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Authors: Cyndi Friberg

TherianPrey

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Therian Prey

Cyndi Friberg

 

Before Carissa has time to react to
her sister’s disappearance, she’s kidnapped and taken deep into the Colorado
mountains. Her kidnapper swears he’s protecting her, but Carissa doesn’t know
what to believe. He emanates danger, strength and raw sexuality. She’s drawn to
him, craves his demanding kiss and the slide of his hard body against and into
hers.

Quinn has always been an outsider,
scorned and mistrusted by other Therian shapeshifters. Now he’s in the middle
of a budding civil war and he’s not sure how to disentangle himself without
endangering Carissa. Though her powers are latent, Carissa has the potential of
becoming the most powerful Therian the world has ever seen.

It was Quinn’s intention to bring
Carissa to safety and simply walk away, but one taste of her sweet lips and he
knows he’ll never let her go. She won’t be truly safe until she’s selected her
mate—and he intends to be the one she chooses.

 

Ellora’s Cave Publishing

www.ellorascave.com

 

 

 

Therian Prey

 

ISBN 97814199

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Therian Prey Copyright © 2011 Cyndi Friberg

 

Edited by Mary Moran

Cover design by Syneca

Photography: Willo; and Tony Rix/Shutterstock.com

Models: Nick and Shanny

 

Electronic book publication September 2011

 

The terms Romantica® and Quickies® are registered trademarks of
Ellora’s Cave Publishing.

 

With the exception of quotes used in reviews, this book may not
be reproduced or used in whole or in part by any means existing without written
permission from the publisher, Ellora’s Cave Publishing, Inc.® 1056 Home
Avenue, Akron OH 44310-3502.

 

Warning: The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this
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This book is a work of fiction and any resemblance to persons,
living or dead, or places, events or locales is purely coincidental. The
characters are productions of the author’s imagination and used fictitiously.

 

The publisher and author(s) acknowledge the trademark status and
trademark ownership of all trademarks, service marks and word marks mentioned
in this book.

 

The publisher does not have any control over, and does not assume
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Therian Prey

Cyndi Friberg

 

Chapter One

 

“Is it as bad as you thought?” Carissa stood in the doorway
of her sister’s office, waiting for Ava to look up from the computer screen.

Ava sighed and minimized the spreadsheet she’d been
agonizing over all morning. “Define ‘bad’. It’s not as dismal as last summer,
but sales are still sluggish.”

“We just have to ride it out until winter. Ski season will
turn things around. You’ll see.” Hoping to lighten her sister’s mood, Carissa
smiled.

The bell above the front door jingled and Carissa glanced
over her shoulder. The shop was small by metropolitan standards, but space came
at a premium in Breckenridge, Colorado. Ava oversaw inventory, maintenance and
accounting, which left managing their employees and dealing with customers to
Carissa.

“Be right back,” Carissa said, but Ava had already returned
to her accounting woes.

Carissa wended her way through racks of hoodies and
t-shirts. A tall, dark-haired man stood near the display of marked-down
snowboards. With broad shoulders, lean hips and muscular arms, his interest in
vigorous activities was obvious.

“Can I help you?” Anticipation coiled around her as she
waited for him to turn around. Was she really so desperate for male
companionship that she was ready to hit on a potential customer? How pathetic.

He turned and smiled. Then his dark eyes narrowed and his
nostrils flared. His head tilted and he leaned toward her as he inhaled slowly.
Time paused, suspending them in the moment as their gazes locked.

“I was told you rent ATVs.”

The simple statement snapped her back into customer service
mode and she dragged her gaze away from his hypnotic stare. She had to pull
herself together. He wasn’t classically handsome. His nose was too bold and his
cheekbones broad rather than jutting. A short beard complemented his rugged
features and drew her attention to his mouth. His top lip arched gracefully
while the bottom looked soft and full, perfect…for nibbling? Had that thought
really crossed
her
mind?

She gave herself a firm mental shake. This was ridiculous.
“We’re partners with Pine Valley Ranch. They have three hundred acres of trails
and mixed motor tracks.” Needing a distraction from her disturbing customer,
she walked to the wall display and grabbed a brochure. When she turned around,
he stood right in front of her. His warm, woodsy scent filled her nose and she
fought back the urge to wiggle. She felt restless and… She couldn’t even define
the sensations ricocheting through her body.

He took the brochure and glanced through the colorful pages
then tucked it into the back pocket of his jeans. The motion stretched his
t-shirt across his torso, outlining each ridge and curve. Holy hell, the man
was cut. Her fingertips tingled, eager to explore every delectable inch.

“Can I bring my own bike, or are the trails reserved for
their rentals?”

Swallowing past the sudden lump in her throat, she said,
“The trails are open to the public. There are a few restrictions, but they’re
listed in the brochure.” He stood too close. Was he doing it intentionally? She
should back away or push past him. Yet she wanted to rub against him and strip
off that cruel t-shirt. “Is this your first visit to Colorado?”

His lips parted, displaying even, white teeth. “Far from it.
There’s something about the Rockies that gets in your blood, makes you crave
it.”

She stared into his dark eyes and felt the strange yearning
again. It was like hunger on steroids with a side-order of Spanish fly. Her
mind scrambled for a polite response while her body ached for something she
didn’t fully understand.

“So, Carissa, would you like to grab something to eat?” The
intensity in his eyes mocked his casual tone.

“How did you…know my name?” She felt muddled, almost drugged.

A slow, sexy smile parted his lips as he raised his hand. He
traced the lower edge of her name tag with his fingertip and his knuckle grazed
the upper swell of her breast. Heat spread through her chest and her pulse
echoed in her ears. “If you want to play coy, you’d better lose this.”

She slapped his hand aside. “I wasn’t playing coy.” Her
nipples tightened, her breasts feeling heavy and sensitive. What the hell was
wrong with her? He wasn’t
that
good-looking! And she wasn’t this
desperate. “I can’t leave the store, even if I wanted to. We’re still open for
several hours.” She forced the excuse past her dry lips and stubbornly ignored
the demands of her body.

“I can wait.” He grinned.

Her mother had taught her to be cautious, to never accept
anyone at face value. She needed to push him away and see if he was interested
enough to try again. “Sorry. I have plans tonight.”

His gaze focused on her lips as if he wanted to lick them
for her. “Too bad.” He hesitated a moment longer then strolled toward the door.
At the last minute, he looked over his shoulder and said, “I’ll see you
around.”

Carissa pressed her hand over her pounding heart as he
strode down the sidewalk and across the street. It had been ages since anyone
flirted with her. Tourists tried to pick her up from time to time, but this man
hadn’t seemed like a tourist. More like a trophy hunter!

That wasn’t fair. He hadn’t misbehaved nearly as much as her
body had “mis-reacted” to his subtle signals.

“Who was that?” Ava asked from the doorway to her office.

Heat blossomed on Carissa’s cheeks as his image lingered in
her mind. “I have no idea, but I’d sure as hell like to find out.”

“Did he buy anything?”

Carissa looked at her sister and laughed. “I’m pretty sure
what he wants isn’t for sale, at least not in this store.”

* * * * *

Quinton Jenaro dug his phone out of his pocket then climbed
into his truck. He could see the front of Summit County Outfitters from his
position on an adjacent street, but Carissa couldn’t see him unless she stepped
out onto the sidewalk. He wasn’t sure what he’d expected—hadn’t even been sure
the owners of the shop were the sisters he was looking for—but there was no
doubt left in his mind. He’d located Kyle’s long-lost females.

Carissa’s scent lingered in his nose, teasing him, calling
him, hardening his body, making him ache. It had taken all the discipline he
possessed not to touch her. Hell, he’d wanted to kiss her senseless then bend
her over the nearest display table and stay inside her until they were both
drenched in sweat and trembling from exhaustion. He wanted Carissa with the
obsessive intensity only caused by Therian heat.

And any Therian male who caught her scent would react the
same way.

This was a serious complication.

With his gaze fixed on the storefront, he called Kyle
Lashton.

“Hey, Quinn.” Muffling the phone, Kyle said something to
someone in the background then returned to ask, “Any luck?”

“Is this a bad time?”

“Mom’s just harassing me. Nothing unusual in that.”

“I found them.” Quinn smiled, picturing the fight melting
out of his friend. “But we have a problem.” There was no way to sugarcoat it,
so he just spit it out. “Carissa is going into heat.”

“You didn’t—”

“No! How can you even ask me that?” Resentment and
frustration made his tone sharp. If his best friend immediately jumped to the
wrong conclusion, how could he hope to convince the council he had nothing to
do with Carissa’s condition? “It’s just started. I didn’t notice her scent
until I entered the shop, but her pheromones are powerful.”

“Damn it.” Kyle muttered something under his breath then
went on. “If you defile her, even without meaning to, the council will blame
this on you.”

“Yeah, I figured that out all by myself.” Quinn leaned his
head against the headrest and sighed. “There’s no help for it. The alternative
is even worse.”

“Can you grab her without causing a scene?”

“Not unless I take Ava too, and two hysterical females would
be harder than hell to control. I have a feeling I’ll have my hands full with
Carissa.”

“We can’t let anyone else pick up her scent.”

“I get that. I’ll stay close. If her scent increases, I’ll
move in. If it remains faint, I’ll stick to the original plan.”

After a short pause, Kyle asked, “Did you see Ava?”

“Carissa was talking to someone when I entered the shop. I
couldn’t see who it was, but it was likely her sister.” He settled back in the
seat, resigned to the monotony of a stakeout. “When can I expect you?”

“Later tonight. I’ll call once I’m on the road.”

* * * * *

Carissa locked the front door to Summit County Outfitters
and headed up Main Street. Ava had left a couple of hours earlier, promising to
have dinner waiting when Carissa arrived. Their Victorian was within walking
distance of the shop, and parking was challenging in downtown Breckenridge, so
the sisters seldom bothered with a car.

Tucking her hands into the pockets of her jacket, Carissa
hurried along the sidewalk. The night was clear and cool. Those not used to
brisk spring nights were often caught by surprise when the sun sank behind the
mountains. Carissa understood Colorado’s rhythm, chilly mornings, sun-drenched
days and crisp starlit nights.

Their mother bought the Victorian when they arrived in
Breckenridge eleven years before. Living quarters were upstairs while the main
floor had been used as a storefront. By the time Carissa and Ava took over the
business, the quaint rental shop had grown into an outdoor sports emporium
housed in a separate building.

A sudden chill raced down Carissa’s spine and her steps
faltered. She glanced around, trying to identify the source of her discomfort.
Several clusters of people congregated outside bars, chatting and laughing
before heading back inside. No one was paying any attention to her.

She turned down a side street, putting some distance between
her and the nightlife, but the sensation didn’t abate. Tucking her purse
directly under her arm, she jogged toward the circle of light cast by stylized
streetlamps. Her heart fluttered and her mouth went dry.

Pausing beneath the streetlight, she took another look
around. B&Bs were peppered through the shops now, but the street was
deserted. Nothing out of the ordinary. No sinister characters lurking in the
shadows.

“Get a grip,” she muttered as she dug her phone out of her
pocket and her keys out of her purse. Her house was two blocks over and another
two up the hill.

She continued along the sidewalk with renewed purpose, her
stride just short of a jog. Despite all the evidence of her paranoia, her pulse
hammered out warnings until she reached her front door. She returned her phone
to her pocket and slipped her key into the lock, pushing the door inward with
her shoulder.

“Ava?” The interior of the house was dark. Had Ava already
gone to bed? She kicked the door closed behind her and turned toward the
stairs.

A large palm muffled her scream as a man pressed against her
back. His arm banded her waist, trapping her arms against her sides. She
wiggled and twisted, her cries barely audible.

“Settle down and we’ll take you to see your sister.” Her
captor’s tone was harsh and low despite his reassuring words.

As her eyes adjusted to the dark, a fresh wave of panic
crashed over her. Furniture was toppled and a lamp was smashed near the archway
leading to the kitchen. “Where the fuck is Ava?” Her words were garbled by the
man’s large hand.

“Put her in the car. We’re out of here.” The impatient order
drew her attention to her left where a second man stood in shadow.

“Nate said not to hurt her,” the first man muttered, his arm
creeping closer to her breasts, “but I think she’s in heat.”

“Don’t even think about it! Get her in the car and—”

Not interested in their debate, she threw her weight forward
then jammed her elbow into her captor’s ribs. He rewarded her with a startled
grunt as his hold slipped. Frantically reaching for her, he came up with a
handful of jacket as she smoothly shed the garment and darted out of range.

The second man lunged for her, but his advance was
intercepted by a massive newcomer. More impression than substance, the third
man flew out of the kitchen and shoved her attacker back, a menacing growl his
only attempt at communication. All she could see was his broad back as he
eclipsed her attacker.

“Jenaro,” the smaller man muttered. “This doesn’t concern
you.”

“Kyle Lashton disagrees.”

Recognition jolted Carissa. She knew that low, rumbling
voice. This was the hunk from earlier today, the one who’d asked about ATV
rentals. What was he doing here? How had he known she was in trouble?

He was following you. That’s how!

The men faced off. Two against one didn’t seem fair, though
Jenaro was nearly as big as the other two combined. Another low growl made the
hairs on the back of her neck prickle. They were literally growling at each
other.

Time paused, tension palpable as they sized up their
opponents. Then action resumed in a flurry of motion, both surreal and
terrifying. The smaller two crouched, eyes suddenly glowing as their bodies
melted and flowed. Their human shapes shrank and re-formed, twisting and
distorting until snarling wolves stood in twin piles of empty clothes.

Carissa stumbled back, hand pressed over her wildly thudding
heart. The air around her crackled, making the hairs on her arms float and
sway. The wolves were huge, their dark fur grizzled and thick. With hackles
raised and teeth bared, they advanced on their opponent.

At least their attention was focused on Jenaro. But for how
long?

Their slanted eyes flashed with yellowish light as they
postured and growled. The wolves blocked her path to the front door, and Jenaro
stood between her and the kitchen. She glanced around for a weapon, but as long
as they remained focused on each other, escape made more sense than aggression.

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