Darcy had no idea how she’d been lucky enough to have two predators decide to duke it out with each other instead of have her for a snack, but she wasn’t about to complain as she crept away. The sound of battle had ceased, and for a moment, she held still listening. Was it too much to hope they’d forgotten she was here? Maybe she should just crawl away so they wouldn’t see her over the bushes. She lifted her head, searching for the tree line.
Her gaze connected with the tawny golden eyes of the mountain lion.
He crouched less than an arm’s length away, muzzle stained crimson and one ear torn. She jolted backward, toppling onto her backside like a crab. This is it. The end. No one would even find her body because the lion would drag her off and eat her.
The lion prowled forward, a deep purr vibrating the air. His golden eyes mesmerized her, and her heart thundered so hard, she couldn’t breathe. She found herself unable to look away.
He stepped forward slowly, gracefully, until his front paws straddled her. She was forced to lie back to avoid bumping noses. Barely breathing, she lay beneath him, the heat of his body radiating against her.
“N-nice kitty,” she whispered.
He continued purring, lowering his face to rub his cheek against hers.
She cringed, expecting fangs. Only the rough prickle of his whiskers rubbed her skin. With trembling hands, she pushed his head away, the tawny fur lush and soft against her palms.
The big cat responded by purring louder. His golden eyes held an intelligence she hadn’t expected. Why wasn’t he tearing into her? Could he be somebody’s pet? She dug her fingers into the thick fur and the tight fear in her chest eased a bit.
A long rough tongue snaked out to taste her throat, sending a surprisingly sensual shiver through her. She lay perfectly still as the lion moved down her body, snuffling and licking and rubbing. Was he marking her? She knew nothing about mountain lions.
He lifted a wide paw and placed it on her belly, kneading gently without baring his claws. Her skin quivered under the touch. He nudged his head up the inside of her thigh until he reached her center, hot breath penetrating her jeans.
She gasped, belly tightening around unexpected butterflies. Oh, God. She’d never had a fetish for animals, but this lion…
The cat lifted his head, intelligent gaze connecting to hers. He seemed to be considering. After several heartbeats, the air between them shimmered. The cat’s features grew hazy, muzzle flattening and ears receding. The furry hide smoothed, and the limbs lengthened. Within moments, the beast was replaced by a tawny-haired, golden-eyed man kneeling between her legs. His hands were planted on the ground on either side of her thighs, every naked square inch of him rippling with muscle.
In a voice like a roll of thunder, he asked, “Why do you reek of catnip?”