Authors: Cynthia Sax
Tags: #BIN 06425-02065
All rights reserved.
Copyright ©2013 Cynthia Sax
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Changeling Press LLC
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Editor: Maryam Salim
Cover Artist: Karen Fox
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Jeanine must choose between the life she’s always wanted and the leopard shifter she desires.
Jeanine knows there’s safety in groups, and no group provides more protection than a pride of lion shifters. She is determined to catch the eye of a young lion shifter and convince him to choose her as his mate. There’s one problem with her plan, and that’s Adar -- ruthless billionaire financier, scarred leopard shifter, and the only male she has ever desired.
Leopards are solitary, territorial, and very protective of their mates. Jeanine is Adar’s mate. She simply doesn’t realize it yet, but she will… soon. Adar is ready to stake his claim on his small human, and he won’t tolerate any male’s encroachment on his turf. He’s willing to fight to the death to prove he’s the only big cat Jeanine needs.
Today Tanner will finally see me as desirable
. Jeanine tugged on her trim-fitting black suit jacket in an attempt to accentuate her nonexistent breasts.
He’ll choose me as his mate, and I’ll join the Leone pride permanently
. She stared at her image in the lobby’s gilded mirror.
. She smoothed her hair until her straight dark locks fell perfectly into place around her face.
“Are you grooming for me, kitten?” a deep voice rumbled, and every nerve ending in Jeanine’s body hummed to life, her nipples tightening and her pussy moistening.
“No.” She raised her gaze, knowing who she’d see, the only male who had this physical effect on her.
Adar’s scarred face reflected behind her, his cat eyes as hard as the mirror’s surface, his hair clipped ruthlessly short. A dark suit clung to his broad shoulders and muscular form as though it were a second skin, his tie as plain and as stark as his suit. The cutthroat financier didn’t need adornment to draw eyes. Power and danger rolled off Adar in heavy seductive waves.
“I’m not grooming for you.” Jeanine’s voice grew husky, her reaction to the leopard shifter primal and frustratingly undeniable. Safe, constantly-laughing Tanner was the male she should want. Adar was the male she couldn’t resist.
Adar’s lips pressed into a grim, white line. “Then this.” He curled a lock of her hair around his coarse index finger, his touch possessive and knowing. “Must be for that unworthy cub. Do you think cold brittle perfection will attract him?”
“Do you find me cold?” Jeanine turned and gazed up at Adar, the male who’d financed Leone Media’s rebuild, loaning them money when all of the banks had turned them down.
“No, never, kitten.” His eyes softened. “But I see beyond this.” Adar traced the collar of her jacket, and she shivered. “If he saw what I did, he couldn’t help but want you.” He outlined the slight curve of her breast, his touch rough and exciting.
He wants me
. Jeanine placed her palms on his lapels, his enticing body heat making her reckless and bold. “Then help me show him.” She pressed against Adar, the ridge in his dress pants reassuringly hard -- the proof of his attraction undeniable. “Make me appear desirable.” She licked her bottom lip, and his gaze tracked the movement. “I know you can. Leopards are renowned for their cunning and stealth, aren’t they?”
“We also consume every animal we hunt.” Adar slid his hands up her back, and she arched her spine, pushing her breasts into his chest. “And we’re very protective of our territory.” He bent his head and mouthed along her ear, his ardent nibbles curling her toes. “We don’t allow anyone else to touch what we consider ours.”
Warmth spread across her chest, Jeanine having never belonged to anyone. “No one else is touching me.” She tilted her head, allowing Adar more access, needing his touch. “He doesn’t want me.”
“He’s an ass.” Adar dragged his teeth over her neck, and she moaned softly, the sensation exquisite. “Why do you care if he doesn’t want you?”
“No one wants me and I’m tired, so tired of always being on the outside, cut off from everyone else.” Jeanine glanced at the entranceway; a wall separated the lobby from the main office. She missed birthday parties and company meetings because someone had to cover reception, and that someone was always her. That would change if she were Tanner’s mate. She’d be one of
, and they would have to include her. “I want to be in there.”
Adar pulled away from her and cool air rushed between them -- a frigid blast of reality, shocking her out of her reverie. The financier studied her with his unblinking, all-seeing eyes, peering at her as though he saw into her very soul. “You want to be safe.”
. Jeanine stared at Adar, wondering how he knew what no one else cared to understand.
Why couldn’t he be a lion, a member of a pride? I could love him then
Adar cupped one of her cheeks, his palm rough, crisscrossed with scars, evidence of the hard life he’d led. “You want to be protected.”
“Yes.” Jeanine pushed her face into him, nuzzling his hand, drawn to Adar.
And I want to belong
. She waited, but Adar didn’t ask that question because he didn’t fully understand. He was a leopard shifter, a solitary species with no family, no pride. If only… She bit her lip, censoring that thought, unwilling to ask him to be something he wasn’t.
He moved his thumb in lazy, sensual circles over her skin, the caress hypnotic, enthralling, lowering all of her defenses, not that she needed them with Adar. He’d never hurt her. She didn’t know how she knew that. She simply did. “And you chose the youngest Leone brother because?”
“Tanner is always smiling.” Jeanine tensed, expecting Adar to laugh, to belittle her reason, a reason that sounded foolish to her own ears.
The tough financier nodded, the furrows on his forehead smoothing. “You don’t think he’ll harm you.”
“He won’t. He’d never harm me.” She rushed to Tanner’s defense. The lion shifter didn’t have a violent bone in his body, unlike the forceful male standing in front of her.
“No, he won’t because I’d kill him if he ever harmed you.” Adar’s grip on her cheek intensified. “I can protect you, kitten, better than he can.” He swept a fingertip over her trembling bottom lip.
“You’d protect me when you’re with me.” She darted her tongue out and tasted him. Adar’s eyes darkened, the shadows reflecting a rising passion Jeanine shared. “But leopards are solitary animals.” She’d be left alone and undefended in a world filled with violent shifters.
Adar brushed his lips over hers, the contact frustratingly brief. “We don’t mix with other cats, but we don’t live in isolation.” He teased her with his lips again and she moaned, clinging to his shoulders, trying to entice him into deepening the kiss.
“There are other shifters -- bears, rhinos, dragons,” Adar murmured, his voice tantalizingly low and deep. “And there are other paranormals -- vampires, demons.” He pulled her closer, his hips bumping against hers, the ridge in his dress pants pressing against her skirt-covered mons, his desire buoying hers. “I’d never leave you unprotected.”
It was more than being protected. It was… Jeanine didn’t know, her thoughts scattered by his touch. “Why would you protect me?”
“Because you’re mine, kitten.” His eyes flashed with fierce emotion, and he surged forward, pushing her back against the mirror, crashing his body into hers.
Jeanine gasped, trapped, hardness behind her and in front of her. Adar showed her no mercy, capturing her mouth and thrusting his tongue between her parted lips, filling her brutally, ravishing her. He tasted of red meat and black coffee, and she sucked on his tongue, trying to appease him.
He grabbed her thighs and lifted, spreading her legs open. Adar filled the space with his hips and ground his pant-covered cock into her silk panties. Jeanine clung to his shoulders, meeting each thrust of his tongue, mindless with passion, her skirt hiked up to her waist.
Adar rode her with a relentless savagery, fucking her without penetration, smacking her ass against the mirror -- the
slap, slap, slap
burning through the layers of clothing. She whimpered into his mouth and dug her fingernails into his suit jacket, needing more, needing him inside her.
His chest rumbled, and he ripped his mouth from hers. “Not now, kitten.” Adar yanked on her panties, shredding the fragile fabric, leaving a trail of branding heat across her hips. “He’s coming.” He brought her wet panties to his nose and breathed deeply.
Jeanine’s face heated. “What?” Her legs quivered, her body pulsing with need.
Adar balled her panties in one of his big fists and stuffed the red silk into his pants pocket. “The cub, he’s coming.” He smoothed her skirt down.
“Oh gods.” Jeanine ran her hands over her hair, the strands mussed, out of place. “I’m a mess.”
“You’re beautiful.” Adar rubbed his right thumb over her kiss-swollen lips. “We’ll show the cub what he can’t ever have.” He leaned into her, and she closed her eyes, uncaring that one of her employers was mere steps away. Adar’s deep voice pulled at her, his tones too seductive to resist.
“Because if he fucks you, if he even touches you.” Adar flicked her earlobe with his tongue, and she trembled. “I’ll rip his heart out.”
“No.” Jeanine opened her eyes. The leopard shifter had stepped away from her, his face reverting to that cold mask he wore with others, all hints of passion erased.
“You wouldn’t,” she retorted, knowing he would. Even Royce, the head of the Leone family, was wary of Adar.
Adar chuckled, the sound holding no humor, and Jeanine narrowed her eyes, not at all intimidated by him. “Killing him would hurt me, and you wouldn’t hurt me,” she boldly stated.
“Clever kitten.” Adar flashed his sharp white teeth, his canines lowered. “Since you’ve figured that out, then you also must know the solution to your dilemma. If you don’t want him to die, you won’t allow him to touch you.”
“Arrogant bastard,” she mumbled, and Adar’s grin spread, lighting up his grim face. He was blackmailing her, and she should hate him for it, but she didn’t. The thought of Tanner touching her left her cold.
Unlike a certain other cat’s rough touch. She slid her gaze to Adar’s scarred face and twisted her lips, annoyed with her own body.
“And then I said, ‘Bro, get a room.’” Tanner, tall, blond, handsome, sane, strode through the entrance from the office, his phone pressed to his ear, his appearance more effective than a cold shower, dissipating all of Jeanine’s passion. “No one wants to see that.” He stopped walking. His nose wrinkled, and his nostrils flared. “Dude, I have to go.” Tanner lowered the phone, and his gaze met hers, gold sparking in his lion eyes.
He sees me as desirable
. She’d spent the past year trying to gain Tanner’s attention yet now that she had, she felt nothing, absolutely nothing, no satisfaction and no passion, not even a spark of sexual interest.
“Jeannie beans.” Tanner smiled, his teeth straight and white against his tanned face. He hadn’t a single scar. His skin was untouched by the ugliness of life, his fighting abilities untested.
Adar’s right. He is a cub
. Jeanine glanced at Adar. Remnants of his past battles marked his cheeks and flattened his nose, that visual proof comforting, reassuring her.
He could protect me