“Tiger” is the fourth book in the Altered States series. Previously released as “White Tiger”, it has been significantly expanded. If you like your shifters feline, this series should ring all your bells.
An analyst in a secret government agency, Casey McTaggert’s professional life has been dedicated to the capture of one suspected terrorist. Even before she’s abducted by Khalid in the midst of a firefight, she’s completely fascinated with the man they call the “The Tiger.” But what began as a professional obsession quickly becomes lust as his dark, Persian features and harshly hewn body awaken a forbidden passion.
Khalid Razeh can’t fight the genetic programming that makes him shift into a tiger any more than he can resist the sensual allure of his lovely hostage. While forcing her to accompany him on one last mission, he fights the overwhelming attraction, knowing that he is walking into a trap that will end in death. Casey’s tender lovemaking and growing belief in his innocence are a sweet balm to his wild, savage soul.
“I can’t sleep here like this,” Casey whispered, although she had slept for some time if the graying light was any indication. She hoped like hell she hadn’t snored.
“Is the ground too hard?” Khalid murmured beside her.
She liked his deep, sleepy voice a little too much. Made her think about what it would be like as a regular occurrence in her life. “No, not hard. Bugs,” she said, forcing the words through a constricting throat.
She felt him smile against her shoulder. “Something crawled across my ankle,” she lied. “We should sleep in the truck.”
He pulled away and helped her rise from the ground beside the creek bank. “You go,” he said, standing close enough to heat her skin, but not touching.
“What about you? You need sleep too.”
“I want to run.”
Her eyes widened as she realized what he meant. “Oh. Should I roll up my windows, then?”
“Do you think glass would stop me?” His smile was self-derisive. “I will harm no one. I just need to run.”
“All right,” she said, as she rubbed her arms against a sudden chill. “Wake me when you come back?”
He waited while she dressed in her rumpled clothing and then picked up his M-19 and led her through the brush, taking care to hold back vines and branches so they wouldn’t scratch her.
At the truck, he waited for her to climb in. “I won’t be long past the dawn.”
She watched him walk away, reminded by the set of his shoulders of the pride and strength held within his beautiful body—and the loneliness he wore like a shabby coat just beneath the surface.
“I really need to get him some clothes.”
The cab of the truck proved too stifling, so she laid in the bed of the truck, trying to catch a few minutes of sleep, her suit jacket rolled into a ball for a pillow. But her thoughts were troubled. She’d let him get too close—too fast. His prediction appeared to be coming true. She was poised to aid him in escaping because she couldn’t bear the thought of this intensely primal man being caged. Or worse, dissected like a lab rat.
A branch snapped nearby, the crisp sound making her jump.
Sure a small animal rustled in the underbrush, she settled down again and tried to logically address the issues that niggled at her conscience. She was an analyst from the very agency that was set on taking him in. She ought to get into the truck and find the nearest phone. It was her duty to escape him and report his location.
However, he was the most intriguing puzzle she’d ever encountered. Part soldier, part criminal. Maybe part double-agent.
And then there was that little thing about him being a tiger too…
She shivered, remembering how forcefully he’d taken her, how strong his arms had felt as he held her, how fiercely he’d thrust, allowing her no place inside herself to hide her response. She’d never experienced anything like Khalid Razeh. The thought that she might never again saddened her.
Another snap sounded nearby and she tensed.
Suddenly, a large creature landed in the truck bed beside her and she shrieked—until she noted the white fur with black stripes, her terror mitigated now by her damnable curiosity.
Khalid, the tiger, was enormous. By the creaking of the truck beneath his weight, she guessed he easily topped six hundred pounds. She gauged his length at nearly ten feet, maybe more, which would have made the fit snug inside the truck bed if the tail gate hadn’t been down.
Remembering his assurances, she remained still as he stared down at her. A low growling rumbled from his mouth, causing her jerk, but he didn’t pounce.
Instead, he tilted his head and stared. His blue eyes didn’t blink as she stared back.
She remained rigid, not breathing, as he bent his giant head and sniffed along her body, pausing over her sex, then snuffling softly upward until she felt his breaths gust from his moist nose against her throat.
With his large head blotting out the brightening sky, she knew if she didn’t draw a deeper breath she’d faint. She gasped, but her sudden movement didn’t cause a reaction. His prickly fur brushed her cheek and he withdrew, letting her draw a deeper, steadying breath.
The large cat settled on its haunches beside her and rolled to his side, lifting a heavy paw over her belly.
She didn’t mind the weight. Too curious to hold onto her alarm, she studied him and realized he was fully sentient.
He allowed her to take his measure. His head was wide, his snout long—the teeth peeking between his lips, frightening. She slowly lifted a hand to smooth over his fur and found it slightly coarse. She rubbed slowly, noting he held himself still and guessed he didn’t want her frightened. The paw resting on her belly fascinated her. She hadn’t realized how broad it would be. She turned it, marveling at the fur surrounding the pads. This adaptation was what had allowed him to slip so silently through the woods. His claws were thankfully retracted.
When her gaze rose to his once more, he opened his mouth around a wide yawn, and she felt her heartbeat skitter again. A mouthful of white, curved fangs—any one of them alarming on their own—gleamed like mini-scimitars.
His head settled to the truck bed and they lay side by side as the sun blinked on the horizon at their feet.
“We should sleep,” she said, hoping he understood.
He yawned again and stretched, his rear paws sliding beyond the end of the truck.
With his paw warming her stomach, she snuggled her cheek against her jacket. She blinked once, then her eyes widened again as the tiger lying beside her shimmered, his shape morphing before her eyes, an image of his human body limned in light, superimposing over the tiger’s.
Before her gasp ended, Khalid lay beside her, his breath panting, his hand curving around her waist to pull her flush against his body.
With his head buried in her hair, his whole body shuddered and then lay still. “I think that should warrant another ‘Wow’,” he said, his voice unsteady.