When both his mate and his father died in a freak accident, Jason, the oldest Leonidas brother left home and became a park ranger in the Florida Panhandle. The distance and solitude suit him. After all, the less he cares, the less he hurts.
With a hurricane bearing down on the coast, his job is to secure and evacuate the park. As the storm worsens to a point where evacuation is no longer possible, he discovers Celeste Lykaios injured and unconscious. The problem is…his mate died over a year ago.
Celeste’s world has turned upside down. After being gravely injured in a plane crash, Jason abandoned her. In a mere twenty-four hours she finds out her werewolf step-father lost her birth father’s land, her family hid her survival from Jason, and her new fiancé is a killer. She goes to the only person she is certain can keep her safe, driving straight into a hurricane only to be attacked before she finds him. She wakes up in Jason’s home with no idea how she got there or why.
They take shelter from the storm to unravel the betrayal that split them apart, but first have to face the danger stalking Celeste.
When the storm passes, one question remains. If his mate–a human–survived the airplane crash that was supposed to have taken her life and the life of his father…what happened to the stronger wereleopard leader?
Author’s Note: This is a re-release.
When Derek threw back his head and gripped the woman’s face in his palms, she knew he was coming. His face twisted with the orgasm, as if it hurt, and he looked down at blondie with an evil grin. Celeste only had a moment to wonder why she’d thought it was evil before Derek, whose hands had not left blondie’s face, gave a vicious jerk, snapped her neck, and dropped the woman to the ground.
Celeste jumped back, completely unbelieving of what she’d seen but unable to deny it. She was grateful for the heavy rain and wind—it hid the noise she made as she ran back to her car. With a human she wouldn’t have had to worry. But a werewolf with superior hearing and reflexes? That could have been a major problem. As it was, she made it safely to her car and, with shaking fingers, twisted the key in the ignition. It was at that moment the wind and rain lulled to a low murmur, and she knew Derek must have heard the car from the house. She jerked it out of park and sped into the night. The question was where was she going?
She got onto the highway and turned south. She didn’t dare go back to her family. Derek was powerful in his own right, and she didn’t want to put them in danger. She needed time to process what she’d heard and seen tonight. But could she trust Jason? Jason who’d abandoned her when her human frailty came to the forefront? Her analytic journalist’s mind said she was nothing more than a chess piece, than a pawn being used between Michael and Jason. Her gut said to go to Jason, that he would keep her safe, but, wow, had it been wrong about Jason before. Did he really believe she was dead? The idea seemed crazy. But what her family had done, what she’d seen at Derek’s was just as crazy.
She couldn’t see any other choice. So she drove south.
Through rain and wind that ebbed and flowed, the remnants of Hurricane Helga raging across the state, she drove. By the time she reached Columbus, Georgia the sky cleared, and she fiddled with the radio, searching for news. She knew another hurricane was coming up the Gulf and was relieved to hear it was forecasted to hit far down the coast near Tampa. One model had it veering north into the Panhandle, but the experts were discounting it.
Iris was a category one storm, so they weren’t even forcing evacuations, just recommending them for low-lying beach areas. She snorted. Wasn’t all of the Tampa Bay area low lying? She hadn’t made it down in a couple of years, but usually she spent time with friends there every summer, even sticking around for a tropical storm one year. She knew her Tampa friends wouldn’t heed those warnings. They’d ridden out many storms over the years, and perhaps their blasé attitude was contagious because eight hours later, she paid her five dollars to enter St. Andrews State Park.
It was bright and sunny and clear, no sign of the turmoil brewing on the Gulf or the storm that had just blown through. It certainly didn’t mirror the turmoil inside her. Unwilling to confront Jason quite yet, she drove to the public beach, parked and wandered into the gift shop. Her time would probably have been better spent driving into Panama City and finding a hotel room, but she could never resist the Gulf. The rolling emerald water, the pristine white sand. She sighed. This was her idea of heaven.
She hadn’t brought anything with her, obviously, and on a whim bought a bathing suit, sunscreen, and a giant towel. After changing, she dropped her clothes in her car and headed to the sand. She had to think, had to decide what she was going to do about Jason and Derek and her family. If she had any sense she’d walk away from all of them. She was human and couldn’t help but feel both sides were using her. What better place to make a decision than the perfect, pearly beaches of the Gulf of Mexico?
All right, healthy dose of avoidance and fear there too, Celeste, but way to rationalize.
She pushed the worry away, spread her towel on the ground and lay down, digging her toes into the warm gritty sand. She’d driven all night. It was still early morning. There were a couple of guys playing volleyball and a few sunbathers, but mostly she had the beach to herself. She wondered whether the hurricane’s predicted landfall site had changed. Was that why the beach was so empty? Even if it had, it was only a category one, and she had plenty of time to drive inland. Safe enough she reasoned. Especially once she found Jason. He might be angry with her, might be indifferent to her, hell he might even hate her, but he’d never let harm come to her. When she’d settled on that conclusion she wasn’t sure—sometime on the long drive down. Exhausted, she sighed as her mind swirled with all of the recent happenings. She drifted to sleep, warmed by the sun and sand, lulled by the pounding surf.
When she opened her eyes, the sky was dark and ugly, clouds churning as if stirred in a witch’s caldron. The wind whipped her hair, and she felt a moment’s unease. She hadn’t meant to fall asleep or to sleep so long. Standing and dusting the sand off, she looked around. The beach was abandoned. She grabbed the towel and her car keys and sprinted for the parking lot. When she veered around the beach shop, she noticed it was closed up, shutters latched into place. Around the front in the parking lot, a few cars were pulling out onto the road and only two vehicles remained parked and empty. The second one froze her in place a minute. The F150 truck looked exactly like Derek’s.
Ignoring the fear that bubbled to her throat, she hurried to her car. It was a common truck, and he couldn’t know where she was. Why would she come to Florida in a hurricane after all? It had to be a coincidence.
She reached her door as thunder boomed over the ocean. The noise startled her so much she dropped the keys. The fine hairs on her arms rose and fear with it, as she bent to retrieve them. Where the hell was Jason when she needed him? She choked back an angry sob. If he hadn’t been around when she needed him before, why did she suddenly expect him now?
Get a grip, Celeste, and get the hell out of here.
She’d kicked the keys under the car and had to crouch to her knees to grope the ground under the driver’s side to retrieve them. She almost cheered when her fingers closed over the cold metal. She rocked back on her heels to stand. She never made it to her feet.
“Bitch. You aren’t going to ruin all my plans.”
She barely registered the menacing voice as Derek’s before something hard came down on her head, and the world went black.