Home > Tiger Magic (Shifters Unbound #5)(2)

Tiger Magic (Shifters Unbound #5)(2)
Jennifer Ashley

A row of glass windows lined the back of the house, but the glare of the sun and tint of the windows kept Tiger from seeing inside. A man with pruning shears looked up from a bush at the corner of the house, then stood up in alarm as Carly reached for the handle of one of the glass doors.

“Ms. Randal, you don’t want to go in there.”

Carly turned to him in surprise. Tiger tried to get around Carly to enter the house first, but she was too quick. She was opening the door and walking inside before Tiger could stop her, and he had to settle for following a step behind her.

What Tiger smelled inside the house wasn’t danger, however. It was sex.

He saw why when he and Carly rounded a wall behind which stretched a huge kitchen. Cabinetry in a fine golden wood filled the walls, the long counters shiny granite. It was clean in here, no dishes cluttering the counters, no one cooking something that smelled good, no chatter and laughter as a meal was prepared.

A woman sat on top of the counter with her blouse open, her skirt up around her hips, high-heeled shoes on her feet. A man with his pants around his ankles was thrusting hard into her, holding her legs in black stockings around his thighs. Both humans were grunting and panting, and neither noticed Carly or Tiger.

Tiger stepped in front of Carly, trying to put his huge body between her and the scene. Carly stopped, her purse falling from nerveless fingers to the floor. “Ethan.” There was shock in her tone.

The man turned around. Tiger was growling, feeling the distress of his mate, the animal in him wanting nothing more than to kill the person who’d upset her.

The man jumped, his mouth dropping open, then he stumbled over his pants and had to catch himself on the counter.

“Carly, what the f*ck are you doing here?” His gaze went to Tiger, whose fingers were sprouting the long, razor-sharp claws of the Bengal. “And who the hell is that?”


Carly’s anguish hit Tiger in a series of waves. Shock, anger, and then a pain so harsh the edge of it hurt him.

Tiger reached for her, but Carly snatched up her purse and swung away, blinded. She ran from the room, out of the house, and back into the sunshine.

The house’s windows let Tiger trace her progress through the backyard and around to the front. She slammed her way back into the Corvette, started the engine with a roar, and shot around the circular drive and out into the street.

Leaving Tiger alone, unable to comfort her.

He turned instead to the source of Carly’s distress, the man called Ethan. Ethan glared at Tiger, outrage in his eyes, and snarls built in Tiger’s throat.

The young woman Ethan had been with—unknown, not part of this—scrambled from the counter, her skirt catching on her black thigh-high stockings as she righted herself. A flash of yellow satin panties broke the monochrome colors of her outfit before the businesslike gray skirt shut it out.

The woman buttoned her blouse with agitated fingers. “Shit, Ethan, you said she’d be gone all day.”

Ethan dragged his gaze from Tiger, took a step toward the woman, half tripped on his pants again, and leaned down to drag them up. “Lisa, wait . . .”

“You said she knew. You said she was cool with it.”

The woman grabbed her purse and started for the sliding glass door. Tiger remained in front of it, growling.

The woman looked up at him, and a bite of primal fear entered her eyes. She didn’t know what Tiger was, but something inside her knew a predator when she saw one. She stood a moment, indecisive, then pivoted and ran out the other side of the kitchen toward the front of the house.

“No,” Ethan called. “Wait.”

He frantically zipped and buckled as he swung around to follow her and found himself up against the solid wall of Tiger, who’d stepped in his way.

Tiger smelled Ethan’s outrage and shock, but no fear and no shame. “Who the hell are you?” Ethan had to crank his head back to look at Tiger, but he had an arrogance that would make an alpha smack him down just to make a point.

The front door slammed open, the young woman fleeing. Ethan grimaced as he heard her car start, then turned even more rage on Tiger.

“Carly’s sleeping with you?” he demanded. “You can tell that slut for me she can give me back every penny I’ve ever given her.”

Feral anger rose inside Tiger in a wave. Living outside the cage, experiencing new sensations and feelings had dampened his rages a bit, but hadn’t erased them. Nothing ever would.

This man, this pretend-mate of Carly’s, had hurt her. He’d not done it with calculation, but with careless cruelty. Now he twisted the fact that Carly had walked in on him while he betrayed her to make the betrayal her fault.

Tiger’s reactions were more basic. He saw a source of pain, and he eliminated it.

His snarls grew in volume, a sound so deep it was felt more than heard. The glass-fronted cabinets rattled, and dishes behind them took up the dance. The kitchen windows caught the vibrations and rumbled in response.

A glass cabinet door shattered and broke. Ethan gaped at it, then back at Tiger. “You’re paying for that.”

“Mr. Turner.” The gardener who’d tried to stop Carly from entering the house now stood in the kitchen’s open door. “He’s a Shifter.”

“Is he?” Ethan peered up at Tiger again, taking in his Collar. He started to smile. “Son of a bitch. Carly’s doing it with a Shifter? She won’t have anything left when I’m finished with her. Teach her to mess around with me like that.”

Killing rage beat through Tiger’s blood. Ethan was a small, sniveling creature, smelling of deceit, and he dared to threaten Tiger’s mate.

Tiger slammed his fists to the kitchen counter, a polished slab of granite. It broke into two giant chunks.

“Here . . . you . . .” The gardener held his rake in front of him, a tool Tiger could snap between his fingers.

Now fear appeared in Ethan’s eyes but still not enough. “Get out of here, or I’m calling the police.”

Tiger barely heard him. Because the man was so weak, Tiger’s need to protect Carly would be slaked with something simple, like breaking Ethan’s neck. Ripping him apart and painting the walls with his blood wasn’t necessary. Not this time. He reached for Ethan’s throat.

Fear at last radiated from Ethan, sickening waves of it. Tiger smelled the man’s bladder fail him, and then Ethan turned and ran.

Running was a bad idea. It woke Tiger’s need to hunt, to kill, the instinct to track through the jungle something for his dinner.

Ethan ran into his living room. The place was filled with furniture, all of it white. Tiger threw things aside to clear his path, chairs and the sofa crashing to the floor in pieces. Ethan dashed into a smaller room, darker, with a desk and a computer. And no escape.

Tiger barreled inside like silent death, while behind him, the gardener shouted, “I’m calling the cops! I’m calling the cops!”

Ethan yanked open a desk drawer and scrabbled in it. Tiger picked up the desk and threw it aside. The wooden thing crashed into the wall, smashing desk, wall, and computer.

Ethan came up from a terrified crouch, something black in his hands. There was a loud bang.

Fire bit into Tiger’s gut, but he plowed on, kicking aside the remains of the desk.

Bang, bang, bang. Three more bullets entered Tiger’s body. The pain finally cut through his rage, and he looked down to see blood dripping over the front of his shirt.

Tiger hadn’t been shot in a long time. The humans who’d tried to tame him in the basement had used tranqs at first, and they’d had to shoot him several times before Tiger succumbed to the drugs. Then they wondered, How many bullets would it take to slow him down? And they’d tried it. They’d discovered it took more than the four small ones Ethan had just pumped into Tiger’s front before he felt it.

Tiger reached for the pistol.

Five, six, seven. The bullets hit Tiger one by one, pain escalating. Tiger snatched the gun from Ethan’s hand and broke it in half.

Ethan was screaming now, his terror beating against Tiger’s pain. Tiger lifted Ethan by the neck, higher, higher. The man gave Tiger one look of intense fear, and then he went limp, eyes rolling back into his head. Tiger shook him, and Ethan’s head lolled. He was still warm and alive, but unconscious.

Disappointing. Tiger dumped Ethan’s body on top of the ruins of the desk and turned to leave. Blood slid down the shirt and his torso behind it, pooling in his waistband. Kim was going to be angry at Tiger for ruining the shirt. She always shook her finger at him when he got his clothes too dirty.

The gardener jumped out of the way as Tiger came out of the office. The man still held the rake, ready to swat Tiger if he came too near, but Tiger ignored him. The gardener had done nothing to Carly.

Tiger pressed his arm to his abdomen as he found the front door of the house, left open by the other woman’s swift exit. He staggered out on weakening legs, vision blurring.

Dimly, he heard the wail of sirens, growing louder as he stumbled down the long driveway and out into the street. He saw and smelled other humans popping out of front gates to peer at him, reminding him of prairie dogs he’d seen while he’d roamed, peeking up out of burrows to check whether the way was safe.

Shiftertown lay to the east of this place, so Tiger turned his steps that way, feeling the warm asphalt through the soles of his shoes.

The sirens grew louder. Tiger remembered how afraid he’d been when he’d first heard them charging through the city, how Connor had explained what they were and what they meant. Police, fire, ambulance. Get out of the way, because someone needed to be saved, or someone needed to be hunted.

Hunting should be silent. Predators had to stalk, to move silently, to find their prey and strike before the prey knew they were there.

Five police cars charged up the hill toward him, followed by a small red truck, lights blazing. They cut off Tiger from progressing east, but he could climb walls and cut through yards if he had to.

Tiger turned in through a gate to another house, scattering two more men with garden tools. Behind this house, the river gleamed at the bottom of a hill, a better way to escape than the roads. He could swim down the river, pull himself out near Shiftertown, and make his way home from there.

Police cars hurtled through the gates after him. Tiger jogged around the house, heading down the slope, his breathing labored now.

The river flowed, cool and sweet, at the end of the path at the bottom of the hill. The water would feel good on his wounds. Tiger would wade in and then just float away, dreaming of Carly and her scent, her red-lipped smile, and her eyes assessing him without fear.

Another loud bang ripped away his daydreams. Pain tore into the base of his spine, and Tiger’s knees buckled.

He landed facedown in a lawn of green grass, the blades tickling his nose. “Carly,” he mumbled. “Carly.”

A boot landed on his backside. A man pulled one of Tiger’s hands behind his back, and a cool cuff touched his wrist.

Bound, chained, trapped . . .

Tiger rose, the Shifter beast tearing out of him as he went up, and up, and up. The bloody mess of his clothes fell away, and the cuff shattered and fell to the grass.

He roared his Tiger roar, opening his mouth filled with fangs, his in-between beast huge and deadly.

A barrage of guns pointed at him, including a large air rifle loaded with a tranquilizer.

Tiger went for the man with the tranq. Too late. The dart entered Tiger’s already battered body, and the quick-acting tranquilizer made him stumble. But it wasn’t enough. Never was.

“Takes two,” he said, his voice clogged, clawed hand reaching for the rifle. “Maybe three.”

The man had already reloaded. The second dart hit Tiger’s throat, right above his Collar. A third one entered his thigh, shot by a second man, and peaceful tranquilizer poured into Tiger’s blood.

“Good shot,” he said, or thought he said, then he rushed to the ground at sickening speed.

* * *

Tiger woke flat on his back, both wrists enclosed in the hated steel, hands bound to rods on either side of him.

He roared as he came awake, jerking the cuffs and chains, which wouldn’t break. They’d used metal thick enough to withstand a Shifter. He opened his eyes to find himself in a bed, surrounded by white curtains, white walls, machines, tubes, and soft sounds of beeping.

Panic wedged in his throat. The compound, experiments, pain, fear . . .

He roared again, frantically banging against the cuffs. He’d thought himself safe in the strange place called Shiftertown, but now they’d sent him back, had trapped him again. No. No. No!

“Easy, lad.”

The voice cut through Tiger’s panic, promising strength. A hard hand pressed his chest, and Tiger tried to rise against it, jerking at his restraints. He had to get out. He had to get out.

“I said, easy.”

Tiger stared up at the hard face and intense blue eyes of Liam Morrissey, leader of the Austin Shiftertown. Liam was a Feline, his wildcat smaller than Tiger’s, his human body smaller as well. Tiger could defeat him.

But the usually laid-back, unhurried Irishman locked his gaze with Tiger’s. He wore the hard resolve of a man who held together a band of Shifters of three species and protected them against all comers. His scent and look willed Tiger back down in the bed, and Tiger found his panic lessening.

When Tiger’s vision cleared a little, he saw three men in black uniforms standing like columns at the foot of his bed, their faces blank. They held automatic rifles, loosely, but Tiger knew they were willing to shoot to kill as soon as someone gave the order.

“You stay down, lad,” Liam said, his Irish tones laced with steel. “You understand me?”

Tiger dragged in a breath. The fear hadn’t left him, but he knew he had to obey Liam or the men in black would bring up the weapons and fill Tiger’s body with bullets, too many to withstand at once.

Tiger managed one nod. His fists stayed balled, but he stopped pulling at the chains.

Liam’s hand remained on Tiger’s chest. “Good lad. You need to stay still to heal. You stay still, and everything will be fine.”

“Carly,” Tiger whispered.

Liam leaned to the bed without lifting his hand from Tiger. “What?”

“Carly. Where is she?”

Liam shook his head. “I don’t know who that is, but you’ve been whispering her name. Someone from the lab?”

“She’s my mate.” Tiger could barely speak, his voice grating and strange, but it felt good to say the word. “My mate.”

Liam blinked slowly, once, but he didn’t let his body move. “You need to stop talking and rest now.”

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