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Authors: Sam Crescent

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BOOK: The Mating Project
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Before she could
act on that dangerous impulse, the man holding her in thrall as much as his
wolf was, stepped away, and Maria drew a much needed breath into her oxygen
starved lungs. She hadn't even been aware of the fact that she'd stopped
breathing, so intense had that moment been.

Her
wolf held out his hand again.

"The exit
is just ahead. I killed the guards earlier so we shouldn't encounter any
problems, but just in case we do, I want you to shift the minute we get out of
here, and start running."

A shiver of a
different kind went down Maria's spine, and she had to clear her throat
repeatedly to get the words to form.

"What about
you? I can't just leave you, and I don't even know your name."

"I'm
Malachi, son of the pack of Luca."

He smiled grimly
and cupped the side of her cheek when Maria's eyes widened in horror.

"I see
you've heard of us. For the record, I disassociated myself from my father's
antics a long time ago. In any case he's dead now and won't bother anyone
anymore. I'm only telling you this, so that you can tell your father to leave
the rest of the pack be. They are women and children, and completely innocent.
Promise me you tell him, princess."

Maria nodded her
acknowledgement, not trusting her voice to conform to the demands of her brain,
and she blinked away tears.

Malachi's harsh
expression
softened,
and he swiped an escaping tear
off her cheek. The slightly calloused pad of his thumb left a path of fire in
its wake, and Maria threw her arms around his neck and pulled him close. After
a moment of resistance he yielded and hugged her back. All too soon the moment
was lost, and he extricated himself out of her grasp, and pulled her behind him
and to the exit.

"Now,
remember what I said. Shift the minute you're through that door and run for
your life. I'll be right behind you, and even if I'm not, keep running until
you leave the forest. By now your father and the council will have search
troops out for you. They'll find you."

Just before they
stepped through the open door he yanked her up against him and kissed her. The
kiss was over before it started, but there was no mistaking the heat behind it.
It was more than a kiss. It was a promise, a claim, a brand on her very soul,
and Maria knew that her life would never be the same again.

He pushed her
through the door, and her beast roared and broke free as she hit the ground on
all four paws. She caught a glimpse of Malachi's magnificent wolf as he, too,
shifted, and then she ran. The sound of gunfire, swearing, shouts, and the
warning call of several hyenas rang in her ears, but she kept on running.

Mindless of her
surroundings, the screams and pursuing footfalls, she ran until her lungs were
fit to burst. It was only when two male cougars bounded in her way that she stopped
and let the tears flow.

Jake and Carter
shifted and scooped her up between them, and she clung to her brothers as all
the horrors of the preceding few days crashed on top of her.

From far away
she heard the howl of a lone wolf, and she cried harder. She knew she would
never see Malachi again.

 

Chapter Three

 

Present Time

 

God,
nothing made you
feel old as fast as being surrounded by the young and beautiful on the very
campus you used to attend. Maria flicked her hair back off her face and
frowned.

Had it really
been ten years since her first day of her freshman year? She had been dragged
here by her brothers, who had not taken no for an answer. After the dreadful
events that had led to the complete eradication of that underground cell in the
forest, Maria had only wanted to hide. She hadn't thought it possible to cry as
many tears as she had done back then, but, of course, her dumbass brothers
wouldn't just let her wallow. They had dragged her to one party after the other
in an effort to cheer her up.

"Live a
little, sis. You're free of De Souza, and you need to enjoy life. It's not
often Dad relents on a promise made, so for goodness’ sakes, stop moping after
that damn wolf, and live."

They had been
referring to Malachi, of course. Most of his pack had been killed in the
forest, and the males that weren't had been executed by the council. True to
her word, Maria had pleaded with her father for the safety of the women and
children, and after much lengthy discussion they had been granted amnesty.

Of Malachi
himself there had been no trace, and he, too, was presumed dead. Maria had hung
onto the thought that he must be alive, and that he would come to find her, but
as months had turned into a year, she had to concede that he either was dead,
or he didn't care enough about their bond to come and claim her. Concern had
turned to anger, and in a fit of the devil may care she had lost her virginity
to a young lion shifter. Her sexuality thus awakened she had spent her free
time at
Uni
screwing shifters and humans alike. The
sex had been good, but the whole one night stand thing was beginning to get
old. Never more so since her brothers had mated and had become fathers to
adorable triplets. Even her work colleague Emmi had returned from a trip to
Bear Country mated to a bear shifter no less, and she was expecting a cub. The
human was finding the whole existence of shifters somewhat hard to get her head
around, and her relationship with her bear was complicated to say the least,
but Maria knew they would sort it out.

Which
just left her with her biological clock ticking away.
Not that she
was over the hill at age twenty-eight, but the whole being surrounded by mated
couples thing, did make her feel lonely.

"There you
are. Sorry I'm late." Natasha, a young Siberian tiger and assistant to the
very man she was here to see, bounded up to her with a big grin.

Maria forced a
smile on her lips. Natasha was a pretty, young geeky thing, who spent her
entire free time doing research for the council. Cole Jackson's side of the council,
that was. The bear shifter was of the firm belief that the solution to the
falling fertility rates lay in the old ways and the mysterious mating bond.

Maria had to
concede that he might have a point. Bears had the lowest fertility rate of them
all, yet he had managed to father a cub with his very human mate. It had caused
somewhat of an uproar in council chambers. De Souza had been the most vocal,
followed by her own father, and if Maria never had to endure another lecture
about the sanctity of blood lines and her solemn duty to mate with a true blood
herself, it wouldn't be a moment too soon.

The pressure was
on to find her own mate and to produce cubs of her
own,
and Maria didn't think it was a coincidence that Anton de Souza had been a
frequent visitor at her father's dinner parties again. Her father might have
agreed to give her time to find her own mate, after she had been kidnapped, but
that had been ten years ago.

Anton De Souza
was a pure blood cougar like her, and an original, and whilst his first wife
had died in mysterious circumstances, no blame had ever been attached to him.
Even her mum had once again started up her campaign of
you could do a lot
worse than Anton.
 
Mum seemed to find
the fact that Anton hadn’t taken another mate as a sign of his romantic side.
Maria had other ideas, and her cougar still shrank away from him every time she
was in the man's presence. If she had learnt one thing from past events then it
was to trust in her animal's instincts. Her beast didn't like Anton, and therefore
neither did Maria.

She knew at this
point her father would be happy to accept anyone, as long as they were Maria's
true mate. Cole and her brothers' mating success had seen to that. The only
problem was Maria's one true mate was a wolf called Malachi.

It was too
infuriating, and at this point, should the damn shifter turn up back in her
life, Maria might kill him herself. He had ruined her for anyone else. She
didn't want to simply settle. She wanted her mate, damn it. She wanted it all,
and she might as well just wish for the stars.

"Say, are
you all right, Maria?"

Natasha's
concerned question shook Maria out of her maudlin thoughts.

"As
right as rain, sweet thing.
Just got a lot on my
mind.
Tell me what do you think my chances are of convincing Silas
Deacon to sign up with Cole's trial?"

"Slim to
none, I reckon," Natasha said.
 
"I've tried to approach the subject myself several times, but he's
shut me down every time. For a human he isn't half stubborn, and he seems to
have a completely unreasonable dislike of the council."

Natasha brushed
her silvery blonde hair out of her eyes, and Maria paused to admire the way the
sun caught the highlights. The girl would be stunning, if she didn’t hide her
body under baggy clothes and lost the thick rimmed glasses. Not that her
appearance mattered one bit. She was a genius in her own right, and there was
nothing and no one Natasha
Dubrowski
couldn't find
out or track down, given enough time and the right resources. In her final year
in criminology she was research assistant to Professor Silas Deacon.

Another genius,
the staunch supporter of animal rights, Deacon was the recognized authority on
animal behavior and fertility. Maria had been granted exclusive access to the
man due to her position on the Zoological Society of London's big cat mating
project. They could do with his expertise, as could the council. However, that
part of her mission only Natasha knew about. It was rumored that Silas Deacon
had a weakness for busty blondes, and as Maria fitted that
criteria,
and his picture showed him to be quite a cute geek, she'd been only too glad to
accept the assignment.
Anything to keep her mind off cubs
playing in the sun.

"Well, lead
on, Macbeth." Maria adopted her most superior voice, and pulled the
hemline of her clingy top lower to show off her impressive cleavage to its best
advantage. She had teamed the sheer top with a pencil skirt that ended just
above her knee. The slit at the back gave tantalizing glimpses of her
stockinged
thighs. Add to that her pair of killer heels, and
Maria was out to get her man.

Natasha giggled
and clasped the bundle of files she carried tighter to her jumper clad bosom.

"Well, if
you can't convince him, looking like that, then he's either gay, or dead from
the waist down.”

Maria winked at
her partner in crime and followed her into the university offices.

****

Silas Deacon was
so engrossed in his notes that he didn't hear the knock at the door until it
turned into pounding.

What the hell?

He pushed his
glasses up his nose and stretched, rolling his shoulders to get rid of the
crick in his neck.

"Stop
trying to break the damn door down. What's the emergency?"

"Your three
o’ clock appointment is here, Professor. I did remind you this morning."

Natasha's
melodic and slightly accented voice called through the solid oak door, and
Silas rolled his eyes. Oh yes, the big cat expert from the zoo. He'd wished
they just all left him alone, but Ms. Anderson had been most insistent. Having
checked her out, he couldn't deny that she seemed to know what she was talking
about, so he had reluctantly agreed to see her.

A glance at the
clock showed the time to be just gone three. Well, that was one point in her
favor. She was punctual.

"You best
come in then. The door is open."

Natasha entered
followed by a tall blonde who froze on the door stop when she spotted him. Her
deep blue eyes seemed to pull him into her gaze, and, his work forgotten, Silas
leaned forward in an unconscious gesture to get closer to her. The window was
open creating a draft, and it pulled her scent into the room. Sultry, rich,
decadent, it called to him on an instinctive level, and Silas was glad for the
cover of his desk, which hid his instant boner.

"Professor,
this is Maria Anderson. Maria, Silas Deacon."

Natasha made the
introductions, and when neither one of them moved, shuffled on her feet and
cleared her throat.

"
Erm
, well, I'll leave you to it then."

Natasha gave the
blonde a shove so that she entered his office, and shut the door on her way
out, which left them alone in the room.

Neither
one of them spoke for the longest time, and
just when the
silence got uncomfortable, Maria smiled.

"Nice to
meet you at last, Professor Deacon."

Her voice, too,
wrapped itself around his senses and added to the spell she seemed to weave over
him. Jesus, what was wrong with him? Okay, it had been a while since he’d gotten
laid, and this blonde was sex-on-legs hot, but since when did abstinence rob
him off his ability to speak?

BOOK: The Mating Project
12.17Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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