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~LEOPARD'S BLOOD: CHAPTER ONE~
Last Updated: October 22, 2017 23:41:24


Leopard's Blood by Christine Feehan

Nights in the swamp were often sultry.  Heat and moisture drifted through the cypress groves and clung to the long shawls of lacy Spanish moss hanging from crooked branches.  The long-fringed drapes swayed in the slight breeze adding a macabre feel to the already eerie night.  Frogs chorused loudly, hundreds of them, calling out joyously while raccoons slipped noiselessly down to the duckweed-filled water to wash their paws.  Two bull alligators challenged for territory, their bellows reverberating through the cypress grove.
           
Sonia Lopez followed the narrow game trail, the one she’d widened over the last few weeks, that led deeper into the swamp.  Insects droned all around her, a loud cacophony of sound.  None stopped when she stepped lightly along the ground, a tribute to the fact that she’d spent every night for the last two months learning every inch of the piece of swamp that belonged to her.  She owned forty acres and she wanted to become acquainted with all of it.  For this.  She’d known it was coming and she was very, very glad she’d prepared.

“We’re almost there,” she whispered softly.  “Hold on.  I know it’s hard.”

Something moved beneath her skin, a wave that pushed outward and then slid away, leaving behind a horrible itch that made her want to scratch until she bled.  Her joints ached.  She burned in her most feminine core, a savage, brutal need driving her deeper and deeper into the swamp.  She was on fire.  Every part of her, her body so sensitive, clothing hurt.  Every movement brushed streaks of fire from her breasts to her sex.  She ached.  She needed.  The only safe place she had was the swamp.

The grunt of a wild boar had her quickening her step.  She had to get to the very heart of the swamp where she’d constructed a small blind, just big enough so she could have a thin mattress, strip, leave her clothing in relative safety and shift.  Hurry.  Hurry.  Hurry.  The words thundered in her ears accompanied by the drumming of her heart.

Sonia had allowed her leopard to run free when there was opportunity, ever since that first, shocking, terrifying appearance when the cat had saved her life.  It had never been like this.  This…this…necessity.  She breathed deep as her joints began to pop.  Her knuckles were on fire, the ache becoming a terrible pain that wouldn’t let up.  “Wait.  Just try for me, Gatita.  Just try to hang on.  We’re close.” 

She didn’t dare let her cat loose anywhere near civilization.  Not now.  Not ever, but now was the most important.  Gatita was definitely in heat.  That meant Sonia was in heat and couldn’t be any place a man might be.  She didn’t trust herself.  She had no idea the heat would be so intense, such a terrible force driving her beyond all endurance. 

Her leopard was in need as well, and if the way her body was burning was any indication, her cat was going up in flames.  She tried running, but stumbled when her toes began to curl down.  The blind was just ahead and she threw herself forward those last few feet, tugging her shirt over her head and pulling off her shoes.  Her jeans were next.  She was usually good about folding clothes and being neat, but there was no time.  Her female was in trouble and Sonia was driven to help her.

Nothing had prepared her for the brutal hunger, the need filling her mind and body until she wanted to scream.  Nothing helped.  She’d tried.  Toys.  Fingers.  She’d given up, sobbing, standing under the cold of the shower until she realized that wouldn’t help. Nothing would help.  And it was far worse for Gatita.

She found herself on her hands and knees, breathing as deeply as possible to ease the pain of the shifting.  Her skull hurt, feeling too tight.  Her jaw, her toes and fingers.  Every muscle and joint.  Still, the pain helped her forget, for that one terrible moment, the relentless hunger swamping her.

Shifting only took seconds, now that she’d practiced, but those seconds were excruciating.  Then her leopard was there, sleek, agile, and beautiful.  She was on the smaller side, her fur thick with so many black rosettes, that one appeared to touch another from her head to the top of her tail.  Her coat looked black with traces of thin, gleaming golden rings appearing to streak around the black.  All leopard patterns were unique, but Sonia was a little vain about her cat’s fur.  She thought Gatita was beautiful and her fur different and rare.  Of course, that meant she had to be more protective than ever.

There had been no time to gather clothes and shove them into the pack to put around Gatita’s neck so she knew she would have to get the leopard to return to the blind where she’d set up the small mattress for the cat to rest on after her run.  She urged the leopard back into the swamp whispering encouragement.

“Run it off, pequeno Gatita, for both of us, run it off.”

Gatita had never been in heat before.  Sonia knew it could last a week or even a few days longer than that.  It was going to be hell for both of them.  She’d known she’d have to face the female’s heat sometime, but she hadn’t thought about the possibility that what her leopard felt—she felt.

Letting Gatita run free was a little on dangerous side.  As a rule, Sonia knew she had no trouble controlling the leopard, but right now, she could barely control herself.  Every cell in her body demanded she find a man.  Any man would do at this point.  She had called in sick to work, avoided town and wished she’d thought to board up her home with steel plates on the windows and doors so neither of them could escape.  Letting the leopard run in the swamp was better than both suffering and tearing up the house she was working so hard to restore.

Gatita ran through the swamp, leaping over rotting tree trunks covered with moss.  The fog had begun to drift in, fingers of mist creeping through the trees, adding to the mystery and beauty of the land.  An owl screeched as it missed its prey.  The two alligators continued to bellow and posture. 

Sonia, hidden deep in the leopard, cautioned her to stay away from the water’s edge.  The big bull alligator would defend his territory.  He was nearly thirteen feet long and up to any challenge from an upstart coming into his world.  The male had twelve females in his three-mile range and he wasn’t going to give even one of them up.  Her leopard didn’t need to be food for any of them, especially when the male was so aggressive.

The little female placed her paws delicately on the damp leaves and vegetation making up the swamp floor.  Leaping effortlessly over the termites eating the rotting trunks, she landed in absolute silence.  Sonia admired the way Gatita could be so utterly quiet as she moved through brush and trees so fast.  She’d constructed the blind as close to the middle of the swamp that she called her own as possible, giving the leopard as much of a territory as she could. 

Her property included a good forty acres of land, mostly swamp no one wanted, but was ideal for her.  She had the road to the front of her property, swamp to the back of her property, fanning out to meet the edges of two other properties, one just swamp land, and one her neighbor, a huge piece of property that seemingly had endless acres of swamp.  That gave her leopard a good-sized territory to roam.

Gatita rubbed her head and body everywhere, all over the trees and bushes.  She scent-marked, and called loudly for a mate.  There was nothing Sonia could do about that.  She knew the sound would travel for miles, but she couldn’t force the heat-driven cat to stop vocalizing her need.

Abruptly, Gatita halted, and then lifted her muzzle into the air.  Every whisker reported back to her, a radar telling her everything about the neighborhood, who was in it and where.   The whiskers could even extend over her mouth to give her the exact location and distance of her prey or enemy so she could deliver a killing bite.

Without warning, Gatita let out a distinctly different call, one that sent chills down Sonia’s spine.  It wasn’t the fact that the noise was like a rusty saw going through a block of wood, it was the fact that the little female leopard was calling out to something…or someone. 

What are you doing? Sonia hissed, but she knew.  The female had come across the scent of a male in his prime.  He had marked the territory for his own.  What were the odds?  Louisiana didn’t have leopards, did it?  Granted, she didn’t know that much about the state, or the swamp she had just moved to, but she’d been certain there were no leopards.  There might be a mountain lion or two, but certainly not a leopard. 

She found herself tense, worried for her female.  The last thing she wanted was a fight between her leopard and a male cougar.  She should have checked the area much more carefully.  She’d fallen in love with the house.  She needed a place for her leopard.  The house and land was perfect for them both and most importantly, the seller wanted out.  She’d fallen into the best job possible for her.  Everything had seemed so right, but her female couldn’t fight a male and win.
Let’s go back, she whispered.  Turn around.

Gatita ignored her and rubbed and sprayed all along the trees, leaving her alluring scent for males to find her.  Every six or so minutes she called out as she moved through the swamp.  The third time Gatita called, a sawing roar filled the swamp in answer, nearly stopping Sonia’s heart.  There was no mistaking that sound.  It was a leopard.  The call was very distinctive.  By the sound of it, the animal wasn’t small.

Heart pounding, she tried to exert some control over the little female, but the cat was too far gone, too in need from her heat.  In all her wildest imaginings, Sonia had never once considered this scenario.  She been afraid the female might get loose around people, that a hunter might discover her.  She feared that she might react to the cat’s heat and attack some innocent man at a bar, which was the reason she’d called in sick and holed up at her house.  But the last thing she thought of was that a male leopard might be close by—close enough to hear Gatita calling out in need and readiness.

The little hussy continued her call as she rubbed her scent over every tree and bush in the vicinity.  Sonia knew the moment the big male parted the brush to discover her little female.  Gatita swung around to face him, hissing a warning, but then rubbing seductively along a tree trunk to entice him.

He was big.  Roped muscles moved beneath the thick coat of fur.  There were a few scars on him, declaring the male a veteran fighter.  Sonia took a breath as she studied him from behind the eyes of her female.  He was definitely in his prime.  Gatita was pleased, practically vibrating with excitement. 

A mate worthy of us.  Her purring was more felt than heard.  Her words, not words but images and the feeling of intense satisfaction.

Sonia knew there was no point in protesting.  Gatita deserved a mate.  More, the heat was intense, burning the two of them until they both thought they might go insane.  Sonia hadn’t known a drive could be so powerful.  She tried not to think about the problems that could arise from this pairing. 

She knew it was too late to stop the two leopards from mating.  The male had the scent of the ready female and he wouldn’t give her up.  That was evident in the way he took charge, close, but not too close.  He patiently followed her when she moved away from him.  She played like a seductive kitten and the large cat watched, moving closer to her, rubbing his fur along hers and shouldering her.  Rather than rebuff him, Gatita nuzzled him back.

Her female moaned softly and rolled onto her back, legs in the air.  She came to her feet, her rump raised, her long tail lashing as she presenting her alluring body to the male.  She brushed her head and body on everything she could, providing him with temptation.  She approached him, signaling he was her choice.  She rubbed her face along his, nuzzling him repeatedly.  He responded, rubbing his scent all over her.  They moved off together again, going deeper into the swamp, the male allowing the female to lead him.

He chuffed.  She answered.  She moved a few steps from him and crouched.  The male was on her before Gatita could rebuff him, a common practice with females.  As the male extended his back, leaning over the female, Sonia retreated to give them privacy.  The male took the female without hesitation, moving in her over and over.  Eventually he let out a long growl just before sinking his teeth into the female’s shoulder, holding her in place.

The male held her still for several long moments and then he released her from his teeth, and simultaneously leapt away.  She growled and swiped at him with her paw, ran a few feet and collapsed, her sides heaving.  The male approached her cautiously. When she showed no signs of attacking him, he rubbed his face over hers and then, while she slept, paced around her, scent marking the trees, making certain that any other male leopard knew this was his territory and his female.

The big male rubbed his face over Gatita’s, nuzzling her several times.  She rose and the two of them started all over again.  They found a small stream that trickled through the swamp and both drank and rested between their rough sex.  As the night began to wane, the female led the male back towards the blind Sonia had set up so they could rest after the female’s run.

Gatita collapsed on the mattress, shifting as she did so.  Sonia found herself, completely naked, the terrible burning hunger not in the least assuaged.  Every cell in her body was on fire.  She needed a man more than she needed air to breathe. 

It was still dark.  All around her the cacophony of insects was so loud it drowned out everything, until she heard the exhale.  Her body stiffened.  She felt the focused stare.  Her heart nearly stopped beating and then began to pound.  Her mouth went dry.  Very slowly she turned her head and found herself staring into the eyes of the huge male. 

Once they locked eyes, Sonia couldn’t look away.  The normal color of a leopard’s eyes was amber, but this animal had blue eyes.  She’d heard of a rare finding in India or several blue-eyed leopards, all suspected of being from the same family, but she never thought to see such a thing herself.  The piercing stare was the same, blue or amber.

Up close, the cat was terrifying.  He was huge, with roped muscles and savage teeth.  Nothing, not even have her own leopard, could prepare her for finding herself only a few feet from a wild leopard, one clearly dominant.  His coat was beautiful, a deep ochre, more on the orange side beneath the scattering of large black rosettes.  His eyes, had they been amber, would have been lost in the black and ochre of his face, but the startling blue stared straight into her eyes, taking her breath.

Sonia didn’t have a weapon, nothing at all to protect herself.  She couldn’t image what the male thought, one moment with his newly found mate, and the next a human crouched next to him, staring straight into his eyes. 

She couldn’t help herself, even though she knew better.  Cats hunted prey.  The last thing she should do was run.  In any case, a leopard could outrun her.  Still, self-preservation demanded she do something and she threw herself sideways, trying to get to the other side of the mattress.

Instantly he was on her, his heavy body pinning her down, his teeth sinking into her shoulder.  She screamed at the flash of pain, closing her eyes, knowing what was coming.  At the last moment, Gatita rose to defend her—except she didn’t.  The female didn’t take over, didn’t push to return to the male.  She rose as if touching the male and then she subsided.  The male purred as if recognizing her and slowly released Sonia. 

His heavy weight still pressed her down, held her to the mattress.  She no longer felt fur, but the roped muscles were there.  The breathing.  Warm.  Soft.  A tongue swept over the bite in her shoulder.

“Ssh, you’re all right now.  He wouldn’t hurt you.”  The tongue touched her ear.  Lips brushed there.  Teeth tugged on her earlobe.  “Your leopard is his mate.  He knows that.”  The lips traveled down the side of her neck, creating a trail of flames she felt traveling over her skin.  “He claimed her, by putting his mark on you.”

The voice was in her ear.  Soft.  Seductive.  A low, but deep, very masculine voice washed through the pain and fear, and brought her straight back to raging hormones.  It didn’t help that he was naked too, and that she felt his cock hard and thick pressed against her buttocks. 

She didn’t speak.  She couldn’t find her voice.  She didn’t want him to move.  If he did, she was afraid she would attack him.  She needed what he had, that much.  The need was so strong, the burn so deep, she feared she would go insane if he didn’t do something.

His hand stroked down her back.  Just that touch sent streaks of fire straight to her sex.  She heard herself moan and knew she was giving him consent when, any other time, she would have run for safety. 
“Your skin is so soft,” he whispered.

His voice was sheer temptation.  He was leading her straight to hell where they were both going to burn together for their sins.  She knew that, but she didn’t care.  He was a shifter, just as she was, and he had to be on fire, the need and hunger every bit as strong as hers.  

His hand slid over her left cheek of her buttocks, a caress that sent a wave of need so strong she heard a low keening wail coming from her throat.  Everywhere he touched sent those flames dancing, tripping over her skin, rushing through her veins to settle deep in her core like a firestorm. 

One arm caught her hips and yanked her up to her knees, while the other hand held her head pressed to the mattress, his palm curled around her nape.  She couldn’t move, pinned as effectively as her female had been pinned.
 
“Say yes.”

It was a demand.  She closed her eyes tight.  She needed him desperately, but he wasn’t going to give her what she needed unless she gave him permission.  There would be no pretense in the morning that she hadn’t agreed to this.  But if she didn’t comply, he might go away and she’d be left burning up.

Her breath came in ragged pants, so labored she barely recognized herself.  She was squirming unashamedly, pushing back to try to entice him.  She hadn’t even seen his face.  She didn’t want to see it.  She didn’t want him to see hers. 

Then his hand was there, his fingers.  She heard that same low keening cry coming from her throat.  The need shook her.  His tongue moved up the inside of her thigh and then touched her center. 

“Yes.”  She hissed it.  “Yes.”  She found more strength and pushed assent into her voice so he couldn’t fail to hear it.

He took her heard and fast.  One moment his hand was at her entrance, testing her slick heat and then he filled her.  He was thick and hard and long, stretching her ability to take him.  The friction nearly set her on fire.  The burn of him pressing against those tight inner muscles, stretching them beyond what she’d ever known, should have hurt.  The only hurt was that he didn’t move faster or harder.

“I need…”  She gasped as his cock withdrew and then plunged deep again.

“I know what you need. Trust me. I need the same thing.”

She was grateful that he admitted she wasn’t alone in her wild needs.  He couldn’t be rough enough. Or hard enough.  He couldn’t be too deep. Or too anything. She needed his hands and his mouth and his teeth.  She needed a wild mating without thought, only feeling that burning pleasure that bordered on pain. Maybe it was pain. She didn’t know or care. Only that he had to take away the terrible burning inside.

Her fingers formed fists in the mattress as she pushed back hard, catching his rhythm and adding to the strength of his plunging cock. He was like a wild machine, out of control, and yet at the same time, in complete control.  He certainly was in control of her, when she wasn’t.  The first orgasm overtook her by complete surprise. She felt the coiling tension gathering and gathering until she thought she might go insane.

“Let go,” he hissed.

She had no idea how. She’d never actually had an orgasm, and she’d never felt like this. The hunger. The need. The intensity.  She didn’t know what to do, only that it had to stop before she lost her mind.

“Let go,” he said again. This time that soft velvety voice growled with command.  His finger was on her clit, stroking, then flicking.  Hard.  That shocking bite started a tsunami.  It grew and grew sending waves of that pleasure-pain swamping her, taking her on a wild ride she had never been on. 

She felt the heat of his release, hot splashes of his seed deep inside her.  He collapsed over the top of her, his weight taking her to the mattress, pinning her there.  All she wanted to do was sleep.  She kept her eyes closed.  The sound of his breathing was soothing to her.  His body kept hers warm in the cool night air.  All around them the sounds of the swamp created a familiar lullaby. 

She woke to pure fire.  Rolling onto her back to try to ease the way her skin felt so inflamed, she tried to piece together where she was.  She couldn’t think with the flames burning through her, scorching her.  Her breasts ached, her nipples two pinpoints of pain.  Her sex didn’t just ache, the fire was so hot it was excruciating.  She moaned and writhed, tears forming behind her eyes. 

“It isn’t going to stop,” she whispered in despair. She’d humiliated herself and had sex with a perfect, nameless, faceless stranger and yet it hadn’t stopped.

“I’m here.”  His voice came out of the darkness.  He loomed over her, tall for a shifter, broad-shouldered, the heavy roped muscles of their kind.  His hair was shockingly blond, his eyes a rare, crystal blue-green. 

He knelt between her legs, gripped her thighs, fingers digging into her soft skin.  His eyes staring, with the complete focus of a leopard, into hers, he yanked her thighs apart.  “You’re mine,” he hissed.  Anger simmered beneath the velvet of his voice.  His hand stroked her center, taking her breath.  “Your female belongs to my male and you belong to me.”

She could barely hear him with the hunger roaring through her, crashing in her ears, burning through her center until she wanted to scream.  His fingers weren’t doing enough.  Barely touching her.  Circling her clit, never touching it.  Her hips thrashed and he gripped her harder.

“Say it,” he snapped.

She would have promised him anything at that point.  She didn’t want to talk to him.  She was using him.  She knew that and it shamed her, but she was desperate.  “I’m yours,” she hissed between her teeth. 

He rewarded her with a finger pushing into her.  Just like before she felt tight, as if her muscles had clenched down and now he was having to open her all over again.  The thickness of his finger took her breath, robbed of her ability to process anything, let alone have a conversation with him.  She didn’t understand why he was angry, unless he knew that she was using him and didn’t like it.

She didn’t care what it was, only that he get inside her and take away the terrible burn.  The emptiness.  The need and hunger that wouldn’t go away.  “Hurry,” she pleaded.  “Please.”  She even hated that, asking him, practically begging him. 

She was free.  She had a life.  She didn’t have to ask for anything, and yet here she was.  She should be the one angry.  All she could think about was the way her body demanded his.  That need that wouldn’t go away.

He pressed the head of his cock into her entrance and hissed, his eyes still holding hers captive.  She couldn’t look away, mesmerized by him, by that look of utter possession stamped deep in the lines of his face.  He looked like sin incarnate.  The devil taking her. 

“You are scorching hot,” he bit out the words between his white perfect teeth.  “So fucking tight I might lose my mind.”

She was already losing hers.  He was pushing in slow, inch by inch now, not taking her all at once like he’d done before.  She was tight, her body refusing to give him entrance and then slowly giving way to his invasion at his insistence.  He didn’t stop that slow entry, just kept a steady pressure, forcing his way through her reluctant sheath until he was fully in her, until she felt him up against her cervix. 

His thickness pressed tight against her inner muscles, stretching her again to the point of pain.  It burned, that stretch, but it felt good, just what she needed.  “Move,” she commanded.  He had to move before she imploded.

“My name is Joshua. Say it.”

She shook her head.  She didn’t want to know his name.  She didn’t want him to know hers.  She wanted him to take her hard and fast and then go away so she could be ashamed and humiliated alone.  She lifted her hips, trying to move, but he wouldn’t budge and he wouldn’t look away, or allow her to.

“Say my name,” he ordered.  He kept his voice low, but it was no less demanding.

“Why?”  She practically wailed the question.  She burned. Surely he did.  Surely he could feel his leopard’s need.
“You know why.”

She didn’t.  She really didn’t, but it didn’t matter.  If it would get him to move, she’d say it.  “Joshua.”  She’d always liked that name. “Please, just move.”  She could play nice, but her fingers curled against the mattress, nails digging deep.

He still didn’t move.  “Give me your name.”

Her eyelashes fluttered.  She didn’t want him to know her.  Not at all.  Not one thing. “After tonight you’ll be gone.  So will I.”

“She’ll be in heat for seven days.  This doesn’t go away.  You think my male’s going to allow another male anywhere near her?”  There was a growl in his voice she couldn’t mistake for anything but a male on the verge of rage.

“I’ll lock her up.”

“How will that help either of you?”

“I don’t know,” she wailed. “Please. Hurry.”

“Your name.”

He couldn’t be feeling what she was feeling.  Panic set in.  She was moving, writhing beneath him, unable to stop.  He leaned down and bit the inside of her thigh.  The bite of pain sent liquid heat surrounding him.  Scorching him.  She couldn’t help it.  Humiliation set in when he bit her other thigh and then stroked his tongue over the sting, earning him more heat.  More burning liquid.  Her muscles spasmed around his cock, gripping him harder. 

“Sonia.”  She gasped it.  Nearly crying.  Burning from the inside out.

He moved immediately, withdrawing and then surging forward.  Then he was pounding into her, pulling her body into his when he moved into hers.  Her breath rushed from her lungs, her breasts swayed with each hard jolt, her head thrashed on the mattress as he pistoned into her, over and over again.  She never took her eyes from his and he never once looked away.

She came immediately, the wave taking her hard, roaring through her with a terrible force, and then instantly building again, coiling tighter than before.  The need stronger.  It built and built in her.  He yanked her legs up and over his shoulders, changing his position, throwing her into another wild orgasm that raced through her body, so every cell should have been sated, but it wasn’t. 

She cried out, terrified of losing herself in him.  Never once did those eyes allow her to look away.  She had to depend on him, and he was letting her know he knew that.  He was the only one who could help her.  The third time, he went with her, her body gripping and milking his, forcing his orgasm with the sheer strength of hers.

She whispered his name, the burn of tears in her eyes as she braced herself for the release.  His cock was still heavy as he withdrew and there was that bite of pain she expected, the one that flashed through her and sent another heat wave.  Before he could say anything, she rolled onto her side and let the swamp soothe her to sleep.  The swamp wasn’t alone.  He curled his body around hers, one arm sliding around her waist, his breath in her hair.

She woke close to the dawn.  In the blind it was still dark, but light was beginning to creep through the trees, bringing those gray fingers of fog.  Joshua rolled over the top of her and took her mouth before she could protest.

He kissed like he fucked.  Hard. Hot. Spectacular.  Fireworks went off behind her eyes.  His mouth traveled over her chin, down her throat to her breasts.  Finally.  Her nipples, always on fire, had the attention of his mouth. She realized then she wasn’t the only one feeling the burn of the leopard mating. He was wild, his mouth hotter than hell.  His teeth were everywhere.  He was rough, savagely so.  He treated her body like his own personal playground. She loved it, the way he growled if she moved.  The way his tongue lapped at the sting of his bites.

This was what she’d needed.  The heat.  The fire.  The rough mixed with tender.  His mouth was on her, claiming every square inch of her body.  His teeth marked her. His tongue brushed caresses to soothe her. His hands were everywhere.  Then he was kissing her again, after the long exploration of her body.  Kissing her until she couldn’t think, only feel.  Only need.  Want.  So much hunger spilling over until she could hear her pleading.

He caught one leg and pulled it around his waist.  His hand circled the girth of his cock and he nudged at her entrance.  When she tried to impale herself, he shook his head.  “I want to feel your hands on me.”

She hadn’t want to go that far.  She knew he’d been committing her body to his memory, but she’d never had anything like this before.  It was too intense.  Too passionate.  Too sinful.  Too…everything.  She knew she’d never forget him as it was, let alone if she gave into her desire to explore his body.

Reluctantly she complied.  She didn’t want him to stop, so she did what he asked, putting her hand on his shoulders.  Then he was inside her, slamming deep, driving through her tight folds, the breath hissing out of him.  Once again his blue-green eyes trapped hers so she felt she was caught in crystal, exposed to him.  Every vulnerability.  Every flaw.  Every humiliating need and desire. 

Her body wouldn’t be sated without rough.  Somehow he read that in her and it shamed her.  Her nails dug in his back when fire streaked through her.  It was good.  So good.  The way his cock drove deep, retreated and drove in again.  Over and over. 

She wrapped her other leg around his waist and used her hands down his back, over his buttocks, her nails driving deep, scoring a path in his skin, while he took her over.  She knew he owned her body.  There was no retreating from this.  No getting away from it.  Not when he could drag another three orgasms from her.  Not when his kisses set fire to her soul.  Not when his mouth on her breasts sent flames licking over her skin.  He owned her body and he always would. 

He emptied himself in her while she floated somewhere she’d never been, his body collapsing over hers, pinning her to the mattress, her legs and arms still wrapping him up, both fighting for air.

He lifted his head first, his lips brushing her eyes, the tip of her nose and then her mouth.  Very gently. The difference between his rough and gentle was soul-destroying.  It alarmed her.  A woman could get used to a man like him, but she didn’t dare.  There was no man in her future.  No rough.  No gentle.  No anything. 

He brushed the hair from her face.  “You’re beautiful.  This face.  A man would fall forever for this face alone.  Put it with your body and he’s lost.”

There was nothing lost about him.  Nothing at all.  He was still very much in charge.  Still very much the dominant male.  He didn’t move off her, his body still locked in hers.  She braced herself for that flash of pain when he withdrew, moving subtly to let him know it was time.  He just smiled down at her, and that took her breath.

She’d tried not to look at him as a whole.  He had a purely masculine body.  There wasn’t a soft spot anywhere.  And then there was his eyes.  So beautiful, all that blue-green in a sea of crystal.  She had deliberately not focused on his face. She didn’t want to see him as a man. A shifter, mate of her female, that was fine, but if she looked at his face, she’d have to see him.

He was beautiful in masculine way.  Okay.  Gorgeous.  Hot.  Everything women dreamt of in a man. That made her self-conscious of her too-wide hips, full breasts and wild, too-thick blond hair.  She cleared her throat, trying to think what to say to make him leave.

“Don’t,” He ordered softly. “I see it on your face. This is normal for a shifter. You probably had no idea about your female.  Most don’t.  But she’s beautiful and healthy, just like you.  She’ll be this way for the next week. You can give me your number…”.

She shook her head. Emphatically. “No.”  She said it for good measure. “I’ll keep her in. I told you.”

The gentle smile disappeared to be replaced by a short shake of his head. His eyes went to that piercing, scary stare his leopard had.  “My leopard will hunt yours. You have to allow them to be together.”

She bit her lip hard enough to draw blood. Her teeth felt sharper than usual. The bite stung, but only because he’d already marked her there and she’d just aggravated the small injury.

He immediately bent his head and licked at the small red drop and then caught her lower lip between his teeth.  He tugged and then let her loose, his tongue soothing the ache. “This is mine. I don’t want you biting it.”

“You did,” she pointed out.

“I can. You can’t. Now give me your number. The sun is coming up and you’re naked out here. I don’t want any others to find you. There would be a fight, Sonia.  The leopards would fight to the death over a female. My male will never give yours up.”

Sonia tried not to panic. She couldn’t begin a relationship with a man. Then again, he wasn’t claiming her. He wasn’t saying he wouldn’t her give up. He said his leopard.  She touched her tongue nervously to the indentation where she still felt his teeth. “I don’t know much about shifters. I’m learning as I go along, so I’ll have to accept your word on that. I’ll meet you here tonight. I think I’ll sleep most of the day so I don’t know what time, but I’ll come.”
“Give me your word.”

“I just did.”  She pushed at his shoulders. “I have to go.  Really.  I have to get back.”

“To what?”  He shifted his weight and began to withdraw.

Her breath caught in her throat.  The pain was exquisite.  The pleasure almost intolerable. Streaks of fire raced up her spine.  Why did it have to be so good with him?  She knew his brand was stamped into her bones.  He did own her body and she could—and would—deny it, but she knew better. 

“Seriously, move.”  She pushed harder.

He laughed softly and took her mouth.  To her horror, she kissed him back immediately.  His tongue did a lazy exploration, sliding along hers, coaxing her response until her tongue tangled with his in a bizarre dance that told her more than words could have, that he knew he was in there deep. 

When he lifted his head, he moved off her.  She rolled away from him, coming to her knees.  Her body protested.  Ached everywhere.  Every muscle.  Every cell.  But it was a good kind of ache.  Sated.  Satisfied.  She could breathe on her own again.  She didn’t need mouth to mouth from a stranger.

“Don’t follow me.”  She yanked on her jeans, heedless of his seed spilling down her leg.  “We didn’t use a condom.  Do you realize that?”

“Yep.”

He didn’t sound in the least upset and she paused in the act of pulling on her shirt to glare at him over her shoulder.  “Don’t smirk.  Think of the consequences.”  She jerked the shirt over her head and reached for her boots. 

“I have.  Condoms and other forms of birth control don’t work on shifters.  Either you’ll get pregnant or you won’t.  Believe me, baby, you’re pretty damn fertile.”

She could hate him.  She really could.  But there was his body.  He hadn’t even attempted to cover up and just looking at him made her body come alive.  She felt the burn starting all over. 

“I’m leaving now.”  There was no retort she could think of to wipe his male-superior-amused smirk from his face.  In any case she had to get out of there before she jumped him again.

“See you tonight.”

She didn’t deign to reply, but she knew he would see her.  She’d be back because now she was addicted to him.  She kept her back to him as she began the long walk of shame home.




CHRISTINE FEEHAN, #1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLING AUTHOR

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