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.
Product WarningsThis 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.
Copyright © 2010 Vivi Andrews
All rights reserved — a Samhain Publishing, Ltd. publication
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.
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.”
Michael caught her barstool when she tried to spin away, spinning her back. “Hey, I’m taking my girl out for a good time. That’s why we’re here. And we’re going to have a good time.” He flashed her a grin, slathered in charm, and laid his hand, palm up, on the bar in front of her. “Come dance with me. We’ll make our own ambience.”
“One dance. Then I promise to take you straight back to the ranch and do unwholesome things to you all night long.”
A smile tugged at her mouth. “Promise?”
He grinned. “Scout’s honor, gorgeous. C’mon.”
Mara couldn’t work up much enthusiasm for swaying back and forth to the world’s most depressing country song in the world’s most depressing honky-tonk, but she took his hand anyway. She trailed her lover onto the uneven slab of floor in front of the jukebox that doubled as a dance floor and slipped naturally into his arms.
Two minutes ago she’d been ready to jump his bones and now she just felt tired. Michael was so damned charming. So determined to make their date a success.
He had no idea she was going to break up with him tonight. Guilt sliced through her, further souring her mood.
Not that he’d probably give a rat’s ass. But the thought of having that conversation—the one where she told him there would be no more sexual marathons and mind-blowing orgasms—weighed heavily in her stomach, like she’d swallowed a boulder of doubt.
She kept her distance, leaning back in the circle of his arms. No sense getting comfortable there. Those arms wouldn’t be wrapped around her for much longer.
But Michael didn’t know that.
“What’re you doing way over there?” he grumbled, hauling her closer. He tucked her tight against him, her breasts pressed against his chest, her thighs rubbing his firmly muscled legs as he swayed. The heat of his body enveloped her, his strength a warm contrast to her softness, and the boulder of doubt melted away.
She couldn’t think about tomorrow, or even later tonight. All she could do was feel him.
The man was sin incarnate. His strong arms wrapped around her, keeping her snug to his body as they rocked in time with the lazy drawling rhythm of the song. The music was more heartache than sex, but somehow in Michael’s arms it sounded like Let’s Get It On and Sexual Healing all rolled into one. Her body felt thick and warm, as if every molecule were heating and expanding, but at the same time lighter than air. If she weren’t holding onto his rock-hard biceps with both hands, she could have floated away.
The hand he curved into the small of her back began a slow, deliberate circle, teasing the upper flare of her ass, then retreating again. His erection rubbed her stomach, a promise of the night to come.
The last night.
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||Date Added: Monday 01 April, 2013
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