Claimed Excerpt

As the pride erupted into a mating frenzy, Shu sought refuge in one of the tall trees at the clearing’s edge at her cousin’s suggestion. Using her powerful hind legs, she launched herself higher than physically possible for any of the others of her pride. While all jaguars could climb trees, few were as nimble as her. Her large size was deceiving–she was the best climber in her pride–even better than her father. And it’s saved my ass more than a few times.

Once she settled across the wide branch she laid her head on her paws, turning a blind eye to the grunts and hisses of the mating cats below her. A deep sigh expanded her huge chest as she kept an ear cocked towards her father’s home. When the mating screams from her father’s house finally subsided, she’d be able to sneak back in. As much as I love Dad, I really don’t need to listen to him fucking that woman into submission all night. Closing her eyes, she waited for the mating sounds to fade.

Hours later, her eyes slitted open when she felt the vibration of another walking on her branch. Her muscles tightened, preparing to launch an attack at the male who dared to disturb her peace. She relaxed when she saw her cousin in his human form hoist himself up and over the branch. With skin darker than hers, Raphael was the epitome of Hispanic machismo. Wearing nothing more than a battered pair of jeans, there were several bite marks and scratches littering his back and chest. The jaguaresses had been decidedly vicious with his body tonight. Why he lets them do it, is beyond my comprehension.

She crept forward on her belly, the doctor in her wanting to heal him. Using their blood connection, she spoke. “The rain forest is no place to for you to chance infection, Cousin.” Before he could stop her, she swiped at the nearest wound with her rough tongue.

He cursed and nearly fell from the branch trying to avoid her sandpapery tongue. “Dammit, Shu! Knock it off! That tickles.”

Lunging forward, she covered his legs, using her upper body weight to keep him from falling. “I know,” and proceeded to clean every scratch and bite she could reach. By the time she was finished he was laughing helplessly, and she was surprised no one had come to investigate. “Where’s the rest of the pride?”

Wrapping an arm around her broad neck, Raphael rubbed his cheek over the top of her head. “Most have calmed down for the night. Other than Vicente. He’s still pissed you’ve avoided him again. He ended up making do with one of the Vasquez girls. Not that I heard her complaining.”

She gave a disgruntled shake of her head. “He’s an arrogant ass who wants what he can’t have.”

“True. He won’t forget or let go of what happened at the last mating circle, Shu.” He rubbed his palm down her back. “I’m glad you decided to find refuge in the trees. If he’d found you, he would’ve tried to mount you again.”

“It wouldn’t have mattered. I’ve bested him the past, Raphael – only a fool would take on a cat as large as me twice.”

His hand paused. “Not if he plans to even the playing field by cheating. He and several of his friends planned on using their sheer numbers to take you by force, while your father was occupied with his new mate. If I hadn’t overheard them...” A shudder racked his form. “That’s why I suggested you find a tree…they were going to wait until your father left the circle and take turns with you. Even you wouldn’t have been able to fight off eight male jaguars in their prime.”

A low grumble burst free of her chest at the thought of the man she detested planning something so vile. “Christ, I’ve promised Dad I’d stay for the entire week. It’s going to be a long one if I have to watch over my shoulder the whole time.”

Raphael rubbed a hand over her sensitive ears, scratching the spots she couldn’t reach. A low rumbly purr escaped her. “I know, but forewarned is forearmed, Shu. I’ll be around–they don’t dare attack you with me present.”

“Let’s hope not.”

©Dakota Trace All rights reserved. This is a work of fiction. All names, characters, locations, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination, or have been used fictionally. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, locales, or events is entirely coincidental. No portion of this work may be transmitted or reproduced in any form, or by any means, without permission in writing from the author.