Welcome to Pride, Texas, the home of cowboys, roughnecks, southern charm…and shifters. Lion shifters to be exact.
When a trip to Las Vegas has Dylan coming face to face with a woman who calls to every part of him—especially his inner lion—he's not sure what to do. Yearning to spend as much time with her as possible, Dylan courts her until one night of passion takes things further than even he was prepared to go. She's now his mate.
The impromptu vacation Samantha took with her best friend took a turn for the better when a hunky guy with a charming southern accent takes a liking to her. Unable to deny the intense chemistry between them, she tosses her inhibitions to the wind and indulges in a night of carnal bliss…only to wake up alone.
Hurt and confused, she heads home, only to discover that not everything that happens in Vegas stays there. Now he's back, and she must decide what to do once he confesses a secret that turns her reality on its head. But now there's a danger lurking in the shadows as well. A threat that is determined to keep humans out of the shifter society…by any means necessary.
“Vegas? We’re going to spend the weekend in Sin City? Yes!”
Dylan North grinned as his younger brother fist pumped at the news. Liam was always up for travel of any sort, but for once, this trip would be mostly for pleasure.
“You got it,” Dylan replied. “Three full days of whatever our hearts desire. We’ll be sampling the services at various hotels, so make sure to let me know what you enjoy and what you don’t.”
Liam gave him a devious grin as he replied, “I enjoy showgirls.”
Dylan barked out a laugh, truly happy to be taking this trip with Liam. Since he’d taken over as the Prime of the southern pride, they hadn’t had nearly as much time together as they used to, but Dylan hoped this new venture would change that.
A few years ago, an underground oil reservoir had been located on pride territory and since it was far from their town, their previous leader had allowed it to be tapped, bringing in good sums of money on a regular basis. Upon taking over as the new Prime, Dylan had begun looking into ways to invest those funds so they’d continue to bring in a steady monetary flow and benefit the feline breeds as a whole.
A shifter-based resort came to mind. A place where their kind could relax and cut loose without fear of discovery. Many times, he’d heard comments such as, “I wish there was a vacation spot just for us,” or “How cool would it be to have somewhere that we could hunt to our hearts’ content without worrying about being shot at?”
This was what had him seeking out various resorts in a bid to gain some inspiration for his project. Of course, Las Vegas came to mind. Casinos, night clubs, fine food, spas, pools and various other attractions littered the strip and were sure to spark his imagination with ways to make everything shifter-friendly, yet fun.
Seriously sturdy furniture was a must, along with enough private, open land and woods for them to hunt and run. Dylan had also noted the need for several large pools.
Some of his feline brethren, mainly the tigers, thoroughly enjoyed swimming—as tigers. Therefore, having separate pools seemed best, especially if they decided to open the resort to all shifter breeds.
Actually, if that happened, Dylan would likely assign different breeds to certain floors then ensure those rooms were set up with the inner animals in mind. He wondered if the wolves, coyotes or hyenas would be offended if he had doggy doors installed.
Pushing those thoughts aside for the time being, Dylan turned to his brother, Liam. “I’ll get everything set up, and we’ll leave later this week. That okay with you?”
“Sounds like a plan. I’ll let you know right now, bro, I intend to get laid on this trip, so separate rooms might not be a bad idea.”
Dylan could only shake his head as Liam exited his office. His brother resembled a tomcat more than a lion. The man was a whore.
His Hollywood good looks and gleaming-white smile never failed to drop the panties of any female he wanted, but lately, Dylan sensed a growing restlessness in his younger sibling. While the urge to find his mate rode Dylan hard, he suspected Liam was beginning to feel the pull as well.
Perhaps, Liam would find what he needed in Vegas.
* * * *
“Finally!” Samantha Cooke cheered, tears slipping down her cheeks.
She hugged the precious documents to her ample chest. At long last, she had the papers declaring her marriage to her abusive ex-husband was over.
“We need to celebrate,” her best friend, Lynn Edwards, exclaimed. “Let’s take a trip. We’ll go big, celebrating your divorce and my new job.”
Samantha loved Lynn like a sister. The woman had been her rock for the last three years and the one to open Samantha’s eyes to the emotional abuse that had sent her life into a downward spiral.
Though she had little money of her own right now, the divorce had awarded her half of everything. That came to a surprising amount, considering how her ex had always complained about expenses. It turned out that along with insults, guilt and any other means he could come up with, he’d used money to control her too.
He’d never physically hit her, but he’d beaten down her self-esteem to the point where it was nothing more than a black-and-blue heap cowering in the darkest corners of her psyche.
When the first suicidal thought had slithered through her mind, Samantha had realized she needed help. Of course, her husband never took her seriously—or maybe he wanted her to kill herself—so she’d taken initiative and checked herself in to a facility to get the help and counseling she knew were necessary.
By her third week, she’d begun to feel sick, and upon the discovery she was pregnant, Samantha had been set up with an OB/GYN, Dr. Lynn Edwards. Lynn, who’d just started her career, was insanely cheerful for someone who visited a ward full of depressed residents.
As it turned out, Samantha was one of her first patients, and therefore, Lynn had come to visit her often. The woman had quickly become a bright spot in Samantha’s days and ended up being Samantha’s saving grace when the child she’d carried was lost.
The two had built a steadfast bond over those weeks when Samantha’s depression had threatened to pull her under yet again, and their strong friendship had managed to withstand the attempts by her husband to destroy it.
“Seriously, Sam, we need to go out and cut loose. You know, get a little wild,” Lynn insisted. “That slime ball is out of your life for good. Now, you can start building your future, but not before we have some fun.”
Lynn’s excitement was infectious, and Samantha couldn’t help but be sucked in. “So what are you thinking?”
“Yes, really. Sin City, Sweets! What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas, but we’ll have the memories. What do you say?”
Vacations had never been in the cards for her and her ex, since he’d claimed they couldn’t afford it, but now that she had well over a hundred grand coming her way, Samantha figured she could. “Why the hell not? Let’s do it!”
Lynn whooped and hugged Samantha tight. “We’re going to have so much fun! Let me get started on checking out the shows then we’ll decide where we want to stay. Since I have a two week break before I start my new job, this came at a perfect time.”
“Well, I’m free for another three weeks before I need to get my classroom ready for the school year. I have a feeling I’ll be enjoying these breaks more than ever now that I have the freedom to do whatever I want.”
It was a liberating thought, knowing she had nobody to answer to but herself. Samantha hadn’t ever had that option, having married right out of high school. Going from her parents’ rules and straight into her husband’s, she’d never been on her own for even a day, so knowing the endless possibilities ahead for her was a heady feeling indeed.
She’d just signed the papers on an old ranch-style home that sat out on about fifty acres near the Texas/Louisiana border. The place had been a pecan farm of sorts, with hundreds of trees dotting the land and even a stable for horses. All of the equipment was still there in the barn—though it likely needed some work to run again. Samantha figured the pecan harvest in the fall would yield a nice second income.
The future looked bright indeed. She had her best friend, her teaching job, a new home and her freedom. What more could a girl ask for?
* * * *
“Oh, hell yeah,” Dylan breathed, letting out a long whistle as he took in the massive suite he’d just stepped into. The Bellagio Hotel boasted a Tuscan theme that blended beautifully with the modern elegance of the guestrooms they offered.
The sitting area featured warm colors of cream and plum, while a multitude of neon hues glittered just beyond the floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the strip. A small, dark dining table with four matching chairs sat off to one side while a short bar with two high stools separated the small kitchenette from the rest of the room.
Through a door to the left, Dylan entered the bedroom, where a massive king-sized bed dominated the space, looking to be a welcome respite after what was sure to be a late night if Liam had anything to say about it. Since taking over the Pride, he’d had little time to himself, so this little break was a luxury he intended to enjoy to the fullest.
As the Prime, Dylan’s harsh judgments in regard to laws and punishments were feared by his kind, but in return, there had been less crime amongst the shifters in his territory. He’d been a hard-ass since he was a teen, but now that he was here in Vegas, he’d decided to cut loose with his brother and enjoy some time to just be young and free, even if it only lasted a few days.
Setting his suitcase on the bench at the foot of the bed, he removed his toiletry bag and made his way into the bathroom. Directly before him was a black marble vanity with streaks of silver running through it, two sinks and a large mirror spanning the entire length. To his left sat a Jacuzzi tub, big enough for at least four adults, and to his right stood a massive walk-in shower with multiple water jets spaced down two walls.
Now that was something he looked forward to. The flight in had left his back and shoulders tense. He hated flying, and that was exactly why his brother, Liam, had been appointed as the Pride’s liaison. It was also the reason Dylan now had abundant nervous energy to work out.
With that thought in mind, Dylan changed into a pair of knit shorts and a T-shirt before heading down to the impressive gym he’d seen on the hotel’s website. Surely a good run on the treadmill would dispel this anxiety that gripped him.
Liam had gone to check out his own room, so Dylan sent him a quick text before stepping into the elevator. He had no doubt his brother would join him soon, since they both enjoyed a good workout. Then again, they were both known for their competitive streaks too.
The folks in the gym were in for a show.