Authors: Alexandra Ivy,Laura Wright
Tags: #Pantera Security League 6 - Bayou Heat
Pantera Security League 6 - Bayou Heat
Copyright © 2016 by Alexandra Ivy & Laura Wright
All Rights Reserved.
No part of this work may be reproduced in any fashion without the express, written consent of the copyright holder.
is a work of fiction. All characters and events portrayed herein are fictitious and are not based on any real persons living or dead.
Editor: Julia Ganis, JuliaEdits.com
Cover Designer: Sweet 'n Spicy Designs by Jaycee DeLorenzo
Table of Contents
While writing the Bayou Heat series, the two of us have often discussed fun, side adventures that wouldn’t exactly fit into the overall storyline of the books. Eventually those ideas could no longer be denied and we started chatting about a separate “Six” characters who were all living outside the Wildlands. Breaking with each of their born-to factions, these Pantera are the baddest of the bad, and willing to work in that gray area between right and wrong. In other words, they’re special ops warriors who are willing to do whatever necessary to protect their people. And so the Pantera Security League was born.
Unfortunately, we’re both overwhelmed with deadlines which meant that it might be years before we could actually write the books, so the solution was to try something completely new. We would write the same story together, each taking turns to layer in the action, emotion, and suspense that readers expect in a Bayou Heat story.
We hope you enjoy the stories! We certainly love writing them!
Alex and Laura
To most people, the Pantera, a mystical race of puma shifters who live in the depths of the Louisiana swamps, have become little more than a legend.
It was rumored that in the ancient past twin sisters, born of magic, created a sacred land and claimed it as their own. From that land came creatures who were neither human or animal, but a mixture of the two.
They became faster and stronger than normal humans. Their senses were hyper-acute. And when surrounded by the magic of the Wildlands they were capable of shifting into pumas.
It was also whispered that they possessed other gifts—telepathy, witchcraft, immortality and the ability to produce a musk that could enthrall mere mortals.
Mothers warned young girls never to roam alone near the swamps, convinced that they would be snatched by the Pantera, while young men were trained to avoid hunting anywhere near the protected Wildlands.
Not that the warnings were always successful.
What girl didn’t dream of being seduced by a gorgeous, mysterious stranger? And what young man didn’t want to try his skill against the most lethal of predators?
As the years passed, however, sightings of the Pantera became so rare that the rumors faded to myth.
Most believed the species never existed at all.
All except a group of humans led by Christopher Benson, the CEO of Benson Enterprises. The reclusive, mysterious businessman has made a fortune by capturing Pantera and experimenting on them in his secret laboratories. He’s created serums with their blood that can offer youth and vitality to his rich friends. And injected warriors with Pantera DNA in an attempt to create super soldiers.
But his ultimate endgame for the Pantera is only now being revealed.
Can they discover the truth of his evil scheme before it’s too late?
The golden puma slowed his pace, sliding through the purple shadows at the edge of the Wildlands, nostrils flared, breathing heavily. The large, lethally dangerous animal moved with the liquid grace of a predator, his eyes cat-gold and his massive paws barely making a mark on the mossy ground. He’d arrived early to score a long run in his cat form just inside the border of the bayou, enjoy a dose of the magic that allowed his kind to shift from human to puma. It was a pleasure he was rarely afforded.
After all, dead Pantera couldn’t return home, could they?
Scare the shit out of the family who’d already mourned them.
Cerviel’s puma sneered. Such were the lives of The Six.
As an invisible part of the Diplomatic faction of the Pantera, he’d devoted the past several months to trying to infiltrate Christopher Benson’s vast business empire. He’d fiercely hoped for an opportunity to kill the bastard. He had the go-ahead. Unfortunately, the human male who’d been responsible for capturing Pantera and using them as lab rats in his sick experimentations had apparently gone into hiding. The real subterranean kind. Like, down with the worms and the moles. Pretty much where he belonged.
Where Cerviel would love to put him permanently.
But no one, not even his own people—or the two pieces-of-shit Pantera who had been accused of aiding him—had a clue where Benson was hiding.
That didn’t mean Cerviel hadn’t been pissed when he’d received Raphael’s text ordering him to return to the Wildlands. It was shit timing. He’d been deep undercover in New Orleans, earning the trust of several stockholders who had invested in Benson Enterprises. He was certain that with just a few more days he could’ve managed to find, coerce and/or threaten someone who could tell him where to locate Christopher.
Instead he’d jumped in his car and driven at the speed of light to discover why Raphael needed him. It wasn’t just because he was a loyal Pantera. It was because he was a part of The Six: the ghost warriors of the Pantera Security League. A group of specialized fighters who took on the top-secret jobs the various faction leaders needed handled with utmost discretion. It was a kick-ass gig, and Cerviel loved it. But it sure as shit came with some complicated drawbacks.
Ceasing to exist being one of them.
A shimmer of power suddenly glistened around him, and when Cerviel glanced up he spotted the approaching puma he’d been waiting for. A huge, caramel-colored beast who was lethal as fuck. In seconds, the animal shifted into a tall male with equally golden hair and jade eyes that glowed with the sharp heat of his inner cat.
Raphael, the current head honcho of the Suits—Cerviel’s born-to faction—and all-around badass.
Shifting quickly, and dressed in the custom Armani suit he’d been wearing when he’d hightailed it out of New Orleans a few hours ago, Cerviel stalked toward the male. Though slightly taller than Raphael, Cerviel was the leader’s opposite in looks. Lean-muscled with bronzed skin and dark eyes, he wore his thick black hair to his shoulders. His features were finely chiseled and he currently sported a neatly trimmed goatee. It was no secret he preferred cunning to brute strength.
Ironman to The Hulk.
“You flashed the bat signal?” he drawled.
Raphael arched a brow. “Bat signal?”
Cerviel gave a lift of his shoulder. “You know Batman and the bat signal?” His leader’s face remained set in grim lines. Clearly the older male’s mood was as pissy as Cerviel’s, or he thought superheroes were bullshit. “Never mind, you’re more of a Fortress of Silence sort of dude,” he muttered. “Why did you want me to meet you here?”
Raphael glanced around cautiously. There was nothing to see beyond the thick cypress trees and the tangled grass that was nearly waist-high in this area of the bayou. Still, the older male leaned closer, keeping his voice pitched low.
“I have a new assignment for you.”
“Now?” Cerviel scowled. “I just managed to infiltrate Benson’s boardroom. It’s only a matter of time before I discover where the bastard’s hiding and put a bullet in his brain.”
“You can return to New Orleans after you’re done with this,” Raphael said, shoving a piece of paper in Cerviel’s hand.
Cerviel glanced down, reading the brief note out loud. “
Code red. Dispose of all test subjects at Rattlesnake Ranch, China House, The Orchard, Mulberry Lane, Battle Creek, and RR.
” He lifted his head, glancing at his companion with a baffled gaze. “Is this supposed to make some sort sense?”
“Xavier intercepted the message while he was monitoring Benson’s private cellphone,” Raphael explained. “It’s the only contact the sneaky piece of shit made since he went into hiding, so we assume it must be important enough for him to risk having his current position exposed.”
Cerviel reread the note. The names sounded like a list of low-budget flicks.
“What do you want from me?” he asked.
“I used my contacts with the human IRS to trace a Rattlesnake Ranch in Wyoming to a man named Rick Donaldson,” Raphael said.
Cerviel felt a stir of recognition. “Why is that name familiar?”
“He’s a retired congressman.”
The younger Pantera grimaced. Of course. A politician. Rattlesnake Ranch sounded like the perfect place for him.
“Any connection to Benson Enterprises?” he asked.
Raphael nodded, his eyes glowing with the golden power of his cat. “Donaldson was the one who pushed the military to offer several highly profitable contracts to Benson.”
“Okay.” Cerviel resisted the urge to yawn. “So we know that there’s a politician named Donaldson in Wyoming who helped Benson peddle his weapons to the DOD,” he said. “And?”
“And we believe the test subjects are Pantera,” Raphael said. “Or humans that have been infused with our blood.”
“You can’t be certain,” Cerviel said. He’d only been hunting Christopher Benson for a few months, but he’d discovered in that short amount of time that the ruthless man had his fingers in a lot of nasty pies. “Benson Enterprises’ Frankenstein laboratories are an equal opportunity torture chamber. Not all of the prisoners have something to do with the Pantera.”
Raphael shrugged. “Xavier did a little more digging.
Cerviel rolled his eyes. Xavier, the leader of the Geeks, was a brilliant computer whiz who’d ensured that the Pantera were not only on the cutting edge of technology, but that they had an electronic hacking system that would rival Homeland Security.
“Of course he did,” Cerviel drawled.
As usual, Raphael ignored Cerviel’s wry humor. The older male had two moods: grim and grimmer.
At least when he was working.
When it came to his mate and new daughter…well, the leader was a different male altogether.
“He ran across a message from Donaldson to Benson that assured him the ‘animal’ was in good shape despite the fact that one of Benson’s friends had seen her and she’d recently been beaten.”
Cerviel sucked in a sharp breath. They were all struggling to come to terms with the knowledge that their people had been being secretly kidnapped by Benson operatives and treated as lab rats. And worse, that several females had been used in ways that made his inner cat snarl in fury.
“Bastard,” he breathed.
Raphael snorted. “You won’t get an argument from me.”
“You think she’s the test subject?”
Raphael gave a lift of his hands. “That’s the theory.”
Cerviel frowned, not entirely sure where this was all going.
“What do you want from me?”
“I need you to travel to Wyoming and retrieve her before she can be disposed of.”
Cerviel’s frown deepened. Was the male serious? A single rescue? It was like going back to training, for fuck’s sake.
“That’s it? An asset retrieval?”
A faint smile curved Raphael’s lips. “I knew it was more than your pretty face that made me choose you to be a part of the league.”
Cerviel calmly flipped him off. “Why me? This is a job for one of the Hunters.” He caught himself sneering. “Unless I’m to take out the congressman and a few of his friends before the snatch and grab, I don’t understand—”
“We believe she’s…special.”
Raphael nodded. “After we intercepted the messages, I decided to do my own investigating.”
“I don’t understand.”
A wicked smile curved Raphael’s lips. “I managed to capture one of Benson’s top lieutenants,” he revealed. “After a few hours of questioning he admitted that no one but Benson knew anything about the ‘test subjects’ and that he was frantic to make sure they didn’t end up in our hands.”