A jaguars kiss, p.9
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       A Jaguars Kiss, p.9

           Katie Reus
 
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Page 9

 

  Gabriela unzipped her backpack and pulled out one of the chocolate bars she’d re-wrapped a few hours ago. After the third time they’d had sex last night, they’d devoured most of what was in her pack, but there was still a little left over. As shifters they had extremely high metabolisms and needed to eat a lot to keep up their energy, and right now she was famished. While she was devouring it, she heard the soft padding of Owen’s paws outside the cave. It was followed up with his distinctive earthy scent.

  Seconds later a white wolf with familiar blue eyes stood a few feet in front of her. Then Owen shifted, returning to his human form with a grunt of discomfort as his bones realigned. Tearing her eyes away from his naked, gorgeous form was difficult, but she met his gaze and shook her head at the lust in his eyes.

  “You’re wearing too many clothes. ” Growling softly, he knelt on the sleeping bag she was sitting on and crawled toward her until she was flat on her back.

  Heat spread across her belly and ventured lower, but she pressed a hand to his chest and shook her head. “I’m too sore. ” Even though she’d spoken the truth, she knew that she could go another round—or three—but she needed to mentally evaluate everything that had transpired between them.

  After last night she felt so comfortable around Owen it was a little scary. She’d only returned to Bear Mountain to get some downtime and think long and hard about what she wanted to do with her life. After her last mission the thought of going back to work without her team, her friends, was so depressing it carved at her insides. She swallowed back a sudden swell of tears, forcing herself to think of Owen and the present.

  Jumping into bed with him had never even crossed her mind. If anything, she’d planned to do everything in her power to ignore the sexy male. Last night made everything so confusing. Especially since he was currently looking at her as if he’d like to ravish her again and her body was completely onboard with it.

  Sighing, he rolled onto his side and tugged her with him so that she wrapped her arm around his waist and snuggled against his hard body. “Sorry I left, but I didn’t want to wake you. I scouted the area for signs of intruders. Only found normal forest animals. ”

  Despite his relaxed hold, she could feel the underlying tension humming through him. “Were any of the humans attacked specifically associated with your pack?”

  His shoulders lifted slightly. “Sort of, but no one with a close relationship and no more so than anyone else in town. The first man killed was a hunter who shops in one of the pack’s pawn stores. The second was a tourist in town on one of those paid big-game hunting trips and the last was a rancher who lives on the outskirts of town. He buys bags of feed for his horses from our feed and garden store. As far as I know, none of them have any relationship with each other and definitely not anyone in my pack. Of course the sheriff isn’t looking for stuff like that because these are animal attacks as far as she’s concerned. ” There was an undeniable spike of anger in his words.

  Gabriela traced circular patterns across his chest. The randomness of it all was frustrating. Jaguars weren’t native to this area and she hated that someone was not only killing innocent humans, but making her family a target in the process. “What’s Sharon like as sheriff?” She knew what Sharon was like as her friend but was curious for a multitude of reasons. One being that Sharon had not so subtly told Gabriela she had a standing job offer any time she decided to move back to Bear Mountain. Something she’d never considered until now.

  “She’s fair and well liked by just about everyone. A few of my pack members have shown interest in her. ” His voice was resigned and she knew why.

  If a shifter mated with a human, that human would be told everything about their species. Bringing humans into the loop on anything about them went against every fiber inside shifters. Of course for Gabriela, she’d gotten over her issues with that a while ago. Some of her bosses had been humans and they knew pretty much all they needed to about the different shifter species around the world. Many branches of various governments did. It wasn’t something that could stay hidden forever and it was the reason she’d been recruited in the first place. “Sharon would handle knowledge of us well, I think. ” When Owen didn’t respond, she splayed her palm over his chest, wondering how he’d respond to Sharon’s job offer. Gabriela cleared her throat. “She offered me a job. ”

  Owen went impossibly still. “Are you considering it?” he asked carefully.

  She shrugged against him, feeling confused about everything. “It’s sort of an open-ended thing. I don’t even know if she still—”

  “Detective McGowan is retiring this month. ”

  Gabriela was silent for a while, unsure what to say. Wind whistled outside the cave, though with Owen’s body heat and the leftover warmth from the nearly burned-out fire she was more than comfortable. Owen’s grip tightened on her as he stroked a hand down her back. She might have told him that she could only give him one night, but now she wasn’t sure of anything anymore.

  “What was it like coming back here to be Alpha at such a young age?” Not exactly light conversation but she wanted to know. “It was difficult. I’d planned on a long military career but Ethan, Skyler and my mom needed me. ”

  “And the pack?”

  His chin brushed against her head as he nodded. “They needed a leader, too, but I came back for my family more than anything. ”

  “I’m so sorry you had to give that up. ” He was silent so she didn’t say any more. Just tightened her grip on him and closed her eyes. The feel of his steady heartbeat was grounding and familiar. She wasn’t sure how long they lay there in each other’s arms, but when a vibrating sound interrupted the quiet, they both stirred.

  Owen cursed under his breath and grabbed his discarded jeans. He dug out his cell phone then let out another curse before answering. Thanks to her extrasensory abilities she could hear the caller speaking. The conversation between Owen and a male voice she didn’t recognize was brief. Once he snapped the phone shut she knew they were leaving.

  A black jaguar had been spotted on wolf land ten miles from their current location about an hour ago. The young wolf cub who had seen the other shifter had luckily remained hidden. As soon as she’d been able to, she’d raced back to the pack to relay the information.

  Since Gabriela was the only black jaguar in her family and she certainly hadn’t been out roaming around, it was a good chance this might be the shifter behind the attacks. Unfortunately it meant she and Owen had to head back to the real world. “So what happens now?”

  Owen paused for a moment, then gave a brief nod almost as if he’d decided something. “If this jaguar has gone to the trees there’s a good possibility that he will be harder to track. He was last seen by the abandoned mine about…”

  She stripped off her shirt and he trailed off. “I heard where and I’ll track him. This bastard has made my family targets of your pack. We’re just lucky you were with me last night or they might have thought that was me out there. ” At least the pack member who had called Owen hadn’t said anything about another attack. Just a sighting.

  As she began to shimmy out of her jeans, Owen said, “I’ll be with you but if you have to head to the trees, I’ll still be tracking you. If you find this jaguar, do not confront it. Wait for me. ” At her raised eyebrows, he added, “Please. ”

  “It’s this guy’s fault that my mother is afraid and hasn’t been able to properly hunt for weeks. ” Neither had the rest of her family but her mother internalized stuff and this had been eating away at her. Gabriela only wished she’d shared this concern during any of their last dozen phone conversations. She’d have been home a lot sooner.

  “Gabriela. ” There was a warning note in Owen’s voice.

  “You either want my help or you don’t, but you might want to call your pack and let them know I’ll be out there tracking and not to go after the black female jag. ”

 
He immediately flipped open his phone. When he did, she shifted forms effortlessly and took off. She knew it would annoy him and inwardly cringed when she heard curses behind her, but she didn’t pause. If she was going to track this guy, she had a lot of ground to cover.

  In her jaguar form she was incredibly powerful but she wasn’t built for long distances. She could be very fast when she wanted but it was always in short bursts of speed. She wasn’t sure how long it took her to get to the abandoned mine but by the time she did, she could feel the strain in her legs. Adrenaline still punched through her as she slowed and began circling the old mine shaft. Careful of any places that might cave in, she inhaled the various scents.

  Long ago she’d learned to decipher them. It was just part of her animal instinct, like breathing, and something she could never explain to a human. It was also one of the reasons she’d been chosen to work down in South and Central America. As a jaguar she was able to blend into the jungle and get close to many of the drug operations and homes owned by drug lords. She’d been like an invisible agent.

  Pulling in a deep breath, she narrowed in on the distinctive feline scent lingering in the air. There were a few deer, an elk and other smaller forest creatures that had passed through the area recently, but the feline scent was the easiest to discern.

  Turning north and in the opposite direction of where Owen’s pack made their home, she kept a steady pace. Wanting to retain some of her energy, she kept to a lope this time. The farther north she ran, the stronger the scent grew.

  Owen had to be pretty close behind her by now. She’d tapped into energy reserves during her first sprint and knew she’d outpaced him by a fairly great distance. But wolves were fast, too, and these were his woods. He’d be caught up soon enough. She just hoped she found this jaguar first because he was going to pay.

  About two miles into her trek, she slowed and took to the trees. There were clusters of very old white-bark pines—so they were big enough to support her feline body—and she used the branches as springboards to jump from tree to tree until the sound of male voices made her slow even more.
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