The Lion's Pride (BBW Paranormal Lion Shifter Romance) (The True Date Agency)

BOOK: The Lion's Pride (BBW Paranormal Lion Shifter Romance) (The True Date Agency)
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The Lion’s Pride
The True Date Agency
Terra Wolf
& Olivia Arran

©2016 Terra Wolf

The Lion’s Pride

All Rights Reserved worldwide.

No part of this book may be reproduced, uploaded to the Internet, or copied without permission from the author. The author respectfully asks that you please support artistic expression and help promote anti-piracy efforts by purchasing a copy of this book at the authorized online outlets.

This is a work of fiction intended for mature audiences only. Names, characters, places and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Some may be used for parody purposes. Any resemblance to events, locales, business establishments, or actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is purely coincidental.

All sexual activities depicted occur between consenting characters 18 years or older who are not blood related.

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NEWSLETTER SIGNUP

1
Zane

I
rolled
the silver pen back and forth between my fingers while eying the woman sitting in front of me. “I can’t believe I let you talk me into this, Gretchen.”

She curled her lip at me in mock disgust. “Don’t be so melodramatic! It’ll be fine. You need to stop worrying or you’ll end up with wrinkles.” She flicked a finger toward the large floor-to-ceiling sheet of glass that separated us from the main room below. Her feeble attempt at reassuring me.

I knew exactly why I had let her talk me into this; we were family, and when family asked—you just
did
. And though we weren’t
really
family, we had grown up together. Her, Gabriel, Trent, Maya, and me.
The terrible five
, our foster mom, Kathy, used to call us. Right after she scolded us for getting dirty while proceeding to stuff us full of food. It was the only love I had ever known. Still was.

I took a deep breath, stifling the urge to snarl at the crowd gathering below. My lion was agitated, pacing inside my head. “So, tell me again. Exactly what is happening tonight?” Some kind of dating thing, if I remembered correctly. Though I had tuned out when Gretchen had started explaining the finer details. Like I always did.

She blinked at me, then narrowed her big blue eyes. “Zane, do you only ever listen when it benefits you?”

I flicked the pen onto the glass-topped chrome table and rose to my feet. Striding over to the one-way window, I scanned the crowd. “Of course.”

She snorted at my admission. “Then I feel sorry for the poor woman who will eventually end up with you as a mate.”

“Mate? I don’t have time for that.”

“You don’t mean that—”

“Gretchen, I’m not bickering with you about this again. Now, tell me—what the hell is happening in my club tonight?” The crowd was getting bigger, the buzz from the ground floor growing, managing to penetrate through the thick walls of my office. Though only a shifter would be able to hear it through the soundproofing.

“It’s the launch of my new company. And if you’d even bothered to listen—” At my glare, she hesitated, then with a shrug, continued. “True Date. Speed dating to find your true mate? Is
any
of this ringing a bell with you?”

It was, unfortunately.
Speed dating
. Rationally, I understood the concept, along with the need. As the rate of shifters finding their true mates among their own kind had dwindled, many had searched among the humans. Some had found success, which in turn had spurred others on to try the same. And it seemed that human women—and men—liked shifters. Hardly surprising, really. Mainly because when a shifter found their mate, that was it. We mated for life with a single minded determination and passion that blew human marriages out of the water. So,
The Pride
was a nightclub predominately for shifters, but since the world had accepted our kind, I had opened the doors to those who wanted to mingle with shifters. In all ways. My venue was a place for people to socialize and, as the humans liked to put it, take a walk on the wild side.

Gretchen had decided to take things a step further, to organize the chaos and streamline the matchmaking process. Her words, not mine. I wasn’t in the matchmaking business; I preferred the money-making business.

“I take it from your shudder that some of your memory is returning?” she asked in a coy voice. “Maybe we’ll find you a match here tonight.”

“I won’t be attending.”

“But you’ll be watching…”

She knew full well that I always watched the floor from up here. Someone had to ensure everything ran smoothly, that the staff were behaving and that there was nothing…inappropriate going on in front of the humans. And I liked to watch. Not because I had a kink or anything, but because it was a game. I challenged myself to figure out what made individuals tick, to guess their next action, and subsequent reaction. To try and understand the
why
behind it. Emotions were like water—they spilled and flowed from people freely and without restriction. Hate, love, greed, jealousy, happiness, anger, trust—they were so unpredictable. I found it equally fascinating
and
terrifying. And
that’s
why I stayed behind the glass,
not
as Gretchen liked to say because I was an uptight, emotionally stunted caveman.

In the reflection of the glass, I watched as Gretchen smoothed down her spiky platinum-white hair and pursed her lips. “You need to get out more,” she muttered, knowing full well I’d hear her. Standing up, she sauntered over to the glass and linked arms with me. “Thank you,” she murmured, bumping my hip with hers. “I know you hate this; you’ve never been one for change. I appreciate it.” She pecked my cheek, her lips leaving a sticky mark, and strolled out of the room, letting the door bang shut behind her.

For a lynx shifter, she had the attitude of one of the larger cats, but I let her get away with it. I’d always had a soft spot for her, ever since she’d shown up at the foster home, a bedraggled waif of a child, stick thin with matted hair and huge blue eyes. Bruises, too, though she’d never spoken about them. And we’d only asked once. We all had a story, some similar, others worse. Survival was the one thing that linked us together. So, yeah. I let her get away with a lot that not many lions would.

Her words stuck with me, though, refusing to be unheard or forgotten. Was my true mate out there, right now, looking for love? A growl slipped from my lips, my hands clenching into fists. I scanned the floor again, willing someone to stand out from the crowd, to attract my attention.

A minute passed, then another. Nothing.

She wasn’t here.

And I was an idiot for even looking.

2
Lara


W
e’re here
!” Kate spun on one of her four-inch heels to look at me. “So, are you up for it?” Her eager grin tripped alarm bells inside my head, making me take a closer look at the building in question.

From the outside, it look like any other building you might find in the city, brick built, and it had that oppressive and slightly abandoned look about it. Nothing new there—pretty much all nightclubs looked like that. The low sound of bass ebbed through the walls, filling the badly lit street with a low hum. Above the large, solid looking door hung a discrete sign in a dark gunmetal gray that screamed exclusivity. “
The Pride
,” I read out loud. From the way Kate was eying me, there had to be a catch. “What kind of place is it?” I asked, imagining a sleazy strip club.

Tina twirled a dark ringlet around her finger, a coy look on her face. “It’s a nightclub,” she said, her brown eyes dancing with amusement.

“I know that,” I muttered, not for the first time wishing I hadn’t let them talk me into this. Whatever
this
was. “What I mean is, why is it hidden in a back street? Is it a—”

Tina grabbed my arm, tugging me toward the door. “Come on, Lara. Live a little. Didn’t we promise to show you a good time? This place is
amazing!

The heavy wooden door swung open at our approach. I glanced around, searching for the camera. Spying it tucked into the stonework, I let go of a breath I didn’t even know I was holding. What the hell did I think was going to happen? It wasn’t as if—

Stepping over the threshold, I ground to a halt. What the hell was this place? The narrow corridor we were standing in opened up into a large, cavernous room filled with people
not
dancing, more like standing around. Waiting for something. That wasn’t what had me nearly tripping over my own tongue, though. No, it was like we had walked into someone’s living room. Someone who had a huge house and thousands of friends. This wasn’t a typical dance club with a dance floor and sticky bars. This was a masterpiece of elegant sophistication with low leather couches scattered around the room, polished wooden floors, and chandeliers glittering with crystal dangling from the high ceiling and scattering the room with subdued light.

“Isn’t it amazing?” Kate shouted in my ear, passing her coat to the door girl.

It really was! “How many times have you been here?” I shouted back, removing my coat. For the first time that evening, I was glad I had let my friends talk me into dressing up a little, even though it had been the last thing I wanted to do. I’d have much preferred to mark the date by curling up on my couch with a good book and a tub of something wickedly cold and creamy. Preferably laced with chocolate, but hey, I wasn’t too fussy when it came to ice cream.

Tina took my coat and passed it over with hers. “This is our second time, but our first for what’s happening tonight.”

The alarm bells started up inside my head again. “What’s happening tonight?”

Tina pretended not to hear me. I knew she was pretending because she was a terrible liar, her neck flushing at the first sign of deception. The poor girl hadn’t even been able to lie to her mom about her first kiss, her cheeks immediately giving her away.

Following my friends down the corridor, I finally got my answer in the form of a sign that stood taller than me, which wasn’t hard given that I was a measly five-foot-one. In heels. “
True Date
?” I looked over at Kate and Tina, narrowing my eyes. “Speed dating? Really?”

“It’ll be good for you! Get you back in the game.”

I folded my arms across my chest, staring them down. “I’m absolutely fine with being out of the
game
,” I stated, daring them to comment.

Being my best friends, it didn’t work. “It’s been six months, honey. Your divorce is final now!”

Just hearing the words hurt, though I tried to hide it. They didn’t need to know that I still mourned my marriage. Not my husband; I’d accepted that he was an asshole and I was better off without him. But my marriage was supposedly a new beginning. It was meant to signify a different chapter in my life, of leaving all the silliness and heartbreak of dating behind. No more worrying
did I look fat in this
? Or,
was green really my most flattering color?
I’d also thought it would mean finally going from being a single woman to a mother, a role I had desperately craved.

And now I was a divorcee.
Didn’t that have a nice ring to it?
I tried really hard, but bitterness tended to cloud my thoughts these days, dragging me down with them.
Think positive!
I tried to pull myself together, if not for my sake, for my friends. They had been wonderful, rallying around me with hugs and wine. They were just trying to help, and it was my own fault that I hadn’t let them in, that they didn’t know I wasn’t
fine
with it.

“Okay, but I’m not doing the speed dating thing.” No way did I want to get saddled with another man, not so soon after the last one. I’d made a promise—I was putting myself first for once. Which meant
my
happiness,
my
career, and screw everyone else.

Kate beamed at me, giving my shoulder a quick squeeze. “You might change your mind—”

“I won’t.”

“We’ll see,” she trilled, leading the way into the main room.

Sound enveloped me, wrapping me in the dull thud of a beat that vibrated up through my feet, tingling through my bones. “So, what makes this place so special?” No sooner had the words left my mouth, I knew.

Shifters…
They were everywhere, lounging on couches and propping up walls. Normally, you couldn’t tell a shifter from a human—not for sure, anyway. But here, it was obvious they weren’t even trying to act human. If I had to describe what made them different, I would have to say it was their energy. Shifters moved with a natural grace and predatory air, not because they thought they were better than us mere humans, but because it was who they were. The animal inside of them giving them that extra special quality that made them stand apart.

“Here’s your button with your number on.”

I waved the badge away. No way was I playing this game, shifters or not—men were men, and I’d sworn off them. “Nope.”

“Aw, come on, Lara!” Tina pouted, pinning her button just above her impressive cleavage. “There’s humans here, too!”

“It’s not that.” And it really wasn’t. I had nothing against shifters; the few I’d actually met had been friendly and nice. No different from humans, actually. “I’m just not ready. I’ll just grab a drink and watch you guys work it.”

Kate leaned in, putting her mouth next to my ear in a feeble attempt to be heard over the throbbing beat. “Hey, did you know that it’s Zane Sarson who owns this place?” She shook her head at my blank expression, her red hair swinging back and forth. “Seriously? You’ve never heard of him? Have you been living under a rock?”

I gave her my best
really-you-had-to-go-there look.

“Sorry, sweetie. Of course you’ve had your mind on other things.” She patted my arm. “He’s been listed as one of the most eligible bachelors this year, with fur and without. They say he’s gorgeous, but totally untouchable. No one even had a picture of him so they had to put a photo of a lion for his slot in the magazine! Word on the street is he’s an incredible lover,
very
generous, if you know what I mean?” She nudged me, wriggling her eyebrows.

“He sounds the opposite of my type,” I commented, trying not to laugh. Rich, aloof playboy bachelors? Done that—had just divorced one, though, of course, he hadn’t been when we first met. The fame had come later, after the
I do’s
.

“Being rich doesn’t automatically make him an asshole, honey,” Tina piped up, her eyes darting around the room, her foot tapping in time to the beat.

“If his reputation precedes him, then he’s definitely not the kind of guy I’d like to meet,
if
I was looking for a guy—which I’m not.”

Suddenly, the music faded and a woman walked out into the center of the room. More like stalked, actually. She was tall and had the kind of figure that went out, then in, then out again in a voluptuous ripple of curves, her tailored jacket and pants fitting like a second skin. Short white-blonde hair lay in a sculptured pixie bob, emphasizing her big blue eyes and pink glossy lips. “Ladies and gentleman, welcome to
The Pride
and the first ever True Date event.
We are about to begin, so if those participating could take a moment to listen, I’ll explain what’s going to happen. Then the fun will begin!” She made a flourish in the air, her eyes glowing a liquid silver.

That was the other thing that set shifters apart—their eyes.

A shiver ran down my spine—one of foreboding or anticipation? I couldn’t tell. Before Kate and Tina could start in again, I hightailed it toward the discreet bar area set up at the back of the room. A drink would do me just fine, then I could settle down to some people watching.

Catching the bartender’s eye, I ordered a gin and tonic with extra ice, studiously ignoring my friends waving and beckoning me back over.

“Are you not joining in?” the bartender asked, putting my drink in front of me. He was tall and well built, wearing the black t-shirt and slacks that seemed to be the uniform around here. Hazel eyes sparkled with amusement at my mock groan of exasperation. “Not your kind of thing? The speed dating, that is.” The hazel lit up with flecks of gold.

Realization dawned on me.
He was totally checking me out!
He was handsome enough that I could appreciate it, but there wasn’t a spark. Not even a flicker. “Thanks for the drink,” I murmured, making a quick exit. In the short while I had been at the bar, the lights had dimmed even more, somehow managing to give the huge room in an intimate feel. Squinting, I realized all the couches were occupied with couples chatting.

Damn.
Skirting around the edge, I weaved in and out of the furniture, trying my hardest not to intrude and feeling more and more like a spare wheel. Eventually I gave up the search, settling on a convenient step to enjoy my drink, letting the low murmur of voices and the tinkle of the bell signaling change of partners wash over me.

Digging in the bottom of my glass, I fished out an ice cube and sucked it into my mouth. I wasn’t ready to try and make my way back to the bar just yet, even though my ass had gone numb ages ago and I was dying to kick my heels off and wriggle my toes.
Screw it.
I toed them off. Much better.

“Excuse me?” The voice came from behind me, a low, throaty rumble that sent goosebumps skittering down my spine.

I glanced over my shoulder, then tilted my head, my eyes traveling up long legs clad in black jeans, muscular thighs and a trim waist. Then up some more, this time taking in the broad expanse of chest, the black t-shirt straining over wide shoulders.

“Keep going, I’m up here.” Amusement tinged his voice with a smirk.

There’s no need for that!
“I’m getting to it,” I snapped out, deciding to take my time. A square jaw with a dusting of hair, high cheekbones, thin lips—yep, curved in a smirk. I paused, then forced myself to meet his eyes. Vivid apple green stared back at me, the color so luminescent, I knew straight away that this man was a shifter. And a big one, at that. What was startling, though, was his hair. From my assessment of his face, his body, I’d expected him to be groomed, or at least neat and tidy. His hair stood out from his head in spikes and tufts, a gorgeous honey brown tipped with gold. Disheveled and dangerous looking, he had to be security of some sort.

I pinned my hands to my sides, just in case I accidentally reached out and poked him, just to see if those muscles were actually real. Because that would be bad. And they couldn’t be, right?

“Have you finished?”

Heat rushed to my cheeks. What had started out as innocent, then morphed into defiance, was now just plain embarrassing. I was staring at the guy like he had two heads! I lurched to my feet, my legs throbbing and protesting the sudden movement.

“Whoa, easy there,” he murmured, reaching out to steady me as I wobbled on the step. “Are you okay?”

I nodded, words deserting me for the first time in my adult life.
He’s just so goddamn big! And gorgeous! And hot! And—
I cut off the babble inside my head.

He was staring at me, his head tilted to the side as though in consideration.

Of what?
Surely not—

He moved an inch closer, crowding me against the wall. A low growl filled the space between us.

Mouth dry, I swallowed. “I really should be—”

He took a deep breath, his eyes closing for a brief second. “What’s your name?”

“My name?”
Why did he want to know? I wasn’t anyone—just the dumpy girl next door. The kind of woman a man like him wouldn’t look twice at.

“Yes, your name. Unless you want me to call you my little
gatito?
” He growled the last word, the sound stirring a heat inside of me.

My high school Spanish might be a little rusty, but I was pretty sure he had just called me a… “Kitten?”
Damn my voice for coming out all breathy!

“And
little
, don’t forget that part. Though from the look you’re giving me, maybe I should have called you feisty
.

The low timbre of his voice was turning my insides to mush, along with my brain. “Lara.”

His lips curled in a smile, revealing white, even teeth. “Shame. I liked my name for you better.” He moved a little closer.

My back bumped up against the wall. Throwing up a hand between us, I pushed against his chest.
Big mistake.
His muscle was solid under my fingers, his heat sinking into my hand and traveling up my arm, liquid and thrilling. “Why—? Who—?”

His mouth came down on mine, swallowing my confused stutter.
He gave me no warning…
It was my last coherent thought as need flared up inside me, roaring through me with an urgency I had never known before.

My fingers curled into his shirt, twisting the soft cotton as I opened my mouth to his questing tongue, his taste invading me as his hands moved urgently, stroking up and down my body, molding and exploring my overly-generous curves.

BOOK: The Lion's Pride (BBW Paranormal Lion Shifter Romance) (The True Date Agency)
3.7Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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