Here is the first chapter of “Talon”.
*This is a raw, unedited, and subject to change.
Release Date: February 2016
The footage had been seen on every news outlet around the world. Two men, shifting into black panthers at the edge of a forest in northern Mississippi. The video was as clear as the blue sky above. They’d been seen and the entire world now knew that shifters existed.
Talon Shaw gritted his teeth at the reporter who kept asking some of the most idiotic questions he’d ever heard in his life. Why the fuck they wanted to know about their mating rituals was beyond invasive and he sure as hell wasn’t going to let that bit of information out into the general public. Every human would run away screaming if they had any idea how that happened.
He’d been in talks with local law enforcement and the media for almost a week now. If it wasn’t for Ranger and Kye’s stupidity, they wouldn’t be in this situation. They’d be living peacefully on the pride’s two hundred acre ranch south of town with no one the wiser.
“How long have your kind been around?” a reporter asked.
“Where did you come from?” another chimed in, talking over everyone else.
“Are you dangerous?” a cute blonde asked, raising her hand.
“Our kind have been around for thousands of years,” Talon began, looking out into the sea of human reporters. It was hard to keep from squinting at the bright flashes from the reporters who were using cameras. “We are a peaceful group, usually keeping to ourselves. Our ancestors were warriors for kings in ancient times. Panthers have no hatred toward anyone, human or animal.”
“How old are you?” A male reporter asked, leaning forward to make himself be seen. Talon recognized him from the local station.
“I am twenty nine years old,” he answered.
“And you are the leader of this…pride?” the male asked, looking confused at his choice of words.
They were different from their animal cousins. Usually, panthers were solitary animals, only coming together to procreate. Since the beginning of time, the shifters had stuck close together, maintaining a family environment. Their ancestors actually coined the name pride in reference to their families.
“Yes, I am. Every pride has a leader, an alpha. It is his responsibility to nurture and provide for his people. Without the leadership of an alpha, the pride will suffer and eventually die out. It is my responsibility to make sure that they have work and a safe environment to exist and raise their young.”
“You own a few companies, Mr. Shaw,” another reporter began. “Is this how you provide? Do you only employee your own kind?”
“I employ members of my pride and humans,” he said, trying his best not to fidget in his seat. He had to answer these questions as honestly as possible, but not so honest that the people who worked for him would be targeted.
“Did the humans know that you shift into an animal?” a woman called out.
“No,” he answered, simply.
The questions kept coming and eventually, the time was up. His brother, Noah and his second in command, Winter Blue, escorted Talon to an awaiting SUV, whisking him away from the steps of the City Hall building.
“I’m so glad that is over,” Talon sighed, leaning back in his seat. It’d been a long day of answering questions.
“We should be able to breathe a little this weekend,” Noah smiled. “I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to have a beer.”
“That sounds like a great idea,” Talon smiled. “Let’s hit up The Deuce for dinner.”
“Do you think there will be a problem?” Winter frowned. Winter was not only his second in command, but also the head of his security company, S.S.S. or Shaw Security Specialists as the sign over their office complex stated.
“No,” Talon replied. “We will not run away from this town. Running only makes them believe that we have something to hide. This pride will continue their daily routines regardless of the media and whatever they say.”
“Then a beer it is,” Noah smiled. “Let’s hope that little bar owner is there tonight.”
“Just a beer, Noah,” Talon warned, not giving away any emotions. He didn’t want to think about that woman that owned the bar they visited.
Liberty Raines was there most nights, but that didn’t mean that they’d interacted with her very often. She was always too busy working for them to strike up a conversation. There was something about the little brunette that sent Talon’s panther into a growling frenzy. It must’ve been her scent. Oh, he could pick it out of the crowd. The combination of wildflowers and sunshine was permanently etched into his brain.
The last thing he needed in his life was a woman. He had too many things going on now that they’d been ousted to the humans. The fact that she was a human sealed the deal on the certainty that he wanted nothing to do with her. A panther and a human didn’t mix, and he sure as hell wasn’t going to drag a human into his world.
Not now…not ever.
* * *
The bar was mostly quiet. Liberty wiped down the old wooden bar top with a fresh rag out of the bucket with clean, sanitized water. The television was on above her head. The news had been on their breaking story for a week now.
The fairytales from childhood nursery rhymes had come true. Paranormal stories of men who shifted into animals were no longer fiction.
It was real. It’d been real for as long as the Earth had orbited around the sun.
Her waitress was sitting on a stool at the end of the bar, totally engrossed in the nightly newscast. A group of men were filmed shifting into sleek, black panthers at the edge of a wooded area just south of town not too far from her bar.
Some of these men had been regulars, and Liberty had never noticed anything different about them. They all seemed so…normal. Well, that was a lie. None of those men were anywhere near normal looking. They all were larger than the average man that stepped foot into her little business. Each one was tall, muscular. Their shoulders were wide, arms rippling with muscles that seemed to overlap themselves. They moved with grace despite their size. Every woman in the room noticed them when they took their normal seats in the back corner, ordering their drinks and food with no problems. Each and every one of the men that entered were beyond handsome. Sexual prowess oozed off of them whenever they were around. Even Liberty had to admit that they had thrown her hormones into overdrive a time or two.
“I still can’t believe this is happening,” Nicole gasped. She leaned back, her blonde hair falling in ringlets at her back. “And in our little town! Did you know that I saw several news vans on my way in earlier?”
“I’ve heard the media is going crazy over all of this,” she admitted.
Liberty shot a quick look at the screen, averting her eyes when the man claiming to be the pride’s alpha started talking about his secret. She didn’t have to even look at the screen to know who it was, because she would’ve known his voice anywhere.
Talon Shaw was a regular in her bar. He and his buddies would be there every Friday and Saturday night, staying until last call and sometimes during the week. They’d interacted a few times, and he’d always seemed to be aware of everything that went on in the bar. Oh, she’d noticed how he watched her move around, helping wait tables and delivering food when the place became busy during rush hour. She’d be lying if she said that she hadn’t watched him from the corner of her eye whenever he walked in the door, too.
The man who was the leader of these shifters was huge. His dark hair was short cropped, but on the top of his head his hair was a little longer. It barely covered his ice blue eyes where it fell off to the side. His arms were so large that she was sure his shirt would split at the seams if he sneezed. His skin looked to be soft as satin, and a few times, Liberty would have a full bodied shiver attack her when she’d thought about the possibility of those arms brushing against hers by accident. She honestly didn’t think she’d live through that much stimulus…if she’d ever get that close to the man.
“Are you even watching this?” Nicole called out.
“No,” Liberty replied. “It’s none of my business.”
“Yes, it is,” Nicole cursed. “Do you realize these guys have been here every weekend? It is your business, Liberty. Are you going to let these freaks back in the bar tonight when they show up?”
“Now hold on one damn minute,” Liberty barked. “They are as welcome here as anyone else.”
“Are you serious?” she scoffed, throwing her hands in the air. “I can’t believe this!”
“I’m going to only say this once, Nicole,” Liberty said, dropping her rag in the bucket and making her way to the end of the bar. “This is my bar and I will decide who is welcome or not. If these guys come in here, you are to treat them like any other paying customer. Got me?”
“Yes…yes, ma’am,” Nicole answered in defeat.
“Now, go prep for the dinner rush,” Liberty ordered, flipping off the television. “This place should start filling up within the hour, and I think maybe I need to have a meeting with everyone before we get started tonight.”
She watched Nicole hop off the barstool, grabbing her order pad as she walked into the backroom. The last thing she needed was for her waitresses to be mean or hateful to the group of men…no, the panthers that spent time in her bar.
She busied herself with making sure all of the coolers were stocked with beer bottles and covered with ice. She stacked cups at each station behind the bar and refilled the napkin and straw caddies for the bartenders who’d be arriving soon.
It was thirty minutes before the employees started trickling in for their shift. Moe, their cook, was the first to arrive, stopping to kiss Liberty’s cheek. “Good evening, doll.”
“Hey, Moe,” she smiled. Moe had been around since before she took over the place. The Deuce had been in her family for two generations. Her father had left the bar to her when he died from a sudden heart attack just less than a year before. Her mother and grandparents had passed several years prior in a fatal car accident, leaving her younger sister as the only living relative in the area.
The Deuce was located at the very outskirts of the town of Olive Branch, in Northern Mississippi. The town was just over the state line from Tennessee and the city of Memphis. Liberty loved her town, never finding the appeal of moving away. The people there were friendly and having the best, most popular bar in town kept her busier than she’d ever thought possible.
Moe tied on his apron, covering his rounded belly. He was in his late fifties and had already started shaving his head to hide the fact that his hair was now completely white. “Before you start prep, I need to have a meeting with everyone.”
“Sure, darlin’,” he drawled in his southern accent.
The two bartenders and four extra waitresses gathered around Moe, waiting for Liberty to make her speech.
“I’m going to make this short and sweet,” she began, letting her eyes fall on each and every one of her employees. “We’ve all seen the news and know that it all centers around some of our customers. We will treat everyone that walks through that door with respect. A lot of things are going on right now and we need to show that our customers are our top priority. These men, who’ve been coming here for a while now, are still just like all of us. They eat food and drink beer. I want you to treat them as if you’d never heard about their story. This is all I ask of you. If you have any problems, and I mean any, you come get me. Okay?”
Everyone nodded or spoke their understanding, most of them heading off to their stations. The two bartenders, Cole Bryant and Luke Everett squeezed Liberty’s shoulder as they passed, silently giving her their support. Nicole didn’t show any emotions as she headed off to the backroom for more supplies. Mary Grace Browning and Della Carter smiled warmly and started turning on lights over the pool tables in the back of the bar.
“Sis?” Nova, Liberty’s baby sister, smiled, wrapping an arm around her shoulders. “That’s awesome that you are willing to treat those men just like anyone else.”
“Why do you say that?” Liberty frowned.
“People around town are a little spooked,” she shrugged. “I don’t really see a problem with what they are. It’s not like they’ve ever caused any trouble in here or in town.”
“Exactly,” Liberty smiled, ruffling her sister’s long, brown hair. Nova giggled and swatted at her hand, shaking her head as she left to get ready for the dinner crowd.
Liberty and Nova were just three years apart in age. Nova had just turned twenty one a few months ago and Liberty’s birthday was in a few weeks. Being a bar owner at the age of twenty four was not something she’d imagined for herself at this age. She’d hoped to go to college, and had taken a few classes, but after her father’s death, she had to step up and take over the bar or it would’ve been lost to the bank. The Deuce meant too much to her and her sister to let it go. It was one of the hardest decisions she’d had to make as an adult, but she could honestly say that it’d been the best.
As the bar began to fill up, Liberty spent time doing office work so that she could be on the floor when the crowd really got going around eight o’clock. Her office was in the back of the building, down the hallway from the bathrooms and a small employee breakroom.
The building itself was old, but had been renovated about eight years ago, her father updating everything in the building. There were minimal problems with the bar and Liberty was thankful that she didn’t have to spend time fixing leaks or any type of maintenance issues that came up, because she had no clue how to fix things on her own. She was thankful that Moe and the two bartenders were handy with tools.
Leaving the office, she checked the bathrooms, refilling the paper towel dispenser in the women’s room. She knocked on the men’s room door and yelled, “Management! Is there anyone in there?”
“I got it, Libby,” Cole announced as he came around the corner. “Go on out front and cover the bar for me. I’ll be right out.”
“Ah, thanks, Cole,” she smiled, handing him a rag and a bottle of cleaner. He nodded and ducked into the men’s room without another word.
The hallway by the bathrooms dead ended into another short hallway. Turning left would take you into the kitchen and turning right dumped you out into the bar area. She quickly checked on Moe in the kitchen but didn’t say anything to the older man. He was busy plating orders and setting them in the window for the waitresses to deliver to the tables.
Liberty gasped as she turned the corner and almost plowed right into her sister. “Nova! Where’s the fire, girl?”
“Sorry,” Nova gasped, her face flushed. “They’re here.”
“Who’s here?” she questioned.
“The cats,” Nova giggled, but zipped her lip when Liberty scowled at her. “Sorry, Talon Shaw and his crew are here and everyone is staring at them.”
“Why is your face so red? Did anything happen?” Liberty asked.
“No,” Nova smiled. “Um, one of them was flirting with me.”
“Girl,” liberty swore. “Stay away from those boys. In fact, stay away from all boys. They’re nothing but trouble. Now, go wait your tables.”
“Okay,” she giggled, bouncing off to the kitchen to grab her orders. At twenty-one, her sister was strikingly beautiful and single. That was a bad combination.
Liberty shook her head and made her way out to the bar, glancing over at the booth in the back corner. Talon and his brother Noah sat with four other men, all talking and laughing amongst themselves.
As if she’d called out, Talon’s head snapped around, their eyes locking from across the room. His face was momentarily cast in a shadow from the dim lights; that was until his head tilted to the side curiously. Liberty was rooted to her spot as Talon’s ice blue eyes darkened. A hint of yellow seeped into them, and as quickly as she gasped, the color was gone and so was the hold he had over her body. His brother nudged him, causing the alpha to turn his head, but not before the corner of his lip lifted into a naughty smirk.
“Can you take these drinks over to our local celebrities?” Luke asked, setting another round of beers on a tray.
“Sure,” she nodded, sliding the tray onto the flat of her hand that was suddenly shaky.
As she approached the table, she watched Talon’s back stiffen. His head raised slightly and his shoulders seemed to double in size as he breathed deeply. Two of the men lifted their gazes and smiled. Talon lowered his head and looked up at her through thick, dark lashes.
“Gentlemen,” Liberty smiled, setting a fresh bottle in front of each man.
“Thank you,” Talon said, his voice a deep timbre. In fact, she could’ve sworn she heard a slight rumble coming from his chest, but she could’ve been mistaken too. The music was so loud that it may have been a part of the song that was playing over the speakers.
“Is there anything else I can get you?” she asked, taking the empty bottles off of their table.
“Yes, darlin,” a slurred voice said from behind her. “You can tell these freaks they’re not wanted.”
“Excuse me,” she snarled, setting the tray on Talon’s table and turning around to find Terry Holmes, a guy she’d gone to school with, swaying where he stood, his eyes bloodshot and watery.
“I said…you need to kick these abominations out of your bar,” he snarled. “Your daddy would be rolling over in his grave if he knew you were serving these…these pussies, Liberty.”
Liberty was shocked for a moment, but then her temper kicked into high gear. “Terry, my daddy would’ve never been so hateful. Now, you need to just go on back to your seat, and if you can’t behave yourself, I’ll call Sherriff Lynch and have him come pick you up. I think you’ve had enough for the night.”
Terry sputtered for a moment, his face turning red. Before she could blink, Terry reached around her and grabbed Talon’s wrist, “I said they need to go!”
In a move her daddy would be proud of, Liberty seized hold of Terry’s wrist, adding just enough pressure for his hand to release the alpha’s wrist. The men at the table cursed and began to scramble as Liberty spun herself to the side, taking Terry to his knees. In a matter of seconds, Liberty had Terry’s arm behind his back at such an odd angle, the other patrons in the bar cringed at the look of pain that cross the drunk man’s face.
“Hear me and hear good,” Liberty bellowed, her southern accent thickening with her anger. “This is my bar! It doesn’t matter who or what you are…black, white, human…shifter or God knows what else is out there, you will not disrespect my customers or anyone who works in this building. From this moment forth, The Deuce is neutral territory. Leave your opinions and your differences at the damn door.” With that, Liberty dropped her hold on Terry. The man scrambled to his feet just as Talon’s friends gathered at her back.
“You will regret this, Liberty Raines,” Terry snarled, pointing a dirty finger in her direction. Liberty stifled a laugh because Terry was pointing at something over her shoulder.
“Go on, Terry,” she barked, shaking her head. “You are out of here for two weeks. Don’t let me see you back here until you can behave yourself.”
She watched Terry until he stumbled out of the door, one of his friends following him out to his car. When she turned around, she gasped at the six men who were standing so close to her back that she almost face planted into one of their beefy chests.
“Why did you do that?” Talon asked, stepping closer. His head tilted to the side again. She mentally slapped herself when she thought he resembled her cat Mittens when she would tilt her head from side to side.
“Um, because he was drunk and touched one of my customers,” she answered. “I’m sorry that happened. Are you okay?”
“I’m perfectly fine,” he snarled, looking like he could take her over his knee. Damn, he was mad.
“Are you mad?” she scoffed.
“No, ma’am,” Talon sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose. “I’m not angry at you. What I want to know is, why did you defend us?”
“Because this is my bar and I won’t tolerate disrespect,” she nodded, toward his hand. “Do you need some ice? He grabbed you pretty hard.”
“No,” Talon snorted, calming slightly. “We…um, we heal pretty quickly.” To prove his point, Talon raised his wrist for her to see.
Liberty gasped as she watched as the darkening under his skin evaporated and immediately vanished within seconds. “That’s really cool.”
“Thank you,” Talon smiled. “We believe in repaying our debts. The Shaw Pride is in debt to you, Ms. Raines. If you are ever in need of us, please let us know.”
“Ah, that won’t be necessary,” she blushed, looking up into Talon’s eyes. He was damn near a foot taller than her. His shoulders were wider than a damn door frame. This man, and all of the men with him, probably lifted dump trucks just for the fun of it. “Maybe if I need some manual labor…moving a house. I’ll let you know.”
“Liberty?” Talon called out, just as she turned to walk away. When she looked over her shoulder, Talon’s nostrils had flared slightly and yellow sparks had seeped into his eyes. She felt her body warm from just his look. Oh, this couldn’t be good.
“Yeah?” she stuttered.
“Do not ever put yourself in a dangerous position with a drunk human male again,” he ordered, his eyes completely changed to a glowing yellow.
“Yes,” she sighed, breathlessly. “Um, okay.”
Without another glance, Liberty rushed off to her office, slamming the door behind her. Bending at the waist, she gasped for air as she tried to calm her heart from thundering in her chest. If she closed her eyes, she could still see those beautiful eyes, and she could’ve sworn his scent still lingered around her body. That scent alone caused a heavy feeling in her breasts and a dull ache deep in her belly.
She didn’t know what the hell was going on with her body. Liberty Raines was a strong, independent woman and she would never let a man tell her what to do, but why in the hell did every part of her mind, body, and soul want to obey exactly what Talon Shaw had ordered her to do?
* * *
“You know that son of a bitch is going to come back, right?” Noah asked, draining the rest of his beer. His keen eyesight swept across the bar, looking for any sign of trouble.
“He won’t touch her,” Talon vowed. There was something about the woman that made his protective instincts awaken. The feeling was so foreign to him that it shocked him silent for a moment. The feeling was different from his need to protect his pride. No, this was different…stronger.
“Whoa, dude,” Noah drawled, leaning forward to get a good look at Talon’s face. “Your panther interested in the little bar owner?”
“What?” Talon growled, feeling his panther close to the surface. He shook himself, trying to silently tell his cat to calm the fuck down. He wasn’t looking for a mate and that little human bar owner was not what he needed…ever. They why in the hell was he being drawn to her?
“Uh, yeah, man,” he snickered. “Your kitty cat is prowling.” Noah laughed and pointed to his own eyes, alerting Talon to the fact that his were turning amber.
“Why the fuck do you call it my kitty cat?” he barked, wanting to strangle his little brother and change the subject. The kid was barely twenty two years old, but acted like he was still fifteen sometimes. “Boy, did momma drop you on your head as a baby? I don’t remember if she did.”
The other men at the table, Savage, Dane, Storm, and Winter, looked everywhere but at their alpha, choosing to ignore his brother and his stupid mouth.
“Naw,” he laughed. “I was the good one, remember? She loved me more than you or Kye.” Kye was the youngest. At seventeen, he was about to graduate high school and head off to college. Talon hoped like hell that their little announcement to the world didn’t affect his bother’s future.
“Shut up, Noah,” Winter barked. “Boy, you don’t know when to quit do you?”
“Nope,” Noah grinned. “He loves me. It’s all good, my friends.”
“Now, I see why some mothers eat their young,” Talon mumbled.
Talon ignored his brother’s rambling and watched the bar with a keen eye. Liberty was rushing out with a tray of food. The tiny brunette looked very small in comparison to the tray she was holding. Her big brown eyes were framed with long lashes, her cheekbones high and sculptured just right. Talon suppressed a groan when he watched her lean over to place a plate of food in front of one of her customers. The tight denim jeans she wore molded to her shapely hips. Her tight tank top made her large breasts defy the material’s ability to stretch to its limits. On her feet, she wore a pair of tennis shoes that had seen better days.
“Your tongue is hanging out,” Winter said, nudging Talon’s side. “She’s human, boss.”
“I know,” Talon replied, not taking his eyes off of the beautiful woman. “I’m trying to figure out why she protected us, and to take on a man twice her size.”
“She’s a human alpha,” Savage shrugged, pointing the top of his beer bottle in her direction. “That little lady right there is a force in her world. I’ve met a few like her. That man, Terry, best not be causing trouble in here or she’ll eat him for lunch.”
“It goes against everything we’ve been taught to see a woman have to defend herself, let alone people she doesn’t even know.” Talon glanced at all of his men.
“If I were a human male, I wouldn’t want to piss her off in a dark alley.” Savage shivered and downed the rest of his beer.
“Nope,” Storm laughed, running his hand through his short cropped blonde hair, his ice blue eyes sparkling with humor. In fact, the only way to tell that these men were in fact panthers was to look at their eyes. Each and every one of their eyes had a unique ice blue color. Only when their panther took over did the color change to a glowing amber.
“Hey, boys,” a waitress smiled as she approached the table. “Names Della, and the boss lady said these were on her.” Della popped her bubblegum as she unloaded her tray of ice cold beers on the table. She folded the tray under her arm and smiled at Winter, winking when his brows raised. “Let me know if you need anything else.”
“Can we order some food?” Noah asked, pulling a menu from behind the salt and pepper shakers at the back of the table. “I’m starving.”
“Whatcha craving, baby boy?” she smiled. Over the past few months, they’d learned this new waitress, Della Carter, was in her mid-forties and didn’t take crap from anyone. She dressed as if she were twenty and had the body to pass it off. Talon was certain she achieved that by some type of plastic surgery, but he wasn’t one to judge.
“I’d like a double cheeseburger,” he paused. “With a side of fries, onion rings, fried mushrooms and add two chicken sandwiches to that.”
“You’re going to eat all of that?” Della raised a brow in shock.
“I’m a growing boy,” Noah smirked. “Plus, that’s just an appetizer.”
Della laughed and made her way around the table, gasping at the amount of food the men ordered. Talon smiled to himself. If she only knew how much we spent on groceries, she’d be happy with this small order.
“What’s on the agenda for this evening, boss?” Winter asked, still watching the crowd for any trouble.
“Sitting here,” Talon replied, making his own sweep of the bar. “I’m not leaving here until this place closes tonight. Not sure if ole Terry will come back to confront Liberty.”
“You really think he will?” Noah asked.
“He may,” Talon nodded. “Let’s just enjoy the night off and tomorrow we can rest until the Fall Equinox gathering at the main house.”
Every Equinox and Solstice, the panthers gathered for a night of celebrations, giving thanks to the ancient gods who made them what they were. Usually, the women of the pride would prepare a large meal, serving it at the alpha’s home. After the sun set, Talon would hold a ceremony of thanks and then dismiss his pride to shift and hunt on the land. Whatever meat they didn’t eat was dragged back to the main house and the men would stay up past dawn to prepare it for storage, providing the pride with meat for the next three months.
They could shift anytime, day or night, but on the night of each season, their cats called to run with their fellow shifters. The women were guarded and they were not allowed to run alone. This was more out of a habit from ancient times. They were once hunted by their enemies and the one way to take out a pride was to kill their females. It was bred in their DNA to be protective and the women let them. For the females who were with child, they were not allowed to shift during their last trimester. A few of the men would stand guard at the gathering site, ensuring that the women were fully protected.
A commotion at the door had Talon backing out of his thoughts. The remainder of his guardians arrived fresh off of work for his construction company. Ranger Coleman and Booth Woods smiled at the passing waitress. Talon believed her name to be Mary Grace. She was a looker as well. Her old world looks gained the attention of Ranger and he laughed when he saw Booth smack his guardian in the back of his head to get his attention.
“Jesus, she fucking beautiful,” Ranger sighed, shaking his head and taking a seat outside the booth they were sharing.
“And she’s human,” Talon reminded him.
“But she’s a sturdy human,” Ranger wagged his eyebrows. Noah shook his head as he placed his face into his palms. Mary Grace was curved in all the right places. Human men ignored her because of her size, but to a panther…the healthier the woman, the better she’d handle him. A healthy female carried healthy cubs. It was the way things used to be and for their kind, the way it still was when it came to women.
The thought of sexy, thick thighs had Talon groaning under his breath when his mind drifted back to Liberty Raines. She was tiny in his eyes, but to a human, she could be considered stout. There was nothing wrong with her body. Her hips flared just enough for his large hands to grasp when making love. Her breasts were bountiful enough to feed his babe and any cubs that came after the first. Her skin was slightly tanned, her hands small but strong. Her lips looked like a cupid’s bow and they plumped perfectly when she pursed them in thought.
And those thoughts just needed to stop. Was he that observant of the little woman? Damn, he’d only spoken to her directly once and that was just earlier when Terry had caused a scene.
The night wound down and before Talon knew it, Liberty had started cleaning tables and shooing customers from their seats. As she made the rounds, he watched as she smiled warmly when she stopped at each table.
“Here’s your tab,” Liberty said, handing Talon a long slip of paper. They’d accumulated quite the bill. Talon didn’t even flinch at the amount at the bottom, retrieving his wallet and pulling out four large bills.
“That should cover everything,” he said, holding the money out for Liberty.
The moment their fingers touched, Talon’s spine stiffened and his panther lurched forward. A hot, debilitating current blazed through his body. His panther roared inside his head. From the look on her face, Talon knew she’d felt the odd sensation as well.
“Are…are you…purring?” she gasped, locking eyes with him. She didn’t cower down, nor did she run away. “Um, your eyes…they change color?”
Talon tried with everything he had to push his panther back. He knew what the hell was happening and the revelation stunned him even more. There was no possible way this could be happening.
“Boss, what’s wrong?” Savage growled, his body stiffening. Every one of the panthers could feel the electric charge in the air. Something was amiss…something was wrong. Winter, Savage, and Noah crouched low, defensively, awaiting a threat. Little did they know that there was no threat. They’d just witnessed something rare…something unusual.
“Boss?” Winter questioned.
“Um,” Liberty breathed, her eyes still locked with Talon’s penetrating gaze.
As Talon’s eyes began to clear, his panther finally relaxed. Knowing there were guardians around for protection, he felt his tension ease slightly, but not before the word slipped from his lips. It was one word…and that word told all of the panthers exactly what had happened.
“Mate,” Talon growled, reaching out to cup Liberty’s face with both of his hands. As soon as his lips crashed down on hers…he was lost. He’d found his mate.
And she was human.
Copyright 2016 @ Theresa Hissong