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eBook by Madelaine Montague
eBook Category: Erotica/Erotic Romance/Romance
eBook Description: Stray bullets from the hunting club have hit her house before, but when one pierces her wall, Alaina decamps to the wash shed for safety. She nearly has heart failure when she discovers she's sharing her 'safe harbor' with a wounded panther. Ralphie is no 'ordinary' two hundred plus pound great cat, though. He's amazingly intelligent and, when she takes him into her home, she finds he's also disturbingly affectionate. To keep the hunters off her property, she hires a man to build a fence. But, Raphael Doucette, the dangerously attractive stranger she hires seems to have an unhealthy interest in what's going on at the hunting club--and his own agenda. Rating: Contains explicit sexual content, violence, graphic adult language, and some situations which could be offensive to sensitive readers.
eBook Publisher: New Concepts Publishing, Published: 2006, 2006
Fictionwise Release Date: October 2006
664 Reader Ratings:
Pain and fury filled Raphael as he raced through the dense brush in a mindless quest for freedom. Adrenaline drove him, else the pain from his wounds might have overwhelmed him. Fear ate at his mind, as well, but it was a distant voice, drowned by the frustration and anger because the fear wasn't for himself. It was fear of failing.
He had almost had the bastard!
For months he had tracked the ring leader of the men that had killed his woman and their unborn child. Patience was not one of his virtues, but his rage had grown cold in the year since Concepcion's death. His determination had hardened in the weeks he had lain fighting for his own life and the months after that that he had spent regaining his strength with an agonizing slowness that had been maddening while he chaffed at his quarry's trail growing colder and colder.
He had tracked him, though, halfway across two continents.
His stupidity had nearly gotten him killed, but he had wanted the bastard to look in his eyes and know that he was going to die because of Concepcion. He hadn't wanted to send the son-of-a-bitch to hell wondering.
He hadn't expected to be interrupted, but he should have anticipated the possibility.
If they hadn't taken him completely off guard, he could've finished the bastard before he left. Now he was wounded again, pretty fucking badly, he thought, if the blood he was losing was any indication.
He couldn't stop to examine it, though, because he could still hear them following, could still hear a random shot from time to time as the trigger happy morons spied something they thought might be him and fired at it. The darkness and the thickness of the woods were his only allies and he had a feeling he was running out of allies.
Almost on the thought he bounded from the woods and onto a narrow, two rut track. Tall weeds sprouted from the soil on either side and along the narrow center strip, but he was exposed and he bounded across the track and into the woods on the other side.
He paused there to catch his breath because he couldn't do anything else. The adrenaline that had kept him going thus far was rapidly draining away from him now and he could feel weakness seeping into every muscle in his body. Panting for breath, he tipped his head back to look up at the trees for cover.
He tamped the impulse. He would be too exposed. If he had been stronger, it wouldn't be such a bad idea. It would give him a vantage to watch for the hunters. It would give him a strategic advantage if he was able to fight back, but he had a bad feeling he would come out the loser in his current state.
Twisting his head to look back in the direction from which he'd come, he listened intently. Sure enough, within a few moments, he heard the hunters trampling through the brush in pursuit.
Uttering a mental curse, he looked at the track again.
It might just lead back to the compound, but he didn't think so. He'd studied the area pretty thoroughly over the past few weeks and he was fairly certain that this track belonged to the woman he'd spotted a few times in his surveillance.
He didn't trust the impulse that assailed him to seek her out, but he was pretty much out of options unless he wanted to just lie down and let them finish him off.
A year ago, he would've almost welcomed it. Hell, even six months ago.
He wasn't ready to quit now, though. If he died, he meant to take that bastard with him to hell.
Turning without even realizing he had made a decision, he began to head along the edge of the track as quickly as he could. He didn't trust the woman, not enough to go to her for help, but she had several out buildings on her property. If he could just make it to one of them, he would have the chance to rest and see about his wounds.
The wound on his shoulder seemed to have stopped bleeding. He was fairly certain that had been no more than a crease, deep enough to hurt like a son-of-bitch, and bleed like hell, but he was pretty sure the bullet had done no more than plow a furrow through him and out the other side.
He was equally certain that he did have a bullet in his hip. He'd been favoring the leg, trying his best to keep from jolting it anymore than necessary, but each time he put even a little weight on that leg, agonizing pain ground through him and the leg threatened to buckle.
Hobbling now that the adrenaline had abandoned him and the pain and weakness was threatening to lay him out for the kill, he gritted his teeth and kept moving as quickly as he could, hoping he could make it to the woman's house and hide before he passed out.
Her image rose in his mind and as it did he felt his heart rate speed up just a little. A flicker of desire burgeoned despite all reason, his body beginning to hum with warmth.
Wryly, he concluded that he was still a ways from death if she could get any kind of rise out of him at the moment.
But then again, he had wanted her from the first moment he spied her and no amount of reasoning with himself had banished that.
She was as different from Concepcion as night from day.
It didn't matter.
More importantly, she was not one of the people.
But that didn't make any difference either. He'd tried to tell himself it did, but he knew better.
Every time he looked at her cool, white skin, her light blond hair, her pale blue eyes, he thought of ice, hard, cold.
And still he thirsted for a taste of her.
He hadn't stopped mourning for Concepcion and the babe. He still carried an ache that nothing could eradicate, not even his revenge. Having them wrenched from his life so abruptly and with such finality had been like having a part of himself torn away and he could never get that back, never get them back.
He would see that they had justice, though, blood for blood, if it was the last thing he ever did.
He had not intended that it be the last thing he ever did, though, because he had realized when he saw the woman that there was a reason to live, something to live for besides fulfilling the need for revenge.
He didn't trust her. She wasn't one of the people, and she lived too damned close to his enemy for his comfort in an area that was so remote that the next neighbors were miles away.
He couldn't completely rid himself of the suspicion that it was more than a coincidence that her land bordered his, that her neat little house and farm was little more than two miles from his compound as the crow flew.
But that didn't matter either.
In the back of his mind he knew that he had already decided that, once he had done what he had come to do, he fully intended to have her.