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Authors: Vivi Andrews

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Serengeti Lightning

BOOK: Serengeti Lightning
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Table of Contents
Love can be a force of nature.

Serengeti Shifters, Book 3

Mara Leonard is through hitting the snooze button on her biological clock. The Three Rocks Pride schoolteacher is ready to get serious about starting a family, and she needs a serious man to make that happen.

Regrettably, that means crossing less-than-serious Michael Minor off her list of potential mates. Michael is impulsive and passionate, but his spontaneity leaks into shapeshifting whenever his emotions run high—a tendency he should have outgrown long ago. As a sex buddy, he’s delicious. Daddy material? Disqualified.

Michael is blindsided by Mara’s rejection. Nine years separate them, and his genetic malady means no one in the pride treats him as an adult. But if she thinks he’ll simply slink away to lick his wounds while she steps into the arms of another man, she has seriously underestimated him.

The tricky part will be convincing his over-analytical lover that he’s more than a disposable sex toy. That real bravery means tearing up her damn checklist and following her heart. And doing it without letting their explosive sexual chemistry expose the Pride’s secrets to the outside world.

Warning: This book features break-up sex, make-up sex, a lioness who’s a cougar and a hot young lion who’s grown up in all the right ways. Note: All electrical shocks are purely metaphorical.

eBooks are
not
transferable.

They cannot be sold, shared or given away as it is an infringement on the copyright of this work.
This book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the writer’s imagination or have been used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual events, locale or organizations is entirely coincidental.
Samhain Publishing, Ltd.
577 Mulberry Street, Suite 1520
Macon GA 31201
Serengeti Lightning
Copyright © 2010 by Vivi Andrews
ISBN: 978-1-60928-187-8
Edited by Sasha Knight
Cover by Natalie Winters
All Rights Are Reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.
First
Samhain Publishing, Ltd.
electronic publication: September 2010
www.samhainpublishing.com

Serengeti Lightning

Vivi Andrews

Dedication

Sitting at a computer to write a book is a solitary venture, but lots of people help these stories get from my brain to the shelves. I can’t say enough of my at-home support team of fabulous friends and family, nor of all the wonderful people at Samhain who’ve been nothing but amazing to me. Many thanks to all the unsung heroes of publishing—from Samhain’s uber-boss to the author liaison, from our marketing guru to the (invaluable) folks who send us royalty statements and checks, create the beautiful covers, format ebooks, take them to print, update the website, and generally keep things moving along. And, of course, to our editors from whom I continue to learn with each new book.

Chapter One

Mara Leonard tipped the tumbler, watching the whiskey slide thickly over the ice in the glass as she contemplated her new addiction. She’d never done anything even remotely risky before, but Michael Minor was a drug. He’d infiltrated her system and unlocked a wildness inside her she hadn’t even known was there.

She was under the influence. Habit-forming lust. What other explanation could there be for the fact that practical, logical Mara was tarted up in a black minidress that showed off every inch of her legs, waiting for a man in a musty honky-tonk at one thirty in the morning?

She needed a twelve-step plan.

Mara liked plans. She adored steps and lists and clear, concise rules. She was born for organizations with anonymous in the title, except for the fact that she’d never let her hair down enough to even consider indulging in addictive behavior until
him
.

With one long fingernail she drew a swirling pattern through the ring of condensation her glass left on the bar. The Bar Nothing was all but deserted at this time of night. Only a few die-hard drinkers still hunkered over their glasses, wallowing in their addiction of choice as she waited for hers.

He was late.

She didn’t wear a watch and she refused to twist around to check out the clock on the wall behind her again. She’d give him until she finished her drink and then she was leaving.

Mara took a small sip of the whiskey, rolling it over her tongue.

Where the hell was he?

Chair legs squealed out a nails-on-chalkboard melody and her gaze flicked over to track the sound. A couple of the local lushes had apparently decided they were daring enough to stumble hopefully in her direction. She pinned them with an icy stare, the same gimlet gaze that never failed to cow rowdy second graders and smartass middle schoolers alike. Her overly optimistic Don Juans immediately retreated for a round of eighty-proof reinforcements.

Mara smiled to herself, turning back to her drink.

They wouldn’t be back. There wasn’t enough liquid courage in all of Texas to give those boys the balls for another go.

On an instinctive level, they recognized her true nature. She may look like just another piece of ass, flashing enough leg to be an open invitation in a place like this, but the acres of golden skin and long fall of sun-streaked dark blonde hair couldn’t completely disguise the predator beneath.

Mara was a shape-shifter. A lioness. And no matter how fanatic her pride was about keeping the secret of their true natures, humans sensed, if only in the deepest, darkest corner of their psyches, that something wasn’t entirely
safe
about the residents of the Three Rock Ranch. The local cowboys would give her a wide berth.

Now if only Michael would get his ass in here.

The idea of going on a
date
had been his, after all. The least he could do was show up.

Mara should have vetoed his night-on-the-town idea the second he mentioned it. Their relationship to this point had been based on sex, only sex, and lots of it. They didn’t need dates.

Michael wasn’t Mr. Forever. He was the guy who made your eyes roll back in your head with ecstasy while you were waiting for Mr. Forever to come along.

The man was a drug, all right. A familiar tingling sizzled along her nerves at just the thought of him. He was creative in the bedroom, with the stamina of a teenager—unfortunately, that was disturbingly close to his actual age. He was so damn
young
—a twenty-something boy toy—which was just one of many reasons Mara needed to end it now. Before she got any more addicted to him.

Better to go cold turkey before she lost sight of what she really wanted. A partner. A mate. A lion who would be steady and stable. Father to her children. A reliable, faithful,
mature
man to grow old with.

None of which described Michael Minor.

He could make her pulse rate skyrocket with just a look, but stable was about the last word she would think to call him. And mature? Not in this lifetime. He brought out a passionate streak she hadn’t known she had, but that didn’t mean she wanted to grow old with him.

He was a fling and Mara wasn’t so young that she could afford to waste time with a dead-end relationship. She’d long since tipped onto the unfortunate side of thirty. She wanted that life—the kids, the mate, the happily ever after—and she would never get it unless she stopped playing games with little boys like Michael Minor and focused on grown men.

She had a plan designed to find her Mr. Forever, and she’d already set it into motion. Now all she had to do was break things off with Michael.

Her stomach clenched at the thought, and Mara swallowed some more whiskey to ease it.

She’d been dragging her feet, waiting for a good time to tell him, but she realized now there wasn’t going to be a good time. The sex wasn’t suddenly going to stop being mind-blowing. Her playful, passionate lover wasn’t suddenly going to morph into an asshole just to make this easier on her. Michael wasn’t going to give her an excuse to walk away. She was going to have to be a big girl and do it herself.

Tonight. This had to be their last night together.

Just one last time. They’d have their date, and she’d take him back to the ranch and screw his brains into putty as a farewell present.

Then she’d tell him. She’d already mentally rehearsed how she would do it. Quicker would be better. Like ripping off a Band-Aid. He probably wouldn’t even flinch. Michael knew as well as she did that their relationship couldn’t go anywhere. He might be disappointed for a second or two, but a man with washboard abs and a lazy, toe-curling smile wasn’t going to have any trouble replacing her in his bed.

Mara ignored the spark of irritation that thought inspired—surely that couldn’t be jealousy? This was better for everyone involved. Maybe he would even find someone to fall in love with.

The spark flared into a full-grown fire, but Mara smothered it with logic. She wanted Michael to be in love. To be happy. She had every intention of being deliriously happy with her Mr. Forever. Just as soon as she found him. Breaking up with Michael was necessary, for the best.

Maybe she’d ease him into it. They could discuss the logic of her decision and part as friends. Provided he ever deigned to show up for their fricking date.

On cue, the door squeaked open behind her and her breath caught. The hairs on the back of Mara’s neck stood to attention. She didn’t need to look to know who had just walked in. The temperature of the room escalated until Mara was tempted to press the ice-cold glass against her temple. She swirled the amber liquid in the tumbler, her eyes locked on the glass. She refused to look at him, but her breathing quickened as her sharp ears picked out the sound of him prowling up behind her. All thought of lists, plans and break-up speeches flew from her mind.

“Mara.”

His voice was a delicious rumble. She felt it like a hand, stroking from her nape to the base of her spine. Mara tightened her fingers on the cool glass, focusing on the tactile sensation to keep from melting into a puddle of hormones at his feet. “You’re late.”

Muscular arms appeared on either side of her, caging her between the heat of his body at her back and the unyielding wood of the bar at her front. “Sorry, gorgeous. Unavoidable. I got held up.”

He was so close. The warmth of his breath carried the words to caress the skin of her neck. Mara couldn’t have suppressed her reaction even if she wanted to. A shiver snaked down her spine. Goose bumps leapt up on her forearms. She set the whiskey glass back on the bar before she dropped it—or crushed it in her grip, no longer sure of her ability to control her leonine strength.

She braced her hands on the chipped wood of the bar. Her fingers flexed and gripped the wood as she fought against the instinctive urge to press back against the firm wall of his chest. She so rarely resisted anything where Michael was concerned, throwing herself into each moment. Coyness and playful obstinacy provided a delicious novelty.

“You know I would never keep you waiting if I could help it,” he continued, the words stroking against her skin.

Her eyes fell closed at the slumberous intent in his voice. Heat pooled low in her belly. God, to think he hadn’t even touched her yet.

Just the thought of his touch was enough. Her mind provided a thousand vivid images of his hands on her, half memory, half fantasy. She knew his touch, inside and out. She could almost feel his fingers probing her slick folds. Her thighs clenched on another rush of wet heat.

He inhaled sharply and she knew he’d scented her reaction. “Am I forgiven?” he asked against her neck. The whisper-soft brush of his mouth was the only point of contact between their bodies, but she felt him on every inch of her skin.

Mara’s breath shuddered out. “Just this once,” she whispered, too hungry for him to be mortified that he’d reduced her to panting need in the span of a minute and a half.

“Good.” His mouth curved in a smile against her throat. He pressed a quick kiss to her pulse point. Then his heat shifted, drawing away from her abruptly as his arms released her from the cage of his body. Mara bit her lip to keep from moaning at the loss.

Michael snagged the barstool next to hers and dragged it closer. He didn’t so much sit on it as lean against it, keeping his body angled toward hers. His eyes dropped to her legs and his lips quirked in a little smile to let her know he appreciated the view.

She kept still, turning only her head to meet the wicked sparkle in his bright blue eyes. Landon, the pride’s Alpha, looked like a lion even in human form—all tawny golds and browns. Not Michael. His hair was nearly black, his eyes a striking pale blue.

Mara’s own feline pelt was the exact shade of her not-quite-dark-enough-to-be-brown hair, her eyes a greeny-brown that would have looked at home on any feline. When Michael walked as a lion, his mane was nearly as dark as his hair, which was unusual but not unheard of among lions.

It was his eyes that stood out. The pale, crisp blue looked unnervingly human in his leonine face.

At one time, Mara had wondered whether the oddly human appearance of his lion form was part of why he had such difficulty drawing a line between the human and feline aspects of himself. The animal was so much stronger in Michael than in any other shifter she’d ever met. At first, that animalism had unnerved her. Now she found herself drawn to his wildness. Something she never would have expected, given her own rigid control.

He propped one muscled forearm on the bar in front of her and Mara’s eyes locked on it. She’d been surrounded by strong men her entire life. She didn’t know why the play of muscle beneath his sun-bronzed skin should be so hypnotically fascinating, but she couldn’t tear her eyes away from the visible evidence of his strength.

He scanned their less-than-impressive surrounds. “So this is your idea of a romantic night out, eh, gorgeous? You never cease to surprise me.”

Mara forced herself to focus on the playful words, rather than the heavy pulse of lust still throbbing in her veins. “You said you wanted a date. No one said anything about romance.”

He shrugged and her attention snagged on the play of muscles across his shoulders. Had he been working out? He’d always been strong, but now he was almost as heavily muscled as his brothers. The youngest Minor brother had finally grown into those divine shoulders. Mara licked her lips.
Hallelujah.

“I thought the romance angle was implied. This is…rustic.” He coughed.

Mara followed his gaze. Rustic. That was putting it nicely. The Bar Nothing was a seedy meat-market on a good day. Wednesday was apparently not a good day.

The gloomy dive was populated by morose drunks at scarred tables, a chipped, almost-sanitary bar, and a battered jukebox which had been stuck on moaning country ballads ever since she walked in the door. He was right. It was a far cry from romantic.

Michael grimaced as he took in the pair of hard-drinking cowboys at a nearby table. “I feel like I’m on suicide watch.”

Mara couldn’t even contradict him. This place was damned depressing. And it was definitely killing the mood. The buzz of sexual friction faded as the miserable reality around them sank into her skin.

She felt like she was counting down the seconds to the death of their relationship. This was supposed to be their last hurrah. It couldn’t end like this.

Mara polished off the last mouthful of whiskey and set the empty glass on the bar. “Let’s go home. I don’t know why we’re here in the first place.”

BOOK: Serengeti Lightning
11.63Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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