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Novel: Savage Nature - Chapter 17

Saria was afraid, but not for herself. Her very coolness shook him. She was leopard all right, entering a potential enemy’s den without batting an eyelash. She’d make a fierce mother, protecting their children, standing with him through every bad time. She was afraid for her family—she had to be. And he liked her all the more for that loyalty as well. He wanted her more than ever. Drake opened the bathroom door for her and stepped back to allow her entrance, thankful he’d cleaned all evidence of blood from the tiles. “Towels are on the shelf there. I’ll grab a T-shirt for you. Throw your clothes over the shower rod and they’ll dry by morning.” She nodded, already towel-drying her hair. Drake rummaged through his bag for another clean shirt. He forced himself not to look when she stuck her hand out the door for it. The idea of her stripping with only a thin door between them sent need rocketing through him. He paced back and forth in front of the French doors, inhaling the fresh rain. He needed to cool down. Already his temperature had soared several degrees and if he was going to convince his woman he was trustworthy, he had to be a gentleman—no—a saint.She came out with only his T-shirt on. It hit her just above her ee, was far too wide for her, but she managed to look sexy in the damn thing. Her hair was tousled, as if she might have just been made love to. He gave her a faint smile when she lifted an eyebrow at him. “You’re damned beautiful,” he said. “This might not be the best idea.” “You could always give me the gun,” she pointed out. “Get under the covers. You’ve still got your knife.” She hadn’t tried to hide the weapon from him. It was in her right hand, but he had the feeling she was adept at using it with either hand—and he was so far gone even that turned him on. He stayed across the room, toeing a chair around to straddle it, just inside the open French doors where he could get away from her potency if his cat became too difficult. Saria sat on the bed, pulling just the comforter over her legs. They stared at one another. He could see the answering heat in her eyes, which didn’t make things easier. She moved her hand absently back and forth, stroking the comforter, but the gesture made him suppress a groan. She was naturally sensual, the way her body moved, the heat in her eyes, her parted lips. She was throwing off so much sex appeal it was all he could do not to step out into the rain again. He had the feeling he’d find the raindrops sensual.
“Tell me about the bodies.” She shook her head slowly. “You tell me about shifters.” “I’m not going to play this cat-and-mouse game with you, Saria,” Drake said. “You sent a letter asking for help, and Jake sent me.” “I shouldn’t have sent the letter. I was mistaken.” “Damn it.” He leapt to his feet, as restless as his leopard. “Now you’re flat out lying to me. What the hell are you doing in my bed if you’re going to lie?” Before she could respond to the question, he continued. “There was no mistake. Just spell it out for me and cut the dancing around. I get it that your family is involved and you don’t want them taken down. Chances are good it isn’t one of them. You would have smelled them all over the body. You’d know their scent anywhere.” She bunched the comforter in her fist. “What will you do if a shifter really is killing people?” “I investigate with my team. If a shifter has turned killer, we have no choice. It’s a death sentence. It’s a difficult reality, Saria, but we can’t have a serial killer on the loose. Putting aside the victims and their families, we can’t be discovered.” He damn well wasn’t going to lie to her when he was demanding the truth. His eyes blazed fire and he turned away from her, pacing again, trying to still his cat when heat banded across his line of vision and the leopard pushed close to the surface. Saria’s distress level had to be affecting her leopard. It would strive to protect her when her emotions were in chaos. She had no idea why her hormones were throwing her into such a state of edgy desire, or why her body was hot and needy. He wanted to comfort her, to hold her, but he didn’t dare get near her. “I don’ know what to do. You’re a stranger and you’re asking me to put my family’s lives in your hands.” He faced her, tall and straight, his eyes antique gold, the eyes of a cat. He ear’t attempt to hide it from her. “Honey, no matter what, I’m here now, whether you help me or not. I can’t allow a shifter to go around killing people. I doubt that you can either. Wouldn’t you much rather be close to the investigation and help me, than to be on the outside and not know what’s happening?” She took a breath and nodded. “Yes. Just remember these are my people.” “You remember if you’re with me, you’re under my protection. I suspect something happened to scare the hell out of you. Tell me.” Her gaze shifted away from his. “I tried to mail the letter through our local post office. It’s very small and everyone meets there to chat and catch up. Jake Bannaconni’s name is rather notable. He’s written up in all those tatty little gossip rags, as well as making headlines in newspapers. It’s possible someone saw his name on the envelope. In any case, the next day, I found my letter taped to the bottom of my pirogue. I’m the only one who uses that boat, not any of my brothers. Whoever put it there clearly was warnin’ me to back off. If it wasn’t one of my brothers, I was afraid for them.” Drake pushed his hand through his hair, needing something to relieve the sudden buildup of rage. She’d been threatened. He studied her face. And that wasn’t all. She hadn’t given him the entire story. He took a breath to ease the tension building in the room. “Tell me the rest, Saria. Everything. I need to know everything.”She bit her lip, her gaze jumping to his face and then sliding away. “He attacked me. The night I gave Father Gallagher the letter, on my way back to my pirogue, in the trees, he attacked me.” Drake’s heart nearly stopped beating and then began a wild hammering. He heard a roar in his head and for a moment his vision banded with yellow and red stripes. “How?” He could barely get the word out. His leopard was so close his voice was more a growl than human. Her eyes searched his face. Very slowly she turned until her back was to him and she lifted the T-shirt. Drake stared in absolute horror at the four long furrows down Saria’s back. For a moment he was paralyzed, unable to move or speak. His leopard went mad, roaring so loud he drowned out every other sound. For a leopard to abuse a female that way was unconscionable. For such an atrocity to be committed against Saria was not to be borne. He stalked across the floor, looming over her. His fingers ached, knuckles curling. Sweat broke out as he fought off the change. Fur slithered over his skin in a wave and retreated. His leopard growled and hissed, storming at him, raging at the injustice. The need for violence was sharp and powerful.SARIA sensed danger immediately. On the wall, she saw the shadow of a man loom over her, although she didn’t hear him. His shadow was large and frightening, a tall, broad-shouldered masculine frame that seemed to dwarf her. He smelled wild, feral, leopard. She had smelled that particular scent before. Every cell in her body froze. Panic welled up. Her fingers tightened around the hilt of her knife.
What had she been thinking, putting herself in such a position? She knew Drake was leopard, some instinct had waras so cler, yet she’d felt such a deep compulsion to be with him. She should have been repelled by the killer inside of him, but instead, she was so drawn into his spell she could barely breathe. She couldn’t stop the shiver that went down her spine, or the ache between her legs. She felt so on edge, her skin tight, her breasts aching, so sensitive that she swore there was an electrical current between her erect nipples and her vagina—and him. She glanced over her shoulder. Drake’s gaze drifted over her, marking her, his eyes heavy-lidded, hot, so sensual she couldn’t look away from him. He looked hungry, a predator intent on prey, and her body had come alive after being in a long sleep. She wanted him. Oh, God, she wanted him with every cell in her body. The chemistry between them was intense, much like a strong electrical current. The shock waves raced through her body, settling in every nerve ending until her skin crawled with need. Drake Donovan made her so aware of herself as a woman when she was near him. And so aware of him as a man. Somehow all that chemistry had drowned out her good sense and she’d walked right into his lair. She could feel heat radiating off of him, infecting her with some wild hunger she couldn’t resist, no matter how terrifying it was. She should have been poised to run, but instead she held her breath and waited for him to touch her. She craved his touch. “Did he bite you?”