Authors: Celia Kyle
Tags: #romance, #paranormal, #werelion, #bbw
Jennifer Palmer growled into her phone at her best friend, Penelope Little. No, wait, her BFF was now Penelope Tolson—mate to the North American Alpha. She should probably be all respectful and shit. Too bad Jennifer’s respectful bone was broken.
“Look, Pen, I get what you’re saying, but I’m fine.” She raised her hand and waved, hoping to catch the attention of the passing cabbie. She was due in court in fifteen minutes, and she still had to get across town. Between waking up late, taking forever to get dressed, and arguing with Penny on the phone, Jen was super late.
“Yeah,” Penelope snapped. “Everyone is fine until they’re dead.”
Dead. Everyone was so worried about her life. Or rather, her remaining alive. One high profile case, and suddenly Jennifer was on everyone’s mind. Her brother, alpha of her and Penelope’s old pride seem to be calling every ten minutes. And if he wasn’t calling her, Penelope was on the phone. Then there was Pen’s mate, Marcus, checking on her constantly.
Each of them had the same concern—finding Jennifer dead in a ditch.
They also had the same answer—giving Jennifer a bodyguard.
She was a werelion, for goodness sake! She could protect herself. God gave her fangs and claws, didn’t he? Of course that thought had her remembering Marcus’ last words…
“What good are fangs and claws against a bullet?”
Maybe they couldn’t do a damn thing, but that didn’t change the fact she was still a werelion with the ability to heal much faster than a human.
“Are you listening to me?” Penelope shrieked.
“Uh, sure. Totally.” Jennifer was so not listening.
“So you agree with me?”
A bright yellow cab screeched to a stop beside Jennifer, and she snared the handle to the door. She yanked it open, and quickly slid into the backseat, nearly dropping her phone. “Oh, I totally agree with you.”
She hoped they were talking about paint colors for Penelope and Marcus’ apartment. Or rather sky high palace. Penelope had moved up from the tiny old apartment she had in their hometown to the penthouse of the tallest building in the city. The two had offered Jen a place in the same building, but she’d refused. She left Ryland on her own, and she’d make a home for herself in the big city on her own.
Penelope released a high-pitched squeal. “Oh, I knew you’d see sense! I told Marcus you would, but he wouldn’t listen. I totally won that bet.”
The cab jolted to a stop outside the courthouse, and Jennifer shoved cash toward the driver before she climbed from the interior. Her heels clicked and clacked as she rapidly raced up the stairs. “Yeah, you won? So happy for you.” She distractedly replied. “What was the bet?”
Her shoes slipped on the polished floor of the lobby as she dashed around the corner. The metal detectors were just ahead, and she sighed in relief that the lines weren’t too long. A glance at her watch showed she had three minutes to get to the courtroom and she couldn’t be late. The judge was fair but a hard ass, and she’d worked so hard on this case that the last thing she wanted was to fuck it up. Or give the opposing counsel a reason to request a mistrial.
“Penelope?” Her friend still hadn’t answered her question. “What was the bet?”
Jennifer’s destination was in sight, and she groaned when she saw the news vultures surrounding the entry to the room. Everyone’s gaze swung to her as she ran toward them, the flash of light and cameras confirming they’d spotted her.
“Look, Pen, honey… I need to cut this short. Court is starting any second now, and I gotta make it past the media jackals.” A couple of those
moved toward her, microphones extended and cameras intent on her. “I’ll call you as soon as I’m done for the day and we can talk about that bet, huh?”
“No! Wait! You have to—”
Jennifer was no longer listening because one of the reporters wasn’t a reporter. He wasn’t holding a microphone or a tape recorder. No, he was holding a gun. Black and compact, it blended in with everything the others waved around and she didn’t spy it until it was almost too late.
She immediately dropped her cell phone and stumbled back a step, fingers flashing to claws without thought and her fangs descended in an instant. Right about that moment, she realized Marcus may have been right. Fangs and claws might
be a good defense against a speeding bullet.
The bright flash that came with the pulling of the trigger and release of a round was immediately followed by the loud boom of the gun firing. It echoed off the marble walls, and the reporters—the
reporters—ducked. Jennifer tensed to do the same, but she shouldn’t have bothered. Because at that moment a large body plowed into her. The stranger took her to the ground, his weight forcing her against the floor, and they both grunted with the impact. Another echoing pop reached her, which was immediately followed by another grunt from the person atop her.
The person atop her…
Snarls and roars bounced around the hallway and those were followed by shouts from courthouse security. It was obvious the gunman was either captured or being pursued by others.
Which left her with the person atop her. Jennifer breathed deeply, and the scent of the dry plains struck her—the aroma particular to a specific species. So, not a human or warlock. Definitely not a vamp—he scented very much alive—nor a werewolf. (None of that wet dog smell.) No, she’d been tackled by a lion. Not just any lion, but one particular lion. Her mate.
Her mate who was… a coppery tang filled her nose… bleeding?
The thundering, threatening, deadly sound that flew from her mouth threw a blanket of silence over the area. Not a soul moved, she wasn’t sure if anyone even breathed, and no one uttered a peep. Well, no one but her mate.
He chuckled, gifting her with more of his scent, and that aroma soothed her raging lioness just as much as it angered her. Yes, someone shot at her. She was prosecuting the case against the head of the human half of the Colletti mob—Niccolo Colletti. That made it almost expected. But no one—
—was gonna shoot her mate.
“Baby—” his voice really was sexy, and she would love to hear him talk a bit more, but the unmistakable squeak of a shoe on the floor alerted her that someone approached.
She threw her mate to the side, shoving him to the ground as her shift slammed through her. Her curvy human body went from professional lawyer to deadly lion in an instant. Her clothes were shredded as her size grew and transformed into a homicidal beast. If anyone dared approach her wounded mate, they’d have to go through her. And now, riding the adrenaline high of near death and rage, she almost wanted someone to try.
Jennifer spied the person who approached and immediately recognized him as one of the clerks who worked in the building. Not just a clerk, but also a fellow lion. He held up one hand, palm out as he tried to placate her while the other gripped a large first aid kit. Damn, how’d he get the case so quickly? Thank God for shifter speed.
“Ms. Palmer,” his voice trembled slightly and her lioness was both pleased and slightly disgusted with herself. Pleased because they were obviously strong enough to scare another of her kind. Not just another, but also a male. The disgust was because she’d been trying so hard to make a place for herself in the city pride and this had set her progress back.
This time his voice was raised above the panicked yell of some of the humans. Apparently knowing about shifters and
about them were two different concepts to people. “Ms. Palmer, I just want to check on Brett.”
Brett. That was her mate’s name. Her mate who’d been shot and was currently bleeding all over the floor. Yes, he should be taken care of.
“Dammit, Nash, it’s not like I’m a child. It’s a damned bullet hole. Besides, there’s only two.”
Jennifer swung her gaze to her mate, anxious to look him over but froze when her gaze collided with his. Blue. That was all she could think. Bright, bright blue. She had totally struck the “mate” lottery.
“Damn, you’re pretty.”
Her lion preened at her mate’s words, thrilled their other half thought they were pretty. Then she inhaled and was reminded of his injury.
She snapped her attention back to the clerk and curled her lip, jerking her head toward Brett at the same time. The man needed to get to work, already. The stranger skirted Jennifer, moving around them and coming at Brett from her mate’s other side. That allowed her to keep her attention on the rest of the crowd.
She glared at anyone who dared meet her gaze, and growled when one particular male tried to stare her down. She was the daughter of an alpha, she was the sister of an alpha, and she’d be damned if she backed down against anything
an alpha. The male attempting to assume dominance over her was definitely
an alpha. If anything, his appearance, the lack of bulging muscles and above average height, told her he wasn’t a shifter of any type.
So as far as Jennifer was concerned, the man was first in line to get her claws in his gut.
It wasn’t until Brett stroked her fur, his fingers gliding over her while he murmured low, that she realized she was growling. “Shhh… Leave the puny humans alone, baby. I promised Marcus I wouldn’t let any of our lions eat anyone while he’s traveling. You don’t want to turn me into a liar, do you?”
Jennifer flicked her ear, focused still on the inadequate male while she listened to Brett. Obviously he knew Marcus, but it seemed he was more familiar with the North American Alpha than the average werelion.
She tried to sniff past the overwhelming scents in the hallway, the sting of fear and anger invading her nose, and sought out the pure flavors of her mate. Perhaps it would tell her more… The truth finally slapped her and she nearly groaned aloud.
Yes, he was her mate, but he was also Marcus’ brother and the North American pride beta. Which resulted in two things: One—she would be able to spend a lot more time with her best friend since Penelope was mated to Marcus. Two—she had just been saddled with a male who was almost as dominant, protective, and possessive as her best friend’s mate.
Despite the pain that had taken up residence in his back, Brett was rock hard from wanting her. Sitting in the middle of the courthouse hallway, bleeding all over the pale marble, and all he could think about was stripping Jennifer bare and claiming her for all to see. Maybe not completely bare. She’d be wearing him, after all.
Brett almost laughed at his own joke but that was about the time Nash decided to stick damned forceps into his flesh. “What the fuck, Nash? Where’d you get those?”
His snarled words were echoed by a roar from his mate. She was fucking gorgeous when pissed off. He didn’t have much to compare it to, but he was thinking about keeping her mad all the time. Unless she was more beautiful when he was balls deep inside her. Then maybe he’d keep her naked all the time.
“I just gotta get this one out before you heal over it. It’s better to pull it now rather than cut you open at the safe house later. You know that.” Nash’s voice was matter of fact and held a hint of annoyance.
If he wasn’t in so much pain and worrying about Jennifer eating some stray human, he would’ve knocked Nash on his ass for being such a dick.
Damn disrespectful kids these days.
Oh well, he’d do it later when the boy was least suspecting.
“Get it done, already. I don’t like being out in the open like this.” Not when there was a chance someone else on the Colletti payroll still hung around.
“Yeah, yeah…” Nash dug deep. “Got it.”
His touch vanished, leaving lingering agony in his wake. He fucking hated getting shot. A guy tries to go for a run in the woods, and asshole hunters mistake a bright gold
for a fucking bear? Brett almost ate that asshole for dinner. Almost. Marcus had vetoed the idea and thrown a cow at Brett instead.
Nash tossed the bullet onto the tile in front of Brett and then stood. “You’re all set.”
Brett simply grunted and pushed to his feet, stroking Jennifer’s back the moment he was upright. He glanced at the crowd, proudly noting that his men were keeping them at bay. It gave him room to calm Jennifer. He reached down and stroked her head, cupping the back of her skull, and he encouraged her with his grip to turn her eyes to him.
“We have to get you out of here.” She shook her head and took a step away from him, but he refused to let her retreat. “It wasn’t a question,” he snapped. He wasn’t letting her remain in danger. It was more than his inner lion could bear. If he’d hesitated even a moment, she wouldn’t be standing beside him coated in his blood. Instead, she’d be dying on the courthouse floor. “We’re going to escort you to the underground garage and then we can talk about all this when you’re safe… And clothed. Both are nonnegotiable.”