Although Jade Delaney is compelled by the cycle of the moon to find a true mate, she does everything in her power to resist. Resistance, for Jade, includes sating her inner tigress with casual, erotic play. That's why, when she's invited to a sex party, she takes up the invitation.
Quickly, the erotic play grows less casual. Jade realizes her host, Hunter, is a not only a shifter, a tiger, but quite possibly her true mate. He's willing to do whatever it takes to bind her to him--heart and soul--no matter how hard she resists.
It wasn’t the musky, rich smell of sex that captured Jade Delaney's interest. No. It was the intoxicating scent of an alpha prime. She drew in a deep breath and trembled. A gust of howling wind whipped, blowing shoulder-length curls against her cheeks. Despite the way her thick wool coat grazed her calves and danced upward to let the chill move under her dress, everything around her seemed motionless. A cold, very distinct, sweetness hung in the air.
Looking up, she watched heavy clouds spin in front of the moon. Strange how something so far away could command her body the way it did. Her blood sped, nipples tingled. A knot tightened her stomach, and the ache between her legs became unbearable.
The yearning was fierce. Desire surged, stole her breath. Thin trees rustled against one another, deepening the ache in her bones. She longed to run through the woods and feel the ground beneath her feet. Three more nights until the moon became full. The choice to remain human or to transform into a tigress would no longer be hers.
Despite the countless times she had shifted, the exact moment when her feline counterpart broke free couldn’t be described. The change didn’t happen in a flash of blinding light. Her animal didn’t tear through skin with razor claws and blinding pain. No, her shift was graceful, effortless. When the power rode her it was a sensual merging that turned the world upside down with colors, sights, and smells.
An engine revved, switching her attention to the gentle vibrations of the waiting car. She pulled the lapels of her jacket closer around her throat, trapping the warmth next to her skin. A small wave and a forced smile let the driver know she was staying. Everything inside of her told her she should go. The need to mate was overwhelming, something that happened every few months. Most times she got by with safe, one-night stands that had absolutely no potential to become more. Her feline craved more, translated the earthy smells around her, and knew a mate was near.
The sex wasn’t what frightened her. Her utter lack of self-control was the culprit. The tigress demanded a mate and had been wreaking havoc in her very controlled human life. For almost a year she’d ignored the need, had gotten by with quick fucks that left the deeper part of her unsatisfied. Human trysts appeased the hunger, but didn’t cure the longing. She’d moved from her territory in Colorado eight months ago to protect herself from a making an irreversible mistake. There were too many alphas waiting to pounce, to claim her when she was under the influence of the moon. One bite from another prime was all it took to bind her destiny.
Tonight she’d stumbled blindly into an alpha’s trap. Was it fate or dumb luck? Rationality cleared the fog. She could still leave. The choice, at this point, was still hers. She could go home, lock herself in a cage she kept hidden in her basement, and bury a thick vibrator into her pussy until the lure of the moon passed and her cycle abated. Or, the naughty part of her brain whispered, she could stay and give in to the need. As the cab pulled away, her gaze locked onto the trailing lights of the car. Despite her trepidation, she didn’t move a muscle to hail him back.
Heavy flakes rained from the sky in a blur, distorting the red glow when the car rounded the circle and disappeared around the bend through the trees. Her breathing sped, quickening with her heartbeat, until the car was completely out of sight. She turned, her gaze taking in the beautiful stone and wood mansion that sat in the middle of the forest.
The house was pressed against the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. The trees surrounding the multi level structure created a cloak of privacy. Large, open windows glowed with soft orange light and the silhouettes of moving bodies.
Three stone chimneys of various heights piped curling smoke into the air. The diluted scent of burning wood reminded her of home. Above the wide, covered porch was a round room with four ceiling to floor windows. Drawing from that were several other balconies and a-frame roofs that made up the different levels of the massive house.
She blew out a cloud of breath and listened to her heels clicking across the symmetrically broken slabs of concrete leading toward the single, mahogany door. There was no bell, only a brass tiger with a heavy ring hanging from its mouth. She wondered if Kerry, her best friend and the one who had invited her to this party, had known the host was a shifter. Impossible. Most people were ignorant to the effects of the moon. She’d been damn careful to keep her secret from her friend.
Before she could raise her hand to knock, the door swung open and released a jumble of scents, sights, and heat. The rush was overwhelming. God, what had she been thinking? A sex party. This was either the worst, or the best, idea she’d ever gone along with.
“Jade, right? Kerry asked me to keep an ear out for you. Come on in!”
Leave it to her friend, one of the most beautiful women she knew, to surround herself with gorgeous company. The man before her was tall, thin, and had the most amazing pair of blue eyes she’d ever seen. His hand was warm against her arm, and before she could back away, he pulled her inside and slammed the door shut.
Heat tickled her skin, puckering it for all the wrong reasons. She wanted to tell him to let go, but couldn’t find the words. He wasn’t holding her tight, but the feel of his fingers digging against her flesh gave her a head to toe quivering feeling. There was nothing subtle about her surroundings. This was the alpha’s home. His scent moved throughout her and woke the beast. On top of that was the sex she’d smelled when she’d first exited the cab. Inside, trapped, it was a potent mixture.
Slowly, holding her breath, she looked around. The inside looked just as amazing as the outside. The foyer was wide, generous, and had an open curved stairwell to the right. Deep, rich wood finish and trim accented the interior and gave a warm, rustic feel. The air smelled like the woods, something she thought all shifters held dear to their hearts. This was no doubt a trait the host would have liked to keep close to him. A small spark of admiration started to grow; at least he had taste.
“I’m Derek,” the man holding her hands said, breaking the trance she’d drifted into. “I’ve heard all about you!”
How much was ‘all about you’ she wondered. Stumbling, she pulled gently on her arm. He didn’t release her. “Nice to meet you. I’m just ah—”
“—a little nervous?” he finished at her pause. “It’s okay. The first time is always like that.”
She really hated when people finished her sentences. Nervous wasn’t the word she was going to use. It was difficult finding the right words to describe how cruelly aroused by the moon’s influence she was. Tugging with a little more force, she gained control of her limbs and flashed Derek an unstable smile.
They stood looking at each other for a moment, and she could feel the wheels spinning in his head. Sweet, bitter, every time he breathed she tasted the whiskey on his breath. That was strike two. His gaze passed over the curve of her mouth, the slant of her jaw. Lower, his sights passed over the bulk of her jacket, and she knew he wanted to see what was beneath.
A couple trotted down the stairs, and their voices carried on the other sounds of the house. As she focused her senses everything became sharp. She could smell the sweat on their bodies, the salty hitch of cum that lingered on the woman’s skin. Looking at their faces, the way they carried on a conversation about the stock market… It was a strange combination of normal and erotic.
Derek made a sound in the back of his throat and before she could stop herself, she turned her attention back to him. Slowly, like unwrapping a present, she drew her gaze over his entire body. One click of her heel brought their bodies just an inch apart. The urge to throw him to the ground, rip off his black slacks, and impale herself on his wanting cock was disturbing.
“Can I take your coat?” His voice was eager, promising. Damn it!
Kerry’s invitation had been more of a demand; something she had to experience once in her lifetime. When Jade asked what one wore to a sex party, the only hint she’d been given was a smile full of blinding white teeth and a sassy, ‘something with easy access’. Kerry’s acceptance of anything and everything sexual was liberating. It was just one of the many things Jade admired about her.
Derek went to take her jacket, but she was quicker. She could take it off herself, thank you. Like pulling a band-aid from a wound, she made quick work of the large, black buttons and pulled her coat free. Her dress was simple, yet revealing. The bodice split in a v that ended just below her belly button. The silk covering her breasts was kept in place with a halter-style tie around her neck. Her back was completely exposed. She walked toward the sound of the bar and ignored the suffocating surge of lust Derek gave off.
She wasn’t a beautiful woman. Not in her eyes. Then again, in her experience men didn’t seem all that picky when it came to sex. It wasn’t her that Derek was interested in; it was the curves of her breasts, the flair of her hips. Even if he didn’t realize it, he was attracted to the pheromones she was giving off. Everyone, including humans, had animal instincts. Shifters were just more in tune with them.
Kerry had told her parties like this were about letting go, about experiencing guilt free passion and lust. Tonight that had been her plan. Feed the need and walk away temporarily sated. At the time it had seemed like a good idea. Now that she had sensed the prime, felt his energy pulsing through her, she knew he was the only one she needed to concern herself with. It was stupid, risky, something that would alter the entire course of her life if she wasn’t careful. It was no longer her choice.
She glanced over her shoulder and caught Derek staring at her ass, almost as if he was trying to see through it. She wondered if he knew she hadn’t bothered with panties. He wasn’t going to find out.
“Know where I can find Kerry?” Her voice sounded strained.
Oblivious to her disinterest, the warmth of his hand started at the base of her spine and moved up until she could feel the tingles at the base of her neck. Her body was betraying her. Walking deeper into the house, they passed a large, spacious bathroom with a mosaic floor. As they passed the door she caught sight of herself in the stretched, oval mirror hanging above the sink. The heat in her green eyes made her cringe. Disinterested, her ass. Wide pupils, parted lips, rosy cheeks…her signals were all wrong.
When they entered the great room, Derek’s hand moved low enough so the tips of his fingers touched the curve of her ass. She sucked in a breath. He pressed against her back, trapping heat between them. His cock was hard against the line of her spine, and it sent a jolt of desire straight to her core. Laid out on an over-sized beige sofa in front of them were two writhing women, their blonde and black hair tangled together.
A fire crackled, bringing her focus to the hearth and the vibrant colored rug in front of it. On it were several couples, some hetero, others not. The group moved together, pushing, pulling, fucking. A glow of light played off their sweat-slicked bodies, and she wished she could be in the thick of it. Mouths met; hands caressed.
The passionate haze they created was so thick she could taste it. Total abandon. A man drew his tongue down the slender column of a woman’s neck. Jade couldn’t look away. His lips stopped at her breasts, and he used his hands to guide one into his mouth. Behind her, someone thrust, making her cry out when two men began to simultaneously pleasure her. The group rolled, some switched partners, and the tangle of flesh grew even more convoluted.
“You can join in if you’d like, they won’t mind.” Derek’s voice was low, seductive in her ear.
His hand curved over the crest of her hip, and her stomach jumped. His fingers were smooth, too soft. Moving under the material of her dress, he took advantage of the expanse of exposed flesh and began stroking her stomach. The way she arched her back, grinding her ass against his erection, betrayed what she really wanted. What she needed was to get the hell away from Derek before her hormones took over.
She played a dangerous game. Alphas were possessive, arrogant. Knowingly endangering someone would be cruel.
“Jade!” Kerry’s familiar, husky voice sounded from across the room. She jumped. The motion jerked Derek’s hand away from her skin.
If Kerry hadn’t been bi-sexual, Jade would have kissed her. Her friend crossed the room, smiling, waving, working the crowd like she normally did. The short, tight red dress she wore clung to her curves. It made her mocha skin look flawless.
“We need to talk,” Jade blurted and grabbed her hand. There were no pleasantries like hello or how good to see you. There wasn’t time for that. Tugging, she dragged her toward the powder room she’d passed.
When they came to a stop and Jade rested her back against the closed door she finally took a deep breath. Kerry didn’t just smell like sex, she reeked of it. This was a very bad idea.
“Hey, JD, are you okay?” Kerry said the nickname she’d given her the first day they met with an affectionate smile. “You look a little flushed.” Pressing a cool hand against her forehead, she frowned. “God, you’re burning up!”
Burning up was an understatement. Jade sighed, gently moved her friend’s hand, and crossed the six feet to the free standing, mosaic sink. She placed her hands on either side of the basin and dipped her head. She arched her back, stretching in an attempt to loosen the tight sensation consuming her. The heat of Kerry’s gaze moved up the length of her legs.
Jade looked up into the mirror and caught her friend’s reflection. She was going to ignore the lust sparking in their depths. “Do you know the guy who owns this house?” Jade blurted.
A puzzled look moved over Kerry’s heart-shaped face. She lifted a dark eyebrow in question that normally indicated Jade was doing something that made her look crazy. “Of course I do, silly. I told you that already.”
No, she hadn’t. “When?”
“The moon makes you wacky, you know that, right?” She made a rude sound in the back of her throat. “Yesterday I gushed for almost twenty minutes about Hunter and how excited I was about this party and that you’d decided to come. Remember, he’s the one who designed my house?”
“His name is Hunter?” His parents had a sense of humor.
Sashaying across the room, Kerry stopped an inch away from her back and looked into the mirror. The devious smile she flashed made Jade’s anxiety level raise a notch. Uh oh. Her friend traced a line down her arm. A trail of fire lit in its wake. What the hell was she doing?
Jade turned around as Kerry drew closer. Her eyes darted to Kerry’s throat. The vein there pulsed in a tempting, seductive lure that made her mouth water. A throaty laugh jiggled her friend’s breasts before she backed away and smiled. Kerry liked to play games.
“I wasn’t going to tell you this; I swore I wouldn’t but…” She let the sentence hang in the air.
Typical, Jade thought. “Cut the theatrics, just tell me.” Her hands made the gesture to continue with her story.
“You’re no fun! Hunter came by my house a few weeks ago. You had just left; I think he must have seen you pulling away. He started asking all kinds of questions. I’d never seen him so interested in anything before. I told him what I knew, and then he told me to invite you.”
“You didn’t think that was strange?”
“Why? Look in the mirror. You’re thin, stunning, and that mess of brunette curls you have is to die for! I knew you liked to party, thought you might have a good time, so I told him I’d arrange it.”
“’I like to party?’ Are you calling me a slut?” She tried to keep a straight face. It wasn’t working.
She couldn’t be mad; Kerry had no idea what she’d done. Hunter had manipulated the situation and lured her in. Bastard.
“Of course I am!” Kerry’s laugh echoed. “And is it really that big of a deal if some handsome, millionaire bachelor wanted to meet you? He’s damn picky. Has these fancy parties every few months and just strolls around, mingling, showing off his eight-pack. He’s got back muscles that’ll make your mouth water! And don’t get me started on his eyes.” She gave a throaty moan. “They lure you in and pin you down. I came on to him once, got shot down. He was very polite about it, though.”
Men didn’t turn Kerry down. It wasn’t a good sign. An alpha looking for a mate didn’t screw around. They were focused, determined. Kerry would have been just an appetizer for what he really needed.
“Now, come on. I’m missing the party. There are these Norwegian twins I’ve got my eye on. Can you imagine how great I’d look sandwiched between them?”
Jade chuckled. “I’m sure it will be a sight they will cherish for the rest of their lives.”
When they exited, Jade made a move toward the door, ready to call it a night. Kerry wasn’t drugged by the moon and was quicker on the draw. How’d she even know she was going to make a run for the exit? Kerry tugged on her hand, interlocking their fingers before pulling her toward the bar.
“Just give it a chance.” Kerry blinked her big brown eyes and gave a mock pout. It was damn hard to resist. “Oh!” She changed directions. The sensation made her into a life-sized rag doll being dragged around the house. More than ever, Jade was convinced her friend had ADD.
“There is a BSDM dungeon downstairs; you’ve got to see it. It makes my basement look like a walk in closet,” Kerry gushed.
Jade followed with a shake of her head. She didn’t know if she should be terrified or excited. “Who is this guy?”