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Novel: Savage Nature - Chapter 6

She couldn’t just go to bed and hide beneath the covers, she had to get rid of her shredded clothes. She picked up the jacket and shoved it in the sinkhe shirt. Her brothers would smell them if she didn’t do something about the blood before she threw them away. The only thing she could think to do was pour bleach over them, which she did. She left them to soak while she went to get water and some aspirin. The scent of bleach and blood had permeated the bathroom by the time she returned. This was not going to work. The bleach would definitely mask the scent on her clothes, but her brothers would be suspicious. She rinsed the shirt and jacket and cleaned the sink. She would take the clothes out to the swamp and burn them.Saria tried to still her chaotic mind long enough to think the situation through as she slipped out of the back of the house and into the thick grove of trees toward the swamp. Why hadn’t the leopard killed her? The shifter knew she had found the body. Wouldn’t it have been simpler just to kill her—unless the killer was one of her brothers and he couldn’t bring himself to kill a family member. “Saria! Where the hell are you, cher?” Her heart jumped at the sound of Remy’s voice calling from the back porch. Lately, he’d been checking several times a night to make certain she was in her room. Swearing to herself, she hastily dug a hole and shoved the tattered remnants of her clothing into it. She had to answer. He would have seen her pirogue tied to the dock and he would come looking for her. “I’ll be right in,” she called as she buried the evidence. “I just was getting a little air.”

“Hurry up, Saria, you shouldn’t be out alone at night in the swamp.” His voice was always gentle. That was Remy, but under all that soft, black velvet, there was steel. She knew he’d come after her if she didn’t get inside. She dusted off her hands and pushed up. “I’m coming. No worries. I’m tired tonight.” When she heard voices in the front of the house, she hurried in and made a point of closing her bedroom door loudly. She lay on her stomach, awake most of the night, listening for the sound of her brothers, but after their voices faded, there were only the comforting sounds of the swamp.THE sun dropped from the sky, a molten, fiery ball, pouring red and orange flames into the darkened waters of the Mississippi River. The air was heavy, nearly oppressive with humidity, just the way he liked it. Drake Donovan stepped from the barge with casual grace, lifted a hand to the men on board, and stopped for a moment there on the wooden walkway to admire the rolling river. With night falling, shadows delved sweetly into the ripples, giving the water a mysterious, beckoning feel. The pull of the river’s secret places was strong. Groves of trees, tupelo and cypress, graced the water’s edge enticingly. He had seen many such inlets and isles as they approached the banks. Great blue herons walked in the shallower waters of the bayous, canals and marshlands, graceful figures drawing one’s eye to the beauty of the surroundings. He listened to the night sounds creeping in as he watched the first of the bats, dipping and wheeling in the air overhead, catching the insects drawn to the massive body of water. Nottoo far from the river’s edge, a small fox darted toward a mouse scurry a minto the leaves. An owl sat very still in the dusk, waiting for the sun to sink into the river, leaving the night to blanket the swamps and bayous. The wildness in him reacted, rising with a great leap, demanding freedom. It had been so long. Too long. His thick five-o’clock shadow composed of tangible hairs embedded deep into the tissue supplied nerve endings with tactile information. Always, that guidance system would plug him into the air currents and enable him to read objects, and this time, unexpectedly, when he gathered information, his cat reacted aggressively, raking at him, snarling with his demands. Drake lifted his nose to the airways, drawing the night deep into his lungs, drawing in—her. His heart skipped a beat and then began to pound. Every nerve ending in his body came to life. Need punched low and mean, a wicked, unexpected blow that staggered him. Her scent was alluring, captivating, unleashing a deep primal command impossible to ignore. The animal in him leapt hard, challenging the man. Fur rose beneath his skin in a wave of demand, leaving behind a terrible itch. His jaw ached and he felt the slide of canines pushing into his mouth. He tried to breathe, tried to calm the lethal beast pushing so close to the surface. His muscles rippled, contorting before he could get himself under control. He’d experienced his cat’s edgy need before, but not like this, not this dangerous—the temperamental leopard pushing so close he couldn’t distinguish between man and beast. His mind became a haze of red, primal instincts drowning out civilized man. Drake had always had enormous strength, holding back his animal side with more discipline than most of his kind, but this time the struggle for supremacy was more like mortal combat. Bones ached and his left leg pulsed with wrenching pain. Strangely it was the pain that allowed him to hold on. He was out in the open, a danger to any male—human or leopard—near him. He kept his face in the shadows and simply breathed in and out, relying on the simple mechanics of an automatic reflex to keep the wild animal caged. “Just for now,” he whispered—a promise he intended to keep no matter the cost. His leopard had been caged long enough. “Wait a little longer.” The beast subsided, snarling his reluctant obedience; more, Drake was certain, because the alluring scent had drifted away on the night breeze than because the man was stronger. He wanted to follow that scent—he needed to follow it, but it was as elusive as the females of his kind were. The sexy fragrance was gone and he was left with a clawing need and an aching groin as the scent gave way to the normal smells of the river’s edge. “Mr. Donovan? Drake Donovan?” He closed his eyes briefly, savoring the melodic sound of a woman’s tone. She had the sultry lilt of Cajun country in her voice. He turned his head slowly, not believing any woman could match that voice. He didn’t know what he expected, but he sure as hell hadn’t expected his reaction to her. That same low, mean, wicked punch to his groin, the same assault on his raw senses he’d experienced earlier repeated itself even harder. She stood several feet from him but he was instantly aware of everything about her. His senses were heightened by his leopard, he had no doubt about that, but this time his reaction was all man. She wore faded and ripped blue jeans and a short tee that clung to her curvy form lovingly. Her face was young, but her eyes were old. Her hair was thick, a dark blonde, but heavily streakedith silver, gold and platinum strands. Beautiful dark chocolate eyes spiced with golden flecks seemed at odds with the sun-kissed hair that was worn in a ragged, jagged cut that would never have suited anyone else, but somehow only enhanced her appearance.

Drake could barely breathe, knew he was staring, but couldn’t stop himself. She stood there, just looking at him with a curious expression, waiting for an answer. Her lashes were long, and she had a tiny scar on her chin, and melting dimples. Her mouth was a thing of fantasy, full lips like a fascinating bow, her teeth small and white, although her canines were sharper than normal. He had a strange urge to drag her into his arms and taste her. She regarded him with a mixture of reticence and wariness. “I’m Saria Boudreaux, your guide. You are Drake Donovan, aren’t you?” She tilted her head to one side, studying him with concern. “If you don’ feel good from the trip, it’s all right, we can wait before we get you back on the boat. Maybe get you somethin’ to eat?” Her accent curled in his stomach. He could feel the reaction pulse through his groin. “I’m fine, Miss Boudreaux. I’ll be staying at the Lafont Inn,as you recommended. You said it was close to the canals and marshes I’ll be visiting?” He’d made certain the bed-and-breakfast she’d recommended was rarely visited and near the bayou where there were groves of trees, marsh and swamp. He’d rented the entire B&B on the chance he’d need his team as well as to ensure their privacy. She nodded. “Call me Saria, it will be easier since we’ll be spendin’ a week together. Is that your bag?” She indicated his small war bag with a nod of her head. He’d be damned if she carried it for him. He reached down and lifted it himself, sending up a silent prayer that his very full groin would allow him to walk. “Just Drake then. Thanks for meeting me so late.” He never had such a reaction to a woman. It had to be the fierce need of his cat. She shrugged and turned away from him, walking down the wooden sidewalk toward the grove of cypress trees dipping long shimmery beards of moss into the water. She made no sound as she walked, a graceful, silent sway of her hips so enticing his breath caught in his throat. He was not a man given to shocking, erotic images at the sight of a woman walking,but every cell in his body went on alert and he had the mad desire to leap on her, to pin her under him and devour her. He shook his head to try to clear madness  from his brain.