by Kristen Strassel
Lion and the Doe (Colorado Shifters #1)
She’s not ready to let fate decide her mate…
For centuries, weredeer in the Colorado Mountains have met their fated partner during The Mate. They shift the autumn they’re ready to produce offspring, and spend the rest of their lives with their mate, for better or worse.
But Daphne wants to be able to choose her own fate. In a town overrun by hunters and woods full of predators, it’s dangerous enough to be a weredeer. Yet, living in an arranged marriage seems even riskier.
His instinct is to kill her, but he let himself get too close…
Mountain Lions toy with their prey before killing it. Deer are their main target, and Woodland Park is ripe with choices during The Mate. Leo never expects his prey to shift to a beautiful human girl when he captures her, especially not one he’s had his eye on for a while. He can’t bring himself to hurt her, instead, he drives her wild with pleasure. But he knows he’s not her mate.
When the lions of the mountain learn that Leo is falling for a doe, he’s forced to reveal his true nature to Daphne. Now that she knows she’s fallen for a predator, can she force herself to leave him, or will she listen to her heart and stay with Leo?
No one in the herd expected to see me until spring, and Leo knew that. It sounded like he meant for me to stay here, with him. Yet, I was pretty sure he wasn’t one of us. Being welcome didn’t make this any less terrifying.
I didn’t know what to do. I covered myself again. Bathed in only candlelight in a tiny room made Leo look so much bigger than me. “It’s beautiful.” I meant the house, but I could have been talking about Leo as well.
“Thank you.” His smile was genuine, and he stepped toward me, putting his hands on my shoulders. My whole body tensed under his touch. His thumbs worked the aching muscles in the back of my neck, and any fear I had melted like the candle on the table. “Lay down on the bed.”
“Leo,” He knew so much about me, but he wouldn’t tell me what he was. Even if he was my actual mate, what he’d just suggested scared me. And no matter who he was, I’d expected to have more time before this happened. I thought at least we’d talk for a while first. All I knew about Leo was he ordered a beer with his steak. “I…I can’t.”
His hands kneaded my shoulders, and even though my brain protested, my body was on board with whatever he wanted. After all, it was matting season, and whether I liked it or not, I was clearly in heat. One more step, and he was close enough so his chest grazed mine, my nipples hardening against the rippling muscles of his stomach. His stubble brushed against my cheek as he whispered in my ear, “It’s exhausting to shift, isn’t it?”
I nodded, wanting to protest, but his fingers working my shoulders felt too good. “Are you my mate?” I’d never felt so exposed, so vulnerable in my life. “Everyone told me I’d know. But now I’m here with you, and I really don’t know if you’re….him.”
“Shh.” Ignoring another question, he turned my shoulders toward the bed. “Lay down on your stomach.”
Trembling as I climbing up on the high mattress, Leo kept his hands on my back. I scooted as quickly as I could, sighing when my body settled. He sat beside me, resuming his work on my sore shoulders.
“Put your arms down by your sides.” He rubbed my shoulder blades, and ran his hands down the length of my arms, back to my neck. He began working at my spine with his thumbs, each touch unraveling a tiny knot just below the surface of my skin. With tiny circles, he reached the small of my back, his fingers grazing my butt before he swept his hands back up to my shoulders, and started long strokes up and down my back. He dipped his face to my shoulder, his breath hot against my neck. “How does that feel?”
“Tell me, Daphne.”
“It feels amazing.” I was this weird combination of relaxed and on the edge, a mixture I’d never felt before, and I was afraid I’d say too much. Who was I kidding, I’d already told Leo everything. He was just making sure I went through with it. I wondered if it would give me any answers.
Doe and the Hunter (Colorado Shifters #2)
Chloe wants to believe in fairy tales….
The does in the herd have shunned The Mate, thinking of it as little more than an arranged marriage. But Chloe thinks the idea of being fated to someone forever is romantic. So excited about The Mate, Chloe can’t wait until the night of the ceremony, and heads out in the forest in search of her mate.
Cane’s tired of running….
Everything in his life has ended badly, and there was only one place left that felt like the right place to go: his family’s cabin outside of Colorado Springs. Cane had been dreaming of the forest, and something much more primal that was begging to be let out.
When Cane aims his rifle at a doe in the forest, he has no idea she’s exactly what he’s been looking for.
The beer sat untouched in the refrigerator, and all I could think about was kissing Cane. My hand still burned from the place he’d brought to his lips. His beard still tickled my skin. I put my other hand over it, hoping the sensation would go away, but it was no use. He was under my skin.
“What do you do?” Cane set the guitar down on the floor, and he’d grown bored of watching his football game reruns. “When you’re not—”
“Crashing people’s houses?” I said. He nodded.
“I work at a restaurant. And go to school, but only in the spring, since I was waiting to shift.”
Cane pressed his lips together like he was going to laugh. I don’t know why he thought this was so funny, but it was infuriating. “What do you study?” he asked.
“Early childhood education.” I couldn’t wait to hear what he thought about that.
“You want to be a teacher?” He raised his eyebrow and I nodded. Apparently he thought that was a solid choice. “You’re really into this kid thing, aren’t you?”
“Don’t you want them?” Cane’s life was drastically different than mine, but at some point, I figured he’d want to settle down and have little Canes. He couldn’t be a rock star forever, he was already questioning it.
“Someday, but I want to live my life first.” He’d stopped looking at me like I was crazy, that was an improvement. “Don’t you do anything fun? You know what they say about all work and no play.”
“I like swim and run. I do triathlons. And hang out with my friend Daphne. She shifted this year, too.” I’d totally forgot. Today was Halloween. “Tonight is The Mate. I’m supposed to be there, with her.”
Tears burned as they rolled down my cheeks. Cane took my hand, rubbing thumb over my fingers. “She’s going to be okay,” he assured me. “Do you want me to bring you to her?”
I pulled my hand away. “You keep trying to get rid of me.”
Cane shook his head. His hand had fallen on to my leg, and he didn’t move it. “No I’m not. You’re crazy, but I think I like you.”
“Stop it.” I knew he was teasing, but still. There was only so many times I could hear it before I started to believe it. “And I think I like you, too.”
He pulled his phone out of his pocket. “It’s ten twenty-five. I haven’t had any beer. I think that deserves a quick halftime peck.”
It would be so easy to lean forward and let Cane press his lips against mine. I wondered if he tasted as good as he smelled. Minty, or would it be totally different? At least I knew he wouldn’t taste like beer. But I was already breaking a promise to myself with this bet. “No way.”
“What?” Apparently Mr. Rock Star wasn’t used to hearing no.
“I told you, I want to be a teacher, and if there’s one thing I can’t stand, is this trophy mentality everyone has now. Not everyone can get a prize just because they tried.”
“Is that right?” Cane rubbed his lips together. He had to be doing that on purpose.
“Yes.” The next fourteen hours were going to be absolute torture. “I believe in rewards based on performance. You can’t just show up and expect a prize. You need to complete the task.”
Cane leaned back and ran his fingers through his hair. “Chloe, you have no idea what you’re getting yourself into.”
Cougar and the Lion (Colorado Shifters #3)
Arielle Owens is forty, curvy, and the only werecougar in the pride who has yet to find her mate. She feels more and more distant from her pride, and worst of all--her cougar nature. When Ari's sister buys her a personal training package for her birthday, she'll do just about anything to get out of it, but when she meets her new trainer, suddenly fitness doesn't seem so daunting.
Ten years ago Dylan Wylde left Woodland Park a weak and afraid werelion. Now he's returned to work as a personal trainer, but he's also got something to prove to his estranged twin brother, Leo, the traitor who mated with a doe. When Dylan's first client at the gym turns out to be a werecougar, he makes it his mission to help her rediscover the untamed shifter inside her, but soon finds himself crossing a line that could have consequences for them both.
Rules have been broken. Traditions ignored. And when the mate is forever, no challenge can ever be avoided.
“You must be Arielle.” I recognized the receptionist from her voice. “We have some paperwork for you to fill out. Don’t fill out the weight or body fat percentage, we’ll take care of that.” She handed me a clipboard. “Ellen will be right with you.”
They wanted to know everything. Workout and eating habits, I expected. Medical history, I could understand. But the questions about my relationship status and my hobbies? Ellen was going to be able to masquerade as my BFF. I hoped she had a sense of humor, or else this was never going to work.
“Arielle Owens?” a deep voice that couldn’t possibly belong to anyone named Ellen called out. The volume level was totally unnecessary, I thought as I finished the last question, since I’d already checked in and I was the only one sitting—
I looked up in open-mouthed shock at the man who leaned in the doorway. One of his bearded cheeks rose in a grin. He’d tied his long, dirty blonde hair up in some sort of knot on top of his head. His shoulders spanned much of the doorway. His T-shirt, slightly damp from whatever he’d been doing before he came out to me, clung to the chiseled muscles on his chest and abdomen. He hooked one arm up over his head, and the shirt rode up. I couldn’t take my eyes off of that strip of exposed skin…the little line of hair that ran from his belly button, disappearing into his shorts…
“What’s the matter?” he asked, frowning.
“They told me I was meeting someone named Ellen.” I stumbled over more than one word in that sentence. My cougar was waking up from her hibernation in a daze.
“Oh! I’m Dylan.” He laughed, walking over and holding out his hand to me. All right, I wasn’t expecting a smoking hot trainer. This was a curveball, but I could still play it cool. At least I knew he could get my heart rate up. He squeezed my hand. “Ready to get to work?”
“Ready as I’ll ever be.” I followed him into his office in the back. His scent, pine and fresh snow, overwhelmed me in the small space. He was a lion, he had to be. I purred, then coughed to cover it up.
He still had a tower of cardboard boxes in the corner of his office. I remembered the receptionist saying he’d just moved here from LA. Dylan had taken the time to pin photos up on his corkboard. I squinted at them, trying to get a feeling for who this guy was, since he was going to know everything about me as soon as he read that paperwork. Pictures of him smiling with a lot of different people, some on a motorcycle, and some of him on a surfboard. Shirtless. Those were my favorite.
“I was almost done filling out the paperwork when you came for me,” I said. “I didn’t get to the part about the prom dates, but in case you really need to know, Jimmy Carroll took me to my senior prom.”
Dylan looked up from the paperwork and smirked. “But what color was his tux?”
“White.” I shook my head. Poor Jimmy. I’d seen him wear that same freaking tux at a bonding ceremony a few years ago. “It was 1993.”
“Tragic.” Dylan pushed the clipboard aside and turned to me. “The reason we ask about spouses and relationships is because we want to know how many peoples’ bad habits we have to break. I see that you live alone, so I’ll be able to lay down the rules pretty easily.” I may have sucked in a sharp breath as Dylan stood up. “Moment of truth time.”
He motioned to the scale. “Really?” I squeaked. The absolute last thing on earth I wanted to do was have this gorgeous man weigh me. “Can’t we just ballpark it? Agree that it’s bad and move on from here?”
“Absolutely not, Arielle.” Dylan raised an eyebrow. I liked the way his eyes sparkled when he was amused. At least he appreciated my sense of humor. This could still work. “And after this, I’m going to check your body fat percentage.”
“You can call me Ari,” I grumbled as I slid out of my sneakers and took off my earrings before I stepped on the scale. Every little bit counted. “And I thought I was going to like you.”
“Some days you’re going to love me, and some days you’ll hate me,” he teased as he adjusted the weights on the scale. “I’m totally prepared for that.”
Lion and the Doe
Doe and the Hunter
Cougar and the Lion
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