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Last Updated: September 17, 2008 16:33:21

Dark Possession by Christine Feehan

MaryAnn, what are you doing?  Wolves don’t climb trees.” Manolito stood on the forest floor, hands on his hips, looking up at the rainforest canopy. 

A wolf padded the branch highway, picking her way delicately through leaves and twigs, placing every paw with care.  Birds shrieked, rising into the air, until they nearly blotted out the moon, furious that the unknown creature had disturbed their roosting place.  Monkeys screamed foul things and threw sticks and leaves at the birds as they followed the wolf through the trees. 

The ground is wet, MaryAnn sniffed.  Up here the canopy protects my coat and my paws don’t have to get muddy.  There’s also less chance of some crawly thing getting into my fur.

Manolito tried not to laugh.  Whether she was in human or wolf form, his woman was going to be a fashion statement.  “You’re got the entire forest in an uproar.  The rainforest is home to thousands of birds and I think you’ve got them all upset.”
The female wolf sniffed indignantly and raised her muzzle toward the sky, baring her teeth at the flapping, agitated birds.  They’re so noisy anyway.

There were a good twenty species screeching, the noise so loud somewhere a jaguar coughed increasing the frantic cries. Beneath the network of roots, in the flowing river, a lazy crocodile floated closer to shore.

“If you don’t come back down here, I’ll have to come up there after you.”
The wolf turned her head, eyes gleaming.  Is that supposed to be a threat? She flicked her fluffy tail at him and with one paw brushed twigs and leaves off a branch.  The leaves fell in a shower around his head.

Muscles bunched in his stomach.  She was teasing him.  He almost didn’t know what to do.  He ran across the forest floor, leaping over several rotting trunks and ferns, angling his point of attack to intercept her as she ran along the canopy highway.  He jumped high, caught a branch and swung up, going hand over hand, deliberately showing off his strength.

He heard her soft laughter brushing against his mind.  Monkeys screeched and a heavy boar crashed in the brush.  The wolf in the trees raced ahead, using the thicker branches above his head to try to outrun him.

Neither noticed nor scented the jaguar, absolutely motionless, crouched in the tree limbs far above, watching the wolf with bright, hate-filled eyes.  Around the thick, muscular neck was a belt with a small pack.  One paw contorted, claws elongating into fingers so that he could undo his pack and put it carefully into the crook of the branches.  His movements were patient and slow, careful, behind the heavy screen of leaves, not to draw attention with motion.

The screaming monkeys and crying birds along with the fragrance of flowers drowned out everything hearing and scent anyway.  The silly monkeys continued to follow the wolf and the jaguar resisted the urge to leap on them and shred them.  His head hurt, the strange buzzing refusing to go away.  He even had tried tearing at his head with his own claws to rid himself of the noise, but now he had a better target.
Manolito had eyes only for MaryAnn.  He raced through the trees, hand over hand, swinging from one branch to the next, a good hundred feet beneath her, using branches and vines to propel himself through the canopy maze.  MaryAnn’s soft laughter teased his senses. 

As the wolf passed beneath it, the large cat sprang, the heavy body smashing down, claws ripping and teeth clamping on the wolf’s scrawny head, biting down, going for a kill with a powerful skull bite. 

Mist!  Manolito ruthlessly took over MaryAnn’s mind, pouring the image into her brain, holding it even as he began the shifting process for her.
The wolf dissolved beneath the jaguar, so that the cat fell heavily through the branches, slamming hard against several limbs before it was able to get a purchase with its claws.

Fury at himself burst through him, even as he shifted, leaping up the branches of the trees to get to the intruder.  Manolito was shocked that the cat had escaped his observation.  He realized just how emotions and the presence of a lifemate could be distracting enough to get them both killed. 

The jaguar whirled around, teeth bared.  The two heavy bodies met with a tremendous crash.  Limbs cracked and splintered, raining down on the forest floor.  Monkeys went crazy, hurling everything they could get their hands on at the two rolling cats.  Sounds of the battle mixed with the cacophony of birds and wildlife protesting the interruption of the night.

MaryAnn found herself on the forest floor, looking up at the raking, snarling cats, shocked that their peaceful play had been shattered so brutally and so fast.  In this forest, violence was an accepted way of life.  Life really was about kill or be killed.  Manolito and his brothers had lived their entire life with that creed. 

A part of her screamed this wasn’t her way of life and never would be.  She wanted to go home.  She let out her breath, stood up, and prepared to do whatever was necessary for Manolito’s survival, because no matter where they were, he, was her way of life.


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