at her, head tilted to the side in question. What do you
mean? Marcus approached and took up position at Penelopes side. We kept
things small because you dont trust everyone in the pride yet, but we wanted to
celebrate
Marcus nudged his mate behind him and Addy spied a glare on Penelopes
facethe expression directed at the alphabefore she was hidden from view.
Celebrate? Zane tugged Addy back and carefully passed her the baby and
then she was staring at his back so the males faced each other. What are we
celebrating? Why are we out here? Some of the concern shed held through
their travels now seemed to be making an impression on Zane. Whats going
on?
Of course were celebrating. Marcus tone left the idiot hanging in the
air. Why the hell do you think I dragged you out here? Didnt Colton tell you
that I
A movement off to her left drew her attention and she watched as one of the
larger males carefully rose to his feet and inched toward the tree line.
Colton told me to get my family here by four. He didnt tell me why,
Zane snarled. Hes left us on edge all day. So whats going on?
That distant lion continued on his careful path.
He should have explained that I met with Tony Davis and weve all come
to an agreement that Jack Davis is now Jack Edwards. His official parents are
Zane and Addy Edwards. In exchange, he gets transferred to a better facility
and we stop pressuring him to snitch on others. Marcus finished his statement
with a wide smile and she wondered if that was all Marcus promised. Thats
why were here. Marcus shook his head. He didnt tell you, did he? Dammit.
Marcus gaze remained on Zane and he tilted his head back to yell. Colton, get
up here. The alpha peered around Zane and met Addys gaze. Im sorry if he
caused you to worry. Colton probably thought he was playing a joke and that it
be funny to keep you in the dark.
Addy was slowly realizing the stress shed carried all day was only because
some overgrown adolescent thought he was amusing. Now her fear was slowly
turning to anger and she recognized that the furball attempting to get away with
his tail tucked between his legs and head hanging low was probably the
Colton in question.
I think hes trying to disappear. Addy gestured toward the now
disappearing male.
A low growl escaped and then her mate was snapping questions at Marcus.
Jack is ours?
Yes.
And everyone knew this? Colton, too?
Yes.
So he was trying to cause trouble on purpose?
It appears so.
She could practically read her mates mind and knew he was a balloon of
aggression just waiting to pop. Zane did not take it well when others upset her,
and todays events definitely qualified as an upset.
One last question. Zane tilted his head from side to side, cracking his
neck. Can you look after my family while I take care of something for a
minute?
Marcus response was instantaneous. Of course.
Zane spun around to face her and dropped a soft kiss to the top of Jacks
head before then placing those lips over hers in a brief touch. Ill be right
back, baby. I gotta take care of something real quick.
Then he was gone, racing into the trees. He ripped clothes free of his body
as he went and was fully transformed before he hit the forest. Roars, snarls,
and growls reached past the trees but otherwise the battle was hidden from
view.
Penelope and Jennifer rushed forward, the Alpha Mate easily pushing
Marcus aside, and both women spouted reassurances that Zane would come
back to her hale and whole. There was nothing to worry about. Sometimes the
enforcers needed to let off a little steam. A lot of times Colton needed his ass
handed to him.
Addy let it rush in one ear and out the other because truly, she wasnt
worried a bit. Shed find out the details about Tonys relinquishment of Jack
later, but she trusted the alpha to be speaking the truth. He wasnt the alpha of
North America for no reason. No, her mind was whirling around a handful of
words from her mate.
my family
A loud booming roar shook the earth and she recognized Zanes
frustration. Jack giggled in response, squirming in her hold, and she couldnt
help but smile along with the baby.
Yes, they made up a small family and hopefully it would grow someday.
Actually, she lightly brushed her lower stomach, it would grow very, very
soon.

The End of On Her Tail
Book Four: Heads or Tails
Chapter One

Hillary really wished she had some sort of superpower. It didnt even have
to be one of the more known abilities. Shed be happy with something small
and insignificant, such as being able to turn her finger into a metal key instead
of a lion claw. Mainly because as she stared at a locked door, a key would be
really helpful. A lion claw Not so much.
She just wished
Nothing. She wished for nothing. After sitting behind a locked door for
over twenty years, shed finally accepted that hoping and praying got her
nothing. And yet Shed heard the whispers and low growls, snatched a look
at a newspaper blowing in the wind drifting across the street, and she the
recognized the scent of fear that hovered in the air. Something had changed.
And if she played her cards right, and waited for just the right moment, she
might escape.
Or rather, she might have escaped had she played her cards right the first
time around. But she hadnt and so now she sat alone in her room staring at a
locked door.
Which brought her back around to wishing she had a superpower.
Hillary sighed and flopped onto her bed. It was one of the nicer ones shed
had over the years even if the location left much to be desired. The mattress
was plush and soft with just the right amount of give without being too squishy.
And bonus, the whole room was hers alone. Considering the first fifteen years
of her imprisonment had been spent sharing a room with one half-mad
werelion or another, this was heaven.
Mostly. It wasnt quite so heavenly when the activities outside her room,
and the sounds that came through the thick door, insinuated there was some
heavy-duty movement going on. Not super surprising. She couldnt count the
number of times theyd changed location, but the situation seemed so very,
very different than all the others.
In the past, Tony Davishead of the werelion branch of the Colletti crime
familydirected everything. In the present, Tony was behind bars.
Get your ass in gear! We need to get the fuck out of here! Johnny
bellowed, and Hillary felt the vibrations in her bones. Damn, the big fucker
was scared. And that guy he was never fearful. Nothing ever rocked his boat.
He was almost seven feet of rock hard crazed asshole.
I said get the fuck moving! Panic filled his tone. Then a heavy thud was
immediately followed by an echoing crack of wood and her door bowed
slightly, a thin line now bisecting the panel.
Obviously somebody did not have their listening ears on and Johnny was
throwing things, or werelions, around.
Hillary rolled from the bed and padded to the door. She banged her fist on
the solid wood and raised her voice to be heard. Hey! Whats going on?
And she heard nothing. Not really surprising. Her jailers werent exactly
happy about keeping an eye on her. When the responsibility of watching over
the Colletti/Davis omega werelion was weighed against shooting and killing
people, the omega thing tended to lose.
Hey, she would be happy to relieve them of their duty and waltz on out of
the building, but they never took her up on the offer. Something about the boss
being scarier than her. Whatever.
Another crash, this one shaking the entire wall and little bits of the popcorn
ceiling rained down on her. She shook her head and dislodged the dust,
sneezing when some tickled her nose. Seriously? Shed just washed her hair.
Her lioness whimpered and whinedconcerned that Hillary was about to
start some shitbut she totally wasnt. The animal didnt believe her and
Hillary couldnt blame the kitty. Her human half had gotten her into a lot of
trouble over the years and she was ready to experience some more now.
Aldo! Is that you? You gotta stand up to Johnny, man. Dont let him throw
you into walls. You gotta demand some A bellowing roar from Johnny cut
off the rest of her statement and she crossed her arms over her chest as she
waited for him to come snarling at her. The man was strong as hell and loyal to
a fault, but pretty dumb. And not even pretty pretty dumb. The guy had gotten
into ten too many fistfights and that nose of his
Anyway, Hillary waited. And waited. And waited so long she realized she
was tapping her foot in impatience. Through it all, Johnny had yet to make an
appearance.
What the hell?
The sounds of running and fighting continued to filter past the door to her
prison, some were the unmistakable snarls and whimpers of fighting while
others were the banging crash of things being packed away. As if they were
prepping for a move. Which, fine they could totally move, but the whole
process usually involved her. A lot.
Crazy lions generally needed an omega to keep them calm, even more so
when they were under stress. A quick cut and run was very stressful. She kept
the peace-ish while they worked.
Okay, Aldo wasnt taking the bait. Time to go for the big guy directly.
Obviously, the average omega lion wouldnt dream of spouting off like she
was about to, but Hillary wasnt the average omega lion. Growing up with
Tony as a father meant she was anything but ordinary.
Yo! Johnny, I heard from Caesar that his sister Carmela said youve got a
tiny dick!
That still got her nothing but silence. Dammit.
Hillary leaned against the wall and let her head drop back to rest on the
smooth surface. A bit of her hair covered her eyes, and she blew it away.
Theyd promised her a haircut and still had yet to deliver. Fine. If being a bitch
wasnt working, shed be a whining girl. Somebody would have to show up at
some point.
She didnt bother banging or knocking since she doubted itd do much
good. She just needed to annoy him enough to come talk to her. Johnny! You
said you were going to get that stylist Carmelo likes to come do my hair.
Whats up with that? Whens that happening?
A jumbling crash, the clink and clank of glass and pans scattering on the
tile floor of the kitchen reached her. And she only happened to know that
specific sound because shed done it a time or two. Or five. Shed done it five
times. She admitted to still having a rebellious streak a mile wide.
Hillary blamed it on not growing up with kids her own age and working
out all that defiance in her teens like every other kid.
Johnny called her a bitch.
Hillary told him to go fuck himself.
And then Johnny
Johnny did nothing. Because as she replayed those memories, something
had changed in the house. And that specific something was the fact that she was
now alone.
They wouldnt she murmured and pressed her ear against the wall. She
coaxed her lioness forward and encouraged it to help her. The little whiny
thing shook its massive head in denial and Hillary mentally sighed. Come on,
sweetheart. I promise not to get into any trouble for at least a week.
It knew she was lying. Dammit.
But she really needed her suspicions confirmed because with the lack of
growls and grunts came an uneasy silence. One that was different than others
shed experienced in the past. This one was a stillness that only came from a
place that had been abandoned.
That got the cats attention. It might hate their captors, but it didnt want to
be without other lions either.
So this time, when she pressed her ear to the wall and closed her eyes as
she beckoned the feline forward, it granted her request. It padded nearer, head
bowed and tail lax between its legs. The animal was the epitome of subservient
lioness and Hillary loathed that part of her. Omega or not, she hated that the cat
was such a pushover, that it could be bullied and battered without objection.
She swallowed her frustration and pushed the emotion down. Being upset
with her other half wouldnt accomplish anything. Not now, anyway.
The cat nudged her and Hillary opened herself to its presence as the beast
granted her a greater ability to hear. As she focused, she disregarded the rush
of water in the pipes and the scratching scrape of bugs in the walls. Instead she
hunted other familiar sounds. She sought Johnnys heavy breathing or the
thump of Caesar s heart or the constant digestion of food from Aldos
stomach hell, she wouldve been happy with some of the guys she didnt
know that well. Anyone. But she heard nothing.
Now her lioness was beginning to panic, the feline catching on to Hillarys
thought process and slowly realizing they were alone. Alone and she didnt
have high hopes that the men would be back. Theyd packed, hadnt they?
Hillary pushed away from the wall and padded to the door, hoping the
crack in the panel would allow her to scent some of the surrounding air. Her
rooms were generally sealed well and didnt allow aromas in or out. Not that
Tony hadnt wanted her scenting others, he just didnt want others to realize he
had an omega at hand. Blah, blah, whatever, whatever She didnt care about
the whys, she only cared about whether the system had failed.
The lioness was quick to render assistance this time, no coaxing needed,
and she pressed her nose to the thin line. She breathed deeply, drawing in as
much air as she could, and quickly catalogued the flavors.
Fear. Hate. Anger. Pain. Blood. And something else that made her heart
race and body heat with only a hint of that scent.
Hillary stumbled away from the door, eyes wide as a new rush of fear
filled the air. But it wasnt from someone outside the room. It was hers.
Because that aroma of smoky sweetness tinged with a hint of the dry plains
belonged to her mate.
Her first thought should be one of joy followed by euphoria and
desperation for a flat surface. Instead panic suffused her. Panic and fear. But not
for her. She could deal with something happening to her. Shed been waiting
for the ax to fall for over twenty years. But despite Tonys incarceration, she
belonged to the man and having a mate would be a threat to that possession.
Tony only had one reaction to a threat.
Death.
*
Oscar glared at the rundown house. Hell, all the rundown houses. Theyd
gotten a tip and here they were. And by here, he meant Gods own asshole.
How such a place could exist in the city he loved so much was beyond him. The
wind kicked up, blowing the scent of rotted garbage and decaying meat, and he
nearly lost his lunch. He was a lion, but his cat wouldnt go near whatever the
fuck that was.
His partner for the day, Colton, slipped from their SUV and rounded the
vehicle to stand beside him.
As Colton neared, he shrugged into his black leather jacket and Oscar
chuckled. You better just take that right back off unless you want your cat to
tear through it when you shift.
Fuck that noise. Im not dropping to four in this shit.
Oscar smirked at the male. Oh, yeah, you are. Colton opened his mouth
to object once again and Oscar was quick to cut him off. I was not the one
who pissed off Zane and got handed double shifts. That was you.
They were both enforcers, two of six of the highest ranked males in the
pride, responsible for ensuring the safety of their members. Normally, they all
got along great. They fucked with each other sure, but for the most part it was
harmless.
At least until Colton went after Zane and upset the lions mate. Colton had
been an ass which in turn upset AddyZanes mateand in turn upset Zanes
adopted son Jack. Considering Zane was the most senior of them all and the
one in charge of making up the duty schedules, Colton had really fucked up.
And now they were all having a fuckton of fun giving the male shit.
In this case, Colton might actually be walking in shit.
Come on, Oscar. That was a week ago.
Oscar shrugged. Not my deal, man. Did you apologize to Addy and make
it up to her?
The younger lion sighed and dropped his head back in frustration. Yes. I
apologized, I bought her shit and I even sent shit to that kid of theirs. What do I
gotta do? Donate a kidney? Im so tired of being crapped on already.
Yeah, maybe it was time for Zane to get over it. He clapped Colton on the
shoulder. Okay, Ill talk to him when we get back.
Really?
Yeah, really. Colton released a relieved sigh at Oscar s words. But dont
get too excited because your ass is still shifting.
That got him a glare, but the male spun on his heel and stomped toward the
back of the SUV so he could climb inside, strip, and shift. Once that was done,
Oscar would let the three hundred pound lion onto the street. Getting naked and
shifting was par for the course for their kind, but humans still had those sticky
indecency laws to contend with.
It hardly took any time for Colton to get the job done and then they were
walking down the street. The lion grumbled and growled, occasionally
hopping on three paws while shaking the fourth to dislodge God only knew
what.
Oscar looked down at the disgruntled beast and laughed. Damn, pretty
boy. Chill out. Ill get you a fucking manicure when we get back.
That earned him a hiss from Colton.
What the fuck ever.
With a shake of his head, he focused on his task of ferreting out Davis
hideaways and gathering up his men for questioning and more depending on
their offenses. He let his own beast edge forward, just enough to give him help
in listening and scenting but not enough to force him to all fours. They already
had one man wearing fur. They needed Oscar able to speak to anyone they
came across. He swung his attention up and down the street, looking for telltale
signs that a particular rundown piece of shit was occupied by their prey.
Addy wasnt just Zanes mate, shed also lived with Tony Davis for a while
before kidnapping the mans cub and running. The male was the head of the
werelion half of the Colletti family and generally a fucked up lion, so Oscar
was in full support of what the woman had done. Now, they were taking
advantage of her knowledge of the mans operation.
Normally he hated the idea of using a woman, but Tony and Marcusthe
prides alphahad come to an agreement. Addy and Zane got to adopt Tonys
son and would never be bothered by the family again, and Tony would no
longer be pressured into turning on anyone or providing any other
information about his own operation. Hed serve his time and be done. He
wasnt a snitch.
What the fuck ever. Again.
Which meant they were now using Addys limited knowledge. That
included locations of some of Tonys homes and hideouts as well as
information about the companies the man had his hands in. It was a winding
and twisting web of secrets and hidden pockets.
Two other enforcers, Austin and Grant, had spent days plucking apart and
untangling each rope. The amount of information was nearly overwhelming,
but they were slowly working through each new snippet and exploring each
new avenue. Which was what brought them to this hell.
Quit your bitching. The address is around the corner. Duck down the alley
behind those trees, and come at the house from behind. Oscar met Coltons
answering glare but didnt back down. Yeah, it was dirty and nasty, but he
wasnt the one who had to knock on the damned door and risk getting shot.
That was Oscar s job.
He turned at the next corner and continued down the street. His skin
vibrated, fur pulsing just beneath the thin layer of his tanned flesh. The cat
wanted out. It sensed something Oscar s human half did not. It drifted over him
in a ghostly blanket, and he couldnt quite put his finger on what he was
feeling. Anticipation. Excitement. Unease.
But no fear. No hint of adrenaline that signaled he was about to step into a
dangerous situation.
In fact, his animal was urging him to pick up the pace. He had to struggle
against the cat, push it back and not allow it to shove him onward.
Fucker, we gotta look casual.
He was pretty sure the beast told him to fuck off.
Then it didnt matter because Oscar was paused at the edge of the property
line of his destination and found himself staring at a saggy-roofed, dilapidated
house. He figured itd crumble at any instant and he was wary of going inside.
The lion wasnt hearing any of that and instead shoved his golden fur through
Oscar s pores. His human nails slowly transformed into sharpened and
thickened claws and he shuddered as he fought the beasts attempt to take
control.
Asshole, I will lock your ass down for six months if you dont back off.
The lion wavered, seeming to weigh Oscar s conviction before he finally
retreated. With the cats step back, he breathed deeply and sought a calm that
refused to materialize. Now he realized it wasnt just his animal that wanted to
race into that house. His human half did as well.
Oscar scented the air, his animal more than happy and willing to lend its
assistance. They sifted past the garbage and grime that surrounded them,
hunting up the identity of those inside the building. As he grew closer to the
structure, flavors drifted to him on the wind. He identified threeno, four
different males that had been in the area recently. Even within the last hour.
Beneath those, hidden under the musk of the men, lingered one aroma that had
him nearly roaring with joy. It was salty sweet, feminine musk and delicate
strawberrieshe fucking loved strawberriesand was made just for him.
In the middle of Gods asshole hed found his mate.
Screw subterfuge and knocking on the door like a regular guy. Because
something else was mixed in with her delicious flavorsher fear. Bone deep
soul shaking fear assaulted his nose.
Oscar jolted into a run, cat giving him extra speed and strength as he
approached the front door. He didnt pause in his stride as he broke down the
panel with a fierce kick to the lock. The wood bowed and shattered with the hit,
tumbling to the ground in a pile of kindling, and still he moved on. The lion
was intent on finding her, on discovering her location, and then theyd kill
whoever had frightened her.
A quick scan of the great room revealed it was empty, worn couches and
discarded pizza boxes filling the space. He moved on, stomping along the first
hallway he reached, which brought him to the kitchen. More empty boxes
littered the counters and more than a dozen empty beer bottles filled the sink. A
growl drew his attention and he glanced at the back door to see Colton waiting
for him. He strode to the door and using his lion strength, wrenched the knob
and lock from the wood.
Stay the fuck out of my way. Oscar spun toward the kitchens other exit
and down another cramped hallway. The walls were cracked and broken in
several places and the scent of anger struck him. Male anger, male fear.
But no woman. No mate.
But she was here
The first two doors he reached were open, revealing two deserted
bedrooms as disgusting as the rest of the house. But at the end stood a single
closed door. A half dozen locks were embed into the wood, each requiring a
key, and a long crack marred the center. He bolted toward the room, knowing it
held what he sought. His lion roared in approval and padded and paced in the
back of his mind. It knew about locks, knew that the man was needed at the
moment so it stayed back. But later later was another story.
He stopped at the door and brought his nose to that single crack, breathing
deeply for any hint of what lay on the other side.
She was on the other side. She was there.
Can you hear me? Oscar raised his voice, hoping to reach her.
You seriously need to leave.
Not exactly the words a man wanted to hear from his mate.
Can you move away from the door?
Maybe you didnt hear me the first time. You need to go.
Thanks for the tip, Oscar drawled. But how about you step back?
Because Im about to kick this shit down. When she didnt immediately
respond, he began a verbal countdown. Im kicking in one, two
Theyre going to come back and
Oscar swallowed the growl that leapt to his lips. Do you want them to
come back? Do you want to be locked up like this?
His mate snorted. As much as I want a hole in the head, but I also dont
want them killing you either.
Thanks for the vote of confidence. Now
Dont get your fur in a bunch. I dont know you from Adam. You could be
weak and not able to fight them. I mean, Johnny is really big and I mean,
how strong can an omegas mate be? I mean, really?
Omega Sweetness and light Soothing and calming And everything
his mate was not. At least, he didnt note those features in her based on their
quick exchange.
At least you recognize Im your mate, kitty. Now, step back because Im
coming in. Without hesitation, he retreated one pace, raised his leg, and
kicked the locks that held his mate captive. He thought he heard her mutter
something about asshole lions who deserved a kick in the head, but he was too
focused on freeing her to bother asking her to repeat herself. Aided by his lion,
it took one violent strike and the panel was torn off its hinges. It exploded
inward, raining bits of wood, and Oscar scanned the room for his mate.
It didnt take him long to find her. Not because the room was small or there
were no places to hide. No, it was because the moment the dust cleared he
found her standing in the middle of the room, arms crossed, and a furious
glare in place.
I should just gut you now and save them the trouble.
Oscar grinned. Aww, its good to know you care.
She narrowed her eyes further. Crazed asshole.
Your crazed asshole and as long as you acknowledge that, well be just
fine.
Fine in more ways than one because his mate was Damned fine.
She was five and a half feet of spitfire and seduction and even if she was
glaring daggers at him, he was hard as a rock. Her midnight hair was peppered
with white dust and there were a few smudges of dirt marring her pale face, but
neither detracted from her beauty. And those eyes They alternated from a
brown so dark it was almost black to the pure amber of her lioness. And her
curves Dont get him started on her curves, on the abundance of her breasts
to the dip of her waist and wide flare of her hips.
He wondered if asking her to spin around and let him stare at her ass was
going too far. A quick glance at her features, the glare that remained told him it
probably was. Hmmm Maybe when they got back to his place. He could strip
her down, touch her, taste her, mate her Yup, sounded like a plan.
Chapter Two

Dayum. Da-yum. Hillarys mate was over six feet of lickable, kissable male.
Not that she was familiar with the whole practice of licking and kissing a man
shed been under lock and key foreverbut a girl could dream. Right now,
she was dreaming while wide awake and in color. Fully tanned, brown haired,
milk chocolate eye color. And he was within touching distance.
As they raced down the street in a large black SUV, OscarOscar she
purred his name in her mindwas behind the wheel while she occupied the
passenger seat. She kept stealing glances at him, noting the strength of his jaw,
the thickness of his muscles, and the confidence he radiated. He was a male in
control, focused entirely on driving.
Or mostly, as his next words revealed.
Kitty, if you keep staring at me like that I cant be held responsible for my
actions.
Hillary grinned and then fought to dispel the smile. At least he liked what
he saw. I have no idea what youre talking about.
Uh-huh.
I mean it.
Right. I
Colton broke into their conversation. If you two lovebirds are done, the
light is green, he drawled.
Oscar curled his lip and glanced over his shoulder, a deadly expression
covering his features. I will leave your ass here. Hillary turned to look at the
man, earning a low growl from her mate. Dont look at him, hes not fully
dressed.
She focused on her mate once again. And? You think Ive never seen a
naked man before?
She wasnt going to admit that the only time shed seen one was when she
was forced to help patch him up.
The low growl gained in volume and his eyes glowed a bright amber.
While she should probably cower and wince beneath his angershe was
technically an omega after allshe found herself smiling. Thats kinda sexy.
Oscar pressed his lips together and they formed a white slash across his
face. A horn honked, reminding them they werent the only ones on the road
and that they were still sitting in place at an intersection while the light was
green. For his own safety, quit looking at him.
Hillary released a long-suffering sigh and straightened in her seat. Fine,
she grumbled. Ruin the first few hours of my freedom, why dont you? She
sighed again, decided sitting up straight was overrated, and wiggled deeper.
Ive only been held captive for twenty years. Its not like riding in a car with
men carrying guns is a novel concept for me or anything. No, this is just
another ride
Her mate whipped the SUV off the street, pulling a shout from Colton and a
small shriek from her.
What the fuck are you doing? That was Colton, but Hillary had the same
question in mind.
The truck skidded to a stop on the highway shoulder, and Oscar threw it
into park before turning to face her. Lets back that up a second. What did you
say?
She groaned. I told you Id been locked up for a while and that it would be
a good idea to leave.
Really good idea.
Oscar curled his lip. Yes, but I think there was a little something changed
when you said for a while.
This time she shrugged. We needed to get gone. Now, we have. And when
we get to wherever the hell were going, we can chat about it more. But being
exposed on the street like this, she gestured around her, noting the highway
was fairly empty this time of day. This is so not a good idea. Lets get our
happy asses on the way.
I do want to point out that I agree with her. Coltons movement caught
her eye and she realized hed raised his hand.
See? He agrees.
At least now Oscar s glare was directed at both of them and not just her.
Fine. He swung his attention to her. Two questions and then well move.
She so wasnt going to enjoy answering them, she just knew it. Fine. Fire
away.
How long did they have you? And who was it?
Yep, this was very much anti-enjoyment. Twenty years and Tony Davis. Or
Niccolo Colletti. It varied.
Fur slid through Oscar s pores, the golden hue coating his skin while his
hands and nails slowly transformed into lion paws. Twenty years? His voice
was way too quiet. Dangerously quiet. But why were you still there? Tony and
Niccolo have been behind bars for
Yes, well, they have lawyers willing to go inside and telephones. Business
doesnt stop just because the boss is on a vacation for three to five. She left the
duh off her statement. Because, really, Hillary knew the North American
pride took down Tony Davis and the human Niccolo. But how did they not get
this?
No, they
An all too familiar limo sped past on the other side of the highway. Further
proof that prison didnt deter company operations. Ugh. Now really wasnt
the time to hash this out. You know what? I promise to tell you anything and
everything if we can just get moving again.
Another agreement from me. Once again Colton raised his hand.
Oscar growled at themagainbut put the SUV into drive. As quickly as
theyd whipped off the road, they roared back on, the tires squealing when they
finally hit asphalt. Theyd talk about his poor driving when she felt a little
safer. Right now, with Tony and Niccolos guys so close, she didnt give a
damn how they got away.
The SUV ate up the miles, leaving the older rundown part of the city and
gradually they entered nicer, more populated areas. People. Lots and lots of
people were good things. Human, lion Hillary didnt care. There was one
thing those two men hated, and that was witnesses. Sure, she knew they
generally took care of those problems, but even they couldnt take out an
entire city. Though, she had heard Tony talk of leveling a whole block
before With the occupants still inside the buildings.
Hillary eased to the side so she could look into one of the side mirrors to
see the vehicles behind them. So far, so good. She hadnt spied any of the
typical vehicles. That didnt mean the guys werent trying to lay low and
driving something else.
No one is following us. Oscar tried to be reassuring, but there was just
something itching between her shoulders that said otherwise.
Look, I get that youre trying to soothe me or whatever, but
Thats what mates are for. I want you to know I can take care of you. Ill
kill anyone who tries to come after you. And youre going to tell me more
about whats been happening to you as soon as we get to Pride Tower.
Hillary kept going despite his words. Because really, the guy wasnt
listening. But I dont think you realize what youre up against. Especially if
you think Tony and Niccolo are out of the game.
She took another peek behind them.
I said Her mate really was getting snippy. Which was kinda hot.
And I said you dont know anything. Im also saying that yes, Ive been
with them for twenty years, but it wasnt like I never tried to escape. Each time
they found me. No matter what, theyd find me. So excuse the fuck outta me if
Im a little worried.
Oscar growledhe seemed to do a lot of that. I can take care of you.
Im sure you
Hillary didnt get to tell him what she was sure of because another SUV
roared toward them and T-boned their vehicle. The threat hadnt come from
behind but their left. Of course, they went after the driver s side. They didnt
want to injure her. Fucking bastards.
Metal groaned as it crumpled and bent, while glass shattered and the small
bits tinkled and flew through the air. She fought to remain loose as the vehicle
slid over the asphalt, tensing would merely ensure more injuries. Apparently
sliding wasnt enough for their SUV, because it lost its hold on the street and
flopped to its side before finally rolling and resting on its roof.
She hung from the seat, belt keeping her in place. Blood dripped from her
head and she realized at some point shed become intimately involved with the
side window. So much for airbags.
She took a quick moment to prod her lioness and see if any other parts of
them were damaged. The cat was annoyed and Hillary was surprised to find the
beast in that state. In the past, it had always cowered beneath injury, but now it
seemed almost ready to take on Tonys guys. Or Niccolos. She wasnt sure
who was handling this round of Hunt Hillary.
A groan came from Oscar and she turned her attention to him, noting the
odd angle of his arm and the blood flowing freely from his head wound. She
twisted and took a look toward the back of the SUV and spied Colton in a
crumpled heap. He whimpered, so she knew he was still alive, but the man had
to be in a lot of pain.
Someone didnt buckle up.
A heavy thud reached her, and she turned her head toward the sound. The
scrape of shoes on glass announced someones approach and then a pair of
high-end Italian loafers came into view. Yep, just as she suspected. Theyd
found her. Sure, there could be any number of people who wore those type of
handcrafted shoes, but going by experience, she was looking at a pair that
belonged to
The owner of those shoes crouched and looked into the vehicle. Hillary
cleared her throat and closed one eye to avoid blood getting into the orb. Hey,
Guido, how you doing? Hows the fam?
Good, good. His sweeping gaze took in the other occupants. Got
yourself in some trouble, huh?
Hillary shrugged, well, tried to considering the seatbelt holding her in
place. You know how it is, a couple guys find a girl in a deserted house and
locked behind a door They try to do the right thing. Thats all they know,
Guido. They were just trying to help out.
And you didnt try to dissuade them from that plan?
I wouldnt be much of a captive if I didnt try to get away.
Guido nodded. Right, right. Well, Tony is going to take care of the guys at
the house.
Translation: Tonys hired gun was going to make sure they were dead in
the next hour.
And now I got to take care of this situation. The man waved his finger
toward Oscar.
Fuck, fuck, fuck. Hillarys lion pushed to its feet in the back of her mind
and growledactually growledits objection. Damn, it seemed her cat had
grown a pair since meeting Oscar. Oscar her mate. Oscar who, if she didnt do
some convincing fast talking, would end up being taken care of by Tony at the
house.
Theyre just the wrong good guys at the wrong place at the wrong time.
She tried to sound uncaring and nonchalant as she delivered the partial truth.
Uh-huh. But the boss says
She really fucking hated the boss. Her lioness stepped nearer, anxious
and twitchy, silently offering its help. In all these years, itd never leant its
assistance voluntarily. Apparently Oscar was worth growing a backbone for.
She let the feline come forward, making sure her body didnt transform despite
her inner beasts presence, and welcomed the power that filled her.
An omega was a lot of things. It calmed and soothed those who were in
pain and needed treatment. She could steal the fight from others and end the
violence before it began. And then there was the fun bit of manipulation.
Hillary sensed her vocal cords changing, slightly altering as the magic of
her nature imbued her. The boss says that as long as they know nothing they
can live. You heard him say that. Didnt you?
His gaze became detached, eyes focusing on the distance as his pupils
dilated and she knew shed been successful, but hearing the words helped as
well. Yeah, thats what he said.
These men know nothing.
Right, right. They know nothing. Ill have the guys get you out of here.
With that, a still-dazed Guido pushed to his feet and yelled as he rose to his full
height. Get those people the fuck back and get her the fuck out of there before
trouble shows up.
Trouble. Meaning the cops.
Movement to her left had her focusing on Oscar. Her mates eyelids
fluttered and finally opened so he could focus on her. Hillary?
She opened her mouth to respond, but her seatbelt trembled and she
glanced right to find one of Tonys men cutting at the band. Another set of
arms reached for her, keeping her from tumbling when she was finally freed.
Her mates eyes widened, anger and fear making their way across his
features. Any moment, shed be on her own feet outside the SUV and she only
had a split second to speak to him. She wanted to tell him that shed be fine.
Tell him it was wonderful having a mate for an hour. That even though they
spent a good chunk of their time together arguing, shed cherish those
moments forever.
Instead Goodbye.
*
Oscar watched his alpha work, and damn, it was a thing of beauty. Oscar
observed from the sidelines, leaning against the far wall of the locked room
while the alpha did his thing in the middle.
He knew Marcus was the strongest lion on the continent and that hed
earned his position, but hed never seen the lion truly use his power. Hed
never seen the raging, unbending, unyielding animalistic side of the male.
Thankfully, he didnt know this side because hed never done a thing to rile that
part of his alphas nature. Hed be scared shitless if it were him facing the
alpha.
It seemed the only one about to lose his shit was Tony Davis. And Marcus
still hadnt laid a hand on the male.
In truth, he was kind of disappointed no blood was flowing yet. Mainly
because he ached to tear strips from the incarcerated lion. It was obvious there
were quite a few things the pride leaders didnt know, but there was someone
who did. Someone who was going to talk. He just didnt know it yet.
One last chance, Tony. Marcus leaned back in his folding chair,
pretending to be uncaring as he propped his feet on the metal table that
separated him from Tony. I want to know about the rest of your holdings and
where I can find them. I wanna know what else you have your fingers in. Who
else do you have behind locked doors?
I have no idea what youre talking about. Tony shook his head and Oscar
fought the need to rip the mans face off. This bastard knew and wasnt talking
and that was unacceptable.
No? Marcus shrugged. Is that your final answer? Im giving you one
last shot. Tell me now or things will get ugly.
Oscar almost wished the man would remain silent because he was all for
getting ugly.
Tony shook his head. No way, man. You dont understand
Marcus removed his feet from the table and stood. Okay then. Im done.
The alpha focused on Oscar. Hes all yours.
Oscar raised his eyebrows in question, wanting to make sure hed heard his
leader right. Seriously?
Yup.
Whats going on here? Tonys attention sprang between Oscar and the
alpha. I have a deal. One youre already violating by asking me about the
business.
Marcus shrugged. You had a deal that encompassed all the bullshit
between you and Niccolo Colletti. The business. This is about kidnapping and
the fact your guys are currently holding Oscar s mate. The alpha put his hands
on the tabletop and leaned forward. Mate trumps deal. So, you either tell me
what I want to know or I let him at you.
Tonys denial was quick. No, Niccolo and I arent into that kidnapping
shit. I dont know who you think has your mate, but its not
Hillary Stewart. Oscar threw the name down and he didnt miss the way
the other lion paled.
No, Tony whispered. You She Its not really kidnapping if I had her

Marcus took a step back and Oscar took his place. He crossed his arms
over his chest and glared at the prisoner. Yes. And you have five seconds to
tell me where I can find her. To tell me where your guys have hidden her. For
every second after that, he raised his hand and let his claws slip forward. For
every second after that, I slice a strip of skin from your body.
The criminal focused on Marcus. But thats illegal. You cant let him
The alpha shrugged. Youre interfering in a mating, plain and simple. You
need to decide if youre gonna get carved up by Oscar or tell us the truth. Ill
do my best to keep him under control, but its his mate. If you stay silent,
youre on your own.
Tonys gaze couldnt seem to choose between them, his attention bouncing
back and forth before he finally settled on Marcus. Okay, Ill tell you.
Dammit. Oscar had really been looking forward to venting his frustration
on the asshole. Instead, he was forced to listen to a laundry list of homes and
businesses, small little hideaways, and places to find a private plane or two.
Oscar committed each one to memory while also typing a few notes into
his cell phone. The minute the interview was done, hed get his fellow
enforcers working on the problem. Now that he had a path, hed chase it until
he found Hillary. He wouldnt rest until she was back in his arms.
Marcus turned and strode toward the exit, a ringing cell phone in hand.
Oscar lingered. His leader wrenched the door open and stepped through,
instantly pressing the phone to his ear. Which gave Oscar the chance he needed.
Not hesitating another second, he cocked his fist back, leaned over the
table, and let his punch fly. The crunch and crack of bone echoed the sound of
his fist striking flesh. He was gratified when Tonys chair tipped backward and
he went sprawling across the floor.
The door immediately opened, Marcus poking his head through.
Everything okay?
Oscar shrugged. He tripped.
He was sitting, the alpha drawled.
He shrugged again and moved toward the door. I dunno, maybe hes
gifted at falling.
Right. Marcus rolled his eyes but didnt say another word.
Both left the interrogation room and focused on locating Hillary. Marcus
pulled every string, Brett made every call, and each enforcer went to every
damned location with murder in mind, though no one in the pride really
thought of it that way. The truth was, the mate of one of their own had been
taken and that was all they needed to know.
Funnily enough, Colton located her back in that greasy, rundown part of
town, but this time the lion didnt bitch, moan, groan, or complain about
dropping to all fours. The only thing he did whine about was that they decided
to wait for nightfall.
Honestly, Oscar wanted to pout like a little bitch as well. Unfortunately,
Marcus overruled them both. They had superior night vision and wouldnt
truly be sneaking up on their prey, but they were less likely to be bothered by
human authorities if they acted a little circumspect.
Oscar was tempted to tell his alpha where he could shove his circumspect.
Instead, he simply sat in an SUV down the road, never taking his attention from
their destination. It hadnt taken much to confirm his mate within the house,
Austin was great at hacking into the traffic camera system, and a few discreet
inquiries supported their assumption.
Hillaryhis Hillarywas inside that house with at least three other males.
Three soon to be dead males.
The hours slowly ticked past, but eventually night fell, blanketing the street
in a dark cloak. His lions eyes easily adjusted to the dimness and it was no
trouble to make his way to his position. It took less than fifteen minutes for
them to settle in place, fifteen minutes of anxiousness that nearly killed him. He
wanted to go now. Not later, not in a minute, not even in thirty seconds. Now.
But he also wanted to get his mate back healthy and whole.
So he waited until he got the signal, the brief motion from his alpha that
would put them all into action.
Nine men, nine fierce lions ready to kill and die for one of their own,
waited. It was as if the world held its breath, none of them daring to make a
movement until given permission, and then they received it.
Each of them took an entrancesome entry points being attacked by more
than one male. As one, they raced over the ground, some on four feet others on
two. Adrenaline pushed them on and added strength as some kicked down
doors while others smashed through windows.
Oscar had one particular window, one particular portal as his goal. When
hed spied Hillary at the glass from a distance, no one had argued with his
choice of entry. They could enjoy tearing the others limb from limb, but
Oscar s first priority was ensuring his mate was safe. Hed failed once, but he
was going to care for her now. He just had to bust through the bars on the
window first.
Oscar remained in his human form, needing his hands to tear those bars
away. He knew theyd be bolted in, secure so Hillary couldnt escape, but they
would be nothing against an enraged, fully grown male lion who wanted his
other half.
When he reached the side of the house, he wrapped his fingers around
those metal bars and ripped them away. Hell, he was almost let down by how
easy he accomplished the task. It was even easier to demolish the glass that was
the final barrier between them. He bolted through the opening and quickly
scanned the interior of the room, anxious to snatch Hillary and carry her to
safety.
However, things dont always go according to plan. Because he didnt find
his mouthy omega mate crouched in the corner, waiting for him. He
discovered a massive male holding two things: his mate in one arm and a gun
in the other hand. A gun pointed directly at him.
A bright light blinded him for a moment, the flare followed by the
unmistakable pop of a gun firing, and then an agonizing pain consumed his
chest. It was a gunshot, hed experienced them before, but those hadnt been to
his heart.
Oscar blinked and found himself kneeling on the floor hands limp at his
side. He looked down his body and spied the large hole in the center of his
chest.
He shifted his attention from his body and back to his attacker. Pure evil
consumed the mans gaze, and uncontrolled hate filled Hillarys. Golden fur
slid over her skin, sliding free of her pores, and he couldnt stop himself from
marveling at her beauty.
Then he didnt really marvel at anything because the darkness was creeping
in, and weakness replaced his strength. He felt himself slumping, muscles no
longer listening to his desires, and his eyes flitted closed.
But not before he caught sight of his luscious mate shifting, her lioness
fangs emerging and golden fur bursting through her pores.
God damn she was beautiful. And if he wasnt dying, hed be hard.
*
Oh. Hell. No.
Hillary could deal with being manhandled. Shed tolerated it all her life.
Tony and Niccolos guys had never learned the word please, so getting hauled
here and there was no bigs.
Having the guy holding her shoot her mate in the chest was a problem. A
deadly one. Because while she spent her life with them being docileif
annoyingshe was anything but now. Her lioness rushed forward, abandoning
her constant post in the back of her mind and it burst through her skin in a
roaring wave. One moment she had human hands and feet and the next she was
a whirling mass of pale fur, flashing claws and shining teeth.
Anger, no not anger but rage. It overflowed and consumed her. Sweetness
and light? Hardly. Not anymore.
It took one look at Oscar, one glance at his slumped form and steadily
bleeding wound, to make her next decision. Her jailer released her with her
shift, and now she was going to capture him. Shed never truly enjoyed
pouncing and killing prey, but she was so making an exception for this guy.
She tackled him, taking his heavy weight down with her smaller size.
Hillary dug her claws into his chest, three-inch nails sinking through flesh
and scraping bone as she held him down. Pain etched his features and she felt
his fists colliding with her body, but it was nothing compared to the pain of her
mates injuries. She flexed one of her back legs, pressed it against his flailing
body and sank in there as well. More flesh, more bone, and this time the male
released a scream.
Thats right fucker, scream like a little bitch.
Her mouth watered with the thought of ripping out his throat, and she
licked her whiskers in anticipation. The scent of his blood teased her lioness
and she could practically taste him on her tongue. Coppery sweetness with a
sour tang of pain and fear. She hated the flavors of fear, but their presence
pleased her animal. She lowered her head, jaws wide and ready, only to be
yanked away from her prey.
So not fair.
The rip of her nails from his body made a satisfying squelching sound, but
the collision of her side against the wall was anything but. For the second time
in as many hours, drywall and plaster rained down on her, unfortunately this
time it stuck. Blech. She wasnt about to clean herself of blood if she was going
to end up with all that crap in her mouth as well.
Hillary shook her head, clearing her mind, and swung her attention toward
her prey only to find a new male towering above the man shed downed. One
booted foot on the males chest kept him immobile and despite the wounded
mans attempt at throwing him off, it so wasnt happening.
This guy was strong. Strong. She opened her mouth slightly, tasting the air,
and there was no doubting the newcomer was an alpha. The North American
Alpha, Marcus? Yes, it could be no one else.
Hillary pushed to her feet, staggering the slightest bit and she shook her
body, tossing off the dizziness and pain in her ribs. Then she glared at Marcus,
curling her lip in a clear threat. The fucker had shot Oscar.
The alpha simply shook his head and jerked his chin toward her mate. She
swung her attention to Oscar. What the fuck did the guy want? Did he want her
to cry over Oscar s body? Shed much rather tear the responsible party into
teeny tiny pieces. But then she saw what the alpha was trying to show her.
Oscar wasnt dead. His breathing was labored, but he was breathing. Except
she knew where the wound was located, the entry point right above his heart.
Other than a headshot, it was a sure way to kill a shifter. When they were whole
and healthy, there wasnt much else that would take them down.
It looked as if not even a bullet to the chest was taking her mate out of the
game. She took one last look at Marcus, confirming he had the other male
under control, and then she rushed to Oscar s side. It was as if she and her
lioness worked as one, the animal retreating in an instant and leaving the
human shape in its wake. It took her no more than three steps before she had
human hands and arms, human feet and legs. It was easy to lay him onto his
back. She ran her hands over him, yanking at his shirt and tearing it in two to
get a look at his wound. It was already heeling over, the flesh at the edges
pinking with newly grown skin.
Oscar? The hole was still bleeding, but even that slowed beneath her
gaze.
He groaned and opened his eyes, focusing on her as he lifted a hand and
prodded at his chest. Hillary? His voice was deep yet soft. Wha He
looked around the room, taking it all in, and it was as if the last several minutes
struck his mind at once because fur was coating his skin and his fangs were
peeking past his lower lip. He snarled and reached for her. He wrapped his
fingers around her wrist and yanked as he fought to stand. Get back.
Im fine, Oscar. Im fine. She tugged against his hold. Marcus is here.
Im more worried about you. She grasped his shoulder and shoved him back
to the ground. You got shot in the damn heart. How are you still alive?
He grunted once his back collided with the ground. I didnt get shot in the
fucking heart.
Hillary raised her eyebrows, not believing him, and she flicked her gaze to
his chest and then refocused on his face.
Oscar rolled his eyes. So I got shot near my fucking heart. Bastard got
close, but he nicked a bone I think. Oscar reached across his body and rubbed
at a spot on his ribs. Bullet is right here. Her mate peeked around her.
Marcus, everything good? Guys got everyone?
She focused on the alpha as well, waiting for the man to answer. The last
thing shed ever want was others getting hurt on her behalf. Then two things
happened at once. Marcus nodded and it seemed her mate had finally realized
Hillary was a little less then clothed. As in, naked. Her mate didnt go for her
wrist this time, but instead her whole shoulder. He grasped it and yanked her
aside and to her feet while he rose along with her, effectively blocking her with
his body so she was no longer exposed to the alphas gaze.
Oscar roared, Marcus sighed, and Hillary rolled her eyes.
The swift movements did give her a chance to do something though. While
her mate was occupied with threatening his alpha, Hillary transformed a single
finger to a sharp claw and went after that small piece of metal that remained.
So preoccupied, he didnt realize what she was up to until she held the slug in
her hand.
Lift. Cut. Squeeze. And done.
By the time he was releasing a low grunt from the pain, it was over.
What the fuck was that? Oscar spun toward her and she held out her hand,
metal resting in her palm.
This.
He glared at the offending bit and then turned that glare on her. Then that
glare turned into a wide-eyed stare because he was reminded of her nakedness.
It was as if hed never seen a nude woman before. She must have said those
words aloud because he responded.
Ive never seen my woman naked before, and I sure as hell dont want
anyone else seeing you. Then she was staring at Oscar s back again while he
spoke with the alpha. Gimme your shirt.
An order, not a request. He ordered an alpha around. Ballsy.
In a rush of movement, Hillary suddenly found herself covered from neck
to knee in a large t-shirt. Her lioness was pleased that they were coveredonly
Oscar should ever see her unclothedbut it loathed having another males
scent on their skin. She shuddered and fought the beasts natural inclination to
rip the fabric from her body.
He must have sensed or scented her disgust. He ran a single finger down
her cheek before cupping her face. Well be home soon, kitty, and then you
can wash all this stink off you.
The alpha grumbled but remained quiet otherwise as her mate swung her
into his arms.
Then what?
Then I can put my scent all over you.
She could deal with that.
Chapter Three

The murmurs reached Oscar before anyone came in sight. It was easy to
make out the different voices, the two men bickering and arguing as they
approached the master bedroom. He couldnt fault them for the back-and-forth
snarling. Hed be afraid of himself too.
Fuck that, youre going. You met her already. Grants voice was firm.
Oh hell, no, Im not. I met her and was with her when she was kidnapped.
Im not letting him take that frustration out on me. Colton was quick to
respond.
I outrank you, so youre gonna
Amazingly, Im not.
The tinkle and clink of silverware was interspersed with their words, and
he realized what they were bitching about. On one hand he appreciated that
someone was bringing food. On the other, he didnt want another male
anywhere near Hillary. Especially when she was naked. Naked
Theyd managed to make it back to Pride Tower and up to Oscar s
apartment. The only reason Marcus gave them peace was because they
promised to meet with him after theyd rested and cleaned up. The whole tower
was on lockdown while they figured out how to proceed with this new
information from Tony.
Oscar told Marcus not to expect them until tomorrow morning and the
alphas only response was a knowing grin and a quick, Well, everyone will
enjoy a day off while we wait for your lazy asses.
The rain of water on tile continued to filter from the bathroom, a
continuous reminder that his mate was washing away the scents of others
Naked.
The argument between Grant and Colton grew louder as they neared and he
sensed them pausing mere feet from the master bedroom door.
I will straight up challenge you right here and now for your position as
my superior just so I dont have to knock on that door. Damn, Colton was
really dedicated to not delivering the food.
You wish, Grant grumbled. How about this? Well do a round of Rock
Paper Scissor Lizard Spock.
What the Oscar s thought was echoed by Colton.
What the Youre watching way too much Big Bang Theory. How about
regular old heads or tails? Colton returned.
Now a new voice cut off the bickering. A voice that no one in the pride
could deny. I have never met a bigger bunch of pussies in my life. Penelope,
the Alpha Mate, snarled at them. Give me the damn tray and get out. Youre
acting as if hed rip your head off for knocking on the door.
Oscar was tempted to tell her that was exactly what he wouldve done.
Unmated males so close to his wet, naked unmated mate? Hell yeah, he
wouldve taken them out. Brett would be down two enforcers and he wouldnt
have felt an ounce of remorse.
When Penelope finally knocked on his door and he swung it open to
receive her, he made sure he kept that to himself.
Here, the men were big babies and refused to deliver this, but Im sure
you know that already.
Yeah, thanks, Alpha Mate. He took the tray from her.
The moment her hands were free, she patted his hand and smiled widely.
No problem, Im really happy for you two. I hope
An echoing snarl shot toward them and that was followed by a streak of
peach and white as he was pushed back a few feet. It was only his lions
reflexes that kept him from spilling the food.
Mine, Hillary hissed.
Standing behind her, staring at the top of her head and then down to the
pale, delicate curve of her shoulder His dick went hard.
Penelope released a tinkling laugh and stepped back. Oh my God, I was
leery about how youd do with a passive omega for a mate, but shes not.
Penelope shook her head. Shes not at all. With a small wave, the Alpha Mate
disappeared down the hall. Enjoy your mating. I know I sure as hell enjoyed
mine! Well see you guys tomorrow for breakfast.
Hillary spun to face him and stepped closer, and he was forced to retreat as
she encouraged him to back away from the door. The moment she could, she
slammed it closed and then they were alone. Alone. No chance of being run
over, no chance of being shotthe whole building had been outfitted with
bullet resistant windows after Brett and Jennifer s run inand no chance of
being interrupted if the other males in the pride valued their lives.
Hey, kitty.
Dont hey kitty me, she snapped. She was touching you.
He grinned, unable to help his smile. Jealous?
Furious. She looked at her hand and ran it through her wet hair. This is
not me. You, she reached over the tray and poked him in the chest. You
turned me into a raving bitch. My lioness is ready to kill everyone, this time
she pointed at him instead of poking. And it has never wanted to do that.
Twenty years of captivity, and shes always been a pussy. And then you come
along, her rant was building steam, and suddenly Im homicidal. Whats up
with that?
His smile widened. I dont know, but I like it.
Hillary sighed and rolled her eyes. Men.
It was his turn to growl. What do you know about other men?
Enough to know youre way too pleased with how Im acting. She shook
her head.
No other men. The idea had him tempted to take on everyone else in the
pride just to eliminate competition.
Of course, no other men. She said that, but there was an easy way to
ensure no others encroached. One that involved a fully naked Hillary and a flat
surface. Coincidentally, there was a bed not ten feet away.
He glanced at the tray, noting the delicacies piled on the plate, things like
meat, meat, and more meat. There was also a small note that simply said
cooler near your door in Penelopes familiar scrawl. He platonically loved
the Alpha Mate.
His lion rose, anxious anticipation filling them both, and those emotions
warred with his instinctual need to care for his mate. Of course, those battled
his jealousy, as well. The woman had him tied in knots and they hadnt even
spent a day in each other s company.
And that goes for you too, she prodded him once more. No other
women. Mated or not, Ill gut them all.
Oscar grinned. Let me take care of this and then we can talk about exactly
how youre going to keep them away. Hows that sound, kitty?
She narrowed her eyes, glaring at him. Fine.
Damn, her feistiness and possessiveness made him crave her more than his
next breath. He was quick to dart around her and back to the bedroom door. He
juggled the tray as he got it open and it took no time to secure the tray in the
cooler and then returned to the room. He was careful to push the panel until he
heard the latch click and then he threw the lock for good measure.
Now they were alone and they wouldnt be interrupted.
Well? She crossed her arms over her chest and he figured she was
probably trying to look stern. Instead, the move merely pressed her breasts
together, giving him a better look of those plump mounds.
With her curves, sassy mouth, and those deep brown eyes with that silken
hair Damn, hed won the mate lottery.
Im waiting. His mate definitely lacked patience, but he found that sexy as
well.
The easiest way to make sure no woman comes near me is for you to
make me yours. He murmured the words as he slowly made his way to her. He
couldnt miss her reaction, the way she stopped breathing for a moment before
slightly panting. Her eyes dilated and the pure musky scent of her arousal filled
the air. And the easiest way to make sure no man goes near you is for me to
make you mine. He grasped her wrists and carefully pulled her arms out of
the way. He used his grip to tug her forward until their bodies were flush.
What you think about that?
*
Yes. Yes.
Oh, wait. She hadnt said the word aloud. Hillary cleared her throat and
swallowed past the emotions and need filling her. Yes.
A fierce possessive light filled Oscar s eyes, and a low rumble transferred
from him to her. It sank into her body and reverberated in her bones, crawling
lower until it enveloped her completely. His arms tightened, reminding her that
he held her close.
Reminding? No, she didnt need a reminder. Not when his heated scent
surrounded her and his firm chest was pressed to hers. His hardness throbbed
against her hip, telling her without words that he craved her.
The word had barely left her lips before he was there, his mouth brushing
across hers in a barely there kiss. She whimpered and pushed to her tiptoes
when he withdrew, not wanting to lose the small connection. When he was
completely out of reach, she wrapped her arms around his neck and fought to
bring him back down.
Oscar breathed deeply and released it on a slow exhale. One second, kitty.
I just have a couple questions and then Ill take you.
Like the last one? The answer is still yes. Mine now?
He chuckled but didnt relent. Youve been in captivity a long time. Have
you Did you Im not judging I just want to make sure
The man was stuttering and grumbling and she wasnt sure what he was
trying to ask. Spit it out. Id like to be mated before hitting eighty.
He glared at her but finally spoke. How experienced are you?
Experienced in
A fiercer glare. Are you a virgin?
Hillary jolted with the question, and a new unease slithered through her.
Im not judging you, kitty, but if you are I need to know and if youre not I
need their names so I can kill them. The last few words were said with a snarl.
Embarrassment at her inexperience had her face flushed and hot, and she
pressed her forehead against his chest. Can I plead the fifth?
Oscar stiffened for a moment before he spoke. So how many are we
talking? I need to kill one or two Maybe giving me a number is a bad idea.
Asshole, she grumbled. She huffed out a breath and then tilted her head
back to meet his gaze. Zero. Ive never been with a man. How could I?
That had her mate purring, a flare of gold ghosting across his brown eyes,
and a soft coating of cream fur dappled his cheeks. You really will be mine.
Completely.
Yes, she would. Wholly and totally. And he She bit back the snarl that
leapt to her lips. He hadnt been in captivity since he was five years old. She
was sure he had been with women just as she was sure she didnt want to hear
about it. And after today youll be mine. Just dont ever tell me about anyone
else or even give me a number. You couldve been a man whore before today
but I dont want to know about it.
Look at you getting all jealous. That grin was way too satisfied.
Shaddup and mate me already.
Apparently she didnt have to ask twice. Oscar gave her a real kiss this
time. He captured her lips in a passionate meeting of their mouths, his tongue
immediately delving into her and stroking her tongue with his own. She sank
into the connection, mimicking each delicious slide and lick that he gifted her,
and giving the same in return. When he suckled her tongue, she did as well,
enjoying the moan that it drew from his chest. His hardness pulsed against her,
and she reveled in his response to her inexperienced attentions.
Yeah, she was a virgin into her late twenties, but at least she was giving him
pleasure despite her inexperience.
She used her hold to practically crawl up his body. She wanted more, she
wanted to kiss him deeper.
And he let her. Oscar wrapped his hands around her and instead of
clutching her waist, his grip went lower until he cupped her ass. One gentle
squeeze and a slight lift, and she realized what he desired. She let him take her
weight as she wrapped her legs around his waist until they were intimately
connected. Her bare center rested over his long and thick length. Shed touched
herself in the pastshe was a virgin, not ignorantbut this was so much more.
The heat that seared her despite his pants, sang through her blood and the way
he kneaded and squeezed her ass merely added to the gathering bliss. And he
hadnt even stroked the source of her pleasure yet. She was gonna die. Keel
over from the ecstasy.
The continued squeeze and release had her moving with him. She rocked
her hips, taking joy in the added pleasure of sliding along his shaft. If this was
just a little bit of foreplay
Oscar moved, jarring her with every heavy step, and then they collided
with a hard wall. He had her pinned with his body, slightly bent thighs now
supporting her as he removed his hands from her ass and pulled out of their
kiss. His mouth still hovered near and they shared breath as he leaned back.
Need skin. Need to see you. Touch you.
Yes, she hissed.
He went to work on her towel, quickly undoing the knot that kept it in place
while shewith the help of her catyanked and tore at his shirt until he was
topless. What seemed like miles of tanned skin were exposed, each rise and fall
beckoning and tempting her to taste him. One look told her he was gorgeous.
That had never been in question. But this was beyond her dreams.
Dont look at me like that or youll have me coming in my jeans.
She didnt believe him, not really, how could she? Then she tore her
attention from his wide chest and solid abdomen to meet his gaze. She realized
he was telling the truth. There was no mistaking the arousal and need that filled
his features. Shed done that. Hillary Stewart of the nearly thirty virginity.
Cant have that, she murmured. I want you inside me first.
Oscar s moan transformed to a growl. Witch.
But yours.
Mine, he confirmed.
She reached around him, burying her fingers in his hair while resting her
forearms on his shoulders. She held herself steady as she rocked her hips,
drawing out the pleasure of moving against him. Want to be yours, she
panted. So bad.
He gripped her hips, working with her as she took bliss from that blunted
connection. He pressed against her, teasing and tormenting them both, and she
found herself embracing the bliss that came with each flex of muscle. She was
wet and hotmore than prepared for himand she wanted nothing more than
to embrace his possession.
Need you. She curled against him, clinging to him. So bad.
His lips ghosted over her ear, and his voice held more than a hint of his
lion. Tell me. Do you know what you want?
You. Inside me. Please. She may have never experienced being with a
man, but her body, her lioness, knew what it craved.
Then thats what youll get.
Her world spun as he moved them, carrying them across the room, and
now her back rested against a soft and cushioned surface. The bed.
Oscar lay atop her, his hips still snug between her spread thighs, and he
kissed her again. Their tongues dueled, teeth nipped, and they made love to
each other with their mouths. It was a pale imitation of what was to come.
She tore her lips from his. This is not you inside me.
Youre right. He grinned and she fought the urge to snap at him. One
second.
Oscar disappeared long enough to rip his jeans from his body, the fabric
falling away beneath his claws, and then he was fully exposed to her gaze.
Long and thick were descriptors that just didnt give him justice. Massive.
Ginormous. Holy-fuck-he-will-break-my-vagina
Oh.
He quirked a single brow. Oh? Thats all I get?
No, she had more, but what rose hot, fast, and furious was a single word. It
was fueled by her newly possessive lioness. Mine.
Based on the way his eyes glowed brighter, and the new wave of fur that
slithered over his skin, she figured he liked what she said.
She didnt have a chance to ask him though. He joined her on the bed,
propped above her on hands and knees and she squirmed beneath his intense
perusal. Then she realized as he stared at her she could stare at him. So she
gave him the same blatant and obvious perusal. Of course, instead of making
him uneasy, he merely grinned.
Like what you see?
Bastard.
Hillary nodded. Yes, but Im sure there are other things Id like even
more. Any ideas?
His lions fangs peeked from beneath his lower lip. Instead of replying, he
altered their position, grasping her and holding her tightly as he rolled them.
Now he was beneath her, her thighs on either side of his hips. Youre gonna
ride me, baby. I dont want to hurt you, and you can set the pace. He slid his
hands up and down her outer thighs before settling on top of her legs, thumbs
teasing her cropped curls. Youre in control.
She liked the sound of that, like the idea that the little omega werelion had
power over the big bad enforcer. It sent a new thrill down her spine, a new
wave of arousal, and she couldnt wait to take it to its fullest heights.
She started where theyd left off, a seductive slide of her body over his,
except now it was moist skin on heated hardness. The tip of his shaft nudged
that pleasurable bundle of nerves hidden within her folds, sending a lightning
bolt of ecstasy racing down her spine. With each shift of muscle, Oscar grunted
and groaned. She knew if he took even half the pleasure that she did from the
small movements he was in heaven. But she wanted to rise higher. So she used
his body as hed asked, taking and giving and then taking more until she was
merely a mass of pleasure and need.
Then his thumb glanced the source of her ecstasy, and she trembled,
releasing his name with a shout. Oscar!
The bastard chuckled.
She dropped forward, propping herself on his chest, but still continuing to
tease them both with the motion of her hips. Need more.
Thats because you need me.
Cocky.
No, he shook his head. I just met you, but I know you. I know you need
me as much as I need you.
That touched something inside her, reverberated against her soul, and
suddenly she couldnt wait to have him inside her. Shed heard of the stinging
pain that came with a womans first time, but now she welcomed it and couldnt
wait for that ache.
Yes. She licked her lips, internally smiling when his eyes tracked the
movement and his length pulsed between her thighs. Please, yes.
Oscar encouraged her to lift her hips from his as he grasped the base of his
shaft, and then he was further directing her movements until her entrance tasted
the very tip of his length.
Take me as you can, kitty, he murmured.
She took his suggestion to heart, keeping her gaze on his as she slowly and
very carefully took him inside herself. The stretch and burn nearly overcame
the pleasure of having him inside her, but when he rubbed that hidden nubbin
with his thumb, any hint of pain was banished. Between his tormenting touch
and the ache of having him deep, she was carried along on the brink of release.
Hillary continued the careful slide down his hardness and occasional rise
as she allowed herself to breathe before taking even more of him. Hours
later No, it couldnt have been more than a couple minutes merely because
she wasnt sure her mate had the patience to wait hours to claim her. Minutes
later, her hips rest against his, her sheath completely filled and stretched by his
length, and he now touched and stroked those virgin places inside her.
It was as if time froze, that initial penetration snatching a moment and
holding it close.
Hi, she whispered. Youre inside me.
And now youll be mine.
He tightened his hold ever so slightly and encouraged her to rise before
gently and silently asking her to lower once again. She moaned with that tiny
shift and picked up his intent, setting a gentle and seductive pace of her own.
Want to be yours. She continued at this maddening pace, tormenting them
both. She brought them higher, the gentle rise and fall slowly transforming
until she panted for breath. Her pace increased, her large breasts bouncing with
each movement. She cupped them in her hands and kneaded the heavy flesh,
occasionally plucking her hardened nipples between forefinger and thumb.
Want to be yours so bad.
You just have to come, kitty. We both do, and then Ill bite you. Bite you
and knot you.
She trembled with those words. The knot. He would swell inexplicably
farther, tying them together after the claiming. They would stay firmly locked
while their souls and very essences reached for each other and forever twined.
They would never be able to be separated after that.
Mated for life.
Yes, thats what she wanted.
Please.
Anything for you. But you know what I need.
She did. She did and she fought to give him what he desired. Hell, what they
both desired. She became nothing more than sensation, a body fighting for
release, climbing higher and higher with each flex and twitch of muscle. She
knew she moaned and bucked, knew that each sound was met by growls and
demands from Oscar, but she couldnt tell where one sound ended and the next
began. She didnt know where she ended and he began. She just knew at this
very moment, they were one.
The first hint of her release trembled through her, the balloon of pleasure
stretching and growing until it would take a mere breath to pop it and send the
ecstasy roaring through her body.
More, more, more, she panted and begged. She lost control of her
muscles, the twitching and jerking no longer managed by her mind, but
overtaken by the bliss of their mating.
Give it to me, Hillary. He bared his fangs at her, exposing the elongated
and sharpened teeth. Now.
And then it was done. Her orgasm rocked through her, scraping her nerves
and filling her blood more and more with each breath until she was unable to
think, unable to speak All she could do was feel. And she felt so, so much.
Oscar reared up as he placed a hand in the middle of her back and yanked
her toward him. With that heaving movement, he sank his teeth into her
shoulder, adding a new sensation to their mating. Pain. But the very best kind of
pain. The one that now meant they could never be parted.
And it wasnt going to be a one-sided mating. Nope. She did the same to
him and now blood flowed from the wound she inflicted, filling her mouth and
sliding down her throat in a seductive dance. She relished the coppery flavors,
the sweetness of the life-giving fluid as it crept into her.
He stretched her even farther, adding more aches to this final act of their
coming together as his thickness bound them while their souls shared their
essence. The pain of his bite slowly ebbed, lessening with each heartbeat, and
he gently extracted his teeth from her. She did the same, lapping at the deep,
bloody wound she caused.
Shed done it, theyd done it. The wimpy omega lion claimed her mate.
Hell, that wimpy omega lioness inside her bristled at being called wimpy.
Hillary sighed and sunk into Oscar, letting him take her weight. Twenty
years of captivity and finally she was able to say the two words shed never
dreamed shed utter. Youre mine.
Chapter Four

For what felt like the millionth time, Hillary was draped over Oscar s large
body in an exhausted pile of limbs. Sexual fulfillment still thrummed in her
veins, the remnants of her last orgasm continuing as she fought for breath. She
ached in places shed never known, and after spending so many hours in bed,
she was really thankful for her lioness. Because by the time Oscar was ready
for another round, those twinges were gone. It seemed as if her cat was just as
anxious to continue as Oscar and quickly healed her.
He stroked her sweat-slicked back, hands traveling from shoulders to
lower back and finally coming to rest on her ass. The man had a serious
obsession with her ass. And her breasts. In fact she didnt think there was a part
of her he hadnt touched, tasted, or stroked in the last twelve hours. And shed
given him the same treatment.
She couldnt wait to do it again.
Except The click of a lock followed by a sound of a door being pushed
close crept through the apartment. Hillary stiffened and pressed against her
mates shoulders, anxious to roll from him and investigate the sound, but he
merely wrapped his arms around her middle and refused to release her.
Its fine. Its probably a couple of the enforcers. Though if the alpha was
smart, he would have sent his mate or Bretts mate, Jennifer.
That was not reassuring to her. Women near Oscar? Absolutely not. Hillary
growled and glared at him, baring her teeth. Mine.
Oscar s length twitched against her, slowly filling. Damn, that makes my
dick hard.
Everything makes you hard. It doesnt seem to be very difficult.
He cupped her face and encouraged her to lower until he captured her lips
in an all too brief kiss. Only you, kitty. Only you.
Uh-huh. She wasnt sure she believed him, but then the thought left her
mind as the voices of their visitors reached them. One of which was familiar to
her.
Colton. We went through this yesterday, its not happening. I know we
need to know all we can about Niccolo and Tony. I get it. But Im not the man
for this job. I have no idea why Marcus made me come along. This is stupid.
Are you calling our alpha stupid? That could be Grant? Maybe. There
were quite a few enforcers she met yesterday.
No, Im saying this entire process is stupid. Theres a difference. Now,
heads or tails because Im not playing your bullshit Rock Paper whatever.
Colton skirted the truth as Hillary had so often in the past. She kinda liked that
about him.
Fuck you, Grant snapped and it sounded as if the male was even closer.
As if they were coming to
Her world tilted as she was shoved from Oscar s body and onto the
mattress while her mate quickly gained his feet. He strode to the door, over six
feet of irritated and furious male. He wrenched open the panel and Hillary
scrambled for the blanket, fighting to cover her body before their visitors were
revealed.
Oscar s growl reverberated through the room and echoed down the
hallway. Im going to shove his head up your tail if you dont get the fuck
away from my mate.
Well, if her growls made his dick hard, his made her wet and aching for
him.
As soon as he finished delivering his threat, he slammed the door in their
faces and turned around.
Hillary grinned. That was kinda hot.
He gave her one of those sexy, smoldering looks that aroused her even
more. Im glad to hear it, kitty.
But, we do need to talk to Marcus at some point. Because those two really
are still a threat. Weve taken this time for ourselves, but
Oscar shook his head. Im not done with you yet.
She rolled her eyes and shook her head. Then she decided to take a sheet
out of Coltons book. She leaned over and rifled through Oscar s belongings
as he continued toward her, and snatched what she sought. With one flick, she
tossed the coin at him and he instinctually caught the small item. We stay here
and mate for the rest of the day or we go upstairs and talk with Marcus. Heads
or tails?
It turned out, neither. Or rather, both. Oscar pounced, they made love, and
an hour later they flipped that coin.
Hillary was really liking this game

The End of Heads or Tails

If you enjoyed this book, please be totally awesomesauce and leave a
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By the way below are some links to help you hunt up the rest of the
series:

Quick & Furry #1: Chasing Tail http://bookbit.ly/qfctzon
Quick & Furry #2: Tailing Her http://bookbit.ly/qfthzon
Quick & Furry #3: On Her Tail http://bookbit.ly/qfohtzon
Quick & Furry #4: Heads or Tails http://bookbit.ly/qfhotzon
About the Author

Ex-dance teacher, former accountant and erstwhile collectible doll salesperson,
New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Celia Kyle now writes
paranormal romances for readers who:

1) Like super hunky heroes (they generally get furry)
2) Dig beautiful women (who have a few more curves than the average lady)
3) Love laughing in (and out of) bed.

It goes without saying that there's always a happily-ever-after for her
characters, even if there are a few road bumps along the way.

Today she lives in Central Florida and writes full-time with the support of her
loving husband and two finicky cats.

If you'd like to be notified of new releases, special sales, and get FREE
eBooks, subscribe here: http://celiakyle.com/news

You can find Celia online at:

http://celiakyle.com
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http://twitter.com/celiakyle
Copyright Page

Published by Summerhouse Publishing. Quick & Furry, The Collection.
Copyright 2015. Celia Kyle. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. This book contains
material protected under International and Federal Copyright Laws and
Treaties. Any unauthorized reprint or use of this material is prohibited. No part
of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means,
electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any
information storage and retrieval system without express written permission
from the author.

This is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents and dialogues in this book
are of the author s imagination and are not to be construed as real. Any
resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is completely
coincidental.

This eBook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This eBook may not
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Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

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