The fifth book in the Leopard People series, published April 2011.
Danger lurks in the shadows and desire shimmers in the sultry heat in an all-new novel of the leopard people from number 1 New York Times bestselling author Christine Feehan …
When Saria Boudreaux finds a dead body in the Louisiana bayou near her home, her first instinct is to go to the police. But there’s a problem – it looks like the victim may have been killed by a big cat, and her brothers are all shape-shifting leopards.
Sent to investigate by the land’s owner, leopard shifter Drake Donovan is ready for anything – except the insatiable hunger that rocks him when he meets Saria. Deep in his soul he knows that she is destined to be his mate. Torn between protecting her brothers and finding the truth, Saria treads warily around the powerful shifter. Yet as they venture deep into the mysterious bayou on a hunt for the killer, Saria finds herself longing for Drake’s touch and the sweet release of surrender.
Saria is taking photographs of owls feeding their young, at night in the midst of the Louisiana bayou, when she sees lights, and senses danger. She stops shooting, as the flashlight might give her away, and hides in her blind. She hears a man scream, and then a leopard howling. She has only once before heard that sound, but it is unmistakable, she will never forget it. Once, as a young girl, she followed her five brothers when they left the house at night, proud at being able to follow them without getting noticed. But when she saw them shift into leopards, she was terrified. It sure explained why they were so close together, and ignored her for the most part.
Her brothers soon left to join the army, or take a job on the river, leaving her alone with her mean drunk father. She practically raised herself, taking care of the household, the hunting, the store and the pub before she was 13 years old. Running wild in the bayou, never afraid. She was happy living that way, never longing for something else, doing whatever she liked to do. Oh, the ladies of the church tried to intervene, but Saria would have none of that, and no-one was ever able to catch her in the bayou. So at last, they left her alone.
A nice neighbour with a bed and breakfast thought her to cook and such, and acted like the mother she never knew. And now her brothers are back in her life, and making pests of themselves, wanting to know where she is going, checking up on her, forbidding her to go out in the bayou at night. Like she would listen to them? They have neglected her all her life, and now she certainly doesn’t need them anymore.
She is making money and a name for her self, photographing the bayou, the plants and the animals, and selling those photo’s to famous magazines. She is also a very good guide, and she has landed a good job, showing some guy around for a week.
What she doesn’t count on, is the man being totally hot, and her extremely attracted to him. That has certainly never happened before!
Lately she has been very afraid, she has found some dead bodies in the bayou, and is afraid for her brothers. Her oldest brother Remy is a homicide inspector in New Orleans, but she certainly can’t go to him! What if the murderer is a family member, or a friend? So Saria has smuggled a letter out to the owner of all the land around, who is renting it to the seven families who have been living here for ages. Living the old life, of the land, of the bayou, fishing and hunting.
Drake Donovan is sent to investigate the murders someone has reported anonymously. What he doesn’t count on, the minute he arrives he catches the scent of a female leopard in heat, and his own leopard goes insane. While still battling his cat for dominance, he sees her. And now he himself is instantly aroused and attracted. His mate. His cat approves. But he doesn’t have time for that yet, he is on a mission to find a serial killer, a leopard gone rogue. While Saria leads him to her boat to take him to the bed and breakfast where he rented a room (actually, he has rented the whole place, expecting his team to come as soon as he knows what is going on here) other leopard shifters surround them. Saria knows them, but oddly enough, she doesn’t seem to know they are leopards as well. She just knows them as friends and neighbours. But the males are clearly not pleased finding a strange leopard with their female. Especially one so close to her Han Vol Dan. There is a leopard lair here, and something is very wrong. Why are they not policing themselves?
When left alone at the Inn at night, the shifters come find him, and challenge him. But seasoned warrior as he is, Drake defeats them easily. Of course the doesn’t escape unhurt, but he wins, and they leave. But they broke the rules, as some of them came armed with guns. And that is against shifter laws. This lair is not-honourable, and he will have to remember that.
Later Saria comes back to stay at the Inn as well, and when they meet in his room, she doesn’t know what is happening to her. At first she doesn’t believe Drake when he tells her, she is also a leopard shifter, and her cat is coming into heat, and struggling to get out. Her inner cat is a hussy! She has never acted this wanton before in her life! But Drake is a gentleman, and he wants more from her than one night of passion, urged on by their cats. He wants her as his mate. Saria trusts him completely, and that is a huge gift. So at her request, he marks her as his own, to negate the mark forced upon her when she was assaulted by a leopard a few weeks ago. She didn’t want that man, or his leopard, but she does want Drake.
The next day they travel through the bayou, on their way to the murder scenes. Of course there will be nothing left to find, the bayou and the alligators take quick care of that. But his leopard should be able to find the scent of the murderer.
While enjoying a picknick on the land of a friend of Saria, they are attacked, and later followed onto the land Drake needs to investigate. Things could get bad soon, shots are fired on hem, but Saria’s brothers come to the rescue. They take care of the shooters, but then they turn on Drake. Who is he, and has he harmed their little sister? And then the cavalry appears, Drake’s team has arrived on the scene. Preventing Drake from having to fight her brothers they will have to explain everything. It is difficult for Remy to learn his sister didn’t come to him with her findings, that she is afraid of them, and doesn’t believe they love her. Yes, they did neglect her most of her lives, they ran from their painful memories and the ghosts living here. And of course that is no excuse. But if she needs them, they will come running. But it is to late, and now she has found Drake, and she is going to keep him, even if her brothers complain about it.
Now all they have to do, is find out who is trying to kill Saria, who is the serial killer, and what is wrong with the lair. Why has no-one stepped up to take charge when the current leader has gotten too old and neglecting of his duties?
This really is a very good story. I was glued to the pages, and glad my boyfriend left me alone, so I could keep on reading. (Now the book is finished, and I am wishing he was here ofcourse).
I liked Saria from the start of the book. She is smart, afraid of nothing, and determined to do whatever she wants. Her brothers will not interfere in her life, when she was almost invisible to them before. She really doesn’t understand their sudden interest in her comings and goings. And when she finds out more than she can handle herself, and gets threatened and attacked, she still goes on, and knows to get a letter out for help. She is a solitairy woman, not interested in the men she knows, and then she sees Drake, and she is a goner. He teaches her about being a leopard shifter, and what she is going through.
She is a very strong woman, taking her responsibilities serious, and leading Drake and his team through the bayou at night. Drake and the others are used to the dangers of the rainforest, and have no real understanding of the very different but real dangers of the bayou. But they learn fast, and totally admire Saria for her knowledge and her courage.
And then there is Drake. Just healing from a difficult leg-surgery, he is finally able to shift to his leopard since two years. But instead of going easy on himself and his leg, he is thrown into a couple of fights for his life, and his right to mate with Saria. Hunting down a serial killer, and keeping his mate safe. He has always been in control, of his own leopard and of his team of leopard shifters, thriving on danger. But being near Saria totally destroys his control. He can think only of her, scent only on her, and let danger creep up on them. He is a fierce warrior, but falls in love like a brick when he meets her. She can get him back from his bloodlust before he kills his challenger.
A very good story, with a main couple I totally fell for. The secondary characters are also promising many more great books about the leopard shifters and their society. The setting is stunning, and the descriptions of the bayou are so lively, I could close my eyes and be there. (Of course, in my imagination, it is without the snakes). The story is fast paced, lots of action, lots of intrigue. Also a few very bad, evil, shifters, and how they affect the people around them. The heat and the love scenes between Drake and Saria are steamy, especially when she finally shifts into her leopard. The female is dominant, and she will give the signal when she is good and ready, and not a second earlier.
I like Christine Feehan and the worlds she has created, her writing style, her characters, the humor and the action all very good interwoven in the plots. Not a boring minute.
O, and for you cover lovers: I have the paperback, with the small picture as its cover. And you might think, mm, not much, but there is a stepcover of Drake to his hips in the water, that is incredible yummie. Some water drops on his naked chest ...