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Authors: Kit Tunstall,Kate Steele,Jodi Lynn Copeland

Tags: #erotic, #Romance

Lions and Tigers and Bears

BOOK: Lions and Tigers and Bears
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LIONS AND TIGERS AND BEARS

An Ellora’s Cave Publication, June 2005

 

Ellora’s Cave Publishing, Inc.

1337 Commerce Drive, #13

Stow
,
OH
 
44224

 

ISBN MS Reader (LIT) ISBN # 1-4199-0131-1

Other available formats (no ISBNs are assigned):

Adobe (PDF), Rocketbook (RB), Mobipocket (PRC) & HTML

 

LIOIN EYES Copyright © 2005 JODI LYNN COPELAND

TIGER EYE Copyright © 2005 KIT TUNSTALL

HIDDEN HEART Copyright © 2005 KATE STEELE

 

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. This book may not be reproduced in whole or in part without permission.

 

This book is a work of fiction and any resemblance to persons, living or dead, or places, events or locales is purely coincidental. They are productions of the authors’ imagination and used fictitiously.

 

Edited by
Briana St James,
Raelene Gorlinsky
 and
Heather
Osborn.

Cover art by
Syneca
.

Warning:

 

The following material contains graphic sexual content meant for mature readers.
Lions and Tigers and Bears
has been rated E–roti
c by a minimum of three independent reviewers.

 

Ellora’s Cave Publishing offers three levels of Romantica™ reading entertainment: S (S-ensuous), E (E-rotic), and X (X-treme).

 

S-
ensuous
love scenes are explicit and leave nothing to the imagination.

 

E-
rotic
love scenes are explicit, leave nothing to the imagination, and are high in volume per the overall word count. In addition, some E-rated titles might contain fantasy material that some readers find objectionable, such as bondage, submission, same sex encounters, forced seductions, and so forth. E-rated
titles are the most graphic titles we carry; it is common, for instance, for an author to use words such as “fucking”, “cock”, “pussy”, and such within their work of literature.

 

X-
treme
titles differ from E-rated titles only in plot premise and storyline
execution. Unlike E-rated titles, stories designated with the letter X tend to contain controversial subject matter not for the faint of heart.

Lions and Tigers and Bears

 

Lion Eyes
by Jodi Lynn Copeland

 

 

 

Tiger Eye
by Kit Tunstall

 

 

 

Hidden Heart
by Kate Steele

 

Lion Eyes

Jodi Lynn Copeland

Trademarks Acknowledgement

 

The author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of the following wordmarks mentioned in this work of fiction:

 

Band-Aid: Johnson & Johnson Corporation

 

Chapter One

 

Unease prickled over Liddy Freeman’s skin as the black and white police cruiser pulled up outside her office window. She’d heard about the latest attack on the news this morning, and had known it was only a matter of time before the cops returned to the animal sanctuary for another round of the question and answer game. The answers would be the same this time as they had the previous three—no there were no lions missing from the sanctuary, no she hadn’t let any out for a late night stroll last night and no she wasn’t lying to protect anyone.

If the cops would open their eyes, they would see it wasn’t one of the eight lions that called the Hanover Wild Animal Sanctuary home, responsible for the attacks. Given the wintry weather outside and the odds of a lion surviving in it for long, the more likely conclusion was that the attacker wasn’t a normal lion at all, but a shifter. The residents of
Hanover
were as liable to entertain that possibility as the cops were.

That shapeshifters existed among the human population in various forms—tigers, bears and, oh my, even lions—wasn’t a point of question but fact. According to Annette Freeman, Liddy’s mama and the mayor of
Hanover
, it also wasn’t a point of question if any of those shifters resided in
Hanover
. According to Annette not a single one had ever ventured within five miles of the city limits and not a single one ever would, because
Hanover
was a normal city, and normal cities didn’t cater to genetic freaks.

Liddy snorted at the thought. If only her mama knew…

A knock sounded on the office door, and the sanctuary receptionist popped her blonde head into the room. “Detective Riggs is here to see you.”

Big surprise.

Liddy forced a smile. “Thanks, Ann. Go ahead and tell him to come on back.”

Less than a minute later, Tanner Riggs stepped into her office. He was the cop who’d been out to question her on all of the other attacks, and was typically what she would have thought of as a good looking guy between his dark blue eyes, brown hair and chiseled facial structure. With Tanner she couldn’t get past the odd aura he gave off long enough to appreciate his looks. He made her uncomfortable in a way not even her mama could accomplish, and that was saying something.

Tanner pulled off his cap. He glanced at the chair in front of her desk, but then remained standing. “Good morning, Miss Freeman.”

No, it didn’t appear that it was a good morning. Not when it started off with the cop standing in her office. She hadn’t even finished her first cup of coffee yet, damn it.

Struggling to keep her smile in place, Liddy inclined her head in greeting. “Detective Riggs. What can I help you with today?”

He gave her a look that said she already knew, but then offered, “Been another attack. Same markings as the other times. I’m having the body run for prints or anything else that might turn up, though it’s pretty clear what’s to blame.”

The automatic reaction to protect her animals shot through her. She opened her mouth to remind him that the lions in the sanctuary were retained by high wattage fencing and that most of them were as docile as kittens. Then Tanner’s words caught up with her, and the unease she’d felt on first sighting his cruiser returned times ten.

“Body? She died?” The victim had been a woman, like those attacked before her, and Liddy had believed she was recovering in the hospital.

Grim determination settled on his face. “She bled out on the way to the hospital. The way her wounds look she didn’t stand much of a chance. This thing’s getting worse with every attack, Miss Freeman. If you know something now’s the time to come forward. We find out you have something to do with this on our own, you won’t be liking the consequences of your silence.”

Tanner glanced around the office. His gaze landed on the twin white lioness portraits that always brought Liddy a sense of comfort, then moved out the window to the acres of rolling snow-laden fields and woods and the large heat moderated buildings that kept the animals warm during the winter months. “This place is nice, big. You strike me as someone who values that.” He looked back at her, gaze narrowed. “Where you’ll go if we catch you lying won’t be nice or big.”

She’d been prepared for his accusations, and still they had her temper spiking. She stood and rounded the desk. “I told you before that I don’t know a damned thing about the attacks. I wish I did. I wish I could tell you who or what is responsible, so I could get you off my back.” Reaching the door, Liddy jerked it open. “But I can’t. So unless you have any
real
questions for me, I need to get on with my day.”

Tanner eyed her a few seconds, assessing her in a way that made her skin itch, then pulled his cap back on and crossed to the door. “You have my card, Miss Freeman,” he said none too friendly, “don’t be afraid to use it.”

She might just do that. To start a fire in her fireplace tonight.

Liddy walked the detective to the door. Grabbing her coat from the rack, she shrugged it on over her green knit sweatshirt and followed him out. He took his time getting into the cruiser, started the engine just as slowly, and kept his attention fixed on her as he backed out of the parking lot and turned down the drive. Finally the car disappeared beyond the trees that lined either side of the drive as far as eye could see.

Inhaling breaths of icy cold air in the hopes of flushing out her frustration, Liddy made her way across the shoveled walk to the first heated viewing building. The winter months were slow for visitors, but a handful came by daily. One was a regular.

And breaking from routine today, she noted the moment she opened the door to the building and heat rushed out to greet her. Kevin Montcalm had been coming by on his lunch hour for the last six months without fail. In many ways, his blue eyes, dark hair and chiseled facial structure was similar to the cop’s, but on Kevin impossible to ignore.

He stood in front of the fencing that housed two of the lions, his hands pushed into the pockets of his dress slacks with his back to her. He might as well be looking at her, his intense blue eyes sweeping over with open invitation, for the way her body responded to his presence. Her pulse picked up while her nipples tightened in a way the cold could never accomplish.

Chastising herself for her reaction to a man she knew was wrong for her, at least in her mama’s eyes and most the people of
Hanover
, Liddy swept off her coat and hung it by the door. She’d taken two steps toward Kevin when he turned around. His smile came slowly, and when it was finished took up much of the lower half of his clean-shaven face. His teeth were white, straight, even. His lips full, firm, sensual.

Despite the facts so many thought they were wrong for each other and that Liddy had spent the last months convincing herself they were better off as friends, she’d imagined those lips on her more than once. And more than just in her daydreams. It was often Kevin’s face that filled her mind as she curled up at night with her favorite vibrator. Kevin who stroked her bare, open body. Kevin’s mouth that moved between her legs, his tongue that slid between her folds and sucked at her pussy. She’d come with his name on her lips more times than she even wanted to acknowledge.

And this was definitely the wrong train of thought to be having so early in the morning and on half a cup of coffee no less.

Ignoring the wetness that had gathered between her thighs with her thoughts, Liddy crossed to Kevin and focused on the lions lazing on the other side of the fencing. “Lose your watch?” she asked after a few seconds. “You’re early.”

“I couldn’t concentrate on work, so I figured I might as well stop in for a few minutes. I saw the cop car out front. They giving you more trouble about the attacks?”

She chanced a look at him, and found him watching her. Twenty feet away, the potency of his eyes could make her hot on sight. One foot away, it stopped the breath in her throat. He was successful businessman, one who was respected in the community and had the wealth to prove it. He wasn’t, however, more successful, respected or wealthy than some of the other men Liddy had dated.

So what it was about him that drew her in?

She had no idea of the answer, and she wasn’t going to question it any longer. She was going to do what was necessary to keep peace in her family and, as she’d been doing for the last six months, pretend her heart didn’t stutter and her panties grow wet whenever Kevin walked into a room.

With a shrug, she turned back to the lions. “Same old thing. They’re convinced one of my cats is responsible. You know my theory on that.”

“That it’s a shifter? Did you say anything to them about that yet?”

“Right. And have them laugh in my face? If my own mama won’t believe me, why should anyone else?”

“You’re mother’s the last person who will accept this city isn’t so normal. You say so yourself all the time.”

Liddy’s mother would also be the last person to accept him asking Liddy out on a date, Kevin knew. Annette Freeman was about as anti-liberal as one could get. That the bulk of
Hanover
was the same way was how Annette had come by the position of mayor. That the bulk of
Hanover
was the same way was also the reason that Kevin could never ask Liddy out, no matter how hot the chemistry between them grew.

More than her African American roots and his Caucasian ones separated them—if it were only that and how their dating would be perceived by others, Kevin would say to hell with everyone else’s opinion and ask her out here and now. But his identity was the real problem. He was the one thing this city feared and, though Liddy loved her animals, he sometimes wondered if she might not fear him too, if the truth of his being a shifter came out. It couldn’t come out—he’d worked too hard to make a name for himself to be shunned by all those who now respected him.

It wouldn’t come out. Not so long as he kept his distance from Liddy.

Between her killer curves and eyes so dark brown and soulful he found himself wanting to sink into them, into her, on a daily basis, he knew if he acted on the attraction between them he’d never be able to stop from letting himself go completely. He’d be trapped by his hunger for her, the lust that had been building for months now, the insatiable want that no amount of fucking other women, or even other lion shifters, had managed to lessen.

“The woman who was attacked last night died,” Liddy said quietly.

Kevin pulled his attention from below his belt where his cock stirred to rock-hard life. He should stop tormenting himself by coming here, but he valued his time with the lions. And, hell, he valued his time with Liddy even more.

He looked back at her. She’d wrapped her arms around her body, and the stiffness of her posture was a dead giveaway to her anxiety. He considered offering her a comforting hug, then realized how bad of an idea that was. Not only would his erection be obvious, but if her mouth got that close to his, he’d never be able to stop himself from doing something about it.

“I hadn’t heard,” he said simply.

“Detective Riggs just told me.”

“You’d think with things getting worse they’d want to consider every possibility, including that the attacker might not be an animal.”

That the attacker, now murderer, could well be one of his own kind, had Kevin’s thoughts moving away from Liddy and the attraction between them.

As leader of the local pride—a responsibility passed down to him three years ago when his father died—it was his job to see that all lions followed a strict set of rules. Breaking those rules meant expulsion from the pride and area as a whole. Breaking those rules by committing murder could well mean death. It wasn’t a circumstance Kevin had encountered before, and one he hoped to not have to face now.

One thing was for certain. It was time for another gathering. “I need to get going. I have a
ten o’clock
appointment.”

Liddy looked over at him. “Will you be back for lunch?”

He didn’t want to acknowledge the tinge of hopefulness in her eyes, and knew that any normal man wouldn’t even notice it. But he wasn’t quite normal and he also couldn’t ignore it. She wanted to see him again today, and he wanted to see her again just as badly. “Do you want me to be?”

She blinked, but then said nonchalantly, “That’s your call. I was thinking about picking up some Chinese, and they always give me enough for two.”

He laughed, recalling the struggles she’d had the last time they’d shared Chinese. “You going to try to eat with chopsticks again?”

Her full lower lip pushed out in a pout, while her eyes gleamed with amusement. “I was thinking about it.”

“Then consider it a date. There’s nothing quite as entertaining as watching you try to get those things in your mouth with the food intact.” Nothing short of trying to get something else in her mouth, that is. His tongue seemed as good as option as any, he thought when her lower lip pulled back in.

Though he knew how bad an idea it was to stand here and ogle her mouth, Kevin couldn’t pull his attention away. Her lips shimmered as if she wore lip gloss, and he wondered if it were the flavored variety.

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