Caged with the Tiger [MultiFormat]
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eBook by Kate Hill
eBook Category: Romance/Science Fiction
eBook Description: A little white lie... Brutalized by her husband, snatched from the jaws of death into a life forever in the shadows, Saloni enters the society of the veils, an organization devoted to teaching men the error of their ways. But when her little white lie blows up in her face, Saloni discovers that she must share Rahul's punishment--caged with the were-tiger, Rahul, the man who set her blood on fire--and destroyed her life. Rating: Contains violence, adult situations, graphic language, and explicit sexual content.
eBook Publisher: New Concepts Publishing, Published: 2006
Fictionwise Release Date: September 2007
* * * * Chapter One
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Saloni couldn't believe the trial had ended this way. Two hirsute guards grasped her upper arms and dragged her to the prison hidden below the Portuguese villa. Even as she fought against their hold, part of her thought this must be a nightmare. Her sisterhood had turned against her simply because she had sought revenge on a man who deserved it. Not only had he nearly ruined her life by pretending to love her, but their child had died because he had run away, leaving her pregnant in a time when a single woman couldn't bear a child without social repercussions.
Glancing sideways, she noted that same man whom she had once loved but had learned to despise struggling in his father's savage grip.
"No! Father, no! I will not be locked up again. Not with her!" Rahul growled.
His father, Sanjay, a tall dark-skinned man with long black hair, held his son in a steely grip. Like Rahul, Sanjay's dark eyes flashed with rage.
Rahul shifted from man to beast. The change was so sudden it was scarcely noticeable. His handsome face elongated and his fangs grew sharp and white. Striped black and tan fur sprouted over his entire body. Obviously he'd hoped his change to semi-tiger form would give him greater strength to struggle against his father's hold. Sanjay also changed to partial tiger form. Still retaining his man-like body, his muscles thickened, face became feline rather than human, and he grew a thick black coat, as he was the only black weretiger known in existence.
Weretigers were mystical. Savage. Completely irresistible, Saloni thought with disgust. It was her attraction to Rahul that had gotten her into trouble in the first place.
"I have a career. A life. A fiancée!" Rahul continued, his voice deep and animal-like as he remained somewhere between tiger and man, a striped, bipedal man-cat.
Sanjay growled angrily and stumbled against Rahul's strength. Though Sanjay was taller and bigger than Rahul, Saloni didn't doubt the younger weretiger could have broken free if he wished a bloody battle with his sire. It seemed that in spite of his fury and desire to escape his punishment, he respected Sanjay too much to engage in a serious fight.
"I can't believe you're doing this to me." Saloni glanced at her guards. The loup-garou merely fixed their yellow eyes on her with a look that told her it would be useless to argue. The French werewolves had been assigned to bring her to the cell and nothing would stop them from doing their duty. Similar to the weretigers, they were covered in shaggy fur, had elongated snouts and ears, and walked on two legs rather than four. Still, Saloni continued in the vain hope that she could appeal to their feminine hearts. "All I wanted was justice."
"No, you wanted revenge," Fifi, one of the loup-garou guards assigned to escort Saloni to prison, growled.
The Wakened Veils were supernatural female assassins whose sworn duty was to punish males, in particular supernatural males, for their crimes against women.
"In all the centuries that The Wakened Veils have existed we have never been forced to punish one of our own," Angelique, the other loup-garou guard, said. "You have shamed us all."
"For wanting revenge?" Saloni glared. Rahul had used her and nearly destroyed her life. Not only that, they had lost a child because of his frivolous nature. To him she had been mere entertainment, a wench to warm his bed, but she had fallen in love with him. That's what made his desertion even more painful.
She snarled and used her formidable strength in an attempt to free herself from the wolves' steely grips. Impossible. Few supernatural creatures could compete with loup-garou strength, and as a vampire she could not.
"You were as guilty in this matter as the man was," Fifi continued. "By using the power of The Wakened Veils for a personal vendetta, you almost made us as dishonorable as the men we seek to punish."
"See, father, even they know it was her fault," Rahul growled.
"Silence!" Sanjay roared. "You are as much to blame and you will serve your sentence."
The group had finally reached the bottom of the stairway. Sanjay, Fifi, and Angelique hauled their rebellious prisoners to a door at the far end of the spacious basement that contained several cells. This specialized prison was located beneath the home of a woman called Vidonia, one of the three founders of The Wakened Veils.
Angelique opened the door and Fifi thrust Saloni inside so hard that she stumbled to her knees. Seconds later Rahul followed, though he managed to remain on his feet in spite of how hard Sanjay flung him through the door.
A roar erupted from Rahul's throat as he tore off his clothes, changed into full tiger form and leapt at the door. He was too late. It slammed shut and the tiger's massive paws pounded against it. Saloni heard another door, which she knew to be made of even thicker steel, slide into place behind it. These cells were created to hold supernatural creatures and she knew there would be no escape.
Still roaring with fury, the tiger continued throwing himself against the door.
"Stop it already!" Saloni snapped, her head throbbing from anger and frustration. The last thing she needed was to listen to him all night. "You're not breaking through."
He ignored her completely. Just like a man.
Raising her eyes to the heavens, Saloni sat on the bed and glanced around the cell. At least the sisterhood had been kind enough to lock them in the special prison. The room was fairly spacious with a large bed, table and chairs, and an adjoining bathroom. It had been created to hold female prisoners--rare since the Veils generally dealt with men. As Angelique had pointed out, no prisoner had ever been a member of the Veils. She was the first and though she had admittedly twisted the truth a bit, she still couldn't help feeling betrayed by her sisterhood.
Two hundred years ago she had fallen in love with the most handsome, irresistible man she'd ever met. She'd risked everything for their secret affair and had ended up losing their child and nearly her life. Since they weren't married or even engaged, their love had been forbidden. Love. What a fool she had been to believe any man could feel such an emotion. All they wanted was physical satisfaction. If not for the midwife, she would have died. Though grateful for the woman's assistance, she had to admit the side effects of her extremely unconventional treatment took some getting used to. It wasn't every day a midwife turned her charge into a vampire. The woman ha taken pity on Saloni and changed her into a creature capable of taken the revenge she deserved. She had seen what Saloni had suffered, perhaps even shared her loathing of Rahul. Why else would she have given Saloni the power of a vampire?
Once she'd crossed into immortality, Saloni had been shocked to learn how many supernatural forces had infiltrated the world. At one time, she'd thought Rahul and his kind were the only creatures of legend in existence. How wrong she had been about so many things.
A century after her change, she had met Kesi, another vampiress who introduced her to The Wakened Veils. She and Kesi had met at a hangout in Spain where many supernatural beings could mingle without the risk of mortals discovering them. They had similar views on men and once Kesi had learned to trust Saloni, she had told her about the Wakened Veils. Saloni loved the idea of women warriors fighting for justice against the men who sought to control them. After passing many rigorous tests, she joined their ranks and had served their cause to the best of her ability. Then she'd learned that the man who had ruined her life was still alive. During their love affair, she had known Rahul was a weretiger, able to change from man to beast, yet he had told her little else about himself. Later she learned that it had been forbidden for him to confide in anyone, except his wife, about his true nature. The all-male tiger clans were close-knit and secrecy was required for their very survival. As a vampire, she understood this all too well. So few in the mortal world accepted and understood those with supernatural powers.
She hadn't realized Rahul's kind, weretigers, were capable of living as many centuries as a vampire. It was quite by chance that, upon returning to India after decades with The Wakened Veils, she discovered Rahul was still alive. To her horror, he was getting married. Two hundred years later she still loved him, but apparently he had forgotten her. The rage inside her turned to a kind of madness. She wanted him to suffer as she had to pay for seducing her and indirectly causing the death of her child. Deep inside she knew she was as guilty as he was for the latter crime, yet if she told the true story to The Wakened Veils, they would not help her. The Veils didn't fear punishing those who deserved it--violently when necessary--but their main concern was justice. For the chance to appease her anger and satisfy her jealousy, she had painted Rahul as a monster. The Veils had agreed to punish him, even kill him if she wished it. She hadn't wanted him put to death, merely to suffer a little. During the trial, the situation got out of hand and rather than simply punishing Rahul with a beating or imprisonment, the Veils had decided to put him and his father to death. Saloni's choices were to either watch his execution or tell the complete truth. Unfortunately, the truth made her look almost as guilty a Rahul about their breakup and the loss of their child. She had admitted that he hadn't known she'd been pregnant. Even if he'd wanted to change his mind about their relationship and rescue her from the fate of marrying a horrible man, he couldn't have because he hadn't known she was carrying his baby.
Her teeth gritted, she glared at the tiger who was still hurling himself against the door. No matter how angry she was, part of her still lusted after him. More than lusted. She cared for the bastard. Not that she could ever let him know that. Not after all that had happened between them. Not with a man like him.
Watching him batter futilely against the door, a great mindless beast trapped in his rage, Saloni started to giggle, and then her giggle erupted into full-blown laughter.
The tiger paused and swung his magnificent head in her direction. His dark gaze fixed on her, his thick ivory fangs a startling contrast to his beautiful tan and black coat. In the space of a heartbeat, he shifted into semi-beast form. Still covered with his animal pelt and retaining a distinctively feline head, he rose onto two legs.
"What are you laughing at?" he demanded, his voice inhumanly deep yet so sexy it sent a shiver down her spine.
Saloni wiped her teary eyes with the back of her hand and stifled giggles. "You. What do you think I'm laughing at? You can beat your stupid head against the door, but it won't open. We're stuck here."
"Stuck." He growled and began pacing the room. His hairy hands curled into fists, he bared his fangs in her direction. "This situation stinks."
"Don't think I'm happy about it!"
"Why shouldn't you be? It's your fault. You and your sisterhood probably planned this whole thing."
Saloni longed to leap up and yank out a couple of handfuls of his striped pelt, but she decided that remaining calm would annoy him more. Sitting cross-legged on the bed, she made a conscious effort to keep a serene half smile on her lips.
"You're quite right, of course. I planned to be trapped for a month in a room with the man I hate most in the world."
She made a resigned gesture with a graceful hand and said, "Believe what you wish. That's what you're good at, anyway, Rahul. Ignoring the truth. Lying."
His dark brown eyes sparked with anger. "I never lied to you!"
"You lied to yourself."
"I do not want to talk about this any longer. We have spent several days on trial during which I bared my inner self in a way I never imagined to a room full of strangers--"
"Your father and I are strangers?"
"I mean the members of your sisterhood. My father is not a stranger, but our relationship was not his business. He should never have involved himself."
"Of course not. He should have let his son die, just like you did."
Rahul sprang at her so quickly that even with her vampiric reflexes she had no chance to react. One moment she was seated on the bed, the next she was lying flat on her back, trapped beneath Rahul's semi-beast body. His hands pinned her wrists to the bed and one of his long, muscled legs rested heavily over both of hers.
His gaze fixed on her, holding her captive emotionally just as his body held hers physically. Before her eyes, his tiger's coat receded and his features molded back into their human shape.
Saloni's pulse raced out of control. He was so handsome--large dark brown eyes with long, thick lashes, sharp cheekbones, and full lips that she longed to kiss. Even after two centuries he was still the sexiest man she'd ever known. This powerful weretiger made her pulse race--no small feat considering her supernatural constitution.
The truth struck her with staggering impact. She was trapped alone with Rahul for a month with no hope of getting out early for good behavior. Besides, she wondered how long she could keep up a semblance of good behavior when, just looking at him and feeling his big, warm body against hers, she wanted to behave quite badly. Terribly. She wanted to do the same things that had gotten her into trouble to begin with.
No. It could not happen. She would remain in control and not allow him to seduce her again.
"Get off me!" she shouted
"Not until you take back what you said about me letting my son die."
"If I had known you were pregnant that never would have happened. You would have been with me instead of with that abusive trash your parents arranged for you to marry. Do you think I wanted you to be stuck with a bastard who beat you? I still want to know, Saloni, how you could have chosen him over me."
Damn, this man knew exactly what to say to shoot her anger off the scale. She struggled against his hold, nearly flinging him off, but his grip tightened. She felt the tiger in him. Powerful, angry, unstoppable.
"If you had told me the truth--"
"By the time I realized I was pregnant, you had already left India! I said that at the trial! As for taking my husband over you, I had no choice. If I didn't marry him, my family would have disowned me. I'd told you that from the first, Rahul, but you pursued me anyway. You knew I couldn't marry you."
"Wouldn't, you mean."
"There is no difference."
"Oh, there's a difference, Saloni. A great difference."
His voice had softened to almost a whisper and he lowered his head slightly so their lips nearly touched. In spite of her anger, she wanted him to kiss her. More than that, she wanted to be completely possessed by him and to possess him, as well. The thought of sinking her fangs into the side of his strong neck and tasting his blood aroused her to a dangerous level.
By the lust burning in his eyes, she knew he wanted her, too. Between their bodies, his shaft hardened, an arousing, familiar sensation that she vividly recalled, though it had been two centuries since they'd made love. His warm hands seared her flesh and she felt his heartbeat quicken against her, or perhaps it was her own heartbeat?
Another low growl rumbled in his chest and he stood abruptly, leaving her trembling with need, her nipples hard and a pleasant yet frustrating ache between her legs. If possible, she hated him more than ever.
She sat up and stared at him. Rahul crossed the room to pick up his discarded clothes. Heavens he had a gorgeous body. Tall and sleekly-muscled, he had long limbs and a broad chest dusted with dark hair. His cock, quite thick even in its semi-erect state, rose from a wiry thatch of black pubic hair. Muscles flexed in his powerful legs as he squatted, picked up the clothes, and stood again. His smooth brow furrowed, he examined the shredded shirt and trousers. He'd been in such a hurry to rip them off and change into tiger form that his claws had rendered the garments useless. Saloni nearly laughed at his frustrated expression, and then she realized this meant she was trapped with a naked man who turned her on so much she could scarcely control the urge to lick him all over.
She flopped onto her back and closed her eyes tightly. Could the situation possibly get any worse?