Mike stared in disbelief at the sight before him. His cousins were standing just inside the door staring at him in shock ... both of them. As if it wasn't enough of a jolt to see Aaron standing beside his brother, there was the matter of the furry female in front of them. And he could definitely tell she was female. Her rounded breasts pressed against the thin cloth barely covering them.
Maybe he'd gone insane thinking about cougars earlier, because she definitely looked like a big giant walking-on-two-legs cat.
He shook his head, bringing his attention back to Aaron. Ignoring the female that was now crouched in front of his cousins, he started forward.
"Where the fuck have you been?"
A low snarl filled the room before his cousins jumped into action. "Zula, no!"
Mike stopped in midstride, thrown off balance by the lithe shape that was hurtling toward him at top speed.
Throwing up his arms, he backed up, unable to move fast because of the damned pack. He hit the wall beside the door with a thud. She stopped an inch from his face, baring her large--and quite threatening--teeth.
"Who are you?" Her voice was surprisingly melodious. She sounded like a sex kitten, especially with that little growl she was emitting.
"Zula, it's okay," Aaron cried out.
Mike turned his attention back to his cousin. "Where the fuck have you been?"
"It's a long story."
"Then sit down and start talking. Do you have any idea what you put your family through? Damned idiot."
A furry hand curled around his throat, surprising him. "That is quite enough. Who are you?"
"Mike. What the hell are you?"
Aaron stepped up beside them, Darren mirroring his actions on their other side.
"Look, it's a long story. Can we all just take a step back and figure this out before someone gets hurt?" Darren placed his hand over Zula's.
She backed up, her reluctance evident with every move she made.
Nodding his head, Mike slowly let both packs slide from his shoulders, placing them on the floor beside the open door. He was careful to keep his rifle case in sight, but there was no way in hell he'd be able to get it out before she was on him. He had it loaded with .270 Winchester cartridges, but he didn't know if that would be enough to stop her. It could stop a deer in its tracks, so he should be good. He'd almost forgotten about his sidearm. If she was keeping Mike's cousins against their wishes, or hurting them in any way, he'd shoot her between the eyes without a twinge of remorse.
Reaching over, he shut the door, closing them in. Shit, maybe he shouldn't have done that. Who the hell was this? And what the heck had Aaron been doing for two months while Darren and the rest of their family went nuts looking for him?
Both brothers were dressed in faded jeans and nothing else. Aaron had sprouted a surprising beard and Darren had bite marks all down his neck and chest. Had she done that? What had they gotten themselves into? Was he going to have to hurt someone to protect the two men?
The female was standing close, not letting him get too far away from her. They were roughly the same height, but Mike figured he outweighed her. Not by much though, strong muscles were evident beneath her silky fur.
His fingers itched to touch her and see if she was as soft as she looked. Her body was feminine, appealing despite--or maybe because of--all that luscious coat of fur. And her tail, Jesus, Mary and Joseph, she had a tail. It was swinging back and forth, idly. What the hell was wrong with him? She was a cat, he couldn't possibly find her attractive. Right?
Maybe it was the full pout of her lips, or the silky fall of hair from her head. Or the illusion created by her gold-kissed fur that made her seem warm and inviting. 'Cause it damned sure wasn't her personality. Despite the promise in her lyrical voice, she was still frowning at him, little growls sneaking out of her throat. He found it strangely erotic. God, he was weird.
He needed to get his mind back on the threat to his cousins. He reached his hand back, caressing the hilt of the knife that was clipped to his belt. If she made any movements he didn't like, he'd use it without any qualms.
Great, now he was acting like a bloodthirsty savage. Killing a deer was one thing; it didn't talk back to you. Although if Bambi ever started talking to him when he was on a hunt, he'd be more afraid for his sanity. Mike would most likely offer himself up to the closest crazy house. Maybe he was dreaming right now. Surreptitiously, he crossed his arms, pinching the skin on his arm painfully between his thumb and forefinger. Ouch, okay he wasn't dreaming.
She wouldn't take her gaze off him. Zula leaned forward, inhaling deeply. Mike had a feeling if he tried to run, she'd be on him like white on rice.
A thin beige cloth wrapped around her small breasts, and a similar wrap was around her hips. But there was an awful lot of her left on display. Including the intimidating, massive bowie knife strapped to her thigh. Geez, that thing could probably decapitate an alligator without too much trouble. It was bigger than his.
Fuck, now he had knife envy. It had a deadly curve to it. Just like its owner. "Okay, someone start talking now, or I'm gonna blow up."
"Maybe you should sit down, Mike."
"Fuck, Aaron, just tell me where you've been."
Aaron paced in front of the small sofa, his hand coming up to play with his beard. "Look, it wasn't my choice to leave. I was kind of ... taken."
"Someone took you? Did you have anything to do with this?" He rounded on the female, baring his own--definitely less threatening--teeth.
She pursed her lips, considering him from beneath lowered lids. "You humans constantly surprise me. You seem so fragile yet you will jump to defend your kin at the slightest chance. And my name is Zula. Use it."
"Yeah, well, Zula, if you had anything to do with Aaron's disappearance you're going to find out exactly what us humans can do."
She bowed her head, remaining silent. Her nostrils flared, and he could hear her inhaling again.
"Zula didn't have anything to do with it. I was taken by someone else. He took me to his planet--"
"His planet, eh? You expect me to believe this?"
Aaron sighed. "You're standing in front of a woman who looks like a lion. Seriously."
"Point taken. Okay, open-minded now. Talk."