Wild Rain

By: Christine Feehan

Rachael would have cried out, screamed for help, for salvation, just screamed for the hell of it. She was more afraid of the man, or whatever he was, than the cats and their evil eyes. He’d successfully choked off all sound, but the pain radiating up her leg seemed to engulf her so that she had the incredible sensation of melting into the floor.

Rio swore again as he felt her go limp beneath him, the poker clattering to the floor. He shoved it out of her reach and as he did so, his hand encountered a warm, sticky substance. Instantly his hands moved down her leg. He muttered an expletive at his find. Clamping a hand over the wound, he jerked her leg into the air. “Don’t you faint on me. Is there anyone else here? Answer me, and you’d better tell the truth.” He was fairly certain they were alone, someone else surely would have revealed their presence during the short but intense fight. The house held no other human scent, but he wanted no more surprises.

A shudder ran through her body, trembling in reaction to the terrible wound on her leg. There was hard authority in his voice. A distinct merciless edge that carried inherent danger. “No.” She managed to gasp out the word through her bruised throat.

Rio signaled to the clouded leopards. “I hope to hell you’re telling me the truth because they’ll kill anyone they find.”

He applied a field tourniquet quickly, knowing the animals would alert him if they found another intruder. He couldn’t imagine who would be stupid enough to send a woman after him. Rio lifted her with ease, carried her to the bed and set her on it. She didn’t look capable of murdering anyone, her face white and her eyes too big for her face. He shook his head and went to work on the ugly wound in her leg. The puncture wounds were deep and had done considerable damage. The cat had savaged the leg as she’d tried to get away, tearing deep gouges out of her flesh, an unusual wound for a clouded leopard to make. It was an ugly mess and needed more skill than he possessed.

Rachael could barely breathe through the pain. In the darkness, the man looming over her appeared invincible. His shoulders were wide, his arms and chest powerful. He carried most of his upper body weight in sheer muscle. There were bloodstains on his clothes. Blood trickled from the ugly gash near his temple. He was drenched, his clothes torn and soaked completely through. Water dropped from his hair onto her leg as he bent over her, the droplets cold on her hot skin. He had a dark shadow along his jaw and the coldest eyes she’d ever seen on a human... or a beast. Brilliant yellow-green eyes.

“Stop shaking.” There was impatience in his voice.

Rachael took a deep breath and forced her gaze down to her mangled leg. A single sound escaped and her world began to blur.

“Stop looking at it, you little fool.” He caught at her impatiently, jerked her chin up so that she was forced to meet his glittering stare.

Rio studied her pale face, so drawn with pain he could see lines etched around her mouth. Beads of sweat dotted her brow. The marks of his fingers showed around her throat, swollen and purple. His gaze dwelt for a moment of speculation on her right wrist, noting the swelling, wondering if it was broken. It was the least of his worries. “Listen to me, try to follow what I’m saying.” He bent close to her, his face inches from hers. His voice started out gruff, but even to his own ears, it gentled as his gaze drifted over her.

Rachael pressed back against the mattress, terrified that his face would contort and leave her staring at a beast rather than a man. She was floating in a sea of pain. A veil of haze blurred her vision, until she felt at a distance from everything. A look of resolution hardened his expression, warning her. She made an attempt to nod, to indicate she was listening, terrified of the intensity of his unblinking stare, afraid if she didn’t respond he would suddenly grow a mouthful of teeth. All she really wanted to do was slide down in the bed and disappear.

“Infections start fast here in the rain forest. We’re cut off by the river. This storm is a bad one and the river is over its banks. I can’t get you help so I’m going to have to take care of this the primitive way. It’s going to hurt.”

Rachael pressed a hand to her mouth to stifle the hysterical laugh welling up. Hurt? Was he crazy? She was caught in the middle of a nightmare with no end. She was in a tree house with a leopard man and two mini leopards. No one knew where she was and the leopard man wanted her dead. Did he think her leg didn’t already hurt?

“Did you understand?”

He seemed to bite the words out between strong teeth. Rachael tried not to stare at his teeth. Tried not to imagine them lengthening into lethal weapons. She made herself nod, tried to look intelligent when she was certain she was insane. Men didn’t change into leopards, not even in the middle of the rain forest. She must have lost her sanity, there was no other explanation.

Rio stared down at her face, shocked at the way his stomach lurched at the idea of what he had to do to her. He’d done such things before. He’d done far worse things. It was the only chance they had of saving her leg, but the thought of hurting her further sickened him. He had no idea who she was. Chances were good she’d been sent to kill him. He was a wanted man. It had been tried before. Rio snapped his teeth together and swore silently. What the hell difference did it make if her eyes were too big for her face and she looked so damned vulnerable?