Home > Shifter (A Jaguar’s Kiss) (Breeds #15)

Shifter (A Jaguar’s Kiss) (Breeds #15)
Author: Lora Leigh

FOREWORD

They were created, they weren’t born.

They were trained, they weren’t raised.

They were taught to kill, and now they’ll use their training to ensure their freedom. They are Breeds. Genetically altered with the DNA of the predators of the earth. The wolf, the lion, the cougar, the Bengal: the killers of the world. They were to be the army of a fanatical society intent on building their own personal army.

Until the world learned of their existence. Until the Council lost control of their creations, and their creations began to change the world.

Now, they’re loose. Banding together, creating their own communities, their own society, and their own safety, and fighting to hide the one secret that could see them destroyed. The secret of mating heat. The chemical, the biological, the emotional reaction of one Breed to the man or woman meant to be his or hers forever. A reaction that binds physically. A reaction that alters more than just the physical responses or heightens the sensuality. Nature has turned mating heat into the Breeds’ Achilles’ heel. It’s their strength, and yet their weakness. And Mother Nature isn’t finished playing yet.

Man has attempted to mess with her creations. Now, she’s going to show man exactly how she can refine them.

Killers will become lovers, lawyers, statesmen, and heroes. And through it all, they will cleave to one mate, one heart, and create a dynasty.

PROLOGUE

Natalie Ricci stared at the tall, imposing figure standing on her doorstep and reminded herself to breathe. A woman who fainted over a dark, arrogant, exceptionally handsome man deserved whatever happened to her while she was out cold. And anything this man did, she would want to be awake for.

“Can I help you?” She brushed back the dark bangs that grew over her forehead and tried to restrain the nervous jitter playing patty-cake in her stomach. Tall, dark, and handsome was good, real good, but that gleam of powerful male assurance in his eyes warned her this man would be impossible for any woman to ever comfortably control.

“Natalie Ricci?” Even his voice was worth shivering for.

There was no discernible accent, and she was fairly good at identifying accents. His voice was well modulated, perfectly pitched, and stroked over her senses like black velvet. Black hair, thick and lustrous, was pulled back from his face and bound at the back of his neck. His fallen angel features were composed, almost emotionless, but those eyes, eyes like emeralds, gleamed with intelligence, sensuality, and a spark of primal intensity from within his sun-bronzed face. There were shadows in those eyes as well. A latent, hidden pain that a part of her, the feminine, caring side of her that she wished she could ignore, longed to ease. Dark jeans cinched low on leanly muscled hips while a dark blue chambray shirt stretched across his powerful chest. And he wore boots. Well-worn, scarred, and totally masculine boots.

“I’m Natalie Ricci.” She had to clear her throat to answer him, had to tighten her stomach to stop the little flutters of longing that attacked her womb.

Whew, if ever there was a man to tempt her hard-won self-control, she was betting it would be this one. What he was doing on her doorstep she had no idea, but whatever he was selling, she was certain she was ready to buy. Empty bank account notwithstanding.

It was really too bad, too. She had sworn off men. Until she could figure out how to play the game, how to protect her heart and her independence, then men were out. As luscious and sexual as this man looked, she had a feeling he would be just as controlling, domineering, and arrogant as any man born. Probably worse than most. Definitely more than her ex-husband, whose control tendencies had managed to destroy their marriage.

“Can I help you?” she asked again, wishing she had worn something other than old faded jeans and her brother’s too-big, paint-spattered T-shirt.

He inhaled slowly, as though he had caught the scent of something that intrigued him.

“Ms. Ricci, I’m Saban Broussard, liaison to the Breed Ruling Cabinet. I’m here to discuss your application to teach in Buffalo Gap.” He pulled the slender identification wallet from the back of his jeans and flipped it open. The Breed law enforcement badge, his photo, and pertinent information were all displayed.

She froze in shock. Well, shock and the sound of his name, or the way he said his name, Saban, a soft little sigh of the S , the subtle a , and the bahn at the end. But what caught her, what had her senses standing to complete attention, was the vaguest hint of a Cajun accent in his voice after her certainty that there had been no accent.

If he was Cajun, she was just lost. If there was any sexier accent created, then she couldn’t think of it at the moment.

It took several breathless seconds for her senses to stop reeling, to focus on who he was and where he was from. When she did, her eyes widened in shock.

“Did I get the position?”

She wanted that position with a desperation that had left her shaking when she filled out the application more than a year ago. She had known, had been warned that there were thousands upon thousands of applicants on the waiting list for a teaching position in the small town just outside the Breed headquarters of Sanctuary.

She had taken the chance, filled out the application, and sent it in, praying. She had prayed for months, and when nothing came of it, she settled back into her own routine and tried to make other plans.

“May we speak inside, Miss Ricci?” Saban Broussard turned his head, stared along the tree-lined street, and lifted his brow at the residents that had managed to find one reason or another to come to their porches or to work on their lawns. She should just charge admission and have done with it. She bit her lip, knowing the questions that would be coming before the hour was out.

“Come in.” She stood back, holding the door open and allowing him to step inside the house. He brought the scent of the mountains with him, wild and un-tamed, dark and dangerous.

“Thank you.” He nodded as she led the way into the small kitchen off her living room. The living room was almost empty, filled with taped boxes rather than furniture as Natalie packed her belongings.

“Have you already taken another position?” He stopped in the center of her kitchen and stared at the boxes there.

She shook her head. “I haven’t. Simply moving to an apartment closer to the school where I currently work. My ex-husband gets the house and all its glorious payments. I get an apartment.” And hopefully a little peace.

He stared around the kitchen again, his jaw bunching before turning back to her.

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