Mate Marks (Box Set)
by Kate Hill
eBook ISBN: 07143-02301
[ Paranormal Romance ]
Seducing stubborn yet beautiful Chantel will challenge a shapeshifting cat in more ways than he realizes, especially when their lives depend on his prowess as a warrior.
This collection contains the previously released novellas Hunger, Thirst, Breath, and Pulse from the Mate Marks series and Impassioned and Wild Woods from the Mate Marks Cursed series.
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Joshi growled, muscles rippling as Clementine’s clawed hands raked his back. Behind him, Clarissa purred and sank her fangs into his ass. His head snapped over his shoulder and he gave a sharp roar.
Clarissa backed away slightly, but glanced at him with a sultry look in her large green eyes.
Seeing that he’d been distracted by her sister, Clementine pawed his face and made a sound somewhere between a growl and a purr. He turned back to her and pawed her face in response, then thrust into her hot, wet body, making her writhe with desire.
This pair had kept him busy for most of the evening. Clarissa and Clementine were ultra-rare twin female Prowleryns — beings gifted with the characteristics of both humans and great cats.
The entire species now dwindled. Males like Joshi vied for the attention of females whom they greatly outnumbered. He’d spent most of his life traveling all over the world in search of females of his kind, hoping to spread his seed and increase the Prowleryn chances of survival.
If he didn’t succeed, he’d be forced into an act that sickened him. He would have no choice but to mate with a human female.
Beneath him, Clementine gasped and growled, her lips drawn back in pleasure, exposing her sharp little fangs. The American Prowleryns were smaller than the ones from his tribe, but what these females lacked in size they made up for in enthusiasm.
His cock ached and heart pounded with lust. Clementine came hard, her flesh pulsing around him. Joshi closed his eyes and lunged into her with several more hard thrusts. He exploded, filling her with his essence.
He scarcely had time to recover before Clarissa rubbed her face against his back, her hand kneading his ass. One of her claws slid between the indentation and tickled his sphincter.
Joshi roared again and rolled off of Clementine to grab her sister. His fingers bit into Clarissa’s upper arms and his mouth covered hers in a rough kiss. She met him with equal ferocity. Her tongue thrust against his and she bit his upper lip hard enough to draw blood. The taste of it aroused him, making him hard again. Unlike human males, Prowleryns had amazing recuperative qualities, not to mention incredible staying power.
Only Prowleryn females could truly satisfy them, which was part of the reason Joshi disliked the idea of fucking a human woman. It would be such a bore, such a waste. Worst of all, his children would carry weak, human blood. That would not happen if he got one or both of these sisters pregnant.
Pressing Clarissa against a nearby boulder, he bent his knees and filled her cunt with a long, hard thrust. She cried out sharply, whether from pleasure or pain he wasn’t sure. He felt no emotional attachment to these women, and they had made it clear they felt none to him. They’d agreed to fuck him for the sole purpose of procreation.
It had taken some heavy bargaining with their tribal leader to allow him to take these women. He’d brought gifts for both the leader and the women. Finally they had agreed that if he impregnated Clementine, the offspring would remain with this Colorado tribe. If his seed grew within Clarissa, she would return with him to his tribal territory and their child would be raised there.
Perhaps taking a human would be easier, as she would be his no matter what. Still, he would rather leave behind the child of a Prowleryn than be burdened with a human female for the rest of his life.
“Something wrong?” Clarissa purred, lightly running her claws over his shoulders. “You look distracted. Don’t I please you, you gorgeous golden beast?” As if to draw his attention, she tightened her muscles around him, squeezing his stiff cock.
In reply he growled and raked his fangs along her shoulder, then grasped her wrists and pinned them on either side of her head as he pounded into her.
She moaned and arched against him. Her drenched pussy throbbed around him and his body stiffened as he came long and hard.
No sooner had he finished than he withdrew from her, leaving her panting against the rock.
Clementine, who had been watching them, stood a short distance away. Lust burned in her eyes as she stroked her breasts, her fingertips teasing her long, pink nipples.
“You’re vigorous, even for one of our kind,” Clementine said, her gaze sweeping him. “Let’s see which one of us wears you out first.”
“You mean why don’t we see which one of you gives out first,” he said, his voice husky as he reached for her again.
She opened her mouth for his kiss, but they were interrupted by the roars of several Prowleryn males.
Four cat men, covered in dark gold fur, appeared at the top of a rock pile. All were young and strong, and the scent of their rage and arousal wafted on the air.
Joshi had no doubt what this was about. In spite of his arrangement with their leader, he was still infringing on their rights by claiming these females.
They climbed down the rocks and surrounded him.
“You have no business here,” said the largest male, though even he wasn’t as tall as Joshi.
“These are our females,” said another. “Go back where you came from.”
“My job is done here,” Joshi said with a smug grin. This had the desired effect and the four males roared with fury.
He probably shouldn’t be so arrogant, considering it was a four-to-one situation, but Joshi had never backed away from a challenge in his life.
They attacked simultaneously, like lions hunting their prey. One-on-one these smaller cats wouldn’t have a chance against him. A group effort was more challenging, but this wasn’t the first time Joshi had been faced with such an attack.
Their muscular bodies locked, they bit each other deeply. Claws sank into furred flesh and battle roars filled the air. They kicked up clouds of dust from the dry ground, making it difficult to see. Joshi felt claws sink into his thighs and one of the males sank his fangs deeply into his shoulder. Joshi’s claws tore at the shoulders of the cat man in his arms, then he turned and bit through the leg of another. The third lunged at him and Joshi used his powerful legs to hurl him into the boulder.
Joshi leapt to his feet, ignoring the pain of his wounds, and faced the only opponent left standing. A flicker of fear darted across this male’s eyes, but pride overcame his terror and he attacked. Joshi swiped his claws across the other cat’s face, knocking him to his knees.
Gazing at Joshi with unfocused eyes, he said, “Do it. Finish us.”
Panting, his teeth bared, Joshi glanced around at the injured males and back to Clarissa and Clementine, who stood a safe distance away.
“I came here for the survival of our kind,” Joshi stated. “I have no desire to kill other Prowleryns. Leave me in peace and I’ll consider this matter closed. Otherwise, I will finish this.”
Properly chastised, his attackers nodded in consent and dragged themselves off, probably back to the village to tend their injuries. That wasn’t a bad idea. There was a river nearby. Some of Joshi’s wounds were quite deep and needed care.
The sisters approached, their eyes gleaming with lust.
“Come with us,” Clarissa said, taking his arm.
“We’ll clean your wounds for you,” Clementine said.
Typical Prowleryn women. Seeing a male tear apart his enemies in battle aroused them as much as fucking.
That was good. At least they would bear children with the hot, raging blood of his kind. Not the impure blood of humans.
Joshi growled and led the way to the river, the sisters purring softly behind him.
* * *
Massachusetts, Six Months Later
Chante awoke in darkness. A strange feeling settled over her, as if she’d just experienced a nightmare, yet she didn’t remember dreaming.
She glanced at the digital clock on her night table. One minute past midnight.
A breeze blew across her face and the drapes danced, ghostlike, in front of the open window. Fear shot through her and she leapt out of bed. It was late autumn so she certainly hadn’t opened the window before falling asleep. That meant someone else had opened it.
She stood, listening for any sound that indicated an intruder in the apartment. Kneeling by her bed, she reached for the baseball bat she kept underneath it. She held it in a ready position as she combed every inch of the place. Finally she stopped in the kitchen, where she used the phone to call the police.
Since she hadn’t actually seen an intruder, no damage had been done and nothing seemed to be missing, they didn’t sound very concerned. Still they agreed to send over a cruiser that was in the area.
She dressed quickly and made a cup of tea while waiting for the police to arrive.
Now that she was fully awake with the lights on and the windows locked, she felt better. Maybe she’d overreacted to the situation, yet she knew she hadn’t opened that window, so how the hell had it happened?
* * *
“It was the creepiest feeling,” Chante said to her friend and secretary, Lisa, the next morning at the office.
“And you’re sure you didn’t open the window before you went to bed?”
“Now you sound like the cops. No, I did not open the window. Somebody was in my apartment.”
“Nothing was stolen or moved around or anything like that?”
Frustrated, Chante curled her lip and snapped, “You don’t believe me? Wouldn’t you know if an uninvited guest was in your place?”
“I don’t know, Chante. It’s not that I don’t believe you, it’s just that I know how much you’ve been through lately, with your mother passing away and all. You hardly took any time off from work.”
Chante sighed and closed her eyes for a moment. The past several months had been difficult, trying to keep up with her career while caring for her mother through a serious illness. Though she’d never felt especially close to either parent, she did miss her mother.
“You have lots of vacation time, Chante. Maybe you should take it. Give yourself a chance to pull things back together,” Lisa said, her expression sympathetic.
“Maybe you’re right.” Chante felt like she could use some time off. Everything had taken a toll on her and her life had fallen into a strict regimen. She worked long hours, then went home and cared for her mother after the nurse left. Lisa was right about her needing some time to just relax. “I’ll think about it. What I really dread is the thought of going home tonight. No matter what the cops say, I know someone was there last night. If they broke in but didn’t take anything, then what did they want?”
“Maybe they didn’t like any of your stuff,” Lisa teased. “Unless you’re into cats, your apartment wouldn’t appeal to the average person.”
Her entire apartment was decorated in a feline theme, from the art on the walls to the rug on her bathroom floor. Perhaps the birthmark on her breast that looked suspiciously like a cat’s head inspired her love of felines. Her mother had insisted it looked like nothing in particular, but no matter what her mother said, Chante had still seen the cat.
“I’m sorry,” Lisa said when she saw that her attempt at humor had failed. “Why don’t you stay at my place tonight?”
“No, really. Come over. We can have dinner. Watch a movie. Talk about how neither of us have had dates in forever. It’ll be fun.”
This time Chante couldn’t help but smile. “All right. I just have to stop by my apartment first and pick up a few things.”
Lately Chante had been spending most of her time alone. Not that she was much for socializing even under normal circumstances, but after the past several months she really needed some down time. A vacation sounded better and better. She’d try to arrange for it this week.
At least she wouldn’t have to spend tonight alone. She couldn’t help feeling a bit wimpy over being scared about last night. Usually it took a lot to frighten Chante. She was the kind of woman who enjoyed extreme sports in her spare time. She’d been bungee jumping, mountain climbing and white water rafting. Her favorite vacation activities included hiking and camping in the wilderness.
Still, just because she enjoyed roughing it sometimes and had a passion for thrill seeking didn’t mean she wasn’t frightened by the thought of someone breaking into her house. Yet even if someone had been in her apartment, they hadn’t taken anything or harmed her. Then why were they there? What did they want? Had a perverted stalker taken an interest in her? What if he intended to return, to keep watching her until he finally decided to do something crazy, like rape or murder? The very idea made her shudder. That’s the kind of story you heard about but never thought would happen to you. Chante didn’t want to end up as the feature story on some TV show about true crime.
That evening when Chante left work darkness had already settled over the suburbs. As usual, she stayed late at the office, so the parking lot was nearly empty. Other than the sound of cars rolling down the main road located over the nearby bridge, everything was oddly silent.
Chante strode to her car, confident yet aware of her surroundings. Halfway across the parking lot, she heard a strange sound, like a giant cat purring. She paused and glanced around. By a clump of trees near the building, she saw a slight movement. Then a rangy man stepped out of the shadows and into the lamplight near the office entrance. He was dressed completely in black from his knit hat to his boots. The dark color was a stark contrast to his pale skin, giving him an almost otherworldly look. His eyes, a strange amber color, gleamed animal-like.
A feeling such as she’d never experienced before crawled up her spine. It was deeper than fear and stronger than mere physical attraction.
“The office is closed,” she stated, glad that she sounded steadier than she felt.
“I know,” he said, his voice soft yet husky. It sent another shiver down her spine, this one from lust. How could he do that to her just by speaking two simple words?
He stepped toward her and Chante moved back. Everything about him screamed danger.
“You’ll have to come back tomorrow,” she said.
“I think we can take care of business right now. It shouldn’t take long.”
Chante wasn’t about to wait around to find out what he meant by that comment. She turned and ran to her car. Her hands shook so much she prayed she could slip the key into the lock without fumbling. Seconds later, she dove into the front seat, locked the doors and tore out of the parking lot. The man seemed to have disappeared.
Her heart still pounding, she sped toward the highway. A horrible thought struck her. Could he be the one who had broken into her apartment last night? If she went to the police, she doubted they’d believe her. After all, she had no reason except a gut feeling to think he had any criminal intent against her.
If he had been to her apartment, could she return there safely? Hell, she wasn’t going to let some stranger run her out of her own home.
Luckily when she reached her apartment building, one of her neighbors had also just arrived home from work, so they walked in together. Chante quickly packed an overnight bag, then hurried to her car.
Finally, on her way to Lisa’s, she began to relax and laugh at her paranoia. The guy outside the office probably had a legitimate reason for being there. He might have had a quick question, which is why he said his business wouldn’t take long.
“If that’s the case, then he can still come back tomorrow,” Chante said. “The office was closed, no matter what his business was. Damn. Now I’m starting to talk to myself. Maybe I do need that vacation after all.”
When she arrived at the duplex where Lisa lived, her friend met Chante at the door and said, “Hey, come on up. I picked up pizza on the way home from work. It’s a little cold since you stayed late.”
“That’s fine. I like it cold.”
A short time later, the women sat in the kitchen eating pizza and salad and drinking wine.
“Did you ask for your vacation time?” Lisa asked. “I was thinking that you should take advantage of that invitation from your great aunt in Jamaica. If I had a rich old relative who asked me to spend a few weeks in the Caribbean, I wouldn’t even have to think about it.”
“Great Aunt Dominique,” Chante said thoughtfully, recalling the attractive, gray-haired lady she’d seen only a couple of times at family gatherings when she’d been a child. “I don’t know her that well. As a kid she always used to send me stuff on my birthday. She wanted to visit a few times, but my parents didn’t want her around. I felt sorry for her in a way. She has no one. Now I can pretty much relate to that.”
With both her parents dead, no siblings and not even a regular boyfriend, Chante felt lonelier than she ever had in her life.
“Chante, you’ve still got me,” Lisa said. “And one of these days, both of us will find Mr. Right, as corny as it sounds.”
“Mr. Right.” Chante snorted and shook her head. “I seem to have no problem attracting Misters Wrong. Speaking of that, you wouldn’t believe what happened to me when I left the office tonight.”
Chante launched into full detail about the weirdly seductive stranger in the parking lot. Just thinking about him made her pulse quicken in spite of the fear he still aroused in her. She couldn’t get those glowing amber eyes out of her mind.
“I can’t help thinking he might have been the one in my apartment last night. Do I sound paranoid?”
“Yes,” Lisa said. “But I can’t say I blame you. I don’t care what his business was or how hot looking he is, you don’t approach a woman in an empty parking lot. Let him come during office hours like a normal person.”
“Did I say he was hot looking?”
Lisa grinned. “You said it with your eyes when you were describing his long, lean body and cat’s eyes.”
“He did have eyes like a cat.”
“It was probably just the way the lamplight hit him. Let’s go pick a movie with lots of sex. I’m not getting any, so I might as well watch it.”
The women spent the next few hours watching Lisa’s favorite romantic comedy. Chante watched the movie without paying much attention. She couldn’t stop thinking about the amber-eyed man. Part of her almost hoped she’d see him again, but she should have known enough to be careful what she wished for.
After the movie, the women retired since they had to be up early for work the next day. Chante changed into her oversized nightshirt and her favorite fuzzy socks. After tossing and turning on the futon in Lisa’s living room for nearly an hour, she finally drifted off.
She awoke in darkness and a glance at the digital alarm clock she’d brought with her told her it was one in the morning. Staring across the room, she noticed that she’d forgotten to pull down the shade. Headlights from a passing car momentarily brightened the room. She walked to the window and was about to pull the shade, but caught sight of a man standing on the sidewalk just outside the house. Her heart nearly leapt through her chest.
“Oh my lord,” Chante whispered. She pulled the shade fast and shouted, “Lisa! Hey, Lisa!”
A moment later her friend stumbled into the living room wearing a T-shirt and boy shorts, her hair in disarray.
“What’s going on?” Lisa said, her voice slurred from sleepiness.
“He’s out there!”
“Who’s out where?”
“The guy from the parking lot. He’s standing outside the house.”
Lisa strode to the window and went to raise the shade, but Chante grasped her arm.
“How am I supposed to see him if I don’t look?” Lisa pulled the shade back slightly and peered out. “Chante, no one’s there.”
Lisa glanced at her, with a skeptical yet sympathetic expression on her face.
“Lisa, I know what I saw. I’m calling the cops.” Chante went to her purse and found the name of the officer she’d spoken to the previous night. She didn’t care how crazy she sounded. This guy was following her and she needed to do something about it.
“And tell them you’re being stalked by a stranger with cat’s eyes?”
“Laugh all you want. All I know is someone broke into my apartment, then this guy shows up in the parking lot and in front of your house. That’s too many coincidences for my taste.”
“You’re right,” Lisa said, glancing out the window again. “I still don’t see anybody, but maybe he heard you yell for me and took off.”
Chante dialed the police and while the officer she’d requested wasn’t on duty, she spoke to someone else.
“What did he say?” Lisa asked once Chante hung up the phone.
“They’ll send someone over to take a look around.”
“I’m going to try to get some sleep. Will you be okay?”
“Yeah. Fine. Sorry I woke you.”
“Hey, if someone is creeping around my place I want to know about it.” Lisa walked toward the door, then paused and glanced over her shoulder. “Everything will be all right, Chante.”
“I know. But I’m taking my vacation after all. Whether this guy showing up here and at the office is coincidence or not, there’s no way he’ll turn up in Jamaica.”
“You’re going to see your great aunt?”
“As soon as possible.”
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