Vision Captured Chapter One
“He doesn’t exist.” Chantelle Drap focused on the sound her boots made on the sidewalk. “It’s just bullshit to scare us. Make us submit.”
Chan didn’t submit to anyone. She didn’t care about rumors claiming some ghost wanted to control leopards. There was no Leo Pard. It was impossible to unify leopards, say who would live where, or with whom. They weren’t fucking werewolves, or like some of the other species who lived together in packs. Hell, Chan didn’t even know any other leopards in Seattle. Which was fine with her. And it’s how it would stay. No one controlled leopards. And no one would ever control her!
At the intersection, she watched headlights create glossy blurs of brightness over the soaked street from the heavy downpour. Water gurgled as it ran into the gutters. At the first break in traffic, she ignored the red light and hurried across the street. Raindrops clung to her eyelashes and streamed down her cheeks. She didn’t duck, but kept up her pace, her head held high as she watched the shadows.
Her apartment complex wasn’t too far from the factory, and when she worked the late shift, jogging home helped clear her head. Tonight, enjoying the rain, and all the fresh scents it brought on, put her in a good mood. She didn’t mind the smell of humans everywhere. They were harmless half creatures who were too wrapped up in their own lives to notice she wasn’t one of them.
“Although maybe that’s how it is with all of us,” she mused as she noted how slick the cement stairs to her complex building were from the rain. It wasn’t as if she paid much attention to the problems humans claimed to have.
Ignoring the rows of mailboxes in the wall just inside the small foyer, she headed for the stairs. If there were any truth to the ridiculous slander she read on the Panthera Incognita website, she would find out soon. Most of the time the website didn’t impress her. A password-protected site, PI was a place where leopards could announce any bit of news they wished other leopards to know. The site was full of ads, property for sale, or job listings. Once in a while single males, or females, would announce their desire to find a mate, or a partner for some “no strings attached” fun. The ads reeked of lies even through the Internet.
“If some of those ads were true,” she growled under her breath, she’d jump on the opportunity to enjoy a good romp with some gorgeous rogue male. None of the ads were ever in Seattle though. The sexy rogue usually turned out to be washed up and barely functional anymore. Not that she would respond to some blind request on PI for a leopard to get a piece of tail, but it was what she’d heard.
The mating ads weren’t what bothered her tonight though. She didn’t have much time on her lunch break to read over the website carefully. No one complained about the employees using the computers in the office during breaks. But she didn’t want some busybody human asking what she was doing, or getting curious about which websites she cruised.
“Give anyone reason to gossip,” she grumbled, knowing all too well that humans jumped on the chance to create scandal about each other. No way would she get caught in their crossfire if one of them saw her at a website that discussed people who were also leopards.
Which was why she needed to get on her laptop, so she could better read the announcement she barely managed to glance at while at work. In spite of her determination to believe the announcement was pure bullshit, this was the first time Chan ever heard of other leopards claiming to see visions—to see the future before it happened. Up until now, she thought she was the only one.
Chan didn’t bother holding on to the banister as she marched up the two flights to her floor. Her heart raced but it wasn’t from flying up the stairs. Maybe she read the announcement wrong. After all, rumors of a male named Leo Pard smelled stale these days. There had been talk of him when she was a cub.
“I probably read it wrong.” After all, she opened the website, glanced at the main page and clicked out of it before anyone saw her there. “He’s a joke, a ghost,” she reminded herself. “None of this can be true anyway. Even if there were others out there like me, I sure as hell wouldn’t let someone take me away from my home because I see things.” No one knew Chan saw the future. No one. Not even her own litter. “So there’s nothing to worry about.”
Not that she cared about anything on PI. Granted, she was damn glad humans couldn’t smell emotions when she first glimpsed at the main page of the website. Every one of them would have been breathing down her neck, dying to know what stunned the fucking hell out of her. And they said curiosity killed cats.
Chan reached the top of the stairs and pulled the second-floor door open. All she would do was reread the headline that mentioned gathering all leopards who saw visions into one place, make sure she read it right, and then she would leave that damn site alone. Curiosity wouldn’t get her ass killed. She wasn’t getting gathered up, or taken off anywhere.
The heavy door opened toward her and Chan saw down the long, narrow hallway with apartment doors on either side. She almost staggered when she breathed in the raw, musky scent of a male leopard.
She didn’t smell a female on him. Hissing, but then gulping in more of his feral, untamed aroma, she stared at the single male rogue who stood halfway down the hallway.
What the fuck? God damn he smelled good. He was tall and well built. Her own scent changed instantly as desire swelled inside her. She’d gone way too long without indulging in some good, rough sex.
Chan recovered quickly and walked with determination to her apartment. As if any male—drop-dead gorgeous or not—would ever see her hesitate. Chan didn’t know of any single male leopards in Seattle, but she hadn’t invited him here and therefore he didn’t merit her attention.
“Chantelle Drap?” he asked, his smooth baritone sending chills over her flesh and creating a burning sensation inside her that spread like wildfire throughout her insides.
“Nope.” She shoved her key into lock, turned it, pushed open her door, and then entered the safety of her dark apartment. Looking over her shoulder and glaring at him, she gripped her door handle, adrenaline pumping harder and faster until she could hardly breathe.
The male turned, thumbs hooked in his jeans, and stared at her with wild green eyes. Sparks shot up her spine as the urge to attack, taste him, demand that he mount her, made it almost impossible to move.
But she did. She clicked the lock into place, shrugged out of her coat and then bent over to pull off her boots, all the while fighting the trembling need that made her excited and anxious. Small puddles of water pooled at her feet. She turned, listening to the silence.
The male still stood outside her door. She smelled him but didn’t hear him. Which disturbed her. What the fuck did he want?
“Why does shit always hit all at once?” she whispered, and then cocked her head, listening.
“Stand out there all night. See if I care.” She knew he heard her, yet he didn’t pound her door down. Nor did he leave.
Single males were nomadic, rogues. Most of them took what they wanted, and none of them could be trusted. Her breed might be condemned for that fact, but that didn’t make it less true. Until a female was intrigued enough by a male to attempt conquering him, forcing his submission to her, he was dangerous and to be avoided at all costs. The way Chan saw it, no male was worth conquering. Some good sparring and hot sex once in a while worked fine with her, but then they could just go sniff somewhere else and leave her alone.
She headed to her kitchen, flipped the light on and stared at her reflection in her large window. A steak and beer, her laptop, and hopefully some answers were in strong order. She opened the refrigerator, pulled out a plate with a couple slabs of meat on it and popped it into the microwave. Grabbing her beer, Chan sat down at the kitchen table and opened her laptop while nervous anticipation attacked with such a vengeance that she shook. This male outside her door didn’t simply show up on the off chance of getting his dick wet.
She remembered the headline she saw briefly on the main page of PI. Leopards With Visions Being Gathered…
“Like fucking hell,” she growled, and almost bit the tip of her beer bottle. No one knew she saw things other leopards didn’t. No one. “That isn’t why he’s here.”
Chan heard the double click a second before the microwave beeped. Her doorknob turned, making a protesting sound as the lock snapped, broke, and the door opened with a quiet squeak. Heavy footsteps moved slowly into her living room.
Instantly his powerful scent, one that was aggressive, dominating and definitely all male, filled her apartment and sent her heart beating at a pace almost too fast for her human body to handle. Tingles prickled over her flesh and her insides swelled as sexual need attacked her harder than she ever remembered feeling it before. She slammed her fist against the table, dwelling on the pain and the fact she’d just been violated by unwelcome company. No rogue male would break into her home and then make her weak in the knees.
She stood, gathering inner strength, and walked with slow determination out of the kitchen. “You are going to pay to fix that lock,” she snarled.
“You won’t need the lock.” He didn’t hide his thumbs in his jeans pockets any longer, but stopped in the middle of the living room, hands on hips, glancing around at the pictures on her walls, her furniture and finally at her. Bright green flickered with streaks of gold as he devoured her with the gaze of a victorious predator. His intense stare seemed to stop time, and a twisting pressure in her gut made it hard to breath.
“Let’s go,” he growled, barely moving his mouth.
Chan forced a laugh, reminding herself that no matter his overwhelming sex appeal, he’d broken into her home and needed to be taught manners. “Like hell. Get the hell out of my apartment before I kick you out.”
“I can’t leave you here alone, Chantelle. You’re coming with me.”
Her microwave beeped again and she turned her back on him, letting him know with her body language that he wouldn’t intimidate her. Her heart pounded hard enough to create a rushing sound in her head though. Who the fuck was he? “Leo Pard hired me to find you,” the male said, his musky aroma growing stronger as he followed her into the kitchen.
If he saw her reaction to that name, it would have been two points for him. And she shook out of rage, not fear. There wasn’t any reason to fear a leopard who didn’t exist.
Chan didn’t drop the plate as she pulled it out of the microwave. Setting it next to her laptop, she barely smelled the steak over his all-male scent. She focused on the moisture from the beer bottle tickling her fingers as drops created paths to her palm while bringing it to her lips. His gaze grew hooded as his lashes sloped over his intense green eyes and he watched her drink.
“I’m not sure I think much of a male who takes orders from a ghost,” she said, licking her lips and gaining a warped sense of power when he focused on her tongue gliding over her lips.
He was even sexier when he smiled. His eyes flashed with amusement and his curly hair, damp from the rain, was a mixture of blond and red. He was muscular, but most single males his age were. A rogue, nomadic, who would appear, do damage or good, and then disappear once they broke a female’s heart, unless she decided to tame him.
“I don’t take orders.”
“Of course you don’t.” She sat at her table, forcing her attention on her laptop, steak and beer. “You aren’t welcome in my home. Leave.”
She stared at the PI main page, once again seeing the bold headline—Leopards With Visions Will Be Gathered.
The beer she swallowed churned cruelly in her gut. The paragraph she didn’t have time to read at work stated simply—For the better of all leopards, Leo Pard announces the protection and training of selected males and females who are gifted with seeing into the future. Names have been selected. Hunters are gathering these females and males. They will be collared and trained. From this day forward, leopards will be the strongest panthera, a species who will be honored and feared worldwide.
“Does that scare you?” he asked quietly, his tone a mixture between a whisper and a growl. “I didn’t come here to get kicked out,” he informed her. She caught him in her peripheral vision, leaning in her doorway and crossing his muscular arms over his chest. “You need protection,” he informed her.
“Nothing scares me and I’m not convinced I even need protection from you,” she snarled.
The male leapt across her kitchen. “Then let me convince you,” he hissed, his tone turning dark and menacing.
Chan leapt out of her chair when he attacked. In spite of the height difference, she didn’t hesitate. Growling fiercely, anticipating his actions, adrenaline kicked in full force with a harsh punch.
“All you’re convincing me of is that I need to throw you out instead of asking you to go away,” she howled, and dodged when he tried to grab her.
“I’m not leaving.” He turned quickly, his blond red hair falling partially over his face as he dove to the side.
She tried racing out of the kitchen, but he grabbed her. With a good six inches in height on her and possibly a hundred pounds heavier, Chan wouldn’t stand a chance if he pinned her. She twisted furiously and managed to hit him in the side of the head with her elbow.
He simply growled louder. “He told me you’d be a feisty, stubborn bitch,” the male snarled, his large hands snaking around her waist.
Chan wondered who in the hell “he” was. But if she exerted energy on conversation, she would lose the fight. And she seriously doubted this male took orders from, or had ever spoken to, Leo Pard. There was no such male. If there were, someone would have found him by now for all of his claims to unite a species that simply couldn’t be united.
“You should have listened,” she snapped, and managed to squirm out of his hands.
Without hesitating, she jumped into the air and used the strongest part of her body, her legs. She kicked hard, made contact. Bone hit bone with a nasty crunching sound. Chan fell backward, hitting her kitchen wall and damn near knocking herself unconscious. She slid down to her butt and took a moment to let her vision clear. Then wiping hair from her face, she reached up for her beer and took a long swallow.
The male hunched over, his hand covering his jaw where she’d kicked. When he straightened, raising his gaze to hers, the fiery glow in his eyes stole her breath. It had been way too long since she’d seriously kicked someone’s ass. And she wouldn’t even dwell on how long it was since she’d last been laid. But mix a bit of violence with some hot, rough sex, and a leopard’s paradise was found.
Dangerous territory. Very dangerous territory. She pushed herself to her feet, still holding her beer while watching him warily.
“You’re the one who’s going to listen,” he sneered. His roguish features turned menacing.
The male jumped but she darted around him, barely making time to put down her beer before flying into her living room. She didn’t get far. He pounced on her back, his arms wrapping around her and constricting the air out of her lungs. They tumbled to the floor, and with his weight on top of her, she fell hard.
“God damn it!” she yelled, turning her head and then reluctantly rested her cheek against her carpet.
“Are you convinced now?” He adjusted his body so his legs trapped hers and the rest of him pressed against her backside.
“Convinced that you’re fucking insane,” she snarled, unable to even lift herself off the floor. He outweighed her twice over.
“Any male would fight for you, Chantelle.”
“You aren’t fighting for me, you’re fighting against me.” She hated how he used her formal name, letting it glide off his tongue with a smoothness that annoyed her. “And quit calling me that.”
“It’s your name.” He pushed his body off her with one arm, but kept his legs on top of hers. “Why would I call you anything else?”
“Only my litter calls me that. You don’t have the right.” There wasn’t a worse feeling on the planet than that of being trapped. She squirmed underneath him, wishing for the muscle to send him flying.
Something hard and long suddenly pressed against her ass, thick, warm and very, very dangerous-feeling.
Chan quit moving.
He chuckled, a deep, blood-chilling sound that at the same time created a rush of heat inside her. She lifted her head, straining to look over her shoulder.
No fucking way in hell would he sense any emotion he could use against her. “Get the fuck off me,” she demanded.
Surprisingly, he obliged, rising to his feet and lifting her to hers. She tried moving away from him, but he grabbed her arms, turning her around. Her hair fell over part of her face and she couldn’t free her arms to move the mass out of the way.
So she glared at him through it.
“I guess it makes sense he wouldn’t tell me how fucking hot you are,” he said quietly.
“Who is he?”
Chan blinked. The only Charles she knew was her littermate in Phoenix. It had been almost three years since she talked to Charles. He probably didn’t even know how to reach her.
“So Leo Pard’s real name is Charles?” she asked, playing stupid and praying he would say something that would make sense. Although if he simply came here to fuck her, he would say anything just to confuse her more and distract her so she couldn’t fight.
His gaze dropped down her body while his fingers moved slightly on her arms, scalding her flesh and causing tingles to rush just underneath her flesh. “Leo’s name is Leo, and Charles’ name is Charles,” he said as if that explained everything. There was no smell of amusement on him in spite of his calm, soothing tone. If anything, his scent turned muskier the longer he stood holding her arms.
She wasn’t going to stand here and wait for him to make sense. Her right arm burned when she yanked it free of his grip, but he managed to pull her into his arms before she could create any space between them. When she almost tripped over her coffee table, he picked her up, slamming her backside against his rock-hard chest.
“Let me go,” she spat while fierce sparks sliced through her spine. The change begged to be released inside her. As a leopard she was stronger, faster, and could kill so much easier.
“I will when you calm down,” he whispered into her hair. “The way you’re squirming, you’re making me think you like rubbing your ass up against my cock.”
“Why you…” Outrage exploded inside her and she twisted furiously, kicking with her legs and digging her nails into his arms. She wouldn’t be humiliated. And if he planned on mounting her, he wouldn’t survive it unscathed.
“Chantelle, you can’t overpower me.” His breath scorched her neck.
And she hated being told she couldn’t do something. She bent her knees, moving fast and using every bit of strength she could muster without changing from her human form. His hands slid over her, brushing her breasts. Her nipples turned so hard they ached. She ignored the change in the aroma surrounding them. Even though hostile emotions hung heavy with their pungent smells, there was something else rich and sweet—the smell of lust.
If she didn’t put space between them immediately, he would fuck her. Every instinct inside her screamed to take him on, demand he fuck her, gain the upper paw. Then he would have to submit to her. But her human side insisted she maintain control of the situation and keep her clothes on.
Chan moved quickly. She squatted and pulled his body over with all her might. Yanking on his shoulders, she roared as she took on his weight, knocked him off balance and then threw him over her.
Chan flipped him over her shoulder and then scurried backward as quickly as she could without falling over. Every inch of her sizzled with raw, unleashed energy. His massive frame shook her home with the impact. She almost tripped over her own feet when she tightened every muscle and forced herself not to leap on him. Chan wanted the fight, the physical contact. It was in her nature, and it was damned hard to curb the burning excitement inside her.
She slapped her hand against the wall next to her kitchen door to stabilize herself and watched as he picked himself up off the floor.
“Little bitch,” he snarled.
“You asked for it.” She would throw him out of her apartment, but since he’d broken the lock, it would be a futile effort. “Why are you here?”
“I told you. I was sent…”
“I know. Don’t feed me your Leo Pard crap. He’s a ghost, an urban legend who doesn’t exist. And don’t make up other names just to appease me. If you’re going to force yourself into my home and then put your paws all over me, at least honor me with the truth.”
He reclined on her couch and combed his hair with his fingers. When he looked up at her, he slowly rubbed his jaw where she’d kicked him, and then twisted and popped his back.
“My paws wouldn’t have been on you if you didn’t attack me.”
“I wouldn’t have attacked if you’d behaved like an honorable leopard,” she spat.
His hair was still tousled when he looked up at her and grinned slowly. “If I didn’t have honor, I would have taken you out in the hallway without bothering to come in and explain the situation before we leave.”
“I’ve already made it damn clear I’m not going anywhere.” She fought not to stare, or worse yet, start drooling when he reclined comfortably on her couch. Roped muscles pressed against denim. His cock was still hard and pressed against his jeans. Definitely not a sight she could focus on and keep her wits about her. Chan paced the length of her living room to her front door. “I’ll allow you to display this honor you claim to have. Tell me why you’re here. What do you want? And don’t leave out any details.”
“Leo Pard hired all of the hunters to come get you as well as others. You read the message on Panthera Incognita. Charles, your littermate in Phoenix, is a good and honorable male. He’s mated to my littermate Jenny. When I took the job, I learned your name was on the list. Charles and I agreed you must be protected until we know more about what Leo plans on doing with the males and females he’s gathering. Call your littermate if you must.” He stopped talking and watched her with a hooded gaze that simply added to his incredible good looks.
“Go on,” she said, focusing on her breathing and refusing to let him smell nervousness on her, or worse yet, lust.
He stood slowly, watching her with those damnable green eyes that darkened as he lazily moved closer. She wouldn’t give him any indication of her next move, but she could dive for her door and be out of there in seconds if needed. Although, where the hell would she run?
“You’re not safe here any longer,” he said quietly. “I think I’ve just proven that. If I wanted, I could have fucked you and you wouldn’t have been able to stop me. So I’m here to get you and take you with me. Another hunter might not be as concerned about your reputation.”
She raised one eyebrow. “You’re mighty sure of yourself, male. I just kicked your ass, not the other way around.”
Even though she was ready for him to leap, she couldn’t dive for the door fast enough. He grabbed her, lifted her off the ground and threw her onto the couch. In the next instant, he landed on top of her, pinning her hands above her head. Her breasts smashed against rock-hard muscle. His cock was engorged and throbbed between them. He pinned her legs, rendering her trapped. His face was inches from hers, and he lowered it so his lips brushed over hers. She turned her head, refusing to simply submit just because he demanded it.
His breath scorched her skin, raising the tiny hairs on her flesh when his lips moved over her ear. “I didn’t kick your ass because I wouldn’t hurt you. And if I wanted you without your consent, I would already be inside you.”