Authors: Mina Carter
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opyright 2016 Mina
Cover Art: Mina Carter
Cover Model: Martin Nelson
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his book is
a work of fiction. The names, characters, places, and incidents are fictitious or have been used fictitiously, and are not to be construed as real in any way. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual events, locales, or organizations is entirely coincidental.
: All sexually active characters depicted in this work of fiction are 18 years of age or older.
he had it bad
Zara Hunter stood in the parking lot outside Tony’s Gym downtown and nibbled her lower lip in short, anxious movements. The Grand might be the public “face” of the Shifter Fight League, but anyone who was anyone knew the whole thing was really run from Tony’s, the gym Logan Reese, and the King of the Ring before him, Veyr, trained at. And if they knew that, they also knew that not just anyone could walk in. Not if they wanted to keep their arms and legs attached, that was.
Would she be welcome? She honestly didn’t know. It had been weeks since her father had done a runner, leaving her and her brother, Ky, further in debt to the king than anyone wanted to be. Considering the amount of money involved, she’d expected broken bones at the least, if not something far worse.
Instead, Logan Reese had offered her a different way to pay off their debt — on her back under him. Over him. Knelt in front of him…in fact any and every way it was possible to fuck, they had. They’d screwed so much, she’d been convinced he’d be bored with her in a week… three later and he still showed no signs of it.
Her hands shook as she adjusted her grip on the file she held, which led her thoughts back to her current mission. As always, in the absence of anything else to work off, like for example, any feelings Logan may or may not have had for her, she’d fallen back on hard figures.
She owed Logan an awful lot of money, but after days of pouring over the books, both she and his accountant had agreed on just how much her father had stolen. It was a figure that still took her breath away. How the fuck did James ever think he was going to get away with stealing that much? A sigh escaped her chest as she shut the thought down. It was obvious. James had always known he’d never get away with it, which is why he’d left her and Ky as patsies to take the rap for him, never mind how much debt he left them in with the king.
That debt surely had to be somewhat reduced though now after all their… activities. Perhaps to the point she could get a loan and cover it. Which was why she’d spent a morning researching prices for hookers, trying to work out how much her time in the sack had been worth — a quantifiable figure she could measure against what she owed and buy her freedom from the king’s ownership. Not that she wanted it.
Even now, the thought that Logan was in the building in front of her, possibly naked to the waist as he trained in the ring, set her blood to simmering. It didn’t matter how much she tried to remain aloof, as soon as he touched her, looked at her, she fought a losing battle against both him and her traitorous female instincts.
Ignoring the butterflies in her stomach, she set off across the parking lot toward the double doors at the front of the building. Her knees trembled as she pushed the door open and stepped into the cool interior, but she ignored them. Screw this, she’d been around training gyms all her life. Just because this was Tony’s didn’t make it any different than any other gym. Fighters still had to train, and they did it by lifting weights, jumping rope and sparring in the ring. Simple, honest, hard work, whatever kind of shifter they were.
Chatter and movement in the room stopped as soon as the occupants registered her in the doorway. For something to do other than standing there like an idiot, she slipped her sunglasses from her face, perching them on top of her head, and looked at the nearest fighter. He stood, motion frozen, looking at her as though she were a hitherto unknown species, jump rope dangling from his brawny hand.
“Do you know if Mr. Reese is in today?” she asked politely, giving him a small smile.
He was a wolf, she realized, even though she’d never seen him before. Spend enough time around shifters and you started to recognize them even in human form. Unless they were very powerful alphas capable of hiding their animals deep under their human disguises, there was always a little giveaway somewhere. The angle of the cheekbone, the jut of the jaw or a particular shape to the eye… However it manifested, it was always there somewhere.
Mr. Freeze just looked at her dumbly, forcing her to repeat. “Logan Reese. He trains here?”
Another man nudged her reluctant conversational partner to the side and replaced him. “Excuse Reed. One look at a pretty woman and his brain goes on lockdown. Why are you after Logan?”
Gaze darting over his face, she tried to get some idea of what he was, but the usual tells weren’t there. As far as she could see, he was an average human male, fairly fit but nothing special. His training top revealed a normal level of muscle, and she couldn’t work out if he was good looking or not. But one thing she could tell… This man was dangerous. A predator. Everything in her screamed for her to run, to get away. Aside from a small part at the core of her soul that snarled in reaction. She ignored it. Whatever he was, there was no way he was the human he appeared to be. Not in here.
Which meant he was an alpha. Only alphas could hide that far down within their human disguise.
“I’m Zara Hunter.” Was it her imagination or did his expression change slightly at her words? She lifted the folder in her hands. “I have some figures he requested.”
A lie, but this guy wasn’t to know that. She hoped. Fuck, what if he started asking questions? She hadn’t met all of Logan’s team. What if this guy was one of them?
He nodded, turning to cast a glance over his shoulder as he adjusted the strapping on his hands. Strapping that said he was good enough to spar in here without switching forms. “Clive,” he called out, waiting until the old guy cleaning at the other end of the gym looked up. “Take the lady up to Logan’s office, would ya? She’s got business with him.”
The old man shuffled forward, a smile on his face as he looked her over. Cat shifter, she realized and automatically returned his smile. “Yes, My Lord. I’ll make sure she gets there safely. You might want to work on your guard, top left. You’re dropping the hand a little.”
She watched the interplay between the men for a moment, easily picking up the affection the younger man had for the older one. He was obviously a retired trainer or something. Then what he’d said hit her.
“My Lord?” Shit. “That would make you…”
The younger guy smiled, and between one moment and the next, his features changed. What had been an indistinct, not quite handsome face was replaced with the sharper, angular features that marked a wolf in human form. The change was stunning.
“Veyr, Master of the City,” he offered his hand. “A pleasure to meet you, Ms. Hunter. I’ve heard a lot about you.”
Holy shit… what has he heard about me?
Zara managed not to blurt out the words on the tip of her tongue and merely reached out to shake Veyr’s hand. The wolf, who had bucked the system, becoming King of the Ring before ascending to the title of Master of the city’s werewolves, was the stuff of legend. The stories had him at least ten feet tall with claws like knives, teeth like sabers and a hair-trigger temper. Not the stunningly beautiful, but average height wolf who stood in front of her.
“All good, I hope?” She managed not to titter a nervous laugh, instead giving him a small smile. “And the pleasure is all mine. It’s not often a non-shifter gets to hob-nob with royalty.”
Veyr chuckled, an easy, charming smile spreading across his lips. Instantly she upped his threat rating. He was not only lethal as a wolf but also as a man… double whammy, if her interest didn’t lie with a certain werelion. “I wouldn’t say royalty, and I also wouldn’t say non-shifter.”
“You’re the second person to have said that to me, but I’ve never been able to shift.” She frowned, already moving to follow Clive, whose body language clearly stated he didn’t have all day, thank you very much. “Must be something in the air.”
Veyr shrugged, stepping aside. “Must be. Enjoy your…meeting, Ms. Hunter.”
* * *
ara was here
Logan lifted his head, his sensitive sense of smell picking up the familiar scent filtering through the closed door to his office. He’d know it anywhere.
Sweet. Female. Hot. His.
The last word was snarled by his lion, deep and visceral. He blinked, surprised. His lion had never reacted to any of his bed-partners like that. Mostly it was happy he was getting his rocks off and as long as the primal, male urges were satisfied, it stayed in the background. At least, until he needed its rage in the ring…
Another scent made his cat pick up its head and growl. There was a male out in the corridor with his female. With a snarl, Logan was on his feet and across the room yanking the door open.
Zara stood on the other side, her hand poised in mid-air and her face a picture of surprise. Behind her Clive had already turned to shuffle off, the elderly werelion’s scent already fading. Logan’s lion slunk back down deep inside with a small grumble now that it had identified the male. Clive wasn’t a threat, no way, no how. Why had he thought he was? For that matter, why hadn’t he recognized the trainer’s scent?
“Zara.” He covered with a smile, sweeping a gaze down her. “You look lovely today.”
And she did. As usual, she was in what he’d come to think of as her “work” attire. A sleeveless sheath dress that hit just above the knee paired with a fitted jacket that was both business-like and professional. But his little filly had a kick in her gallop because her shoes could not be described as anything close to office-standard. Today they were bright-red hooker heels.
“Thanks.” She gave him a tight smile that didn’t reach her eyes. Oh, she was good, the facial expression was there…the little crinkle at the corners that signaled a real smile for most people was present and correct, but the deep brown of her eyes didn’t warm up as it did when she really smiled. Instead, her eyes were dead and flat. Empty of warmth and emotion. Like she’d hidden that part of herself so deep down inside that no one could get at it.
His heart ached with the loss. He hadn’t known he needed that from her, but now that she’d hidden that part of herself, he found he did. Desperately. She shouldn’t hide anything from him. Ever.
“And we have a rule around here. Pretty kittens get kissed…” He was waffling but didn’t care. Reaching out a hand, he snagged her around the waist and tugged her toward him. Her body stiif, she shot him a glare of warning, but allowed him to pull her into his embrace.
“Logan…” She turned her head before he could claim her lips, her curvy form molding itself against the hard planes of his body as though she’d been made just for him. “Later. And will you stop calling me kitten… I have something I want to talk about.”
“Not later, now. Talk later.” Not deterred, he leaned in to whisper his lips over the side of her neck. Her small shiver told him she wasn’t opposed to the idea, making him smile. She was so responsive to his touch.
Just as his mate should be.
The thought of the
word made him blink a second before he shoved the thought so far down he would need deep sea mining equipment to extract it. It was one thing to get all possessive and declare that she was his…for now…but quite another to start talking about taking a mate. Once he did that, his days of sowing his wild oats were well and truly over. Werelions mated for life. End of story. He wasn’t ready for that kind of commitment.
The idea of mated life infiltrated his thoughts as he kissed along her neck. Of Zara in his bed when he woke up… He paused for a second, then covered by nipping her skin gently. He’d never taken a woman back to his apartment, never let them stay the night while he slept. That was way too intimate, but somehow the image of what Zara would look like when she’d just woken up crept through his guard and took his breath away. His lion rumbled in approval at the thought. The little female belonged to them, with them, theirs to touch and caress at all times.
Theirs to protect.
Cubs to protect.
The thought of cubs, of Zara carrying his child, took Logan’s breath away. She heard him, making a small sound of query, so he covered again by nipping her earlobe. Her gasp of need hit him on a primal level, but not as much as the scent of need that flooded the room.
Plucking the file and her clutch from her hands, he dropped them in the seat by the door and backed up, pulling her with him. A gentle finger under her chin brought her lips up to the perfect angle for him to claim. It was a soft kiss, gentle as he explored the shape and softness of her mouth. Her soft sigh was music to his ears, and when she relaxed in his arms, he knew he had her.
Kitten liked it rough and ready sometimes, but she also liked to be seduced. To be won over.
And he was all about giving his kitten what she needed…