Therian Prey, страница 1часть #1 серии Therian Heat
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Copyright © 2017 Cyndi Friberg
Cover art by Dar Albert
Editor: Mary Moran
Electronic Book Publication, June 2017
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 author, Cyndi Friberg.
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.
Therian Heat, Book Two: 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 has selected her mate—and he intends to be the one she chooses.
Note from Cyndi: Many plot elements in Therian Heat continue on from book to book. Each couple has secured their happy ending by the end of the book, but the series is more fun if you read the books in order. Also, this book was published a few years back under the same title and author name.
“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 hard to get, you’d better lose this.”
She slapped his hand aside. “I wasn’t playing hard to get.” 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, “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 siste
* * * * *
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.”
“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 clothing.
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 yell
Moving as one, the wolves charged. Jenaro batted one aside with his forearm, sending the creature slamming against the wall. He kicked the second wolf in the head as it barreled toward him. The wolf yelped then whined, slinking into the shadows with its tail between its legs.
The first wolf returned with more determination, jumping for Jenaro’s throat. Jenaro caught the wolf with both hands and slammed it against the floor. The wolf snapped and growled, but as soon as Jenaro released his hold on its thick fur, the creature ran toward the front door.
This couldn’t be real. No man was strong enough to wrestle two wolves barehanded.
Jenaro yanked the door open and the wolves darted past him.
“Stay here!” His gaze flashed through the gloom with a gold-green intensity she hadn’t noticed before. Shit! If he was one of them, why hadn’t he transformed? He rushed out after the wolves, not sparing her a backward glance.
Momentarily paralyzed by confusion and fear, Carissa mentally scrambled for something to do. “Ava?” The wolf had said he would take her to her sister, but she had to be sure Ava wasn’t just hiding. When no one responded to her second shout, she ran across the room and snatched her jacket off the floor. She rushed to lock the front door while frantically searching the pockets for her phone.
The door swung inward so abruptly she jumped back to avoid a collision. “There must have been two teams. They…” Jenaro snatched the phone out of her hand. “Don’t even think about it. Police will only slow us down.” He slammed the door and locked it then turned around. The bizarre glow had left his eyes, but his dark gaze bore into hers. “They’ll get reinforcements and return. We can’t stay here.”
“What did you mean there were two teams? Where is Ava?” She glanced at her phone, knowing she wasn’t fast enough to grab it or strong enough to wrest it from his hand. So what else could she do? Run like hell! Not until she understood what was happening, and why they’d been targeted.