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Sexy Beast VI
By KATE DOUGLAS ANYA HOWARD LYDIA PARKS
Copyright © 2009
Kensington Publishing Corp.
All right reserved.
Chapter One San Francisco, California
"Hey, Jazzy. What's up?"
"Yo, Deacon. Nuttin'. Just enjoying the sunshine." Jazzy Blue stepped over her buddy's long, bony frame, rapped his head with her knuckles, and flopped down on the ground. She lay back in the warm grass beside him and flung her arm over her eyes to block the glare-as well as any further conversation. It was better this way, when all she wanted to do was think about the dreams.
She felt the ripples of arousal between her legs and wished that particular feeling would go away. That and the itchy skin. At least she could scratch her arms. She couldn't very well sit out here in the park and rub her clit. Sex with the johns hadn't done it for her.
It never had, not since she was a little kid and her pimp had her out working the streets, but that wasn't unusual. Not for a kid who whored to stay alive. Sex was work, not pleasure, but damn it all, she really could use some pleasure about now.
Even Deacon was starting to look good.
She lifted her arm and glanced his way. He'd always felt more like a big brother than a potential lover, but beggars couldn't very well be choosers. It was getting worse, that sense that if she didn't have an orgasm right now she'd explode.
The odd thing was, the sexy feelings and all the weirdness seemed to be tied into the strange dreams she'd been having.
Really weird stuff about wolves and tall trees and the sound of animals huffing and growling beside and behind her. She'd been waking up scared half to death, waiting for something wild to pounce.
Of course, camping under a bush on the fringes of Golden Gate Park wasn't necessarily conducive to a good night's sleep, but it was the only place she had after trying to kill the man who'd kept her all these years. The corner of Jazzy's mouth curved up in a grin. It had definitely been one powerful moment, when she'd finally cut loose and attacked the bastard.
Of course, that had been the end of a roof over her head. One does not try to gut one's pimp with a serrated kitchen knife. Made for bad working relations. Crap. She was well rid of him.
All she knew about him was that he'd bought her from a slaver when she was about six and set her to whoring right away. No actual intercourse until she was ten or so, but the pedophiles who wanted to play out their sick fantasies would always disgust her. She'd rather not think about her not-so-pleasant childhood ... as if she'd ever had a chance to be a kid. Thank goodness she'd always had an active fantasy life. It had given her a way out, even if it was just in her mind.
Jazzy stretched her arms over her head and closed her eyes against the glare. Red flashed through her eyelids and she flopped her arm across her face once more. Images from the dream she'd had last night slipped uninvited into her mind. She felt again the bunch and stretch in her muscles as she'd leapt over a woodland creek in a futile attempt to run down a rabbit.
On four legs. She'd had big paws, a long, bushy tail, and she'd awakened exhausted, as if it had all been true. She wished she could ask the rest of the guys about their dreams, whether they ever had nights like hers, but they'd probably think she was nuts.
Amend that. More nuts than usual. Of course, that's what friends were for, wasn't it? To tell you when you were headed over the edge?
Either that or hold your hand and take the leap with you. Sanity's overrated, anyhow. Jazzy heard footsteps and the rustle of clothing. She lifted her elbow from her eyes enough to see who all was wandering by. Matt flopped down on the grass next to Nicky and Beth. It looked like the rest of the guys were hanging out as usual, down here at the memorial garden instead of their old turf over on Stanyan.
The crowd there was just too edgy, always looking for trouble. She used to fit in with them. Not anymore. Now she preferred hanging with the pack: Deacon, Matt, Nicky, and Beth.
And Logan. She couldn't forget Logan.
They fit together almost like family. Like a pack. Logan was the one who started it when he called them a mangy pack of wolves, said they had a feral kind of connection. Jazzy liked that. She could handle being called mangy as long as she got the feeling of being connected to someone.
It was a long time coming.
Maybe that's why she'd been dreaming of wolves and sex. Face it, anything that had to do with Logan was enough to make her horny.
She sat up and yawned, leaned over and picked a long strand of the grayish green grass that grew in clumps around the memorial garden. She ran it between her fingers and popped the thick stalk between her teeth. It was such a beautiful day. Perfect for hanging with her buds, nibbling on sweet grass, and watching the jet trails in the clear, blue sky.
She slanted another look toward Logan. He leaned against one of the slabs of granite that made up the heart of the memorial garden. With his face and all its sharp angles and planes lifted to the warming rays of the sun, he almost looked like a part of the stone. Damn, she could watch him all day. That long, lean body of his moved with a rhythm all its own. He gave her a hot, liquid tingle deep in her gut. Logan was way special.
He was tough, too. And really strong. Older than the rest of them. Kind of scary sometimes, with his head shaved halfway and all the tats. His body was a veritable canvas, covered in some absolutely rad artwork.
Nicky'd said even Logan's cock was covered in tattoos. Now that was something she'd like to see.
Of course, Matt had whispered to her one day that Nicky had studs in his dick, something he called a Jacob's Ladder. Little barbells running from the tip to his balls. She couldn't care less about Nicky's dick, but she couldn't help but wonder about the tats on Logan's.
Was he hard when the guy did it? How much did it hurt? She had a little tat of a flower on her ankle and it hurt like hell to get that one. She couldn't imagine sitting still while some guy stuck needles and dye there!
What was it with guys and their parts?
Jazzy turned away from Logan, flopped back down in the grass, and closed her eyes. She scratched at her itchy arms and wished she could just eat Logan up-after she got a look at his dick, of course. That wasn't going to happen. He didn't like it when anyone tried to get close, and checking out those tats would mean she'd gotten way too up close and personal.
"Jazzy? You got any of that cream?"
She blinked and there was Nicky, kneeling so close he blocked out her sunlight. "Your skin itching again?" She sat up and dug into her jeans pocket for the tube of skin cream she'd gotten a couple days ago.
"Feels like I'm ready to crawl right out of it. Just pop myself free of this bod and turn into"-he bared his teeth and growled-"a wolf!" He laughed and took the tube, squeezed a little lotion into his palm. "Sounds good in theory."
Nicky was such a sweetheart. Tall and slim, yet so gentle and quiet with dark eyes and olive skin. She wondered if he might be Indian, or maybe even Middle Eastern. His skin was almost as dark as hers, but right now his arms were covered with red streaks where he'd scratched himself raw.
Just like hers.
Nicky sighed as he slapped the lotion over his long arms. "I feel like a dork using your girly stuff."
Beth flopped down on the grass next to Jazzy and laughed. "That's because you are a dork." She swung her dark hair back over her shoulder and tilted her chin. Nicky snorted and jabbed her with his shoulder. She bumped him back and took the tube from Nicky's outstretched hand. "I need it, too."
Jazzy noticed Beth didn't really look Nicky in the eye. If she did, he'd know for sure how much she loved him. Jazzy knew, but only because she'd guessed. Beth never said a word about her feelings. She was afraid to, Jazzy was sure of that. Beth was really shy, not anything like Jazzy. She kept her chin tucked close to her chest and squeezed a thick spurt of white cream into her hand. Then she handed the tube back to Jazzy. "I wonder if we're allergic to something around here? Your arms are all red, too."
Jazzy chewed at the stalk of grass. She shrugged her shoulders.
"Nothing here but grass and trees."
Jazzy swung around at the sound of Logan's deep voice.
"Holy shit. Check this out."
When she looked in the direction he nodded, Jazzy felt her skin go cold. Beside her, Nicky went very still but he radiated an almost palpable tension. Jazzy grabbed his forearm. He shrugged her away. She turned him loose and watched the drama unfold.
Montana was nice, but it really felt good to be back in the city. Tala picked up her pace as she headed down Stanyan to Haight, where she planned to cut through the park to check on Keisha's memorial garden. She'd promised, after all.
As if she'd had a choice?
That thought alone was enough to make her smile.
Are the plants doing okay? Is the rock work still in place? Please, don't let there be graffiti ... like that's all Keisha had to worry about. Still, Keisha had won a national prize and the chance to design the garden, and it was lovely. Planted entirely with grasses native to the Himalayan steppe ... amazing, the varieties she'd chosen.
The same mix of grasses the Chanku needed to shift.
Only Keisha hadn't yet known of her Chanku heritage. That alone had made her choices special.
Tala reached the corner of Haight and Stanyan. The usual group of homeless youth whistled and made lewd comments. No big deal. She smiled and waved when she walked past the half dozen young men lounging around the street corner.
At another time, she might have been terrified by the suggestive leers and off-color comments, given her small stature and female gender. Since she'd become Chanku, it took an awful lot to frighten her.
Still, it never hurt to be cautious. She held her head up and kept walking. The sun passed behind a small wisp of fog. Tala shivered. Moments later, as she drew near Keisha's garden, she caught the sound of footsteps behind her. Memories of the recent attack here in the park were way too fresh to ignore. Luc, the leader of the San Francisco pack, had assured all of them that the wanted posters were off the Internet and for the moment, at least, no one seemed to be hunting Chanku, but ...
Tala risked a look back. Two of the young men she'd passed had broken off from the group and now followed her toward the memorial garden. Dressed in black, lips, noses, and eyebrows pierced with metal studs, they both had the glittery-eyed look of chronic drug users.
Rather than risk a surprise attack, Tala turned and faced them. She sent out a mental call for help and hoped like hell Mik or AJ heard.
The larger of the two kept coming until he was well within her personal space. He reached out to touch her hair, but Tala twisted away.
She wasn't afraid, but she wasn't stupid, either. Just very, very pissed off. She raised her chin and glared at the jerk. "Keep your hands to yourself."
"Bitch. Think you're too good?"
Tala heard something moving behind her, but who? She'd only noticed these two and her senses rarely failed her. She heard a low growl, sensed Chanku power-a wolven presence.
An unfamiliar wolven presence.
The kid groping her had his eyes glued to her breast. He grabbed her right arm with one hand, her left breast with the other.
Tala let her legs go limp, using her body weight to help her twist free, but his fingers tightened around both her breast and her arm.
Pain twisted through her body. She screamed in anger.
His friend screamed in fear and took off running.
A flash of gray knocked Tala to the ground. Her head hit the pavement, hard. Lights flashed behind briefly closed lids. She opened her eyes to a dark shape, spinning, snarling. Flashes of red, the coppery taint of blood. Nausea welled up with a rolling wave of vertigo when she tried to raise herself on one elbow.
More snarling and growling, a choked scream.
Another scream, behind her. A woman crying out, "Ohmygod, Nicky! Ohmygodohmygod ..."
Tala blinked. She was too close to focus. Her nostrils twitched with the thick smell of blood. Lots of blood, and bits of gray still spinning, a kaleidoscope of life and death and horrible sounds that seemed to go on forever.
Sounds that ended in a heartbeat, leaving only silence.
Harsh sobs broke the momentary hush, the cries of the dark-skinned woman who knelt beside her. Who put her hand out and touched the shoulder of a slender young man lying naked on the path in front of Tala.
All around them were pools of blood, and the torn, lifeless body of the punk who had grabbed her. One of the guys knelt beside the body and touched the chest, the side of his neck, the pulse point at his wrist. His movements appeared surprisingly competent, as if he'd done similar examinations before. He raised his head and frowned at Tala. "He's bled out already." His deep voice showed no emotion. "Nicky got both his jugular vein and carotid artery. The kid didn't have a chance."
Tala raised up on one elbow. She shook her head and caught her breath; waited for her vision to clear. "Who?"
"The wolf or this kid?" He stood up. "I don't know who he is, the one who grabbed you. The wolf was ... is Nicky, our friend."
The young woman kneeling beside her looked totally traumatized. She raised her head and stared at Tala. "He just changed," she said. "He joked about it, but I thought he was only kidding. I didn't believe him. Nicky saw that guy grab you, and he ripped off his clothes and changed." She shoved her knuckles into her mouth and closed off a sob.
Another young woman ran up and wrapped her arms around the first girl. Two more young men appeared, both of them dressed in black, lips, noses, and eyebrows pierced, arms and hands tattooed, heads shaved in strange patterns. They knelt beside the unconscious youth lying in the trail. The first punk, the one who'd examined the body, stood off to one side, apart from the others, but Tala knew he was one of them.
They'd all come from the direction of Keisha's garden.
The garden where the Tibetan grasses grew.
Suddenly Mik was there, and AJ beside him, and Tala's head was still spinning, though not nearly as badly. The three guys pulled back, cautious, obviously intimidated by the two large men.
All but the first young woman who stayed beside her comatose friend.
"Are you okay? What happened?" Mik touched Tala's shoulder, but his eyes were on the naked young man lying next to her on the ground. He was alive, his chest barely rising and falling with each breath.
"Do you have the car?" Tala glanced up at AJ.
He nodded. "I do."
She held out her hand. AJ grabbed it and helped Tala sit up. She bowed her head a moment against her bent knees while the world spun. Then she looked up at AJ. "We need to take them with us. All of them. Now." Tala touched the shoulder of the young woman kneeling beside her on the path. "I want you and your friends to come with us. We can help you, but not if the police get here first. Mik, can you carry him?"
Mik nodded. The girl nodded as well, but it was nothing more than an automatic response. Her black hair swung like a silken curtain; her eyes still looked glazed.
Her amber eyes.
Mik carefully picked up the unconscious youth and cradled his lanky, naked body gently in his arms. The others watched him, each with a feral gleam in eyes the color of dark amber. All of them shared the same look: the tall, lean bodies, the golden eyes with flecks of green. Tala took the hand of the young woman who'd cried out and gestured to the other girl, who'd walked back toward the garden, still obviously dazed. "Come with us. We'll keep you safe. We'll take care of your friend."
It was the one who'd been playing doctor, a tall, lean man. He appeared to be a bit older than the others, but he wore the same kind of silver studs in his eyebrows, nose, and ears. The same dark, heavy clothing. The left side of his head was completely shaved while hair hung in long tangles from the right. His face and hands, all that showed outside his black shirt and pants and heavy, knee-length coat, were covered in tattoos. He stared at Tala a moment longer. "Why do you want to help us?"
Excerpted from Sexy Beast VI by KATE DOUGLAS ANYA HOWARD LYDIA PARKS Copyright © 2009 by Kensington Publishing Corp.. Excerpted by permission.
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