When the girl looked at him with hunger, Rion’s cock hardened. She was stunning. Most women used surgery to enhance themselves, but not this one. Her soft gray-blue eyes and simple braid of brown hair made her look younger than twenty-one, but he knew he’d found his prey.
Guilt twisted inside of him. To give this beauty to the prince was almost unspeakable, but he wasn’t hired to like the job, just to do it. She did more than make him guilty, though. She bewildered him. The scent of her subtle arousal was on the air. He sensed her genuine attraction. His wolf gave him an insight a human male wouldn’t be privy to. He was pure menace, and women normally looked at him with fear, not lust. She looked away, but he knew she wanted him. He moved into the shadows. When she looked back he saw her confusion. He was very good at blending into the darkness. Her reaction to him had been primal, and the wolf inside of him wanted to howl. She reeked of innocence…which made her someone he’d never touch. There were dire consequences for the Denari if they were foolish enough to bed virgins.
Then he noticed a pair of Bezonian hunters approaching her.
“Fuck!” he swore quietly to himself. What would’ve been exceedingly simple had just become complicated. Now he’d have to fight them for the girl. The shorter of the two hunters had a bent leg and wing, and he could almost smell the malice rolling off the little one. He felt the hunter’s pure hatred directed toward the girl, and curiosity filled him. Bezoni were aggressive beasts. He watched the angry one suddenly launch an attack behind the girl’s back. She arched with agony, and Rion felt his wolf rising, ready to defend what he’d already claimed as his.
Rion’s eyes narrowed as he caught his reflection in a polished tin sign on the wall. His eyes glowed with a green light, indicating his wolf was at the surface. The slightest provocation would induce the change in him now. He forced the animal down, keeping the man in charge of his body.
He was just about to spring forward when she whirled on the Bezoni. He watched her block the taller one’s blow. The other one lunged like he was going to attack and changed directions. The girl easily anticipated this standard tactic and kicked the male’s weak leg, sending him flying.
No one in the tavern tried to help the girl.
Rion watched his prey artfully defending herself, and he felt something for a woman he hadn’t felt in a very long time…respect. He had never seen a woman fight so well—like a warrior would. Her sleek body made his cock ache. But her beautiful violence only fueled the beast’s hunger for her, even as it captivated the man. She was different and more interesting because of it.
Her wound must have pained her, but she kept moving. As graceful as a cat, she dodged the two hunters while inflicting damage. As her lithe body whirled, he admired the ease of her skill. He fought back a growl of approval. Watching fighting or fucking always made the wolf inside of him harder to control. Passion awoke his inner beast, and it was hard to put him back to sleep.
He could see the Bezoni were holding back while using their telepathy. The larger one pulled a laser from his belt. People began running from the building, screaming. The little one kept the girl distracted. It was time to act. Rion had seen enough.
Rion pulled his knives from his belt and stepped in front of the one with the laser. The nasty larger hunter made a squealing sound Rion recognized as mirth from his previous dealings with this unpredictable species. Rion smiled menacingly, knowing the creature could see his fangs. In a split second, he’d severed the bugman’s hand from his body. The Bezonian gave a shrill cry and his friend’s head jerked around. The woman used the distraction to land a blow to the center of the Bezonian hunter’s face, knocking him unconscious. She gave Rion one brief, respectful nod before she darted out the door.
“By the gods' balls!” he shouted. After only a few steps, he felt the claws of his opponent graze his wide shoulders. “I don’t have time to play with you right now,” he informed the hunter, sending the one-handed creature back with a powerful kick. His adversary flew through the air, hitting the wall—hard. A large oval tin advertising central-world whiskey landed on his enemy’s head, rendering him unconscious. With a single stroke, he could kill the pest, but he avoided dealing death whenever possible. The gods had enough to condemn him with, so the male would live. With both the hunters out cold, he continued his pursuit of the girl. In the distance, he could see peacekeepers running toward the tavern, so he immediately headed in the other direction.
He had no idea where the girl had gone, but if he were her, he’d go to the port. He sheathed his knives quickly and ran in that direction. The last thing he wanted was for the girl to board another ship. He’d had his fill of rock jumping. She’d seen him now and would know he was after her. Capturing her if she escaped would only be that much more of a challenge. He rushed through the crowded streets until he found her in a back alley. She screamed as he snatched her in midstride, throwing her over his shoulder. She writhed and kicked, but he held her legs.
“You!” she shrieked. “Put me down.”
Rion kept his pace at a jog and continued toward the port. All he had to do was get her on his ship.
She pounded his back and he resisted his urge to laugh. Her strength was no match for…agony shot through his shoulder. He growled, the beast demanded freedom, but he maintained his hold.
THE HOT SHIFTER who’d saved her ass back in the tavern held her prisoner. He was taking her toward the port, and she knew he wasn’t trying to help this time. Everything about him screamed hunter, and she realized he was no different than the Bezoni. She was a bounty. Her earlier feelings of lust-turned-camaraderie evaporated. Resentment filled her and she fought him. Her blows didn’t faze him, but then she noticed his injury. She could see he was already healing, but there was enough of a puncture for her to push her finger into his wound and tug.
The shifter dropped her as if she were on fire, and Jewel landed hard but quickly recovered. Terror and outrage put her back on her feet, and she ran off down a narrow opening between two buildings. She stumbled out into the crowd. Behind her, she heard screaming, then growling. Complete panic kept her moving.
She could hear him right behind her. The menacing sound of his panting and growling made the hair on the back of her neck rise. Shaking off her fear, she focused on the gate. If she could just make it, then she had a chance. She’d come too far to let the hunter win.
The sensation of heat was the first thing she felt before pain erupted through her legs. Knocked off balance, her feet came up and out from under her. “Aww,” she cried.
Jewel heard a sickening crack as her head hit the ground. She blinked up into the wolf’s face. Saliva dripped from its mouth onto her chest. The creature’s bright green eyes glowed eerily. She fought, but too much trauma had taxed her body to its limit. Darkness rushed up to claim her.