© 2023 by Jordan Summers

SABERTOOTH CHAPTERS 1-3

                                                                                CHAPTER ONE

 

“A saber-tooth tiger has been spotted at the famous La Brea Tar Pits,” the television announcer said, his voice filled with excitement and more than a little skepticism.

Katy Manfred did a double take at the screen as the news station moved its feed from the studio to a live shot from a hovering helicopter over downtown Los Angeles. She saw a flash of brownish red move across the screen, but it was too fast to catch what it was before it disappeared beneath the thick foliage.

It had to be some kind of joke. A saber-tooth tiger? Puleaseee.Those cats lived in the Cenozoic period before the Holocene and had been extinct for over eleven thousand years. Katy snickered. Someone should probably inform the press.

Katy shook her head, sending strawberry blonde hair into her face. She pulled the hair tie off her wrist and swept her shoulder-length bob into a quick ponytail. She didn’t bother checking in the mirror to see if it was straight. Katy didn’t care.

The camera filming the famous tar pits, where several prehistoric bones had been recovered, swung wildly in an attempt to catch the fleeing animal. So far, other than the flash of movement, which could’ve been an obese squirrel, they hadn’t managed to film anything but trees. The camera swung around again. A crowd of people stood on the sidewalk waving and pointing.

Katy laughed. Everyone in L.A. wanted their fifteen minutes of fame. This had to be a publicity stunt. She tried to recall the upcoming filming schedules she’d read about in the popular movie industry rag, but nothing came to mind. Katy turned away from the television, muting the sound just as the phone rang.

“Manfred here.” She paused to listen. “Yes, I saw the news.”

“I want you to try to get to the La Brea Tar Pits before animal control arrives,” Roger Sylvan said.

“They’re already there. I spotted their truck when the cameras tried to capture the cat on film.”

“Then I suggest you hurry. You need to catch the animal before they do.”

“Are you sure you want me to do that, sir? Animal control doesn’t like the private sector stepping on their toes. I’m sure they can handle the situation. I doubt very much that it’s a saber-tooth tiger,” Katy said.

“I don’t pay you to question my orders, Manfred. Get down there now. If there’s even a remote chance this thing is real, I want Bio Tech to possess it. Do whatever it takes.”

“You’re the boss,” she said through gritted teeth.

“And don’t you forget it,” Roger said. Like he’d ever let her. There was a click and the line went dead.

Katy hung up the phone, then strode across the living room of her Santa Monica bungalow. The place wasn’t much, but it was all she had left of her parents. Despite the years that had gone by since the boat fire, loneliness still plagued her. The loss was as painful today as it had been when the accident occurred. Katy pushed her pain aside. She had a job to do and couldn’t afford the distraction.

She glanced at the television once more. The cameraman was still trying to catch the feline on film. She hit the power button and watched the screen dim. Going to La Brea Tar Pits was a total waste of time. Katy knew it and so did her boss, Roger Sylvan. He’d been sending her out on wild goose chases for the past few months in an attempt to get her to quit. This was what she got for dating her boss.

At first, she’d been was too stubborn to concede, but lately Katy had come to realize her resistance had more to do with the fact that she had nowhere else to go. She punched in a code on her wall and a hatch popped open, displaying her pistol. Strapping on her weapon, she headed for the front door.

Katy grabbed a canvas bag that remained packed at all times, unzipping it to ensure she had extra ammo. The dart guns and snares were already in her truck, along with a tarp covering and a reinforced net. The zoo hadn’t reported any big cats missing, but there were always private owners. It was probably somebody’s scared lion. The rich and their pets. She shook her head in disgust.

Didn’t they know these types of animals could never be tamed? How many times had she had to put down a cornered half-crazed animal just to keep it from hurting nearby humans? Too damn many. Renewed anger surged through her. These people had no business keeping predators in the middle of a city the size of Los Angeles. Once Katy caught this cat, she’d tell them so. It was her job to clean up other people’s messes. Someone was going to get their ass kicked if she had to shoot a cat today.

Katy shoved the truck in reverse and backed out of her driveway. She heard brakes screech and the blast of a horn. She didn’t care. She needed to get to La Brea Tar Pits and fast. The ride there was slow going at best, thanks to L.A.’s typical traffic flow of slow, slowest and crawl. 

She considered taking to the sidewalks, but decided against it. The cat would probably hunker down somewhere in the brush until nightfall, and then make its escape. Hell, that’s what she would do in its place.

Forty minutes later, she pulled into the heavily shaded parking area at La Brea Tar Pits as several police cars exited. The crowd seemed to have dissipated somewhat, leaving only a few hardcore lookie loos around.

Katy shut the door of her truck, then strapped on the holster for her dart gun, slipping the weapon into place. She moved to her tailgate to ensure the cage and tarp were in order before approaching the people.

“Where’s animal control?” she asked no one in particular.

A man stepped forward. “They left, since they couldn’t find any trace of the animal. One had the nerve to suggest we were making up the whole thing to drum up business.”

“Were you?” Katy asked.

“No,” he said. “And I resent the accusation.”

Grumbles echoed throughout the crowd.

Katy debated whether to get back in her truck and go home. If animal control hadn’t been able to locate the cat, then she didn’t think she’d have much better luck. Sure, she was a good tracker—great even, but it was next to impossible to track animals in a concrete jungle. She supposed it wouldn’t hurt to ask if anyone had seen anything before she left.

“Anyone know where the cat went?” Katy searched the faces around her, but most refused to make eye contact.

“You aren’t going to kill it, are you?” someone called out.

The last thing Katy wanted to do was destroy the animal, but sometimes she didn’t have a choice. “Not if I can avoid it,” she said noncommittally.

A little boy pushed his way through the small crowd, then signaled for her to crouch down so that he could whisper in her ear. “I know where it went.”

“Petey, get back here this instant.” A frantic mother shoved her way to the front in search of her son.

“Where is he, Petey?” Katy used the child’s name in hopes it would reassure him enough to answer.

Petey glanced at his mom, then grabbed Katy’s hand and tugged her away from the other people. “I don’t want anyone else to hear. The kitty told me to keep it a secret.”

Katy frowned. “The kitty told you not to say anything?”

The little mop-topped boy nodded his head, sending brown curls cascading into his face. “Mommy doesn’t believe me, but you do, don’t you?” he asked, his lower lip starting to tremble.

Katy cupped his cheek and smiled. As a child, she’d been convinced she could talk to the animals. She still remembered the pain and humiliation the kids in school inflicted with their “crazy Katy” taunts. “Of course I believe you. Now show me where he is.” She nodded to his mother to let her know everything was okay.

Petey beamed, then dragged her down a path that wound around some of the outbuildings associated with the facility. “He’s over there under those bushes.” He pointed to an area off the path that dipped slightly into a small ditch.

She couldn’t immediately see anything, but that didn’t mean the cat wasn’t there. “Thank you, Petey. You’ve been very helpful.”

Katy glanced over her shoulder and saw the child’s mother waiting, a concerned expression on her face. She motioned for her son to join her, while her gaze scanned the bushes.

“You’d better get going,” Katy said. “Your mom’s worried about you.”

He smiled, showing a missing front tooth. “She worries about everything,” he said, rolling his eyes.

“That’s her job. Now scoot.” Katy rumpled his hair, then sent him on his way. She needed Petey and everyone else to stay clear of the area. Predators were unpredictable, especially when cornered. She didn’t want to take the chance of an innocent bystander getting hurt, especially a child, and she damn well didn’t want to have to put the animal down in front of an audience.

She inched closer, dart gun in hand, her eyes searching the shadows for movement. A warm breeze filtered through her hair, tearing a few strawberry blonde wisps out of her ponytail. She reached up, tucking the errant strands behind her ear.

Traffic sounds faded, giving way to the rustling of leaves in the trees. Even the birds had suddenly gone quiet. Katy knew something hunted her. She crouched lower and blinked. Intelligent green eyes stared unflinchingly back at her.

No way in hell. Her mind refused to acknowledge what she was looking at. Even as denial fluttered through her head, Katy knew there was no mistake. It wasa saber-tooth tiger, or cat, as the scientific community more accurately labeled them, since the animals were only distantly related to tigers and close cousins to the lion.

Lying under a branch of the farthest bush, panting in the warm Southern California heat, the cat yawned, displaying his seven-inch serrated teeth. Despite the imminent danger, she took a step closer to get a better look.

The cat didn’t move. It seemed to be studying her as closely as she studied it.

Katy knew it was impossible, but she couldn’t shake the feeling of intelligent awareness that the animal conveyed. It was almost like it was thinking, trying to puzzle her out. She shook her head at her own foolishness. The cat was smart, but it didn’t have awareness beyond the primal. She was a meal to the animal and nothing more. Displacing her emotions and putting them on the cat was something Katy hadn’t done since she was a kid.

She stared at the cat, taking care not to look it directly in the eyes. The last thing Katy needed was for it to interpret her intentions as a challenge for dominance.

She took in the cat’s appearance as it lounged on its side, watching her. Tufts of white hair surrounded his massive twelve-inch head and accented his muscular legs and belly much like the tigers of modern day. Yet, the stripes on his body were different, less pronounced. Almost as if they were a genetic afterthought.

Shorter than a lion, but still huge up close, the cat easily weighed in at a thousand pounds of solid muscle, doubling the King of the Jungle’s body mass and then some. His fangs, which looked more like tusks, hung down like a walrus over his mouth. The lethal weapons could easily gut the largest land-based mammal on the planet.

He truly was the find of the century. At least she thought it was a he. Katy glanced at the juncture between his sinewy legs and her eyes bulged. Yep, definitely a he. This big cat was going to make some female tiger or lion, depending on his genetics, very happy indeed. Katy radioed for assistance, then raised the dart gun and aimed at the animal’s flank.

Don’t do it!The command slammed into her mind.

It was so loud that she actually reached for the side of her head to cover her ears and almost dropped her gun. Where did that come from? Katy carefully glanced around, keeping one eye trained on the cat at all times.

Tigers and other big cats had a reputation for jumping their prey from behind. Logic told her that the saber-tooth might react the same way. She didn’t want to give it any kind of opening, since all the scientific research done on this animal to date was based on theory, not fact.

She gave one final glance over her shoulder. The path behind her was clear of people. Weird. She could’ve sworn that whoever shouted was nearby.

Katy raised the gun again.

Please don’t. The voice said, but this time it came as a request, not a command.

She frowned, ignoring her quivering fingers. Didn’t they say that the first sign of schizophrenia was hearing voices? Petey’s innocent words came rushing back to her. He’d said the cat spoke to him. Was that what was happening now?

“Are you talking to me?” she asked aloud, feeling more than a little ridiculous.

The cat simply stared at her in that bored kitty kind of way.

“Of course you’re not.” She shook her head at her own foolishness. Katy aimed the dart gun and fired.

An outraged bellow echoed in her head before quickly tapering as the cat drifted off to sleep. The sound left Katy shaken.

Her backup arrived in time to help her load the saber-tooth into the cage on her truck. Katy threw the tarp over the cage and shut the tailgate, then slipped behind the wheel. She looked over her shoulder at the cat and trembled under the enormity of her find. Her orders were to head straight to the compound that Bio Tech used to temporarily house the animals that she trapped. The company would notify the owners after their staff vets thoroughly examined the beast and collected whatever reward had been offered.

If the animal went unclaimed by its owners, the company would use the creature for genetic research. Katy went out of her way to make sure all animals she brought in were claimed, even if it took her weeks to hunt down the owners. Unfortunately, the discovery of a saber-tooth fell into a different category altogether. There was no way Bio Tech would hand over the cat to anyone without a fight.

“I need you guys to draw some of the media attention away, while I take the cat to the lab. Throw the tarps over the cages in the back of your trucks, so they don’t know which one of us has the animal,” she said.

“We were told to stay by your side,” the one guard said. “And that’s what we intend to do.”

Katy knew she shouldn’t be surprised that they’d been ordered to escort her, but she was. Since when had she become so untrustworthy? She faced the men. “Do you really want to bring reporters down on top of Roger Sylvan and Bio Tech?”

As expected, their eyes rounded at the mention of her ex’s name and they shook their heads. The men were well aware of the value of her find and didn’t want to do anything to endanger their positions at the company.

“Didn’t think so,” Katy said. “Now get going.”

The security team threw the tarps over the cages in their trucks, then jumped into their vehicles and sped away, fishtailing out of the parking lot. With any luck, the media would follow them.

She started the engine and reversed out of the parking lot into the main thoroughfare. Katy glanced into the back of the truck, catching glimpses of the sleeping cat under the tarp as the wind lifted the material. He really was the find of the century.

Suddenly, taking him to the compound didn’t seem like such a good idea. If she did that, there was a good chance Roger would take all the credit for the discovery. The news choppers circled above, filming her departure, instead of following the decoys. It wasn’t like the cat would remain a secret for long.

Katy wanted credit for this discovery. Receiving credit would be the only way she could leave Bio Tech and land another job. Yet even with that knowledge, for some reason she couldn’t bring herself to share him right away.

The connection she felt with the big cat burned in her mind. Logically, Katy knew it was crazy to think the cat had been talking to her, but no matter how hard she tried she couldn’t seem to get the masculine voice out of her mind. She needed to get her thoughts straight and there was only one place to do it.

She threw the truck in gear and headed for her home. There she’d examine him further to ensure he wasn’t a hoax. Katy didn’t really have a place for a large cat, but it wasn’t like she’d take him out of the cage. That cage was the only thing keeping him from ripping her arm off. Well, the cage and the dart in his muscled flank. The tension in her neck eased a fraction. With the drugs in the animal’s system, he was no danger to anyone—at least for a little while.

Katy drove, trying to ignore the choppers following her down the freeway. The last thing she wanted was for people to camp out on her lawn in hopes of catching a glimpse of the cat. Katy took as many side streets as she could.

She’d just about given up trying to shake the pesky reporters, when a broadcast concerning a high-speed police chase on the 405 freeway interrupted the music. The choppers veered off in search of the next hot story. Katy’s shoulders slumped and she let out a long breath she hadn’t realized she’d been holding.

She glanced into the back of the truck, unable to see the animal. “You and I finally have a little privacy,” she murmured, then continued home.

 

 

                                                                                 

                                                                                   CHAPTER TWO

 

Forty minutes later, Katy pulled into her driveway and drove straight into her garage. She pressed a button on her visor and watched the door slowly lower, before killing the engine. Katy leaned down, resting her head on the steering wheel for a few moments as she considered the ramifications of this discovery and her departure from protocol.

She knew she could be fired over this incident and in all likelihood would be. It didn’t matter that she was the best tracker this side of the Rockies or that she’d dated Roger for a time. The latter would only hurt her chances of keeping her employment. And today, she’d inadvertently given Roger the excuse he needed to terminate her.

So why did she feel so compelled to see this through? It made no sense. Yet, she couldn’t ignore the little voice inside her head, driving her on, telling Katy that time was almost up.

She straightened. It was too late now. Katy thought about the animal in the cage. People from all over would come to study this cat and take blood, along with sperm samples. They’d want to know where he came from and if there were any more cats out there like him.

The last question brought Katy up short. Where hadhe come from? It’s not like they’d been living in the Hollywood Hills and no one had noticed them until now. Did someone dump him off? That made no sense either. How would you transport a cat that size without being seen? It wasn’t possible. And if someone had managed it, why hadn’t they come forward with their discovery? It would be worldwide news.

These were all good questions, with no easy or obvious answers. Nothing made sense. The find of the century hadn’t just dropped out of the sky.

Everyone knew that saber-toothed cats had disappeared thousands of years ago…at least all scientific data had pointed to that conclusion. Until today that is. This discovery would put zoological study on its ear. The history books would need to be rewritten.

The big cat’s discovery also opened the possibility that other creatures the world considered extinct were still around. Katy smiled. This was too good to be true. With that thought, the nerves at the back of her neck prickled with unease. Katy looked around her garage to ensure she was alone.

“You’re being ridiculous,” she chided.

She then plucked the keys out of the ignition and gathered her tote, before sliding out of the cab of the truck. Walking to the door that led to her kitchen, Katy slipped the lock and dropped her bag inside. She shouldn’t need it. She’d given the cat enough tranq to keep him out for at least five more hours. That should be ample time to examine and photograph him in the cage, before turning him over to Roger Sylvan and the Bio Tech facility.

Katy strode toward the back of the truck and opened the tailgate. The hatch groaned in protest, before she dropped it with a loud bang. She cringed. It was a good thing the cat was in a deep sleep. She smiled, then carefully loosened the ropes to remove the tarp. Her gaze swept the steel cage and her mind froze, refusing to believe what her eyes were telling it. Katy pinched the bridge of her nose and looked again.

A naked man lay inside the cage, sleeping soundly, with a tranquilizer dart sticking out of his juicy rump. His deceptively long brown lashes accentuated his chiseled cheekbones and near-perfect mouth. The man had lips that were made for… Katy tore her gaze away from his mouth. She didn’t want to think what those sensuous lips could do to a woman's commonsense. 

Heart pounding, she drank in the rest of him. A thin line of hair swirled around the flat discs of his nipples before trailing down his chest to his… Her eyes rounded and Katy gulped as awareness spread through her body. Parts that hadn’t seen any action in months began to tingle and throb. Her cheeks flamed in embarrassment and she quickly glanced at his face to make sure he hadn’t caught her ogling him.

The man took steady breaths in and out, his muscled chest rising and falling evenly. Lucky for her, he remained blissfully unaware of her indiscretion. For a second, he’d made her forget all about the saber-tooth, but thankfully, the moment had passed.

It didn’t matter to Katy if she had Adonis himself in that cage and from the looks of him it could very well be the legendary Greek god. Right now, her only concern was finding out what had happened to her prized cat.

She’d watched the Bio Tech team load the cat into her truck. Heck, she’d even helped them and secured the cage afterwards. Katy hadn’t imagined the weight beneath her palms or the snuffles the animal made from its drug-induced sleep. It had only taken a minute to get into her truck and pull out of the lot. There was no way anyone had time to remove the cat or switch the cages. Yet, that’s exactly what had happened.

It was either that or…

Had she somehow been drugged? Had they all been given a mass hallucinogen? One that made them believe they’d captured an extinct cat, when in fact, it had been a man the whole time. The thought horrified Katy, but how else could she explain the loss?

Even as the questions crossed her mind, she realized Roger would never believe her. Had her boss wanted her gone so badly that he actually planned this whole thing? Katy wouldn’t put it past Roger, but she didn’t think he had the brains to pull it off. There was only one way to find out for sure. She had to wake up sleeping beauty and find out who’d hired him.

She hoisted herself into the back of her pickup and pulled the key to the cage out of her pocket. Katy slipped the key into the lock, watching the man carefully, even though she knew he’d be out for close to twenty-four hours given the dosage of the tranquilizer dart sticking in his flesh. Whoever was behind this elaborate hoax or theft had thought of everything.

Katy licked her lips as she admired the rounded fullness of the naked man’s bare behind. Her fingers quivered as she pulled the latch that opened the cage door. It made a loud creak, shattering her nerves and the silence in the garage.

“You’re being silly. It’s not possible.” She shook her head. “This is someone’s idea of a sick joke and this guy’s in on it, even if he’s out cold.”

She scolded herself for hesitating as she threw the door wide, slamming it against the side of the truck. Pistol in hand, Katy dropped to her knees and slowly crawled forward, straining to reach the dart. She needed to do this quick, so she could wake the guy and find out his part in this charade.

Without the saber-tooth, there would be no scientific journals, accolades or job offers. She’d be just another out-of-work tracker on a job hunt.

What job do you think you’re going to get without references?Katy’s heart sank. In all likelihood her next job would require her to ask, ‘would you like fries with your shake’.

Damn it, she wasn’t going down without a fight. This guy was going to help her whether he wanted to or not. He may not know it, but he owed her.

Her fingers closed around the dart and she pulled. The man didn’t move. Katy tugged harder and the dart slipped out of his skin. The naked man’s hands were on her so fast, removing the pistol from her grip, that Katy didn’t have a chance to blink much less pull the trigger.

He came to life like the dart was a mere mosquito bite, not something designed to take down a thousand pound cat. The man pushed her out of the cage and onto her back across the tailgate, keeping his hand firmly locked on her wrists the entire time. His warm muscled body blanketed her before she could even take a breath.

Shocked by the riot of sensations taking place inside her, Katy forgot to struggle. Her sole focus remained locked on the feel of the man above her. It took a moment for her adrenaline kicked in.

“Let go,” she said, then fought and scratched him, while her hips bucked against his solid weight in an attempt to dislodge him.

The man didn’t seem to notice.

Katy kicked out again and he took the opportunity to settle himself between her thighs, effectively pinning her to the tailgate. Warmth spread through her body and Katy fought harder. “I mean it. Get off me,” she snarled.

Be silent!

The command pummeled her mind, knocking the breath from her lungs. Katy gasped. She was losing it. She had to be losing it. People didn’t talk to each other using their minds. It just wasn’t done outside of the movies and sci-fi-fantasy novels. Didn’t he know that? If not, somebody should tell him. She wheezed, drawing in a shuddering breath.

“Who are you and what do you want?” she asked, wiggling her hips until she came into contact with a long, hard ridge of flesh. Katy froze, her eyes rounding as she felt said flesh begin to grow impossibly thicker. She remembered the size of the cat, then unconsciously glanced down, before meeting his gaze once more.

Feral green eyes locked with hers.

Katy felt herself falling into their emerald depths. His breath came in pants, but she doubted it had anything to do with trying to keep her still. The man’s jaw clenched and his muscles tightened as his hips moved of their own volition, making a small thrust forward.

She whimpered, as his shaft slid over her cleft, leaving an ache behind. For a moment, Katy couldn’t move or breathe as her body responded to his heat, then she panicked. “Get the hell off me!”

She shoved against his hands and he actually had the audacity to grin at her. It was then that she noticed the sharp points of his incisors. They weren’t fangs exactly, but they were close.

Will you cease your struggles?

“Fuck you!”

His grin spread wider, flashing more of his unusually white teeth. If that is an invitation to enter your body, then I accept.

Katy’s eyes bugged. “I-I…” She growled in frustration. “It is not an invitation! Now get off me or I’ll scream.”

Please don’t. I’d hate for you to accidentally harm yourself.

“The only one about to get hurt here, buddy, is you.”

His brow shot to his hairline and his sensual lips quirked. She got the distinct impression he was trying not to laugh. He tightened his one-handed grip on her wrists. With his free hand, he brushed the strands of hair away from her face that had come loose in the struggle.

Such an unusual color.He fingered the strawberry blonde tresses for a second, before burying his nose in the side of her head and inhaling. Your scent is unfamiliar, but I like it.

“Th-thank you.” What in the hell was she saying? Had she really just thanked him for the compliment? Katy was not having a conversation with this…this…man. She refused to think of him as anything more. 

He grinned again and her heart fluttered in her chest.

“Are you a mind reader? Is that how you’re sending me your thoughts? I’m not psychic, but I’ve always been a little sensitive.” She left off the fact that her sensitivity only extended to animals. Was this really any different? Katy waited for him to respond, but he never did.

He continued to play with her hair, twirling it around his thick fingers. So soft,he murmured in her mind.

Any other time, Katy would kill to have this kind of attention from a man who looked like him, but under the circumstances…

“Are you going to let me up?” she asked.

No, he answered softly.

She snarled in frustration. “You can’t keep me here.”

He glanced down at her body and rotated his hips. Her head dropped back and she bit her lip to keep from whimpering. Damned, if that didn’t feel good.

I prefer your current position and it appears you do, too.

Kegar felt her soften beneath him and nearly groaned. Her arms remained tense, but the rest of her accepted his weight as if they’d been joining for centuries. His hips rested between her firm thighs, his shaft cradled by her softly rounded stomach.

He loved the fact that she wasn’t small and brittle. Strength was prized by him and his people. A weak mate was useless. He needed someone who’d fight by his side and bear strong babes. Someone who’d stand up to him, despite his great size.

This woman seemed more than up for the task. Sure, it would take some convincing, but he had a little time. Kegar wished he had more, but unfortunately he’d left the ship without permission, which meant he had to work fast. His people were already orbiting this planet. As soon as they located his position, they’d retrieve him, whether he was ready to go or not. Kegar knew he could always contact them, but what fun would that be?

A smile flittered over his mouth as the woman pushed against his hands. She reminded him of the ancient stories he’d heard about a pack of female feral cats that had lived on Zaron long before his people had settled the planet.

When the Phantom Warriors had arrived, several of the women had trapped and captured the males for breeding purposes. Not that the males complained for the feral women were rumored to be beautiful beyond compare. Their offspring were said to be the start of the Claw Clan. Kegar knew it was only a story, but part of him hoped that this woman would want to claim him like those feral women had done to his ancestors so long ago.

“What if I don’t like this position?” she retorted, unable to hide the sudden rasp in her voice. He leaned down mashing his chest into hers. Her nipples pebbled on contact.

Kegar’s mouth watered at the thought of tasting her. Your body tells me otherwise.

“My body is lying whore,” she said. “You shouldn’t pay any attention to it.”

Your lips are lying, not your body. I can smell your feminine heat. It beats at me. Right now your entrance creams in anticipation of my hard shaft.He rocked his hips for emphasis. I have traveled far to find you. I will not have you deny our connection however swift. Not now. Not ever.

“What connection? We do not have a connection. I don’t even know you.” It didn’t matter if they were generating enough heat to melt the remaining polar ice caps. Katy was not about to do anything stupid with a complete stranger. This was L.A. after all.

She stared into his green eyes. The desire she saw sizzling in those emerald depths made her ache. The connection she felt was instantaneous. Katy wasn’t one of those New Age Californians who believed in destinies and karma, but there was no denying that something weird was happening between them. Something cosmic she couldn’t explain. Something she wasn’t sure she wanted the answer to at this moment.

I know you feel it. Every time you look at me, the blue of your eyes deepens. Your body heats and begins to ache in a way that only I can assuage.

“Yeah, right. You and any fifty-dollar eight-inch dildo. Rape is still rape, don’t try to justify it with some kind of ‘woo-woo we belong together’ crap.” Katy’s pulse raced as the words left her mouth. She knew this man would beat any dildo on the market, but the last thing she wanted to do was encourage him. Right now, if she could, she’d pummel him.

His cheeks darkened and his eyes narrowed to green slits. For some reason, his expression reminded Katy of the cat. She snorted. What was she thinking, that this guy somehow turned into a mind-reading saber-tooth? The music from that old-time trippy TV show played in her head. Katy vowed that if she made it out of this alive, she’d go straight to the hospital and check herself in.

I assure you that a toy cannot replace the real thing.His cock throbbed against her stomach, searing her skin right through her shirt. In the end, you will come to me willingly. No force needed.

“Tell me what you’ve done with the cat and I promise I won’t prosecute you for theft after you’re arrested.”

In due time I shall reveal all.

“It has to be the drugs. This cannot be happening. None of this is real—that includes you and your, your mind-reading-speaking thingy.”

His nostrils flared and he smiled, then licked his sensuous lips like a cat cleaning its whiskers. His green eyes sparkled in the low light, showing promises of things to come. Think again, my pet. There is nothing foreign in your system to disrupt your senses. I’m real, very real and I shall prove it.

She shook her head. “That won’t be necessary. I’ll take your word for it.”

Oh, but I insist.He jumped off the truck, pulling her up suddenly, before tossing her over his insanely broad shoulder like a caveman. Katy found herself hanging upside down, staring at his perfect ass. And oh, what an ass it was. She pressed her lips together to keep from drooling. She should be screaming and beating at him in an attempt to escape.

Her mind stayed indignant, while her body had other ideas. It liked the feel of his muscles shifting beneath her palms, the hot glide of his skin as he walked to the door that led into her kitchen, and the supple cat-like movements he made when he stepped silently on the tile floor. Everything about the man screamed sex and sensuality.

“Where are you taking me?” she asked.

Somewhere more comfortable. Which way to your sleep paddock?

“My what?”

He paused, tilting his head from side to side as he scented the air. Then he moved unerringly to her bedroom.

“How did you?”

I simply followed your ripe scent.

“You can’t…I mean…” It wasn’t possible, was it? “I don’t stink!” she snapped.

No, you don’t. You smell delicious.

“Who hired you?” she asked, trying to get her mind back on track.

He didn’t answer as they stepped through the doorway into her bedroom. He scanned the room, taking in her meager furnishings, before proceeding forward. He did not put her down until they reached the bed, then he laid her gently onto the covers like she was fragile.

Katy’s heart clenched. She didn’t want to think about how his caring made her feel. She couldn’t allow feelings into the equation. The truth was he’d been part of the deception and the dangerous game they were playing hadn’t ended yet.

She scrambled out of his reach, landing on the far side of the bed. Katy made a move for her gun, remembering at the last second that he’d disarmed her. Her gaze shot to his handsome face. His lips twitched as he began to stalk around her oak bedframe, his eyes lazily tracking her jerky movements.

For a second his gaze flashed red, then just as quickly returned to green…or had it? Katy wasn’t sure she could trust her eyes anymore. He continued to slowly hunt her.

She got the distinct impression that they were playing a game of cat and mouse. There was no mistaking who was who, all that was missing was for someone to slap a tail on her ass and call her Minnie.

The man circled back, when she scrambled onto the bed to get away, his gaze stroking her body with such intensity that it felt like a physical touch. Katy tried not to respond, but it was difficult given his masculine beauty and the desire pouring off him in waves. No man should look that good naked.

She glanced at his impressive erection and her mouth watered as she imagined what he’d taste like, sliding down her eager throat. Heat infused Katy until her body throbbed with need. This shouldn’t be happening. Something was wrong.

Despite his claims otherwise, it had to be the drugs. She shouldn’t be responding to this man given the gravity of the situation. Hell, she shouldn’t be responding to him at all. Katy had always thought of herself as frigid. That’s what Roger had called her right after they’d had sex. She hadn’t been with anyone since, so nothing had changed except… She stared at her captor.

Why this man? He was a total stranger. What made him so different, so special?

His movements slowed and his eyes seemed to change from green to red with greater speed. Some instinct told her that their game had just come to an end.

 

 

 

                                                                             

                                                                                  CHAPTER THREE

 

Kegar couldn’t believe his luck. He’d only been on the planet known as Earth for a few hours and he’d already found his mate. Her unusual hair color captured him, but it was her strong face that held him. She wasn’t a beauty in Atlantean terms, but to a Phantom Warrior such as himself, she couldn’t be more perfect. She was a hunter, a skill highly prized amongst the shape-shifters in his society.

His hands itched to touch her, remove her clothing, so he could begin worshipping her body with his tongue. Her scent intoxicated him until he found it difficult to think. The fight she put up in her transport had left him achingly hard.

Unlike most human couplings, which he’d studied intensely before leaving Planet Zaron, mating between pairs amongst his people could be extremely physical. Biting and scratching was common. Kegar had a feeling that this human huntress would be up to the task. She’d have to be, because he intended to claim her. Already his body had begun the mating heat.

Kegar smiled, pacing around the sleep paddock, hoping he could get himself under control before he touched her. He’d told the woman that she’d come to him willingly and he’d meant it. She didn’t need to know that his pheromones from the mating heat would aid in her capitulation.

He could smell the changes taking place inside her. The cream between her legs trickled down, moistening her sex. Already blood was beginning to fill the center of her desire. Soon her need would grow too intense for her to control, then she would beg for his cock, beg him to take her.

The thought sent a shard of pain through his groin. Kegar wouldn’t be able to wait much longer. Instinct rode him hard. The urge to mate was too strong. His heat had triggered her own. Kegar wanted to roar in frustration. Instead, he continued walking, slowing his steps until they kept time with each exhalation.

What is your name?

“Tell me yours first.” She arched a brow in challenge.

He flashed her a smile, curling his hands into fists to keep from reaching for her. Very well. My name is Kegar.

“That’s an unusual name.”

Not where I’m from.

“And just where would that be?” she asked.

Kegar could read her thoughts easily. She hoped to gain enough information to give to the authorities after he left here. She had no idea that they’d be leaving this planet together…the second he finished claiming her. Kegar debated whether to inform her of her fate, but decided against it. She’d learn the truth soon enough. He stopped his pacing and faced her.

I’m from far away. Now what’s your name, little one?

She snorted. “No one’s called me little since I was twelve years old.”

He frowned, not entirely sure what she meant.

“My name is Katy Manfred and you, Kegar, will be in a lot of trouble for keeping me against my will—unless you give me my damn cat back.”

I am sure that is what you’d like to believe, but it is not so.

“How do explain my missing saber-tooth?”

I have taken nothing.

“Fine! Whatever! You may not have taken the cat, that remains to be seen, but you’ve been holding me against my will for the last thirty minutes. On top of that, you’ve all but admitted that you plan to rape me.”

Actually, I believe I said you would come to me willingly. Your body already grows heavy with need. I can see your nipples beneath your shirt. They are hard and aching for my mouth. Already your channel moistens to ease my entrance.He grabbed his shaft, fisting its thick girth, then began to slowly stroke up and down.

Katy’s gaze riveted, following his movements. Her breathing deepened and her hands clasped the covers as if to prevent herself from moving toward him. Kegar hid his smile and continued to fondle his length.

After a few moments, his breathing matched hers and his grin faltered as he clenched his teeth. Sweat beaded his skin. Teasing her wasn’t working the way he’d hoped. If anything, it had backfired. He released his shaft, refusing to spend himself in his palm.

Katy licked her lips and her fingers slipped between her cloth-covered legs.

You will not pleasure yourself!The command was loud in his own ears. Kegar growled and his big body trembled with desire. Call to me now!

“No,” Katy said, her hips rocking as she slumped back down onto the bed. “What have you done to me?” Her eyes clouded as lust took over.

I have done nothing…yet. Do you not see that you make us both suffer needlessly? I know you want me as I want you. Your pride is the only thing stilling your tongue.

Katy blinked as the truth hit her. Kegar was right. She did want him—or at least her body did, while her mind boycotted the decision. No man had ever desired her this way. Roger had wanted sex, but he’d never wanted her. Kegar did.

His every move told her so. If she had any doubt, all Katy had to do was look in his eyes. They burned with hunger and so much emotion that it was almost painful to gaze upon. His intensity left her feeling raw and exposed. He hid nothing and demanded the same in return.

Yet, as much as he desired her, he would not take her without permission. Katy knew that implicitly. The knowledge both frightened and excited her because in the end she knew the decision to sleep with him was ultimately hers to make.

Kegar’s muscles shifted beneath his taut skin. Her body throbbed in response. She’d never wanted anybody as much as she wanted this man. She was obviously out of her mind. The old Katy Manfred never wanted a man. Sex was below mowing the lawn on her “to-do” list.

“Who are you really?” she asked.

I told you. My name is Kegar.

“That’s your name, not who you are.” The need became unbearable. Katy’s back bowed off the bed. His scent filled every pore on her body, leaving her delirious. She couldn’t stand the feel of her clothes against her skin.

Like a woman possessed, she began ripping her clothes away, her movements frenzied, her normal modesty all but forgotten. Welts rose on her skin where her nails raked.

Enough! Tell me to come to you. I can ease your body.The deep baritone of his voice echoed in her head.

“No!” she screamed, tearing her bra and panties off. “I can’t. Sex with you is not worth my life.”

On my honor as a warrior, I swear I carry no diseases. I would never put you in harm’s way. I’d rather die.

Nakedness didn’t seem to help. Katy could smell the musk from her sex as it wept for Kegar. He stood at the end of her bed, his hands gripping the oak frame until she heard something crack. She glanced at his shaft. A fresh glisten of moisture formed at the top. A moan tore from her throat.

“Please,” she begged.

I must hear the words.

“Please, Kegar.”

Tell me the words and I will end this. Tell me you want me.

She heard the pain that gripped his admission. It tore at her heart. He needed her. And more than that, Kegar needed to know that she wanted him. This was so fast, so insane. She’d always played by the rules. Never one to bend them until now.

The urge to welcome him into her body, into her life was strong and left Katy shaken. Tears filled her eyes and spilled down her cheeks as her body became inflamed with a passion that she never knew existed.

“Damn you,” Katy sobbed.

He growled. That’s not enough. Tell me.

“I hate you,” she snarled.

No, you don’t, but I have no doubt that you wish you did.

Fire swept through her, an inferno of desire that threatened to consume her. “Make it stop!” 

Say it!

“I want you to fuck me. Okay? I admit it. Are you happy now?” She surrendered on a whimper.

No.Kegar shook his head, sending his hair over his shoulders. Tell me that you want…me.

Their eyes met, clashed, then seemed to come to an unspoken agreement. “I want. I want.” She cleared her throat. “I want you,” Katy said softly.

Finally.To his credit, Kegar did not smile. He knelt onto the bed and crawled between her legs, moving like a big cat. He didn’t climb on top of her. Instead, Kegar stopped when he reached the junction of her thighs and buried his nose in her moist curls. He shook as he inhaled, then his flat rough tongue spread her folds with one long swipe.

Katy cried out and her body arched to get closer. Kegar did not disappoint. He dropped onto his belly and began to feast upon her, scraping her clit with his teeth, then soothing the exposed nerves with his lips until she was convinced she’d go insane.

Pressure seized her womb as his coarse tongue flittered like a vibrator. Katy gasped, hoping to catch her breath, but he didn’t stop, only increased speed. It was too much, the intensity too strong. She couldn’t take any more. She reached for Kegar. She needed him inside her. Now!

Kegar lightly nipped her hand in warning, then continued to lick and suckle. He refused to be rushed. He’d waited for his woman, convinced she’d never appear. He had all but given up hope, then he’d seen her and his hearts had nearly burst.

Now that he had her, Kegar wanted to savor her. He wanted to know every inch of Katy Manfred. Hear every sound she made from a gurgle to a scream as he fucked her with his tongue and impaled her on his shaft. They had a lifetime to get to know each other. Right now, he needed this primal connection. He needed to know his mate wanted him, wanted what he could give her. That meant taking his time.

Kegar grasped Katy’s hips and spread them wider. Pink and perfect, she bloomed before his eyes like a flower at first dawn, its petals covered in dew. Her scent surrounded him, causing his head to spin and his body to ache. The thought of sliding into her sent fire rushing through his body. Kegar released one thigh and pressed a finger into her entrance.

Katy moaned.

She was tight and oh so wet. The combination left him salivating. He added a second finger, then dove back onto the bundle of nerves. Kegar worried the flesh with his teeth as he slowly stroked in and out of her luscious entrance. Her body gripped him, pulling his fingers deeper inside. It was his turn to groan. Kegar couldn’t get close enough.

He devoured her until he felt the first flutters against his fingertips. Kegar rotated his wrist and curled two fingers up until he could stroke the spot he’d read about in Orion’s report. The files covered languages, animal life, cultures, currency and human behavior—particularly sex. Kegar’s commander had been quite detailed when it came to the anatomy of Earth women and for that he was truly grateful.

Katy screamed as her orgasm slammed her body and collapsed like a rag doll onto the bed. Her skin was drenched in a fine sheen of sweat and her breathing sounded ragged in the relative quiet of her bedroom, matching the uneven pounding of her heart.

Kegar remained between her legs, lapping up her juices and growling deep in his chest. The one hand he held her with had left scratches down her outer thigh. She hadn’t even felt it. With one final swipe of his tongue, he rose, his cock looking hard enough to drive nails into the wall.

She gulped as he slowly worked his way up her body. His gaze strayed to her nipples. They beaded in reaction. He lowered his head until he could suck one into his mouth. Katy felt the pull of his lips all the way to her groin.

Kegar continued to tease and flick her with his tongue as he cupped her other breast with his large calloused hand, pinching and twisting her nipple in a dance of pleasure and pain that left her achingly taut.

Katy had never been into pain of any kind, but for some reason Kegar’s lovemaking left her breathless. And it was lovemaking, she had no doubt as his red eyes met her gaze. “Your eyes, they’re changing color,” she said.

It’s nothing. A trick of the light, he said, his expression growing stern.

Katy knew that wasn’t true. The color held some significance. She stared deep. The emotions swirling in his crimson depths shook her to the core. She didn’t want to think about what it all meant. There’d be time enough for that later.

For now, she would focus on the pleasure he brought her. Katy reached up and grabbed his head. The dark hair beneath her fingertips slid like silk over her palms. She burrowed her hands, relishing the feathery sensation.

Something that sounded suspiciously like a purr rumbled from Kegar’s chest. He released her nipple with a pop and then looked into her face.Once we do this there is no going back. Our essences will be joined. Do you understand?

“I don’t think so,” she said.

He slipped down to her entrance, his blazing crown searing her skin, turning her molten beneath him. All logical thought left her head.

Katy, do you understand?

“Ah, sure.” She didn’t, but if saying she understood would get him to slide the rest of the way inside her, Katy would agree to anything.

An expression of triumph softened Kegar’s warrior-like features. He smiled as Katy bucked her hips in encouragement.

You are mine.

The words slipped into her mind the second he thrust forward. Katy gasped, as her body attempted to accommodate his sudden invasion. Kegar was huge and it felt as if he was growing larger with each breath she took. He brushed the wet hair away from her face, pushing the strands gently behind her ear.

Relax, huntress. You can take all of me.

“What do you mean all of you?” There couldn’t possibly be more.

He laughed and rolled his hips, slipping a couple inches deeper. There’s more.He couldn’t keep the arrogant male pride from entering his voice.

Katy refused to admit that he had every reason to gloat.

Kegar gritted his teeth as he pressed inside her. She was so unbelievably tight that it took the last shreds of his control not to lose himself on entry. He kissed the side of her face, his lips feathering over her brow and down her nose, before finding her mouth.

He nibbled on her lips, until Katy sighed and let him in. Honey and light poured inside him as he gained entrance. Kegar slanted his head and began to explore in earnest. She was so sweet, so intoxicating. She made his head spin. The moment their tongues touched, his hips thrust forward, parting her folds until he’d buried himself in her velvet channel. 

Kegar rode her gently at first, waiting for her body to adjust. He continued to kiss and tease her lips, until Katy began to match his movements. The second she did, Kegar swelled some more. She was perfect in every way and she was his. He’d gotten her agreement under duress, but he wouldn’t let that little detail deter him.

Put your hands on me. I want to feel your nails score my skin as I take you. He rocked his hips and she gripped his shoulders. That’s better. Do not hold back. I want everything. I will try not to hurt you, but know that it’s my people’s way to inflict pain, while bringing pleasure.He threw the last words out in challenge.

Katy’s gaze narrowed. “You’re not going to hit me, are you?”

Never!Affronted, he shook his head. My hands will only bring you pleasure.

She searched his face, then seemed to come to some kind of decision. “Then I can take it.”

Kegar smiled. I knew you could. I’d expect nothing less from my mate.

She frowned. “Mate?”

He didn’t answer. Instead, Kegar bit her lower lip and drove into her. He caught her gasp, while plundering her mouth. She shifted her hips to better accommodate his size. Kegar took the opportunity to grasp her legs and bring them up over his shoulders. The angle allowed him to penetrate to her soul.

Katy broke their kiss, her head thrashing from side to side as his hips began to piston. Her nails tore at his flesh, leaving streaks of blood behind. The coppery tang scented the air, along with their lovemaking. Kegar’s grip tightened, as the fleshy nodes on his cock rose, stroking her internally like a thousand tiny fingers.

“Oh my goodness, what is tha—”

Katy came apart beneath him, before she could finish her question. Her body clamped down on his shaft hard enough to send him over the edge. Kegar bellowed, convulsing as he pumped his seed into her. She milked his life force, drawing it in until he collapsed. Their lungs strained as they reached for air. He forced himself to roll, taking Katy with him. She lay on top his chest, her body soft and sated, dripping over his length like warm honey.

They didn’t stir, content to lie in the other’s arms. Kegar stroked her back, cupping her bottom to bring her closer to his face. You are all I’d ever hoped to find. I am pleased and honored that you’ve chosen to be my mate.

 

 

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