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Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group

Shifter's Claim

A Paranormal Shapeshifter Werejaguar Romance

The Shadow Shifters

A. C. Arthur

St. Martin's Paperbacks


Chapter 1

The Willard InterContinental Hotel

Washington, D.C.

Present day

"What do you want?" he asked even though he had one arm wrapped firmly around her waist, the other clapped tightly over her mouth.

She'd been following him all night, her gaze fixated on him like a beacon in the dark of night. Bas had tried to ignore it, no, actually he hadn't. He'd seen her about two minutes after she'd taken her seat at the table just ten feet away from his. She'd smiled and conversed with the others around her, all the while casing the room for something, until landing on him. Females did not normally affect him this way, they didn't look at him and cause all the blood in his body to run hotter and faster throughout his veins. They didn't call to him throughout the night in a room full of about six hundred people and they definitely did not wander around hotel hallways attempting to break into private suites—the private suites of Roman Reynolds, Leader of the Stateside Assembly.

She mumbled something against his hand, her lips brushing over his skin with the effort. His teeth gritted so hard he thought his jaw might break, warmth flooding him so fast and so potently he felt like he might melt with the intensity. In seconds his defensive stance shifted to something more powerful, more lethal to anyone on its receiving end. He pressed his body closer, let the curves of hers fit perfectly against him. Her ass was cradled by his now-jutting hips, and felt so sweet he almost gasped. Moving his arm upward just a few inches had the curve of her breasts resting against his arms. But both those actions and reactions were basic—male body parts plus female body parts equaled sexual desire, plain and simple, the circle of life so to speak.

Then he inhaled and that circle broke, it bent and reshaped until Bas felt like it was a lasso instead, tightening slowly, keeping them together regardless. Her scent consumed him, filtering through his body like an infusion of pleasure, a drug so pure and so powerful he automatically wanted more. Leaning forward, his lips only inches from her earlobe he whispered, "If you scream I'll break your neck."

Slowly, he moved his hand away from her mouth, keeping her body pressed tightly against the wall, firmly covered by his own.

"You really need to work on your greeting," came her cool response, delivered in a sultry voice that wasn't so deep as to be off-putting and wasn't too high as to work his nerves. It was, he thought, inhaling another dangerous whiff of her scent, alluring.

"Do I now?" Bas asked with a slight chuckle to his tone. "And what do you need to work on? Your surveillance skills maybe? You picked the wrong room and the wrong person to follow tonight."

Her next move was totally surprising, especially to Sebastian Perry, multimillionaire resort owner and playboy extraordinaire. She wiggled her ass against his now-throbbing erection, turned, and tilted her head so that when she spoke her next words he could actually see her lips move and feel her warm breath fan over his face.

"Maybe I need to work on you," she whispered about two seconds before her elbow smashed into the right side of his ribs.

Another man, a human, may have buckled at the assault but Bas, a Faction Leader in the Stateside Assembly, barely blinked. He did, however, take about a five-inch step back, which gave her enough time to spin around and face him, but not get away.

"Oh, that can definitely be arranged," he replied, moving into her once more.

While he'd loved the enticing cushion of her ass against his dick, he was now enjoying the heavy swells of her breasts pressed against his chest, threatening to overflow from the tight bodice of her dress. Her hair was short, shorter than he usually preferred on his females but cut in a chic style that he now realized echoed her snappy and courageous personality. She had a small face, plump lips, wide eyes, and high cheekbones. Everything about her seemed to scream blatant desire, and yet, there was something else.

"This may be some form of harassment," she told him, her hands pushing futilely against his chest.

Bas, the smooth, cocky sonofabitch he was sometimes known as, only smiled. "No, this would be harassment," he told her a second before cupping her ass cheeks in his palms and leaning forward to lick the seam of her lips.

He pressed her into him so hard and so fast his dick just about burst through the zipper of his tuxedo pants. Against his spine his cat pressed for more, teeth bared with the idea of conquest. He should have moved away at the quick inhale of her breath, the renewed effort to break free, but that only spurred Bas on, flicking on a switch inside him that had almost been permanently off.

Moving slightly to the right, his tongue ran a line along her jaw, down the length of her neck to her collarbone, which was left open for his perusal by the extremely low cut of her come-fuck-me red dress. Her breath had hitched, her heart pounding against her chest, her fingers clenching in the lapels of his jacket just as his teeth nipped along her soft skin.

Then she moved and Bas knew what would come next. His hand followed her motion, slipping down the back of her thigh to grab her calf just as her knee planned to slam into his groin. When she pushed at him he let her, but still held on to her leg, leaving her to flail against falling flat on the floor. After a split second of her looking helpless and extremely pissed off, he circled her waist with his free arm, holding her once more against him.

"We just keep ending up in this position," he said as this time she stood with only one foot on the ground, her other leg—the one that had been meant to assault him—hiked up against his side.

"Is this how you like it? Standing up against the wall, your legs wrapped around me while I pump you until you come?" She opened her mouth to speak, clapped those medium-thick lips shut, and glared up at him instead.

"Let me go," she said. "Or I'll scream so loud every security officer in this building will come running."

"You mean the security officers that allowed you to come onto this private floor and skulk around this private suite?" Bas shook his head. "Apparently, they're on a smoke break." He let her leg fall to the ground and moved so that now his fingers traced the line of her neck. "Now, I'll ask you one more time what you were doing here and you can either answer me"—he lowered his voice purposely, letting his finger glide over the spot on her collarbone he'd just licked seconds before—"or you can fuck me. I'll let you make the choice."

* * *

Curiosity killed the cat.

That old saying ran back and forth through Priya's head, bringing forth the memory of sneaking into the boxes underneath her mother's bed in search of whatever her mother reached for at night that left her so out of it, she couldn't even get up in the morning to get her kids ready for school.

Now, true to its meaning, it seemed her curious nature had gotten her into another mess she wished she'd never laid eyes on. Only, this six-foot-plus, built like a quarterback, smooth as the buttery tone of his skin, and sexy as … well, sexy as in had her nipples so hard they now hurt, man wasn't precisely the same as finding her mother's stash of crack cocaine.

She'd seen him before, earlier tonight at the reception for President Wilson Reed, in the ballroom. Up close and personal he was even more handsome than he had been from two tables away. His skin tone was light, hair wavy and dark, his face was clean-shaven with a strong nose and jawline. And his eyes, they weren't the smoky-gray color she'd originally surmised. Stormy would be the better word as he glared at her with what she thought could pass as either barely masked contempt or intense sexual desire—she wasn't really in the mood for either at the moment.

"Look, there's been some type of misunderstanding," she tried to tell him, the final word coming as a partial whisper after deciding to ignore his "you can fuck me" remark. That may have been a little cowardly, which was out of character for Priya, but she figured it was a smart move considering she was actually thinking of doing just that with him.

He looked at her as if he could tell she was lying or ready to tell the lie before the words could even escape. She felt like clamping her lips shut and keeping them that way, until he did that thing he'd done with his tongue again—oh, she'd definitely open her mouth the next time he did that.

Right, because sexual arousal was exactly what she should be thinking about in lieu of the e-mails she'd been receiving that threatened the lives of all the people she loved and cherished in this world. Thinking about taking this man up on his oh-so-enticing offer—especially since the self-imposed celibacy she'd endured for the last year was about to take its toll—was definitely more important than following her blackmailer's orders and saving her family. In some crazy twisted world, she thought with an inward sigh. She knew she had no choice here and for the billionth time tonight wondered how she was going to do what needed to be done, when the people involved were reputedly more powerful than the president himself.

"I'm a reporter from the Washington Post. I wanted to get a comment from Mr. Reynolds about President Reed's campaign," she blurted out. "There, satisfied now that you know why I'm here?"

He looked like he was anything but, still he'd released his hold on her, physically, that is. His eyes still bore into her as if he were performing some type of perverted X-ray of her body right in this hallway.

"You waited all night, the entire three and a half hours that Mr. Reynolds was downstairs in that ballroom to follow him to his room to ask for a statement?"

He lifted a brow in disbelief as he spoke. The slight rasp of his deep voice echoing around her as if forever planting itself in her memory, like she'd really forget being felt up by this guy, which was definitely not going to happen.

"It's my job," she told him with a shrug. "And since I'm assuming you're some type of bodyguard and not going to let me get that statement, I'll just be going."

Priya was more than shocked that he hadn't reached out to grab her again, to try and stop her from leaving. Instead, she'd walked about three very uncomfortable steps because she knew he was staring at her ass as she did, before his voice stopped her.

"Have a drink with me?"

She turned. "What?"

He closed the space between them, taking her by her elbow, much more gently than he had touched her before, yet still sending electrifying spikes up her arm.

"We'll go down to the bar since having you in my room might lead us to other things besides a nice cordial drink." He continued as if she'd already accepted, walking them to the elevators at the far end of the hall that had brought her up here about fifteen minutes before.

Once they were inside the elevator and she felt like she needed to stop this impending train wreck, Priya turned to him and announced, "I'm not the reporter who sleeps with someone for a story."

He looked at her then, an amused grin on his face—amused and way too cocky for her, but still sexy as hell.

"Good, because I don't sleep with reporters. I do, however, take beautiful women to bed and give them a night they'll never forget. Tonight, however, I'll settle for a glass of wine."

Rebuffed and not sure whether or not she disliked it or felt relief, Priya kept her mouth shut. It wasn't an easy task since she'd always been inclined to ask questions, always searching for answers. Sometimes, however, the answers she found were more than she'd bargained for. That was part of the reason she was here tonight, on this foolhardy mission to uncover something she wasn't sure she believed herself.

Still, it was apparent that this man knew Reynolds personally. In the last two weeks Priya had interviewed everyone from a receptionist in Reynolds's office to the manager of the detail shop where his SUV was dropped off every Friday afternoon. Her file on the man was almost an inch thick with one glowing remark after another. He appeared so squeaky clean she'd felt sick each time she flipped through her notes. So, if having a glass of wine with this new person she'd seen with Reynolds could help get this task completed sooner, rather than later, she'd do it, and whatever else she had to, if it would save her family's life.

Copyright © 2014 by A.C. Arthur