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Under the Panther's Protection [Black Panthers 3], page 1

 

Under the Panther's Protection [Black Panthers 3]


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Under the Panther's Protection [Black Panthers 3]


  Black Panthers 3

  Under the Panther’s Protection

  Fiona Harrison knew the time had come to make changes in her life. She just didn’t count on being abducted by a man who would change her life forever. Joshua Evans tore through her defenses with an ease that left her shaken and, unable to fight the chemistry between them, she soon found herself expecting his child.

  Not willing to be tied to him because of the baby, she fought to put some distance between them. She didn’t understand the danger surrounding them until she was kidnapped and taken to the mountains. Freezing and injured, when Fiona saw her kidnappers become black panthers, she thought she was hallucinating. But when more black panthers came to rescue her, she knew it had to be true.

  And then one shifted, and she suddenly found herself looking into Joshua’s eyes.

  Her need for him left her feeling defenseless, but when danger came again, she realized how much they needed each other.

  Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal, Romantic Suspense, Shape-shifter

  Length: 89,862 words

  UNDER THE PANTHER'S

  PROTECTION

  Black Panthers 3

  Leah Brooke

  

  Siren Publishing, Inc.

  www.SirenPublishing.com

  A SIREN PUBLISHING BOOK

  UNDER THE PANTHER'S PROTECTION

  Copyright © 2018 by Leah Brooke

  ISBN: 978-1-64010-922-3

  First Publication: January 2018

  Cover design by Les Byerley

  All art and logo copyright © 2018 by Siren Publishing, Inc.

  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED: This literary work may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, including electronic or photographic reproduction, in whole or in part, without express written permission.

  All characters and events in this book are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead is strictly coincidental.

  WARNING: The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this copyrighted work is illegal. Criminal copyright infringement, including infringement without monetary gain, is investigated by the FBI and is punishable by up to 5 years in federal prison and a fine of $250,000.

  If you find a Siren-BookStrand e-book or print book being sold or shared illegally, please let us know at

  legal@sirenbookstrand.com

  PUBLISHER

  Siren Publishing, Inc.

  www.SirenPublishing.com

  ABOUT THE AUTHOR

  When Leah’s not writing, she’s spending her time with friends and family, and spoiling her furbabies.

  For all titles by Leah Brooke, please visit

  www.bookstrand.com/leah-brooke

  Table of Contents

  Title Page

  Copyright Page

  About the Author

  Chapter One

  Chapter Two

  Chapter Three

  Chapter Four

  Chapter Five

  Chapter Six

  Chapter Seven

  Chapter Eight

  Chapter Nine

  Chapter Ten

  Chapter Eleven

  Chapter Twelve

  Chapter Thirteen

  Chapter Fourteen

  Chapter Fifteen

  Chapter Sixteen

  Chapter Seventeen

  Chapter Eighteen

  Chapter Nineteen

  Chapter Twenty

  Chapter Twenty-One

  Chapter Twenty-Two

  Chapter Twenty-Three

  Chapter Twenty-Four

  Epilogue

  Landmarks

  Cover

  UNDER THE PANTHER'S

  PROTECTION

  Black Panthers 3

  LEAH BROOKE

  Copyright © 2018

  Chapter One

  Fighting fatigue and sadness, Fiona Harrison plastered a smile of encouragement on her face and waved good-bye to her sister, Glenna.

  Glenna’s men had found them, and Leland and Joe’s concern for her convinced Fiona that her sister was in good hands.

  Despite the cold air rushing in, she stood at the doorway until the two men tucked Glenna into the large SUV, making sure the blanket Fiona had given them was tucked securely around her.

  Their concern and relief at finding Glenna had been obvious.

  When Glenna had appeared on her doorstep several months earlier, pregnant and heartbroken, Fiona had done everything in her power to take care of her.

  Fiona had failed her.

  They lived in a small apartment that was falling apart and in a bad neighborhood.

  What little heat they managed to coax from the small radiator quickly escaped through the cracks in the window and doorframes, which also let the frigid air in.

  Even with both of them working two jobs, there hadn’t been enough to eat.

  Fiona went without, knowing Glenna and her growing baby needed it more.

  With no insurance, Fiona barely scraped together the money for doctor bills and prenatal vitamins, along with second-hand clothes that would fit Glenna’s swelling body.

  Her sister didn’t even have a coat that fit around her belly, because Fiona hadn’t been able to find one.

  Leland Moran and Joe Diablo obviously loved Glenna, and the child she carried, which they both claimed as theirs.

  Fiona didn’t understand how her sister could be in love with two men, but Glenna’s love for them, and theirs for her, couldn’t be denied.

  Glenna had cried in her sleep on several occasions, and Fiona had heard her call their names.

  Fiona had wanted to contact them, but Glenna had become so upset that she’d relented.

  Fiona felt confident that they would make sure Glenna had everything she needed, and more.

  They’d wanted to take Fiona with them, but she wasn’t about to accept their charity.

  She’d gotten herself into a mess, and she’d get herself out of it.

  After locking the door, Fiona made her way to the worn sofa, the last of her energy draining away.

  She’d lost her job at the fish market earlier that day because she’d passed out during her shift.

  She’d lost her other job at the donut shop when the owner hired his nephew about two weeks earlier, but she hadn’t told Glenna about it.

  She’d spent the time looking for another job but, so far, hadn’t been able to find one.

  She had seventeen dollars and twelve cents in her pocket and hadn’t eaten in three days.

  After turning the overhead light off to save electricity, she dropped onto the saggy sofa that had come with the apartment and let the tears she’d been holding back fall.

  God, she was tired.

  She knew it had a lot to do with not eating, but thankfully she’d gone past the point of feeling hungry.

  She’d just take tonight to rest and would get back to looking for another job first thing in the morning.

  For a few minutes, though, she could allow herself to fall apart.

  She didn’t know how long she cried before she wore herself out and didn’t care.

  Wiping her tears on the sleeve of her sweatshirt, she pulled the afghan one of their elderly neighbors had made for them around herself, but the wind had picked up, and she couldn’t get warm.

  Staring out the window at the only unbroken streetlight, she started crying again, too tired to bother wiping away the fresh tears.

  Dropping her head against the back of the sofa, she let the tears fall and curled into a ball against the cold. At some point, she drifted off, waking several times due to the cold.

  She automatically shoved the afghan asi
de to go check on Glenna, only to remember that Glenna was no longer there.

  The sense of loneliness nearly overwhelmed her, tightening her stomach until it hurt.

  Wrapping herself in the afghan again, she went back to sleep, repeating the process again and again through the night.

  When she woke up again, daylight streamed through the thin curtains, and the air had gotten cold enough inside the apartment that she could see her breath. Remembering that she didn’t need to get up to check on Glenna, she pulled the afghan tighter around her shoulders, struggling to clear her head.

  Blowing out a breath, she rubbed her gritty eyes, wanting nothing more than to curl into a ball and go back to sleep again.

  Considering it a show of willpower, she shoved the afghan aside and got to her feet, closing her eyes and clenching her jaw against the dizziness.

  She had to get a job. She had to get enough money to make her way back to North Carolina so she could be closer to Glenna in case her sister and the baby needed her.

  She’d be glad to live someplace a little warmer.

  She hated the cold, and winter in Cleveland threatened to be more extreme than she’d ever experienced.

  Opening her eyes again, she took a steadying breath and started toward the kitchen with the intention of making herself a cup of the chamomile tea she’d bought for Glenna.

  She hadn’t taken two steps before a loud knocking at her door froze her in her tracks.

  Someone intent on causing trouble probably wouldn’t show up at that hour and sure as hell wouldn’t knock.

  “Who is it?”

  “I’m Joshua Evans. Leland and Joe sent me.”

  “Glenna!”

  She raced for the door, her hands shaking as she struggled with the locks. “Is Glenna okay? Did they get into an accident?”

  Flinging the door open, she found herself staring up at the biggest, meanest-looking man she’d ever seen.

  Dressed entirely in black—black jeans, black T-shirt, black leather jacket and boots—he stared down at her, his eyes widening and glittering like black onyx.

  His nostrils flared as he stared down at her in disbelief. “Son of a bitch!”

  Fiona gripped the edge of the door, her head spinning. “Glenna?”

  She saw his lips move, but the roaring in her ears made it impossible to hear what he said.

  Terrified that something had happened to her sister, she fought dizziness but lost the battle.

  A sob broke free a second before everything went dark.

  * * * *

  Stunned to his core when her eyes rolled back and she collapsed, Joshua caught her against him, unable to resist burying his face against her neck and breathing in the intoxicating scent of her.

  Vanilla and honey.

  No.

  Impossible.

  She couldn’t be his mate.

  It was too much of a coincidence, especially since Joe and Leland had just found theirs.

  Besides, he was too big and rough for someone so small and delicate.

  It had to be some sort of a cruel twist of fate.

  Lifting her against his chest, he frowned at her slight weight as he carried her inside out of the cold, trying to convince himself that he had to be imagining how her scent affected him.

  After kicking the door closed behind him, he carried her to a sofa that belonged in the trash.

  Worried that she hadn’t woken, he took her hand in his, inwardly cursing to find it cold.

  Covering her with the homemade blanket wadded up at her feet, he realized that the apartment wasn’t much warmer than outside.

  He could even see his breath.

  Relieved that her cheeks had flushed and she seemed to breathing all right, he stared down at her.

  Struck by her beauty, he slid his fingers over her dark auburn hair, marveling at the various shades of red that gleamed where the sunlight touched it.

  It felt like silk against his fingers, fueling his curiosity to find out if her skin was as soft as it looked.

  Running the back of his fingers over her flushed cheek, he found it softer than velvet.

  His chest tightened at the sound she made—a sound somewhere between a whimper and a sigh—and she turned her face into his caress.

  My mate.

  His cock swelled, and jerking his hand away, he rose, staring down at her.

  He suddenly understood Leland’s initial reaction to finding his mate and his frustration at being controlled by his cock.

  Joshua had witnessed first-hand what it had done to the Alphas when Glenna had run away, and he promised himself that he wouldn’t allow himself to suffer the same fate.

  No woman would ever have the power to make him that vulnerable.

  His orders were to bring Glenna’s sister back to the farm, and that was exactly what he’d do.

  Once he delivered her, he’d just stay the hell away from her.

  Irritated that she’d shaken him so badly in just a few minutes, he made a quick decision.

  He’d pack her up and be on his way back home with her before she woke up.

  He’d already scared her once and didn’t relish the idea of dealing with it again while convincing her to come with him.

  Hopefully, when she woke up, and he explained that he was taking her to the farm to be with her sister, she’d go calmly.

  The sooner they got there and he could get away from her, the better.

  Chapter Two

  Fiona woke slowly, warmer than she’d been in a very long time.

  Smiling, she wiggled more deeply into the blanket with a sigh of pleasure.

  A low hum finally invaded her consciousness, along with the feeling that she was being watched.

  Panicked that she’d fallen asleep on the bus again, she scrambled to sit up and looked around to find she had no idea where she was. “Shit.”

  “Easy.”

  The incredibly deep voice had her whipping her head around, her heart pounding when she realized that she was in an SUV with the man who’d shown up at her door. “Glenna?”

  “As far as I know, your sister’s fine. Joe and Leland will take good care of her.”

  Relieved that his appearance had nothing to do with her sister, she fought not to panic and let anger take over. “What the hell? You kidnapped me!”

  Frowning, he divided his attention between her and the road, pursing lips that looked too inviting to be part of such hard, chiseled features. “I didn’t kidnap you. Leland and Joe asked me to pick you up and take you to the farm so you could get out of that dump and be with your sister. I carried you out to the SUV while you were still out so I didn’t have to listen to you yell about it.”

  Working her hands free of the afghan he’d wrapped her in, she smacked him. “That’s kidnapping, asshole!”

  Seeing that they travelled on a side road, she watched for signs to see just how far he’d taken her, and realized by the position of the sun that they’d been on the road for hours.

  He shrugged a huge shoulder, seeming unconcerned. “Okay, so I kidnapped you. I told you, Leland and Joe sent me to get you. I’m taking you to the farm.”

  “You’re lying.” She struggled to remember his name. “Joshua? They asked me to go with them, and I said no. Pull over and let me out.”

  “No. What the hell are you doing?”

  She unhooked the seat belt and yanked at the door handle. “Let me out!”

  With a curse, he whipped the SUV to the side of the road, throwing it into park and shoving his seat back, all in one smooth movement.

  Yanking her across the console and onto his lap, he caught both of her hands in one of his when she tried to hit him again. “That’s enough, you wildcat! There’s nothing to be afraid of. Calm the hell down.”

  “I’m not afraid of you, asshole! I’m mad as hell.” Alarmed that every inch of his body seemed to be packed with hard muscle, she stilled at the feel of his hard cock pressing insistently against her bottom.

  The fa
ct that she struggled not to lean into him pissed her off even more, the warmth and solidness of his body and the concern mingling with the annoyance in his eyes tugging at her in ways she knew she couldn’t trust.

  “You’re not afraid?” Shaking his head, he sighed. “Do you always faint when you’re not scared—or does it have something to do with the fact that there was nothing to eat in that dump you call an apartment?”

  “My apartment is none of your business!” She tried to pull her wrists free, but without any apparent effort, he managed to hold her, his strength alarming her.

  Deciding that she’d only hurt herself if she continued, she sighed and relaxed against him, waiting for an opportunity to break free. “It’s clean.”

  His hard features softened slightly. “Yeah. Not much to clean.”

  Hoping to catch him by surprise, Fiona tugged again, but he held firm. “Fuck you.”

  His features hardened again. “So, when was the last time you ate? Leland said that your sister told him that you’ve been going without so that she could eat.”

  “What I eat is none of your business. Take me back to my apartment.”

  Joshua’s eyes narrowed dangerously. “No. You’re coming with me. I’m supposed to deliver you to the farm, and that’s what I intend to do. What you do after you get there is up to you. You can fight it out with Leland and Joe all you want.”

  He frowned again, looking away briefly. “Hell.”

  Intrigued, Fiona pulled her hands free, surprised that he’d allowed it but disconcerted that he dropped his hand to her thigh. “What?”

  “Nothing. Not a damned thing.” He searched her features, his gaze narrowed. “Nothing at all. Let’s get going. We’ll stop at the next restaurant and get something to eat. The sooner we get to the farm, the better.”

  “When they asked me if I wanted to go with them, I told them no. Why did they send you?”

 
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