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Alexia Leigh leaves her father's funeral determined to prove that his discovery of big-cat shape-shifters isn't mythical nonsense. She wants to exonerate her deceased father's name and reveal the secret shifters race is alive and well.
When she tracks down the elusive and wealthy Blake Powell to an old, run down apartment, she isn't prepared for the instant attraction that flares between them. She wants only to focus on the reasons behind his name being on the aged parchment her father had found alongside some shifter bones.
But almost immediately she finds herself on the run with Blake from a group of fanatics who believe all too much in the reality of shape-shifters.
When she gives into the attraction with Blake and has mind blowing sex with him again...and again, she realizes she has to choose between him or the evidence he can give her on a silver platter...
Guns ‘N’ Roses blared from inside nondescript apartment fourteen. She took a deep, calming breath as adrenaline surged within. She had him. At last her quarry was within reach. She raised a fist and hammered on the flimsy, peeling wooden door.
The music shut down. A baby wailed a few apartments down, a small dog yapping into life inside another. Heavy footsteps approached from the other side of the door.
One word. One deep, masculine, primal intonation.
Her pulses jerked in response, her nipples beading tight beneath her black leather jacket and tight burgundy singlet.
If this is what he could do to a woman with one monosyllable behind a closed door, she could only imagine what he could do with a whole sentence, and up close and personal.
She cursed under her breath. She’d clearly been too long without a man, someone to ease the heavy ache of her breasts, the deep throb between her thighs. Just as well she wanted nothing more from him than answers.
Hesitating for a beat, she asked, “Mr. Powell?”
She closed her eyes at his long, drawn out silence. Then she heard him release a heavy sigh before returning wearily, “Who wants to know?”
Impatience drummed a loud tattoo behind her skull. A migraine was all she needed right now.
“I’m here on behalf of my father. He is—“ she swallowed back a wave of bitter loss and grief ”—was an archaeologist. You may have heard of him? Professor Thomas Leigh.” At the thick, almost suffocating silence that followed she continued more loudly, “He believed in the existence of human-panther shape-shifters—”
Her sentence ended on a startled gasp as the door flung open and she was jerked unceremoniously inside.
“Enough already,” Blake growled.
She hissed out a breath at the current of electricity sizzling through her arm’s every nerve ending; at the cheek of him dragging her inside. She tugged free, and looked up…and up.
Beneath scruffy dark blue jeans and a white t-shirt the man was a mountain of fluid muscle and sinew, repressed energy that vibrated with emotion and patently raw sex appeal.
“Are you mad?” she said through gritted teeth. “All I wanted was a civilized discussion, not to be dragged inside like I’m nothing more than…than a cave woman!”
He slammed the door shut behind her and pushed home a large bolt. When he peeled off his dark sunglasses—ludicrous inside the near dark room lit only by a naked bulb—she took an involuntary step back. His eyes were an unnatural gold-yellow. Beautiful, but deadly.
She sucked in some oxygen, forcing a calm she didn’t feel. Damn it all to hell, he really was sinfully delicious, with more vague hints of darkness beneath his honey-warm skin that tantalized and teased even as it repelled.
“I know who you are,” he said.
“Yes.” He sighed, tunneling a hand through his thick, dark hair that was an inch away from scruffy. “I’m sorry.”
“About your father.”
“Why?” Her voice rose an octave, “Because like everyone else you think the world is better off without another crackpot and his loony beliefs?”
“No. I’m sorry because he was a great man who thought above and beyond the restrictions of science.”
Hostility fled her body, leaving her oddly drained and a little disorientated. How long had it been since someone had said something good about her father? Too long, clearly, for her to appreciate even a scrap of praise. Snide remarks and innuendos had become part and parcel of their life for the three long months since her father’s discovery.
“You look about ready to collapse.” Somehow his silky rich voice stroked her senses, hummed along the nerve-endings behind her eyeballs and soothed away her stress. Turning it into another tension entirely. Sexual tension. “Please. Take a seat,” he murmured.
She managed the couple of steps needed before all but flopping into a ripped, vinyl two-seater lounge. “You knew my dad?”
“No, not personally. But I read all his articles. He was ahead of his time. A brilliant and ethical man.”
And look where that had got him. Mocked and ridiculed until he’d been stripped of all his dignity, his beliefs. His life.
A wedge of hair dropped over her eyes from her scraped back pony tail. She abstractedly pushed the dark blonde length behind one ear. “Then you know why I’m here.”
He moved into the tiny kitchen, where a half-empty bottle of scotch resided on the counter. He poured them each a glass. She gulped hers down like it was a tonic for all the ills in the world.
He smiled and took a mouthful before giving a nod. “I gather since your father uncovered the bones, he also found the journal and deciphered the names on the list?”
“Only yours,” she conceded. Her father’s long held view of honesty being the best policy had burrowed deep into her psyche, despite its obvious pitfalls. “What else have you concluded?” she pressed.
He raised a dark brow. “That now you’re hoping to track down the Illawatti tribe.”
She released another long, slow breath. “Let me guess. You think I’m a raving lunatic?”
Just like my dad.
Blake stalked over to the window and peered between the moldy, almost transparent curtains. “No. Actually, I don’t.”
Wow. Was he serious? She snorted disbelief. “So you agree there’s a possibility the Illawatti tribe exist—”
“We need to leave,” he growled.
She frowned. “No. Not until I get some answers—”
The breath whooshed hard from her throat as he threw himself at her. His weight knocked her to the ground simultaneously to the window shattering, glass raining down like blades of ice.
The dog a few doors down once again took up its relentless yapping. She closed her eyes, aware the muscled bulk of Blake’s body sheltered her. But she was even more aware of the ping of a bullet that had torn a hole through the opposite wall.
Shock pushed her heart rate into high gear. “Someone is shooting at you!”
He effortlessly scooped her up and half-ran into what had to be the only bedroom. “No,” he corrected grimly. “They’re shooting at us.”