Authors: Shelley Munro
Tags: #sci-fi romance, shape shifter, paranormal romance
CLAIMED & SEDUCED
A House of the Cat Romance
Shapeshifter Prince Jarlath Leandros of the planet Viros is a man who understands duty. As heir, he’s had his future as leader of the House of the Cat mapped since childhood. Boring! Jarlath yearns for an indefinable more.
Keira Cloud is beautiful and sexy, she’s independent and confident, and not only is she an enemy from the House of Cawdor, but her stepchildren accuse her of murder. Not a suitable woman for the prince, but Jarlath aches to claim her.
When the House of the Cat comes under attack, Jarlath is thrust into the middle of danger where life or death is the only option. A war is brewing, one that brands Jarlath and Keira enemies, yet their hearts shout otherwise and their animal selves—the leopard and the crow—care nothing for conventional barriers. Right or wrong, passion blooms out of control and with the city under siege soon Jarlath’s life is anything but boring. Now all he needs to do is survive…
When I first started writing this series, I presumed I’d continue book two with the characters introduced in
Captured & Seduced
, but the more I pondered my alien world and the story I wanted to tell, the more I realized I’d need to feature the planet Viros first—the planet where Ry’s family lived before leaving for Ibrox.
Claimed & Seduced
, you’ll meet Prince Jarlath and in the third story, the characters from both books will collide. For those readers who desperately want to know how Camryn gets on introducing her new mate and alien friends to her twin brother on Earth, don’t fear.
Merry & Seduced
is a Christmas story, and you, dear reader, along with Camryn and her friends will get to spend Christmas in New Zealand. So, buckle up, and let’s go!
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Claimed & Seduced
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Table of Contents
choose a wife and marry before this cycle ends. You must follow tradition and do your duty.”
Prince Jarlath Leandros of the planet Viros scowled, loathing the demand in his memory as much as he’d disliked hearing the command from his parents in person. A blur of activity in his peripheral vision jolted him, and he signaled Black, his cambeest to halt.
“Halt, beest.” Impatient with the order, Black danced on the spot, the broad leathery pads of his feet thumping the ground. Jarlath curled the fingers of his left hand into the shaggy fur of the beest’s hump, just in front of his padded saddle to calm him. Glad of the distraction from his militant thoughts and memories of his mother’s piercing voice, he peered through the maze of black tree trunks and the tangle of green-and-pink undergrowth.
Brigands or something more innocent?
“Prince? Is something wrong?” Ellard Tetsu, his security guard, pulled up beside him, a heap of dried pink leaves from the overhead trees crackling beneath his beest’s feet. Dubbed the feline shifter with a face only a mother could love, he possessed steadiness and competence. Others might poke fun at his large nose and the ears that protruded a fraction too much, but Jarlath spent much of his time with this man he called best friend. Ellard’s tan cambeest snorted a protest and shook his shaggy head at the delay to their normal routine.
“I thought I saw something.” Jarlath scanned the scrubby bushes a second time. Rather than alarm, unusual curiosity poked at him. Him—the man his younger brother insisted was laughably predictable and always, always did the right thing.
I bet you fukk your women in the same position, at the same time of night, on the same mark of the week-cycle.
Lynx’s mocking words still stung like a bumble-wasp. Truth—his brother had the right of the situation. He lived in a deep, dark rut.
He and Ellard were riding the exact path they followed each day.
Ellard narrowed his bright green eyes and perused the vicinity with his usual stoic confidence. “I don’t see anything.” He shifted his huge frame in order to study the path they’d already traversed.
“Where does this track go?” Jarlath demanded, his tone abrupt as he pointed to a fork in the trail.
“No idea, my prince.”
“We’ll go that way for a change,” Jarlath said and urged his cambeest into motion by squeezing his legs against the barrel body of the creature.
“Wait! Jarlath, that’s not a good idea—” His friend broke off with a curse, and Jarlath heard Ellard’s cambeest crashing after him. “At least let me go first,” Ellard called.
He found himself grinning. Ellard had called him Jarlath, and his friend didn’t do that often, which told him the departure from norm was overdue. Maybe this was the reason he’d felt dissatisfaction, the reason his resentment of his younger brother had swelled and festered, the reason his temper stirred with little prodding.
“Jarlath! You should let me go first.”
He ignored Ellard, examining their surroundings instead. Ah, there
someone on the path. The disturbance wasn’t his imagination. He signaled his mount to slow but the cambeest increased his speed.
“Halt, beest!” Jarlath shifted his weight and hauled on the harness reins. Black ignored the command and bolted, the cool air whistling against Jarlath’s face. His cambeest shot past a tree. Too close! Jarlath gritted his teeth at the friction of leg and coarse trunk. Pain reverberated down his limb. He gripped Black’s shaggy hump with pincher fingers to right his balance. “Stop, you cantankerous beest!”
Without warning, Black screeched to a halt. Jarlath shot forward, flipping over his beest’s head. His world slowed, lurching back into place when he struck the ground. Packed earth and gravel punched his head, his shoulder, smacked the breath from his lungs. Fire burned along his cheek. He struggled, wheezed to get air. A groan rippled up his throat as he lay there. Then a familiar snort had him attempting to move. Pain streaked along his arm, and he realized he still held the reins.
“Oh, dear,” a soft, feminine voice said. “Are you injured?”
A murky shadow obscured his vision. Jarlath squinted, desperate to see the source of the musical accent. Another breath sawed down his throat. The roar in his head subsided to a dull throb that sat behind his right eye. Flowers. He could smell flowers. Something cool stroked his cheek, wiped across one eyelid and the darkness lifted. He blinked. Once. Twice, and his world came into sharper focus. A woman? A third blink brought the shimmer into one unwavering vision.
A beautiful, exotic woman.
Her skin was pale, and bore a tinge of pastel green while her sable-brown hair hung in loose waves around her shoulders. He dragged in a breath, his mouth dropping open. She was no figment of imagination. Not with the soft ends of her hair tickling his cheek. Black trews constructed of synleather covered her legs and a white tunic clung to the swells of her breasts. A black vest and knee-high black boots completed her masculine attire. The scent of berries and sugary sweetness, greenery and female filled his nostrils. An enticing combination.
Fascinated, he continued staring. Rude, of course, yet his mind catalogued the differences between her and the women he interacted with at the castle. This one wore a blaster strapped to her thigh. The hilt of a knife peeked from the top of one boot. No doubt, her means of protection against wild animals or the brigands who sometimes frequented the forest. His rapt gaze returned to her face, her berry-stained lips and higher to stare into green eyes flecked with gold.
“Have you addled your head? Beest, shift out of the way, so I can tend to your master. You have blood on your face.”
“No,” Jarlath cried, panic overtaking the pain hammering his shoulder and eye. Black would hurt her. His cambeest disliked contact with strangers and several stable hands bore the scars from his beest’s uncertain temper. He’d raised Black from a youngster, and like all cambeests, Black had bonded with one person and one person only—him.
“Out of the way, beest.” To his amazement, the woman scolded Black and shouldered him away so she could crouch on his other side. Black behaved like an inside pet and nuzzled the pockets of her vest. His cambeest rumbled—the equivalent of a feline purr—and Jarlath felt his mouth go slack.
“Jarlath, my prince.” Ellard thundered into the clearing and was off his cambeest in secs. His weapon cleared his holster, his homely face set in ferocious lines. “Take your hands off him.”
“I’m checking him for wounds,” the woman retorted and brushed Jarlath’s hair from his forehead. Her fingers were soft and stained from picking berries. “Hush your prattle, man. It’s undignified.”
Ellard spluttered, and the chuckle that escaped Jarlath would have shocked his brother. Blood and liver pills, even he was a bit stunned at his amusement.
“Ah,” the woman said in satisfaction. “You were winded. Let me help you sit up. The cut above your eye is still bleeding. I’ll fix it in a thrice.”
Her full breasts brushed his shoulder as she slipped an arm around him to lend him aid. Something bright and unexpected flared in him then that stole his breath, something inconvenient since his father was discussing alliances with
as a bargaining chip.
Jarlath dragged in her scent again and his cock saluted her proximity, but even more astonishing, his slumbering feline stretched beneath his skin. He hissed, gawking at her in shock.
“Prince Jarlath, it’s my honor to assist you.” She pulled a clean handkerchief from her tunic pocket and pressed it to his eye.
Something about her husky voice tickled his memory. “Have we met?”
“Keira Cloud,” she said. “I’ve attended several of the court gatherings with my husband.” She lifted the handkerchief. “Ah, I think the bleeding has stopped, although you might get a black eye after a bump like that. Can you stand on your own?”
“Yes. Thanks.” She was married. Some of the excitement fizzling in his gut dispersed in a swell of disappointment. Unusual and exotic. Beautiful. A smart man would have snapped her up at the first opportunity.
“Marcus Cloud?” Ellard shoved his blaster back in his holster without taking his gaze off her.
Something in his friend’s attitude made Jarlath study her more closely. As he pushed to his feet, he watched every hint of bright expression drain from her features.
“That’s right.” She drew herself up to her full height and her chin lifted a fraction before she stomped over to a nearby container of berries. The crackle of dried leaves beneath her booted feet signaled her irritation. Black nudged her arm and she absently scratched behind his long rounded ears before scooping up her container.
Ellard scowled and fingered the onyx cat he always wore around his neck. “We should go, my prince. We have the formal ball to prepare for tonight.”
“Everything is in hand,” he said with a sharp glare at his friend. “There’s no reason for haste.”
“I think it would be best,” Ellard persisted.
“I apologize for my friend’s rudeness.” Jarlath plucked several dried leaves off his shirtsleeves and patted the worst of the dirt from his trews. “Do you and your husband live nearby?”
“My husband died several cycles ago,” she said. “I run the farm on my own now.”
“Thank you,” she said.
No tears. No wailing or angling for favors. She plucked several berries off a bush and dropped them into her basket.
“Can I help?” Jarlath wasn’t sure who was more surprised. Him, Ellard or Keira.