Tori Haida was born a stereotype—a pretty swan shifter—and has spent a lifetime living it down with an in-your-face attitude and a zero-tolerance policy for stupidity. Which makes her attraction to the werewolf Alpha’s heir more than a tad inconvenient.

Bastian Lykaios is just the kind of dominant male who drives her crazy, and not in a good way. And yet, she can’t help wanting him in the worst way.

The moment he arrives at the Refuge Resort, Bastian is in lust. The were-leopards’ administrative assistant is a study in contrasts: a cheerleader-perky blonde with a body built for sin, the mouth of a sailor, and a lead foot for her classic car.

Unfortunately, there’s no time to indulge in an affair, not while a werekind traitor is leaking information to the human press. But when Tori is kidnapped by a pair of scientists to use as a live specimen, Bastian’s plan for damage control turns into a rescue mission. One where all means of rescue are on the table—including betraying his own kind.

Publisher: CJ Books
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“I need a cigarette.” Tori clutched the cup of coffee the waitress had just dropped off. She'd been feeding her caffeine habit to try to ignore her nicotine habit, but it just left her shaking, jittery, and even more irritated. “Seriously, I'd give you my first-born child for just one puff right now.”

“You don't have any children yet, and those cancer sticks will kill you, werekind or not. Have you tried the nicotine gum I recommended?” Lyra offered up her best concerned physician look and Tori wanted to lunge across the breakfast table at her.

Yes, she was feeling totally reasonable and rational today.


Of course, since she was a swan-shifter and Lyra was a wolf-shifter, Tori was pretty sure she'd get her ass handed to her if she tried it, concerned physician or no. But on the other hand, it might take her mind off the fact that she really, really needed a fucking cigarette. She eyed her closest friend. She's taken on a predator shifter before and won. It could be worth it, just for the distraction factor.

Lyra smirked, flashing a bit of wolf canine in the process. “Don't take your violent urges out on me, birdie. No one's forcing you to quit if you don't want to.”

“I know, I know,” Tori moaned. “But it is bad for me and--”

“Is she still whining about the smokes?” asked a feminine voice behind her. Lyra's cousin, Celeste, came sauntering up and parked herself across from Tori. Celeste was married to one of Tori's bosses, but somehow it had never felt awkward to be friends.

The waitress brought Celeste a cup of tea without asking, but Tori winced at the noise of people talking and silverware clinking. Everything seemed to scrape over her too-sensitive nerves today.

They sat at a table in the restaurant at Refuge Resort--an exclusive getaway for shifters of all kinds--where Lyra ran the local werekind clinic. Her husband, Zander Leonidas, ran the resort. It was a rare patch of neutral territory in the often-contentious world of shifter clans. The resort also served as the headquarters for the Leonidas family businesses, which was where Tori worked. She'd spent the last five years as the administrative assistant to Jason and Adrian Leonidas, Zander's older brothers. The Leonidases also happened to be the rulers of the leopard shifter clan--and by extension, all feline shifter species in America. Adrian handled the business end of things, Jason ruled the clan, and Tori got to juggle their calendars and make sure their lives ran smoothly.

Lyra nodded to Celeste. “Yep, we might even get to witness a full-on meltdown from the beauty queen today.”

Beauty queen. Tori hated that label. She owned a mirror, so she knew she was prettier than the average woman. Okay, gorgeous, stunning, knock-out. She'd been called all those things. She also had a body that made men drool. God help her if she ever dared to put on a bikini. Her platinum blonde hair and Miss-America-pageant-contestant looks made people assume she was all perky sweetness and light…and a bimbo, too. Not that she wouldn't sleep with a guy on the first date if the chemistry were there, but she didn't indiscriminately drop her panties for anyone. Fuck the bullshit stereotypes. She bit back the urge to spit those words at her friend. The cigarette detox was making her overreact. Her fingers clenched around the ceramic of her cup and she told herself to chill out.

“Ooh, interesting. Maybe I'll get pictures and do an interview for a story on kicking the habit.” Celeste's eyes gleamed with journalistic interest. She was a freelance reporter who wrote for both human and werekind publications. “Imagine the raging addict video on YouTube. We'd go viral in seconds.”

“You guys are hilarious.” It took everything Tori had to hold back the swan-like hiss that wanted to erupt from her throat. She could feel her wings rippling just below the surface of her skin, and she wanted to shift into her bird form to fly far and fast from the craving that hounded her. Unfortunately, she couldn't escape herself. “I feel like utter shit. Like soggy, lukewarm, day-old shit.”

“Wow, that's appetizing.” Celeste put down the menu she'd just picked up.

Lyra waved her cousin away and addressed Tori. “Are you using the nicotine patch? It'll help.”

“With what? Is it supposed to do anything other than feel weird and piss me off even more? At this point, I'm going to put some tobacco in it, roll it and smoke it.” Tori took a sip of her coffee, but it didn't stop the desperate need clawing through her.

Her foot bounced against the floor, and she sat there amongst friends feeling like she wasn't even herself anymore. The smoking hadn't been a big deal, she'd thought, but suddenly it was all she could think about, all she could focus on. She'd been scattered at work the last three days she'd been off the nicotine, had a sore throat and her skull hadn't stopped pounding in a headache for three. Damn. Days. She was also mood swinging like she'd slammed into full-blown menopause. At twenty seven years old. Awesome. Why did she want to quit again? Oh, yeah. Because it was healthy.

“Hey, did you guys see this?” Another friend, Cleo, strode up waving her tablet computer. “This has PR nightmare written all over it.”

That didn't sound good. As the public relations officer for the resort, Cleo probably had a pretty good instinct for what might become a problem.

“What?” Lyra asked.

Cleo flipped her tablet around to show them the top headline on a newspaper website.

Scientists Claim Human-Animal Hybrids Exist, Fired From MIT

Tori felt her eyes bulge. Just what she needed today. Drama in the werekind world. “Oh, fuck me sideways with a hockey stick.”

Snorting, Lyra cast a sideways glance at her. “Well, that says it all, doesn't it?”

“Damn, he made the Times.” Celeste sighed. “It's that reporter again--Jeff Nichols--the one who won't let the shifter thing go. I've tried to bury him, but his articles keep getting better and better exposure. But the Times? Crap.”

“Adrian believes Nichols has an inside source helping him. A shifter selling out other shifters.” A growl rumbled up in Cleo throat--the lioness within her showing through. She glanced at Celeste and Lyra. “What do your husbands think?”

With the exception of Tori, all the women at the table were married to a Leonidas brother. Cleo was a feline, so no one had questioned her mating, but the other two had had a rough time during their courtships. Celeste was a human, but she was the werewolf Alpha's stepdaughter. And wolves and leopards didn't mix. At all. It had been majorly controversial when Celeste had mated with the Leonidas heir, but it had blown people's minds when Lyra--an actual wolf-shifter--had married a leopard. Her father had disowned her for it.

Tori was just happy that, as a bird, she was neutral in all those disputes. Werebirds were ferocious in their neutrality. No one dragged them into clan wars. She'd take her eagle queen over these alpha males any day. Then again, the queen had married a Leonidas too. Nico--probably the scariest, most feral of the four brothers. Tori would love to see that particular cat caught in an eagle's nest, but she hadn't made it out to werebird territory in years.

Lyra's cup thumped loudly against the wooden tabletop, jolting Tori back to the unfortunate present. The she-wolf tossed her long black hair over her shoulder. “Zander agrees with Adrian. I think they've been talking about how to deal with this information leak.”

“Jason's had a few phone calls with Nico about it, too.” Celeste leaned forward, dropping her voice. Not that anyone was close enough to overhear, but it paid to be cautious. “I'm recommending that we finally reach out to my family and see if the wolf clan has any intel on this. The Lykaioses have a different network of allies than the leopards or eagles.”

“Uncle Michael has been saying for years that our exposure is inevitable,” Lyra pointed out. “He's not going to help.”

Celeste shook her head, stress pinching the corners of her mouth. “I'm not thinking the Alpha. I'm thinking we go with his second-in-command. My oldest brother is more reasonable than my dad.”

“Bastian can also be a dogmatic, hardheaded pain in the ass.” Lyra ran a finger around the rim of her mug, her forehead furrowed in thought. “We'd be asking him to go against his Alpha. I'm not sure he's ever done that before.”

“I know he hasn't, even when he really should have.” Old bitterness flashed in Celeste's gaze, but her mouth firmed into a stubborn line. “Still, it's worth a shot. Bastian is our best bet for help from the wolves. My husband, my nieces and nephews, my whole family are in danger if word gets out about the werekind, so I'm not standing around and doing nothing. I want to know who this inside source is, and I want him or her stopped.”

Not just an inside source, but a powerful one if they were managing to bypass Celeste's efforts to discredit this guy. Tori's stomach churned for reasons that had nothing to do with nicotine withdrawal. The existence of shifters being revealed to the general population would be a majorly huge clusterfuck. She hated to think that anyone would be helping a human expose them, but the article claimed these scientists had blood and tissue samples. Where the hell would they get those, if not from a shifter?

This went way, way beyond a PR nightmare.

“I need a cigarette.”