Read Junglecat Honeymoon: Manhattan Ten, Book 3.5 Online

Authors: Lola Dodge

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Junglecat Honeymoon: Manhattan Ten, Book 3.5 (2 page)

BOOK: Junglecat Honeymoon: Manhattan Ten, Book 3.5
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It was perfect.

Poya appeared at my side, and I started, surprising myself. No one snuck up on me. Although, after so much champagne, I wasn’t at my sharpest.

She handed me a fresh glass, still appraising with her stare. “Balam is loyal to you.”

“Yes.” I’d never doubted him. “As I am to him.” I sipped the champagne, but vodka would be better if I were expected to continue this conversation.

“Walk with me.” She gestured toward the door.

Panther turned as I moved to leave—I was rather conspicuous in all the white—but I waved him off. Poya and I needed to chat alone.

I thought she’d simply use the hallway, but she continued walking, taking us down the steps to the back entrance. We moved outside.

The cool air chilled my skin. For some reason, I was impossibly hot. I took another sip of champagne.

“You must understand that I love my sons.”

“Of course.” I pressed a hand to my warmed forehead. Had I had that much to drink? Either way, I shouldn’t be sweating. I didn’t sweat.

“Our tribe has struggled to survive and the world becomes more and more dangerous for people like us.” Poya lifted a hand, her fingernails lengthening to claws.

It should have worried me, but my head spun. “It’s the same for my people.”

“Perhaps.” She fiddled with the claws. “But I must know that you can protect Balam in this world. You must prove yourself worthy of him.”

“That’s…”
Ridiculous
. I wanted to say, but she blurred into two and then four mother-in-laws, and my knees gave way as my vision blackened.

Scre
eching birdsong jolted me awake. My head pounded and a cloying floral smell hung in my nostrils. I stretched, patting across the bed, reaching for my Panther—

I jerked, instantly aware.

The temperature was wrong. Moisture clung to my skin and the birdsong was no pigeon cooing. Even the light was off, dappling across the floor.

Of…where?

Branches formed a peaked ceiling, holding back a roof of some sort of woven reeds. Odd-shaped sticks formed the four bland walls of a room I’d never seen before.

I rolled off the bed, landing crouched on the balls of my feet as I pushed away the mosquito netting. In the oppressive heat, I reached for my ice.

Nothing.

The moisture on my skin was sweat and my wedding ring was long melted.

Not acceptable.

My hands began to shake.

I’d struggled every moment of my life to keep the ice at bay. The thought that it could disappear had never occurred. Now I was exposed. I needed to find my bearings, and my husband.

I crept toward the single window. The slipshod wooden building was lifted on stilts. The light filtered through a green canopy, past twisting branches to the ground below.

A tree house, surrounded by jungle.

No cars. No people. Only chirps and caws broke the silence. I took a deep breath, scenting loam, water and fragrant blossoms.

This was no New York. It wasn’t even North America.

Wherever I was, Panther was not with me. Only my side of the bed was rumpled and he would never leave me to wake alone in a strange place.

I still wore my wedding dress. He wouldn’t have allowed that either.

The birdsong silenced.

I tensed, peering beyond the window. My palms flexed, but without my ice, I couldn’t form a spear. “Who’s there?”

He descended from the treetops above, falling barefoot onto a branch.

The man leaned against the tree trunk, wearing a pair of tight black pants and nothing else as he flashed a grin—brilliant white teeth against his deep, dark skin. The man was slightly taller than Panther, his muscles cut but lithe, with orange-tinted brown eyes.

“Tequani.” Panther’s brother. We’d never met, but the resemblance was there, in the shape of his nose and the set of his broad shoulders.


Hermana
.” He crouched, resting elbows on knees, perfectly balanced on the narrow branch. “You can call me Quan.”

As relaxed as he appeared, my senses prickled as they had when I first met Panther. Quan was a hunter. If he chose, he could span the gap from the branch to the tree house in one leap.

I could hold my own in a fight, but without my ice, I had no advantage. Nothing about Quan marked him an easy opponent, and brother or not, his purpose was unknown. “What is this?”

“Your
suegra
, my mother, requires that you prove yourself worthy of our Balam and family.”

Of course she does
.

I’d sensed she wasn’t satisfied, but I thought we’d have a verbal fight rather than a kidnapping. Poya was more like my mother than I’d imagined. “And what have you both done to me?” My fists bunched, but instead of frosting with ice, my skin simply whitened with tension.

“You’ll find out.” Quan’s gaze swept up and down my body as both challenger and man. “If you can.”

I fought not to shiver.

Damn him.

I couldn’t fail to respond to such a challenge, but this was Quan—not my husband. My heart was promised and wouldn’t waver. “Where is Panther?”

“You shouldn’t use that name here.” Quan stood, lazily stretching his muscled arms. “We have many panthers.”

“Where is Balam?” If he didn’t tell me, I was going to knock him off that branch.

“I’ll show you.” Flashing a grin, he swung downward and landed soundlessly on the ground. “If you can follow me.” He disappeared into the brush.

I was halfway through the window before I realized I was taking the bait. I could not tear off into the jungle, no matter how much my inner huntress craved the chase. The lack of ice did nothing to calm my instincts.

But realistically, I could not kill my brother-in-law.

I paced the single-room tree house, looking for a phone, a weapon or anything I could use to my advantage, but after the bed and mosquito netting, all it offered was a hammock, a table and a bowl of fruit. Mangoes would not help me out of this.

Quan and Poya played a deadly game.

However they’d taken my ice, they’d been smart to do so. I would have frozen them both rather than look at them.

Now?

I wasn’t sure who was the prey, but none of us would go unharmed.

When I lost myself in a fight, I didn’t pull punches. Although I had no powers to lose control of, I sensed I was in the proverbial corner, and my deepest self did not like the feeling.

My nature was to chase and hunt, not to hide.

But I would hide.

For Panther, I would hide. Better that than to harm his family.

Even if they might deserve it for what they’d done to me.

I ducked under the mosquito netting and lay on the bed, smoothing my white skirts. My pulse pounded as if I were running, but staying in place took twice that effort.

Balam would find me. I would rather torture myself with waiting than risk causing a deadly rift the day after my wedding.

Even when I ached to fight.

Especially
when I ached to fight.

Powerless, in unfamiliar territory, they must’ve thought I’d be less dangerous, but it was quite the opposite. Instead of ice, my veins ran with fury.

I would not give in to my instincts or give them what they wanted. Panther was mine and I didn’t need to prove that to anyone. The gods had blessed our union, and if my mother-in-law didn’t, so be it.

I buried my head under the pillow and started counting to one million.

It might take a few millions until I calmed down.

This time when I awoke, warm arms wrapped around me.

I sighed and snuggled closer. “I had such a terrible—”

The scent.

Too sharp. Too wild.

This was not my Balam.

My movement was instinctive.

I slipped Quan’s grasp and flipped him off the bed. The mosquito net tore from the ceiling as he crashed to the ground, but I sprang through the netting, pinning him to the floor with a knee in his groin as my blade moved to his throat.

Of course, the ice blade didn’t materialize, but I settled for tight grip on his windpipe. “That was a mistake.”

“So I see.” Night had come and Quan’s eyes glowed orange in the darkness. “Could you move that knee?”

I pressed down. “Better?”

He winced. “I’m starting to understand why he likes you.”

“Be thankful I don’t have my ice.” I probably would have slit his throat before I realized what was happening.

“I am.”

I wanted to strangle him and my hands were already in position. “What is this game?”

“Not a game. A test.”

My arms shook with the effort it took not to choke him.

A test?

He had no idea. I would not play these panther games, but I would win the battle with myself. I eased off of him, disentangled from the netting and moved to the opposite side of the room. “I won’t fight you.”

Quan cast off the net. “I thought you were a warrior.”

“I’m a hunter.” Powers or not, I always would be.

“And the difference is?”

“A hunter knows when not to fight.”

Quan leaned against the bedpost. His body was dark and sensuous in the moonlight, but I wished he were Balam. “That’s no fun.”

“None at all.” I
wanted
to fight him, but neither of us would win if that happened.

“Then what? You’ll live your days here in the tree house?”

“Balam will come for me.”

“My brother is…indisposed.”

My heart skipped a beat, but I knew he had to be fine. “Poya would never harm him.”

“Harm him, no.” Quan slunk toward the window. “But drug him and lock him in with a pack of single lady panthers? Yes.”

With no ice to cool me, my blood might actually boil. “He’s married.”

Quan shrugged. “Not according to my mother’s customs.”

I backed away until I hit the wall to keep myself from lunging at his throat again. “What do you get out of this?”

“You’ll see.” He swung his feet over the windowsill. “At least, you’ll see if you actually follow along.” Quan jumped, disappearing into the darkness.

I didn’t allow myself to relax.

Should I believe that story?

It was amazing enough that Poya had drugged and stolen me away without getting caught by the Ten. Tank read minds, and Jenny could when she wanted, among her other powers. It was my voluntarily leaving the party that had given Poya her window.

I doubted she could’ve spirited Balam away. If she’d managed, Jenny could find anyone in a breath and send Jet with his super-speed to find us.

But if no one knew we were gone…

If they thought we’d both snuck away to the honeymoon, then they wouldn’t look, would they?

An image of Panther sprang to mind—unconscious in an incense-hazed bedroom, surrounded by nude women with oiled skin. He would have to be drugged to even consider such a thing.

It was only my imagination, but my blood surged.

Not from jealousy. How could I be jealous when Balam’s heart was mine?

Outrage.

Pure, blinding, outrage.

How dare they—Quan, Poya and their entire tribe—judge our love? Poya could prance as many naked women in front of him as she wanted.
I
was his mate. No one was a better match for him, panther tribeswoman or not, and no ice man would ever be a better match for me.

I took a deep breath.

I had to play the game after all.

After descending the wobbly rope ladder, I paced the edge of the little tree house clearing. My night vision was strong, but little of the moonlight penetrated to the jungle floor, and the colors were nothing like the reflective snow and ice I craved.

Dark greens and browns and blacks twisted together, forming massive gnarled trees, bushes and deep shadows. I closed my eyes.

The jungle was as loud as New York. Insects, reptiles and small mammals called into the night, chirping, clicking and yowling.

I pushed them from my mind, drinking in the air. Quan hadn’t exactly left a path to follow, so I had to track him the hard way.

Mosses. Molds. Pollens. Countless species of birds and animals.

Predators had a unique scent…

Harsh. A little musky. Dangerous.

There.

I caught a whiff and was parting through the underbrush before I regained control. My hands cupped phantom spears. If I had my power, I’d already be tearing through the forest, clearing the brush with ice.

Earth tones or not, this place was candy to my huntress. With so many creatures to stalk and a challenge in my veins, my body hummed.

It was much too easy to forget my disadvantage.

No ice, strange territory and…

Before trekking any further into the jungle, I had to face a final reality. Twigs snagged the bulky white skirts of my wedding dress and after a few moments on the ground, dirt stained the hem.

With a deep sigh, I started tearing the fabric.

It was already ruined, but Angel wouldn’t be happy.

Neither would Vera Wang.

I
wasn’t happy.

I tore away the cloth below my knees and ripped apart the seams, making room to move and fight if I we came to that. The sleeveless bodice was a bit formal for hiking, but the corset laced tightly and it wouldn’t fall off or catch on branches.

The remains of the dress piled on the ground like improbable snow in this tropical hellhole. Quan and Poya would both owe me for this.

Among other things.

Quan’s trail wound through trees and over streams, obviously leading me on a chase. The idea of it made my huntress roar, but I bit back the part of myself that wanted to charge through the trees, killing anything in the way. I paced myself, stopping frequently to scent the trail and keep myself calm. If I clicked into tribal mode, I might not be able to recover, and that part of me didn’t care about consequences.

Every step further into the jungle was closer to the edge. Quan wasn’t the only predator out tonight.

Although his scent was the strongest, similar trails crisscrossed the trees. I wasn’t positive how large his family or extended family was, but if they were anything like my relatives…

I didn’t want to meet them without an introduction.

BOOK: Junglecat Honeymoon: Manhattan Ten, Book 3.5
13.72Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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