In Shifter's Claim Part II, from The Shadow Shifters series by A.C. Arthur, Priya never imagined there was truth to the story she'd been forced to track down, she never imagined coming face to face with a man that can shift into a cat.
Bas hadn't meant to reveal himself to her, he'd tried to protect the secret. Now, it was out and he wonders what the reporter will do with the information and more importantly, how the woman will react to this new facet of the man.
About the Author
A.C. Arthur was born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland where she currently lives with her husband and three children. An active imagination and a love for reading encouraged her to begin writing in high school and she hasn't stopped since. Her debut novel Object of His Desire was written when a picture of an Italian villa sparked the idea of an African-American/Italian hero. Determined to bring a new edge to romance, she continues to develop intriguing plots, sensual love scenes, racy characters, and fresh dialogue—thus keeping the readers on their toes!
A.C. Arthur was born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland where she currently lives with her husband and three children. An active imagination and a love for reading encouraged her to begin writing in high school and she hasn’t stopped since. Her debut novel Object of His Desire was written when a picture of an Italian villa sparked the idea of an African-American/Italian hero. Determined to bring a new edge to romance, she continues to develop intriguing plots, sensual love scenes, racy characters, and fresh dialogue—thus keeping the readers on their toes!
Read an Excerpt
Shifter's Claim Part II
The Shadow Shifters
By A.C. Arthur
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2014 A.C. Arthur
All rights reserved.
Priya felt like she was sinking. In her mind she thought of stepping into quicksand and going down, down, down, slowly, but most assuredly. Beneath her fingers and palms was the taut smoothness of his skin and beneath that, the steady heartbeat that rapped a quick rhythm almost matching her own.
His tongue scraped along hers as if he were tasting something he'd craved forever, and she moaned softly. Hands much stronger and much larger than she'd assumed had cupped her face about a second before his lips had begun their brutal assault. Now he held her in place, in truth he held her upright. Because with the very naked Sebastian Perry kissing her the way he was, Priya's entire body had turned to molten lava. Every part of her was on fire, her knees weak, her spine tingling, fingertips burning.
She moved her hands because if this was going to be her one shot at touching him all over she wanted to take full advantage. Or would he parade around naked in front of her again? She didn't believe that and didn't want to waste time considering it. Instead, she let her hands travel to his shoulders, broad and strong; she gripped him while tilting her head to deepen their kiss. Biceps roped with muscle greeted her next touch as her hands moved downward. Back up again she touched what she could of his back, but he was much broader than her arms were wide and she barely scraped the side of his shoulder blades. He radiated strength, all over, including the persistent punch of his thick arousal to her midsection.
She wanted to touch him there. The thought came quickly and she lost her breath with anticipation. Her hands moved to his torso then, thumbs rubbing along the sculpted board of his abs, down and back to tight buttocks. Then they were in front of him once more, moving of their own accord to where they wanted most to be. Her palms — shaking slightly but figuring it was too late to turn back — wrapped around his length, feeling the amazing heat that emanated from there.
Bas sucked in a breath at her touch and the connection of their lips was broken. For endless seconds they simply stared at each other, his gray gaze holding her plain old brown eyes captive.
"Put your hot little mouth there," he told her, dared her almost.
Priya wanted to pull away. He knew she wouldn't do it, knew without a doubt that she would not go to her knees and suck his thick hard dick, no matter how much she really wanted to. In that instant she added that to the list of things she was beginning to hate about Sebastian Perry: he knew too goddamned much.
Priya was no stranger to men. She'd cashed in her virginity card the night of the senior prom in a dismal initiation into adulthood. But none of her previous exploits, even the ones that had come much later in her adult life and ended with pretty strong orgasms on her part, could compare to the desire ripping through her body right now like a tropical storm.
Bas stood absolutely still, like a beautifully intricate sculpture of everything masculine, looking down at her with a smirk that all but called her a coward. She tightened her grip on him, holding firm at the base of his arousal as she glared up at him.
"And what will I get in return?" was her taunting question. It was probably a bad idea to play this game, with this man, but she didn't care. She wasn't in the mood to let him win another round.
The corners of his mouth tilted in a half smile as he lifted a hand to trace along the line of her lips. "It'll get you whatever you want, pretty girl."
On impulse her tongue snaked out to lick the tip of his finger on its trek across one more time. Bas's smile instantly disappeared. Emboldened by that reaction she licked around the pad of his finger before lowering her mouth, taking the digit in, sucking hard, then pulling back slowly. She watched him as she did this, his eyes growing darker, his dick pulsating in her hands, moisture seeping at the tip.
His hips thrust forward and she stroked his length, all the while suckling his finger. He pumped into her hand with more forcefulness, more rhythm and he reached up, clasping the back of her head, guiding her until they were totally in sync. Her nipples were so hard it was painful, her center throbbing, the lips of her vagina damp with desire.
"Pretty little Priya, with the hot-ass mouth. I wonder if the rest of you will be this hot," he whispered.
She would not try to respond, was positive she couldn't, considering her position and the fact that she just might tell him exactly what was hot on her right now.
"I wonder if I throw you on this bed if you'll open like a pretty flower for me and let me taste your sweet nectar."
She closed her eyes, couldn't help it. The choices were to either cut off the eye connection they had going on, or do as he said and lie on that bed, spreading her legs open wide for him. Closing her eyes didn't completely help since she was still licking his finger and palming his dick. None of which were things she should have been doing, or had even considered doing when she'd boarded a plane to come out here.
"Do you want me to taste you, Priya?" he asked, pulling his hand slowly from her mouth. "Open your eyes and tell me what you want."
Priya opened her eyes. She saw the lust plainly in his darkening gaze, in the way he licked his lips as he watched her, circling his hips as she stroked him. Her thumb brushed over his tip, felt the dampness of his arousal and she clenched her teeth.
"No," she said with a snap, then yanked her hands away from his dick. Not so sure about her movements and not at all confident she wouldn't reach out for him again or actually fall on the bed and beg him to take her, she backed away.
"As I told you before, this is not why I'm here." Her hands were shaking and she rubbed them up and down her thighs in an effort to stabilize her raging hormones.
"Do you want me to get down on all fours?"
He was sarcastic and he was serious and she hated both of those facts. She did not believe Sebastian Perry was a cat. Hell, she didn't even know if she believed in the whole cat-and-man thing. Sure, she'd seen some weird- ass eyes in the alley, but that could easily have been attributed to contact lenses, they came in all colors now. As for the story about the bank robbery, she wasn't completely sold on that either. This is why she'd never thought to write a story on any of this, not until the e-mails started. Now, she had no other choice but to investigate, to uncover and to hopefully reveal whatever it was Roman Reynolds and his friends wanted kept a secret.
"If that's going to turn you into a cat, fine," she said wearily. "If not, you can answer my questions honestly and I can get out of your life forever. It's that easy."
"I'd rather we both get on all fours, naked, together," he continued.
He hadn't moved, still stood in front of her in all his naked glory. And dammit, it was definitely glorious. She wanted him inside her, his dick, his tongue, whatever, she wanted it. And she cursed herself for that weakness, even if she had no intention of ever acting on it.
"You're not as alluring as you think you are," she said, in direct contradiction to what her body was feeling.
"And you're not that smart," was his quick retort. "At least not as smart as I thought you were."
"Wait a goddamned minute," she began, anger slowly pressing arousal out of the picture. "You are not going to stand here and talk to me like that!"
"No. I'm not," he replied, turning away from her. "I'm going to take a shower and get ready for bed. I've had a long day."
"I'm not finished talking to you."
"Then we can finish the conversation in the shower," he told her nonchalantly just before his delicious body disappeared through an opening in the wall.
She was not taking a shower with him! Not even if her life depended on it. And she wasn't going to storm out of this room, closing the door with a slam behind her, telling Sebastian Perry to kiss her ass in the process — because Malik's life did depend on this.
With resignation she followed Perry through the opening in the wall because she did not see a door anywhere and wondered what he'd done to make this opening appear.
This was his bedroom and there was a big bed against a long wall, a silver duvet on top that looked almost too decadent to belong to a man. That had her turning to survey the entire room. The one she'd kind of ignored when she'd had to follow him back here and was then distracted by the ... ah ... nakedness.
Charcoal-gray, white, and red was the color scheme. A little different for a guy, she thought. The furniture was sleek, expensive, and contemporary. The king-sized platform bed had an ornate frame of leather and mirrors, red silk draped around its border. The bed was flanked by matching end tables with lamps that looked as if they were made of aluminum. The floor was a highly glossed mahogany tile. The walls consisted of charcoal-colored slates, some that opened as doors, like the one he went through to the bathroom and others that supported marble tabs that held statues and picture frames. She moved closer to one that wasn't too tall for her to reach and picked up one of the frames. Frowning, she surveyed the white background with the glob of black in its center that looked strangely like those cards a psychiatrist would flash, asking what's the first thing to come to your mind. This one in particular reminded her of a teardrop. Beneath it was a simple letter M. Priya ran a finger over the picture wondering at its true meaning.
Finishing with that little mind trip and wanting to complete her search of the room before he returned, she put the picture down and moved to the window that for some reason had been calling to her. Even in the dark the view was astonishing. The mountains in the distance looked close enough for her to reach out and touch. The resort was very well lit and probably guarded like a fortress, she thought, considering the men Bas traveled with.
The men, she recalled, hadn't entered the building with them. The men had been standing in a circle taking orders from Bas a few seconds before he turned to her with those eerie yellow eyes. That memory had her gasping for breath.
"Afraid of heights?" he asked from behind her.
Priya turned slowly, trying to prepare herself to see him again, praying with all she had inside that he wasn't still naked. When she looked at him her mind whispered, thank you, thank you, thank you.
He'd wrapped a towel around his waist, his shoulders still glistening with beads of moisture.
"I'm not afraid of heights, Mr. Perry, and I'm definitely not afraid of you," she retorted.
To her dismay he sighed. "No. You're not afraid of me. And you're not afraid to fly across the country and jump into one of my trucks to follow me to god knows where. You weren't afraid of trying to break into Rome's room and you're not afraid to stand in this room with me totally alone, trying to ignore what I want to do to you."
"All you have to do is answer my questions," she said, realizing his words were true and that she should be afraid.
Bas shook his head. "You're in my bedroom and I'm wearing a towel. I think you can call me Bas now. Mr. Perry is my father."
He moved to another one of those panels in the wall, touching it with the tips of his fingers then waiting as it shifted to the side and he could pull out a drawer. With his back to her he pulled a black tank top over his head. The towel hit the floor, tight buttocks flexed as he bent slightly, pulling black boxer briefs up until they were covered. When he faced her again all Priya could do was gulp. Even not-so-naked the sight of him was attempting its own brand of torture on her libido.
"I just need to know what's going on, Bas," she said quietly. The trip cross-country, the adrenaline of hiding in the back of that truck going who knew where, then finding a small army of men in the dark desert, was beginning to take its toll.
She wouldn't let kissing-the-naked-as-a-jaybird-sexy-guy take precedence in her exhaustion, even though the memory was still punctuated in her mind.
He moved to stand beside his bed then, reaching to pull the duvet down. Red sheets, more like the dark crimson of blood, were beneath the fancy silver material. He fluffed a pillow before looking back up at her.
"It's a story, that's all. My guess is that someone has you working on this story for whatever reason. That someone is not your boss, which puts you in a precarious situation. But you don't seem to mind putting yourself in that same predicament more than once. I offered you my help before. The offer still stands." Before she could reply he held up a hand. "It's not answers from me you need, Priya. That's not going to completely fix your situation and I think you know that."
She refused to believe that.
"Tonight, Bas, tell me what I saw tonight," she insisted.
Priya moved to stand directly across from him on the other side of the bed.
He raised a brow. "You're tenacious enough to chase this story, no matter what I say. I'm guessing that's why you were chosen over any other reporter at the Post. Tenacious and ambitious, two traits that could easily get you killed."
"Don't waste your time threatening me. If you were going to kill me you would have done it already, or had one of your goons do it for you." She sighed with exasperation because this was getting her nowhere and she was tired of running in circles with him. "You don't think we have a right to know if something else is out there? If we need to protect ourselves?" she asked.
"There were men out there tonight, just like you saw before. You flew all the way out here to see more men, when you could have stayed in D.C. and seen the same thing."
"Men with yellow eyes?"
"Ever heard of contact lenses, Priya? Your big story is riding on the sighting of a man wearing yellow contacts just like Michael Jackson wore in his music video and vampires wear on television and in the movies. I really don't see you making big headlines with that."
He climbed into bed then, reaching over to touch a tablet that had been sitting beside the telephone. When they'd been cast into darkness his voice sounded once more. "You can finish your searching in the other room and come to bed when you're finished. Unless you'd like to take the couch."
"I'm not staying here with you. I'm leaving," she announced, turning and extending her arms in front of herself to keep from bumping into anything as she made her way to the door.
She was just about to step out of his room when his words, spoken so quietly she almost missed them, stopped her. "I can't let you go."
* * *
No matter how much Bas hated it, his words had been absolutely true.
He couldn't let Priya Drake out of his suite, or out of Perryville for that matter, because she wasn't going to stop digging for this story. She wasn't going to stop trying to prove that cat people existed. The really bad part about the situation was that she was absolutely correct. Shifters did exist, which meant if she continued to dig she would eventually find exactly what she was looking for.
And when that happened, Bas would have only one choice.
He lay on his back, eyes closed, feeling her presence still in his suite and wondering what was going through her mind. He'd given her permission to look around and he knew she would do precisely that. But she wouldn't find anything, primarily because she didn't know where to look. Not only were the walls designed to give a sleek look to his private rooms, they were specially equipped to hide what Bas didn't want anyone walking inside to see. His safe, his file cabinets, his private computer with all the files regarding the Mountain Zone's laws and progress reports and anything at all that connected him to the Gungi. All she was going to find out there was a desk with a computer that she would never hack into and even if she did, it had nothing but Perryville information on it. X had even installed an encrypting backup system to all the FLs' computers that wiped out the entire history of searched Web sites each time the computer was shut down. Hell, Bas didn't even have pictures of his family in there.
Inhaling deeply, Bas tried desperately to clear the last couple of days from his mind. At this moment he wanted anything other than to have spotted her watching him at that fund-raiser and then attempting to get into Rome's room. He wanted to have never met Priya Drake and he damn sure wanted to never have tasted her.
Excerpted from Shifter's Claim Part II by A.C. Arthur. Copyright © 2014 A.C. Arthur. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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