Authors: Cherise Sinclair
Tags: #Paranormal, #Erotica
What reviewers are saying about Cherise Sinclair…
This author should be at the top of every reader's favorite list!
~ Shannon The Romance Studio
If you haven't read a Cherise Sinclair book, you should certainly pick one up. Apparently, no matter the genre, you just can't go wrong.
~ Jae Dark Diva Reviews
If you‘ve not experienced the fantastic work of Cherise Sinclair, now‘s a good time to start.
~ Fern Whipped Cream Reviews
Hour of the Lion — Erotic paranormal ménage romance
A dedicated covert ops agent, Victoria Morgan follows two rules: do your duty, and protect the innocent. When she gets bitten by a werecat—yeah, that was a sucky day—she must investigate beings that shouldn't even exist. Just how is she supposed to tell if a person is human…or an animal-shifter who eats raw meat for breakfast?
During her investigation, she finds a real home and friends for the first time. Now, scientists are waiting for her to turn into something four-legged with a tail, the shifters suspect her of spying, and she has fallen in love with two werecat brothers. Should she do her duty and expose their existence? Or should she follow her heart and protect them with all of her deadly skills.
Hour of the Lion
VanScoy Publishing Group
* * * * *
Copyright June 2011 by Cherise Sinclair
Published by VanScoy Publishing Group
Cover Artist: For The Muse Design
This book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the writer's imagination or have been used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual events, locales or organizations is entirely coincidental.
All rights reserved. This copy is intended for the purchaser of this eBook only. No part of this eBook may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any manner whatsoever without prior written permission from the author, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.
Warning: This book contains sexually explicit scenes and adult language and may be considered offensive to some readers. This book is for sale to adults only, as defined by the laws of the country in which you made your purchase.
That was a really bad dream, Vic thought, though it had started well enough. Looking up at her father, trying not to fidget, she‘d recited the marketplace gossip, and she‘d remembered every detail too. He‘d actually smiled and said he couldn‘t do without her. But somehow twenty years had passed, her boss stood over her hospital bed and was saying a disabled soldier wasn‘t any good to him. He‘d walked away, leaving her there. Alone.
Even now, wide awake, she felt the aching loss in her chest.
Only…the ache was real. Her ribs really did hurt. This was more than a nightmare residue.
Her sniper-damaged knee ached like a pulled tooth, and her skull throbbed like hell. Couldn‘t be a hangover. She hadn‘t tied one on since Wells recruited her into his estrogen-heavy, covert ops unit.
When she opened her eyes, light blasted through them like a frag grenade, and she barely managed to muffle the moan. Just the thought of turning her head had bile flooding her mouth.
Then don"t move, Sergeant. Just assess. She was curled up with her cheek resting on cold cement. An ugly feeling crept up her spine when she realized her hands were tied in front of her.
Narrowing her eyes to slits, she took stock of the room. Exposed beams, cinder-block walls, and tiny rectangular windows near the ceiling. The stench of feces and sickness mingled with a musty smell like mildewing socks. Basement.
A gray-haired woman lay nearby, her back to Vic. Familiar-looking. That was it. Her memory engaged.
Rescuing a woman who was trying to escape from a man. Check.
Didn‘t win. Check.
Now, tied up in a basement. Check.
Probably concussed, too, considering the speed of her thinking. Her day had definitely gone to hell. I might as well be working. Why the hell had she risked her life when a phone call to the police would have worked?
The answer to that really sucked. She‘d acted all macho—and stupid—to prove she still had it. That she wasn‘t irreparably damaged. But she was. In the hospital, Mr. Show-no-emotions Spymaster had looked at her with pity; he didn‘t think she‘d heal enough to return to duty. So she‘d jumped right into the first fight she could find. Act any dumber and I might as well be a guy.
Well, with luck, her inept rescue could be salvaged. The idiots hadn‘t tied her legs.
Hearing footsteps, Vic froze, watching through dark eyelashes as the guy she‘d fought appeared. Shaved head, built like a linebacker, all muscle. Ripped off sleeves showed tattoos: eagle, globe, and anchor; bulldog; skull and crossed rifles.
―Hey, BeastieBoy.‖ The man walked to a metal kennel near the stairs. A naked teenager with shaggy blond hair huddled in the far corner of the cage. Shivering. Scared half to death.
Eyes sunken, he was skinny, as if he hadn‘t eaten in weeks. Bruises and abrasions—even burns—marred his fair skin.
Vic‘s breath hitched. Tortured?
Baldy slapped the top of the cage with his fist, making the kid jump. ―You ready for another session, pussy cat? Just tell me how to make new beasts, and I won‘t hurt you anymore.‖
―I won‘t tell you anything.‖ The boy‘s voice cracked on the last word.
Brave kid. Vic cheered silently even as her stomach tightened in fear for him. And what did the asshole mean by making new beasts?
―Dumb fuck.‖ Baldy raised a long rod—a cattle prod. The kid was as far back as he could get, but it wasn‘t far enough. He jerked at the shock of the prod, and the bastard didn‘t stop, kept jamming with the prod until the boy screamed.
Teeth grinding together, Vic yanked at her ropes.
And then the kid...blurred.
A huge tawny cougar stood where the boy had been. A chilling snarl ripped through the room, echoing off the concrete walls. The hair on Vic‘s arms rose.
What the hell? Kid one moment, the next, a...a mountain lion. She sucked in a hard breath, tried blinking her eyes. The big cat still paced the cage. Am I drugged? Like when Private Renner had a bad reaction to morphine and spent hours screaming about ghouls eating his heart.
Or maybe she had a concussion. Yeah, this wasn‘t happening. She didn‘t believe in ghosts, ghouls, or people changing into mountain lions. Woo-woo stuff was for flakes and druggies.
―Cut the crap, Swane.‖ A man said from the stairs. White, average height, heavy build.
Older, in his sixties. Wearing a suit. Scarred knuckles matched his battered face, nose busted in the past, thin lips and dead-cold eyes. Might be in nice clothes, but the body inside said thug.
―He can‘t talk in cat form.‖
―Not my fucking fault. I only tapped it,‖ Swane said. When the cat swiped at the cattle-prod with three-inch claws, he used the prod until the cat shrieked in pain. ―It‘s not gonna talk anyway.‖ Swane tossed the device onto a table. ―Fucking thing would rather starve. Look at it—
―Dammit.‖ The suit crossed the room to the cage where the cat paced back and forth. ―It‘s amazing he‘s still alive. He should have died the first week with what you did to him. The creatures are fucking strong.‖
―An‘ you really want to turn into that?‖ Swane spit on the floor.
Vic stared. The suit wanted to become an animal? Was he insane?
His face turned ugly. Brutal enough that Swane took a step back. ―I‘m not paying you to think. Just to get answers.‖ He glanced over his shoulder. ―What happened with the old bitch?‖
Swane walked over and, with his foot, he shoved the woman onto her back. Hands and feet tied, she blinked blankly as froth trickled from her toothless mouth. ―Another goner.‖ Swane nudged her with his boot.
―Get rid of her.‖
―Will do.‖ Swane‘s mouth pulled into a twisted smile as he set his boot on the woman‘s throat.
Before Vic could move, she heard the crunch of breaking cartilage, and then it was too late.
Sucking air through her teeth, she tried to stay motionless against the fury rising inside.
Expressionless, Swane watched the old woman‘s strangling efforts to breathe, her death spasms. When her body finally stilled, pleasure shone in his eyes, and his filthy jeans showed his erection.
Sick bastard. Vic clenched her jaw. She should have done something, created a diversion. I didn"t save a helpless woman. Her war-torn past stretched out behind her, littered with bodies—
testaments to the times she hadn‘t moved fast enough, discovered enough information, or pushed herself hard enough. The ones she‘d failed.
―You were clever to test this first, boss.‖ Swane glanced at the body. ―You could have ended up like her.‖
―Why are they dying, dammit? Why the fuck don‘t they change?‖ The suit hit the table with his fist, then stared at the dead woman. ―They‘ve all been druggies, alcoholics. Maybe they‘re too unhealthy to survive being bit.‖ When his gaze lit on Vic, he walked toward her.
She closed her eyes completely.
―Didn‘t kill her, Swane?‖ His voice held a thinly concealed taunt. ―The bitch looks healthy enough. Let‘s give her a try.‖
―No. She‘s mine. I kept this piece of ass for me, not you.‖
Vic‘s skin crawled at the thick lust in his voice. Icy fear punched past the tight grip she‘d maintained on her emotions.
―You can fuck her all you want…after.‖ The man slapped her hard. ―Still out. Toss her in the cage while I tranq the cat.‖
A second later, Vic heard the whap of a tranquilizer gun. Fuck, what were they planning?
Can"t afford fear—push it aside. When Swane grabbed under her arms, Vic made her move.
Clamping her elbows to her sides, she pinned his hands and swung her legs up toward his head.
She opened her eyes in time to ensure that her feet hit him in the face. The crack of impact felt infinitely satisfying.
Baldy toppled backward, releasing her.
Jaw set tight, she rolled up and onto her feet.
He rose, shaking his head, looking like he‘d been raised on steroids instead of candy.
Considering the Marine tattoos covering his neck and arms, his fighting skills might be as good as hers.
Vic took a step back, feeling cartilage grate. That kick hadn‘t done her knee any favors. She back-pedaled toward the stairs, trying to disguise her limp. As Swane advanced, she dropped into cat stance, the foot in front tapping the floor lightly, ready to kick him into never-neverland.
―Don‘t move, cunt.‖
Vic froze. The suit had the tranq gun in his hand, dart already loaded, aimed right at her chest. He motioned to the panther‘s cage. ―Crawl in or Swane will stuff you in there unconscious.‖
She took a step back. In with the mountain lion? The rush of terror made her head spin. ―No way.‖
―Open it,‖ the suit said to Swane.
Scowling, Swane worked the combination padlock and half opened the door. ―Stop dicking around and just shoot her. Better yet, give her to me for a while. When I get through, she‘ll beg for the cage.‖
If he tranked her, she wouldn‘t have a chance of escaping. Eyeing the groggy cat warily, she bent and entered the cage, feeling Swane‘s anger like a wave of heat as she crawled past.
The cat was on its side, head nodding, eyes glazed.
―Do it before he changes back.‖ The suit slammed the cage door shut.
She turned, ―Do what—‖ and the psycho shoved the cattle-prod into her stomach. Fiery pain blistered across her skin, and with a yell, she staggered backward. Right into the snarling cat.
She landed hard, tangled in its legs, scrambling to get away. Paws seized her. Its claws ripped into her back, and the mountain lion sank its teeth into her shoulder.
―God!‖ Agony tore through her. She kicked, nailing it in the stomach. The animal snarled viciously. She shoved herself free, its claws tearing her skin. Rolling away, she scrambled into the corner farthest from both the cat and the cattle-prod.
―That‘ll do.‖ The suit picked her wallet up from the table and tossed it to Swane. ―I gotta leave. Give your buddies on the force some green in case anybody asks about her.‖
The suit scowled at the lion. ―Go ahead and do whatever you want to get answers out of the kid. He‘s dying anyway.‖
Swane‘s eyes lit and he smiled. ―I need to pick up a few things to use, then I‘ll start. You‘ll have your answers.‖
Torture? Vic‘s stomach turned over. As they walked up the stairs, she realized they intended to leave her caged with the cougar. Vic pushed her face into the wire. ―Let me out of here!‖
The basement door closed, and the overhead bulb snapped off. The only illumination came from the tiny windows near the ceiling. Bad light for her, good light for a mountain lion. Her shoulder hurt like hell, and blood soaked her shirt sleeve, running down her back and sides.
Blood? Just what she needed, a way to smell like a cat‘s supper. She turned her head slowly.
The cougar watched her, eyes slitted, ears back. The one cat in the world that didn‘t think she was its best friend. Even worse, it looked as emaciated as the kid had been. Its fur was dull and patchy and the golden eyes were sunken.