Saturday, December 23, 2017

"Wild for Him" by Katie Cody (Paranormal Romance)

Genre:  Paranormal Romance

Summary:  Zara Lockhart's dream vacation turned into a nightmare when she and her father were kidnapped by criminals after stumbling upon bandits in the jungles of Africa. She escapes her captors only to run into the deadly animals that lived among the jungle's dense vegetation. Her only hope of survival and the rescue of her father hinges on Lutalo Gund, a mysterious man who seems at one with the jungle. He and his tribe have promised to help her rescue her father, but she cannot help wondering who will save her from Lutalo's desire filled gaze.

Lutalo Gund is a gorilla shifter living in the jungle with his family and fellow shifters. In the wilds of Africa they live in peace except for the few diamond hunters who ransack their nesting grounds. It is during one of their scouting missions to check on the diamond hunter's camps that he finds a lone woman running for her life. He realizes instantly that she is his destined mate, but with the hunters still terrorizing the area and her father in danger he cannot celebrate quite yet. Now he must find a way to not only keep her safe, but convince her the jungle is where she belongs.

Chapter 1
The thick rope chafed against her skin causing blood to drip down her arms and slicken her hands. She stifled her yelp of pain, fear and perspiration flowing down her body. Their guard was on a bathroom break, but he wouldn’t be gone for long.
“Don’t worry dad, I’m almost free,” she whispered. He sat across from her bound in a similar fashion. However, unlike her he was in far worse shape. Their captors beat him when he tried to protect her. She knew if they stayed much longer they would be killed. She continued working the small knife against her restraints, thankful she had kept it in her boot.
A snap and she was free. She took a moment to work her wrists and savored the feeling of being able to move them once again. Wiping them on her cargo pants to clean the blood off she quickly made her way over to her father.
“We’re getting out of here now,” she murmured to her father working on the rope binding his hands.
Suddenly rustling in the nearby leaves signaled that the guard was coming back. Her heart rate spiked and she tried to work faster, but the ropes were thick and the knife she had was barely bigger than a match. It was a decoration piece she had hoped to bring back to her sister, but it was all she had.
“Zara, you must go. There’s no time,” her father pleaded brokenly. His voice revealing the depth of pain he was experiencing.
Tears sprang to her eyes as the footsteps sounded closer, “I can’t dad…I can’t,” she kept working, but one look in her father’s eyes and she saw the hopelessness there.
She was about to tell him to quit thinking like that when someone ripped her back, “You bitch, what are you doing,” the rough voice of their guard shouted, hauling her away from her father and making her drop the knife in the process.
“No,” she screamed, but it was too late. She would never be able to save her father now. Thinking fast she kicked out at the man, pleased when it connected with his gut, causing him to double over and release her in the process.
Taking the chance, she ran, making her way into the dark jungle. The vines and leaves tearing at her clothes as she ran.
The thick jungle stretched out before her. Dark shadows creeped through every corner and for a moment she feared the unseen dangers lurking there. Doubt crept in and she wondered how she would even survive the night with the darkness already creeping in.
Her thoughts were interrupted by shots being fired from somewhere behind her, spurring her on. She shook her head knowing she had no choice, tearing through the brush she prayed any nearby predators would be scared off by the gunfire.

She had just run through a bunch of leaves and vines when she felt the ground disappear from underneath her. Looking down she saw the drop and sucked in a breath before tumbling head over heels down the hill.

Her body burned where the various branches tore open her clothes adding to her wounds.

When she finally came to a stop she slowly pushed at the ground gasping at the pain. With great effort, she made it to her feet only to freeze instantly.

She stood in a clearing surrounded by giant trees and foliage that nearly blacked out the sun. Staring back at her all around the clearing was the angry glare of gorillas. They hooted and stamped, growing louder by the minute.

Her whole body grew cold. She knew now this would be her end. There was no way she could outrun them. Nowhere to hide.

Stepping out of the throng was the biggest gorilla yet. He stood tall and defiant, eyes locking with hers.

She felt something surge in her at that moment. Something like excitement, but she quickly lowered her eyes. She remembered that you should never look a wild animal in the eyes as it was seen as a challenge.

Lowering her eyes seemed to have the opposite effect however, as the gorilla seemed to become enraged.

Bellowing so loudly it sent a chill down her spine the gorilla stalked toward her.

When he was inches from her he bent his head sniffing at her hair. She did her best to remain still, but a small whimper escaped.

He snorted and when she peeked up she noticed he no longer glared, but instead looked…concerned. She shook her head at the thought knowing how ridiculous it was.

Her heart jumped to her throat when she felt the rough hand of the gorilla lightly brushing over one of the more serious cuts on her shoulder. She flinched, “Please don’t.”

Almost as if the gorilla understood her, he slowly retracted his hand. Hooting softly, he bent down to gaze into her eyes.

Despite herself, she looked up and gasped. She knew she must be going crazy because when she gazed back at the gorilla his eyes seemed almost human. Without realizing it she moved closer and found herself reaching for the fearsome creature.

She was snapped out of her daze when a bullet whizzed just inches from her head. She fell to the ground in surprise and fear.

Looking up she saw the gorilla had now positioned himself in front of her. With a fearsome growl, he stood on hind legs and beat his chest bellowing in anger.

She saw the guard from before standing at the edge of the clearing gun raised. Before he could get another shot the gorilla charged. The ground shuttered as all around them the gorillas screeched and howled.

Within moments the gorilla had reached the guard whose eyes had widened in pure fear. A scream bubbled in her throat as she saw him being thrown into a nearby tree, “Oh god,” she whispered frightened beyond belief at the gorilla’s fury.

Another shot rang out from somewhere near the first guard and for a second she thought they must have hit the gorilla. She didn’t have long to question her sudden distress at the gorilla’s possible demise when she felt the searing pain bloom in her right shoulder.

Looking down at her blood-stained shirt she felt numb. The world seemed to spin and the edges of her vision began to turn black. The last thing she saw before the world slipped away was the enraged face of a gorilla charging toward her.

Chapter 2
“Lutalo,” his friend Darth growled from behind him, “We searched the area, there is a camp not far from here.”
Lutalo grunted, “We move out at once, if they have camped here more will follow soon after.” He didn’t know what these humans were doing so far out into the jungle, but it was never good having them so close.
“Have you sent for Rashidi? The wound is bad and will need attention right away,” he ordered looking back to the woman in his arms with concern. His blood boiled at the memory of her fall when she was hit. The blood staining her clothes causing a red haze to cloud his vision. The screams of pain from the foolish human who dared threaten her wasn’t enough to quench his thirst for blood.
“Of course, Lutalo,” Darth assured him, “He will be with you as soon as we reach the nesting grounds,” he looked to the woman a little dubiously.
He had to suppress the urge to lash out at his friend. He was already on edge from the attack and having males so close to his female had him dangerously close to losing it.
That was the one thing he knew for certain above all else, this female was his. He knew it the moment he saw her tumble into his territory. The sight of her dark hair and milky white skin lit a fire in him he was sure would never be extinguished, but her scent was what did him in. The most intoxicating aroma he had ever come across belonged to the small woman he now held. It told him all he needed to know about her, whoever she was, wherever she came from, she was his mate.
He lifted her in his arms, careful not to jostle her too much. The rest of his group were still in gorilla form, but he had shifted back to make carrying her much easier. She barely came up to his chest even in his human form. Her small body fit easily into his arms and in her unconscious state she snuggled closer to him. He savored the feel of her body against his as he made his way to their nesting grounds.
When they reached they reached the pack he made his way to Rashidi, “She needs medical attention now,” he growled.
Rashidi stood unwavering in the face of his anger. He was the only one who didn’t cower before him having taken care of him since he was an infant, “What have you brought home this time,” Rashidi asked looking down into his mate’s face.
Rashidi carefully examined the various wounds marking the woman, “Most are only minor cuts, but her shoulder will need stitches. Bring her to the hut and I will get to work,” he said before walking on ahead. He was one of the few still in human form as he didn’t shift into his gorilla as often as the rest of the troop since he was the healer and found it much easier to work with human hands.
Lutalo watched the healer work and thought back to the moment he saw her. She was running from something that was for certain. She wore cargo pants and a white t-shirt that looked like it had seen better days, but it was a tourist outfit for sure. She also didn’t seem to know the jungle very well. Going in with no protection was never a good idea, but it no doubt had something to do with the humans who had shot at her. He would have to question her once she was awake to find out why they were chasing her and maybe figure out why they were so close to his territory in the first place.
“There, all done. She should heal fine, but you’ll need to make sure to change the bandages every so often to avoid any infection,” he wiped the sweat off his brow, “So you finally found your mate,” he asked blue eyes twinkling, “Never thought I’d see the day.”
Staring down into the angelic features of the woman before him he couldn’t keep the grin off his face, “Yes, it seems so.”
“You’ll probably want to stick to your human form for a while. The girl looks like she’s been through a lot and frightening her as a gorilla will do more harm than good,” Rashidi said, running a hand through his greying hair.
He grunted, “I agree. I think I’ll keep her away from the troop for a while as well. Just until I mark her.”
Rashidi gave him a knowing look, “Mating fever riding you hard?”
He nodded without saying a word. The only reason he could be so calm with Rashidi working on his mate was because he was already mated. The rest of the troop consisted of mainly unmated males. Unlike normal gorillas they didn’t have quite as many females and so their troops were smaller and largely male. It was why he was so surprised to find a mate. He was truly blessed and until he could mark her and bind her to him properly he intended to keep his distance from the rest of the troop.
“I understand, but before you go I have one last thing,” Looking through his stack of medicine he pulled out a small tube of ointment before handing it to Lutalo, “This will help protect her skin from the sun, she seems to be getting a little pink and with her complexion she will need it.”
With a nod in thanks to Rashidi, he gathered the woman in his arms and made his way back to his nest. Where he planned to care for and woo his mate.
Once inside his nest which was a small hut built into one of the highest parts of the trees he carefully laid her out onto a bed of leaves before grabbing the ointment for her skin. He added a good amount to his hands before gently applying it to her skin starting at her neck. He gently massaged the cream onto her, making his way down her chest. He made sure to avoid the cuts and scrapes she had, but also made sure to get any visible skin. Once he finished her arms he reached down to her ankles reveling in the warm softness under his fingers.
She started to stir and let out a small moan at his actions. The sound sent a shiver of desire through him, but he kept going until he reached the tops of her thighs. Once there he could feel the heat of her and groaned.
He shook his head not wanting to take advantage, but the sight of her flushed skin and parted lips was almost too much too bear. Before he could think too much he found himself inches from her lips, “Just a taste,” he whispered.
Pressing his lips to hers in a gentle caress his mouth watered at the sweetness he tasted. He suckled first the bottom and then the top before deciding to stop, but before he could she began to respond.
Slow at first, but then stronger she pressed her silken lips to his molding to him so sweetly he could barely hold himself in check. Hands to either side of her head he coaxed her lips to part and flicked his tongue against hers.
She moaned long and low before her eyes fluttered to meet his. He found himself staring into forest green depths that suddenly filled with fear.
Before he could react, she was pulling away and rushing to the other side of the hut. She stood trembling and vulnerable against the wall, “Who…who are you,” she stuttered.
He closed his eyes willing his desire to cool before meeting hers once more, “I am Lutalo Gund, your mate.”
Chapter 3
“What do you mean…I’m your mate? Look buddy, I don’t even know you and I’m not that kind of girl,” her voice trembled.
Zara stood, back against a wall that looked a lot like bamboo shoots. Before her stood the most magnificent man she had ever seen. He stood at least six feet, his head nearly scraping the wall of the simple hut they now stood in. His eyes were a light brown that reminded her of her favorite chocolate and his hair hung down to his shoulder in black waves, but she could swear it looked to have a faint silver streak right down the middle.
His jaw was hard and covered in a dark stubble that hid the ends of a few scars that ran down his cheeks. He had broad shoulders with bronzed skin she wanted to run her hands down, if only to see if he was as solidly built as he looked.
She tried to shake the insanely lustful thoughts from her head, but with him so close it was impossible. She didn’t know the first thing about this man. He could be a killer or one of the men who had taken her hostage and here she stood, wanting nothing more than to rip the thin t-shirt from his shoulders. It was not proper in the least and even more frightening was the tingling in her lips she could still feel after waking up to his kiss. The memory stopped her cold.
“I am very glad you are not that type of girl,” he almost purred moving slowly closer, “I would like to know you much better, though. What is your name lovely one?”
“Zara, my name is Zara Lockhart,” she breathed.
“Zara,” his voice seemed to caress her name, “It is very nice to meet you Zara.”
Her throat suddenly felt dry and she tried to look anywhere, but his eyes. It only made things that much worse when her eyes landed on his plump lips.
Reaching a hand up she touched her lips, “You…You kissed me,” she breathed.
His chocolate brown eyes seemed to melt into amber gold as he answered, “Yes…and you kissed me back,” his slow rumble sent shivers of excitement through her.
“No…no I thought I was dreaming. I didn’t…I wouldn’t,” she stammered, backing away further.
Undeterred he stalked closer, “Yes, you did….and you loved it,” his voice was firm, confident.
The sight of him closing in on her had her knees trembling and something low in her belly clenching. She didn’t know what was wrong with her. No man had ever interested her before, let alone made her feel so strange. It frightened her and yet she didn’t know how to fight it.
Raising her arms in front of her face she tried to ward him off, “Please, stay away.”
Surprisingly, he stopped. She lowered her arm in confusion, but yelped when it pulled at her hurt shoulder.
He was there in an instant, easing her back down onto the pad of leaves, “Take it easy, you are still injured,” he calmly explained.
Looking to her shoulder she saw the bandage covering the spot she was hit, “Did…did you do this,” she asked hesitantly, looking up at him.
He shook his head, “No, our healer, Rashidi, did,” he explained as he checked her bandage in case she tore something.
“Our? There are others,” she asked suddenly alert. Seeing the way, he was so concerned for her injury she doubted he was part of the same group who had kidnapped her and her father, but that didn’t mean that he was innocent.
He searched her face curiously, “Yes, we have a small…tribe out here in the jungle. We found you not far from here. You were injured and so we took you here,” he paused, “You looked like you were shot, but it passed through cleanly. May I ask why you were out there all alone in the jungle? Are you in trouble,” the last part came out a bit rough and confused her.
He seemed to genuinely care, but how did she know it wasn’t some trick. Of course, if he was telling the truth they might be able to help her. She bit her lip in indecision.
He furrowed his brow, “You have my word, I do not intend to hurt you. I only wish to help,” he said it so solemnly she couldn’t help, but believe him.
So far, he had brought her to his home and had done his best to take care of her injuries. Aside from the disturbing kiss, he had made no move to harm or assault her in any way. Thinking it over she decided to tell him the truth. If he wanted to harm her he would have done it by now and if she revealed her plight she might be able to gain his help in saving her father as well.
She sighed, “I was with my father on safari…to see the gorillas,” she started, watching to see his reaction, “When we came upon some men on the trail. Our guide seemed very agitated and went out to confront them,” she paused biting her lip.
He set his hand down on her thigh in a comforting manner, “It’s alright. Take your time,” he soothed.
The low timbre of his voice was like a balm to her nerves. Swallowing she continued, “He started yelling at them and one of the men pulled out a gun and…and shot him,” she covered her face in her hands, “I never anything so horrible in my life,” she choked.
He could take it no longer, seeing her in such pain caused his heart to burn in agony. Moving closer he gathered her into his lap and she went willingly. He gently stroked her back as she sobbed into his chest.
She looked up at him after a while, eyes full of tears, “I didn’t know what to do. They surrounded us immediately and tied us up,” she cried, “When they brought us to their camp the man who shot the guide made some…inappropriate advances. My father tried to stop him and for his trouble they…they beat him,” her tears soaked through his shirt.
The rage building in his Lutalo’s gut was unlike anything he had ever felt before. He couldn’t bear to see her like this and he fully intended to find the men she spoke of and relish their screams of agony as he rid the jungle of their presence.
The feel of her burrowing further into him, seeking shelter, melted his insides. This woman who he barely knew was making him feel things he never dreamed. He wasn’t sure how he felt about that, but he wasn’t about to give her up either.
“Shh, it’s alright liefie,” he murmured running his hand down her arms, “You escaped and I will not let you come to harm. I promise you, you are safe here.”
Her eyes shone as she gazed up at him and in that moment, Lutalo knew he would do anything to see her look at him that way forever.
Too quickly it was gone replaced by a sudden frown on her upturned face, “Wait, I really appreciate all you’ve done, but you must help me save my father. He is still there and I can’t leave him,” she begged clutching at his arms as if he were her only lifeline.
His heart sank, he knew the men she spoke of would likely have already killed her father. He had seen it happen too many times before, but seeing her look at him as if he was her hero made him curse that fact. Despite knowing how dangerous it would be he couldn’t tell her no.
He caressed the side of her cheek with the back of his hand, “Liefie, when you look at me like that it makes me want to give you the world.”
With a sigh he stood, “I will do my best to find your father, but that is all I promise.”
Her eyes lit up and he knew he’d done the right thing, “Oh, thank you, thank you thank you,” she squealed wrapping her arms around him in a tight embrace.
Realizing what she had done she quickly moved away and Lutalo immediately regretted the loss, “You must stay here while I go talk to the others to see about looking for your father. I will be back soon,” he gave her one last look before making his way out of the hut.
He shook his head as he climbed back down the tree he resided in. If he wasn’t careful he knew she would be the death of him, but he couldn’t find it in him to care.

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