Thursday, October 26, 2006


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By TJ Michaels

“I know you’re awake, Reya.”

Wait a minute. She knew that voice. “Marc? What the hell is going on?” she asked incredulously, sitting up and drawing her knees in close to her body to hide her nakedness. “And why don’t you have any clothes on?” she asked, bewildered.

Blowing off her question, he took a step forward with a cold response. “Shift, Reya.”

“Shift? What are you, crazy? And who the hell are you anyway? You look like Marc, but I don’t recall my friend being such an asshole,” she snapped from her perch on the hard dirt-packed floor.

Her neck snapped sideways as his hand shot out and slapped her so hard bright points of light danced behind her eyelids.

Oh hell no! Nobody slapped her like a bitch and got away with it. Nudity forgotten, she stood up to face her agitator, hands perched on her bare hips. With a glare, she hissed through gritted teeth.

“You touch me again and I will kick your feral ass, Marc!”

“Shift, Reya, and we’ll see.”

What was his obsession with her shifting? And how the hell did he know she had the ability?

“I said shift. Now,” he snarled, stepping much too close for comfort. Reya stood her ground as a furious blush of anger crept across her bare chest and up her neck. The change was just under the surface, on the verge of breaking free. She’d always kept keen control of it, but this asshole was pushing it! But her Aunt Sulu hadn’t raised her to be a fool. Whatever this rabid and certifiable nut had planned for her, she must have to shift first. This seemed like a good time to stall and maybe just get some answers.

“Marc, what’s the deal with this shift stuff?” she asked dumbly, urging him to spill whatever he knew or thought he knew.

“What, you thought I was a blithering, muscle-bound clod like Trefor? I know exactly who, or rather what you are, Reya.”

She’d perfected the deer-in-the-headlights look as a child and slipped it onto her face with ease. “What are you talking about, Marc? Why are you being such an ass? And with me of all people?”

“I’ve known for a while that you’re a shifter. A beautiful, black jaguar shifter and you are going to be my mate.”

“I can’t mate with you! Eww, that’s just too nasty.” Shit! The words slipped out before she could clamp her lips shut. His fist flew, and she barely got an arm up to block the punch that landed on her forearm with a sick slapping sound. That would have really hurt if it had reached her face.

“Look, Marc, I’m marrying Aaron, okay? Don’t do this. You’ve always been a good friend to me.” Until now, she thought. “Besides, why would you want to mate a shifter anyway?”

Her question was answered by the sinewy popping and crunching of rearranging bones as they moved and settled in their new positions. Eyes wide, she stood still as stone while goose bumps erupted from neck to knees at the familiar, quiet hiss of lengthening and stretching muscles. A gasp escaped her throat at the bombshell dropped on her.

Before her stood the regal gold and black rogue jag that had challenged her for Aaron after his plane crashed and had later attacked him. Hell, attacked and injured her as well. Reya had never seen anyone shift so fast. Then again, she’d never met another shifter outside her family. Her head tilted in question as another thought came to her. The dead jaguars.

‘Yes, Reya, I was the one that attacked the females in the sanctuary. It wasn’t a poacher who didn’t have time to recover the furs without detection.’ He spoke directly into her head in a perfect imitation of their dimwitted director Trefor.

“But why?”

‘They refused to mate with me. And their choice was the same as yours—accept me.’

“Or?” she asked, tilting her head at the crazy jaguar before her.

‘There is no ‘or’, Reya.’

In his skin, he was already stronger than her. In his pelt, he was several times faster and stronger. Reya backed away slowly, more than wary of his intentions. If he attacked her in her skin, she’d be laid up for weeks recovering. But if she shifted, healing would occur faster, but she’d be giving in to whatever he had planned for her.

‘I’m disappointed you’ve chosen the human male. I would make a much better mate, Reya. I would even break with typical jag behavior and stay with you long after our cubs are born. Maybe even mate for life.’

Her mind flashed to a terror-filled night so long ago when her sister and mother fell under the claws of an infanticidal jaguar shifter. Her father. She had no intention of mating with a shifter, jaguar or otherwise. She’d fight him tooth and claw first!

Just before she allowed herself to succumb to the change, the light bulb in her mind clicked on. He wanted her to shift so he could fuck her in the change! Not only was he a bastard, he was a sneaky bastard.

Stalking slowly toward her, canines bared, Marc padded silently across the stone floor of wherever they were. He pounced. Reya screamed with anger and jumped back, just out of reach of a powerful swipe aimed at her calves. His roar chilled her blood, but she forced her legs to move again, unable to suppress another scream as claws tore across her back. At least it was just a few shallow cuts across the newly healed muscles rather than the deep gouges he’d obviously intended.

‘I will have you underneath me, Reya, in your skin or in your pelt. Your choice.’ The words were snarled with such vehemence she actually flinched.

Damn it, she was a goner, definitely no match for a fully grown male jaguar determined to sink his barbed cock into her body and hump her brains out. If she shifted, there’d at least be a fighting chance.

The decision made, she dropped to her knees and let the change ripple through her and prayed she’d be fast enough.

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