Mine For Eternity
Council Enforcers, Book 1
by Keyonna Davis
eBook ISBN: 978-1-62242-190-9
Tessa Palmer witnessed a murder walking home late from work and is forced to take her son and run. Mitch Ericson is a lion shifter content to spend his days alone until his mate literally breaks into his house. Can he keep his mate safe from the threat chasing her?
“Oh, thank God, a bathroom. Okay, baby. Get your clothes off while I start the shower. We have to hurry before whoever owns this house gets home.”
What the hell? Mitch Ericson lifted his head from the spot where he had been sunning himself in the last of the evening sun on his bedroom floor. Still groggy from his nap, he watched as a woman entered his bathroom and started his shower. He was in too much shock to do anything else. The woman was either very brave or very stupid to have entered his home without permission. Anyone that knew him knew to stay away from his sanctuary. Mitch enjoyed his privacy, and he fought anyone with tooth and claw that threatened that privacy.
Mitch stared into the wide, ice-blue eyes of a little boy staring back at him. The boy looked to be about two years old and was dirty from head to toe. If he wasn’t mistaken, the little boy looked like he could use a good meal as well. In fact, the boy could have used a few good meals.
“What did you say, baby? Do you have your clothes off?”
Mitch heard the woman yell from the bathroom, but he was too busy focusing on the little boy now crawling toward him on his hands and knees.
He didn’t know whether to be angry at being called a kitty—he was a five-hundred-pound lion after all—or be awed that this little runt of a boy had no fear of him. All he could smell coming from the boy was curiosity and a strange scent that made him want to purr, but no fear. He made a chuffing noise when the boy got closer. He didn’t want to scare him, but Mitch definitely didn’t want to hear the ear-piercing scream the boy’s mother was sure to make when she walked into the room and got a look at her son petting a lion that could easily swallow him whole.
“Kitty, kitty. Meow.” The boy continued crawling undeterred.
Mitch would have laughed if he was in his human form. He was a mighty lion, king of the jungle, not that he actually lived in a jungle. He had been known to make men cry and wet themselves with just his roar. If that didn’t help, his job as a council enforcer had men running in the other direction, but the boy was meowing at him like he was some common house cat.
“Okay, baby, I’m done. Come get in the—”
And there goes the screaming. Mitch would have roared, but he didn’t want to make the situation worse. His ears already felt like they were bleeding from the earsplitting screams coming from the woman. The boy, startled from hearing his mother scream, started to cry, adding to the noise.
“Oh God, oh God, oh God,” the woman chanted as she inched closer to the little boy. “Nico, don’t move. Just stay there and wait for Mommy to come and get you.”
Now Mitch could smell fear, but it was only coming from the woman. The little boy just seemed confused. He watched as the woman, who was completely naked due to the fact that she had dropped her towel when she had first seen him, slowly crept toward him and the boy she called Nico. He knew what she was seeing. A five-hundred-pound lion lying on the floor of the house that she had broken into was probably the last thing she would have ever expected. Hell, seeing a lion in person and not behind a cage at a zoo was something that most people would never get to see in their lifetimes. This woman was looking directly into the eyes of one while her small child was sitting within touching distance of it. Mitch could have licked the boy without lifting his head if he wanted to.
“Kitty, Mommy,” the boy said, pointing at him.
“Yeah, baby. Mommy can see that. Nice kitty. Niiiice kitty.”
The woman held her hands in front her as she inched toward Mitch. He wanted to protest being called a kitty. He was a mighty beast, not some puny house cat, but he was too mesmerized by the woman’s breasts as they slightly jiggled with each step she took. They were small and tipped with rosy nipples that were hard. He didn’t know if it was from the cool air or from fear, but Mitch didn’t care. Either way, they were spectacular. He watched as a bead of water dripped from her wet hair and rolled down her chest headed directly toward her left nipple. He wanted to trace the trail the water made with his tongue. After that, he wouldn’t mind licking the woman from head to toe. Once he was done with that, he would make both of them eat. Nico wasn’t the only one who looked like they had missed a few meals. The woman looked worse. He could see her ribs poking through her skin.
The closer the woman got, the more of an urge Mitch had to purr and rub himself all over her, marking her with his scent. There was just something about the woman and the boy setting off his protective instincts that he couldn’t explain. He wanted to drag her and the boy close and tuck them under him, keeping them with him. That wouldn’t have been unusual for most lion shifters, but Mitch wasn’t most. He was unusual. While other lions chose to live in a pride and be surrounded by others of their kind, he preferred to be alone. He spent most days in his shifted form napping in the sun unless he was on a job. He did what he wanted when he wanted and answered to no one. Mitch wouldn’t have it any other way. So why was he tempted to claim both of these people that had broken into his home?
Mitch was snapped out of his thoughts when the most mouthwatering smell hit him. The woman was right next to him now, slowly reaching for the boy. Beneath the fear, he smelled the sweet scent of vanilla and spring rain. Mate! That was the strange scent he had caught on the boy. He smelled his mate on him because he carried a small trace of his mother’s scent. Mitch reacted without thinking. He stood and licked his mate. He began purring as his tongue raked across her inner thigh. Mine!
Unfortunately, his sudden movement set the woman off and she began screaming again. She snatched the boy in her arms and ran out of the room. There was no way Mitch was letting his mate get away from him. He gave chase, shifting smoothly as he ran. He was on two legs by the time he made it to the bedroom door.
“Wait,” he yelled out, snatching a pair of old shorts from the chair next to the door. He stumbled trying to put the shorts on as he ran, but he didn’t want to frighten the woman any more than he already had by chasing after her naked.
By the time he made it to the stairs, the woman was at the front door. She was still naked, gripping the boy on her hip as she struggled to open the door in her panic. There was no way he could let his mate run out of the house naked. Mitch lived in the middle of nowhere, and there was no one around for miles to see her, but that didn’t matter to him.
Mate! Mine! His lion grumbled in his head. “Please stop. I won’t hurt you!” Mitch yelled as he ran down the steps after his mate.
* * * *
Tessa Palmer couldn’t get her fingers to work as she tried to get the front door open. It had been a stupid idea to break into the house in the first place, but she and Nico were so tired and hungry. She had watched the house for two hours without seeing any movement, so she had decided it was worth the risk.
There were no cars in the drive, so she assumed no one was home. To her shock, the front door had been unlocked. At first she thought it was because the house was in the middle of nowhere, but now, Tessa knew exactly why. Instead of a guard dog, whoever lived in the house had a pet lion, a lion of all things. After everything her and Nico had been through, they were about to be eaten by a freaking jungle cat. She screamed when a hand landed on her shoulder.
“It’s okay. I won’t hurt you.” A deep raspy voice came from behind.
Tessa turned and fell against the door, gripping her son tight in her arms. She thought her heart was about to beat out of her chest as she got a look at the man who had grabbed her. He was tall, about six foot five with long, golden hair. In fact, everything about the man was golden, from his hair to his strange gold eyes. Even his skin was a deep, gold color like the man spent most of his time out in the sun. The shorts the man was wearing hung low on his hips, and Tessa couldn’t help but stare at his chest and stomach. He was huge with bulging muscles on top of muscles. She gulped and pulled Nico closer to her. What have I gotten us into?
“Hey,” the man said, holding his hands out as if he could sense her thoughts. “You’re safe here. I promise I won’t hurt you.”
Tessa peeped around the man and sighed in relief when she didn’t see the lion standing there waiting to eat them. “It’s not you I’m worried about. I’m sorry we came in here without permission. We’ll leave and not bother you again.” She gripped the doorknob to leave when the man cleared his throat.
“You aren’t going out there like that.”
The command made Tessa stiffen. “Look, mister. It’s not like we stole anything. The door was unlocked, so we technically didn’t break in. All we wanted was a shower and food, but I would have left you money for whatever we took. No harm no foul. Now, we’ll be on our way.”
“I meant you can’t leave because you don’t have any clothes on.”
The smirk on the man’s face, as he looked her up and down, made Tessa want to smack him, but she was too embarrassed to move. She hadn’t even realized she was naked until he pointed it out. She hadn’t thought of anything but grabbing Nico and getting the hell out of there. Their bags with the money and everything they owned in the world were still lying on the floor in the bedroom upstairs. There was no way she was going back up there to get them with the lion just waiting to have her as a snack, so Tessa was screwed.
“Look, you said you guys were hungry, so why don’t you get dressed while I fix you something to eat.”
Nico’s stomach chose that moment to growl. Looking at her son’s slim, hollowed cheeks and dark circles under his eyes, there was no way she could turn down the offer of food for him. He needed to eat. “Okay, we won’t say no to a meal, but we’ll leave right after that.”
The man frowned but didn’t say anything. He just nodded and turned toward what Tessa assumed was the kitchen. There was no way he was leaving them alone in that house, so she quickly followed.
“Not that I mind or anything, but do you plan on eating naked?” The man grinned.
“I left my bag upstairs.” Tessa assumed that would have explained things, but the man just stared at her. “I’m not going back up there. That beast you have almost ate me. Who has a pet lion anyway?”
She didn’t get what was so funny, but evidently something she said was because the man about fell over himself laughing. He even had Nico giggling, although Tessa was pretty sure her son had no idea what he was laughing at. Not amused, she put her hand on her hip and stared at the stranger who had allowed them into his home. “Are you finished?” she asked when it looked like he was finally settling down.
“Yeah.” The man chuckled. “I’ll go get your bags for you. Just wait right here.”
He had nothing to worry about. Tessa had no plans of leaving the kitchen while the man was gone. She settled in a chair with Nico in her lap and sighed. She was exhausted. She had been on the run for over two weeks now, trying to distance herself from Chicago as much as possible, and she still had no clue what she was going to do. All she knew was that they couldn’t continue like they were. Every day, she watched Nico getting thinner and the circles under his eyes getting darker. That was no way for a two-year-old to look. He should still have baby fat on his rounded cheeks. She had to find some place safe where they could rest. The problem was that he found them no matter where they went. She had no idea how he was able to find them so easily either. Tessa had even stopped using her ATM and credit cards, thinking he was somehow able to track her and Nico with them. It was the reason they were half starved at the moment and desperate enough to break into someone’s home. With her cash running so low, she couldn’t afford even the cheapest dump for her and her son to stay in for the night. Tessa would have been tempted to use her credit cards again if she hadn’t left them behind in her panic to run the last time he had almost caught them. She was starting to believe the man chasing her was psychic or something.
“Here you go.” The man came back in the kitchen and handed Tessa her bag. “There is a bathroom right down the hallway that you can get changed in.”
The man pointed toward what she assumed was the bathroom door, but Tessa didn’t move. “I’m fine thank you. If you could just turn around, I can get dressed right here.” He really didn’t expect her to leave the kitchen alone, did he?
The man laughed but didn’t say anything as he turned and began pulling things out of the refrigerator. Tessa sat Nico in the chair she had been in and pulled some clothes out of her bag. “I’m Tessa by the way,” she said as she dressed. “The little guy here is Nico.”
“Mitch,” the guy introduced without turning around.
Tessa had to wonder why the guy hadn’t called the police yet. They had broken into his home, and all he had done was offer them a meal and a promise that he wouldn’t hurt them. Mitch didn’t seem like the crazy type that suckered an unsuspecting woman in with false promises before he dragged her down to the basement for his version of “fun.” She couldn’t be too sure though. After all, he did have a man-eating beast as a pet.
Once Tessa was dressed she pulled out a chair next to Nico and sat. She could tell that the poor boy was fading fast. He had his head down on the table as he swung his little legs back and forth. She knew if he was still for even a minute, he would fall fast asleep. Tessa felt tears prickle her eyes. Being on the run was no way for her two-year-old child to live. He was still a baby in her eyes. He should have been at home surrounded by all his toys with regular meals. The sad thing was Tessa had no idea why she was running. One minute she was living a normal life as a single parent and the next she and her son were running scared.
She thought about the night it all started. She had just gotten off work and locked up for the night. Normally she got off before dark, but that night Tammy, her replacement, had called in sick. Tessa covered for her because she could always use the extra money. The night was warm, so Tessa thought nothing of walking the four blocks to her apartment. The screams were what drew her attention as she walked past a small stand of trees surrounding the park she frequented with her son. The image of a man bent over a woman with blood dripping from his mouth and fingers was the first thing she saw. It was her turn to scream when she looked down to see a woman lying in the grass with her chest and stomach ripped open. Tessa didn’t think after that. She just turned and ran as fast as she could until she was safely inside her apartment.
“Here, go ahead and eat this because you look like you’re about to pass out.” Mitch slid a plate in front of her.
Tessa had been so lost in memory that she hadn’t even seen Mitch come over. She looked over and was surprised to see Nico happily munching on a piece of bacon. She had to give it to the kid. No matter what she had put him through these past two weeks by dragging him around, he was still the same happy kid that he had always been. She wished she could go back and be just as oblivious to the dangers in the world as he was. Unfortunately for her, she would never forget the image of the dead woman seared into her brain. She would also never forget what else she saw that night. Something she had never even told the police. They already thought she was crazy. If she had told them what else she saw, they would have surely thrown her in the nuthouse and taken her son away from her. No, she would never tell another living soul. She was going to try her best to forget about it herself. At least she would pretend she would.