Authors: Michelle Monkou
Copyright© 2014 Michelle Monkou
Cover Artist: Sour Cherry Designs
Editor: Laurie Temple
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
WARNING: The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this copyrighted work is illegal. No part of this book may be used or reproduced electronically or in print without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in reviews.
This is a work of fiction. All names, characters, and places are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
To all my fellow Leos and our dear friends, enjoy the adventures of the Nuuba Pride.
INTO THE PRIDE
Nuuba Pride Shifters, 1
Copyright © 2014
David Chastain mounted his motorcycle with nightfall once again as his only companion. He cruised through the desolate streets on his way home after another unproductive week. The pristine engine purred with a smooth and satisfying hum. His stress level shifted from blinding frustration to mild impatience.
Increasingly, his days were spent hunched over the layout and design of the City of Theos, the pre-earthquake version. He wasn’t content to relinquish supervisory oversight. Surveying structural damage hidden below the refurbished city was too important. Besides, little time remained to find the royal palace of the Nuuba Dynasty and that was his burden to bear.
He approached an intersection, shifting gears to stop at the red light. No cars, not even pedestrians, were in sight. Only the traffic camera prevented him from running the light. But then, why rush? No one was home for him to hurry to.
The air current shifted—slight, almost imperceptible. Different.
To get a better handle on the situation, he slid up the helmet’s visor. A strong mixture of herbs and spices, once the island’s main commerce, perfumed the air. The vapor cloud floated on invisible currents, descending and surrounding him. Specific notes of cinnamon, cloves, and anise scented the area.
His nostrils flared, drawing in and deciphering, for any hidden messages. This unique blend hovered out of reach of a possible answer. The intriguing mystery grabbed hold of his attention.
The traffic light snapped green. David didn’t immediately ride off. His body remained tense, wary of any approach, any probable ambush. Threats of danger could test his reflexes. His body was woefully out of practice, and it would take massive adrenalin surges to boost his muscles into battle mode.
In the meantime, he’d rely on his keen eyesight. Darkness didn’t hinder his scrutiny. Sifting through the blackness, where objects collided with shadows, he mentally tagged and processed all that he saw.
Nothing stirred. But he was sure there was a nearby presence. His ears listened for the smallest shuffle. It wasn’t the first time that night he’d sensed being followed. The feeling didn’t get stronger, instead it suddenly retreated, along with the scent. His impatience grew over this nightly game.
“Reveal yourself or leave me alone.” His order reverberated since it didn’t have to compete with background noises. The responding silence didn’t surprise him.
What if someone did step up? He wasn’t ready for a battle. Reset bones had healed. Muscles finally knitted. And ligaments stripped away from bone had taken almost a year to mend. There was no instant healing. The lingering mental wounds, however, were worse. They riddled his memory with black holes where his guilt, doubt, and dread lived in evil harmony. There lay his biggest fear, that he’d never be one hundred percent.
At this hour, close to midnight, it was the best time to be ambushed. The usual fog rolled in from the sea and cloaked the area in a thick wall of mist.
A car horn blared. The irritated driver swerved around David’s bike.
“Pay attention … asshole!” The rest of the taxi driver’s insults disappeared with the screech of his tires.
Time to head home. Revving his bike to breakneck speed, David settled into the seat, leaning low into the wind, relishing its resistance. No further mysterious incidences occurred by the time he arrived at his house. He nudged open the gate with the bike and cruised into the courtyard. By the time he opened the front door, his nerves were back to normal.
David stepped inside and immediately started peeling off clothes. His jacket and helmet landed on the couch. Next came the shirt, pulled out of his pants and unbuttoned as he headed to the kitchen. He grabbed a bottle of water and took a long drink, when he picked up the strains of a familiar heady perfume.
London was in his bedroom … waiting for a fuck.
“Damn. This woman is like Velcro.” He swiped his mouth with the back of his hand and headed for the bedroom.
The double doors were open like an invitation. London lay naked, curled in a ball, asleep. Her platinum blonde hair fanned his pillow, framing her tanned face like a misplaced halo. He snorted at the deceptive sight. She was no angel.
The musk of her sex announced that she’d masturbated. A true nymph, with or without him, she knew how to get her rocks off. From their first run-in at a business reception, she had sought him out because “she wanted to fuck Adonis-reincarnated.” Well, how could he refuse such flattery? Rules for their unique arrangement meant that she’d frequently stroke his ego and, in return, he’d frequently give her the full-length ride of her life.
His cock stirred with remembrance. “Down, boy.”
Any lingering reactions were the residual effect of a bad habit. Nothing between them would be mistaken for a relationship. She was bent, broken, and treacherous. While he owned up to his bent and broken parts, treacherous had been replaced with vengeful.
With no intention of heading for bed, not with her in it, he stripped off the rest of his clothes “Should have taken the damn key back.” His priorities over the past few weeks had readjusted and London had slid off the list.
Naked and exhausted, he walked into the bathroom and turned on the overhead shower. All spigots and side jets blasted his body awake with frigid water.
It felt so good
. He stuck his head under the spray to enjoy the pounding on his scalp and neck. His skin rippled under the onslaught. This therapy was perfect after a long day.
The shower door opened.
London had awakened. From the small smile and hooded gaze she lavished on his naked body, he had no doubt what she wanted. Conversation wasn’t her forte. Her mouth was better used for fastening on his cock, as she often claimed. It was the truth. Still, she was no longer welcome.
They’d had fun meeting up when the mood hit. Commitment came with a sign of Do Not Enter. However, once London changed the rules of their engagement, her constant attention chafed—popping up at his office, reading his mail, searching his bedroom. Each overstep was answered with how much she wanted to be in his life. If only her slick, pining facade wasn’t at odds with her cool, distant regard behind those crystal blue eyes.
Desire pulsed, though. He had to be careful not to offer a hint of surrender or she’d service him with the stamina of a marathon runner. Through the curtain of water flowing over his face, he measured her approach. Like facing a threat. No sudden moves.
She stepped into his space and pursed her lips for an air kiss before offering a throaty chuckle. The second her hands moved, he halted her plans.
“It’s time for you to leave my house.” David made sure his tone held no room for objections.
“One fuck for the road?” Her Finnish accent thickened when she was furious.
“Piss off, London. It’s been a long day.”
She left the shower stall. Without waiting for the door to close, he continued showering.
A reckless move—no one was stupid enough to turn their back on a wildcat. They weren’t known for walking the straight line. If she decided to sink her claws into him, venom would be the motherlode of new problems. A hellish death followed an end to a pain-filled sixty seconds of misery, as the poison paralyzed, then constricted lungs and shut down other organs. Nevertheless, he meant to underscore the boundaries.
Not that they were natural enemies. He was a hybrid Panthera-a Leo cosmically linked with humans. London was an equal-opportunity killer and a by-product of a long-ago curse against her lesser kind. At their disadvantaged positions, wildcats tended not to observe the hierarchy of the dynasties. Kind of made her emotionally volatile. That edge of danger enhanced the hell out of his orgasms with her.
Finished showering, he dried off in front of the mirror over the sink.
Scars marked his body. Each slash, burn, incision told a story. Memory loss prevented total recall. However, between the frequent nightmares and increasing flashbacks, details about the trauma painted a horrific picture. Every day he looked in the mirror to check the healing process. He bent his elbow, wincing slightly. Would he ever be whole, again?
Battle scars were one thing, the tattoo on the upper left side of his body was another. The tat had grown over three years, spreading like a vine. Maybe the mark was a brand for his former status as a royal bodyguard, a vocation complete with blood oath and a lifelong commitment. His fingers traced the inked design of tribal swirls, thick lines, and sharp hooks that took over most of his left pectoral. Its progress continued over his shoulder and along his neck, curling up behind his left ear.
Childhood memories didn’t include such markings. Flashes of him in battle gear were void of any tattoos. So why did this happen?
For instance, when did he get inked on the right pec with this majestic lion wearing a full mane, sitting in repose? Its profile showed off a tiny diamond, as its eye, partially embedded in his skin. He touched and circled the precious gem.
A wave of vertigo rocked his balance. He grabbed the sink and shook his head to clear away the nauseous dizziness.
His lion-beast flashed its face in the mirror—piercing golden-eyed gaze, an open mouth snarl with a show of four fang-like canines to impale. Four carnassial teeth to rip. A thick layer of honey-blonde fur that segued into a massive mane.
The world righted.
David took a deep breath. His heart still thumped hard from the excitement. His beast hadn’t made much of an appearance since his recuperation. Under the care of humans, he couldn’t share his problem, that his beast blinked in and out like a misfiring spark plug. Though the humans knew he was a hybrid,
, they didn’t hide their unease with his animal predilection.