Predator's Refuge

By: Rosanna Leo

Szabadság. Freedom reigned here.

If only he could free himself from the vile clutches of his memories.

As he marched along the well-marked path to the lodge, a hundred reminiscences replayed in Anton’s mind like a ridiculous film reel of shame. Thirty years spent in the bosom of a family who didn’t think twice of betraying their own kind. Almost thirty years as the older brother to a man who valued status and power more than family and love. Thirty years as son to a bloodthirsty dictator.

Thirty years too long. He should have done this a sad decade ago.

Never mind. His nightmares would have chased him wherever he went. Even now, he could not erase the horrible imagery from his mind. The clouded visions of him locked in a cage with his brothers, taunted by their sham of a father. The same hateful pictures had tortured him from youth, making him crave retribution. At least here, away from Budapest, he would be out of temptation’s grasp.

Vengeance ran in his blood, but he would not be a slave to the same base desires that claimed his family. He needed to begin again, to rise from the ashes of deceit.

He thought he’d found his perfect refuge when he took up residence at the Pannonhalma Monastery near Gyor. For a while, the Benedictine Abbey had been the perfect escape. Silence and peace and simplicity had been the new themes in Anton’s life. Brother Ferenc had taught him the benefits of meditation, of treating one’s body like a temple, and he’d thrived.

It hadn’t been long before the vivid nightmares found him there too. He’d known at that point he needed to get away from his beloved Hungary altogether. As long as he remained in his homeland, there would always be a chance he’d succumb to the evil in his genes. Tigers like him had trouble controlling their urges, fashioned as they were for hunting prey. And his tiger had been on the hunt for some time, eager for payback, for fresh blood.

For that reason, he couldn’t trust himself at home. He wanted nothing more to do with the Gaspar clan, couldn’t stomach being in the midst of their vile machinations. His only hope at living a normal life was to create a new one, despite how much he wanted to clean up after his father and lead his tribe into a safe and happy future.

When he’d heard of Ryland Snow’s unusual resort through shifter acquaintances, something in him snapped into place. He’d known instinctively the Ursa Lodge was where he needed to reinvent himself. His subsequent conversations with Snow confirmed his suspicions. The man owned a lodge for shifters, a place where they could be free to be themselves, unafraid of retribution or prying human eyes. A place where he mentored young shifters and taught them how to be proud of their unique talents.

No one had ever taught him these things.

He longed to be part of this positive environment, away from the sham court created by his father and one sycophant brother Istvan. No more infighting. No more terror. Just freedom.

He would miss Gabi, his other brother, but sacrifices must be made for sanity.

Casting an appraising eye around the property as he approached it, Anton noticed a few teenage shifter males flirting with a group of girls. He would be spending his days helping teens adjust to their unique talents and gifts. Proud to do it, frankly he couldn’t wait to start work. Mulling over a few ideas for icebreakers, he marched toward the front door. The sliding doors swung open for him and he walked in, head high.

Immediately, the fragrance hit him, activating his Jacobson’s organ. He swallowed, tasting it on his tongue and at the back of his throat, and wondered if he was mistaken.

No, how could he mistake the unique scent of a female cat in heat? It was too delicious a scent to forget. Sweetness coated his taste buds, winding a delirious path down his throat. As his head swam, he blinked and tried to clear his thoughts of the sexual imagery racing through it.

The scent did not belong to another tiger shifter, but some other type of predatory cat. One whose perfume he hadn’t sampled before. One who must be particular to this region. Cougar? No. Mountain lion? Surely not.

Whatever she was, her scent teased him with its delicious flavor.

Don’t, he warned himself. Wasn’t it enough that he spent the last few years of his existence trying to escape the sick wiles of the grasping women at court? And God only knew how hard he’d worked to maintain a state of abstinence at Pannonhalma, devoting his life to meditation. He’d come here to work, not lose himself in a sweet piece of…

Stop it. This was no time to think of pussy, even though he’d never been more desperate for a taste of creaming woman.

His tiger howled inside him, hungry for that which it had been denied for almost two years.

Still the perfume, more intoxicating than any he’d known, wafted toward him. He wanted to close his eyes and drink it in. The unyielding power of the aroma could make him forget his vows. Granted, he wasn’t really a monk, but he had followed the monastic lifestyle from day one at Pannonhalma. The purity in the monk’s life had been the very thing he’d required to get his life back on track.

So why did he want to find the source of the scent and fuck her until she begged alternately for mercy and for more? Her need seemed strong. Whoever this lady cat was, she must be in dire agony for her scent to be so powerful.