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Secret Jaguar

A cat has nine lives, but that doesn’t mean she should forfeit one of them.

Katya Pelletier is the practical, no-nonsense twin. She loves life as much as her sister, she just doesn’t seem able to enjoy it as much. While Alley is the life of the party and has boyfriends to spare, Katya can’t seem to attract anyone’s attention.

Until she meets Carter Jag.

Carter is the perfect male specimen. By all rights, he should be chasing after Alley. But to Katya’s surprise—and confusion—he’s only interested in her.

As their relationship progresses, something primal and passionate awakens in Katya. She’s introduced to and immersed in a whole world she never knew existed. A paranormal world. A world of antiquated ideas and imminent danger. Katya is a jaguar shifter, and her former “family” has come to claim their prize—her.

Katya joins Carter and his supernatural allies in the fight of her life—a battle to free her from her former family and their outdated ways. But will their power and magic be enough to save her from the life of violence and servitude the jaguars are determined to force on her?

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Excerpt

I slid on my dark glasses and tapped the steering wheel. Should’ve brought a less conspicuous car. My cherry-red Ferrari did little to help me blend in, and I didn’t want anyone to notice me waiting for her across the street from the old hotel.

Too late. I was already there. Just a matter of time before she showed.

Who was she? Finally, I would find out. I had been searching for her for years, but she was well-hidden and alone. And she needed protection. I didn’t know anything else about her.

Okay, that wasn’t all I knew. Not after sensing her presence years earlier and spending so much time trying, unsuccessfully, to find her.

The most important thing to note was that she was a solitary jaguar shifter, and females never traveled alone. Seriously, never. Our reality is one of old-world rules, strict consequences, and a hierarchy not all that different from the royalty of the Middle Ages. As such, my father was the king of our family. And he ruled as an aristocrat on steroids.

That was why I had broken away. We didn’t see eye-to-eye on anything. He was cruel and heartless, and because I refused to be a dictator, he saw me as weak. Leaving was messy, and we did not part amicably.

If my father discovered a lone jaguar female, he would bring her into the family by any means necessary.

Back to my far-from-inconspicuous Ferrari across the street from the old hotel. And by old hotel, I didn’t mean run-down and seedy. I meant it had stood the test of time. It was made of brick and appeared to have once been an impressive mansion.

I studied the front, which had clearly been remodeled to look more modern, but evidence of another era remained.

The front door opened. I sat up straight and readjusted my sunglasses. Was it her or just a regular guest?

I leaned forward and waited, holding my breath. If it was her, I didn’t know what I would do. Follow her? Introduce myself? Really, I should’ve thought this through more. But once I figured out her location—finally—I just jumped into my car and headed over.

Out stepped a tall, slender teenager in a flowered knee-length sundress. Long, wavy light-brown hair cascaded almost to her waist.

The distance between us made it impossible for me to sense if she was the jaguar shifter.

She turned and spoke to someone inside, adjusted a tote bag over her shoulder, then went down the steps.

I scrambled out of my car, closed the door as quietly as I could, and set the alarm. Sure, the small college town was safe but I never took any chances with my Ferrari.

She headed toward the campus. If she was a student, I couldn’t figure out why she would be staying in the hotel.

Nothing about this girl made any sense. No wonder it had taken me so long to track her down.

If this was even her. I’d have to get closer to determine if she was actually a jaguar shifter. Then if she was, I’d have to figure out what to do. Chances were, she’d fled her birth family. And since she had no other jaguars with her, she probably didn’t want anything to do with our kind. Best-case scenario, she’d want nothing to do with me. Worst case, she’d freak out and cause a scene. Maybe even shift right there in the middle of town.

Not that I could blame her either way. Jaguar shifters as a whole were horrible jerks at best. Tyrannical, abusive dictators at worst. And by birth, I was the equivalent of a prince. She’d hate and fear me on principle.

She would be able to sniff out my lineage in half a millisecond. My heart raced as I crossed the street to catch up with her.

Please don’t shift out in the open.

Our little town on the Olympic Peninsula was home to more supernatural creatures than I’d ever seen in one place. We’d all managed to keep our true identities hidden, but it would only take one person shifting at the wrong time to drive us all from our homes.

I picked up my pace to a solid jog in order to shorten the distance between us. Her aroma drifted to me on the breeze. Confirmation at last. I inhaled deeply. The sweet perfume of a female jaguar shifter. It reminded me of so many loved ones.

My stomach twisted. I’d had to walk away from them all because of my father and his refusal to let go of the old ways.

No time to dwell on that. The girl in front of me didn’t slow or stop or even seem to notice me. How could she miss the scent of a jaguar shifter so close?

Had she so immersed herself into the human life that her animal senses had dulled? I’d been away from jaguars for a long time, but I was still deep in the supernatural world. I lived with a pack of werewolves—well, mostly werewolves. We also had some other misfits like myself. In a way, we were all outcasts, some by choice and others not so much.

The female jaguar stopped at a crosswalk. I caught up with her and stood next to her. Her scent enveloped me. She acted like she didn’t even notice me.

I turned to her and finally caught her attention. She was breathtaking up close, with deep brown eyes and a sprinkling of freckles across her nose. Being so close to another jaguar, especially one so beautiful, overwhelmed me. It took me a moment to regain my bearings.

I gave a slight noncommittal nod and glanced across the street at the crosswalk signal. Her presence surrounded me, pressing in, threatening to crush me. I hadn’t expected this.

The signal finally changed. Her presence didn’t.

We walked side-by-side. I struggled to breathe. My bones and muscles ached as my body tried to start a shift. I never shifted against my will.

What was she doing to me?

We reached the campus, and she headed for the courtyard. Beyond that stood more buildings that contained classrooms and labs.

Without notice, she stopped walking. I nearly crashed into her.

She turned to me, wrinkling her nose. Even annoyed, she was gorgeous. “Are you following me?”

“What? No.”

Her eyes narrowed and she gave me a once-over. “What are you doing, then? You have no bag, no books. You haven’t left my side since the crosswalk.”

My usually sharp mind failed me. I couldn’t think with this beauty so close to me. Was it because she was the only jaguar shifter I’d seen in years, or because of her personally?

“Well?”

I stood taller. “I’m here to see Professor Foley. I think his office is this way.”

Her perfectly manicured brows came together. She didn’t believe me. “Professor Foley, huh?”

“Yeah. He’s a good friend of mine.”

She flipped her hair back and gave me a disapproving look. “Good friend? You’re what? A junior or senior? And you’re good friends with a math professor?”

“It’s a little more complicated than that,” I admitted. Actually, it was a lot more complicated than that. Tobias Foley was married to the only woman I’d ever loved—loved, as in past tense. And he was also the alpha of my misfit pack of werewolves, vampires, a jaguar shifter, and a missing valkyrie. Complicated didn’t begin to explain it.

The jaguar shifter in front of me stepped back. “Are you following me?”

How could I answer without lying? “Do you know where Toby’s office is?”

Her expression softened. “Toby, huh? Maybe you do know him, but if you’re so close, why don’t you know where his office is?”

“Do you know where the office of everyone you know is?”

She shrugged and bore her gaze into my eyes. “If I’m as close to them as you claim you are with Mr. Foley, then yes, I would know where their offices are.”

“Well, I’ve never been to his office, but I know where he lives.” More than that. I’d kissed his wife. But not when she was his wife—I’m not that kind of guy. She didn’t know him at the time. Well, she did, but she didn’t. Like I said, complicated. I wouldn’t kiss her now.

“Oh, yeah? Where?”

“In a mansion. You know where it is?”

She shook her head. “I’ve only heard the rumors going around.”

Oh, yes. The rumors.

“Are you one of his foster kids?”

I slid my sunglasses to the top of my head. “No.”

She glanced up at the enormous clock on a nearby building. “Well, I gotta get to class. Don’t want to be late. You can keep following me if you want. I’m actually heading to his class.”

The jaguar shifter was in Toby’s class? Did he know she was a jaguar? No, he would’ve told me. He wouldn’t keep something like that from me. But how could he have not noticed?

“You’re weird.” She spun around and headed back in the direction she was heading.

I caught up with her. “No, I’m not.”

“Whatever you have to tell yourself.” She raked her fingers through her hair, sending fresh waves of her mesmerizing aroma my way. “Oh, and for the record, after you find Professor Foley, no more following me.”

“Sure, whatever. And I’m not following you. Or, I wasn’t until you invited me to.” Guilt stung at me for lying, but it just popped out. And I sure as heck wasn’t going to admit it.

We wandered through the campus in silence. Her sweet scent kept wafting my way, making it hard for me to think straight. Thankfully, she didn’t want to talk.

I followed her into a building, up some stairs, and finally into a classroom. Without another word, she grabbed a seat and pulled out her phone, making a point that she wasn’t paying me any attention.

More than anything, I wanted to run. I knew where she was, and now I had to get away. It was impossible to think clearly around her. If I was going to figure out what to do next, I had to get as far away from her as I could.

Toby walked into the room. He gave me a double-take. “Carter? What are you doing here?”

My ‘friend’ glanced up from her phone. Her eyes were wide and her expression surprised.

I felt like saying, See? I know him. Instead, I turned back to Toby and stepped closer. “I found that jaguar shifter.”

“You did? As in, you actually saw her?”

“Yeah. As it turns out, you’ve been seeing her every day.” I nodded toward her. “The floral sundress.”

Toby glanced over. “Katya Pelletier? I’ve never gotten any supernatural vibes from her.”

Well, at least he hadn’t been keeping her a secret from me. Especially since he knew how hard I’d been looking for her.

“You’ll have to tell me more tonight. I’ve got to start class.”

I nodded, then turned to leave but I glanced over at the mysterious jaguar shifter one more time.

Katya.

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