It’s week 3 of our Exclusive Excerpts from the Shifters Hallows Eve Anthology from Romance Rebels Publishing! This week brings us The Tiger’s Bride, by R.E. Butler….
“I’m not going to hurt you. It’s magic, Valerie. I need you.” His voice changed, from a growling tone to one of pleading. She felt like he was reaching inside her and squeezing her heart.
“What are you doing to me?” she whispered, pressing her palm to her chest.
He opened his mouth but only an anguished groan came from his throat. He clutched his stomach and fell to the floor. She wanted nothing more than to go to him, but she ignored the impulse and turned to the door, rattling the knob several times. Moving to the window, she shoved the curtains back and gasped at the scene. A small yard was bordered by woods. Through the thick trees, she could see the amber glow of dawn as the sun rose. The dark sky above the tall trees was slowly taken over by the morning light. She pressed her fingertips to the glass, the cool surface making her shiver. She knew as she watched the sun rise that she was no longer in her own home. She was not sleeping, or dreaming, or dead. She had, through some strange twist of fate or magic, put on a necklace and been transported into the home of a tiger shifter.
Her vision swam and darkness edged in on her, but she fought the wave of unconsciousness that threatened. She was not going to pass out again. She always hated reading about heroines who were such wusses that they fainted at anything even mildly frightening.
Charisma groaned again, and her heart panged. Turning to face him, she saw he was curled up, his arms around his middle. His handsome features were tightened in pain, and the fangs that had terrified her initially suddenly didn’t seem so bad. Moving to him, she went to her knees and brushed her fingers through his hair. The white-blond color had darkened to the tawny shade of a lion’s mane, and the soft strands looked longer now.
“What’s happening?” she asked. “What’s wrong?”
He groaned, gritting his teeth as if a wave of pain had washed over him. “Don’t know. Feels like…I’m on fire.”
She pressed the back of her hand to his forehead. “You’re burning up.”
She moved to stand up and get him a cool, damp cloth but he grasped her wrist. “Don’t go.”
“I’m not. I was going to get you some water and a cloth.”
“If you leave me I’ll go feral.” He blinked golden eyes at her, his tone pleading.
“What do you mean?”
“You’re my soulmate, the only one for me and my cat.” His voice rasped as he gritted his teeth in pain. “If you leave me before the moon rises tonight, your memory of me will disappear and my cat will take over. I’ll never be able to shift back into my human form again. The heartbreak will be too much for me to bear.”
“I’ll forget you?”
“Yes,” he hissed, the claws of his free hand digging into the hardwood floor.
She twisted her wrist until he released her and then lifted his hand to her cheek. His palm was scorching hot, but she didn’t move it away. His skin smelled sweet like honey, and she rubbed her cheek against it. In the romance novels she’d read over the years, she’d always wondered why the heroines didn’t immediately accept their sexy mates. She’d told Bethany that if she’d ever had a sexy guy who could shift into an animal and tell her that they were destined to be together, that she would happily follow along.
Charisma groaned again, his mouth parting and revealing his fangs. She could feel how much he was aching. Overcome with the desire to help him, she leaned over, keeping his palm against her cheek and bracing herself on the floor. “What do you need?”
“You,” he said, his voice a deep snarl that shivered down her spine.
“I know that,” she said, rolling her eyes. “How am I supposed to help you?”
“Mate with me. Stay with me.” His eyes flashed from blue to bright gold, and something clicked inside her. A deep, feral part of her, that she hadn’t even realized was there, recognized the tiger inside Charisma. It seemed impossible – hell, it was impossible – but it was happening at that moment. A magical necklace had brought her to the home of a tiger shifter, and he needed her.
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