His Purrfect Mate Page 1

Author: Laurann Dohner

Series: Mating Heat #2

Genres: Fantasy , Romance

Chapter One

Fear made Shannon’s heart pound, her side burned from the pain of running, and she ducked just a tad too late. The tree branch snagged her long red hair, nearly jerked her off her feet, but she recovered, stumbled, and kept going. The sound of heavy pants and growls mingled with her ragged, harsh breathing.

I’m going to die, she thought, panicked. She forced her legs to keep pumping. Her bare feet stung from the cuts she could feel as she ran. The memory of telling her coworker just a week before that she hated the idea of turning thirty at the end of the month flitted through her thoughts. Now I don’t have to worry about it, her mind whispered. I’m not going to survive to celebrate my birthday.

A twig snapped loudly to her left and she knew they were closing in for the kill. They could have taken her down by now but instead, they toyed with her, chased her through the thick woods, probably for the sheer joy of the hunt. How they’d found her or realized what she was remained a mystery.

This shouldn’t have happened. Mom swore no one would ever suspect the truth. Of course that didn’t put a screeching halt to the nightmare that had become her reality. Two men had walked up to her as she’d been putting groceries in her car, punched her in the face, and she’d awoken into the middle of pure hell. They’d taken her shoes, her purse, and had given her a five-minute head start.

Howls filled the woods surrounding her. She saw a dark shape ahead and moved to avoid it, furiously wishing she had their speed and agility. She missed slamming into another tree and the ground started to incline. She stumbled and fell, landing painfully on her knees. Both arms took the impact before her face could smash into the dirt. Dried leaves bit into her palms. She tried to lift up but her limbs shook from exhaustion.

A deep growl made her twist her head around and pure horror gripped her completely when the big, black wolf stepped out of the thick foliage. Drool dripped from his open jaw, razor-sharp teeth revealed, and his paw lifted as he inched closer to her. The five feet separating them wasn’t far enough.

Leaves crunched and she turned her head slowly in the direction of the sound, this time expecting the sight of a second wolf that appeared next to a big rock. A third one followed close on his tail. They growled, their intent to attack obvious. She panted, sweat trickled down her body, and her gaze lifted to the closest tree she nearly touched. She hoped the branch hung low enough for her to reach.

It took every ounce of her waning strength to surge to her feet and leap. Her father had given her very few of his traits but the one that might give her more time to live kicked in as her hands gripped the limb and her bare foot flattened on the bark. Something hairy brushed her other leg as she frantically climbed. Instinct and fear became a driving motivation for her not to look down, instead she grabbed at anything her fingers hooked on to. She kept going, even when the branches thinned dangerously and common sense told her to stop.

She finally hesitated when wood groaned. The wind blew and she swayed high in the treetops. A sick feeling knotted inside her stomach while she wondered if her weight would snap the branch she clung to but then the wind died. Everything stilled except her pounding heart rate. She stared down the far distance to the ground, another wave of fear flashing through her. Heights weren’t her favorite thing.

Movement drew her attention and she watched as at least six wolves paced below, their heads tilted to glare up at her. She forced her lungs to hold air longer with each breath to slow her breathing and then scanned the area around her. The distance between the trees was too great to hope she could transfer limb to limb to get away. They had her trapped on her perch high above them.

Howls sang out again and she shivered. More of them approached and she realized just how outnumbered she was. A loud groan jerked her attention back to the base of the tree. She gasped as one of the wolves started to transform. Horrified fascination widened her eyes while she witnessed fur recede into skin. The body shape changed more rapidly than she had imagined it could. She’d never seen it done until that moment.

The man had short blond hair and tan skin. He crouched on the ground for long seconds, recovering from the transformation, and then straightened. He looked up and she stared into the human features of a guy in his early twenties.

“Get down here,” he demanded. “That’s not fair.”

Another one changed from wolf into man. She guessed him to be little more than a teenager, judging by his youthful appearance. Their nakedness didn’t seem to bother them in the least as they stood shoulder to shoulder, the blond gawking up with a frown.

“Man, did you see how fast she climbed that tree? Why hasn’t she changed?”

The blond shrugged. “I don’t know and I don’t care.” He reached up for the first branch. “Get down here or I’ll come up there after you.”

Shannon had no words. The shock and horror of her circumstances still had her reeling. She licked her lips, forcing her brain to work. “Leave me alone. I’ve done nothing to you.”

“You’re still breathing.” The blond paused. “For a chick, you’re hot, but still, you know how it goes. You shouldn’t have been walking around alone and unprotected. Maybe I’ll f**k you before I kill you.”

Talking wasn’t going to get her out of this mess. They obviously didn’t care that she’d never harmed them, hadn’t sought them out, and they just wanted her dead because of who her father had been. She tried to remember his face but came up blank. No pictures had survived the fire that had taken his life just weeks after her fifth birthday.

More wolves suddenly ran into the small clearing and she counted eleven in all, including the two in skin. Werewolves were dreaded, vicious creatures, and they were sworn enemies of her father’s people. Now that she had some time to think instead of run for her life, she guessed they might have gone after her on the misconception of her being a full shifter. It probably wasn’t her being a freak after all that had provoked them to attack but that didn’t soothe her in the least. They would still tear her out of the tree and she would be slaughtered by the pack.

“That’s just wrong to even joke about.” The teen laughed. “Nobody is that hard up to touch one of them. That’s just sick, Donny.”

“I knew you were g*y,” the blond Donny taunted. “I’d do her.”

“I am not,” the teen sputtered. “I guess we could have sex with her first.”

Someone snorted loudly and a twenty-something male walked into Shannon’s line of sight to peer up at her. “You’re such a doofus, Milo. Have sex? Try saying you’ll nail her.” The na**d guy grinned. “And yeah, she’s a prime-looking pu**y.”

Shannon shivered with fear. “Leave me alone.”

A howl tore through the woods and the men started noticeably. The blond turned his head in the direction of the sound. “Shit. Anton is coming. He won’t let us play with her first.”

A really large, black wolf entered the clearing. Shannon could tell even from far above that he had to be the biggest one of the bunch. He growled so loudly that she trembled at the vicious sound. She watched him change back into his skin. It amazed her how fluid the transformation could be, how quickly it happened, and he did not appear to feel any pain. She’d always assumed all that shifting bone and skin would hurt immensely.

The man was bigger than the others in human form too. He had shoulder-length black hair and looked huge even from a good sixty feet below her. He straightened to his feet and stretched, displaying dense muscles as he rolled his broad shoulders. He turned to face the males standing under the tree.

“I told you to quit stalking these woods. You’ve almost killed off everything.”

The blond hesitated. “We listened. We actually went out and found something outside our territory to hunt.”

The big man put his hands on his bare hips. His ass and back teased Shannon’s view but with the leaves on the branches she couldn’t see him really well. “That’s not the point.” He had a deep, scary voice. “I said to stop killing shit for a while. That doesn’t mean go out and buy something to amuse yourselves. Do you have any idea how much it’s going to cost my father to bring in enough animals to replenish all the ones you’ve killed? We’re supposed to keep a low profile. Don’t you think the locals will notice if they never see any deer or rabbits coming from this area?”


“Enough,” the larger man roared, his deep voice booming. An eerie, disconcerting silence settled through the woods. The birds even grew quiet.

Time seemed to freeze and then the blond spoke. “We need to at least kill it first. We can’t let it go.”

“Bullshit,” the man rumbled. “Go home.”

“What if she tells someone what we did to her? It could bring our pack some trouble if her family gets pissed off.”

The big man’s head jerked up and Shannon stopped breathing when a handsome face peered at her. He had strong, masculine features and his dark eyes widened when his gaze met hers. His shock was clear and then a roar of outrage tore from his parted lips. Shannon trembled, her terror returning fiercely, and almost lost her tight grip on the branch she clung to.

The man below her moved fast, his arm shot out and he struck the blond, knocking him a good six feet, where he struck the ground and sprawled on his back. “Run,” he snarled, “before I kill the lot of you worthless ass**les.”

The blond struggled to his feet, a red mark visible on his face from the bloody wound the striking fist had left, and then everyone fled, wolves and men in skin. Everyone but the black-haired stranger. He stood unmoving and then slowly tilted his head up again, his dark, angry gaze on Shannon once more.

Anton battled his inner rage. If he didn’t get control of it quickly, he’d shift out of his skin and go after the pups who had treed a woman. He really wanted to tear up their hides, make them suffer, but he couldn’t do that. He had a situation to handle first.

His mind immediately added up obvious facts. The pups had grabbed a woman, hunted her, and now she’d become his problem. If he’d known of her presence, he never would have shifted. She had a bird’s-eye view of the clearing, he felt certain she’d seen him transform into his skin, and he had no idea how to fix this cluster-fuck of a mess.

He watched her with a sense of dismay. He didn’t want to kill her but she had seen too much. His father would have a fit if he allowed her to leave the woods alive. It really would bring hell to the pack if she were able to go to the police. On second thought, they’d probably think she had to be a major nutcase if she babbled about werewolves. He bit his lip, debated, and finally decided he could never kill a woman.

He cleared his throat, not sure what to say, but knew his first problem would be talking her down out of the tree. He feared she’d panic if he tried to climb up to her and she might fall to her death. She had managed to ascend high enough that the branches had thinned enough to put her in danger of a limb snapping from her weight. Her small-looking body appeared to be wrapped tightly around the branch.

“You can come down. I promise you’re safe now.”

She licked her lips. “Go away and I’ll climb down when you’re gone.”

He hesitated, wishing it could be that simple. “I’ll escort you to your car or return you to your campground—wherever they chased you from. I swear I won’t hurt you. I realize you’re in shock but no harm will befall you as long as I’m around.”

She shook her head, her red hair snaking around her body to her waist. “Just go away. Shooo!”

Amusement surprised him. “Did you just ‘shoo’ me?”

The woman hesitated. “I’ve done nothing to you or to them.”

He watched her turn her head to glance around the area and rage returned instantly upon seeing the dark bruise along her jawline. Someone had clocked her with a fist. She had very pale skin and the fact that she appeared to be smaller than average made it worse. He decided his pups were in for a beating of monumental proportions when he got his hands on them for what they’d done to the woman.