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Echoes of Fire (The Mercury Pack #4)
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They may not be made for each other, but animal instincts are impossible to ignore.
Madisyn Drake is a rare breed of cat shifter…a loner, unpredictably wild, and emotionally distant. A recent betrayal has left her ready to sharpen her claws on the next man she sees…until a prowling wolf with steel-gray eyes and a brooding dark edge challenges her distrust. No matter how fully he satisfies her touch-hunger, Madisyn’s not ready to open up again, even if it is oh so gratifying.
Bracken Slater has earned his reputation as an indomitable predator. Once broken by grief and guilt, Brack is feeling alive again, thanks to the heady scent of this independent feline. Convincing her that they’re meant for each other is going to take more than branding Madisyn’s beautiful neck. She’s not interested in joining an unfamiliar pack, much less answering to an alpha. But when threats from both their pasts take shape, their unexpected destiny may be the only thing that can save them.
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Leaning against the tiled wall of the toilet stall, Madisyn Drake pressed her hand to her stomach as she breathed through the pain. Hell, she’d been fine fifteen minutes ago. That was the thing about touch-hunger; there was no buildup. It hit without warning, and it hit hard.
Outside the stall, girls giggled and chatted and sang along to the thumping music that could be heard even through the closed door of the restroom. Enigma was exclusive to shifters, just like the club she’d worked at for more than a year. But the similarities between the two places ended there.
The Velvet Lounge was classy and stylish. The music wasn’t too loud, there were no strobe lights flashing, and the air wasn’t tainted by cigarette smoke. Wildly popular, it was owned by the Mercury Pack. If she weren’t best friends with a she-wolf from a pack they were closely allied to, they probably wouldn’t have hired Madisyn because she was a lone shifter.
She enjoyed working at the Velvet Lounge and preferred it to any other club. But tonight, she didn’t need “classy.” She needed what Enigma provided—the opportunity to indulge in casual sex. Which was why she’d gotten the night off work to come here.
Shifters were tactile creatures and needed touch, social and sexual. There was no set point at which touch-hunger began if those needs weren’t met; it seemed to depend on the individual. For Madisyn, going six months without sex was pushing it—which was why, for the past two weeks, she’d been experiencing sporadic hot flashes, night sweats, abdominal cramps, itchy skin, and a restlessness that made her jittery and irritable. Also, her libido often went into overdrive, which only made her edgier.
She wouldn’t be dealing with it at all if it hadn’t been for a certain rat bastard. Her best friend, Makenna, called her a walking lucky charm, and it was true that luck did seem to favor Madisyn. But when it came to her love life, it let her down big-time. For a while, she’d been happy with short, shallow relationships. But a pang of loneliness had hit her not long ago, and she hadn’t been able to ease it. She’d thought that Lucah might just be able to. Ha, she couldn’t have been more wrong.
Online dating wasn’t Madisyn’s thing, but PlusOne.com not only had successfully united some shifters with their true mates but had led many others to imprint. Up for pretty much anything, she’d decided to give it a try. She and Lucah had communicated daily—sharing their thoughts, pasts, and even some of their secrets. He was her version of the ideal guy. Confident. Protective. Smart. Great sense of humor.
It turned out that he was also a goddamn liar, which seriously negated the whole “ideal” thing and made her want to punch him right in the dick.
He’d repeatedly claimed that he longed to see her in person, but there had always been a reason why “it wasn’t a good time” for him. Not even once had they talked using video chat. He’d told her that he wanted them to be face-to-face when they spoke in person for the first time. At first, it had sounded sweet. But the longer he’d put off meeting, the more uneasy she’d become.
Before responding to his very first message, she’d done her homework on Lucah to be sure his profile wasn’t bullshit. It was true that he was an unmated lion shifter, he was an enforcer within his pride, and his pride was situated in California. Still, she’d been positive that he was hiding something.
She’d suspected that he’d been using fake photos on his dating profile. So after five months of only texts and phone calls, she’d dug deeper into Lucah’s background and managed to find some online photos of him—photos that were dramatically different from his PlusOne.com profile. It wasn’t the only thing she’d discovered. Apparently, his pride had warred with another a couple of years ago. Lucah had been badly hurt . . . and he’d been in a coma ever since. Oh yeah. A coma.
That meant the guy she’d been talking to was not Lucah Finch . . . so who the hell was he? Well, it sure wasn’t the guy in the photos on his profile. A reverse image search had revealed that they were pictures of a Swedish model.
So many questions circulated around her brain . . . Why would he do something like that? And why her? Was anything at all that he’d told her true?
Madisyn had debated whether to ferret out his identity so she could track the asshole down and tumble all over his shit. But she’d decided against it—there was no sense in wasting any more energy on someone so pathetic that he hid behind technology and didn’t even have the balls to face the people he fucked with.