Leopard Territory (Big Cat Mates)
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Copyright ©2013 Cynthia Sax
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Today, Tanner will finally see me as desirable. Jeanine tugged on her trim-fitting black suit jacket in an attempt to accentuate her nonexistent breasts. He'll choose me as his mate, and I'll join the Leone pride permanently.
She stared at her image in the lobby's gilded mirror. I'll belong. She smoothed her hair until her straight dark locks fell perfectly into place around her face.
"Are you grooming for me, kitten?" a deep voice rumbled, and every nerve ending in Jeanine's body hummed to life, her nipples tightening and her pussy moistening.
"No." She raised her gaze, knowing who she'd see, the only male who had this physical effect on her.
Adar's scarred face reflected behind her, his cat eyes as hard as the mirror's surface, his hair clipped ruthlessly short. A dark suit clung to his broad shoulders and muscular form as though it was a second skin, his tie as plain and as stark as his suit. The cutthroat financier didn't need adornment to draw eyes. Power and danger rolled off Adar in heavy seductive waves.
"I'm not grooming for you." Jeanine's voice grew husky, her reaction to the leopard shifter primal and frustratingly undeniable. Safe, constantly-laughing Tanner was the male she should want. Adar was the male she couldn't resist.
Adar's lips pressed into a grim, white line. "Then this." He curled a lock of her hair around his coarse index finger, his touch possessive and knowing. "Must be for that unworthy cub. Do you think cold brittle perfection will attract him?"
"Do you find me cold?" Jeanine turned and gazed up at Adar, the male who'd financed Leone Media's rebuild, loaning them money when all of the banks had turned them down.
"No, never, kitten." His eyes softened. "But I see beyond this." Adar traced the collar of her jacket, and she shivered. "If he saw what I did, he couldn't help but want you." He outlined the slight curve of her breast, his touch rough and exciting.
He wants me. Jeanine placed her palms on his lapels, his enticing body heat making her reckless and bold. "Then help me show him." She pressed against Adar, the ridge in his dress pants reassuringly hard -- the proof of his attraction undeniable. "Make me appear desirable." She licked her bottom lip, and his gaze tracked the movement. "I know you can. Leopards are renowned for their cunning and stealth, aren't they?"
"We also consume every animal we hunt." Adar slid his hands up her back, and she arched her spine, pushing her breasts into his chest. "And we're very protective of our territory." He bent his head and mouthed along her ear, his ardent nibbles curling her toes. "We don't allow anyone else to touch what we consider ours."
Warmth spread across her chest, Jeanine having never belonged to anyone. "No one else is touching me." She tilted her head, allowing Adar more access, needing his touch. "He doesn't want me."
"He's an ass." Adar dragged his teeth over her neck, and she moaned softly, the sensation exquisite. "Why do you care if he doesn't want you?"
"No one wants me and I'm tired, so tired of always being on the outside, cut off from everyone else." Jeanine glanced at the entranceway; a wall separated the lobby from the main office. She missed birthday parties and company meetings because someone had to cover reception, and that someone was always her. That would change if she were Tanner's mate. She'd be one of them, and they would have to include her. "I want to be in there."
Adar pulled away from her and cool air rushed between them -- a frigid blast of reality, shocking her out of her reverie. The financier studied her with his unblinking, all-seeing eyes, peering at her as though he saw into her very soul. "You want to be safe."
"Yes." That too. Jeanine stared at Adar, wondering how he knew what no one else cared to understand. Why couldn't he be a lion, a member of a pride? I could love him then.
Adar cupped one of her cheeks, his palm rough, crisscrossed with scars, evidence of the hard life he'd led. "You want to be protected."
"Yes." Jeanine pushed her face into him, nuzzling his hand, drawn to Adar.
And I want to belong. She waited, but Adar didn't ask that question because he didn't fully understand. He was a leopard shifter, a solitary species with no family, no pride. If only... She bit her lip, censoring that thought, unwilling to ask him to be something he wasn't.
He moved his thumb in lazy, sensual circles over her skin, the caress hypnotic, enthralling, lowering all of her defenses, not that she needed them with Adar. He'd never hurt her. She didn't know how she knew that. She simply did. "And you chose the youngest Leone brother because?"
"Tanner is always smiling." Jeanine tensed, expecting Adar to laugh, to belittle her reason, a reason that sounded foolish to her own ears.
The tough financier nodded, the furrows on his forehead smoothing. "You don't think he'll harm you."
"He won't. He'd never harm me." She rushed to Tanner's defense. The lion shifter didn't have a violent bone in his body, unlike the forceful male standing in front of her.
"No, he won't because I'd kill him if he ever harmed you." Adar's grip on her cheek intensified. "I can protect you, kitten, better than he can."