Featuring A Jaguar’s Kiss by Lora Leigh
Jaguar breed Saban Broussard has a job to do. His assignment? To protect the first teacher chosen to teach breed children. And protecting Natalie Ricci is exactly what he’ll do. With just one kiss and his touch, the mating phenomena begins that will tie her to him forever. Unless her ex-husband manages to get them both killed.
** This is an unedited excerpt from A Jaguar's Kiss**
Natalie Ricci stared at the tall, imposing figure standing on her doorstep and reminded herself to breathe. A woman that fainted over a dark, arrogant, exceptionally handsome man deserved whatever happened to her while she was out cold. And anything this man did, she would want to be awake for.
“Can I help you?” She brushed back the dark bangs that grew over her forehead and tried to restrain the nervous jitter playing patty cake in her stomach. Tall dark and handsome was good, real good, but that gleam of powerful male assurance in his eyes warned her this man would be impossible for any woman to ever comfortably control.
“Natalie Ricci?” Even his voice was worth shivering for.
There was no discernible accent, and she was fairly good at identifying accents. His voice was well modulated, perfectly pitched and stroked over her senses like black velvet.
Black hair, thick and lustrous was pulled back from his face and bound at the back of his neck. His fallen angel features were composed, almost emotionless, but those eyes, eyes like emeralds, gleamed with intelligence, sensuality, and a spark of primal intensity from within his sun bronzed face.
There were shadows in those eyes as well. A latent, hidden pain that a part of her, the feminine caring side of her that she wished she could ignore, longed to ease.
Dark jeans cinched low on leanly muscled hips while a dark blue chambray shirt stretched across his powerful chest. And he wore boots. Well worn, scarred, and totally masculine boots.
“I’m Natalie Ricci.” She had to clear her throat to answer him, had to tighten her stomach to stop the little flutters of longing that attacked her womb.
Whew, if ever there was a man to tempt her hard won self control, she was betting it would be this one. What he was doing on her doorstep she had no idea, but whatever he was selling she was certain she was ready to buy. Empty bank account notwithstanding.
It was really too bad too. She was sworn off men. Until she could figure out how to play the game, how to protect her heart and her independence, then men were out.
As luscious and sexual as this man looked, she had a feeling he would be just as controlling, domineering, and arrogant as any man born. Probably worse than most. Definitely more than her ex-husband whose control tendencies had managed to destroy their marriage.
“Can I help you?” She asked again, wishing she had worn something other than old faded jeans and her brother’s too big paint spattered t-shirt.
He inhaled slowly, as though he had caught the scent of something that intrigued him. It couldn’t be her. She hadn’t used perfume that morning, and she was sure she smell of paint fumes from inside the house wasn’t in the least intriguing.
“Ms. Ricci, I’m Saban Broussard, liaison to the Breed Ruling Cabinet. I’m here to discuss your application to teach in Buffalo Gap.” He pulled the slender identification wallet from the back of his jeans and flipped it open. The breed law enforcement badge, his photo and pertinent information were all displayed.
She froze in shock. Well, shock and the sound of his name, or the way he said his name. Saban, a soft little sigh of the S, the subtle a, and the bahn at the end. But what caught her, what had her senses standing to complete attention was the vaguest hint of a Cajun accent in his voice after her certainty that there had been no accent.
If he was Cajun, she was just lost. If there was any sexier accent created then at the moment, she couldn’t think of it.
It took several, breathless seconds for her senses to stop reeling to focus on who he was and where he was from. When she did, her eyes widened in shock.
“Did I get the position?”
She wanted that position with a force that had left her shaking when she filled out the application more than a year ago. She had known, had been warned that were thousands upon thousands of applicants on the waiting list for a teaching position in the small town just outside the Breed headquarters of Sanctuary.
She had taken the chance, filled out the application and sent it in, praying, she had prayed for months, and when nothing came of it she settled back into her own routine and tried to make other plans.
“May we speak inside Miss Ricci.” Saban Broussard turned his head, stared along the tree lined street and lifted his brow at the residents that had managed to find one reason or another to come to their porches or to work on their lawn. She should just charge admission and have done with it.
She bit her lip, knowing the questions that would be coming before the hour was out.
“Come in.” She stood back, holding the door open and allowing him to step inside the house.
He brought the scent of the mountains with him, wild and untamed, dark and dangerous.
“Thank you.” He nodded as she led the way into the small kitchen off her living room.
The living room was almost empty, filled with taped boxes rather than furniture as Natalie packed her belongings.
“Have you already taken another position?” He stopped in the center of her kitchen and stared at the boxes there.
She shook her head. “I haven’t. Simply moving to an apartment closer to the school where I currently work. My ex-husband gets the house and all its glorious payments. I get an apartment.” And hopefully a little peace.
He stared around the kitchen again, his jaw bunching before turning back to her.
“I was sent to inform you of the opening of the position and to escort you to meeting with our pride leader, Callan Lyons,” he said then. “I’ll then stay to help you get things in order before escorting you to Buffalo Gap.”
She really needed to sit down, but she had given the table and chairs to a distant cousin that had recently made the monumental mistake of getting married.
“How did I get the position?” She shook her head in confusion. “I was told there were thousands of applicants just waiting for one to open.”
His lips quirked. “I believe the Pride Leader, Callan Lyons stated it was close forty thousand applicants. You hit the short list on the first stage of the selection process and managed to gain the position by what I’m told was a very long, tedious and exacting investigation into the backgrounds of those on that list. Congratulations Miss Ricci. You’ll be the first teacher hired in the county in close to seven years.”
Natalie blinked back at him. He stood confidently, his arms held loosely at his sides, his eyes seeming to take in everything as she stared back at him, certain she must look like a complete lunatic.
“How soon can you be ready to leave?” He stared around the house once again. “Callan Lyons of the Breed Ruling Cabinet will be flying into the capital, Columbia, tomorrow evening if this is convenient to you to outline the position and discuss the specifics of the job, though we do need to arrive ahead of him to complete other matters and sign the endless forms, contracts and so forth that will go with the job.”
Natalie shook her head in confusion. “I thought the Breeds didn’t interfere in Buffalo Gap? I heard that somewhere. Wouldn’t I be meeting with someone from the Board of Education instead?”
“Not if you’re being hired to teach Breed children. Those children are very well protected, and any hiring done in that regard comes under the sanction of the Breed Ruling Cabinet. Until that decision has made, the Board of Education has allowed the Breed Ruling Cabinet to select any additional staff required.” He tilted his head and watched as she gripped the small bar she stood beside tight, to keep herself from falling. “You are still interested in the job, are you not?”
She nodded slowly. “Oh yeah,” she assured him. “I would say that’s an understatement.”
“Very well. I was hoping we could make arrangements to leave for Columbia this afternoon, if possible?” He stared around the kitchen, his gaze touching on the boxes. “Sanctuary’s heli-jet is waiting on the private airfield outside of town to escort us there. Is that agreeable…”
His words broke off at the sound of the front door slamming open, hitting the wall in the small foyer she had led Saban Broussard through and echoing through the near empty house.
Before she could do more than gasp, she was pushed behind the bar and within a blink Saban was across the room, weapon drawn from somewhere as he slammed her ex-husband’s body against the wall and jammed the muzzle of his weapon beneath Mike Claxton’s jaw.
Mikes pale blue eyes widened as his face paled in terror. Saban’s lips were drawn back in a snarl, lethal canines flashing as a growl rumbled in his throat.
“Call him off,” Mike gasped, his gaze latching on Natalie in desperation as he wheezed out the plea.
“For God’s sake, let him go!” Natalie stalked across the room, glaring at the Breed. Obviously a breed, only they had the unique, terrifying, wickedly powerful canines such as this one had. “He’s not dangerous, he’s just stupid. Dammit, do I have to be plagued with stupid males?”