In the new Leopard novel by the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Cat's Lair and Leopard's Prey, passions explode like wildfire when a young woman's feral instincts are ignited by a man who's too dangerous not to desire...

A simple request for Siena Arnotto: deliver a gift to her grandfather's friend. One look at Elijah Lospostos, hard-bodied and stripped to the waist, and Siena succumbs to a feline stirring she never felt before, and to Elijah's reckless and pleasurable demands. But when that pulse-throbbing moment ends in the murder of an unexpected intruder, Elijah accuses the shaken and confused Siena of setting him up.

Then Siena discovers the truth of her Leopard heritage, of the secrets in her grandfather's inner circle, and the sinister plot of revenge that has put her in jeopardy. When Siena's grandfather is assassinated, she realizes the only man she can trust is Elijah. Now as her Leopard rises from within, Siena and Elijah share not only an animal instinct for survival--but a desire so raw and wild it may be the only thing that can save them.

Christine's Notes

Christine Feehan
Elijah's book was the first time I really felt how very dangerous and powerful a shifter could be. He loved the heroine for a long time, but then thought she'd set him up to be murdered. Through his feeling of betrayal, he set up a horrible chain of events that would change her entire life.

To me, it's about a man desperate for his own family. And it's about a woman who must learn to trust again.

— Christine Feehan

Christine regularly writes about her books (and all kinds of subjects) in the following places:


Wild Cat

More Order Options

Leopard Series ,
Book 8

Latest Release:
Latest Release Date: November 26, 2019
Original Release Date: November 24, 2015
Number of Pages: 432 pages
Publisher: Jove
Language: English
ISBN: 0515156094

Wild Cat (Leopard Series, #8)

Excerpt: Chapter 1

"SIENA, bella, come see your old nonno for a minute." Siena obediently dropped her car keys on the table and
hurried into the sitting room her grandfather preferred. The room was cozy and always just a little too warm. As a rule that didn't bother her, but for some reason lately, her body seemed overheated. She was restless and edgy and hot. Very hot. Her skin ached, felt too tight, stretched over her frame. Even her jaw hurt. Her breasts felt swollen and achy, and for the first time in her life, she burned between her legs. Like crazy. It was awful.

The condition seemed to come and go at will for no appar- ent reason. It had started a couple of weeks earlier and was getting significantly worse. She was grateful she had just earned her masters of science in oenology and had come home, although being in the same room with her beloved grandfather when her body was on fire was decidedly uncomfortable.

She needed to get out of the house—immediately. Lately, the condition had gotten so bad she was seriously thinking about visiting an adult store and getting herself a toy. A really good one. Sheesh. She'd never looked at a man like that. Well, that wasn't strictly the truth. She'd once seen Elijah Lospostos when she was fifteen. They sat across from each other at a dinner when she'd been home from boarding school. He was at least eight years older than her. Maybe ten. It hadn't mat- tered. The moment she'd laid eyes on him, something wild unfurled deep inside of her. She'd barely been able to keep her eyes off of him. He was the most gorgeous man she'd ever seen. Ever. And her grandfather employed a lot of men.

She tried as hard as she could not to stare at him, but sometimes she'd felt his gaze on her, and every time she'd looked up, his eyes were looking at her. There was no mistake. He smiled. She didn't. She blushed. A horrible reaction. He'd tried to engage her in conversation and she'd stammered. Blushed more. It had been horrible. She was smart. Brilliant. She was already doing college courses. And she couldn't say a single intelligent word to him. Even the memory embar- rassed her.

"What is it, Nonno?" she asked, bending to brush a kiss along his jaw. She ruffled his hair. He still had a wild mane of hair. All silver, but thick as a cat's pelt. His eyes, a dark chocolate, were faded, but still sharp. "I'm off to the gym." Because she really, really needed to work out hard. Tire herself to the point of exhaustion so she could actually get some sleep. She was desperate for sleep.

"I need a favor, bella, a small one for an old man, eh?" he coaxed.

As if she had ever in her life turned him down when he asked her for something. She was rarely at the house. She had been in boarding school most of her life and then col- lege, but she treasured her times at home with him. He was her only living relative. It was just Antonio Arnotto and his granddaughter. The two of them.

"What would that be, Nonno?" she asked, trying to sound

stern. She knew she failed when the laugh lines around his eyes crinkled. She sank down onto the arm of his chair and ruffled all that silver hair again.

"I want you to take a case of my best reserve to a friend. His birthday was last week and I forgot to send a gift around. My beautiful granddaughter delivering it personally will make up for this mistake, no?"

She laughed. "It seems you have a lot of friends with birth- days and anniversaries you forget until your granddaughter comes home."

He shrugged his shoulders. "I'm not getting any younger, Siena, and you might start thinking about marriage and babies. Come to think of it, Elijah isn't married, and he's not getting any younger. He's quite good-looking." He winked at her.

She bit down on her lower lip to try to keep from blush- ing. Just the mere mention of Elijah's name set her heart pounding and her stomach whooshing a slow somersault. He was good-looking. Hot. Gorgeous. And way out of her league. She wasn't going to tell her grandfather that.

"Stop being a matchmaker. You'll get your babies in due time, I promise." Maybe sooner than he wanted if her body didn't stop with the meltdown-frantic-for-sex-now routine.

She'd taken to looking at her grandfather's bodyguards. And his number one man, Paolo, the man her grandfather dreamed of having her marry. Paolo watched her all the time. He always had. His gaze burned through her. He was good- looking and always very polite to her, but she knew he was a hound dog. He went through women, and word was, he wasn't very nice about it. She'd heard rumors from some of the maids and the cook that he ruled his women with an iron fist. She wasn't hooking up with him, even though she knew he was more than willing.

"I'm not getting any younger," he repeated, patting her hand. "Be a good girl and deliver the wine for me. Give Elijah my best. Tell him not to be such a stranger and to drop by once in a while to see an old man."

"I will, Nonnino," she murmured and kissed the top of his head. The hair on the back of her neck stood up and her stomach tightened. She knew without turning her head that Paolo Riso had stepped into the room. He was all roped muscle and fluid grace, and for such a big man he moved in complete silence. She knew he was very intelligent, and her grandfather relied heavily on him. She had always gotten along with him, even liked him when she was younger, but the last few years she'd visited home, he made her very uncomfortable.

She turned her head and forced a smile. His eyes were on her. Gleaming. Watching. Hooded. Holding secrets. Secrets she was certain involved her—none of them good. He was very close to her grandfather, and her grandfather treated him as he might a son. She wanted to love him for that alone, but instead, each time she came back home, she found herself becoming more and more uneasy around him.

Not like her grandfather's second-in-command. Alonzo Massi made her entire body tense, shiver even, with revulsion. The man's body was massive with ropes of muscle, and he was just plain scary. His eyes were always following her around, and he appeared as cold as a snake. She wasn't certain what kind of job he actually did for her grandfather, but she was fairly certain it had nothing to do with the winery.

"Hey, Paolo." She gave him a smile. She was very good at smiling and making it seem genuine. "How's it going?"

"Good, bella." Paolo moved right to her.

She forced air through her lungs, knowing what was com- ing. He was getting bolder and bolder, and always in front of her beaming grandfather, who clearly approved. He took both hands and pulled her to her feet. Pulled her into him. He leaned down, and she turned her face slightly so his lips brushed her cheek rather than her lips.

Deep inside something that was out of control and wild leapt toward the surface. She was shocked and pulled back, although Paolo didn't release her hands. He stared down at her face and there was speculation there. His eyes changed color, yellow flecks spreading through the dark brown until they almost looked like a cat's. Wholly focused on her. Unblinking.

Heat moved through her body. This wasn't good. She tugged on her hands to get him to release her.

"I have to go. Nonno asked me to run an errand for him, and I want to get to the gym tonight as well."

Paolo frowned. He didn't release her hands, but looked over his shoulder at her grandfather. "Perhaps someone else should run the errand, Antonio."

There was something very subtle in his voice. A warning. An order? Whatever it was, she didn't like it. Siena very firmly pulled her hands away, not bothering with being polite. She always thought the infamous Arnotto temper had skipped her, but right then she knew it hadn't. Edgy and restless turned to fierce and formidable. She drew herself up—and wished she was wearing her heels—but she could look haughty with- out them and she gave Paolo her best princess to peasant look. "I told Nonno I would take the gift to Signor Lospostos and I will." She tossed her head, the long mane of very thick hair flying around her face and down to her waist. Bending down, she skimmed another kiss on her grandfather's head and then left the room with a small wave. "Addio Nonnino.

Addio, Paolo, please take care of Nonno for me."

She ran back upstairs to her room without a backward glance. If she was delivering wine to Elijah Lospostos, argu- ably the hottest man in the universe, then she was going to take a little care with her appearance. She quickly stuffed her gym clothes in a bag and changed. She didn't want to look like she went all out. He probably wouldn't even notice her, but still, she was going to look good.

Siena knew she was pretty. She looked in the mirror, and she knew. She had great skin. Perfect skin. Italian skin. Her eyes were unusual. Very large, shaped like a cat's, so she looked exotic to people. They were green. Not just any green;a deep, pure brilliant green, and she had lush, thick, very black eyelashes. She was blessed with those eyes.

She had the most annoying hair in the world, although even she had to admit it was beautiful. There just was too much of it. It grew and grew and never seemed to stop. She'd tried cutting it, but that seemed to make it grow faster and even thicker than ever, so she gave up and just went with the old-fashioned look. Thick, rich, luxurious, her hair fell well past her waist in waves. It was impossible to tame, so she mostly wore it up when she was home, pulled back in a pony- tail or braid. At school, of course, she had to appear a little more sophisticated so she used updos of intricate braids spun in all kinds of lovely knots.

Her nose was straight, her cheekbones high and her mouth a little too generous, but she did have straight teeth without having to go to the orthodontist. She was short. There was no getting around that. She had tried to gain a few inches by hanging upside down on the bars when she was a child, but that hadn't helped at all. She had a small waist and a narrow rib cage, but along with that generous mouth, her hips and breasts were a little bit on the generous side too. No matter how much she worked out or watched what she ate, she had curves. Lush curves.

She sighed. She'd seen Elijah with a tall, thin model once, coming out of a coffee shop. The woman had blond hair and blue eyes. His arm was around her and they were laughing together. She saw him in the distance at another party her grandfather had thrown when she was sixteen, and another one at nineteen, and he'd had a different model on his arm. Tall. Thin. Beautiful. Blond. And yet again, a few years later in a magazine. Tall. Thin. Beautiful. Blond. Again. He had a type and that type was so not her. She was short and dark and totally curvy. She looked even younger than she was, not at all sophisticated. She knew when she delivered the wine, Eli- jah would look at her like she was a little kid, like he always did. Antonio Arnotto's little granddaughter. Still, she was determined to go looking her best.

She chose soft, vintage faded jeans and a camisole that was pale green with satiny straps. The camisole emphasized her small rib cage and tucked-in waist. The color was great against her skin and really brought out her eyes. The only real problem was shoes. She wore heels all the time. She hesitated, looking at a pair of strappy green designer heels, her favorite paired with the camisole. She didn't want to look as if she were trying to be his type. Still, she needed confidence and heels gave her that. She shrugged and strapped them on.

Biting her lip, she stared at her wild hair. How in the world was she going to tame all that hair? There was nothing else for it on such short notice. She swept it all back away from her face into a long ponytail. She left all jewelry off.

Looking into the mirror she practiced. "I'm on my way to the gym and just stopped by to deliver your birthday gift from Nonno. I'm sorry it's late, but my school didn't let out until this week and Nonno likes me to personally deliver . . ." Siena groaned. That made her sound like a silly schoolgirl when she was twenty-four. "Damn it," she whispered, and turned away from her image. She looked like a silly schoolgirl. She needed a lot more inches and a lot less curves to be the type Elijah Lospostos went for, so really, why was she bothering?

She caught up her gym bag and hurried down the stairs before she did something crazy like change her clothes again. She rushed back toward the sitting room her grandfather seemed to occupy more than ever these days, but stopped abruptly when she heard the whispered but furious conversa- tion between her grandfather and his first-in-command. They kept their voices low, but lately she'd noticed her hearing seemed to be very acute. At the same time, her vision messed up, so that she saw in weird bands of color. Whenever that happened, she felt restless. Edgy. Need burned hot and wild between her legs.

She held the back of a chair just outside the sitting room, her grip so hard her knuckles turned white. She took in long, deep breaths, trying to regain some semblance of control. Her bones ached. Her fingers curled, and she felt that strange feral entity unfolding deep inside of her. Her skin itched, a terrible wave that refused to stop, and she swore something was press- ing on her from the inside out, needing to escape. She was afraid of that something. It was wanton, hungry and in terrible need.

She put her head down and breathed more, desperate for the feeling to pass. She was very happy Paolo was nowhere near, because the sound of his voice seemed to trigger a deeper reaction in her.

"I'm telling you, Tonio, this is not a good idea. Something could go wrong."

"You worry too much, Paolo. Always you worry. She's young. Beautiful. His mind will be on her. Not my reserve. Not what day of the month it is. On her."

"I don't know why you have such an obsession with making certain you exact your revenge. You are putting not only Siena in jeopardy, but you as well. If evidence is left behind . . ."

"Marco knows what he is doing. Always you worry," her grandfather repeated.

"She is close to the Han Vol Dan. I feel it. My other feels it. She's very close."

"You saw evidence of this?"

"No evidence, just a feeling. She can't do this, Tonio. Stop her. I'm telling you, something could go wrong. If the timing is off, if she lingers . . ."

"She's a good girl. She will do as she's told and then go to her gym where many witnesses will see her there."

Witnesses? She is close? What did that mean. Evidence?
What were they talking about?

"Tonio." Paolo bit out the name between his teeth. "Paolo." Her grandfather did the same. "The subject is closed. Go find her. Tell her the wine is in her car and she must go now."

Paolo swore in Italian, but she knew he would obey. Every- one obeyed her grandfather. He'd built an empire with his wineries and his amazing grapes. He had more money than he knew what to do with, and he'd made good friends and many enemies along the way.

The breathing helped and the wildness in her subsided. She turned away from the sitting room to make her way to the landing at the top of the stairs, acting as though she'd hadn't come down already. She had no idea why she did that, but it was instinctive. She knew her grandfather and Paolo would both be upset if they knew she heard their strange conversation. The knowledge came from the tone of their voices in their whispered exchange—almost as if they were involved in a conspiracy.

"Siena." Paolo's voice came up the stairs. "I'd like a word with you before you go. Your grandfather wants you to get moving. He says he doesn't want you to miss Elijah."

She winced at that hard authority in his voice. He was becoming more and more bossy with her. When she'd been a teenager, he'd been less so. Now, he watched her all the time. She wasn't certain why. She looked young, so he might think she was still a teenager. She'd just turned twenty-four while she was away at school, and no one, not even her grand- father, had remembered her birthday, so how could she expect Paolo to know? Still, she had studied oenology and viticulture for years and had so many degrees you would think Paolo would consider her intelligent, but he always spoke as if she were a child. Of course no one had come to her graduations— not any of them—so maybe he didn't know that either. Maybe they all still thought she was in boarding school.

"Coming, Paolo," she called, as she once more gripped her gym bag and began her descent. "Did Nonno have some- one put the wine in my car?"

She hurried down the stairs again and immediately felt the impact of his gaze like a hard punch. He reached out and caught her arm, jerking her close to him, his fingers a vise.

The instant he touched her, the wild unfurled in the pit of her stomach. Something dangerous and scary. She heard her heart thundering in her ears. She felt the need to rake and claw at him. She stayed very still, breathing hard.

"You changed?" He growled it. "To see Lospostos, you changed your clothes?"

"I could hardly wear my workout clothes on an important call for my grandfather, Paolo," she pointed out, keeping her voice even and calm when she uncharacteristically wanted to rake her fingernails down his face. "You're hurting me. Let. Go." She stared straight into his eyes. His eyes were weird. Scary. He looked as if he might kill her any moment.

"Not until you listen to the rules of this visit." He pulled her from the staircase, away from the sitting room where her grandfather watched television and into the foyer.

"Paolo." His bruising grip really hurt and she was fairly certain he knew it. She decided on another tactic. "Why do you dislike me so much? I thought we were friends. What did I do to make you so angry with me all the time?" She forced herself to ask the questions, mainly because she knew he would relax his hold on her, but partly because she really wanted to know.

It was the right way to approach him. Instantly his grip loosened and his face changed. Grew softer. "I don't dislike you, Siena. Don't be silly. You're grown up now, and you know your grandfather has all but promised you to me. I don't like you running around looking like you do where other men might take advantage of you."

Siena wasn't certain how to respond. She knew her grand- father was always matchmaking, and she couldn't deny he always said when he was gone, Paolo would look after her. He sometimes went so far as to tell her he would plan the wedding of the century for them.

"Paolo." She took a deep breath and let it out. "Nonno is always pairing me with someone. Just a few minutes ago he told me it was time for Elijah Lospostos to settle down." Something dangerous moved in his eyes and she was suddenly afraid. "I'm not old enough to settle down. I still have to learn the business end of the winery right here at home.I'm not looking at anyone right now. Yes, I go to clubs to dance, but I'm careful about drinking and I don't take men home. You know I don't. One of Nonno's men is always looking after me. I know they report back to you."

"You go to his house and give him the message from your grandfather and give him the wine. You do not go inside with him. He's a dangerous man. Your grandfather thinks everyone is his friend. Lospostos is not. Deliver the wine, talk a few minutes, and get out of there. Do you understand me?"

"I hardly think I'll be . . ."

"Do you understand me?" He roared it. His fingers sank deep again, and he gave her a little shake.

Siena nodded submissively when all she wanted to do was kick him very hard in the shins and claw his eyes out. She kept her head down so he wouldn't see the rebellion in her eyes. "Yes, Paolo."

He stared down at her another minute and then let her go.Siena forced herself not to rub at the finger marks on her arm. She knew she would have bruises and she was tempted to march in to her grandfather and show him what Paolo had
done to her. The only thing was—she was beginning to think he wouldn't do anything other than ask her why she would upset such a good man. In his eyes, Paolo could do no wrong. As she'd gotten older, her beloved grandfather had gone from doting to watchful as well. She didn't know what they were all waiting for, but the longer they waited, the more upset everyone got.

"The wine's in your car," Paolo said. He caught her chin in a firm grip. "You be careful, Siena."

She blinked rapidly, trying not to show fear. Or anger. Or any other emotion. She felt as if her life was turning upside down and she didn't even know why. His eyes searched hers. "Did I hurt you?" His voice was gentle. "I'm worried for you, and sometimes my temper gets the better of me. Your nonno and I disagree about some of the things he asks you to do. I don't ever like the idea that you could be in danger."

"Paolo, I'm just delivering his wine. He's asked me to do it each time I've come home on a break, and I have. It's the least I can do after all the things he does for me. It's no big deal, honestly. I don't mind. And I'll be careful. It's possible Lospostos isn't home and I'll leave the wine and a note."

Siena knew she was placating him, but she did it anyway. She didn't understand the dynamics of her household anymore. Maybe she'd just been gone away so much she never really knew what it was.

Her parents had died in a car bombing. Siena understood why her grandfather was so protective of her. He'd never really gotten over his son's death. When she was little, she had her grandmother, who doted on her. When her grandmother passed away, she was immediately sent to a very private and exclusive boarding school. She'd been six and terrified, but no amount of tears would convince her grandfather to keep her at home.

Of course she was home every holiday, and he spoiled her rotten. She sat with him, laughed with him, played games until all hours, and he seemed to delight in her com- pany. His men were always close, always watchful, and when she asked, he told her that there were bad people out there who didn't like that he'd been so successful with his wine making and vineyards. He needed to make certain she was protected so he had bodyguards watching her. When she was ten years old, she found out the hard way he was right. Men broke into her room at the school and dragged her, kicking and screaming, into the night. She had spent two nights in an old abandoned warehouse, terrified, in the dark, a blindfold over her eyes, tied to a bed. One of

her kidnappers had been kind and given her water and reas- surance, but the others were terrifying. Her grandfather's men had come, and there was a terrible gunfight. Two of the men who had been holding her were shot and killed. The other two had been outside the building and got away. She knew her grandfather had hunted for them for two years.

When she was fifteen, someone had tried kidnapping her again. Alonzo had stopped them. She didn't remember much about it, but she had terrible nightmares. One day, after she told her grandfather her nightmare, he simply said she didn't have to worry anymore and to stop. The nightmares didn't stop, but she never told him about them again.

"Stay out of his house, Siena," Paolo warned her again. She nearly startled, so lost in her thoughts she had almost forgotten he was standing in front of her. Paolo had always helped her grandfather. She guessed he was fifteen to twenty years older than she was. He had been one of the men to rescue her from the first kidnappers, assigned as her bodyguard back then before he moved into the number one position.

He was handsome, she supposed, now that she was really up close to him. She had never thought of him that way, but she wasn't attracted to him. Not really. So why did that edgy feeling begin to creep back over her?

"I will," she agreed, turned and left without a backward glance. What was wrong with her? Paolo had manhandled her. She shouldn't have noticed that he was good-looking. She shouldn't have felt tingles anywhere on her body. Not a single place.

She drove fast with the top down and the wind in her hair. She didn't care if the long strands got tangled and she looked terrible when she arrived at Elijah's house. She needed the cool air on her hot skin. She needed to breathe, far away from the house that had once been her home but was now a prison. Everyone watched her. Waiting. She detested that her every move was scrutinized. It was the reason she didn't use the state-of-the-art gym her grandfather had put in for her, instead

choosing to have a little respite from all the eyes on her ever since she'd returned home.

Elijah owned a large estate not far from where her grand- father lived in the hill country west of San Antonio and Austin. His property was close to Jake Bannaconni's huge, sprawling ranch. It was where all the millionaires lived, although Ban- naconni was a certified billionaire according to Forbes. Most of the bigger estates and ranches were out away from the city. She knew Bannaconni took a helicopter to work. She didn't know what Elijah did, but she wondered.

There were rumors, of course. Her grandfather was Italian. He'd actually emigrated from Italy with his wife to raise his family in the United States. He'd worked hard for his winery and, although he made his money legitimately, the rumors persisted. They did about Elijah's family as well. His family was Spanish and had come from somewhere in South Amer- ica. Because she knew her grandfather was a good man who had worked hard all of his life for his family, she didn't judge Elijah or the whispers surrounding him.

The high, wrought iron gates to his ranch were closed, and she leaned over to look into the camera and state her business. There was a moment of silence while her heart pounded. She twirled a thick strand of hair from her ponytail around her finger, which she often did when she was nervous, but couldn't help it. The gates swung inward. Heart pounding, she drove through and up the long, winding driveway to his house.

She knew this wasn't the family home, the huge one Elijah's father had owned before he'd been murdered. Rumor had it that his own uncle had ordered the hit on his father and then his uncle had been killed, leaving Elijah the head of his family business. No, this was the mansion Elijah bought to entertain his women in. His tall, thin, blond, beau- tiful women. She sighed, knowing she spent far too much time at school where she had developed low self-esteem for a variety of reasons. It hadn't helped living in her grandfa- ther's house with all the men coming and going.

She'd always felt like an outsider. Not always, she cor- rected herself. Not when her grandmother was alive, but she could barely remember those days anymore. She'd spent her school years fairly isolated. There was no having friends at school, her grandfather's men saw to that. Having two hulks go with her everywhere made her seem pretentious. Even some of her professors balked at them entering the class- rooms. It had left her without many social skills. She didn't exactly relate well to others and kept to herself most of the time, even at home, although she did go dancing because she loved to dance.

The drive up to Elijah's house was very long and winding. It was paved, but on either side, the land rolled away, wild and filled with trees and brush as far as the eye could see. This wasn't at all like her grandfather's manicured estate. The only flowers growing were wildflowers. She glimpsed a couple of oil wells as she drove along the fence line of his property, and she wasn't surprised. Bannaconni, his closest neighbor, was noted for finding oil, even in the most obscure places.

She slowed her car and pulled to a stop to stare out over the wild land. A part of her longed to leap out of her seat and just start running, lose herself there, in the middle of all that rough terrain. She sat there a long time, feeling tears on her face. She was lonely. Lonely at school. Lonely at home. Just plain lonely. She didn't have girlfriends to go out clubbing with. She didn't have boyfriends to take her to dinner or sit and watch movies with.

She had her grandfather, who these days seemed far away, cut off from her, more under the thumb of Paolo and Alonzo. She rarely saw her grandfather without one or the other of them close. In fact, her last three visits, she'd never really been alone with him. They were continually at his side. Alonzo was ice-cold. Paolo stared at her hungrily, like an animal scenting something weak and ready to pounce.

She didn't consider herself weak. Just lost. She had no real direction. She had just finished school and had no more excuses

to stay away. She'd spent most of her summers and vacations gaining hands-on experience in the vineyards, learning to care for the grapes. She stood to inherit everything. The vineyards and the winery. All of her grandfather's businesses. She had no other living relative. None.

She stared out into the wild, beckoning land. She needed to take some control in her life. She escaped to school, she realized. Ran away. She didn't want to be home anymore. It wasn't a sanctuary or a haven; it was an alien place filled with men who walked all over her. She needed to talk to her grand- father, without either Paolo or Alonzo around, and explain she was due a lot more freedom.

She had her own money. Her grandmother had left her a trust fund. Her parents had left her a second trust fund. She didn't need to stay under her grandfather's thumb if he dis- agreed with her. She needed to get some guts and actually confront him. It was time to get rid of the bodyguards. She was tired of living her life under the scrutiny of his army of men. She actually thought of them like that. Soldiers.

With a small sigh she took a deep breath and started up the drive again, toward the house. Her heart beat hard in anticipation of seeing Elijah. She hadn't really been close to him since that last dinner, when she was nineteen. Just as when she was fifteen, his gaze had rested on her more than once, making her heart pound just the way it was doing now. Given that her body seemed to be raging with runaway hor- mones, this wasn't the best time to be alone with him.

She decided to put the wine on his front porch and obey Paolo's rule of staying out of the house. It was the only safe thing to do to keep from making an absolute fool of herself. She wasn't even certain she could talk to him. Say a word. Maybe she'd get lucky and it had been his security people who had allowed her inside the high gates.

She pulled into the circular drive and stared up at the house. It wasn't a mansion like her family home, but it was beautiful. Perfect. Homey. Not in the least ostentatious. She

loved the wraparound verandah with the huge columns hold- ing up a sloping roof that shaded the wide, inviting porch.

Elijah stood waiting at his front door, wearing a tight- fitting pair of jeans that rode low on his hips and fit very lovingly around his extremely nice butt. The breath left her lungs in a long rush. His jeans were carelessly buttoned, the top two left undone. He wore no shirt, displaying a heavily muscled chest. His black, black hair was unruly and damp as if he'd just stepped out of the shower. She swallowed hard, trying not to stare. Her already soaring temperature went up a couple more notches. She had forgotten how good he looked. He was definitely a man—no soft edges to him at all. Right now, intimately barefoot, his anger seemed to simmer right below the surface.

She couldn't understand his anger, unless she had inter- rupted him with another woman. She blushed. Of course there would be a woman there. She hadn't called. Her grand- father never had her call, saying he wanted it to be a surprise when she delivered his best reserve for whatever the occa- sion. She could see how intruding on a date with a willing woman would make Elijah mad.

Still, he looked so gorgeous. Handsome. Masculine. Dan- gerous. Immediately, that wild thing inside her stretched and unfurled. She felt hot. Very hot. She couldn't tear her gaze away from him. She told herself he probably had a woman in the house with him, but it didn't matter. Already, her blood rushed through her veins, so heated she knew she was flushed. Her breasts ached. Her sex spasmed. There was a burning between her legs that was worse than anything she'd ever experienced. She had the mad desire to fling herself at him, tear his clothes off and beg him to pound into her, filling her.

She gripped the steering wheel until her knuckles grew white. His eyes drifted over her, an intense scrutiny that saw way too much. She had never seen a man more sensual in her life.

"Siena." He said her name softly and took a step toward her.

Her heart hammered madly. God. He was beautiful. Mas- culine. All roped muscle, wide shoulders and thick chest. With every movement, his very defined muscles rippled. Her mouth watered. Her pulse throbbed deep in her core. His wide shoulders tapered to a narrow waist, and her eyes dropped lower. Her breath caught in her lungs.

"Siena," he said again, this time firmly. A command. She swallowed hard and let out her breath slowly. "Elijah." She could barely get his name out. Her voice didn't sound the same at all. It sounded husky. Sexy. Not at all her.

They stared at each other. Her breath refused to leave her lungs. He'd sucked all the air from the atmosphere until her lungs burned and felt raw. He looked predatory. Dangerous. Scary. He looked delicious. She licked her lips, holding on for dear life to the steering wheel, otherwise something terrible was going to happen. Her blood thundered in her ears, drown- ing out common sense.

"My grandfather sent you a belated birthday present, Elijah. A case of his reserve." She nearly stammered the words. Her voice wasn't her own. Husky. Sensual. Needy. Hungry.

His gaze drifted over her face and dropped to her chest. She couldn't control her breathing. "So this is how he does it. He uses you. You're a part of this? He uses you for his dirty work?" He nearly snarled the words at her. "And you let him?" She had no idea what he was talking about. She barely heard the words through the roaring of her blood in her ears. She could barely think. Her mind was melting along with her body. So hot. Her breasts were on fire. She needed to drive away. Her finger instinctively went to the starter. "Don't." His voice was low. She froze, her gaze skittering to his. "Get out of that fucking car right now."

She didn't dare obey him. His voice was every bit as husky as hers. Predatory. Hungry. She tried to shake her head, to tell him it wasn't a good idea, but he was down the walkway and leaning into her car to unhook her seat belt. He simply lifted

her into his arms, pulling her right out of the car and striding back to his house. Into the house.

She felt his hands burning like brands where he touched her. She clung to him, staring into his eyes, shocked at his behavior. All the while that burn got hotter until she was afraid she'd burst into flames. He slammed the door behind them and put her down, leaving her breathless. Her breasts heaving. Her stomach rolling. Damp heat spreading like wild- fire between her legs.

"Take off your shoes." It was a clear order, delivered in a harsh, rough voice that seemed to stroke her skin and leave behind flames.

She licked her lips, looking up him. She was in way over her head, but he was so compelling she couldn't move.

Impatient, a snarl on his face, he bent to the pale green, strappy sandals and undid them, lifting her leg to force her to step out of them. She backed away from him on bare feet, unsure what to do.

"I'm not supposed to be in here. In your house," she blurted stupidly.

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