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Authors: Tatiana Caldwell

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BOOK: CatOutoftheBag
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Nathan’s ears grew red hot and twitched with his anger.
“She’s not available.”

Justin laughed. “What do you mean she’s not available? She
wasn’t wearing a ring or a collar. That Feline doesn’t look claimed by either
man or Cat to me, and I call dibs.”

“I didn’t say claimed, just not available. Her name is Sofia
Saldana, and she’s with me.”

“How is she with you? Wait, so then she
is
your
woman?”

“No, I just met her on the plane Monday, on the way here. I
didn’t know she was one of us then, and neither did she, but I was interested
anyway. The only reason she’s on this mountain is because I invited her.”

“Just because you also wanted to do her doesn’t give you
sole rights to her, Dawson,” Justin laughed. “She’s not claimed. We all get to
be introduced. You know how things work with us, the hell’s wrong with you?”

“That doesn’t mean
you
get to sex her, either. It’s
up to her who she sleeps with.”

“That’s right, Nathan,” Cassandra cut in, standing between
them. Her cheeks flushed red with irritation, disgust and a bit of hurt. “But
that also means that she
can
sleep with him. It’s her choice, not either
of yours. The queens get to decide, you both know that! Now simmer down and get
away from here so she can rest in peace. We’ll ask
her
what she wants to
do when she’s feeling better.” Cassandra pushed them away from the room where
Sofia slept.

Nathan took one last glance over his shoulder at Sofia. Yes,
he knew the way it worked with the Pride members, but with Sofia it was
different. There was no way he could tolerate sharing her with any of the Toms
there. He walked away with reluctance, but was also determined to ensure that
no other cat laid a hand—or paw—on her.

Chapter Four

 

Sofia’s eyes opened slowly, and even then only partially.
Everything was blurry at first and although the place she was in was dark, her
eyes stung painfully as if she were staring at the sun. She was lying on a
mattress on the floor of a room whose ground and windowless walls were made of
natural rock, but it had a door of metal bars like a prison cell. There was a
wooden wardrobe in one corner and a small, low table in another. Both of which
looked handcrafted and seemed specifically designed and fitted for the unusual
dwelling.

Where in the world was she?

At first she thought she was completely alone, in some room
inside a cave. But when she focused her eyes again and looked beyond the wide
bars of the door, she could make out shadows on the wall. The silhouettes were
of strange shapes—people mostly, but some not quite people, dancing together or
moving in various synchronized gestures.

Her heart pounded in her chest with uncertainty and fear as
she sat completely upright. The blanket fell down and she shuddered slightly as
a chill ran through her.
Why am I completely naked? Where the hell are my clothes?
She looked down in puzzlement at the Band-Aid on the inside of her left elbow.
Had blood been drawn from her?

She pulled the blanket tightly against her and stood, then
went toward the bars so she could peer through and get a closer look at the source
of the shadows. Her vision was normal now and she was able to make out the
figures that were in the larger room beyond hers.

There were twenty-five, maybe thirty people out there,
slightly more males than females, moving together in the candlelit room. Her
ears twitched as the volume in the room grew louder… No, she only began to
hear
them more clearly. There was no mistaking their moans and panting.

They were all having sex in the same vicinity.

Her vision adjusted again and this time when she looked she
could see their bodies grinding each other, wildly, passionately, with abandon.
Some against or on top of each other in pairs or threesomes or foursomes.

In the center of the room there was a raised wooden
platform, and on top of it there was an attractive couple—a Middle-Eastern man
and a pale, platinum-blonde woman—making love above all of the others. They
wore matching necklaces made of black leather rope and the same silver charm.
She could just make out that the charm was an artistic figure of a lion’s head,
which reminded her of the Leo zodiac sign.

What was this, kind of a weird cat-worshiping cult? What did
it all mean?

Again Sofia’s eyes refocused and she could see with
painstaking clarity. Beads of sweat dripped down ripped abs and working torsos.
Eyes glowed and vocal chords purred and roared with lust and pleasure. Sharply
pointed teeth were bared as waves of orgasmic release brought animalistic
smiles to their faces. Once again Sofia’s senses adjusted and she could see the
powerful, feline animal within each of them—some cougars, others lions,
leopards, tigers or even cheetahs, but all some kind of big cat from a panther-like
species. She could hear the call to the wild screaming from their souls, could
smell
it
even—the scent of grass and trees and fur and masculinity and femininity
and desire.

Dios Mio.
She was not in the company of humans.

Backing away from the bars, Sofia stumbled over a soft mound
on the floor and looked down.

She spotted the pile of her shredded clothes and the memory
flashed in her mind like a horror show. Jogging along the trail. The leopard
spotting her. Being pinned to the ground and attacked. The mountain lion
attacking the first cat before transforming into a man. Felt like real-life
madness, not injury-induced hallucinations.

Something
was
wrong with her. Sofia felt her arms and
legs go wobbly and she dropped to the floor. But soon the weakness in her limbs
turned into rigidness, then pain. She found her body moving against her will,
as if being manipulated by some unseen force, positioning her on her hands and
knees. She watched in horror as the hair on her arms elongated and thickened,
and cried out as her hands and nails became paws and claws right before her
eyes.

Hearing someone approaching the cave, Sofia intended to give
a warning yell not to come near her, but what came out instead was a strained,
dangerous-sounding roar. The cage door opened and she backed away and cowered
in a corner, not wanting to see whoever it was, not wanting them to see her
this way either—with her body contorting, her nose widening, her ears
elongating and fur rapidly growing all over.

But that scent! She knew who it was without looking up at
him, and before he even said a single word. No, not
him
. What was he
doing here? He
couldn’t
see her like this. Of all the people in the
world who could have come into that room right then, why him?

He opened the door and quickly rushed in, carrying a tray
with food, which he placed on the small table before moving toward her.

Wait, was
he
to blame for this? Had she been set up?

She bared her teeth at him and hissed loudly, swatting her
paws. Her
paws!

“There, there now,” Nathan said. “Listen Sofia, it’s—” His
voice was mild and patient, but Sofia had no moderation or patience in her at
the moment. Her thoughts were feral with fear and fury, and her voice was a
foreign, loud roar of frustration. Nathan reached his hand out toward her, as
if intending to touch her. She wanted to shove him away but instead found
herself lunging at him, aiming her teeth directly for his throat.

* * * * *

Nathan braced himself for the attack. He knew her first
shape-shifting would be rough—first shifts were always rough—and so he’d come
prepared. When she lunged at him he threw up his right arm just before she
reached him, letting her latch on to the leather bracer he was wearing on his
forearm.

He spoke in a soothing, firm tone. “Calm down, Sofia. It’s
me, Nathan.” That only made her lock her jaws tighter. The bracer took the
brunt of it, but her feline teeth were sharp and her anger was great, so it
could only do so much to dull the pain.

The force with which she bore down surprised him, and he was
more than grateful that it wasn’t his neck caught in her mouth.

“You’re hurting me, Sofia. I’m just trying to help. If you
calm down, I can explain what’s happening.”

Like him, her feline form was a mountain lion, and she was a
very beautiful, albeit a presently angry, one. He stroked his free hand against
the top of her head between her ears, petting her brand-new coat of light-brown
fur. Her ears twitched at first but soon her growls turned to a soft purr, and
she gradually lessened her grip on his arm.

“That’s a good girl.” He sat down and pulled the female
cougar onto his lap, holding her close to him. “Come back to me when you’re
ready.” He moved his hand down her neck and rubbed her back, quietly rocking
her in his arms. He closed his eyes and stayed with her like that for what felt
like nearly an hour. He smiled when he had a raven-haired human beauty in his
lap, naked and holding on to him.

They just looked at each other for a couple of minutes. She
appeared a bit groggy, no doubt due to the physical, mental and spiritual
exhaustion of shape-shifting for her first time to a mountain lion and then
back again to human. Knowing that it would take a few minutes before she was
completely coherent, Nathan quietly continued to rock and caress her. Sofia’s body
was pliant in his arms, her skin warm and smooth. Her soft, long black hair
grazed against his bare chest. Her naked breasts sat directly below his line of
sight, her chestnut-colored nipples stiff and long from exposure to the cool
air of the damp cavern. Her warm, round bottom was on his lap, with nothing
separating his cock from her but his jeans.

Desire burned in his gut and a deep, tortured groan rumbled
in his throat.

He licked his lips and tried to not let his mind—or his
hands—go where they wanted to. He reached for the blanket and pulled it over
her, gently shielding her from his hungry perusal.

But her pheromones were on full blast, assaulting him with
her need, taunting his own. Nathan had opted out of the sexual activities
happening outside the room, determined to stay alert to watch over Sofia. The
other women didn’t like it, especially Cassandra, but he simply wasn’t
interested in copulating with anyone else there. Not with Sofia so close by.
He’d been able to think of nothing but her, and now here she was, right in his
lap, served up like milk in a bowl just waiting to be lapped up.

Nathan began to purr involuntarily.
Oh no you don’t
,
he threatened his inner animal.
Don’t you go taking over again!
He
concentrated his thoughts on how frightened Sofia must be and channeled his
energy to comforting her. He sighed with relief when the itch to shift went
away and his desire remained on the edge of barely checked.

He looked directly into her brown eyes once she fully opened
them. “Hey. How are you feeling?”

She stared at him, shaking her head and shrugging. “I’ve
been better. Was I… Did I really just turn into a big-ass cat?”

“Yes,” he laughed and nodded. “You did.”

“So you’re telling me I’m, like, a what now—a Werewolf? A
Were
cat
? Did I get bitten?”

Nathan wiped his smile and shook his head. “No. It doesn’t
work like that with us.” He contemplated explaining further but he imagined
it’d be a lot for someone to take in all at once. Especially someone as refined
as her. He cleared his throat and pointed at the tray he’d brought in. “There’s
a sandwich, fruit and water here on the table for you. May not be the most
glamorous meal for a queen, but I had no idea when you’d be able to eat so I
got something that could sit a bit.”

She shifted and looked uncomfortable. “What the hell is
going on? What am I doing here?”

“You were attacked while you were jogging near the camp
where you and I were to meet.”

“Yes. A leopard attacked me.”

“Right, and I stopped him.”

“No, a mountain lion attacked the leopard, and that’s what
stopped it from killing me.”

Nathan bowed his head as if introducing himself. “Yes, that
was me, shifted. Justin Finland is the name of the one who pounced on you and
tore your clothes. He’s a bit of a hothead and a lot of an asshole but he wasn’t
exactly trying to kill you.”

She blinked a few times. “The mountain lion was—you? Who…
Who or
what
the hell are you, really?” She moved from his lap and
grabbed the blanket off the floor and wrapped it around herself then stood up
and headed toward the wardrobe. “What are all of you? What is all of this?”

He chuckled a little. “I really am Nathan Dawson, a sales
manager at DodgeTech. All of us here are shape-shifters, from all over the
country, even a couple of international folks. We Werecats can take on the form
of a human and one of the big cats, like a cougar, lion or tiger. We’re all
part of the Pride, which is sort of like a fraternity in some ways. We meet up
once a quarter in different places around the country. Someplace private, where
we can be ourselves.”

“So the one that attacked me, that you call Justin, he’s
here also?”

“Yes.”

“I see.” She frowned at her clothes and back at him. “Why
did you strip me? He didn’t tear up everything I had on completely.”

“Anything left on you would only have been uncomfortable for
you when you shifted. And also probably would have gotten further ripped as
your body changed form.”

She opened the wardrobe and stared inside at what she
recognized as her purse and suitcase. “Where are we?”

“In a hidden cave on Mount Diablo.”

“Why am I here? And if this is my suitcase in here with my
purse, how did it get here?”

“You’re here because between hitting your head and your
newfound condition, you needed someplace safe to rest.” He got up and moved
toward Sofia. “I found your hotel key in your purse. Went there, grabbed your
things. I took the liberty of checking you out of your room so you don’t have
to worry about—”

“You did what?” She frowned and swung around. The blanket
slipped down a bit to reveal the bouncing of her breasts with the movement. “If
you could take the time to go through my stuff, find out where I was staying
and go all the way to my hotel, why didn’t you just take me and leave me
there?”

He had to put forth effort to keep his focus on her face.
“You’ve been unconscious for over thirteen hours now.”

“Thirteen hours?” Her brows rose and she twisted her mouth.
“Why didn’t you take me to a doctor?”

“One of the members here is Dr. Cassandra Kennedy. She took
good care of you.”

“I could have had good care at a hospital, too.”

“You’re safer here.”

“How in the hell am I safe hidden in here with a bunch of
crazy cat people?”

“No one here’s going to harm you. I wouldn’t let them.”

“I’m already harmed, in more ways than one!” She shook her
head and rolled her eyes, throwing up her palms.

He put his hands up and patted the air. “Don’t get all
worked up now, Sofia. You need to relax for a bit, and eat something. Let’s
talk so I can help you understand.”

“I’m not sure I want any more of your help,” she spat.
“You’ve even infected me with whatever it is you have that turned meinto
one of you cat-shifting-things.”

He took a deep breath, licked his lips. “We didn’t do this
to you, Sofia.” He spoke slowly, carefully, knowing this might be a hard truth
for her to accept or to even understand. For a long time, he hadn’t understood
it about himself either. “You were already like us, long before you ever met
me. And just like the rest of us, it’s highly probable you were
born
a
Werecat.”

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