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PRICE OF LOVE
A paranormal romance
Table of Contents
Excerpt – Blue Moon Dragon
Excerpt – Seized & Seduced
Tiger shapeshifter and soldier Kersen Amat is desperate to mate with the sexy Jarita Namar, a leopard shapeshifter and the woman of his dreams. He plans his courtship and pursuit with care.
Step 1 is to secure parental permission.
Step 2 is to collect rubies for the bride price.
Step 3 is to woo the beautiful and independent leopard shifter.
Not impossible tasks, but hardly easy either, considering the number of things that could go wrong.
Jarita has watched Kersen from afar for months, but he hasn’t shown any return interest. It’s time to take action and shape her future in the way she desires.
During a fortuitous meeting in the jungle sparks fly, along with love and laughter. Mutual pleasure explodes—sweet, erotic and compelling—until thieves intent on stealing rubies from the clan mines intrude. A disaster since without the rubies there’s no bride price and their courtship will be doomed. Obtaining Jarita, a jewel beyond price, as his mate might take more than rubies and seduction…
Conflict litters the history of Myanmar. The resource-rich country has fallen to raiders such as Kublai Khan and warring kingdoms from neighboring lands, all seeking power and wealth. To this day, life for the Burmese people is a struggle under military dictatorship. With this history in mind, the shifters of the tiger and leopard clans decided there was strength in numbers. If they hoped to exist as a species, protect the wealth generated by their ruby mines and preserve the right to live in their jungle kingdom, they had to work together.
No longer was it enough to travel and integrate within the human education system and society as they’d done in the past. They needed to secure their jungle haven where they liked to recharge and live the simpler life. In a secret ballot carried out amongst their kind, they voted to join forces and if individuals so desired, allow them to mate together with any offspring automatically given equal rights. It was the way of the future.
Tiger Kersen Amat approved of the new regime, enjoyed mixing with the leopard shifters. And now things were looking up since the previous evening he’d concluded talks with a high-ranking leopard family and won the right to court their beautiful daughter Jarita Namar. The delicate negotiations had continued long into the night. Now all he needed to do was prepare a bride price of two ruby necklaces, one for his prospective mate and the other to give to his mate’s family within a week.
And of course he needed to romance the female because she didn’t know about the agreement yet. Despite adhering to the bride-price tradition, they were modern in outlook and Jarita had the right to refuse him. The courtship would be the fun part.
He grinned, peering past the screen of jungle ferns to watch the subtle sway of Jarita’s curvy hips. Sexy. Independent. His smile widened as he added disobedient to his thoughts. The beautiful leopard shifter shouldn’t wander the jungle paths alone, and judging by the quick glances over her shoulder, she knew it.
He padded after her, cautiously following the woman deeper into the cool jungle, his good humor slowly fading when she moved into forbidden territory—the area where the shifters mined for rubies. Only authorized persons entered the region. Was she meeting another male? One he and her family didn’t know about? Or worse, could she be the traitor who had let the opium lords learn of the hidden ruby mines deep in shifter territory?
A chill swept Kersen. His jaw set in determination while he tracked her silently, not moving too close since he knew with her highly evolved senses she’d discern his presence.
Overhead a brightly colored parrot flitted, squawking when another encroached on its territory. Jarita started, a small eek escaping before she shrugged irritably and continued down the leaf-covered dirt path.
Part of the security force, Kersen was skilled at tracking and knew the jungle intimately, including the paths trodden by the men who worked for the opium lords. He couldn’t understand why Jarita marched so precariously close to danger. Once he discovered what the woman was up to, he intended to teach her a lesson. A process he’d enjoy, he thought darkly, anger and arousal warring inside. Sweat glistened on his bare chest. Hands clenched to fists while anger swelled, overtaking warm thoughts of passion. His biceps expanded, pushing against the tight band of his ruby-encrusted armband as he considered the possibilities, the trouble she might have attracted.
Without warning, the jungle went silent. Kersen moved quickly, prompted by gut instinct and familiarity of the signs of intruders. He darted down the track and pounced on the woman, ruthlessly containing her scream with the palm of his hand.
“Jarita, it’s me. Kersen. Intruders. We must hide. Do you understand?” He spoke the local Burmese dialect instead of the English they used when dealing with foreigners.
Part of him regretted it when she abruptly ceased her struggles. The curve of her buttocks against his groin felt damn good despite his anger with her. His cock strained against the cotton longyi, the skirt-like waistcloth he wore. Oh yeah. Once they were safe, he intended to smack the rounded globes of her backside so she remembered not to walk blindly into danger again. That was after he discovered what the hell she was up to out here on her own. By the time he finished, she’d know she belonged to him and he’d have her complete loyalty.
He moved rapidly, lifting her into his arms. Once clear of the path, he set her on her feet.
“What is it?” she whispered.
“I think it’s the men with the opium lords. Shift. We’ll climb into the trees. As long as we remain silent they won’t think to look up.”
“Vermin,” she said with a hiss.
Either she was innocent of wanting to meet with them or the female was an excellent actress. He didn’t know what to think of her behavior.
Kersen waited for her to transform, watching protectively while her formfitting blouse and longyi melted into her body, replaced by glossy black fur. She dropped to all fours, letting the change take her. Attraction for the woman swarmed through his tight body despite the approaching danger. So beautiful. And his—as long as he managed to seal the deal with an acceptable bride price and her cooperation.
“Up in the tree,” he ordered.
She shook her head, ears flattening in defiance.
“Dammit, woman. Go. I need to know you’re safe.”
They stared at each other in a duel of wills. Finally she barked a soft, abrasive grunt, telling him she intended to obey but not with good grace. A single leap was all it took for her to scale to the first branch. The leaves of the trees barely rippled under her weight.
Kersen let out a sigh of relief, angry with her but amused at the same time. She’d wanted to return the favor and protect him because he was vulnerable while shifting. Hell, none of the tiger women would have hesitated to follow orders. And he doubted any of them would have attempted to protect him either. Both aroused and humbled at her fierce loyalty, he called his tiger to mind and shifted, leaping into the neighboring tree seconds before a line of men trudged into sight. Maybe he’d been mistaken about her reasons for being in the forbidden territory?
The men walked in single file, passing the trees concealing the felines without an upward glance. A guard, armed with a rifle led the group, his dark eyes alert for danger. The men toiling after him carried full sacks on their backs, sweat beaded on their faces. The sweet scent gave away the contents. Opium, destined for clandestine transport across the border to Thailand. They trudged past, shoulders bowed under the weight of their sacks. Another sentry followed in the rear, heavily armed with a machine gun, a pistol at his side and a knife sticking prominently from one of his muddy leather boots.
Kersen stared at their faces, committing them to memory. Ah, the fat one-eyed man was the bastard who’d helped steal the girl-children from the local village, holding them for ransom until the Burmese people had agreed to plant poppies. Although they’d returned the girls, Kersen had heard the children still suffered nightmares from their rough experience. A roar of displeasure squeezed from his throat, echoing below the jungle canopy.
A startled bird fluttered from the tree to their right. The men jabbered uneasily in Burmese, darting glances over their shoulders and increasing their pace. In the distance an answering roar sounded. A second snarl, closer than the first, carried across the silent jungle.
Help was on the way.
Currently off-duty, Kersen knew the other security force members would handle the interlopers. The shifters would destroy the opium rather than allowing it to reach the city streets. He was free to concentrate on Jarita.
Kersen peered through the branches and intercepted Jarita’s gaze. Her golden eyes focused on him, unblinking. Heat seared his groin. He couldn’t wait to get his hands on her curvy form.
Once the spooked men were no longer within hearing distance, Kersen crawled along the tree branch and leapt to the ground. Jarita followed suit, prowling over the mud caused by yesterday’s rain and leaf litter to rub against him. Her head nudged his shoulder and her soft purr vibrated along his side. Again his thoughts jumped to sex despite his worries. He backed away to shift, needing to talk to her. Why was she out here on her own? Hell, if she intended to meet another man…
Fuck, he couldn’t let that happen. Refused to stand aside and let another male steal her away. His, dammit. She belonged to him or at least she would by the time he was finished.
Fully changed to a man again, Kersen frowned down at her. She rubbed against his legs, showing affection like a damned housecat. “Shift,” he ordered. “I want to talk.”
Jarita grunted, an unhappy sound, but stepped back to transform. “You want to talk?” she purred, her breasts heaving under the tight turquoise blouse.
He couldn’t help but notice the hard tips of her nipples pressing against the cotton fabric.
“You didn’t wish to talk during my cousin’s party. All you did was flirt with that stupid Rani and her sisters.”
Kersen’s brows rose at her tone. Interesting. “Were you jealous?”
“No!” The word exploded from her in a snarl. “Why would I worry about you making a fool of yourself?” Delicate pink shaded her coffee-colored cheeks, her dark brows lifting until they resembled thin slashes of displeasure.