Series: Ann Gimpel, Leo
Release Date: August 14, 2018
Contributors: Ann Gimpel
Genre: New Release, Zodiac
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Lion’s Lair, Wylde Magick Book 2
A newly-minted cave lion shifter + an eagle shifter who’s lived long enough to know better = irresistible allure
Strong and self-assured, Jeremiah is the closest thing his mage kinfolk have to an alpha. He takes his responsibilities seriously, which hasn’t left time for much of anything, and it’s about to get worse. Mages are in trouble. A few signed on with vampires, causing human deaths. Because of them, all mages are being smeared with the traitor brush.
Renee’s eagle bondmate jerks her awake one night with the terse message a cave lion, one of the most ancient of the animals, has bonded. According to the bird, they have to drop everything and go to Colorado. Reluctant to weave the fabric of lies she’ll need to cover her absence, she finally gives in.
She’s horrified to discover the lion bonded with a man who used to be a mage. A mage. The rogues who joined up with vampires. She wants to hate Jeremiah, but it’s a tough sell. Not only is he gorgeous, he’s smart and kind and funny. None of it matters, though, because he doesn’t like her, either.
Are the hurdles too high? Or is a shifter’s mate truly in the stars?
…Jeremiah stood tall, squaring his shoulders. “Who are you?” he demanded, proud his voice didn’t tremble. “Tell me what you want.”
For long moments, nothing happened. The odd pressure in his chest and lungs loosened. He was close to deciding the whole thing was exactly what he’d suspected, a nexus where shifter magic was doing battle with his brand of power, when searing heat started in the soles of his feet, moving upward in an inexorable tide of pain. Pins and needles ceded to knives. The wounds the eagle shifter had carved reopened, wetting his sides with bloody fluid.
He threw wards around himself, but the pain increased by a factor of a hundred until he felt like the skin was being flayed from his bones.
“Do not fight me!” blasted through his mind.
“Who are you?” Jeremiah shouted, but his mouth didn’t work right, and the words came out garbled. He dropped his warding because he hurt so much he couldn’t hang onto the magic.
An anguished screech shot from his mouth, followed by two more. He wasn’t a coward but traveling through the nine circles of Hell couldn’t hurt this much. White-hot blasts seared him from all sides.
Panting, gasping, he took a breath into lungs that had forgotten how to cooperate. The world smelled different, each scent individual and intense. It was as if he’d never smelled anything before, and he sucked air hungrily, sampling the rich variety. Who would have guessed rocks had a smell? Or that different types of bird shit each had their own tang?
The pain receded. At first, he thought it was because he had something else to focus on, but it really was lessening.
A strident rip from his jacket, and then another from his shirt, forced reluctant understanding. A glance downward solidified his knowledge. He was shifting—into the lion. Never mind it was impossible. It was happening anyway. Exultation did battle with fear.
“Wait.” He switched to telepathy and fought with limbs that were half human, half feline to divest himself of what was left of his clothes.
He saved his trousers but did a less effective job with his shirt. His jacket had already split down the back. All through his struggles, the realization he wasn’t human any longer rocketed through him, heady as a rare vintage wine.
I’m shifting. I’m shifting. I’m shifting.
The words repeated like a tape loop obliterating everything else.
“So you want to be a bird, do you?” The lion’s words were lined with derision. “I was going to give you more time, but your bird fixation was so egregious I couldn’t let it slide.”
Jeremiah was too overcome to craft an answer. The cavalcade of smells intensified. His vision changed, the visual field wider and deeper, but with less fine detail. Bones stretched and reformed. Fur sprouted, covering bare skin.
He’d frozen in place once his battles with his clothing ended. What was left of the pain ceased abruptly, and he forced one paw forward, followed by another. He swished his tail, liked how it felt, and did it again. Before he knew it, he’d bounded to the end of the main cavern and back again, the movement easy, effortless.
He sat back on his haunches and launched himself upward in an experimental leap that carried him fifteen feet into the air. This time the roar that shook the old mineshaft was all him. A low, rumbling purr followed…