The Magical Christmas Cat
My contribution to this anthology, Stroke of Enticement, features Zach, a DarkRiver soldier you’ll love, and Annie, a human woman who finds herself tangling with this irresistible cat.
EXCERPT FROM CHAPTER TWO
The knowledge made his smile slow and seductive. “Why don’t you walk out with us?” The corridors had been close to empty when he arrived, and he couldn’t hear any movement now. No way was he leaving sweet Annie Kildaire alone in a building with winter darkness only an hour away at most.
“I’ll be out in a moment.” She began to gather the papers on her desk.
“We’ll wait.” He glanced at Bryan. “Can you wait?”
“Yep.” A sunny smile. “But I’m hungry.”
Reaching into the back pocket of his jeans, he pulled out a muesli bar he’d grabbed on his way here. “I got you this for the ride home.”
Bryan caught it with cat-quick reflexes and happily went off to scramble into a seat, backpack at his feet. Meanwhile, Ms. Kildaire was giving him a guarded kind of look. “Really Mr. Quinn—”
“Zach. You can only call me Mr. Quinn when you’re angry.”
Her hand fisted. “Fine. Zach.”
He smiled, liking that she was already comfortable enough to argue with him. Some women found him a little too dangerous to play with. And he very much wanted to play with Annie. “Yes, Teach?”
He could hear her gritting her teeth.“I’ll be perfectly fine walking out alone. I do it every day of the week.”
He shrugged, enjoying the verbal sparring. “I’m here today.”
“And what you says goes?” Looking down, she shoved her papers into an untidy pile.
“Unless you can talk me out of it.” He saw her jaw set and knew she was gritting those human teeth again. All that beautiful passion, he thought in pleasure, hidden behind the shyness that had first stained her cheeks.
“And why should I be talking you out of anything?” She grabbed what looked like a black leather-synth satchel and put the papers inside. “You’re nobody to me.”
The cat didn’t like that. The man didn’t either. “That wasn’t very nice.”
She turned to shoot him a glare, then recommenced packing her satchel. He could almost see her trying to figure out if he was being serious or not. That it took her that much focus, told him she hadn’t been teased much. That was a shame. Because when Annie got mad, she forgot to be shy.
Now, she slapped her satchel closed and swung it over her shoulder. Or tried to. Zach slid it out of her hand and brought the strap over his head, settling it diagonally across his body.
“Mr. Quinn!” She looked like she wanted to bite him.
His cat purred in interest, even as Bryan giggled. “Nobody calls Uncle Zach that.”
“Yeah, nobody does,” Zach added. “Come on, Jumping Bean. We’re moving out.” He nodded at the coat thrown carelessly over the back of Annie’s chair. “Don’t forget that. It’s cold out.”
He began to walk to the door, knowing she’d have no choice but to follow.
After a taut second, she did. He heard her clothing rustle as she put the coat on over her stern gray pants and tailored white shirt, his mind obliging him with a fantasy slideshow of the feminine softness he knew lurked underneath. Pity it was all covered up now. “After you, Teach.” Letting Bryan scamper a few feet ahead, he held the door open and watched Annie Kildaire walk toward him.
Her limp was very slight, but even that meant the injury had to have been horrendous. Either that, or the impairment was a natural one surgeons hadn’t been able to repair fully. And there wasn’t much surgeons couldn’t repair these days. “What happened to your leg?” he asked once they were out in the hallway.
She faltered for a second before her shoulders squared. “There was a freak bullet-train derailment when I was seven. My leg was crushed so badly, it was pretty much unrecognizable as anything other than meat with a few fragments of bone.”
He heard the simmering pride in her, had the sense that she was bracing herself for a blow. “They did a good job of reconstructing it. Titanium?”
He could tell from her expression that that wasn’t the response she’d expected. “No. Some kind of new plassteel. Very high-tech. It ‘grew’ as I grew, so I only needed a couple of extra surgeries over the years.”
“I shouldn’t need any work done on it unless I injure the leg in some way.”
Zach knew that couldn’t be all of it. “Still hurt?”
She hesitated. “Sometimes.” She indicated a corridor to their left. “I want to make sure Morgan’s been picked up.”
“JB, hold up.” Knowing he could trust the boy not to dart outside, he followed Annie the short distance to the sick bay. Looking over her shoulder, he saw the darkened interior. “He’s gone.”
She jumped. “You walk like a cat!”
“I am a cat, sweetheart.” He wanted to tease her again, so he let a low growl rumble up from his chest. “See?”
Streaks of vibrant color stained her cheeks once more. But she didn’t back down. “Are you planning to move?”
“No.” He drew in a deep breath, fighting the urge to nuzzle at her throat. “You smell good. Can I taste you?” It was a half-serious question. “Just a little?”
“Mr. Quinn!” She took a step around him and headed off.
But he’d already caught the tart bite of arousal in her scent. Satisfied, he followed, on his best behavior now. It wouldn’t do to scare Annie away. Not when he planned to keep her.
“…And, can I say, OH MY about this hero. I wanted to lick him all over…This was just a terrific Psy-Changeling story and worth the price of the book all on its own.”
“I have loved every story in Nalini Singh’s PSY/CHANGELING series so far, but I do believe that Zach and Annie’s story is my new favorite! Everything about this tale totally worked for me.”
“Readers are in for a stocking full of fun when they open this treasure chest.”
“Honestly? It made me want a Leopard Changeling of my own.”
“Verdict: I love Nalini Singh’s love stories, and specially her male protagonists – the changelings that are so strong and yet so ready to die (and to kill) for their mates.”
“THE MAGICAL CHRISTMAS CAT is a fantastic holiday anthology…I absolutely adored getting to visit all these different worlds with all their different types of characters in one book.”
1. Slave to Sensation
1.5a “The Cannibal Princess” – free short story
1.5b “The Shower” – deleted scene
2. Visions of Heat
3. Caressed By Ice
3.5 “Miss Leozandra’s” – deleted scene
4. Mine to Possess
5 “A Conversation” – free short story
6. Hostage to Pleasure
6.5a “A Gift for Kit” ~ free short story
6.5b “Movie Night” – free short story
7. Branded By Fire
8. Blaze of Memory
9. “Christmas in the Kitchen” – free short story
10. Bonds of Justice
11. Play of Passion
11.5a “Wolf School” – deleted scene
12. “Clean and Dirty” – free short story
13. Kiss of Snow
13.5 “Stalking Hawke” – free short story
14. Tangle of Need
15. Heart of Obsidian
16. Shield of Winter
17. Shards of Hope (June 2015)
18. Untitled (2016)
1. “Beat of Temptation” in An Enchanted Season
2. “Stroke of Enticement” in The Magical Christmas Cat
3. “Whisper of Sin” in Burning Up
4. Wild Invitation (featuring Beat of Temptation, Stroke of Enticement, Declaration of Courtship, and Texture of Intimacy)
5. “Secrets At Midnight” in Night Shift
Novella: the Psy/Changeling series
Put a little meow in their stocking this year with these tales of Christmas and felines-from beloved bestselling authors!
New York Times bestselling author Lora Leigh and top-selling authors Nalini Singh, Erin McCarthy, and Linda Winstead Jones have a special gift for readers this year: heartwarming holiday stories featuring passionate romance, paranormal adventure, and a distinctly alluring feline touch. With four new stories-including one featuring Lora Leigh’s genetically altered Feline Breeds-this is a collection packed with more surprises than Christmas morning, and more chills than the snowiest winter night…